Photo illustration. Photo: Anastasia Garcia
Leigh Belz Ray
Dec 05, 2017 @ 9:00 am

Badass Women spotlights women who not only have a voice but defy the irrelevant preconceptions of gender. (Not to mention, they are exceptionally cool.) Here, actress Danielle Brooks shows her resolve for an amazing 2018.

I’ve never thought of myself as a New Year’s resolution–maker. Maybe it’s because my life feels as if it’s constantly in flux. A spark that inspires me to make a change might happen randomly throughout the year, like at the start of spring or on a quiet October afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m all about setting goals, and I’m a hard-core believer in the Secret (putting things out there so you can manifest what you want in your life). Some people have vision-board parties to do that; I’m more of a “write it down” (or “jot it down in your Notes app”) kind of girl.

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When I talk to my friends or followers on Twitter about goals or what we all want to accomplish, it’s interesting how our ambitions seem to have shifted recently considering what’s happening in the world—between nearly 100 lives lost in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs and the hurricanes in Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico. It makes me think, “Well, damn, looking back, that materialistic dream was kind of not important.”

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To be honest, a lot of my goal setting when I was younger had to do with weight. I’d often resolve to get under 200 pounds or be out of the double-digit clothing sizes. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize that those superficial achievements aren’t what life is all about. Now it’s more like, “I want to be healthier and stronger.” If I’m feeling powerful, who cares whether I’m a size 14 or 16?

I’ve also been thinking, “How can I make my 2018 about helping others and then see how it serves me instead of vice versa?” Instead of saying, “I want to make more money,” I can take it a step further and decide that I want to work extra-hard and fight for equal pay so that the next woman who comes up in this field can make what she deserves from the start. Or instead of saying, “I want to run a 5k,” maybe it’s, “I’ll go run a 5k to raise money for women who are battling breast cancer.”

Dreams aren’t achieved overnight; change happens in baby steps. I had a teacher in college who, when we were looking at difficult plays from Chekhov or Shakespeare, would always encourage us to take it slowly. She’d say, “If you have a script or a monologue and you’re not understanding A, B, and C, why the heck are you moving on to L, M, N, O, P?” That always resonated with me, and when I think about the next steps for my life, I try not to get ahead of myself and take on too much all at once. The journey is where you build your character. I grow through my failures just as much as through my successes.

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I’m also trying not to stress myself out as much about following the exact same paths of my idols. I ran into the lovely actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson the other day, and she said to me, “Danielle, you’re beautifully doing you better than anyone else can.” She reminded me that I can be inspired and motivated by whomever I so choose but that my life is uniquely and perfectly my own.

But that doesn’t mean I need to reach my dreams by myself. I think of my goals as newborn babies. I might need some friends and family to help me take care of them at first. (Though, just like with babies, if I bring too many people around, my dreams might get sick, infected by negativity.) So, when I put things out into the universe, I do it carefully and share them with those who encourage my aspirations—the ones who give me the boost I need.

Nourish my dreams as if they were hungry little babies, full of promise and possibility—now, that’s a resolution I can get behind all year long.

Brooks’s first clothing collection for Universal Standard is out now.

For more stories like this, pick up the January issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download Dec. 8.

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