When Cheyenne Bryant graduated from California State University, Northridge with a double major in psychology and Pan-African studies, her father said, “Great—what’s next?”
When she graduated from the University of Phoenix with a master’s in Marriage, Family, & Child Therapy he said, “I’m proud of you—what’s next?”
Here’s a little exercise for you to try. Start by mentally picturing your desk at the office, your studio or your workplace. Next, answer these questions.
When she graduated from Argosy University with a doctorate in counseling psychology, he said, “I’m so proud of you—what now?”
She didn’t know, but she kept pushing, trusting in the process of what felt right to her at the time. Bryant laughs with the memory. She understands this type of motivation doesn’t work for everyone, but for her, the relentless pursuit was a fire she could count on through periods of indecisiveness, doubt and fear. It carried her through failed relationships and financial uncertainty. Now the 38-year-old psychologist, life coach, author and motivational speaker says her goal is to help others create their own happiness through the relentless pursuit of their authentic self.
Bryant’s career began in her private practice as a marriage and family therapist. She spent years helping people work through past traumas and better cope for future issues. But she felt something was missing, that she could be doing more.
“Therapy was more about treating symptoms; coaching is about healing and helping the whole person,” she says.
She wanted to do both. Armed with her psychology background and experience, Bryant transitioned into life coaching. Things moved quickly from there. In 2014, she wrote Mental Detox: The Power and Guidance to Implement Peace, Joy, Balance, and Financial Abundance in Your Life. In the same year, she launched the Dr. Bryant Team, a self-funded initiative that provided food, hygiene, clothing and life programs to disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles County, in which four out of 10 residents live at or below the poverty line. Out of that team was born the Dr. Bryant Foundation, a nonprofit that has since provided thousands of meals and life improvement opportunities to one of the most impoverished communities in the U.S. In 2015, Bryant was elected president of the San Pedro branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
She approaches her clients in two ways: By addressing and healing underlying traumas largely through cognitive behavioral therapy, and then by helping them achieve and manifest the life they want through positive psychology methods and practices.
“I want to teach them that they are enough as they are,” Bryant says. “But I also want them to step into the self that they were always meant to be.”
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If the word manifestation brings fluffy images of colorful vision boards and vague positivity quotes, Bryant isn’t the coach for you. Her teaching is rooted in age-old principles of honesty, trust, belief, and authenticity. Her YouTube videos are filled with advice about hard work and commitment.
To Bryant, manifestation is the combination of the spiritual and the physical. The spiritual aspect is the vision you have for your life—what you want to manifest. The physical aspect is that manifestation actually occurring in your life. The period between those two halves is where her work lives.
In the field of self-development, honesty is a tricky word. We’re told to believe in ourselves and to be relentlessly positive about what our futures hold, no matter the life circumstances. For someone struggling with a minor but temporary setback, that positivity is easier to maintain. For someone trying to put food on the table who can’t seem to catch a break in the job market, it’s a different conversation.
Honesty, then, is being aware of where you are now, where you want to be, what’s holding you back from getting there, and what you’re doing within your control to change your circumstances.
Be honest about what you can’t control. You cannot, for example, control a company-wide layoff. You cannot control a car accident that leaves you physically unable to work in your industry. You can control what you learn from these uncontrollable circumstances, which leaves you better equipped for future roadblocks.
In the first example, honesty would be accepting that your layoff was out of your control. Honesty is also adopting what Bryant calls an “onward perspective,” which might say:
- I’ve learned that no form of income is truly secure. I want to look into multiple streams of income to better protect myself.
- I’ve learned that keeping my résumé up to date will help me pivot quickly in times of uncertainty.
- I’ve learned that my emergency fund should be a bigger part of my financial plan.
- I’ve learned that asking for help from friends and family is not something to feel shame about.
Honesty keeps us grounded, but it doesn’t preclude us from changing our perspective to a positive, growth-oriented one.
“Your life is not what it looks, feels or sounds like,” Bryant says. “It’s what you create it to be.”
Everyone has trauma. In order to become the best version of ourselves and manifest our dreams, hopeful thinking isn’t enough, Bryant says. You must first heal from the scars of past trauma and relearn healthier ways to cope with inevitable future trauma. That’s when therapy becomes a necessary step in the process. Someone with dreams of becoming a professional athlete must first understand how their past trauma influences their ability to perform under pressure or why they have trouble controlling angry outbursts. Therapy is a form of personal development.
The second half of that work happens in trusting the process and trusting in yourself. Trusting the process looks a lot like an athlete understanding that a morning in the gym won’t suddenly produce an all-star. It takes weeks, months, even years of dedicated commitment. It takes working with a specialist to correct bad form and understand why your body and mind reacts in certain ways during certain situations. This two-pronged approach creates momentum, which Bryant says is the lifeblood of manifestation.
“Life is about momentum. If you’re making money, you’re going to make more money,” Bryant says. “The beautiful thing is that you have the power, every day, to change your momentum. It starts with intent.”
To her clients, Bryant advises keeping a daily journal. Record moments of gratitude, periods of self-doubt, a detailed description of your fears—and then do what you were going to do anyway. This is trust in the process. The important thing to remember, Bryant says, is that you don’t need to actually feel trust to commit to trust. When you feel your trust waning, bold action takes its place.
“Be bold enough to walk into a room full of strangers who don’t believe in you, and believe in yourself.”
Bryant explains her work through stories. She tells one about a woman who came to her with relationship troubles. She was seeing a married man who swore he would leave his wife. It wasn’t her first relationship of its kind, and the woman knew deep down that it wasn’t a healthy or honest one.
She came to Bryant not for advice on this relationship, but to understand why her cycle of unhealthy and unavailable relationships continued. Bryant told her: The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves becomes our lives.
“We say, how do we keep experiencing the same horrible circumstances, the same trauma, the same unhealthy relationships?” she says. “Because your belief system is convicting you into that same unhealthy circumstance. You may not believe you deserve better or that there is better out there for you.”
By identifying and working through the woman’s underlying trauma, she was able to eliminate the belief system she had of being “not good enough” for a healthy relationship. But that’s just one half of the process. She then had to rewrite that false belief system into something that would bring about good relationships, which is a lifelong process.
Pick up nearly any personal development book and you’ll likely find the word purpose in at least a dozen places. Purpose is our great motivator, it will say. Find your purpose and you’ll find your life. That’s wrong, Bryant says—first you must find your identity.
“For those who don’t understand what their purpose is, it’s because you’re not standing in your true authenticity,” Bryant says. “As soon as you become who you are, your purpose finds you. We’re doing it wrong.”
From infants, Bryant says, we learn how to effectively communicate what we don’t want. We don’t want to feel the discomfort of hunger, so we cry. We don’t want to feel separate or different from our friend groups, so we mimic their behavior or clothing. We don’t want to be without, so we pick careers with big paychecks. None of these things are inherently wrong, but the result is that many people end up with lives they never imagined or planned to have. They wake up and wonder how many of those small decisions led them here, ones they don’t really remember making.
Authenticity, then, begins with stepping back from what you think you know about yourself and learning to listen. Start with behaviors. If your daily routine is a 6 a.m. spin class followed by a grass-tasting smoothie, ask yourself.
- When did this behavior begin?
- Why did I start this behavior?
- Does it bring me joy?
- If I could spend that time doing anything else, what would it be?
Often, her clients will discover that their behaviors are formed from outside factors. Maybe going to spin class makes you feel relevant among your neighborhood group. Maybe the grassy smoothie makes you feel less guilty about the weekly pizza you order. Those factors become a distraction to your true identity. Once you give space for your authentic identity to form, Bryant says, passion and purpose naturally fall into place within your life.
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Bryant didn’t grow up with privilege or wealth or status. She struggled. Her family struggled. Her community struggled. Through all of that, her greatest conviction remains that we, as individuals, create our own circumstances and to live in the belief that life is happening to us—that we are victims of our past—is to rob ourselves of happiness and success.
She doesn’t sugarcoat what it takes to create the circumstance of a good life, however we define it. She is clear to say that it requires sacrifice, hard work, fear and uncertainty. And she’s on a mission to help the greatest number of people understand that.