259: Crafting Meaningful Life Goals w/ Zaakirah Muhammad

Seeing Life Differently

In this episode, Zaakirah Muhammad joins us to discuss mindfulness, gratitude and how these practices can help to craft a more meaningful life in her talk on Seeing Life Through a Different Lens: Mindfulness and Gratitude as a Creative. She talks about how one can use visualizing, setting goals and forming a strong support system to help achieve their dreams. Zaakirah also shares some of her personal stories and how she has worked to create meaningful relationships and find her true self.

In addition, she talks about the role of culture and how one can use their cultural values and traditions to drive their motivation and set SMART goals that are qualitative and quantitative. Ultimately, this podcast episode encourages listeners to take small steps, stay mindful of their wants and needs, and form relationships with both family, friends and even strangers, to ultimately achieve a life of purpose and passion. By engaging in the practices of mindfulness and gratitude, one can find a clearer understanding of their purpose and lead them each step of the way to a happier, healthier, and more meaningful life.

About Zaakirah

Zaakirah has more than 10 years of professional photography and branding experience. She empowers people to step outside of their comfort zone through her gift of visual storytelling. Zaakirah is also the CEO and founder of Phocused Media Group which empowers and supports the growth of minority-owned businesses. She has overcome many challenges, including cancer, and autoimmune disease to establish herself as an innovative voice in the marketing industry. Zaakirah is the author of Seeing Life Through a Different Lens: A Survivor’s Memoir on Overcoming Adversity with Resilience. She also hosts the podcast called See Life Different.

Goal Setting Planner and Guide

The Goal Setting Planner Tools and Setting Purposeful Goals Quick Guide are perfect for anyone who wants to take their personal and professional lives to the next level. Our user-friendly resources provide step-by-step guidance on how to set effective SMART goals, create tangible action plans, and stay motivated and focused on your pursuits. With tailored activities, create achievable objectives, envision purpose, and explore core values for an enriching life experience. Find purpose and vision, set specific, achievable goals, and break them down into manageable steps for an effective plan towards success. Reach your aspirations, form strong relationships, and make time for yourself for a happy and meaningful life.

Meaningful Life Goals

Zaakirah’s encourages listeners to create and achieve their own personal or professional goals within their own unique way. By utilizing her advice and tools, such as setting specific goals, creating tangible action plans, ensuring SMART goals, visualizing, and finding motivation in family, friends and spiritual values, they can live a more meaningful, prosperous and satisfying life. Taking the first step towards one’s goal is the most crucial part, and with effort and dedication, they can one day reach the finish line.

In this episode:

  • Zaakirah is an Arabic name for the Hereafter, which is fitting for someone who survived retinoblastoma, a childhood eye cancer, detected by the bright light of a photograph.
  • Zaakirah is also living with PTSD and an autoimmune condition, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and has pursued both entrepreneurship and part-time work with a positive impact.
  • Zaakirah focuses on increasing awareness of ethnicities, religious faiths, geniuses, and disabilities, in order to create equitable education opportunities and personal growth.
  • Establishing a positive mindset as soon as you wake up through free form journaling and speaking into future tense.
  • Fueling your body with proper nutrition, e.g. fiber-rich meals and lots of water.
  • Utilizing technology to time block specific tasks and set reminders.
  • Remaining mindful and shifting negativity by listening to a focus-specific playlist.
  • Journaling and goal setting as powerful tools for personal development and finding your life purpose.

Prioritizing Self-Care

  • Taking time for self-care, such as music, meditation, nutrition, exercise, and art can help support and remind people of their sense of purpose.
  • Healthy eating habits help provide nurturance and energy for the day and improve physical health.
  • Affirmations are personal mantras that can be uplifting and empowering when spoken to oneself.
  • Zaakirah encourages listeners to reflect on their goals and purposes for their actions towards a fulfilling life.
  • Sign up for her email list for vision-boarding tips and more.
  • Utilizing the smart method (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) for visualizing yourself and your meaningful goals.
  • Zaakirah has a podcast with almost 100 episodes with topics ranging from education and advocacy around BIPOC communities to creative workspaces and morning routines.
  • She is planning an in-person event called “See Life Different” to help participants explore purpose-building and develop skills for working in their businesses.
  • Visualizing the future helps participants recognize and seize opportunities, and it is also important to be conscious of signs of burnout and know when to say no.


* Rough Transcript *

Ep. 259


Aurora: Hello! Today, we’re discussing how to see life differently with Zaakirah Muhammad. We’ll be exploring the power of mindfulness and gratitude in our creative process and examining ways to set meaningful personal and professional goals.

This talk was super timely because the latest tools for my monthly planner club include 16 goal setting planner pages and a quick guide on setting purposeful goals! With these tools, you’ll examine your purpose, mission, vision and values and how they play into setting meaningful goals by making your goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. You can find them now in my monthly planner club and course membership!

In this episode, you’ll explore how to create a good life and develop healthy relationships with yourself and with family members. We’ll cover how to set and achieve goals that are meaningful and realistic, and explore methods like positive psychology and mindfulness to stay on track.

Deep dive into the importance of taking time for yourself to focus on your mental health, and dedicating yourself to learning new skills and exploring new hobbies. We’ll also discuss spiritual goals, like understanding the meaning of life and achieving spiritual growth.

Don’t miss out on your chance to learn the power of goal setting and what the ultimate goal of living an authentic life is. This is an insightful discussion that you won’t want to miss! Watch the full video of the talk on Seeing Life Differently: Mindfulness and Gratitude as a Creative with Zaakirah Muhammad, available in our Embracing Intensity Course Membership.

And if you’re in in the Georgia area, take a look at Zaakirah’s upcoming live event on seeing life differently! Enjoy!


Aurora: Awesome. Well, welcome. I’m super thrilled to have Zaakirah here today again. Coming back for a talk on seeing life through a different lens. And she also has an upcoming conference in person on the East Coast , which I’m sure she’ll be sharing about as well. Zaakirah, welcome. So glad to have you and I’ll let you introduce yourself and share.

Zaakirah: Great. Well, thank you Aurora also for having me here back on your platform again for the first time since 2019 when I was first on your podcast. So yes, my name is Zaakirah and my name is Arabic for the Hereafter. And then for my brand, I use my middle name, which is Na yir which means bright light. So, my story is that I am a cancer survivor and the cancer was detected by the bright light of the flash of a photograph.

So normally when you see back in the day, probably not so much now a smartphone, but when you receive red eyes show up in, in pupil instead it was a white glow. And so that you know, my mom kind of took her to more than one doctor to really see what is going on here. This is not normal. So she followed her intuition and because of her following her intuition, I was saved by the photograph basically.

About Zaakirah

Zaakirah: So I am a cancer survivor of retinoblastoma. It’s a red childhood eye cancer. And so I’ve been a cancer survivor since I was about nine months old. But as you get older, cancer is also spilled into other cancers and, P T S D and also an autoimmune with something called polycystic ovarian syndrome.

So probably you can see it in my face, you can hear it in my voice, but polycystic ovarian syndrome also affects not just fertility for, for you know, an irregular menstrual cycle, but it also affects chronic fatigue and thyroid, the voice, facial expression, the whole thing. But I’ve never let any of that stop me.

It sounds like a lot. It’s kind of like, whoa, how are you still surviving right now? And that’s exactly what the conversation gonna be about, how to continue to push through with gratitude, with mindfulness, with a morning routine, and how to really utilize that and see life differently.

Aurora: Awesome. So, you’re such an inspiration and I know you’ve been really diving deep into leadership in the disability and BIPOC community and really getting into more about neurodiversity and things like that. So it’s been great to follow your journey.

Zaakirah’s Journey

Zaakirah: Yes. And thank you for following my journey.

I think like you said, it is either, most recently I think the pandemic really did begin to shine a light on those of different ethnicities, of religious faith, of different geniuses, genius levels as well. And, I really just started to really, kind of take a look at even my own struggles as both being predominantly an entrepreneur and I’ve had my fair share of working.

I’ve always predominantly had like part-time jobs, sometimes full-time, but just being in both worlds and really just being observant of what is not working as well as it could work and how can we all collectively kind of, you know, educate ourselves and, and make that difference. So yeah, starting with the BIPOC community, because that’s what I identify with, that’s what people gravitate towards me first.

But I am all about humanity, so, yes.

Aurora: Awesome. So, you had mentioned sharing, sharing today about your own practices and what’s brought you to where you are today.

Morning Routine

Zaakirah: Yes, absolutely. So I think the first way that I’ll just start off with is how many of you have a morning routine?

Even if you just, you know, raise your virtual hand if you know how to do that, but how many of you kind of have a morning routine? I see somebody saying so, so, so, so, yeah. So for me, my morning routine starts. With mindset, right? I think sometimes it’s so easy to get up in the morning, once you realize where you are, what time it is, then you are kind of like, Ugh, the kids, ugh, my job.

Ugh. But what if you were able to shift your mindset and just stay, Hmm, I’m awake again. I made it another day. I, I, I get to say how this day goes. What if you could just have a simple mindset shift as soon as you start waking up? For me, that had been the biggest difference because uh, sure I could say it’s another day.

My, my voice feels groggy today, or I feel more tired today, or, oh everything’s annoying me today. Like, oh, there’s a lot of noise today, but. Starting with the first thought that you wake up with really just kind of sets the tone on how your day goes, so that no matter what does trigger you throughout the day that you know that you can make it that another day.

Starting Your Day off Right!

Zaakirah: So for me, morning routines are super helpful and one of the things that I’ve been getting into is I’m naturally a creative. So not only was I saved by a photograph, I also have been a photographer professionally for over a decade. But a hobby as a hobby wise since I was about five years old. So for me, I’m always about stories, no matter what kind of story it is.

But for me, I gotta start with my other story. So I utilize journaling. So for me, I actually love just free form journaling. Lemme just get whatever’s going on over here so that it’s not so noisy, just ride it out or type it out depending on what, how tech savvy you actually are. So between waking up with positive thoughts.

And I’m looking down at my notes if you’re watching the video. So, you wake up with positive thoughts, you start journaling out all your thoughts, create and speak into future tense of how you want your day to go and envision yourself as the best version of yourself. And then nutrition. Sometimes we tend to skip breakfast depending on how busy the day will go.

I know sometimes we can tend to skip breakfast, but breakfast is actually one of the most important meals, not for me, because I also have polycystic syndrome. I know that I need more fiber than usual. Meaning between more bread, more oatmeal, that could be also legumes or beans as well. So never skipping breakfast is also super important as well.

Mindful Practices

Zaakirah: And then we go into continuing the set of mindfulness. So for me, I also love music. Depending on what kind of music I listen to all kinds. But it really does depend on what kind of music, because thanks to the power of technology, I personally love Spotify. You can choose any realm of music to really get your day started and keep yourself focused throughout the day.

So for me, I need a sense of familiarity. So nostalgia, so the nineties pop, the boy bands. Yes, the boy bands. I would personally listen to the boy bands to keep me going throughout the day. So those are just simple ways that I tend to start my day. And normally that really does make a huge difference when it comes to gratitude and mindfulness.

Journaling does help and no matter how our sleep routine tends to do, do its own thing, so that we can find a way to have a sense of structure.

And so that actually became one of my next topics. So kind of moving up to technically also how I spend most of my day, since most of my day lately, really primarily since the pandemic I’ve been getting back into entrepreneurial, but more so on the organizational side. So ironically, most people come to me uh, either ask me, how are you able to do so many things?

Planning for Success

Zaakirah: That’s all the time because it just looks like that. I just keep going. Well, one is I’ve already done that mindset work of like I know that this is not my current situation, so I’m always working toward the next situation. And two, I’m actually utilizing my journaling and planning out what I want for myself and my life.

And then three, I actually do my best to time block. Now with me being blessed to have utilized technology. I’ve been on the computer since actually AOL chatroom days. So I’ve been online for a very long time. However, not many people have. But with me being online for so long and so often because I can send myself a digital entrepreneur and sometimes even a digital nomad, I know that time blocking is super crucial.

So for me, I noticed that my best times of day are right about now, if it’s not between 10:00 AM and noon. Right before it’s time for that next meal, right? If I, I’ve already had my breakfast, so I have a bit of a new system, I have a bit of energy, so I know that I’m able to knock out a few items. So I tend to give myself an hour-long time block for a specific task.

Time Blocking

Zaakirah: I’ve already made a to-do list, and I included that in my journal. There’s actually a few journals out there now that have a little bit of both. You can free form, you can bullet note. You can make a to-do list. And so I would write down what I wanna get done today and I too do not make it more than 10 things on that list because I do not want to be beating myself up at the end of the day and calling myself to stay awake from wondering why I didn’t do X, Y, Z.

So I also will time blocked by the hour. I also time block also by the easiest task. I think it’s gotten to a point. Because I have that flexibility as a creative entrepreneur that I’m like, okay, I know what I’m gifted at and I know what I’m not gifted at. So I know that I can do the tasks that I like to do and that are also most important.

Move those up towards a higher part of my to-do list so that way the most difficult thing can then be done and I can know that okay, I may need extra time, more than that one hour, maybe extend it to 90 minutes to block, block that time off. So what I’ll also do is utilize technology of lately. Most lately I’ll put it on my calendar and so I set like calendar reminders so that way it can also be a way of timing myself, of having a sense of how long does something take for me to do.


Zaakirah: And then that also makes it easier when I’m able to reflect later on generally if it’s not the end of the day or for the next day of what I like and what I didn’t like about how my day went. So that goes into the next part as well, like how to really shift your mindset and see your life differently and in a way of utilizing technology to have a sense of gratitudes.

What do we do when there is overwhelm in the middle of the day? So now I’m kind of going, my storytelling mindset is now kind of going into, okay, now it’s after lunch.

It’s the middle of the day, everybody’s up, no matter which time zone it is that I’m interacting with, having a conversation with social media posters out there, and now I’m overwhelmed. What do I do? So, ironically enough, there’s actually a quote that Aurora repurposed from the podcast that I was on, but I was saying how easy it is to remember the negativity, then it is the positivity.

So, another one of the things that I also will bring back up that probably by now if I haven’t. Show them the big playlist that I have that I know will keep me focused. With that sense of familiarity, then I’ve shifted to a focus specific playlist. Um, Sometimes I would listen to podcasts, but for me, I know that I would, if I’m typing something that doesn’t work, I’ll end up typing what they’re saying.

Being in the Present Moment

Zaakirah: So that’s not gonna happen. But sometimes I’ll also choose meditation, a sense of meditation. Now I am a woman of faith, so that means that sometimes I will actually split up my day and time myself based off of okay, time to take that five minute meditation break. Other ways of meditation is that actually have been a time where I would literally use yoga.

Yoga, I would actually use a sense of yoga. It was something even similar to Pilates. Something if not so, cuz even for me as, as a woman with P C O S, doing too much vigorous exercise, it’s actually not gonna help my menstrual cycle. So if you need something lightweight it also tends to help me step away from all of the things, all of the thoughts, and when it’s not so cold as well, just step right outside.

uh, Normally I like to choose living at a place that’s near a park or has a safe neighborhood that, you know, where I could just take, take a walk, take a minute, walk, take, make that my lunch break. So using a sense of meditation as well to then recenter myself and bring myself back to What do I want to create for myself for the day?

Who, who, what kind of affirmation do I wanna tell myself for that day? Because also I tend to throw in my love languages. So my love language, my one of my top love languages, depending on, on where we are. Cause then the pandemic, my first love language couldn’t necessarily be fulfilled, which is physical touch.

Love Languages

Zaakirah: So knowing that I could go get a hug, go hold a hand, and that, that’s not always gonna happen. So instead, words of affirmation. And ironically enough, I actually have a couple of affirmation cards that would like, look like flashcards. I’ve written them myself, I’ve gotten them from my favorite social media post, my favorite Pinterest board.

And I would just re-look at those, like just a sense of reminder of I am powerful, I am beautiful, I am amazing. Right? It’s something so simple that resonates with you, not just something that anybody will, will just tell you. Because sometimes that happens too. You could have someone just kind of, tell you that, oh, you’re, you’re, you’re so beautiful.

But if that’s not your day that you’re feeling that or originated with that, sometimes it’s like, nah, let me get the other one. I feel more powerful today. So having a sense of meditation, by the time we get to the middle of the day, of course nutrition I personally have strived to be more on the holistic realm.

So more fruits, more vegetables, which I truly do feel that once I was introduced to herbs after my radiation treatment when I was a baby, that made a huge difference. The way that I see that we are what we eat. And so by the time I turned 18 and I was able to just kind of, I wasn’t necessarily in college that have the unconventional education, but I still would put myself on like a college little budget.

Nourishing Yourself

Zaakirah: So I would still choose fruits and vegetables. So I find myself that it just tends to gravitate as to knowing which foods give you energy, which foods drain your energy as well too. Cause that, that makes a huge difference. So, That’s the next section. So that was music, that was meditation. That was nutrition.

That was a form of exercise.

So for me it’s, no such thing is overthinking, no such thing is anything unreasonable. And also it’s all the reasons why it supports us actually remembering to be present and be focused, which the word is a purpose.

So purpose is really that drive, that fire that really keeps you going, that lights your fire to really keep you going. So for me, I’ve shared that I’ve always been a creative, started out as a photographer and then utilized all realms of writing and all realms of art. And, even for me now as I am older, that really, it’s actually, there is that gift in combining the art in the organization, in the storytelling into the realm of digital marketing.

So when I look at my purpose and look at why I’m so, what, what really does excite me throughout the day, right? What are those stats? What are those things? If I were to even think back to when I was anywhere between the ages of seven and and 13, before any bills before any, any life happening, what were those things that excited me?

Bringing Yourself Back

Zaakirah: And I always find one way or another to bring myself back to that and put that as a task. Either make it as a task that I’m going to do, like, you know what, I, I look forward to my Friday so that I can do X, Y, Z, or I look forward to when I finish the end of my days where I can do X, Y, Z. And so for me, that’s always gravitating towards finding out about someone else’s story.

So whether it is the Embracing Intensity Podcast or any other podcast, whether that is watching other documentaries, whether that is actually picking up my camera and photographing someone and shining them in the positive light that they have not seen in, in eyes themselves in a while. So being able to go back to my purpose of why do I do what I do?

Why does it excite me all the time? Like, why does it kind of really have me focus on, I can go zone in for hours on this specific task if I had nothing else on my to- do list, or if I just needed to put that specific overwhelming to-do list to decide what is that thing? And so being able to remember what your purpose is uh, really just kind of helps you to really be center again, go right back to your sense of gratitude and your center mindfulness and really find the system, whether it’s digital or analog, that works for you to always remember to stay gracious and full of gratitude.

Meaningful Life Goals

Aurora: Awesome. And it’s so funny that you, you know, bringing up the kind of goals and purpose thing. It’s funny talking about the intuition thing because I was trying to figure out what to add to my planner tools this month and I already started with a goal planning thing and now I’m gonna add some more quick guide information on purpose and meaning and, and smart goals and stuff.

So it’s kind of funny that it just aligned. It wasn’t really a purposeful decision, but it actually really aligns with this topic.

Zaakirah: Yay. Great. Perfect. I have a couple more tips and tools for you.

Aurora: And I was gonna say with the purpose thing, I, there’s this book, it’s called the On Purpose Person, and it’s I forget his name, but anyway but he basically talking about like doing things

on purpose.

Zaakirah: Yeah. Jay on Purpose said in the On Purpose podcast. Yeah.

Aurora: Oh, does he have. No, it’s, I think there’s a different, I’ll have to look anyway, but yeah, he talks about purpose is like kind of the being part, but then vision is what you see and visualize mission, I think is what you actually do to move towards your purpose. So I like that kind of visualization of it.

Zaakirah: Yeah. A new way to journal, like a new way to literally journal, visualize yourself in, in, in future tense.

Learn More About Zaakirah

Zaakirah: Great. Well, I guess we’re excited to really know. Okay, what, what else, what else? So, there’s two things. One, I definitely am, am grateful that you’ve made it this far and you’re, you’re still focused and you’re here with me. And so one of the ways that I want to continue to encourage you is one you can join my email list.

So if you go to, there’s two different ways. One, you can go to my website zaakirahnayyar.com, that’s z A A K i r a h n a Y y a r .com. And. I do have one of those popups on my box, but I actually check those and, and you actually will get what you need from that. Or you can visit the link that’s in this chat or in the show notes and it’ll actually take you to that page right without needing to go to my website.

And from there you actually will get a, I’ve literally made a, I’ve been a vision boarder actually, but It teaches you in a way to not just kind of, some, some people have certain facial expressions or, or negative thoughts about the way vision boarding, but I’ve discovered in the conversation it’s called visualizing.

So what you can use is a board that I created and you also have both visual and audio conversation about how to really utilize that board. And the way that I’ve been utilizing it is by using the smart method, so specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. So how to visualize yourself utilizing the smart method.

Keeping in Touch!

Zaakirah: So if you go to that link, that is where you can get that board. And then that’s also how will we continue to keep in touch if you’ll get more tips and tidbits and podcast episodes. Cuz I’ve also have a podcast. I’ve had a podcast for, also since 2019 actually, and I have almost a hundred episodes. So it varies from all topics.

Whether you are curious about educating or advocating yourself about the BIPOC community, how to be more creative, how to continue to operate in your purpose or just how to listen forward to that full episode or of the morning routine episode. And last but not least as Aurora did mention at the beginning of the episode, I am working on getting back to in-person events.

I have had virtual events and I’m just really looking forward to getting back to you in-person events. So I will be coming to a city near you, but first, the first stop is actually going to be Atlanta, Georgia. So the next link that I will share with you in the comments in the show notes, Is on my website.

You’ll learn about an event called See Life Different, which is based off of my book . It’s called Seeing Life Through Different Lens, a cancer survivor’s memoir on overcoming adversity with resilience. And then so from the book came a podcast and from the podcast came a virtual summit.

In Person Events

Zaakirah: And then now we’re getting back to in-person events where we’re gonna literally talk about all of the things that you just talked about today and more. Because I’m all about purpose building and I wanna make sure that you are operating outside of your comfort zone, you’re operating in a way that will keep you inspired and empowered every single day.

So that does mean especially this is for you if you are creative or love to work with people like your people based business. And you also are a creative, so, Three different tracks and it’s like a four day workshop. So it’s like a one day conference. And so we start off with that visualization activity.

You actually are gonna get, go to work. It’s not just conversations like this. You actually go to work and visualize your, your, your, the way you want to be. And then we dive into the, how, how you’re gonna maintain your day with nutrition and journaling and beyond. And then we also dive into the marketing and branding guide.

So how are you going to tell your story and utilize it so that you can operate in your business? So that’s the see life different, we’re still called a summit, although I’ll, I’ll probably tweak it to seminar. It’s like a one day long, very interactive seminar. And yeah, I, I’m looking forward to seeing you see life differently.

Visualizing the Future

Aurora: Awesome.

And you know, it’s funny, you were talking about the reaction people get for vision boarding. And I think, you know, it’s when people think about the whole manifestation thing and, like the, the toxic spiritual side of it. Like toxic spirituality or spiritual bypassing, I guess. But when you think about the science behind it, what we, what we think about, we notice more what we can visualize, we notice more.

So it’s really more about noticing the opportunities for that. And for me, because I don’t visualize in my head at all, having something visual that you can see in front of you helps put that in your mind and then you recognize the opportunities for it. So I think when you think of it from the scientific perspective of like, what, what we think about, we notice rather than like other areas like I, I, I think there is definitely some science behind it in terms of what we think about grows because we’re noticing the opportunities.

Zaakirah: Absolutely. Yeah. Less negativity, more positivity and more opportunity. Yes. I think I’ll also add that when it also, when it comes to burnout, it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to let everything go. And, and the good thing is, everything can be communicated, you know, that it’s like, okay, today’s not my day.

Aurora: Yeah. Yeah. Well, great. Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much. It was great discussion and glad to have new people join us and yeah, look forward to continuing these conversations.

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