Life coach helps women, girls achieve their dreams during sold-out event

Left to right, Chelsea Gheesling, founder of Good Girl Comeback; Ann-Marie Neme, co-founder of Choices Detroit; keynote speaker January Donovan; and Kristi Heft of Choices Detroit pose for a photo before the Jan. 27 "She Is ... Made for More" event for women and girls at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. The event was sponsored by the two organizations and has been sold out several times in a row. (Photos by Kelly Luttinen | Special to Detroit Catholic)

January Donovan inspires, motivates women during 'She is ... Made for More' event, sponsored by two local organizations

BIRMINGHAM — Imagine you have a daughter in second grade. She comes home from school and tells you, “Mom, today a boy was making fun of me.” You reply, “Oh, that’s not very nice.” Then she says, “Mom, don’t worry about it. His opinion of me is not my opinion of me.”

Would that surprise you?

In today’s world, it would likely surprise many women, according to January Donovan, a life coach whose company, The Woman School, has been recognized by Forbes and is now in 43 countries.

Donovan, a mother of eight children, told the previous story about one of her own daughters during a sold-out event Jan. 27 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, sponsored by two local organizations, Choices Detroit and Good Girl Comeback. Nearly 200 women, from teenagers to grandmothers, attended the event.

A sold-out audience listens to January Donovan, a life coach who runs The Woman School, during the "She Is ... Made for More" event at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
A sold-out audience listens to January Donovan, a life coach who runs The Woman School, during the "She Is ... Made for More" event at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

The fifth-annual "She Is ... Made for More" event has sold out each year it's been offered, said Ann-Marie Neme, president and co-founder of Choices Detroit. Neme and Chelsea Gheesling, president and founder of Good Girl Comeback, have partnered to offer opportunities for women of all ages to participate in outreach, mentoring, missions and fellowship.

“When our team created the ‘She Is…Made for More' concept, we wanted to shed light on the truth — that we were made for more than what the world projects on us," Neme said. "Our team set a platform to discuss topics that are personal and real to each of us.”

“Our mission is to unite women of all generations promoting the value of being a woman,” Neme continued. “We offer a forum for women to pause and reflect about the direction their lives are taking. We present women with the opportunity to integrate and better fulfill their family, personal, and professional aspirations, and responsibilities, thus achieving true fulfillment. We are a voice for an integral understanding of womanhood in all its dimensions.”

Donovan teaches her children, and the countless women she mentors, ways to think and special skills to deal with the myriad issues and decisions faced daily in a world she admits has “gone a little mad.”

Donovan’s hope is to help women not only survive but thrive in today’s social media, internet-saturated culture, which studies show breeds loneliness, isolation, depression and confusion. Women find themselves exhausted and in a constant state of comparison and competition with other women, she said.

“We don’t even know how to define what a woman is anymore,” Donovan said, flashing on the screen a photo of Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who famously during her confirmation hearing was unable to define the word. “I am not a biologist,” was her answer.

“Women are not taught how to be women,” Donavan said. While in past generations it was common for traditional mentors — mothers and grandmothers and extended family — to live under one roof or at least nearby, a greater degree of separation exists today, she said.

Donavan added women shouldn't be quick to judge other women and should learn how to have mercy of themselves amidst the confusion.

“We haven’t reflected on who we are,” Donovan said. “We don’t know what we want and don’t want. We are in constant reaction mode. We have so many demands on us. This makes us resentful, angry, anxious and it compounds year after year. We are carrying a burden we don’t even have the language to talk about.”

While holding her 2 ½-month-old niece Gisele – the daughter of her sister-in-law who was in attendance – Good Girl Comeback founder Chelsea Gheesling said, “My soul was craving this event. We often forget to take care of ourselves.”
While holding her 2 ½-month-old niece Gisele – the daughter of her sister-in-law who was in attendance – Good Girl Comeback founder Chelsea Gheesling said, “My soul was craving this event. We often forget to take care of ourselves.”
January Donovan gives her presentation before 200 women and girls. Donovan reflected upon the state of society and the expectations placed upon women and girls, encouraging those in attendance to be intentional about planning for their success and developing skills for whatever life might throw at them.
January Donovan gives her presentation before 200 women and girls. Donovan reflected upon the state of society and the expectations placed upon women and girls, encouraging those in attendance to be intentional about planning for their success and developing skills for whatever life might throw at them.

It's important for women to discover what they truly desire, especially as mothers, Donavan said, and then to set out to achieve those dreams in order to be better mentors for their own children.

“We need to dream with a purpose and then study to get the skills to make our dreams come true,” she said. “And we can become a woman like you have never been before. But we can’t give what we don’t have.”

During her own college years, Donovan said she received help from a spiritual director who awakened in her a desire to help other women. “She said to me, 'Let’s design you,'” Donovan said.

Donovan learned not to compare herself or try to compete with other women, but to pray for them — which in turn helped her overcome feeling threatened by women she admired, and even develop friendships with them.

Donovan learned that beauty and freedom are internal, not external, realities. And she learned the proper place of material things.

“I like nice things,” Donovan said. “And you can have nice things. They just need to have a purpose in your life.”

Donovan put all she learned into a multifaceted program that offers training for women to become the best version of themselves. One of the keys to her program is helping women to focus on becoming whole, not necessarily perfect, and improving all aspects of their lives.

“Perfect doesn’t mean flawless,” Donovan said, adding the word for perfect used in Scripture is teleos, meaning "to be complete and whole."

“We need to see through the eyes of wholeness,” she said. “Every part of your life matters.” This includes self-image, health, friendships, home environment, family life, intimate relationships and service, she added.

Manuella Simon brought her 16-year-old cousin Jenna Koumayah. Manuella has been to other “She Is … Made for More” events and wanted to bring her cousin to this event. “It’s nice to be with other Catholic women.”
Manuella Simon brought her 16-year-old cousin Jenna Koumayah. Manuella has been to other “She Is … Made for More” events and wanted to bring her cousin to this event. “It’s nice to be with other Catholic women.”

Women can design the life they want, but this takes training, which requires a great deal of work, Donovan said. Donovan aims to give women the tools to learn new skills. For example, she teaches scripts, mental and spoken, to deal with daily decision making.

“Did you know we make almost 350,000 decisions a day?’’ she said. ‘’You have to make choices. And when you don’t know what to say, you get into trouble.”

These scripts, with practice, eventually get hard-wired into our brains. “Then it becomes a habit,” she said.

One example is the mental script that helped Donovan's daughter deal with her classmate: “Other people’s opinion of me is not my opinion of me.” As her children grow, Donovan said, she teaches them new "scripts" and skills to deal with different challenges in life.

“When she is 13, she has new boundaries and awareness, and she needs a new script and new skills,” Donovan said. “It’s not a one-and-done thing. There are layers.”

And even though she teaches other women, Donovan continues to learn new skills daily — practicing her training through self-discipline, often rising at 4 a.m., she said.

Donovan gave event attendees a mini-workshop to evaluate the state of their lives and help women and girls begin to dream about their futures.

“I am so excited to go home and start planning my life,” said Evalynn Noll, 16. “I feel like I’ve just had a high caffeine drink. I am dreaming about bettering my life and influencing my community.”

Beth Brazier-Rydesky brought her 13-year-old daughter, Olivia, to the event. “(Donovan) validated me in helping my daughter live her best life. What a different life it would have been for me had I known this before. We are going to do everything we can to give our girls these tools.”

Brazier-Rydesky plans to sign up for Donovan’s course for mothers and daughters and bring the training to her daughter’s school. Likewise, Kelly Scaccia said she had been feeling “stuck” for about a year.

“I’ve been praying, begging God. I needed help, and then I walked into this," Scaccia said. "I felt like He was talking to me. Now I have to do more praying.”

'She Is ... Made for More'

Donovan shared a few of the maxims she uses to help women discover their passion and purpose:

  • The world is not overcome by darkness. There is just a lack of light.
  • If you want your children to live their faith, they have to love the life you are living.
  • Athletes train every day. We have to train every day to build the skills we need.
  • Are you living by design, or by default?
  • When you don’t contribute, you rob the world of what you are here for.
  • You don’t need to know how to do it to have a dream. Having faith is believing in something you don’t have yet.
  • Your desires point you to your calling.
  • Humility is the foundation of fulfillment. A humble woman has ownership of her calling.
  • Remember, you are an arrow, and not the destination.
  • Dreams need to challenge you, and scare you.
  • Become a walking sign of inspiration. A “beautiful” woman can change the world.
  • Our wounds become our compass. They strengthen us and give us direction.
  • When you are overwhelmed about something, think about what skill you need to overcome it.
  • We have a purpose on this earth until our dying day. Aging is not a bad thing.
  • Our worth is our personal belief about our value. (It’s not the purse or Ph.D.)
  • Don’t be a slave to stuff. It doesn’t change you. You are valuable with or without it.
  • Confidence comes from competence.
  • Evil grows when good women have been exhausted and devalued.
  • Women need to get in the fight. There is no time for Netflix!

For more information about "She is ... Made for More," contact [email protected].



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