Insights and musings on health and happiness


One of the things I missed when living in Boston was a sense of community, which comes second nature to everyone in the Bellevue neighborhood. Starting True North Yoga & Wellness, I was searching for ways to become more involved in the neighborhood and provide services I know people are in need of, myself included. Once this initial goal was met, my next goal was to find a way I could use this business and my voice to talk through current issues I know Northside stands for – and I as an individual stand for – to ensure all feel welcome if they happen upon Bellevue.

People who have a goal they are pursuing are 19% more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26% more likely to feel positive about themselves (Krueger, 1998). Goal setting can be incredibly beneficial to your mental state and performance, but only if set correctly. Setting goals are also linked with higher motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, and autonomy (Locke & Latham, 2006). And, when you achieve a goal, you get a hit of dopamine, so the more you can split a larger goal up into smaller chunks, the more of this pleasure/learning/motivation chemical is released (Entrepreneur.com, 2016).

This new goal of mine had been stewing when I had the privilege of bumping into Nico Cathcart over chickens. Yes, you heard that right, my chickens. Nico happened to be hanging out with the scooter group that congregates in a garage in the alley behind my house with her partner (a scooter enthusiast). As Nico and I got into a conversation, we realized who we each were – she, a well-renowned female muralist and activist, and, I, the owner of a business whose, admittedly not-so-pretty exterior wall Nico had been eyeing as a potential canvas. It was serendipitous and great to see eye to eye as we discussed the vision of the mural – the strength in our Northside community is in our diversity and differences. So, the goal was set, but how were we going to find the funds to properly compensate Nico for this big undertaking? What were we going to do?

Turns out, a bunch of things, starting with a list of smaller goals for how to raise the funds. This list included:

  • Creating a mechanism for how people could donate
  • Getting the word out to the community, family, and friends
  • Hosting events to promote the mural
  • Communicating fundraising milestones to maintain our momentum

Nico advised me to set up a GoFundMe page. We worked with Charles McGuigan, publisher and editor of North of the James, who wrote a lovely article to help get the word out about our fundraising efforts to the community. We spoke to neighbors who suggested engaging the Bellevue Civic Association. Mary-Lynne Williams, owner of Buffalo Firefly, where True North now resides, got the landlord to support the project financially. True North had regular communications go out to its network as well as my personal friends and family.

Covid was certainly a bump in the road as far as how long it took to get this mural completed (it is harder to fundraise without having in-person events – this sub-goal wasn’t achieved), but by hitting the other smaller goals and with the generous donations of friends, family, the community, Third District, Bellevue Civic Association, and owner of the building, we now get to see Aurora Higgs rising every morning on MacArthur. She is believed to be the first trans person represented in a Richmond mural. I couldn’t be more elated about this monumental piece of art advocating unity and inclusion, and representing Northside.

I’m learning to incorporate more goals into my life and breaking those goals up into more manageable bite-sized pieces. And I must say, thank you to all who supported and donated to this cause as we all worked towards this goal. I hope every time you pass by this mural, you too get a hit of dopamine:)


Aliza Sterling

Influenced by teachers, peers, students, 200YTT in Integral Yoga in Rishikesh, India, and other travels, Aliza creates a supportive environment with a focus on individual empowerment in the classroom. She started True North Yoga and Wellness with the desire to bring the Northside community together.

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