There is a common belief that great success is a by-product of intense struggle. In other words, if we are pushing ourselves to our limits and beyond, then we assume that we must be on our way to accomplishing productive things. Is this true? Well, in my mind, this theory has been a reality for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, I would often be so weary when I would finish my music practice for the day that I would fall asleep standing up. The problem was I had a lot of times when I felt genuinely overwhelmed. I never allowed myself to give in on an emotional level, but the fact I had to strive in spite of what I now realize was physical and psychological depletion left me with a sense of permanent discontentment. How can you enjoy your success when you’re too tired to fully embrace it??
Several weeks ago, two of my friends, Timothy and Sarah, asked me to write a blog post centered around the idea of finding ways to enjoy life in spite of the hassle of day-to-day existence. In the back of my mind, thoughts on this subject have been forming and fermenting ever since the topic was suggested to me. I remember reading an interview that the actress, Brooke Shields, gave shortly after the birth of her second child. She was lamenting the fact that she was consistently sleep deprived, even though she was overwhelmed with joy at having another beautiful daughter to take care of. I think Brooke’s predicament is similar to what many men and women find themselves in on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Although what they would technically term obligations are things they know they must do—and even, to a certain extent, want to do—there are times when they feel as if they are sinking instead of swimming because their days consist of nothing but must-do tasks instead of activities that would bring them inner contentment.
At the moment, I am feeling the strain of being a Success Diva myself. I am passionate about what I do. . .and I love the fact that I am having the opportunity to inspire people. However, there is a tendency in my nature to make things too urgent. Having a chronic illness has taught me patience to a certain extent, but there are still times when I have an overwhelming desire to make things happen right now. I berate myself for not posting more blog posts or for not sending more personal messages to my friends, and I seem to ofttimes forget about the meaningful things I actually do accomplish.
It reminds me of those occasions when I have remembered the one critical remark someone has made to me instead of the half dozen compliments I received. I think it’s all part of our inherent tendency to think that life must be difficult in order to be profound. If we laugh too much or have too much fun, we must be slacking off on the things we should be doing. But is this necessarily true? I grew up watching classic films, and, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also developed a sincere appreciation of foreign cinema as well. However, since I began my Success Diva blog, I haven’t taken the time to sit down and watch even one film in its entirety. Why? Well, I have a nagging feeling of guilt when I do something that is basically just about bringing me pleasure because I feel like I ought to be reaching out to other people. How can I spend a couple of hours watching a film when there are people whose messages I haven’t yet replied to??
There really is a fine balance between making sure we meet the needs of those whom we care about and not letting our own needs be neglected. We must nourish ourselves. The actress, Ashely Judd, represents a fine example of a woman who eventually collapsed because she failed to pay attention to her own needs. She was always a high achiever, and, when she ended up moving into the spotlight at a relatively young age, I think she stopped listening to the signals her body was giving her. . .signals that indicated she needed to take more time out for her. When you come from a family of strong and successful women like the Judds, not being a role model of tenacity and resilience is probably not something you let yourself contemplate. Yet, Ashley, in an interview with Glamour magazine in 2006, revealed that she spent 47 days in a Texas treatment facility for depression and other emotional difficulties.
What happened? How could one of the Judd women end up in a situation where the world around her seemed to be falling apart? Well, Ashley admitted that she had issues with codependence in her relationships and that she had a lot of rage and anger inside her that she had been repressing for years. On the surface, she seemed to be “together”. Yet, inside she was going through intense emotional turmoil. Naturally, Ashley received her fair share of criticism for being so open and honest about her problems. But, in demonstrating such candor, she was letting all of us know how human she really is. In addition, she was teaching us an important lesson, which is that we need to get in touch with ourselves and what we’re feeling, even if doing so makes us aware that we should seek therapy or take some time off simply to nourish our souls.
Success can be achieved through pushing and struggling, but, when it is achieved by these means, does it bring us lasting happiness? And, when we put everyone else’s needs before ours or spend nearly every waking moment of our lives at work, what sort of long-term impact is this going to have upon our lives? No one can answer these questions for each person with even the slightest degree of certainty, for each person’s life is different. However, we must never focus so much on our career or on our family or on our partner that we forget to take care of ourselves.
In a way, I think that ultimate success is about soaring rather than struggling. When we break free of the expectations we have of ourselves and accept our best efforts without chastising ourselves, this is when we will be able to enjoy that which we accomplish. How can you paint your own rainbow if you’re so worried about getting the right colors of paints that you never get around to picking up a paintbrush? How can you enjoy a delicious meal at a fine restaurant if all you’re thinking about is how much all the food is going to cost? Letting go of fears, even if they are valid, can be an integral part in designing the life of your dreams.
The brilliant French author, Albert Camus, once said, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Sometimes we miss an opportunity that comes through a door because we’re too busy polishing the windows. And there are moments when we could be experiencing joy, but we’re so occupied with our daily worries that we cannot allow ourselves to feel joyful. We are too busy struggling to let ourselves soar. But, in a way, when we keep ourselves from soaring, we’re like a bird with clipped wings. We’ve built a cage around ourselves, and, rather than looking up at the glorious sky above, we are surrounded by the bars of our own prison.
In a way, the difference in soaring and struggling can be compared to the difference between living and merely existing. You may think you are fully engaged with life because you have a list of goals that you’re determined to accomplish. However, if you don’t stop and replenish your soul and body in-between checking off all those things on your daily to-do lists, the satisfaction you seek will be as elusive as that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No matter how close you think you’re getting to being completely fulfilled, you will find that self-satisfaction is always just beyond your grasp.
When I was growing up, I was taught that crying was a weakness. But now I see that tears, just like expressing anger or disappointment, must be part of a life in which we soar, rather than struggle. The only way that we will ever be able to push ourselves to the limit without ceasing is if we become robots, instead of people. We will come to a breaking point, unless we take time to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us before we deplete all our resources. If an eagle did nothing every waking moment but hunt for food. . .if he or she never stopped to alight on a tree branch and rest, how long do you think he/she would survive? It’s essential to practice the habit of self-discipline and taking initiative, if you’re ever going to accomplish your goals. But, there is something to be said for those moments of tranquillity when we let ourselves be quiet and still as we nurture that inner part our beings that will only be replenished in moments of peace. For our soul to soar, it has to be well-nourished. For our bodies to continue to carry us through life, we must treat them with care and love.
As I continue to try to live up to the expectations I have of myself, I am becoming more and more aware of how much more finely attuned I need to become to my body and my soul. This diva wants to soar, not struggle. . .and she knows that’s what each one of you wants to do, too. So, free yourself from your cage of expectations. Reward yourself more often for the things you do well and start looking towards success as a journey that can be paved with more smooth stones than jagged rocks. Sure, adversity, obstacles, and setbacks can end up transforming us into the kind of people we want to be. . .but we must never think we have to struggle in order to have success. For only when the struggling ceases can we soar!
Live today with enthusiasm and passion. . .and make each moment count!
Alexis, Your Success Diva
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