Be Extraordinary

I believe that we are all connected to one another. But I also think it’s important not to lose sight of our own individuality. We can be extensions of one another in terms of being fellow human beings. However, you are not a direct extension of me, and I am not a direct extension of you. 

There is a danger in identifying ourselves so closely with someone else that we imagine they are like us in nearly every way. Although we may find ourselves relating more quickly and easily to those who are similar, we need also to understand that our dissimilarities are what make the world the colorful, exciting, remarkable place that it is.

No, I don’t see our universe as being a cold, bleak, brutal place. I have  a vision of a different world. And I think that the more we honor our own individual selves, the more beautiful our world will be. I want those who read my words to feel more freedom than ever to be their true selves.  Oscar Wilde once said, “Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world, there are only individuals.”  

The problem is that our concepts become our reality. Eventually, there may come a time when we find that we are unable to discriminate between the concept we hold in our minds and what is really there. Yes, we do create our own reality, and this is not some off-the-wall New Age idea.

If you actually imagine that the way you see the world is the way anybody else sees the world, then you are allowing yourself to fall into the trap of self-deception. This is why making judgements about other people can bring about so much injustice. Just because you value certain things—such as money or material possessions—it doesn’t mean that another person also should or that something is wrong with that person if he or she doesn’t.

I have noticed that my own lack of materialism appears to make people feel the need to find reasons behind my not caring about accumulating possessions or becoming rich. I have been accused of being “afraid” of money or of having a sense of guilt associated with money. Quite honestly, these assumptions are too ridiculous for me to even respond to. How could I feel guilty about having too much of something that isn’t important to me? And how can I be afraid of something that I don’t care about? While I do want to have my basic needs taken care of and would like to also have enough to take care of those whom I love, my recognition of the fact that money does not bring any lasting happiness prevents me from having a significant interest in it.

At the same time, I give you the freedom to love money and to pursue having lots of money because I give each person his/her freedom to take his/her own personal journey. We must stop imagining that we have the right to criticize or interfere with another person’s journey. When each of us was born, we were given the most precious gift of all: our life. It is only when we allow another person to take parts of our life from us that we are in some way failing to appreciate this priceless gift. This is why I encourage individuality and non-conformity above all else. To reach the point where you understand that your freedom is your birthright is to also reach the point where you feel no desire to take anyone else’s freedom away.

Why is it that so many of us feel the need to criticize those who are choosing a path that is completely dissimilar to ours? Do we have a habit of trying to control other people and how they live their lives? Is it not because we feel so powerless and helpless at times?

Circumstances come about that leave us feeling as if we are at the mercy of some unnamed and perhaps undefined fate. Thus, we seek ways to control our lives by seizing the power that rightfully belongs to others. There are subtle ways to do this, too. One of the most discreet I have seen is the chipping away at the self-concepts that other people hold of themselves. When we belittle, ridicule, or demean another human being, what we never seem to understand is that we are only giving the world a reflection of the person we are.

I see people trying to tear down other people in ways that completely astound me nearly every single day. For example, whether it’s a thoughtless comment about a person’s appearance or a criticism of a book, movie, or TV program another person likes, we often cut people down without even realizing it. Then,  in our same state of mindlessness, we wonder why we feel so unhappy with the person who we are. 

Yet, the clue is right before us if we stop to pay attention.  I don’t believe that people are basically mean, cruel, or thoughtless. What I do think is that thoughtlessness and cruelty can become a habit. I also think that these traits in one person tend to bring them out in others. But does that justify the fact the traits exist in the first place?

I remember what actress Jodie Foster said when she accepted her Best Actress Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs”. She said that cruelty was very human and normal,  yet still completely unacceptable.  The problem is that we tend to subscribe to conceptualized thinking when it comes to cruelty. We have a rather structured idea of what cruel behavior constitutes. Because of this,  we don’t notice the little ways in which we may be cruel to others on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis.

Until we get to the point where we recognize the lack of compassion and kindness that we show the world, we will never be part of the change that the world needs to experience. It is a spiritual change, even though it has nothing to do with religion. Hate must be replaced with love, misery with joy, violence with peace, and selfishness with compassion. Do you think this is impossible? I’ll agree that it sounds somewhat idealistic. But if we stop believing in possibilities, we give up any hope of change.

Always remember that I do not see myself as an expert, a role model, or someone who has all of the answers. My articles are written for you and for me for this is a journey we are taking both separately and together. We are both acknowledging our individuality yet also learning about ourselves from each other.  If you find yourself resisting some of the ideas and concepts I set forth, before discarding them completely, at least ask yourself why you are resisting them.

There is something very liberating about letting go of the desire to resist those ideas, thoughts, and concepts that do not agree with our own. For resistance helps nourish fear. And fear prevents us from growing and transforming ourselves into the people we can be. We are already in the process of becoming ourselves at this very moment. Yet with each decision we make and each thought we hold in our minds, we are influencing whether the process will be positive or negative.

Who do you want to be? Do you want to be a person whose life has been one of significance? Do you want to make at least one person’s life a little better from having lived? These questions are not as simple as they may sound nor are they profound. However, they are worth thinking about. 

If you are living a life that is centered strictly or even mostly around you, think about whether or not this type of existence will ever bring you any true happiness or fulfillment. Can’t you be extraordinary without living  just for yourself? And must everyone be simply an extension of you in order for you to let them into your world? The minute that we find ourselves closing our lives off from people whom we perceive to be too different for us to be able to relate to, we are once again resisting.

In an article I wrote awhile back called “Releasing yourself,” I didn’t mention all the things that can prevent us from releasing ourselves from that which is holding us back. Two of the things that will always hinder us are restricting and resisting. For, when we restrict ourselves from experiencing an emotion that we need to embrace, and possibly even express, or when we resist the desire to express our thoughts and feelings—or, at least, to acknowledge them to ourselves—we are creating barriers in our soul that will prevent us from being all that we can be. You can’t keep walls around your heart or fences around your mind and expect to live freely or intensely nor can you allow others to have this freedom.

We run from words like “love” and “affection” and use them with discretion because we fail to understand the meaning of these words.  We put words like this in little boxes in our minds, and then we waste loads of mental energy wondering whether or not it’s okay to use them with someone. We are so convinced that another human being has the power to make us feel less valuable than we are that we repress emotions and feelings in order to protect ourselves. But don’t we see that nobody can make us feel a certain way unless we let them?

Before you decide that you don’t agree with me, think about what I’m saying. Nobody besides you can make you feel a certain way about yourself. If you don’t agree with that, you’re essentially saying that another person has the power to make you feel a certain way. There is no in-between. While it’s true that the environment you grew up in and the level of emotional deprivation you received can and does have a tremendous impact on how you respond to the world and other people, you must embrace the power you have within you.

You need to  understand that you are the person who controls what you think and what you feel. This is where the concept of choosing to be happy originates. People have gotten angry or upset with  me for promoting this theory. Yet, if you think about it, if you don’t choose whether or not you’re happy, you’re giving the power away to other people or the circumstances around you. And why would you want to do that?

It is a tremendous responsibility to think that we make the choice about whether we’re happy or not. But isn’t it better to accept responsibility than to give away your freedom? What would you rather be—just another member of the crowd or a unique and extraordinary individual? When you accept responsibility for every choice, even the choice of which emotion you choose to feel at any given moment, you are embracing your individuality. But, what you also must be willing to do is give everyone else the same freedom, too. 

What does this mean? It means honoring the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that another person has, no matter how dissimilar they may be to yours. It also means not needing to identify yourself with anyone else.  It is only when you doubt your own power that you have to identify yourself with another person.

This is why people look up to movie stars and other celebrities. They are choosing to run from their own insecurities by identifying themselves with someone else. Personally, I think this habit is much more common than we think. Otherwise, we wouldn’t constantly be looking to form friendships and connections with those whom we perceive to be a lot like us. It is when we can stand alone, honoring ourselves as completely unique individuals, that we will be able to tap into our true value, power, and strength.

Who do you want to be like? Why not make a vow to yourself that on this day you will free yourself from the need to compete with any other person and simply be your extraordinary self?

Be the best you that you can be.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(this article is dedicated to my wondrous friend, the extraordinary Adriana Sassoon, with love and blessings always)

Want to find out more about me? https://successdiva.wordpress.com/about/

Read my Personal Creed and Thoughts I Live By: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/thoughts-i-live-by/

Is there such a thing as being too extraordinary? Of course not! And these thoughts will empower you towards Being Extraordinary in An Everyday World: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/on-being-extraordinary/

This Diva’s Thoughts on Love: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/thoughts-on-love/

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This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright 2010 by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved.

Be yourself!

snowflake3 (icy snowflake)Deepak Chopra, the author, lecturer, and endocrinologist once said, “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss.” But what if, like me occasionally, you feel as if you have lost your bliss entirely . . . or perhaps you even feel as if you never found your bliss in the first place? I have said many times in my blog posts that material possessions and such ephemeral things as fame and fortune will not give you happiness or contentment. The question is, what will fill that void within your soul?

The key may begin with making sure that you are living a life that is authentically yours. If, for example, you are living a life in which your goals have been guided  by the desires or wishes of others or you are pursuing your goals for the wrong reasons, then you are compromising the person that you are. In a world in which the superficial is often more highly prized than the ordinary and jealousy is much more common than feelings of generosity and benevolence towards others, there is a tendency to compare ourselves to other people . . . people who may or may not be anything like us.

Rather than focusing on that which we can do, many of us expend our mental energy thinking about that which those around us are able to do, and resenting the advantages they have over us. It could be said that envy and covetousness are perfectly “normal” emotions, and that those who do not admit to experiencing traces of them at least every now and then are hypocrites. Yet, when we envy that which someone else has or we are jealous of that which someone else has accomplished, are we not failing to acknowledge and appreciate the authentic being that we are?

I’m certain that you’ve heard that every snowflake is different from another . . . that each is in some way unique. Do you know what causes the dissimilarities in snowflakes? It is the discrepancies in temperature and the humidity conditions that bring about the changes. Remarkably enough, even snowflakes created in laboratory snow tanks are dissimilar to each other. It has been said that each snowflake carries the physical history of its own personal travels. Well, are we not in many ways like a snowflake? Whether they be good or bad, painful or joyful, the experiences that come into our life and the people who cross our paths help mold us into the people who we become.  And in many ways we determine whether or not the outcome is positive or negative.

To a certain extent, I am a bit of a skeptic. I do not subscribe to the idea that we are at the mercy of fate or that the stars will predict our destiny. Yet, how we use our minds on a daily basis truly will impact the way that our lives continue and end. All too often, people become so accustomed to destructive thought patterns that they develop the habit of thinking negatively, even when they are unconscious of it. To a significant extent, the environment in which we were raised as children influences how we see the world when we are adults. If we were discouraged from expressing ourselves in a way that enabled us to appreciate our own uniqueness–if, for instance, we were compared to other siblings or experienced abuse or neglect–we will tend to look upon the world as being intensely competitive. We may even see it as a hostile universe where no one can be trusted, not even those to whom we are closest. The danger is when we allow ourselves to subscribe to the idea that this type of vantage point is based in reality.

Indeed, the world is competitive in many ways, and, yes, it can be cold and brutal. But that does not mean that we are doomed to lead lives of what author Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet desperation”. Even if we have suffered nothing but abuse, betrayal, and pain up until this time, if we do not believe that our lives can turn around for the better, it isn’t the universe or fate that is placing a curse upon us. Rather, we are placing a curse upon ourselves.

Stephen Covey has spoken of how there are two types of people in this world: those who are effective and those who are ineffective. Covey believes that the ineffective people are those who allow life to happen to them . . . those who think that they were born under an “unlucky star” or who somehow think the forces of the universe are conspiring to make their lives miserable. The ineffective people are the first to cast blame on others for the mistakes they made, for many times admitting their own guilt would chip away at their already fragile self-esteem.

Conversely, effective people are those who are willing to admit their mistakes and who do their best to profit by them. They tend to disregard such terms as “destiny” and “fate” and refuse to accept the idea that they do not have power over most of the events that take place in their lives. To a large extent, ineffective people are guided by their emotions. Instead of stopping to think before they act, they frequently behave rashly, only to be perplexed, bewildered, and overwhelmed when the ramifications of their actions leave them playing the part of the “victim”.

At many times in my own life, I have been an ineffective person. Having come from a dysfunctional family, I did not have the role models I would have needed growing up that would have enabled me to effortlessly become an effective individual. When  you already feel inadequate or have issues with your self-image, the last thing you want to do is accept the fact that you have had a pivotal part in the mess that you’ve made of a specific situation, a career, or an important relationship. However, until you can see yourself clearly and objectively–until you can look in the mirror and see the real you rather than an idealized image of yourself–how will you ever create a personal vision for your life?

I find it interesting that, according to scientific studies, a large percentage of people see both themselves and their lives as being better than they actually are.  Could it be that gaining clarity about every aspect of our life is too painful for many of us to bear on a psychological level? And, if so, is the short-term attempt to sugarcoat our lives going to bring us long-term happiness, or will it only prevent us from ever experiencing true bliss? If you chose to ignore all the flaws in a diamond or an emerald, would those flaws go away? Even if the gem appears to be flawless from a distance or to an unobservant eye, would it diminish the imperfections?

 As I have said before, we are all, in a way, a gem that is in the process of being polished. But if there are flaws that we need to work to eliminate first, all the polishing in the world isn’t going to make us into the person that we want to be. Although many thinkers, philosophers, and authors have expressed this thought in similar words, I still believe that Gandhi said it best: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” One person cannot even begin to change the world, but if we want to see the world start to change, we should start with changing ourselves.

I have found that one of the most important things we can do–an essential step in starting to embrace our own authentic selves–is to let go of the judgements and assumptions we make about other people. When we begin to criticize those around us, we shift the focus from something that we have control over to something that is completely outside our “zone of power”. While you do not have to agree with others or even pretend to, to let the people whom you know have their own opinions and views on every subject, even those which you feel vehement about, is mandatory for creating the life of your dreams. Ultimately, the only life you are going to live is your own. And, no matter what anyone else does, whether you agree with it or not, your own decisions, thoughts, and opinions are the only ones you have the right to establish, change, or sustain.

A lot of complications that come into our lives stem from our inability to separate that which we can control from that which we cannot control. Author and speaker Wayne Dyer has used the label “authoritarian” to describe those people who have the need to force others to subscribe to their same views and opinions. I think that authoritarians oftentimes seek a sense of self-importance that comes from shoving their beliefs down someone else’s throat. But, even if they are successful at doing this, that feeling of self-importance that they want to experience will continue to elude them.

The only way that you will feel important is if you establish a definitive sense of self-worth within yourself . . . and nobody else can give that to you, even if they share all of your beliefs and opinions. In fact, there is no amount of money on earth and no relationship, no matter how fulfilling it may seem, that will give you a feeling of self-worth if you don’t already experience that inside yourself. You have to let go of what you think you should be and what others have told you that you could or couldn’t be to become the person that you’re meant to be. Sometimes, that which will give us ultimate satisfaction in life is so far removed from that which anyone else has encouraged us to pursue that we feel as if we are walking alone down a road that is dark and lonely, bordered by trees on both sides. There may not be anyone there to tell us that we’re making the right choice–it may be a case of us having to trust our instincts about what is right for us.  

A man who had to carve his own niche in life, in spite of criticism from everyone around him, was Wilson Bentley, the farmer who went on to compile the most remarkable photographic collection in history. What were the photographs of? Snowflakes. Although the idea of studying snowflakes would not inspire most people, Bentley was utterly inspired by the magnificence of what he referred to as his “snow blossoms”. Because he followed his instincts and embraced his own extraordinary potential, he not only found his bliss but also stayed connected to it.

In one scientific paper that Bentley wrote about his studies of snowflakes, he used the word “beauty” or “beautiful” forty times in a mere nine pages. To be so enraptured with one’s work is what anyone would surely desire. If more of us were this enthralled with the career path we decided upon, think of what our world would be  like! Rather than a society made up primarily of people leading a humdrum existence that never fills up the void within them, people would wake up each day feeling exuberant and glad to be alive for another twenty-four hours.

Isn’t that the way you want to live? Don’t delude yourself into imagining that you will find bliss or contentment through anything other than fulfilling your individual purpose in the world. If you look at those who have millions of dollars and are famous around the world, only a mere handful of them are truly happy. Shakespeare may have said that the world is a stage and we are all players, but, if you could trade in a “fake” life, a makeshift existence that is leaving you empty and unfulfilled, wouldn’t you do so in a heartbeat? It doesn’t matter what we’ve been told that we must survive . . . whether we have subscribed to the idea that life is difficult and unfair and we must simply bear with it. We are not a character out of a novel by Charles Dickens, and we do not go through our entire existence being miserable and unhappy. Although great works of literature, art, and music have been produced through emotional and physical suffering, it wasn’t necessarily because of this suffering that these masterpieces were produced but rather in spite of them.

I am learning so much about life as I write my blog and share my insight with you. There are so many questions I still have in regard to how optimal happiness is attainable and how we can differentiate between dreams and goals that are realistic and those that will always be just beyond our grasp. Having not written a blog post in nearly three weeks, I have had quite a lot of time to reflect upon my own life and to recommit to being the kind of Diva who will truly make a difference in the lives of those who read my blog. You and I are on this journey together . . . and that is something I hope you will never forget.

For today, it is my heartfelt wish that you will look upon yourself as a snowflake, in human form . . . a unique being entirely different from anyone else. I want you to pursue the destiny that is yours alone. It is waiting for you, but only you can discover it and fulfill it.

Live with enthusiasm, faith, confidence, and passion!

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages are written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva

Surrender to Life!

believe172I’m sure that you’ve heard the saying about winning the battle but losing the war. Well, what does that mean, and how does it happen? Oftentimes I think those who wish to accomplish great success have a certain mind-set. This mind-set is rooted in the concept that in order to achieve you must be fighting an uphill struggle constantly. The problem with this philosophy is that, sooner or later, you will deplete yourself of all your resources. I’ve spoken about this in a previous blog post, but, as time has gone on, I have become more and more aware of how it applies to my own life.

An incessant struggle ends up causing you a lot of anxiety and fear, whether you’re always consciously aware of it or not. To be the authentic You, the You that you want to be to surmount obstacles and use your unique potential, you have to establish and maintain an inner sense of peace and calm. Waves of turbulence would be fine if you were an ocean instead of a person. But you are a person and therefore should treat yourself with a certain amount of gentleness.

First of all, it’s essential that you let go of all fears you have about not achieving your goals or making your dreams into a reality. Secondly, it’s crucial that you understand that you’ll have to let go of some things in order to bring certain other and better things into your life. We usually associate the word “sacrifice” with something negative. It implies that you’re giving up something that you want or need. If you go on a diet, you might speak of sacrificing chocolate candy or ice cream or french fries or some other food that you particularly enjoy.

However, the sacrifice I’m speaking of should be regarded as something entirely beneficial for you and your  life. You may actually have to sacrifice your inordinate desire to succeed in order to experience true success. If that sounds like a contradiction on my part, let me explain.

When you experience a hunger for anything–whether it be food or fame, money or sex or something else–your body moves into a mode of tension that will not let up until your need is satisfied. But, what if that need cannot be immediately satisfied? How will you cope with a state of ceaseless tension or anxiety? The answer is, in letting go. Even if it seems like you are miles away from achieving anything significant, until you acknowledge the success that you’ve achieved thus far, no matter how minimal it seems to be, you will not accomplish more. To remind yourself constantly of that which you haven’t done or are not yet able to achieve will diminish your self-esteem and create a psychological barrier between you and ultimate accomplishment.

For most of my life, I’ve been someone who might easily be referred to as an overachiever. At the times when I’ve not achieved something, I’ve still maintained the mind-set of an overachiever. What does this mean? Well, I’ve always had difficulty relaxing and enjoying life for the miracle that it is.

Instead of living in the present, I’ve lived between a past in which I feel I haven’t accomplished enough and a future in which I have envisioned myself not accomplishing even half of what I might desire. Naturally, this has prevented me from experiencing the level of success that I might have enjoyed otherwise. And at this point in time, I recognize that I’ve been walking down the wrong path. Instead of walking down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of my dreams, I’ve been walking through a forest of painful memories and shattered dreams. Rather than a fairy tale, I’ve been living in a nightmare of my own making. So, where did everything go wrong? How did I end up locking myself up in a dungeon of misery and dissatisfaction?

I don’t honestly think that we can always explain the twists and turns of life. Nor do I think we can necessarily analyze our choices and reactions to the circumstances that take place–no matter how much we might want to. To try to examine every detail of our existence would be like attempting to explain an exquisite work of art or to analyze a symphony or some other piece of complex music. We can conjecture and come to a few conclusions. But, just as many literary critics perceive what they wish to see in a work about which they’re writing, so we, when it comes to our lives, can only make random guesses as to why specific things have taken place.  Although it’s important to take responsibility for our lives and the choices we make, it’s impossible to completely comprehend many of our actions.

However, what we need is to surrender ourselves to life and that which comes our way. We need to combine striving for excellence with letting go of our fears of failure. When we come to a fork in the road of our lives, we need to stand still and actually listen to our own heartbeat. We’ll find ourselves at one with the harmony of the universe. There we’ll accept ourselves for the person that we are, in spite of whatever flaws or shortcomings we possess. That moment–the moment when we’re completely fearless–is when we will leave an open window for magic to come into our world. Miracles can only happen to those who are receptive to them, and fear is a great inhibitor. As long as you fear anything, whether it be failure or even death, you will not be able to use your full potential or experience personal success or fulfillment.

When I think of a story that demonstrates how easy it is to give up almost everything you have because of a desire to have achieved more in life, the classic black-and-white film It’s a Wonderful Life comes to mind. If you have seen the film, you probably remember how close George Bailey (played by actor Jimmy Stewart) came to ending his life. He had a beautiful wife he loved and who loved him as well as a healthy family and a host of friends.

But George reached that moment of despair when he could not look past the misery of the moment to the long-term consequences of a rash action. It was only through the divine intervention of an angel that he regained his faith in life and his desire to continue living. When that angel showed George what the lives of those whom he was thinking of deserting would be like if he committed suicide, George understood what a mistake it would be for him to end his life. In those minutes when George could only think of death, he also thought of all the exquisite dreams he had abandoned in order to live what some would think of as a humdrum existence as an “ordinary” husband and father and wage earner.  

In a way, the novel Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates echoes this same theme. It tells of a man and woman who end up living a life that neither of them would have chosen, simply because of a certain set of circumstances that came about. But whereas in Revolutionary Road the husband and wife don’t learn to accept their lives without constantly yearning for more, in It’s A Wonderful Life Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed manage to be content with what they have. Granted, a great deal more complexity exists in Yates’ novel than there is in the nostalgic holiday film. But each has a valuable message we can apply to ourselves and our lives.

Moreover, I think a valid point can be made–namely, that we can destroy ourselves by never being satisfied with what life has brought us. This lack of satisfaction is one reason that society is full of people who live in a continual state of unhappiness. They assume that another child, a new car or gadget, a new house, a trip to Europe, or something similar will give them the joy and satisfaction that they have not yet found. But, joy begins with a state of mind that lives in the present–a state of mind that can look at the beauty in everyday existence rather than at that which hasn’t yet been accomplished or acquired.

In another blog post some two months ago, I spoke about the importance of having a “vision”. Well, to have a vision is necessary. But not if it means that you’re incapable of enjoying today. You must surrender yourself to the present in order to get in touch with your destiny. And you must also surrender your ideas about how things must be in order to leave room for your subconscious to guide you. Unlike your conscious mind which acts like a self-critic, who is always there to tell you what won’t work or what you cannot do, your subconscious mind allows you the freedom to explore a myriad of possibilities in every aspect of your life.  When you’re guided by your subconscious, it’s like being a child again–fearless and intrepid, without mental tapes playing in your mind telling you about all the things that are unrealistic or unacceptable or just plain “bad”.

There will always be critics out there to try to make you feel less capable than you are. A few naysayers have told this Success Diva that I’m too compassionate and that I care too much for others. I’ve also been criticized for calling myself a “diva” since the term can have negative connotations.  But it’s our lives we’re leading–not someone else’s. We have to do what we think is best. When you start freely using such words as “Powerful” and “Successful” about yourself, some people will actually back away from you. But it’s only because it evokes feelings of inadequacy and/or insecurity in them.

Do not ever be afraid to go after that which you want with gusto and determination. Those who sit or stand on the sidelines watching the show are there because they did not dare to take part in the production. Seldom is it a lack of talent or intelligence or good looks or personality which prevents someone from achieving his or her goals. Generally, it is fear–either fear of criticism or fear of failure, or a little bit of both. Although it’s rarely possible to be completely impervious to other people’s opinions, it’s nevertheless crucial that you follow your own instincts and make the choices that you know in your heart are best for you, regardless of what others may think.

One thing that you must be prepared for is abandonment by some of your friends and, perhaps,  even family members. When you start to transform yourself from a timid or fearful person who felt incapable of making big dreams come true into someone who’s willing to step onto that path that will take him or her to his or her dreams, you’ll notice that some people simply can’t handle it. It isn’t that these people want you to fail, per se. They simply do not want you to succeed.

As difficult as it may be to comprehend, they would rather see a stranger excel in your chosen field than they would you. Of course, they will only end up bringing unhappiness into their lives with this type of mind-set. However, everyone is at a certain place in his or her life. And some people truly are not yet at the place where they can allow others to succeed when they themselves are not successful.

Every year, many people turn on the Academy Awards Ceremony to see actors and actresses whom they revere win coveted  gold statuettes that they themselves wish they could possess. Oftentimes, those who watch these award shows with such intense interest covet the fame and glory that these celebrities have gained. Yet, would these same envious onlookers be willing to make the sacrifices that those actors and actresses have made? Would they have been willing to wait tables just to pay for acting classes? Would they have given up spending money on things they desired, but didn’t need, in order to pay for training in singing, dancing, modeling, or acting? You might be surprised to learn how infrequently people are willing to sacrifice their immediate wants for their long-term dreams.

This brings me to what I said about winning the battle but losing the war. What are you holding onto in your life right now that you would need to give up in order to start making your dreams come true? Would you have to stop watching so much television? Would you have to stop drinking excessively? Would you have to make dietary changes or start managing your finances more shrewdly? Only you know what changes are necessary, and only you can decide whether it’s worth making those changes. If you would rather just survive instead of thrive, then you can continue living as you are now. However, if you would like to experience the sheer ecstasy of thriving, if you would like to stop being tormented by the chaos of the world around you, if you have goals that seem more like wishes because you see no hope of them coming true, tap into that courage and resilience that you already have within you and surrender to your destiny!

Make the most of today and cherish every moment! Live with passion, enthusiasm, courage, and confidence. Live Without Limits, Success Diva style!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

 

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If you need my personal input on a specific situation or problem, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com  I will respond to all messages at my earliest convenience.

This page and all written material at the Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

Exploit Your Potential!

ballerina25There are moments in our lives when we feel as if there is no one to turn to. Or, perhaps, there are people to turn to, but deep within ourselves we know that they would never truly comprehend what we are going through. It’s not always easy to ascertain that which is genuine from that which is fake. It’s rather like lab-created gems. There are many jewels that are the product of a laboratory instead of nature. Yet they appear so authentic that even a jeweler is unable to tell the difference at first glance. These jewels that are “created” by lab technicians are not so different from some people. True caring and compassion are qualities that have always been  rare. But in a world where instant gratification has become more of an addiction than even a habit, authentic individuals are oftentimes scarce.

This is why I stress the importance of always being yourself and of never letting society or the group of people whom you associate with dictate your opinions, your thoughts, or your actions. To a certain extent, you have to exploit yourself  in order to completely embrace life. You must exploit your own potential before anyone else does, for, at the end of your existence here on earth, the person who is going to be left with regrets will be you. The actress Bette Davis once said, “Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.” And Davis demonstrated her steely determination by fighting relentlessly for the roles she got. At her prime, she was the highest paid woman in America, and, during a time when the entertainment industry was dominated by men, Davis set the stage for the powerful leading actresses who have followed in her footsteps such as Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, and Jodie Foster.

In keeping with Bette Davis’ personal motto, what would you attempt to do if you knew with absolute certainty that you simply could not fail? Would the choices you’re making in your life right now be different than they are? If you have any role models or people whom you look up to, whether dead or alive, do you think that they allowed themselves to become overcome with feelings of self-doubt? Or did they live fearlessly?

I have always admired the dancer Isadora Duncan, who dared to be herself both in her career and in her personal life. She was an original, and she was proud of it. It’s true that Isadora did not always use the wisest judgment. But at least she pursued her dreams and made them into a reality by her willingness to take risks and fly in the face of convention. Who wants to conform to what society tells us we should be? In an era when women who had children out-of-wedlock were branded and crucified, Isadora held her head up high and bore two children by two separate lovers. While this lifestyle isn’t something I’m condoning, what I do admire is Isadora’s determination to hold onto her self-respect in a world in which everyone was attempting to take it away from her. Her self-worth was innate and not dependent on anyone else. This is why Isadora followed her heart and married a Russian poet who was eighteen years younger than she was.

Even in today’s much more liberal and open-minded world, much of Isadora’s behavior would be considered reckless.  Yet, are we to only admire those who live by the standards that we hold dear? I think it’s important to find people whom we look up to or who inspire us for different reasons. We should never emulate another person entirely, for, if we do so, then we are cutting short our own uniqueness.

I have been candid about the fact that I believe in God, but even if you don’t, perhaps a part of you still senses that there is a Divine Force at work in the universe. And perhaps you believe that this Divine Force created and molded each of us in a specific way. Whenever we try to be like another person or envy someone else because of his or her special attributes or capabilities, we are negating our own worth. There is positively no way that I can place enough emphasis on embracing that which is exclusively yours. And your potential is your most valuable commodity.

Many people believe that an icon like Madonna is not a role model–that her fame has been centered around the wrong values and principles. However, I think it’s much easier to make judgments about other people and their lives than it is to see ourselves clearly. We attach labels to those whom we do not approve of. Then we wonder why someone decided to label us or our actions in a certain way. Only when we let go of labels and stop being so judgmental will we be free to be ourselves. As I’ve said in other blog posts, we can put ourselves into a prison of our own making if we so choose. That prison can be made up of negative and destructive thoughts such as hate, anger, fear, and resentment. The moment that we allow ourselves to judge another person, we are actually judging ourselves. Rather than focusing on the ways in which someone else falls short in our mind, we should focus instead on how we can improve.

The great Russian author Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Who can be naive or delusional enough to imagine that they can make such an impact on the world that they are able to alter it in a significant way? Although I began my work as the Success Diva with the objective of reaching out to others and making a genuine difference in their lives, I am still aware that unless I pay enough attention to developing myself and exploiting my own potential, I will never accomplish anything meaningful.

Even though the word “exploit” has negative connotations, I am using it in a broader sense to fully embody the idea of using every bit of your potential for all its worth . . . and then some! Opportunities do not always come knocking on the door of your world. Sometimes, you have to seek them. And there are moments when you must grab something that looks like a possibility and make it into the chance of a lifetime.  Never hesitate to take the blessings that are brought into your life. If you do not make use of them, someone else will.

In the Bible, Jesus tells the parable about the talents (in this instance, a talent was a weight of precious metal) a master gave his servants as he was going to leave on a journey. When he returned, the master greatly rewarded the man who had used and multiplied his talents. He was told, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” On the other hand, the unwise servant who had buried the one talent he was given–who had dug a hole in the ground and buried it–had even that taken away by his angry master. Even if you don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God or anything more than a myth, you can still relate to the concept that that potential which we cultivate. invest, and use is increased rather than diminished.

Life can be like this. For when we allow our potential to drown in the ocean of petty worries and other peoples’ opinions, it is the same as if we never had that potential in the first place. As my friend and mentor, Denis Waitley, says in his book Seeds of Greatness, we have the power within ourselves to achieve virtually anything. “We all have the power within,” Denis writes, in the chapter “The Seed of Purpose”. “There is a potential gold mine inside each of our goals.” What Denis says is true, even if you think it seems hard to believe.

Not only is there a gold mine inside of your goals, but there is a gold mine inside of you. The very fact that you are reading this blog indicates that you have already won. Even at this moment, you are a winner for yov have been brave enough to seek ideas about how you can improve yourself and your life. You have chosen to stop living by default and to begin living on purpose . . . like a boat that has finally found a clear-cut direction.

I have spoken about the Yellow Brick Road that will take you to the Emerald City of your dreams. Well, the path that will take you to that road is strewn with obstacles. There are distractions and day-to-day worries, in addition to people who will attempt to sabotage your efforts, whether they intend to or not.  Even those who are closest to us and claim to have our best interests at heart cannot always be expected to see our dreams and goals for us. You must capture your vision yourself . . . and only you should be the person to exploit your own potential. It’s almost a law of nature that only two options are possible. If we do not exploit our potential, either it goes to waste or someone else will exploit it for us.

I have emphasized the importance of working together as a team and surrounding yourself with those who share similar vantage points to yours. This is crucial if you want to achieve ultimate success or happiness. However, in the end, it still comes down to you making full use of your potential. You cannot ever become entirely dependent on anyone or anything else. You make the magic happen in your life. As I said from the beginning, it really is all about you for no one can live your life for you.

Have you ever seen an episode from the old TV program, “This is Your Life?” If so, do you remember how the most noteworthy moments in the life of whoever happened to be honored were flashed on the screen? Did you ever wonder, “How would my life look if this documentary were about me?” When I was growing up, I recall speculating as to what significant accomplishments might be mentioned. Having been trained to be a concert musician, nearly all of my daydreams, when I was a little girl, included the creation of  award-winning musical recordings and international concert performances. I always had the tendency to dream big, in shades of bright colors, rather than shades of gray or black and white. At this point, it amazes me to remember how grand many of my fantasies were. But, dreaming extravagantly is a wonderful way to prepare you to embrace your potential.

If you do not believe you’re capable of something remarkable, how will you ever attempt it? Claude Bristol’s book The Magic of Believing really does illuminate the importance of believing in yourself unlike nearly any other book I’ve ever read. And what is exploitation of your potential but one more step past believing in yourself? On many occasions, the only true difference between someone who lives a life in obscurity and someone who accomplishes things that bring them a tremendous amount of recognition is belief. I use the word “belief” in its most profound sense for it is something beyond mere self-confidence. It is an innate sense of trust in yourself–faith in your ability to make the most out of your life and to maximize your abilities.

Although we have been conditioned by society and often also by the environment in which we have been reared to subscribe to the idea that our capabilities are limited, we were all born with the capacity to do nearly anything. The depth of the potential that is inherent in each of us is something that many people never become fully cognizant of. For, on a conscious level, it seems impossible to imagine that we can  achieve things that we would call extraordinary if we haven’t seen them being accomplished by those around us. 

When we hear stories of those who have surmounted monumental odds to achieve recognition, renown, and in many instances “celebrity” status, there is sometimes a tendency to tell ourselves that these people were somehow special and set apart from the rest of humanity, whereas we are “ordinary” mortals. In doing this, we are automatically placing limitations on our potential that aren’t really there. Yet, when you subscribe to a false idea for long enough, you will soon begin to imagine that it’s true.  It’s rather like wearing fake diamonds for an extended period of time. After awhile, you may barely be able to ascertain the difference between a real diamond and one that has been created by a lab technician.

So, instead of suppressing your potential by telling yourself lies about what you can’t do, embrace and exploit that potential for all it’s worth. I dedicate this particular blog post to my friend Elizabeth, who first used the phrase, “exploit your potential”. Elizabeth, you are one of those rare persons who lives life fearlessly and is forever true to herself. Thank you for coming into my life.

May you continue to embrace every moment . . . and to live with passion, courage, enthusiasm. . and belief in Yourself!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

If you want to Live Without Limits, make sure you sign up for Success Diva’s newsletter. Mailings are every 2-3 days, depending on my schedule.

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If you would like my input on a specific situation or problem in your life, do not hesitate to write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com Alternatively, you can find me as Alexis Wingate at Facebook. Just send me a personal message, and I will respond at my earliest convenience.

This page and all written material at the Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

Believe in yourself!

believe135 (flower)Many people have the erroneous idea that faith must be in some way inevitably connected with religion. However, I have never thought that this was necessarily the case. True, it can help in times of immense turmoil to imagine that the universe is guided by a Divine Force, whether we call that force God, the Creator, or something entirely different. At the same time, there is the unshakable sense of self-assurance that I feel those who succeed in life never quite lose sight of–and who can deny that this, too, is a type of faith?

Norman Vincent Peale, the preacher, speaker and self-improvement author extraordinaire who first brought the concept of “positive thinking” to the forefront of society, believed that the most important seed we must plant in ourselves is the seed of self-worth. I think our world is so focused on outward appearances and on the superficialities of life that many people don’t even know what they should base their self-worth on. If their sense of value comes from their appearance, what do they do when they start to see the first signs of aging on their face? Does their self-worth suddenly plummet? And, if so, is there any validity behind their feeling they are less valuable than they once were? You can pick up fashion magazines or newspapers or turn on the television, and you see impossibly gorgeous models, both male and female, advertising everything from perfume and shampoo to blue jeans and designer duds. After awhile, you cannot help but wonder, “Is how I look truly the most important thing?”

This is where a personal “vision” comes into play. I have heard people scoff at the idea of a “mission statement”, and, perhaps, it does sound like too grandiose a term to describe a sentence or two summing up what a person wants to accomplish in his or her life. The irony is, the people who roll their eyes in amusement or smile smugly at such terms are the very people who don’t honestly have a clear-cut direction for their life. They are those who drift aimlessly, like boats which glide across the ocean, allowing themselves to be tumbled about by the waves. They are the people who swim but never make it up to the diving board. Such people may have moments in which they occasionally accomplish something significant, but, with no clearly defined plan, how can they ever use even a fraction of their innate potential?

Truthfully, I have never enjoyed writing down goals. In fact, I find it downright tedious! But, like the treadmill some of you get on at the gym, I write down goals because they  help me achieve my objectives–not because they bring me any momentary gratification. How many times do you go to the grocery store without having made some sort of shopping list, even if all you’ve done is scribble down a handful of items you desperately need? Well, is a trip to the grocery store that much more important than your life? Even though there may not seem to be a logical explanation for this, there is something about writing down a goal or plan that turns it into a reality for your subconscious mind. The crucial part of this strategy is that your goal or plan must be entirely your own. That is, you must let go of everyone else’s expectations of you.

I am currently re-reading my friend and mentor Denis Waitley’s incomparable book, Seeds of Greatness, and I am struck yet again by the story he shares about trying to live out his father’s vision for his life. Like so many parents who mean well, yet do not understand the importance of their children making their own path in life, Denis’ father encouraged him to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Knowing Denis both from his writing and through my friendship with him, I fully perceive that his spirit is too poetic and creative for him to experience total fulfillment in fields such as mechanical engineering and marine engineering. And, even though Denis did graduate from the Naval Academy and enjoyed a nine-year career as a naval aviator, he was never at home in that profession. However, like those who always manage to find the positive aspect of those sets of circumstances that don’t turn out precisely the way they want, Denis credits being a naval aviator with teaching him an incalculable amount of self-discipline, in addition to the invaluable importance of goal-setting and teamwork.

How many of us would have looked upon those nine years as being wasted? I must confess, it took me a few years to fully cherish the benefits I gained from all the years I dedicated to the goal of one day being a world-renowned concert violinist–a career which never became an actuality. I had to fight the impulse not to consider the largest part of my life as having been wasted. Although I read about such remarkable women as actresses Jane Seymour and Charlize Theron, both of whom began as dancers only to be swept into acting because of an injury, I still found it hard to stomach the idea that there could have been a purpose in my having worked so hard to design, create, and shape a career that was cut short by lupus. There were moments in which I somewhat cynically thought, “Sure, it sounds good to say that everything has a purpose. But isn’t that just what we want to think?” If you ever have had moments like that, you know that they are generally accompanied by a feeling of despair, hopelessness, and diminished self-worth. Why?  Well, I think that all of us want to believe that the things that happen in our lives have a purpose behind them, even if we don’t admit it.

Once again, I will reiterate that the word “purpose” has nothing to do with religion. It can incorporate God, for those who do believe in Him like me, but it can also be that inner sense that you have a role to play in the universe–a role that only you can perform. Shakespeare once said, in his play All’s Well that Ends Well that all the world is a stage, and all of us are merely actors on it. To a certain extent, I think Shakespeare was right in comparing the universe to a stage. And in drawing on this comparison, you can look upon your life as being a specific part in a production that the world is staging. It is a part that no understudy will ever be able to take over, even on the days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed or when you feel like everything is going wrong. It’s also a part that you cannot walk away from, no matter how badly you may sometimes want to.

So, what are you going to do? If you were a bird or an angel, would you clip your wings, or would you use them to enable you to fly? The potential you have within you is as miraculous as the wings on a bird or a butterfly. . . or the aura around a celestial being. I’m not certain that anyone has ever expressed the remarkable capabilities of the human spirit more aptly than Thomas Edison when he said: “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” The reason why we so rarely astound ourselves is because we have so little faith in our own unique potential. We allow the doubts we have about ourselves and the skeptical comments others make about our endeavors to cloud our vision. Instead of looking through a glass that shows us what we can do, we’re actually looking through a glass that shows us what other people think we can or cannot do. And, if we’re not doing that, we’re looking at a reflection of ourselves that only gives us a close-up of our flaws and our failures.  After awhile, we will experience a sense of fear about even trying to do something because our conscious reminds us of all the times we’ve failed in the past.

It’s this sense of fear I speak of that makes faith so important. You may still be at a point in your life where you think that the fear you feel when you’re taking a risk or striving towards a goal will somehow magically evaporate. Well, guess what? That fear will only get stronger if you’re waiting for it to go away. It’s kind of like thinking that the stack of dirty dishes in your kitchen sink is going to diminish if you leave it there long enough. Unless you have a fairy godmother somewhere in your midst, you or someone else will have to wash and dry all those dishes. Similarly, you are going to have overcome your fear at some point, whether you want to or not. Because a more powerful emotion is often the only thing that can diminish or eradicate a weaker emotion, the best way to combat fear is through faith.  You don’t have to complete your vision in your mind of what you want your life to be like–just start with a few pieces of the puzzle. Like an architect building a cathedral, you will soon see that patience and perseverance will do more for you than any momentary bursts of exuberance. I have had many people tell me that patience is what they find to be the hardest virtue to learn. Yet, when you remove patience from your stack of playing cards, you will find that you are trying to win a game with an incomplete deck.

Perhaps, having a chronic illness has forced me to learn the importance of patience. Who knows? I do think that anyone can learn the art of patience, though. It is when you become completely aware of what a difference patience can make in the quality and substance of your accomplishments that you begin to work towards mastering it. Faith and patience actually go hand in hand, too–for we must often have faith about things that have not yet happened. When we take a trip by airplane, we usually have faith that we’ll have a safe journey, just as we have confidence that we’ll get up the next morning when we go to sleep at night. If your belief system has been grounded in fear, it won’t be easy to change it. But, I have often found that what we must work hardest for is that which is most worth our achieving.

The psychologist and author William James summed it up well when he said, “To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” Even if the fear is never completely gone, it can become so diluted by the level and strength of our faith that it will lose any power it has over us and our lives. That is when the forces of the universe, whether we believe in a Creator or not, begin to somehow work together to help us achieve our aims. Whether you call it a miracle or simply the way the world works is up to you. But, I challenge you to start replacing fear with faith for the next month and to observe how your life begins to change. See whether or not those obstacles you imagine to be mountain peaks are really molehills in disguise. . .and whether or not that setback that you thought was permanent might not pave the way for an undiscovered opportunity. Although being realistic about what’s possible is always important, we do sometimes have to look at what can be instead of what is.

May you live each moment of today with courage, passion, enthusiasm, and faith! Make each moment count!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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This message and all written material at the Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

The magic is within you!

magic5You know, I think too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that something wonderful must happen before we really can expect to feel inspired. In other words, we wait for the magic to happen to us. . .rather than making the magic happen. This diva has been guilty herself of waiting for an opportunity to come her way, instead of going forth and seeking it. And yet, most of us have heard the quotation from the Bible, “Seek and ye shall find.” Indeed, this principle is at the root of most motivational programs and books. So, why do we sit waiting for good things to come our way? Could it be that it’s easier to accept the idea that the opportunities and “lucky breaks” didn’t find us as opposed to admitting that we tried and failed? Michael Jordan, the world-renowned basketball player and promoter of the philosophy that it’s more important to try than to succeed, has some interesting thoughts on failure. During the height of Jordan’s career, he was asked by a school publishing outfit whether or not it would be all right to post pictures of him in classrooms to inspire thousands of school children to pursue their dreams as he had pursued his. Jordan agreed, but only if his message could be about failure, rather than success. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life,” he declared, “and that is why I succeed.”

Now, if someone like Michael Jordan is able to acknowledge failure as a valuable and essential part of the success process, why are we so afraid to fail?? Well, I think it’s because society tends to regard failure as something that none of us should admit to. We’re supposed to disguise our failures at all costs. And this type of misguided programming is why we are so afraid to really take the risks that are necessary to turn the life we’re living right now into the life of our richest dreams and deepest desires. For example, there are men and women who marry whoever comes along because it’s easier than holding out for that man or woman who would make their lives truly complete. After all, a bird in the hand is better than ten in the tree, such people tell themselves. And, indeed, it is important not to throw away a relationship that is important to us simply to pursue a whimsical fantasy. However, I think that once we begin to “settle” for second best, we will never stand a chance of getting first best. Do you really think that any athlete goes to the Olympics saying, “I want to win a silver medal”? No, of course they don’t. Because they know that only in striving for that gold medal are they going to be able to give their all to the competition. Look, it isn’t always about the results of your efforts. It’s about how hard you try. There are many days in which this diva wonders how she’ll ever be able to write a blog post that is as inspired as the one she wrote a day or two before. But, you know what? When you write from the heart as I do, it isn’t as important whether or not I express my thoughts as eloquently as I would like to as it is whether or not I reach you with my words.  When I read back over some of my old posts, there are all sorts of ways in which I feel they could be improved. However, at the time I wrote them, I was making my very best effort.

Well, life is a lot like that, you see. Sure, you may have made some unwise choices yesterday or last week, but, at the time, you probably weren’t aware of the fact that you were using poor judgment. And, in order to keep having the kind of faith you need to have in yourself, it’s crucial that you not dwell on all the errors you’ve made. How can you possibly find magic in your life if all you’re focusing on is your mistakes? You must let go of the gray clouds of the past and embrace the rainbow of the present. Otherwise, you’re like someone who only notices the weather when there’s a thunderstorm. Magic can be found in things that are seemingly insignificant, too. For example, there can be magic in the smile of a child or in the song of a bird. You don’t have to wait for a major event to take place to feel grateful and joyful about life. In fact, the more things you find to feel joyful about, the more likely it is that wonderful things will begin to take place in your life. Haven’t you ever noticed that on days when you seem to see the world through rose-colored glasses people seem to treat you more thoughtfully and you seem to have a more established sense of self-worth? Do you think this is merely a coincidence? Or, could it be that something about the positive energy you are feeling is felt by those whom you come into contact with?

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the life and work of the remarkable artist, Frida Kahlo, but, when I saw the 2002 film focusing on her life, it struck me that she would never have been the painter she became if it hadn’t been for the suffering she endured and the obstacles she had to overcome.  The reason she came to embrace life so wholeheartedly was because she knew what it was like to live for months bed-ridden and in excruciating pain. She understood that if you respond to the trials that come into your life with courage and strength, you can actually become a more powerful individual because of that which you have overcome. When I look at Frida Kahlo’s art, her use of color is one of the first things that attracts me. It is incredible that a woman who could so easily have chosen to live her life in shades of black and white responded to the agony of living with such exuberance and enthusiasm. Truly, Frida Kahlo is a testimony to the triumph and vibrancy of the human spirit. So many of us tend to get caught up in petty annoyances and concerns. We make mountains out of molehills, to use a trite expression that is nevertheless relevant to this diva’s train of thought. We concern ourselves with whether or not our favorite film is out on video yet or whether one of our best friends is giving us enough attention. Yet, if we really stop to think about it, how important are these things? What if you found out tomorrow that you only had six months to live? Would it change the way you saw your life? Which of the things that are annoying you now would seem important? I don’t know about you, but very few of the issues I worry about on a daily basis would seem essential if I knew my life would be ending in a matter of months. It wouldn’t matter to me whether or not everyone approved of everything I did because I would be devoted to being completely true to myself. To borrow a famous quote from comedian and actor Bill Cosby,” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” The question I would like to pose to you is this: should the way you’re living right now be so different than the way you would live if you knew you only had a certain amount of time left on this earth? And, if you answer is “yes,” then why should it be so different? None of us know how many more days we’ll actually be alive. This being said, shouldn’t we start finding the magic in our lives right now? Shouldn’t we stop letting ourselves be sidetracked by other peoples’ opinions of us? Shouldn’t we cease to let the criticism and discouragement of those around us cloud our personal vision?

I’ve had a lot of you tell me how much my last post, “Capture Your Vision” meant to you. Well, one of the clues to capturing your vision is to notice the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. In a way, gratitude is directly related to magic. How? Okay, think about when you were a child and Christmas morning came around. When you went downstairs and saw presents under the tree, didn’t you feel as if you were experiencing a moment of magic? And, when you opened your presents, even if you didn’t get the gifts you wanted, didn’t you feel grateful? Now perhaps some of you will tell me that you didn’t feel a large amount of gratitude because you rarely were given what you had asked for. But, in all likelihood, you can still relate to the feelings of intermingled gratitude and magic that you felt when Christmas morning arrived. And, if your family didn’t celebrate Christmas, think of another occasion that seemed magical to you when you were growing up. Perhaps, your birthday seemed like a magical time when you were a child because it was a day that was all about you. Well, the life you’re living right now is about you, too. The only difference is, now that you’re an adult, you fully understand that you’re not on this planet alone. So, you realize that even if you’re the focus of your life, the other people in it are very important, too. In fact, if you’ve been applying some of your diva’s philosophy to your day-to-day existence, you may have even come to see that you are dependent upon the special people in your life to make your dreams come true. The well-known motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, believes that only when you help enough other people make their dreams a reality do you experience the life that you’ve always dreamed of. Now, when I was younger, I might not have fully understood Zig’s belief system. However, the more time that passes, the more aware I become of the fact that life really is more like a team sport than most of us realize. It may seem like you’re on the path to success for awhile when you focus exclusively on you, but, sooner or later, the road you’re walking down will turn into a dead end. For one thing, there’s only so much magic you’re going to find in your life when your primary focus is yourself. At some point, your feelings of self-confidence are going to be eclipsed by a sense of extreme loneliness. Although you may be experiencing plenty of success, the fact that you have nobody to share it with will eventually oppress your spirit. This is why you must both find the magic in your life and help others find the magic in their lives. Of course, you’ll never be able to instill a sense of gratitude in toxic people because they are never truly happy. Rather, they not only will prevent themselves from experiencing happiness but also they will do their best to steal your joy from you. In the most fundamental sense, toxic people are what I call “dream-stealers,” and, if you let them stay in your life, they’ll snatch your dreams from you. However, once you de-clutter your world and make sure that everyone whom you’re spending time with supports and encourages you and shares your vision, then you’ll be able to find those magical moments in your life that you might overlook otherwise.

One thing that is exceedingly difficult to cope with is when someone very close to you refuses to let you spread your wings and fly. I cannot begin to count the number of people who have crossed my path who have told me how impossible it seems to them to make their dreams come true when their spouse, parent, or boyfriend/girlfriend continues to challenge and criticize their opinions and/or attempts to sabotage their goals.  All I can advise is that you determine whether having this dream-stealer in your life is more important than making your dreams a reality. I know that walking away from someone who has had a pivotal role in your existence can seem almost impossible, but there are times when you’re not going to have another choice. Although I would never advise you to make a decision that you would always regret, the people who remain in your life must respect your determination to pursue your dreams with passion and a sense of purpose. There’s no way that you’ll ever be able to discover the magic if your world is clouded by fog. You must be able to see the beauty of the world through eyes that are full of wonder and joy. . .not blinded by the bitterness and cynicism that dream-stealers nourish themselves with. So, loose yourself and your life from the limitations that you and others have placed upon it, and start seeing every day as a fresh opportunity. . .as a chance to make magic happen in your world.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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This page and all written material at The Success Diva Pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

The present is yours

gift2

 

 

I have been very personal with everyone so far. In fact, I have gone out of my way to present everything from a personal perspective. This means, of course, that I share a lot about myself with all of you—some of you being people I have never met and probably never will meet. So, why am I sharing so much so freely?? It’s because I care about every one of you, even if I don’t know your name. The fact that you are reading this blog lets me know that you want to change your life, and this means that you and I have a lot in common. We are already what some people would call ‘kindred spirits’ whether you realize it or not. I use that phrase knowing that it is used too often and that sometimes it is not regarded with enough sincerity. If you loathe that phrase, forget this diva ever used it.

In keeping with sharing so many of my personal thoughts and feelings with all of you, I have a confession. There has already been more than one day this very month that I would call “one of the worst days of my life.” Yeah, we all have them, don’t we? And sometimes, after a good night’s sleep, we’re fortunate enough to view the world once more as a place that feels the warmth of the sun. Then again, there are times in our lives in which we have several bad days in succession. These are the really tough times, aren’t they? The times when even lots of sleep and eating your favorite flavor of ice cream doesn’t seem to help. Even watching one of your favorite films—a film that would usually make you laugh or cry or inspire you—leaves you feeling numb. I tend to think that there is a state of despair that is beyond sadness. Sadness can be dreadful when it is severe, and crying for several hours can wear you out. But what is worse than that, I think, is a feeling of numbness. It’s a feeling where you have reached your threshold of emotional or mental pain, and your body just closes down. Nothing really even moves you because nothing can—you have shut off your emotions. At times like these, even the death of a loved one might not affect you. In fact, the death of a loved one can actually bring about a feeling of numbness. The thing that’s frightening about that numb feeling is that you wonder if you are still fully alive. You wonder if a part of you—something that is essential to who you are—has died. Do I sound like I am fully familiar with this feeling? If so, it’s because I am.

You know, there are times when I know I am not having the right attitude towards life, and I have the idea that many of you have experienced this, too. Have there not been hours, days, and maybe even weeks when, rather than feeling grateful for all the blessings in your life, you have chosen to focus on all the problems instead? If there haven’t been, I admire you! In fact, I rather envy you. I would very much like to be one of those persons who always, without fail, had a wonderful attitude. The exceptional motivational speaker and author, Keith Harrell, wrote a book called Attitude Is Everything. I have recommended the book to strangers before—that is how impressed I was by it. It’s actually been a few years since I read it from cover to cover, but every now and then I pick it up—usually when my own attitude leaves a lot to be desired. I do think Keith Harrell has a point, but sometimes. . .well, isn’t it just almost impossible to transform a negative attitude into a positive one? Well.  .  .I think it can certainly seem impossible, particularly when we don’t stop to analyze why our attitude is so negative. Obviously, if our beloved pet has just died or our fiance/fiancee has broken up with us, we know why we’re feeling lousy. But are there not times when a bad attitude just seems to come out of the blue? I’ll admit that generally the cause is right under our nose. . .and right before our eyes. We also tend to have a tendency to take our less-than-wonderful attitude out on other people, usually people whom we know will love us no matter how badly we act. The problem is, of course, that inflicting our own pain on other people is only going to make us feel worse. Or haven’t you noticed? *wink* Truly, you do feel worse when other people are as miserable as you are. For one thing, you feel guilty. So, in addition to feeling depression or discouragement or hopelessness or anger. . .well, you also blame yourself. So, by that time, you have so many destructive emotions on your plate that there’s no room for the emotions that would nourish you, such as hope, faith, gratitude, and joy. Imagine if you were at a buffet and you decided to pile your plate high with nothing but foods that were laden with heavy sauces and gravy. How would you feel after you finished eating? Would you feel good? Might you not feel sluggish and lethargic? Well, life is like that, too. You must find a way to get rid of those emotions that are making you feel like giving up on yourself and on life if you’re ever going to feel brave and hopeful and happy. Doesn’t that make sense?? When a theatre has a sold out performance, there are no empty seats. When your freezer is packed with so much food that you can barely close the door, you aren’t going to be able to fit another carton of ice cream or another bag of frozen peas in there. It just isn’t going to happen. This is why I suggesting ridding your life of as many toxic people as you can. If you don’t, what’s going to happen is that there won’t be space for those people who will uplift you, inspire you, and make your life more marvelous.

I know my thoughts may seem to be more scattered than usual, but your diva is not in a mood to worry about how tidy her thought patterns are today. If it seems like I’m talking to myself almost as much as I’m talking to you. . .well, what can I say? I watched too many videos of Glenn Gould playing Bach over at You Tube. For those who are not very familiar with Glenn Gould, he often mumbled and hummed to himself while he was performing on the piano. Actually, I am talking to you. I’m just sharing with you the thoughts and ideas I share with myself on a constant basis. I continually berate myself for not having enough of what I call an “attitude of gratitude”. I realize that life is a gift, and I understand that allowing one day to pass in which you let yourself thrive on negative and destructive emotions is the same as not thanking someone who gives you a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a book you have always wanted for your birthday. I remember once when I wanted a copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell for my birthday. I was 16 years old at the time, and I had always loved the film adaptation of the book. For one thing, Vivien Leigh has always been my favorite actress. At any rate, I let it be known—in a very subtle way, of course—that I would really love to have a copy of Gone with the Wind. One of my girlfriends, who had always made a point of trying to give me presents she thought I would like, seemed like the most likely person to give me a copy of the novel. Well, imagine my surprise and my disappointment when she gave me William Bennett’s Book of Virtues instead. To this day, I have never read much of the book. It wasn’t because I had anything against the book. In fact, I’m sure it’s an excellent book, and it would probably benefit me in some significant way were I to read it from cover to cover. It is supposed to include stories about such laudable virtues as responsibility, courage, self-discipline, perseverance, honesty, faith, and compassion. However, I really wanted to read about Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. I did not care about being morally enlightened. I have always been what people would call a ‘good’ person, and, although I realize I am in some ways very much flawed, I didn’t see that The Book of Virtues was something I need to own. Let’s just forget that everyone who read it at Amazon seems to have given it 4-5 stars *wink*. Hey, maybe it was what I needed. Perhaps I should even pull it out now and start reading it. Who knows? What I do know is that it wasn’t the present I wanted on my sixteenth birthday.

Of course, there could be a lesson here, couldn’t there? It is only at this moment that I am seeing the lesson. . .so, please know that I am sharing this with you at the very time that it has become clear to me. I am very spontaneous in most of my writing at this blog. I do not consciously plan what I am going to say nor do I have lots of books here that I am gathering thoughts from. I am what you might call my own diva. There are other experts on success and happiness who know more than I do, I am certain. But you have chosen me—not them. So, you want to hear my own personal ideas, not the ideas of another person even if that person is more of an expert than I am. The revelation I have just had is this. My girlfriend giving me The Book of Virtues, a book I didn’t want, instead of Gone with the Wind, a book I did want, is a lot like life. How?? Well, aren’t we oftentimes getting something different than what we want? Haven’t there been men or women whom we have found attractive who were not interested in us? And have we not decided to go out with someone whom we originally thought wasn’t “our type”? Yet, are there not some of you who have ended up realizing that the person who wasn’t your “type” was more your “type” than that other man/woman who rejected you? And haven’t you ever been in a restaurant and found out that the entree or dessert you wanted wasn’t available? I have. Last October, on my birthday, I went to a French restaurant. My heart was set on trying the cherry claufouti. However, when I got there, I was told that they had already run out of that particular dessert earlier in the evening. So, what did I do? Well, I ordered a banana and chocolate crepe with whipped creme. How was it? Well, let’s just say I forgot all about the claufouti once I had devoured the crepe. I think life can be like this, too. I was trained to be a classical musician and spent years thinking that I would never find any other career that I felt so passionate and enthusiastic about. Indeed, if you had asked me, when I was 12 years old, what I would do if a concert career on the violin or the piano didn’t work out, I would have told  you, “It has to work out. It must work out.” You know what, though? It didn’t work out. Yes, I had a plan for my life. . .but, you see, life had a plan for me. And the two plans didn’t match up. Carson McCullers, one of the greatest writers that the Southern part of the United States has ever produced, also wanted a career in classical music. In fact, that’s what she trained for, too. But life clearly had other plans. I never knew Carson McCullers. . .so, I never had the chance to ask her how she felt about the career in music not working out. Yet the chances are that at some point she saw it as a blessing. By the time that her career as a writer was flourishing, I would find it hard to believe that she was looking back over her shoulder, feeling an enormous amount of regret.

So, as you see, some of the things that we are given in life may not be just what we want when we get them.  . .but sometimes they’re what we end up needing. As I have been writing this, I feel as if another window has been opened in my life. That window needed to be opened, and I want to thank those of you who support your diva for making my life so much richer by allowing me into your world. I am looking forward to the rest of the day, whereas there was a time during the early morning hours when your diva, much to her chagrin, was looking upon this day as merely a certain period of hours to get through. Now, though, I see it as an opportunity. . . and as a gift. Thank you.

Life isn’t just one gift. . .but a series of gifts. Each day is a present, and I don’t know about you, but these aren’t presents I want to return to the store.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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You are. . .well, You

For as long as I can remember, I have been an incessantly driven person. When I was a little girl, I was constantly wanting to be the best at everything I did. Whether it was playing the violin or singing, I would always strive not only use all of my potential. . .but I would also try to outdo everyone else. Part of it was an inner sense that I somehow wasn’t worthy on my own—that my accomplishments were what made me valuable and unique as a person. Without saying that I had a miserable childhood, what I will say is that I shut myself off from experiencing any genuine joy because of my relentless worth ethic. In a way, I am grateful for the fact that I was taught the importance of hard work at a very young age. It shaped who I have become.  . .and has certainly forced me to be tenacious and resilient during those times in my life when I could easily have allowed obstacles to block my path. What I now ascertain, which is something I didn’t understand for a very long time, is that we can really only compete against ourselves. Do you know why this is? It’s because each of us is different in nearly every aspect of ourselves. Thus, to compare ourselves to someone else automatically removes the essential element from the scenario—and this is our own uniqueness. A few years ago I read a book by Oprah’s long-time boyfriend, Stedman Graham, called Build Your Own Life Brand. Although the book left a less vivid impression on me than many books of the same type that I’ve perused, I will say that the concept of creating your own “Brand” is something I like. What would the world be like, for example, if there weren’t such instantly recognizable brand names as Gucci, Guess, and Chanel?? I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to pick up a fashion magazine at a doctor’s office without coming across an ad featuring one of these brands. “But what does this have to do with me?” you ask. Well, think about it—aren’t you the designer of your own life?? Just as Guess designed jeans and Gucci designed handbags. . .aren’t you designing your life? And, if you’re not, who is?? You may not yet have the fashion know-how to pull off a life plan that would be on a par with a master designer, but with a little practice, why can’t you do it? Now don’t pull out your little book of excuses and hunt for something there. Your Success Diva won’t let you get away with that! *wink* I want to hear a real—a viable—reason for why you can’t design your own life? Are you letting things other people have said to you throughout the years prevent you from pursuing your dreams and goals? Are you thriving off negative emotions like anger, hate, or fear? That last one, fear, can be flipped over and used effectively as I said in one of my previous posts. Come to think of it, anger can be used effectively, too. I suspect hate is truly a thoroughly destructive emotion; yet the root of all hate is self-hate, which means that the solution to overcoming hate is to begin loving and accepting yourself.  I know that sounds kind of. . . .well, like something from a 1980s ‘self-help’ book, but see if this doesn’t make sense if you really stop and think about it. How can you give an emotion to someone else that you don’t feel within yourself? It would be like trying to purchase a yacht when you’re broke. There has been a massive focus on issues of self-esteem and self-image during the past couple of decades, and I would like to think that this, even if it has been overly excessive in some ways, may have enabled people to more readily accept themselves. But. . .what I notice is that there is a tendency to forget what you’ve read in a book a week, two weeks, or three weeks after you’ve read it. Now an unforgettable novel, such as Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. . .perhaps certain details of the plots of these books remain with you for a very long time, if not forever.

However, when it comes to books that would be classified as “motivational” material, it’s easy to forget half of what you’ve read a few days after reading it. Of course, you can continue to re-read these books. . .and re-read them. . .and re-read them. It won’t do you any harm, that’s for sure. But is that really how you want to spend your time? As smart as I know you are, your answer would have to be no. Yet what alternative is there, if you want to change the way you think about yourself, about other people, and about the world around you?? Well, there are a few specific changes that you can make that need to be as permanent as possible. One of these changes is the tendency to compare  yourself to anyone else. You are you are you are YOU. If someone tells you that you write like Ernest Hemingway. . .or Philip Roth. . .or that when they see you acting onstage you remind them of  Nicole Kidman, by all means thank them. . .and fully accept and appreciate the compliment. But don’t start seeing yourself as someone else, even if it’s someone you happen to look up to a great deal. Part of creating and living the life of your dreams is acknowledging and embracing your own individuality. You must create your own ‘life brand’, or you will spend your life trying to be like other people. And who wants to do that?? Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves to be like other people.” I think this was a valid observation on his part. From what I have seen, people so often try to dress, speak, look, and act like someone that isn’t them. I’m not simply talking about withholding a part of yourself when you meet a stranger—or trying to repress certain aspects of yourself while disguising others. I’m actually talking about living with the constant need to ‘fit in’ with your surroundings. . .and with the people who populate your surroundings. What’s wrong with just being you? When I was much younger, I was always trying to imitate a certain celebrity’s style of dress. Usually, I would attempt to adopt Audrey Hepburn’s impeccable fashion style. To me, she was and still is an icon of beauty, grace, elegance, and style. However, it is disheartening to see so many women trying to copy Audrey, rather than simply being themselves. Although I cannot imagine there being a  much more perfect role model for a woman to emulate—at least, not in terms of both style and humanitarian accomplishments–it’s still preferable for each woman to be completely herself. No, there will never be another Audrey Hepburn. But then, there will never be another you, either.

I must admit, I used to think that trying to outdo and/or outperform others provided me with just the zeal I needed to develop what I would call competitive edge. The problem with this mentality is that in trying to be the very best, there is a tendency to focus more on what others are doing than exclusively on what  you are doing and can do. The movie from the 1980s, “The Competition” provides me with a perfect example of why focusing on merely winning isn’t the answer. If you’ve seen this film, you probably haven’t forgotten the tension that existed between the two main characters, played by Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss. Both of these characters were concert-level classical pianists. . .and both of them were competing in the same competition. However, whereas Dreyfuss’ character arrived at the competition viewing it as something he must win, the pianist that Irving depicted always seemed to look at the competition as a challenge. . .an opportunity. . .something she would like to win but not something that she was dependent upon winning. Well, if you’ve seen the film, you already know which pianist won. If you haven’t seen it. . .well, what can I say? Watch it as soon as you can. If you really stop to analyze the difference in the two final piano performances that Irving and Dreyfuss give, you will see that Irving’s is indeed superior. ..but perhaps not for the reason you will initially conclude. The reason that Irving’s performance of the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto is better than Dreyfuss’ performance of Beethoven’s Fifth (“The Emperor”) Piano Concerto is because Dreyfuss is concentrated solely on taking home a gold medal; yet Irving plays from her heart and soul. She isn’t thinking about whether she’ll win or lose the competition because she understands that if she gives her all out there in that final performance, she’ll have achieved victory whether she takes home a medal or not.

Is the point I’m trying to make becoming clearer now? Is it starting to make sense to you? Are you beginning to see where your focus needs to be? Who cares whether one of your co-workers got the promotion you deserved? And what does it matter if one of your best friends managed to purchase an expensive new car? If you let yourself constantly think about the little and big successes in the lives of other people, you’ll be so caught up in focusing on them that you won’t be able to start making your dreams come true. If you imagine I don’t know how difficult it is not to compete with other people, you’re mistaken. There was a point in my life when I found my own competitiveness to be unhealthy. It tended to breed negative emotions such as jealousy, selfishness, and greed. I couldn’t help but look at those who succeeded where I had failed and think that I wished I could be in their shoes. But would I have really wanted to live someone else’s life?? Would I have suddenly wanted to stop being me and become another person simply because that other person was more of a success than me? The truth is that whether or not you win all the prizes in life isn’t nearly as important as whether you contribute to the world something that only you can give. If you want to be a singer but you bemoan the fact that you don’t have a voice like such legends as Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, relax. Embrace your talent—appreciate your voice. Let the world hear what you have to offer. Similarly, if you’re a struggling writer who is frustrated that he/she can’t write like Fyodor Dostoevsky or William Faulkner or Marcel Proust, stop trying to be like any author who came before you. Write like you, not like somebody else. This applies to any career and any area of your life. Don’t decide that you have to get married and have two or three kids just because that’s what your sister, your best friend, and your mother and father did. What is it that you want? Do you want to conform at the expense of never experiencing true love? Do you want to always be compared to a bunch of other writers, rather than being hailed as a new and innovative author? It’s up to you. . .but I know what I’m going to choose. Although there are plenty of things that I want to change about myself—many of which I will be successful at changing, and a few of which I probably won’t—I still wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world. Would you? If you answered ‘yes,’ you need to re-read Success Diva’s post.

Live each moment with passion. . and remember, there is only one of you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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it’s up to you, you know. . .

Okay, yes, I know that frustration is essentially a negative emotion. . .but the Success Diva truly does get frustrated every now and then.  “Really?” you ask, nearly speechless. Yes, really. One of the things that frustrates me most is when someone is unwilling to see for themselves that success and happiness are really possible. You would be surprised at how many people have told the Success Diva, “Well, I see success for you, dear diva. . .but not for me. My life is just too messed up for it to ever get straightened out again. ” Have you ever, by any chance, heard of something called a self-fulfilling prophecy? No, it hasn’t anything to do with mysticism or clairvoyance. . .so, skeptics, don’t start scoffing yet! A self-fulfilling prophecy usually is the sort of thing that has you saying to yourself, when you start having what seems to be the beginning of a quarrel with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, “Hey, this is going to turn into a big argument. I just have a feeling that it is.” Or, let’s say that you’re going to a job interview and you end up telling yourself as you dash out the door fifteen minutes late, “Well, I’ve really blown it this time. Of course, what’s new?” Do you see what you’re doing when you say things like this to yourself? You are already predicting a negative outcome. You’re essentially setting yourself up for defeat and/or disaster. Rather than saying, for instance, “Well, my spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend and I could easily get into an argument here, but I’m going to try to make sure that doesn’t happen” or “Okay, I’m fifteen minutes late leaving, but maybe the traffic won’t be heavy and I’ll still make it to the job interview on time,” you’re already predicting that you will fail. “But Success Diva,” you say, “if you knew the history of my life, you would see that at least 3/4 of the time, I do fail.” First of all, I think you are probably choosing to remember the times you have failed and forgetting about the times when you have succeeded. If so, this is only natural. It’s what I’ve done for most of my life. It’s sort of like being an actress and getting wonderful reviews from all the critics except one, and concentrating on that one critic who wasn’t impressed by your performance instead of the three or four others who said you were absolutely fantastic. Have you ever noticed how much more willing you are to accept someone’s criticism of your appearance or of something you’ve done than you are to accept a compliment? You forget about the person who said that the poem you wrote was magnificent and reminded them of some of Sylvia Plath’s remarkable poetry, and you remember the other person who said that your poetry would never be good enough to get published. If you’re an artist, you don’t remember all the people who have told you that your paintings remind them of Paul Cezanne’s. . .rather you remember that one art teacher you had who smugly asked you what you were bothering to take art lessons for in the first place. Speaking of art, I heard something interesting about Pierre-Auguste Renoir recently. At an early point in the career of the French Impressionist painter, a well-known artist whom he admired said to him:  “I assume, monsieur, that you are merely dabbling in paints to amuse yourself.” What do you think would have happened if Renoir had listened to this man’s negative words? Why none of us would have ever had the opportunity to see one of Renoir’s luminous paintings. Instead, he would have died with nearly all of his potential inside him. Rather than deciding to bring to the world of art a brand new ‘voice’ through his unique and extraordinary style of painting, he would have given up, allowing the words of someone who failed to see the greatness within him discourage him from ever making his personal dreams a reality. I also remember hearing that, when Renoir was old and in a tremendous amount of pain with severe rheumatoid arthritis, he was asked why he continued to paint, even though it caused him such a significant amount of pain. His reply? Renoir said that he continued to paint because the pain would end, but the art he created would endure forever. And here we are, 90 years after his death, still enraptured by his art. Now his life demonstrates the will to survive, doesn’t it? When we think of a man who was determined to prove his critics wrong and not to let any obstacle get in the way of his dreams, we should think of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I am tempted to remind people of success stories like this one when they tell me that they have reconciled themselves to never accomplishing anything of significance. Don’t get me wrong—if you’re someone who views your life this way or who sees yourself as a permanent failure, it isn’t just your fault. Sure, you ultimately make the choice when it comes to deciding what you are or are not capable of. However, I don’t think I’d be making false assumptions if I suggested that there have been plenty of people throughout your life who have been there to tell you what you could or couldn’t do. And I also think I could safely assume that many of these people seemed to be. . .well, experts in their chosen field. I would imagine that, compared to many of them, you felt relatively insignificant.  Most of them were probably older than you and had a lot more life experience behind them. It’s possible that one of your parents or an older relative has even been there to remind you of what you wouldn’t be capable of doing. I’m not going to say that they meant you any harm by stealing your dreams away from you. In nine cases out of ten, it’s those who “mean well” who are the ones who tell us that we can’t do something. But what frustrates me is how willing many of us are to automatically take the limitations that others place upon us and make them our own. Just because our mother/ father or one of our teachers or even our husband/wife tells us that we don’t have it in is to do something we dream of doing, what makes us assume that he/she is right?? The Russian composer, Mily Balakirev, was told that he had “no talent for composition,” yet he went on to create compositions that have inspired such famous composers as Rimsy-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin. The actress, Jessica Lange, was told, when she wanted to be a successful model at the start of her multi-faceted career, that she was too unattractive for any modeling agency to hire her and there was no way she would ever make it in the movies. Yet where is she today?? Lange, who has been referred to as a “fragile and luminous beauty,” has two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes to her credit, and she has had one of the most impressive and lasting careers of any leading lady in Hollywood history. So, as you see, the people who oft-times make it to the top of their field haven’t necessarily been encouraged and supported by everybody along the way. Actually, I would say that more successful people have had a large share of detractors rather than the other way around. In fact, I would almost be inclined to say that the more hurdles and obstacles life seems to be throwing in your path the greater are your chances of living a life that is successful, happy, and fulfilled.  Okay, I know that may sound ridiculous and unrealistic and a multitude of other things. However. . .I am urging you to think about this for a second. If an emotion such as anger or resentment can be turned around and used positively—if, for example, you can take your fear, flip it over, and use it as energy—then doesn’t it just make sense that having people tell you that you can’t do something could make you decide to prove them wrong?? At one point in my life, I made a list of every single person I could think of who had ever discouraged me or made me feel that I was less than worthwhile in some way. And believe me, I came up with a very long list. All sorts of names were on there—close relatives, good friends, professors, teachers, and even people whom I had only had two or three of conversations with but whom I always remembered because of how deeply their criticism of me had affected me. I remembered the doctor who told me I needed to lose weight because of diffuse swelling I experienced as a result of a drug reaction when I was 11. I also remembered the guy who told me that I would really be pretty if I would just gain some weight when I was 13. I thought about those people who had told me how beautiful and charismatic and enchanting my mother was and hadn’t bothered to pay me any compliments at all. Now I ask you: did any or all of these people mean to permanently influence my self-image and/or my self-esteem? Well, I can’t know for sure, but I am assuming that they didn’t. Yet I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that every one of these persons had a destructive impact on my life. Why?? Because I gave them permission to influence me negatively.  I hadn’t yet lived long enough to understand that the only way someone can make you feel that you are less than you are is if you allow them to do so.  I immediately subscribed to the idea that I wasn’t thin enough. . .or that I was too thin. . .or that I would always live in the shadow of my mother. . .or that I was some sort of wallflower who would never make a vivid or memorable impression on anybody. Was it my fault that I viewed everything that such people said to me as if it had been written in stone? No, of course it wasn’t. And if you are allowing the criticism, negative comments, and/or limitations others have put upon you cause you to feel that you are lacking in some, if not many, ways, it isn’t your fault, either. There is nothing to feel guilty of. . .at least, not so far. After all, the Success Diva has just now come into your life. Now, true, you probably had most of the answers within yourself before you met her. However, she is enabling you to dig deeply into yourself to discover that well-spring of knowledge and wisdom that you haven’t been thoroughly tapping into.

So, what is the Success Diva frustrated about? Isn’t that what you want to know? For I did say that I am experiencing a certain amount of frustration. Well, you see, it’s like this: the Success Diva can only come into your world and help you start transforming it if you allow her to do so. You can read her suggestions and listen to her advice. . .but if some part of you is still closing the Success Diva out, then she is only going to be moderately effective. And that is what frustrates her. There isn’t a diva around who doesn’t want to make an impact on the lives of those around her. Now, granted, there are some divas who try to make an impression through how they dress or how they sing. . .or, well, simply by how they enter a room. But this diva is more interested in you than she is in herself. As the Success Diva said in her very first post at her blog, it’s really all about you. Sure, I want to be happy and successful, too, but if you aren’t happy and successful, then I never will be, either. So, don’t keep frustrating your diva by refusing to listen to her when she tells you that you really can create and live the life of your dreams. And don’t try to make her believe that everything in your life is so perfect right now that there’s no room for improvement. Yes, it would please me greatly to hear that. . .however, I haven’t yet known one person who was living a life in which there wasn’t some area that could be improved. Usually, people are fulfilled and/or successful in one or two areas at the expense of one or two others. I’ll speak more about how you can arrange your life in such a way that you experience contentment in every area in the future. And, no, don’t worry—I’m not just going to tell you that you need to be ‘balanced’. I tend to think that a perfectly ‘balanced’ life is far from ideal because such a life tends to suppress a certain amount of passion, enthusiasm, and spontaneity. But, hey, I’d better not talk too much about that right now. You can’t find out all of Success Diva’s secrets in a day, you know! *wink* Besides, Success Diva is still finding out how to achieve fulfillment in every area of her own life. So. . .she’ll be growing wiser, happier, and more successful along with you.

For now, I urge you to live every moment with passion!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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Have a personal question for The Success Diva? Do you need her advice on a specific situation or problem in your life? Drop her a line at successdiva7@yahoo.com  Please know that I will answer every e-mail I receive at this account as soon as I possibly can.

when you have to walk away. . .

We all have those moments in life, don’t we? That second in time when a part of us realizes that there is someone in our life who is pulling us down rather than building us up. If you look around, you can probably find someone who is in your life right now who shouldn’t really be there.  It isn’t so much that they are cutting you to pieces. Their behavior doesn’t have to be destructive in an obvious way. But perhaps they do thoughtless things or speak to you in a harsh and hurtful way at the times when you most need to feel valued, appreciated and even loved.  Yet time after time you overlook their behavior. . .you give them another chance, even though you realize that they are going to keep hurting you, whether the pain they are causing you is intentional or not. What do you do?? Well, obviously, if the person in question is a spouse, a long-term partner, a parent, child, or close family member. . well, as hard as it is to say this, you won’t be able to just walk away. You already know that, of course, since you’re smart and already have so many of the answers and solutions all within yourself anyway. Actually, when it seems like your Success Diva is providing you with answers, what she’s really doing is helping you tap into the answers that you already possess within. Sometimes the problem is that you just don’t know which questions you should be asking. And that is where I come into the picture. Sure, if I can provide a few answers, too, that’s wonderful. But I would rather think that you had the answers all along just waiting to be discovered. Imagine that you have a mound of gold buried in your backyard that you haven’t ever known about. Then imagine if somebody told you about that mound of gold. Would you believe them? Well, if you’re a skeptic, I would imagine you’d shrug, roll  your eyes, and say, “Yeah, right. Dream on. There isn’t a mound of gold in my backyard.” But whether you choose to believe it or not, there is. But the mound of gold is within you because that’s where the answers to how you can create the life of your dreams are: within you. Your life may seem like a jigsaw puzzle right now, but when you start putting the pieces together, you’re going to see what you’ve got. . .and you know what? You’ll be amazed. You’ll also be very pleased that you let the Success Diva into your life. You’ll see that all these things she’s been telling you haven’t just been a lot of bunk. And one reason what I’m saying to you isn’t a lot of ‘bunk’ is because it’s all deeply personal. I”m not telling you to do anything that I wouldn’t do, haven’t done and am not continuing to do myself. I practice what I preach, so to speak. If I’m having a bad day, the advice I give myself is the very same advice you are going to get from me. And that I promise (and remember, The Success Diva doesn’t break promises).

But let’s revisit the subject of this post, “When you have to walk away.” Do you know what one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life will be? Have you guessed it yet? It will be walking away from someone or something that you have become dependent on in some way. It will be realizing that just because something seems good or even looks good doesn’t make it right or healthy for you. Usually, I am the sort of diva who would not advise walking away from a person or a situation without giving it a lot of consideration. There is the weighing of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and all that. You wonder what your life will be like without that person in it. . .or what your days will be like if you quit that job or stop pursuing that career. And when you try to envision your life without that person in it or when you try to imagine what it would be like to head down a different career path or look for another job. . .well, it feels kind of scary, doesn’t it?? Admit it—it makes you feel afraid. It’s like closing your eyes and walking into a room that you’ve never seen before. You have no idea what you might bump into. . .or whether or not there’s a rug that you’ll slip on. . . .or if the room is empty or occupied. So, what do you do? Do you turn around and reverse your choice? Do you decide, rather than walking away, that you should just try to stick it out, no matter what?? No, no, and again, No. If something or someone shouldn’t be part of your life right now, do you really think that’s going to change? Let’s face it, if you’re on that yellow brick road that will take you to your own Emerald City of dreams, are you really going to want to be encumbered by people or things that will only hinder you?? Sure, maybe the job seems steady and reliable. . .and maybe the person whom you know you ought to walk away from says they care about you and have your best interest at heart. But do they? Don’t be fooled by pretty words. If someone says, “I love you,” make sure that their actions are matching their words. If a person tells you that they fully support you, if or when they start sabotaging you in some way, don’t ignore their behavior. Say, “Hey, wait a minute. You said such-and-such but the way you’re acting indicates something else entirely.” Call them on the carpet if you have to.  Confront them. Don’t be afraid. Fear won’t ever get you anywhere. Granted, if they are completely toxic to you and your well-being, they will probably have a whole book full of excuses. Instead of “little black books” some people carry around little books of excuses. If  you look closely, you’ll start seeing that people will be scribbling in these books when you go places. Next time you’re at the airport, in the train station, or at a doctors’ office, observe. Are people scribbling away?? Don’t assume they’re writing in a journal. They’re probably trying to jot down more excuses before they forget about them. Now to frequently use an excuse when you make a mistake that only causes you to suffer. . .well, that’s human and completely understandable.  It’s when you begin using excuses for behavior you demonstrate that hurts other people that you need to realize what’s happening. You are following in the footsteps of the toxic people who came before you. You are avoiding taking responsibility for your behavior. If you fail to apologize when you hurt someone, then you are raising your own toxicity level. Pretty soon, you may be the person that someone else chooses to walk away from. And I know you don’t want people walking away from you. . .unless they’re toxic, of course, and then you’ve had a stroke of good luck. Remember how rare true luck is? Well, you can count yourself truly lucky when a toxic person vanishes from your life. Just look at it as an unexpected blessing.

But what about those people who don’t walk away? Well, you have to decide what you’re willing to put up with. You have to make a choice: Is my relationship with him or her more important than my overall well-being? And however you answer this will determine whether or not it’s time for you to walk away. There are times, of course, when those who care about you or love you don’t fully understand what it is that you need from them. That’s why communication is always essential in any and every relationship you have with another person. What communicating honestly and effectively will enable you to do is determine whether or not the person you are contemplating walking away from is willing to change the behavior that you are finding hurtful or harmful. You cannot present this to the other person in what would be described as an “ultimatum.” Never say something like, “Either you do such-and-such or else I’m out of here.” This will only bring about an atmosphere of intense negativity, and will probably also create hostility. Rather, tell the person that they mean a great deal to you, but that they are hurting you by acting and/or speaking in a certain way. Don’t ever say, “If you love me, you’ll do this” because this will make it sound as if you are questioning the fact that they love or care about you. It will come across as an attempt to make them feel guilty, and if they feel any guilt, make sure that it comes from within them. . .not at your special urging. You can say “Hey, you really hurt me and I won’t be able to keep you in my life if you keep doing this,” but make it clear that you are prepared to walk away. What I mean is, you don’t want to give the impression that you are demanding something that the other person isn’t willing to give. What you want to do is share how you feel, see if he/she respects your feelings, and depending upon whether or not they don’t, either keep them in your life or walk away.

I know I said earlier that if  the other person is a spouse, parent, child, or close relative that you wouldn’t be able to walk away. Well, in many instances, you won’t be able to. But as long as that person isn’t completely dependent upon you (such as a child who isn’t yet an adult or an elderly parent who must be cared for), always know that walking away is at least an option. I have spoken of psychologically distancing yourself and this is possible, too, although, it will never be enough, which means that if there is any way you can walk away and you know, in your heart, that it’s the only way you will ever experience true happiness and fulfillment, do it. Don’t look back over your shoulder, though. Remember the Biblical legend about Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. Salt is something you should be seasoning your life with. It won’t do you any good to turn into a pillar of it *wink*.

Aside from personal relationships, there can also be times when you do have to walk away from a job or a career. I mentioned this briefly, mostly because once I start talking about toxic people and the havoc they can wreak in a person’s life it’s hard for me to address another issue. But, lest you wonder, there are indeed jobs and careers that you should let go of. There can be a lot of different reasons behind this decision, but what should ultimately be the deciding factor is this: if this job or career isn’t the most important thing in my life, how is it preventing me from being able to devote my time and energy to what is most important?? Once you answer that question (and all you have to do is look deeply within yourself), you will know what you must do. You should also ask yourself: Will this job or career fully satisfy me? Or will there always be a feeling of discontentment, a lack of fulfillment, really, deep within myself? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you have but one choice—-walk away. Hey, it’s better to make very little money doing something you love than to spend your entire life doing something you hate or are indifferent towards. For example, if you have a full-time job as an accountant, but you’ve really always wanted to be an artist. . .what are  you waiting for? “But my wife and kids won’t have any food to eat,” you exclaim, “and we won’t be able to pay any of our bills.” Then don’t quit your job right away, but, at least, start making plans for another career. Don’t just let dreams of being the next Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso stay in your head. Make them real. Find a way to do it. Whenever you want something badly enough, when you want it so much that you would be willing to do anything to get it as long as it didn’t compromise your principles and your personal integrity. . .well, go for it.

In a way, I’m realizing that this post is about shedding your life of the things that no longer belong in it, whether they be people or careers or jobs. And I don’t know why I was inspired to address this particular topic at half-past 5 am on a Saturday morning, but, hey, does a Success Diva really have to explain herself? *grin*

It is my hope that I have given you the impetus—or at least, the courage–that you need to start de-cluttering more than your closets. Your life is much more important than those closets, you know, and, there’s a good chance that your life has more clutter in it than any of your closets has ever contained.

Until soon. . .live with passion and enthusiasm every moment of the day! Your life is yours. Live it!

Your Success Diva

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