when you reach a turning point. . .

turningpoint1There are moments in life when something happens that is so unexpected that we really don’t know how to cope with it. Whether it’s finding out that our boyfriend or girlfriend is seeing someone else or whether we just lost our pet dog or cat in a freak accident, there are those times when it’s as if something in our world has gone so wrong that everything else seems to be out of focus. I remember reading about how the actress, Jane Seymour, suffered an injury when she was pursuing a career as a ballerina, and all I could think was how catastrophic this event must have been for her. Of course, watching her in such films as “Somewhere in Time” and “Lassiter”, it’s difficult to imagine her as anything other than an actress. But that’s because she took an incident that could have brought an end to all her ambitions and turned it into something profitable. It reminds me of a passage I came across today from a poem called “Don’t Quit” by an unknown author. The passage was “Success is failure turned inside out.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought of success in those terms. I understand that failure and success are directly connected, and that you cannot have one without the other because rarely do we succeed at anything on the very first effort. But what I don’t think I’ve fully comprehended is what a turning point failure can be for us. One of my favorite actresses, Mary Pickford, once said, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you.  You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing called ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”  But how often do we really look at our failures in that light? How often do we acknowledge ourselves for picking ourselves back up after we fail?? Don’t we have a  habit of concentrating more on that which we fail at than on that which we succeed at? I know I do. If a relationship or a career doesn’t work out, it can diminish your sense of self-worth to such an extent, that there are moments when you actually feel a sense of overpowering hopelessness.

When I think of someone who has continued to strive in spite of not accomplishing her ultimate objective, the brilliant American figure skater, Michelle Kwan, immediately comes to mind. If you saw Michelle skate at the 1998 Olympic games, you probably remember the look of subtle disappointment on her face when she lost the gold medal to her American rival, Tara Lipinski.  Although a silver medal at the Olympics is scarcely something to feel ashamed of, an athlete with Kwan’s capabilities and work ethic is always somewhat chagrined when he/she doesn’t come in first. However, Michelle handled the situation like a pro. In fact, rather than allowing herself to get discouraged, she decided to bounce back.  At the 2002 Olympic games, she once again tried for that gold model, but again, it eluded her. This time, though, she ended up with the bronze model instead of the silver. The young American skater, Sarah Hughes, took the top prize. Do, did Kwan give up?? No. She made plans to try her luck yet a third time in the 2006 Olympic Games. It wasn’t until Kwan suffered a groin injury in her first practice session in Turin, Italy, that she withdrew from the competition. And Kwan is still talking about the possibility of competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now that’s the kind of attitude all of us should work towards!  “But Michelle Kwan’s persistence hasn’t really paid off,” you may be thinking. “I mean, she never did get that gold medal she wanted so badly.” No, Kwan didn’t get the gold medal. But I think she got something even more important. She got the kind of respect and deep admiration that only those who persist in the quest for their ultimate goal both deserve and receive. Indeed, Michelle Kwan remains a more reliable role model than either Tara Lipinski or Sarah Hughes, the two skaters who won gold medals at the Olympics she competed in. Perhaps, whether or not we win first prize isn’t as important as the attitude we demonstrate during the competition itself. And life is a bit like a competition, isn’t it?

As a diva of success, I would love to tell you that every one of your dreams will definitely come true. However, since I promised I would always be honest with you, I have to remind you that life gives us no guarantees. What it does give us is lessons, learning experiences, and role models. Those of you who know this diva over at Facebook have probably noticed that I’ve begun a photo album dedicated to women whom I consider to be “Icons of Inspiration.” Well, the group of inspirational women is so diverse that there aren’t that many things that many of the women have in common with each other. But there are a few fundamental character traits that they do all share. What are these traits? Well, all of them have or had an invincible belief in themselves and what they could accomplish. Even when they felt their faith in their talents and abilities was slipping, they managed to pull themselves together and move forward. Your success diva will be the first to tell you that sometimes you have to pretend to have more confidence in yourself than you actually feel. In other words, you have to adopt what I call an “as if” mentality. You act as if  you can accomplish that which you dream of achieving. You act as if  you have an optimisic outlook on life, even when you’re actually feeling despondent. You act as if  the man or woman of your dreams is right around the corner, even though a part of you believes that your soul mate must have gotten lost in another dimension. Do you see the point I’m making? To expect yourself to always be on top of the world simply isn’t realistic. There will be times when you feel like you’ve accomplished very few things in life that are of true significance, and you could feel this way even if you were an Oscar-winning actor/actress or a Nobel prize-winning author. Why? Well, it’s simply part of being human. The world we live in is chaotic and full of all sorts of of negative and cruel people, and circumstances are rarely going to be completely ideal. So, since we are human, we naturally react to the obstacles and crises that come into our lives in a way that isn’t always positive. Should we blame ourselves for this? To be honest, I think that doing so only makes things worse. It would be like blaming yourself for depression, when those of us who are well-informed know that there are many instances of depression in which psychiatric therapy and medication are essential. What you must do, though, is understand that the way in which you react to something can actually turn out to have as significant an impact on you as the event itself. “Wait,” you interject, “are you telling me that if a man/woman is raped, his/her reaction to that rape could have as momentous an affect on him/her as the rape itself?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. . .and, no, I haven’t suddenly lost all my reasoning abilities. Look, I know of women who have allowed an incident of rape to destroy the rest of their lives. There are also many women who have committed suicide after being raped. Does this mean I cannot comprehend their actions? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, I fully understand how a woman or woman who has been raped might feel like taking his or her own life. At the same time, for a victim of rape to take his or her own life means that the person who victimized him/her ultimately has the last word. On the other hand, for a someone who has survived rape to take that terrible catastrophe and turn it into something that benefits both himself/herself and others by doing volunteer work for groups that help counsel rape victims, for example, would mean that an event that could have been devastating would actually end up having a positive result.

I remember when I first heard the motivational speaker and author, Tony Robbins, talking about how our response to something can be as important as the event. I must admit,  I thought he was being utterly illogical at the time.  “Well, you can tell that nothing that bad has ever happened to Tony,” I found myself muttering. Yet as life has gone on, I have come to see Tony’s point. We truly can make a traumatic event a hundred times worse depending on how we react to it. An experience such as rape will always be horrendous no matter how someone responds to it. However, what should always be remembered is that no matter what someone else does to us it does not in any way diminish our self-worth. We may feel that something that someone tells us or does to us makes us less valuable as a person, but this is just a trick our mind is playing on us. It’s also something that the person who mistreats, abuses, or violates us wants us to feel. Why?? Well, that’s one of those questions that I’m reluctant to answer. I always think that those who hurt us, whether it be through their words or their actions, are hurting within themselves. But I don’t think that explanation justifies anything, which means it is scarcely satisfactory, even though there are times at which it can be a source of comfort. The truth is, we will probably never begin to understand why certain people do certain things. As one of my friends reminded me a couple of hours ago, this is an unjust world we live in. So, all that each of us can do is try to treat others with kindness and fairness, whether they treat us the same way or not.

One reason that I can speak with authority on the subject of turning what seems like a failure into a success is because I’ve had to continue to do this throughout my life. I trained for a concert career on the violin beginning at age three, only to be told at age 17 that such a career was impossible because I had a chronic illness called lupus. Did I have a nervous breakdown? Well, no, but I came pretty close to having one. For a couple of years after I had to give up playing the violin, I couldn’t even listen to any of the recordings I owned of violin music. Unfortunately, my sense of self-worth was entirely connected with the violin, and without it, I felt as if I had no real value as a person. It has only been through my accomplishments in other avenues that I have re-established my self-confidence. Although I am blessed to have a mother who has taught me to believe that who I am as a person is far more important than what I do, it has always been difficult for me to separate my personal value from my achievements. I don’t think the materialistic, career-driven world we live in tends to instill in people the sense that such traits as integrity, honesty, and compassion are far more important than how much money you make each year or what kind of car you drive. And yet, unless we start to understand this ourselves, how will we ever teach those who look up to us—-such as our children, if we have them—-what’s really important in life?? When I mentioned Michelle Kwan earlier, another thing I intended to say about her is that she has never compromised who she is simply to get ahead. Yes, she has won two Olympic medals, but I have always had the sense that she would rather be seen as an icon of grace and elegance of spirit than as merely another Olympic medalist. Audrey Hepburn is another lady who had her priorities in order. In spite of the fact that she could easily have acted in dozens of films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she chose to devote herself to being the best mother that she could. I guess we don’t have to wonder why her son, Sean Ferrer, speaks with such lavish praise about his mother! And this is why it’s so crucial that we stand back and view our lives from a long-term perspective, rather than being sidetracked and discouraged by the setbacks of the moment. Only those who fail to strengthen their inner spirit allow themselves to see any failure as being permanent. Those who understand that life is a like a corridor, in which some doors open while others close, know that resilience is an integral part of success. I think actress Brooke Shields summed up the philosophy that all of us should adopt when she said, “If one window closes, run to the next window—-or break down a door.” Well, this is what your Success Diva advises you to do, too. The only way that a failure can have any lasting impact on your life is if you let it become permanent. So, no matter what happens, don’t let yourself be defeated. Begin to see each failure as a turning point in your life.  .  .as a mere curve in the road that will eventually lead you to the life of your dreams.

If you haven’t yet joined my mailing list, you can subscribe at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/successdiva  This is an announcement list, which means no participation is necessary. Also, I am always available and eager to help anyone with a specific situation they want my input on. Write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com, and I will respond at my earliest convenience.

Live with passion and enthusiasm. . .and remember, it’s only too late to create the life of your dreams if you believe it is!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

You’re not just telling me to think positively, are you?

When Norman Vincent Peale, the motivational speaker and author, first published his best-selling book, The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952, many people thought his theories in regard to focusing on positive thoughts and ridding your mind of all negative thoughts would completely alter their lives. Well, there are plenty of documented cases in which Peale’s way of. . .well, thinking. . . played a definitive role in people recovering from emotional/mental breakdowns, terminal illnesses, and poverty. But is positive thinking as beneficial and effective as it has been reputed to be by Peale and his followers? The answer is no.

You see, there is a basic problem underlying positive thinking that people like Peale don’t really stop and address—namely, that you have to think about it. That’s right. . .think about it. This means that, no matter how sad or depressed you’re feeling, no matter how scattered and unclear your mind may feel, you’re supposed to be able to somehow ‘magically’ get your mind to start thinking in a specific direction. Is it impossible?? No, course not. Is it logical, though? Not from the Success Diva’s frame of reference. I know, from personal experience, that just thinking sweet, pretty, little ‘happy thoughts’ isn’t going to really do me one bit of good at all. You know why? Because I’m too smart to buy into that sort of philosophy. And you see, friends, I know that you are too smart, too. That’s why you’re at this blog. You’re aren’t coming to my blog to hear a lot of recycled theories about how you can force-feed yourself positive thoughts all the time, trying to delude yourself into believing that your life is better than it is. Your life isn’t better than you think it is.  What? Your Success Diva is telling you that your life isn’t better than you perceive it to be?? Nope. She isn’t. She promised she would always be straightforward with you, and she isn’t going to stop now. Hey she’s on a roll!

The bare, cold, hard, truth. . .and for some of you, this may not be easy to accept. . .is that most of the time we have made a pretty accurate assessment of the problems that are going on in our lives. If our marriage is falling apart, we know it. If we didn’t get that promotion at work because we weren’t willing to put the time and effort into pursuing it that was required, we know it. Sure, we can lie to ourselves–we can tell ourselves, “Things can’t be as bad as all that,” but they really may well be. Would it make any sense for me to tell you that you were one step away from getting the job opportunity of your dreams if you’re out of work right now?? Would that kind of advice do you any good whatsoever? I daresay it would do you more harm than good as you would start having unrealistic expectations. Similarly, if your husband or wife has just filed for divorce and won’t communicate with you except through an attorney.  .  .well, the chances of putting your marriage back together are probably slight, at best.

Believe me, I’m familiar with nearly every aspect of the positive thinking theories. And even though they won’t do you any harm, they really won’t turn the life you’ve got right now into the life of your dreams. Thus, we must disregard them, mustn’t we? There are certain things, such as not watching CNN all the time and not trying to find out details about every crime that’s committed all over the nation that will naturally make you feel more optimistic. I mean, who wants to think that we’re living in such a cold, cruel, harsh world?? But to live in oblivion isn’t wise, either.  As I spoke of in two of my previous posts, there are those toxic people out there, and they come in many different guises. I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that all toxic people are intentionally toxic. Overall, toxic people don’t really love or accept themselves, and this lack of self-acceptance prevents them from being able to contribute in a positive way to the lives of those around them. At certain points of our lives, I think that many, if not most of us, can exhibit behavior that could possibly prove to be detrimental to the health and/or life of someone we love. Does this make us toxic, then? Well, that depends. If we know, for example, that we have emotional or psychological issues that we haven’t worked through and we are aware that these issues are preventing us from being able to be the kind of parent, child, friend, or partner/spouse that we should be, then, yes, in a way we are in danger of becoming toxic. I have known women who have not worked through the repressed anger within themselves stemming from a childhood in which they didn’t feel they received love from one of their parents, and they have gone on to verbally and physically abuse their children. Can they help it? Well, in a way, they can’t entirely be held responsible for it—not for the abuse, that is. What they can and should be held responsible for is not getting therapy for their issues when they knew they needed to do so years earlier, probably before they ever met their partner/husband, much less had any children. 

I have learned in recent times that those who hurt others are usually desperately hurting within themselves, and I feel there is a lot of validity in this viewpoint. This is why, if you are hurting, you may need more than your Success Diva to help you deal with your pain. Hey, Success Diva herself needs a little outside input at times. There are, of course, books you can read and tape/CD programs you can listen to that will provide you with some very helpful suggestions. I’m not going to list any right now because I want this blog to be a place where you can safely know you will receive advice that is original, personal, and carefully considered. This blog is all about success, Diva style. And that means it’s about pursuing your goals and dreams with passion, zest, and enthusiasm—not merely a handful of ‘positive’ thoughts. What you need to do, this very moment, is stop blaming anyone else for the way your  life is right now. Now this is a very hard thing to do, and even though you may not think you’re blaming others for the poor choices you made, there is probably a part of you that is still holding on to something. . .whether it be feelings of guilt, rejection, resentment, or emotions that are similarly destructive. Even if you suffered extensive abuse—physical, emotional, sexual, etc.—at the hands of a parent, family member, or other severely damaged person while you were growing up, if you don’t let go of every single bit of hate, anger, bitterness, and resentment that you have stored within yourself  because of what you suffered at the hands of those who hurt you, then you won’t ever be living the life of your dreams because you won’t ever have made the choice to take ownership of  your life. Tough words, hmm? Yes, but keep in mind that they are every bit as hard for me to have to say as they may be for you to hear. But here’s the question: do you want the people who hurt you to continue to have power over you? Do you want to be in control of your destiny or do you want everybody in the past who has ever caused you pain to continue to control your life? Because as long as you do not let go of all the destructive emotions you have inside you that are tied to that abuse, cruelty, rejection, or neglect, you will not ever achieve long-term success and happiness. . .and that is something your Success Diva virtually guarantees you.

I want to address in a forthcoming post the ways in which we drown our miseries via distractions and addictions because that’s another issue that is very close to my heart. A few years ago, I had to break an addiction I had to prescription painkillers and, although it was a mild addiction compared to those that many people cope with, it has made me well aware of how easy it is to let substances (drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes) become not just a vice. . .not just a dependency. . .but what I would call, to put if very bluntly, a ‘crutch.’  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t take medication when you need it. In fact, Success Diva encourages those who need medication for physical or emotional/mental health issues to take all their medications regularly and to have them monitored by a doctor. But when we’re speaking of recreational drugs, excessive alcohol, and things of a similar nature. . .all I can say is that once you really decide (and it is up to you—remember that) to ‘own’ your life, once your life becomes really and truly yours, you will quickly see that you cannot be dependent on anything and ever experience the feeling of personal freedom you need to pursue the life of your dreams. So, ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision: do you want to continue to be dependent on a drug or a drink to make you happy and fulfilled or do you want to find true and lasting fulfillment? The same thing applies to eliminating toxic people from your life and/or making sure that you are not becoming toxic yourself because of your reluctance to get help in working through personal issues in your life and/or your past that you’ve never dealt with. The unfortunate truth you must face is that there are really just two types of people in the world: ‘owners’ and ‘victims.’ The owners are the ones who accept responsibility for every choice they make, whether good or bad. They are the ones who refuse to blame others when they make a mistake and they are the ones who will ultimately create the life of their dreams. Now what about the victims? Well, they’re in a prison of their very own making. Rather than freeing themselves from the ties that bind them to past hurts, they are letting themselves be drawn deeper and deeper into what I refer to as the “Pit of Despair.” Let me make one thing clear, too: victims, not owners, are the people who victimize other people. An owner has no desire to make another person his/her victim because he/she realizes that in victimizing another person he/she is ultimately also victimizing him/herself.  On the other hand, victims are always very unfulfilled people, who have no idea how to fulfill themselves because they have gotten so accustomed to playing the ‘part’ of a victim that in many ways ‘the victim’ has become their actual identity. They have a deep, overwhelming need within themselves to rid themselves of emotions that they have never worked through and may not even fully comprehend. And this means that a victim will never been entirely harmless, which is why, if you are a victim right now, you must become an owner no matter how much effort it takes. Effort, you ask? But I thought that was the whole point of Success Diva’s blog. I was going to be able to make my dreams come true with a minimal amount of effort, simply by following her one-of-a-kind advice. I wish I didn’t have to disappoint you, but it isn’t going to work that way. Why? Because you and your Success Diva are two entirely separate persons. And even though your Success Diva is behind you every step of the way, you are the one who is going to be transforming your life—not me. I’m just an adviser. . .not a miracle worker.  I can tell you which ingredients you need to purchase to make the cake or pie, but I cannot make the cake or pie for you. You have to do that. I’m not even going to be able to be there to make sure that you measure all the ingredients perfectly and/or mix them together properly. In other words, I can give you the recipe that might very well result in the life of your dreams, but unless you want that recipe to turn out beautifully, your life may very well always be merely about trying to exist on a day-to-day basis rather than truly living.

Your Success Diva is going to be a sleeping diva soon, which means that you won’t hear any more from me for awhile. Were it otherwise, she would certainly post more of her thoughts in regard to the fundamental flaws behind nearly all positive thinking theories, and how her personal success philosophy is in most ways completely antithetical to the advice that’s been handed out like bags of rainbow-colored M & Ms by such motivational ‘gurus’ as the both reviled and beloved Norman Vincent Peale.

But it really is time for Success Diva to catch that train to Dreamland. So, come back later on and see what I’m up to.  I know you’ll miss me in the meantime, yet keep this in mind: the best things in life are often those which are most worth waiting for.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva