The Allure of Mediocrity

Many of us may say that we want to stand apart from the rest of the world—that we wish to be different, unique, or exceptional. Yet, is there not a certain security found in conforming to the mold that society tries to cast us into? Do we not have to oftentimes be willing to take risks in order to not be one of the crowd?

Although this concept might seem difficult to adjust to, there is truly a certain allure to be found in mediocrity. When we refuse to acknowledge that we are extraordinary, it allows us to be less courageous than we would be otherwise. After all, if we haven’t any special gifts or talents, how can we be expected to accomplish anything remarkable? It would seem that merely managing to get by would be accepted as an achievement.

As incomprehensible as this may sound to some of you, there is a logic beneath it that I’m asking you to reflect upon. It is similar to the idea of not accepting responsibility for one’s own life. When persons can convince themselves of their own lack of power over themselves and their choices, they are also able to exempt themselves from guilt over unwise choices and reckless behavior. Sometimes, this refusal to accept personal responsibility is manifested in illogical thinking patterns connected to theories that promote the idea that rather than being the creators of our own destinities we are dependent upon the “forces of the Cosmos” or unseen entities who control our lives for us.

Personally, I do not  believe that simply thinking “positive” thoughts or focusing on how we want our lives to be will draw forces and events to us that will bring us the lives of our dreams. However, what I do believe is that some of us actually pursue mediocrity without being fully conscious of it. We persuade ourselves to discard any dreams that seem too far-reaching by convincing ourselves that we are being “realistic”.

Then, we wonder why our life resembles a plot out of one of Richard Yates’ novels. What were the two main characters of Revolutionary Road if not two people who sacrificed anything extraordinary by refusing to let go of the ordinary? Thankfully, most of us are fortunate enough to end up with lives that are not as deeply tragic as the lives of April and Frank Wheeler ended up being. Yet, whether we realize it or not, far too many of us are leading existences that are really nothing more than a slow death. We do not have to intentionally decide to be mediocre in order to live a life of mediocrity. All we really have to do is allow our fear and self-doubt to trap us into a prison of our own making, in which we prize security over change and safety over risk.

When we get to the end of our lives and we end up with a long list of regrets, it will not be because of the unwise choices we made but because of the choices we were too afraid to make. We will look back and find that the things that bring us the most sorrow are the words we didn’t say and the actions we didn’t take. When we try to play it safe and worry more about our pride or our self-image than we do about making the choice that is truly best for us, we are defeating ourselves and compromising our potential.  Actress Uta Hagen once said, “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.”  What Hagen probably did not entirely understand was how alluring the mediocre can be. 

To walk into a room without being noticed can actually be far less threatening than making an entrance that commands a great deal of attention. It is a brave person indeed who does not mind having others talk about him/her for when one is spoken of, there is always the possibility of criticism and ridicule. How much easier it is to blend into the background, to be no more noticeable than your average garden flower. Is it not the butterfly that captures our eye? We might have a dozen caterpillars cross our path without ever once losing ourselves in a moment of rapture or awe.

So, how can mediocrity be genuinely appealing? Well, it tends to be disguised as “fitting in” or as having what might be termed a “balanced life”. It is only later that people realize that they chose the ordinary at the expense of creating a life that was in any way exceptional. Oftentimes, the choice has been between having and being. In order to have “a life,” people give up being individuals. They marry because that’s simply what people do, and they procreate for the same reason.

It is not merely to fill a void within themselves that they continue to seek having over being. Also, it is because that is what culture encourages us to do. We can say all we want to about celebrating the individual, but the cold, bare, hard truth is that our world embraces normalcy and shuns everything else. There is even a tendency to ostracize those who refuse to conform although those who say they promote non-conformity are sometimes just as guilty of this behavior as anyone else.

Yes, it’s true. To take on life with bravado and assert your belief that you are extraordinary will be one of the most difficult tasks you ever undertake. It will not be the words alone that will bring you criticism, however. The actions you take that back up your assertions will be what others will question, challenge, and even attempt to thwart. We accept butterflies as the natural transformation of the caterpillar because it is expected that caterpillars transform themselves into butterflies. But, what if only on occasion did the caterpillar turn himself/herself into a butterfly? Would we then consider the butterfly beautiful, or might we not rather label it an odditiy, an anomaly, something “outside the norm”?

The famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche summed up the battle towards individuality rather succinctly when he said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” But what do we call “owning” ourselves? That is a question that many of us fail to answer adequately.

We may say that we live for ourselves and that our beliefs and opinions are all our own, yet how true is that for most of us? There is so much inner strength involved in letting go of the need to please anyone besides ourselves. Even if we manage to accomplish this feat for awhile, it doesn’t take long for us to once again fall into the pattern of caring too much what other people think of  us.

Does this mean we are doomed to some level of mediocrity no matter how much we fight against it? No, I don’t think it means that at all. However, what we have to do is remain entirely aware of the superifcial glamour that oftentimes draws us to that which is ordinary whether consciously or not. We must never mistake the desires that other people have for us for our own desires nor should we ever allow ourselves to exchange the vision we have for ourselves and our lives for another person’s vision for us. 

There have been countless people who have settled for that which seemed good only to give up that which was truly best. And generally, this decision has been made from a place of fear. We take what comes along rather than waiting for that which we really yearn for because we are so afraid that we will be without anything if we don’t choose something. It is only later that we see our mistake although by then we have to face the consequences of our choice.

Even if we manage to persuade other people that the choice we made has worked out for the best, deep within the recesses of our souls we know that we could have done better. We know that it was only in trying to “fit in” or “make do” that we exchanged the extraordinary for a life of mediocrity. We settled for an ordinary life because we weren’t brave enough to let go of our fears—not because it was the only option available for us.

I’m sure that many of you who read this article are already in situations that seem to be permanent or, at the least, offer you little hope of change. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you that things can be radically different simply by your wishing them to be so. But what I can do is assure you that the things which you view as unchangeable are never as incapable of being altered as you may think they are. Although none of us are promised nor should we expect a life of ceaseless sublimity, each moment gives us the possibility of becoming something more than we are now.

Our dreams are never lost to us unless we let go of them. Hope can always be found if we look for it persistently enough. But we have to be willing to unlearn the things we think we know and to explore that which we are afraid of. Security and safety are the parents of mediocrity. Once we perceive this to be the case, we will understand that only in overcoming them will we lead anything other than an ordinary life.

In sharing my concepts and ideas with you, I want you to realize that I am not asking you to agree with me. In fact, I would much prefer you to disagree with me than to accept my theories without examining them and thinking them over.  I am so devoted to a life of self-examination that I oftentimes find I disagree with myself when I read back over some of my previous articles. But, for me, this is a positive thing as it indicates I am capable of changing my beliefs and that I do not need to convince myself that I have the “right” answers about anything. When you reach the point in your life when you can acknowledge and even embrace your own ignorance, you are giving yourself the freedom not only to recreate yourself but also to rediscover the world around you.

And what of mediocrity and its superficial allure? Is it possible that with all of my attempts to elucidate upon the virtues of the extraordinary I’m truly confessing that the mediocre is beguiling? Actually, it isn’t mediocrity itself that will ever put a spell upon anyone. But what is a temptation that any of us who wish to stand apart from the herd must be willing to resist is the fear that comes from disapproval . . . from solitude . . .  from isolation . . . from taking risks that other people regard as dangerous or foolish. And, no matter how eager you are to abandon  the idea that mediocrity can be alluring, the transitory benefits that can be yours from choosing a mediocre life should never be underrated.

Ultimately, it is your choice: the allure of mediocrity or the risk of the extraordinary? No matter which decision you make, make sure it’s yours.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

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~A Quest for Sublimity~

With all the feel-good messages about pursuing our bliss and visualizing our dreams in order to make them come true, we oftentimes forget that even though life is and should be joyful and happy, there is an inherent pain in being human that nothing will ever diminish. We can have the best intentions and the most wondrous goals, but even when we seem to be making what we feel in our hearts are the “right” choices, torment and emotional suffering can still exist.

For me, there is pain in not being able to live up to the image of myself that I want the world to see. To speak highly of virtues such as kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity is one thing. But, to consistently demonstrate behavior that embodies these character traits is sometimes another matter entirely.

We should never attempt to regard ourselves as being more loving, thoughtful, or considerate than we actually are. And yet we do. I find myself making judgments about other people and the choices they make even though I continue to regard a judgmental attitude as one of the greatest causes of suffering in human existence.

What is the difference in suffering and pain? This is a question I am still examining. For now, I will simply say that for me, at least, the concept of suffering seems less transitory than pain, which can be over in mere seconds.  Yet is it not from the soul that has suffered that the well of eternal hope springs? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Know how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong.” Sublimity is not always achieved through joy and bliss. It can also come through intense anguish, pain, sorrow, and grief.

When I speak of grief, I am not talking about merely deeply traumatic events such as the illness or death of a loved one. I am also speaking of the type of grief that comes from having your dreams seemingly shattered into pieces from a wrong choice or a missed opportunity . . . the kind of grief that you feel when you are in an unresolved relationship in which effective communication seems to have become impossible. Grief can be experienced on so many different levels. And the suffering that comes about from this grief cannot ever be measured, even by those who must cope with it.

We will never comprehend the anguish and pain that others experience. And most of the time we find ways to escape from our own pain and sorrow. Do we somehow think that in ignoring pain it will disappear? Or is it that we find the idea of connecting with our pain to be so formidable that we dare not close enough to it to truly feel it?

Life is a gift, but we were never told that it didn’t have a high price tag. We may wish to see ourselves as entitled to the best of everything. But only when we understand that what we get out of life is in direct proportion to that which we give to life will be experience authentic happiness and fulfillment. It is never in possessions, material success, or recognition that we will find joy. We only think that these things give us happiness because they satisfy us on a superficial level.

We want to believe that diamonds or shoes or dinners at five-star restaurants actually lift our spirits. However, oftentimes we are just seeking ways to fill the void within ourselves. But a soul that is hungry can only receive genuine nourishment from food that has substance. In order to be physically healthy, you would never feed your body nothing but candy bars, cookies, and cake. So, why feed your soul, mind, and spirit with material riches that have no eternal value?

If you’re serious about becoming the best you that you can be—if you sincerely do want to live a life of purpose and significance—you’re going to have to develop a level of self-awareness that will enable you to see yourself as you really are. You’ll have to be tough enough on yourself to recognize your weakness while simultaneously treating yourself with a level of gentleness and compassion that enables you to hold fast to your dreams. In releasing yourself from the need to please others, you must make a stronger attempt to please yourself.

Rather then worrying about whether or not you live up to the expectations others have of you, create an image of yourself that you can be proud of and work towards becoming that person. You will find that you have acquired a new level of freedom when you start focusing on your journey and stop trying to control anyone else’s journey. We may choose to define the need to judge any way we choose, but ultimately it’s both a subtle and an obvious way to control other people.

Admittedly, there are many areas of life in which the tendency to make judgments seems so prevalent, so common—and even, to a certain extent, so understandable—that we find the idea of overcoming it to be nearly insurmountable. Yet, if each of us makes the effort to stop judging, although our individual impact may appear to be negligible at first, the lasting impact of our joint efforts might prove to be far greater than we might ever imagine.

There is already enough pain and suffering in the world without our adding to it through cruel, insensitive, and thoughtless words and actions. When we understand that in judging others we are coming from a place of fear and personal insecurity, it puts a different spin on the whole process of judgment. It no longer becomes about just tearing down other people. It becomes a process by which we tear down ourselves.

The world will always find a way to present to you a reflection of your true self. You may see an idealized image of yourself when you look into the mirror. But life will not let you get away with holding onto this fabricated self-concept forever. When you start to notice that the way others react to you doesn’t match up with how you want them respond to you, it may be time to take a long, hard look at who you really are. Similarly, when you find yourself pointing fingers and finding fault with those whom you know, attaching labels to them that represent some feeble effort on your part to define their behavior, just make sure that you are not defining yourself instead. 

Life has a way of giving us back what we have given out, whether it be in a positive or a negative way. Don’t imagine an existence that is centered mostly around you will ever bring you the dividends you seek because it won’t. You must understand the simple law of cause and effect in order to make your dreams a reality. A life that is strictly or even mostly about you may bring you what seems to be happiness right now. But ultimately, you will experience a level of emptiness, sadness, and loneliness that words may be inadequate in conveying.

Many times over the course of our lives, we may be faced with a situation in which we must decide between obtaining immediate gratification or attaining long-term satisfaction.  And developing a strong sense of self-awareness is what will give us the strongest possibility of not making a choice that we ultimately regret.  At the same time, there are probably few mortals who haven’t made a choice at some point in their lives that did not appear to be an irremediable mistake.

Yet, for every fall we take, if we manage to profit from the unwise choice or choices that led to our temporary defeat, we will discover that we are stronger than we were before. To borrow words from the captivating silent film actress Mary Pickford, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start at any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Unfortunately, in this world in which we live, we are not always encouraged to get back up when we fall. This is why we must always remember that we are the ones who see our dreams most clearly and that we are the creators of our own destiny. The reasons behind the lack of encouragement and support that others exhibit may not be something we will ever comprehend. 

In many cases, those whom we might have expected to stand behind us feel threatened by our determination to keep going in spite of obstacles. They assume that if they desert us in our time of need, we will give up out of hopelessness and despair. It isn’t necessarily because such people are malicious or vindictive or hateful that they behave in this way. Rather, it is oftentimes because they are so deeply insecure that they are simply incapable of supporting those whom they perceive might have a greater chance of success than they do.

It isn’t always easy to accept the concept that there is enough success in the world to go around. Some people subscribe to the erroneous idea that success is like a piece of pie and that, in order for them to get their slice, someone else must forfeit his or hers. But ideas such as these are rooted in fear. And there can be no freedom where fear exists. To release ourselves from all fear is to give ourselves true freedom. When this occurs, we will rejoice in the accomplishments of those around us. We may even look for ways in which we can help others achieve their goals more swiftly.

Reaching this level of personal security and self-assurance will enable us to stop competing with anyone but ourselves. It will thereby provide us with the opportunity to become the best version of ourselves instead of a copy of someone else. The more you cease to compare the less inclined you will be to judge for you will embrace your own individuality. You will understand that you are every bit as exceptional as any other human being on the planet.

Why try to hinder anyone else’s journey when you are fully engaged with your own? If you see yourself as exceptional, there is no reason to be envious of anyone else. If you don’t agree with another person’s choices, stop to ask yourself whether or not it is up to you to agree or disagree. For in either agreeing or disagreeing, are you not moving from a place of mere observation into a place of judgment? Since the only thing any of us really has power over in this world is our own life, how can expending time and energy assessing the choices that others make benefit us?

In many ways, life is complicated. If your personal journey is anything like mine, there are plenty of things you have to concern yourself with on a day-to-day basis that pertain to your own life. So, why worry about other people’s lives, too?  The environment that best fosters a sense of self-awareness is that in which everything extraneous is let go of. 

In cutting away that which is not essential you will find both peace and clarity. In this way, life is a lot like love. When you bring yourself out of a place of need and release yourself from all expectations and conditions, you will discover what is genuine and what is false. Even if you experience pain and suffering, the joy you will eventually find in allowing into your life only that which is true, deep, and meaningful will surpass even the most excruciating heartache.

Don’t continue to clutter your life with the rhinestones of temporary bliss when you can have diamonds of happiness, joy, and lasting contentment instead. Allow yourself to acknowledge your pain and to gain strength from your suffering. Release yourself from the need to judge others and embrace the beauty that exists within you.

Be joyful. Be extraordinary. Be the best you that you can be . . . .

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(“A Quest For Sublimity” is dedicated to my extraordinary friends Scot Conway and Dawn Marie Knott) 

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

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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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

Steer Your Ship!

boat1I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three ways to live: you can live without any dreams, you can be a dreamer, or you can have dreams and dance those dreams into reality. You can either take the initiative to design your own life, or you can let circumstances and other people mold your life for you. What you’ll end up with is something akin to a manufactured product, rather than something definitive and organic—but, hey, you’ll have made the choice. Right?

It’s easy to shrug off things like positive thinking if we’ve been living with our negative thought patterns for a long time. They’ve almost become a source of comfort to us—something that we rely upon, and maybe even use as an excuse for the times when we do not measure up to the expectations that other people have of us. Perhaps it’s easier to say, “Well, what did  you expect of me? I’m just a born loser anyway!” when we disappoint a parent, friend, or partner.

The problem is, although at first our subconscious rejects these thoughts, after awhile, we begin to accept them as a reality. If we tell ourselves that we’re overweight or unattractive for a long enough period of time, even if we’re slim, fit, and extremely good-looking, we will begin to  develop a very poor self-image. I read about a situation in which a woman went to a plastic surgeon to have her nose fixed. She had always felt that she was tremendously unattractive because of what she perceived to be an ugly nose. Well, even though the surgeon gave her the nose that she had always dreamed of having, she was unable to see herself as being pretty because she was still holding onto the image of herself as an unattractive person.  

The truth is, no matter how much time or money you spend on your appearance to try to make yourself beautiful or attractive, unless you alter your perception of yourself, you will continue to see the same person you’ve always seen when you look into the mirror. Similarly, even if you have several degrees and academic accolades, if you persist in imagining yourself to be stupid, you will continue to see yourself as stupid, in spite of your level of education and/or academic excellence. And how you see yourself directly determines how you will behave. If you think you are not deserving of an opportunity that comes your way, you will manage to reject it, whether you intend to or not. For example, if  you are an actress and you have a chance to audition for an important part in a top-notch play, how you succeed at that audition will probably be determined by how worthy you think you are of getting the part. If you walk into the audition slumping, holding your head down, walking timidly or if your voice is soft and weak, the message you’ll be sending to everyone is: “I know I don’t really deserve to be here, but I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Remember how Barbra Streisand auditioned for “I Can Get it For You Wholesale”?  She went into that theater like she already owned the place.  No one had to wonder whether or not Barbra had confidence—it was evident how much self-assurance she had by how she moved, how she talked, and how she walked. She exuded self-confidence. And I have the feeling that even if Barbra hadn’t felt as confident as she acted like she was, she would have behaved exactly the same way. Why? Well, like all of those who are at the top of their field, Barbra understands that those around her are going to value her at the same level at which she values herself.

You really cannot expect other people to give you respect and to admire you if you don’t respect and admire yourself. If you question all your choices and berate yourself for every mistake you make, what message are you sending out to other people? Do you realize that you’re automatically causing them to make judgments about you? When you put limits on yourself and decide what you are or are not capable of, you will soon find that those around you start to agree with you. Instead of saying to you, “You can do it”, they’ll start to doubt that you actually can do what you say you want to do. They’ll begin to suspect that you know yourself better than they do. . .and that you are right in thinking that you have limited capabilities.

If you have demonstrated a pattern of failing or of not living up to other peoples’ expectations of you, you have an added challenge to contend with. It’s sometimes difficult enough to get people to believe in you and your endeavors when you’ve had a great deal of success in the past. But, when you’ve been someone who has consistently disappointed those who wanted to have faith in you, you’ll probably discover that getting to the point where people have confidence in you will take both time and patience.

One of the books that meant a lot to me when I was growing up was by a violinist named Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. It was called On My Way. Nadja is a fiercely tenacious woman with a strong will and an indomitable spirit. When you hear her play in person, you sense that you are in the presence of an amazing musician. Her playing is electric. She is passionate about music, and her love for the violin shines through every note she plays. But there was a time when Nadja’s vibrant spirit and tenacity were not enough. Although she had the talent to accomplish remarkable things, she lacked the essential level of commitment. She was too busy focusing on the aspects of her life that were inessential. . .the distractions. . .the things that brought her short-term gratification. And, she had to pay the consequences of this behavior. Her teacher at the Juilliard School, the world-renowned Dorothy DeLay, informed Nadja that she need not come back for another lesson until she decided whether or not she really wanted to be a concert violinist. At the time, Nadja had been planning to enter The 1981 Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition. However, DeLay scoffed at the idea, telling her that she was certain she wouldn’t even be accepted to enter the competition.

Essentially, Nadja had two choices. She could either let her teacher’s words become a reality for her, or she could turn things around and go after what she wanted, no matter who told her it was impossible. Nadja chose to ignore her teacher. She abandoned the undisciplined habits she had been adopting and completely transformed her life. For a few months, she locked herself in a room and practiced for hours, only leaving to go to the kitchen for the two meals she let herself have each day. To simplify things, she chose to eat nothing but canned sausages and ice cream. By the time the date of the competition arrived, Nadja had brought her playing to a level of excellence that was truly phenomenal. She had also lost fifteen pounds. And, rather than simply being someone who participated in the Naumburg Competition, Nadja ended up winning the top prize! The impact this event had on her career was tremendous. It’s doubtful that the opportunities that have enabled her to become one of the world’s most renowned performers and recording artists today would have come her way had Nadja not won the prestigious competition.

But what if she had let Dorothy DeLay’s expectations of her became her own self-fulfilling prophecy? How would it have changed her life? Where would she be today? Would any of us even know who Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is? We can’t answer any of these questions with certainty, but one thing I do know for certain is that Nadja’s story presents a marvelous example of a woman who took charge of her own life. She wasn’t about to let someone steer her ship for her. She grabbed hold of the helm and took on the role of captain of  her ship.

What I want to know is. . .is there any reason that you shouldn’t do the same thing? The universe is like a fathomless, rough, beautiful, yet turbulent, ocean.  And your life is a ship on this ocean. The question is this: are you going to steer your ship, or are you going to let someone else steer it for you? Don’t imagine for a moment that your ship will steer itself. If you refuse to take on the role of captain, another person will take on that part for you—or a group of people will. Perhaps, a succession of people will steer your ship—friends, relatives, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends—those who pass through your life for various lengths of time. Some of these people will probably support your dreams and goals, and others will make you feel like you’re incapable of doing much of anything. Even if you don’t let toxic individuals stay in your life for very long, if you aren’t at the helm of your ship, you’ll still be letting anyone and everyone who comes into your life have some influence on it, whether it’s a lasting impact or not.

When I was growing up, my father frequently made comments to me about my being worthless, unattractive, and inadequate. Although part of me knew that there were things about me that must make me valuable, I wasn’t steering my own ship. Rather, my father was at the helm. And, even after my parents separated and later divorced, I let other people take over my ship rather than grabbing hold of it myself. I chose not to take on the role of the captain—I chose to turn over the power that was rightfully mine to other people. I could tell you that I simply didn’t know I was supposed to do anything else, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Although I was conditioned to believe that I had a multitude of inadequacies, I think I let myself subscribe to toxic thought patterns even when I knew they were wrong. And in letting myself be nourished on toxic thoughts, I was automatically depriving myself of having control over my life. A person who thinks his/her capabilities are limited or that he/she is essentially without value will never imagine that he/she will be able to steer his/her own ship. If they don’t rely on other people to steer it, then they’ll turn to things such as alcohol, drugs, or food to help them cope with what they perceive to be an overwhelming responsibility. On a short-term basis, these vices can numb us. They can distract us and/or make us forget that we have problems in our lives that we need to deal with. But, what happens when we stop drinking or when the drugs wear off? What do things look like when we’ve just finished the latest eating binge? Did that gallon of butter pecan ice cream you polished off make you feel any stronger? Do you feel better physically? Are you happier?  Or, do you feel that once again you’ve tried to find a way to escape from the reality of you life? If so, is that truly the way you want to live?

There have been plenty of alcoholics who had big dreams, and there have been drug addicts who have died of overdoses with most of their potential still inside them. Even though we may never know what lifetime goals people such as musician Kurt Cobain and actors Heath Ledger and River Phoenix had, it’s important that we understand that an early death or a life of destitution and poor health is something that can happen to anyone depending on the choices that he or she makes on a daily basis. Jim Belushi didn’t die because of the choices that other people made for him. His death was caused by an overdose of drugs that he made the choices to take. Sure, other people were probably at the helm of Belushi’s ship at one time or another, but whether he was captain of his ship or not, he ended up being a victim of his own unwise decisions.

The difference between those who end up living unfufilled lives or who succeed in being just another statistic and those who experience incredible succeess has much less to do with talent, education, experience, or ability than you might think. Yes, these things can help. However, what’s more important than anything else is the thoughts that you hold in your mind on a daily basis. It’s the image you have of yourself that will determine how you live your life. The classic film actor, Cary Grant, was once asked how he managed to retain his slim and sophisticated figure. He replied that he had always envisioned himself as slender. He once said: “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until I finally became that person. Or he became me.”

Even if you don’t feel you have the power to steer your own ship, take on the role of captain starting today. See yourself as having the ability to move your ship in the right direction, even if those around you tell you you can’t do it. After all, it’s not important what others think of you and your capabilities—what ultimately determines whether or not you will succeed is the image you hold in your own mind of yourself.

So, toss your negative thoughts into the ocean, and start steering your ship towards your dreams, rather than away from them.

Live with passion, courage, and enthusiasm. . .and make each moment matter!

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

Don’t struggle when you can soar!

believe71 white bird at take-off)There is a common belief that great success is a by-product of intense struggle. In other words, if we are pushing ourselves to our limits and beyond, then we assume that we must be on our way to accomplishing productive things. Is this true? Well, in my mind, this theory has been a reality for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, I would often be so weary when I would finish my music practice for the day that I would fall asleep standing up. The problem was I had a lot of times when I felt genuinely overwhelmed. I never allowed myself to give in on an emotional level, but the fact I had to strive in spite of what I now realize was physical and psychological depletion left me with a sense of permanent discontentment. How can you enjoy your success when you’re too tired to fully embrace it??

Several weeks ago, two of my friends, Timothy and Sarah, asked me to write a blog post centered around the idea of finding ways to enjoy life in spite of the hassle of day-to-day existence. In the back of my mind, thoughts on this subject have been forming and fermenting ever since the topic was suggested to me. I remember reading an interview that the actress, Brooke Shields, gave shortly after the birth of her second child. She was lamenting the fact that she was consistently sleep deprived, even though she was overwhelmed with joy at having another beautiful daughter to take care of. I think Brooke’s predicament is similar to what many men and women find themselves in on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Although what they would technically term obligations are things they know they must do—and even, to a certain extent, want to do—there are times when they feel as if they are sinking instead of swimming because their days consist of nothing but must-do tasks instead of activities that would bring them inner contentment.

At the moment, I am feeling the strain of being a Success Diva myself. I am passionate about what I do. . .and I love the fact that I am having the opportunity to inspire people. However, there is a tendency in my nature to make things too urgent. Having a chronic illness has taught me patience to a certain extent, but there are still times when I have an overwhelming desire to make things happen right now. I berate myself for not posting more blog posts or for not sending more personal messages to my friends, and I seem to ofttimes forget about the meaningful things I actually do accomplish.

It reminds me of those occasions when I have remembered the one critical remark someone has made to me instead of the half dozen compliments I received. I think it’s all part of our inherent tendency to think that life must be difficult in order to be profound. If we laugh too much or have too much fun, we must be slacking off on the things we should be doing. But is this necessarily true? I grew up watching classic films, and, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also developed a sincere appreciation of foreign cinema as well. However, since I began my Success Diva blog, I haven’t taken the time to sit down and watch even one film in its entirety. Why? Well, I have a nagging feeling of guilt when I do something that is basically just about bringing me pleasure because I feel like I ought to be reaching out to other people. How can I spend a couple of hours watching a film when there are people whose messages I haven’t yet replied to??

There really is a fine balance between making sure we meet the needs of those whom we care about and not letting our own needs be neglected. We must nourish ourselves. The actress, Ashely Judd, represents a fine example of a woman who eventually collapsed because she failed to pay attention to her own needs. She was always a high achiever, and, when she ended up moving into the spotlight at a relatively young age, I think she stopped listening to the signals her body was giving her. . .signals that indicated she needed to take more time out for her. When you come from a family of strong and successful women like the Judds, not being a role model of tenacity and resilience is probably not something you let yourself contemplate. Yet, Ashley, in an interview with Glamour magazine in 2006, revealed that she spent 47 days in a Texas treatment facility for depression and other emotional difficulties.

What happened? How could one of the Judd women end up in a situation where the world around her seemed to be falling apart? Well, Ashley admitted that she had issues with codependence in her relationships and that she had a lot of rage and anger inside her that she had been repressing for years. On the surface, she seemed to be “together”. Yet, inside she was going through intense emotional turmoil. Naturally, Ashley received her fair share of criticism for being so open and honest about her problems. But, in demonstrating such candor, she was letting all of us know how human she really is. In addition, she was teaching us an important lesson, which is that we need to get in touch with ourselves and what we’re feeling, even if doing so makes us aware that we should seek therapy or take some time off simply to nourish our souls.

Success can be achieved through pushing and struggling, but, when it is achieved by these means, does it bring us lasting happiness? And, when we put everyone else’s needs before ours or spend nearly every waking moment of our lives at work, what sort of long-term impact is this going to have upon our lives? No one can answer these questions for each person with even the slightest degree of certainty, for each person’s life is different. However, we must never focus so much on our career or on our family or on our partner that we forget to take care of ourselves.

In a way, I think that ultimate success is about soaring rather than struggling. When we break free of the expectations we have of ourselves and accept our best efforts without chastising ourselves, this is when we will be able to enjoy that which we accomplish. How can you paint your own rainbow if you’re so worried about getting the right colors of paints that you never get around to picking up a paintbrush? How can you enjoy a delicious meal at a fine restaurant if all you’re thinking about is how much all the food is going to cost? Letting go of fears, even if they are valid, can be an integral part in designing the life of your dreams.

The brilliant French author, Albert Camus, once said, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Sometimes we miss an opportunity that comes through a door because we’re too busy polishing the windows. And there are moments when we could be experiencing  joy, but we’re so occupied with our daily worries that we cannot allow ourselves to feel joyful. We are too busy struggling to let ourselves soar. But, in a way, when we keep ourselves from soaring, we’re like a bird with clipped wings. We’ve built a cage around ourselves, and, rather than looking up at the glorious sky above, we are surrounded by the bars of our own prison. 

In a way, the difference in soaring and struggling can be compared to the difference between living and merely existing. You may think you are fully engaged with life because you have a list of goals that you’re determined to accomplish. However, if you don’t stop and replenish your soul and body in-between checking off all those things on your daily to-do lists, the satisfaction you seek will be as elusive as that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No matter how close you think you’re getting to being completely fulfilled, you will find that self-satisfaction is always just beyond your grasp.

When I was growing up, I was taught that crying was a weakness. But now I see that tears, just like expressing anger or disappointment, must be part of a life in which we soar, rather than struggle. The only way that we will ever be able to push ourselves to the limit without ceasing is if we become robots, instead of people. We will come to a breaking point, unless we take time to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us before we deplete all our resources. If an eagle did nothing every waking moment but hunt for food. . .if he or she never stopped to alight on a tree branch and rest, how long do you think he/she would survive? It’s essential to practice the habit of self-discipline and taking initiative, if you’re ever going to accomplish your goals. But, there is something to be said for those moments of tranquillity when we let ourselves be quiet and still as we nurture that inner part our beings that will only be replenished in moments of peace.  For our soul to soar, it has to be well-nourished. For our  bodies to continue to carry us through life, we must treat them with care and love.

As I continue to try to live up to the expectations I have of myself, I am becoming more and more aware of how much more finely attuned I need to become to my body and my soul. This diva wants to soar, not struggle.  .  .and she knows that’s what each one of you wants to do, too. So, free yourself from your cage of expectations. Reward yourself more often for the things you do well and start looking towards success as a journey that can be paved with more smooth stones than jagged rocks. Sure, adversity, obstacles, and setbacks can end up transforming us into the kind of people we want to be. . .but we must never think we have to struggle in order to have success. For only when the struggling ceases can we soar!

Live today with enthusiasm and passion. . .and make each moment count!

Until soon,

Alexis, 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

Paint your own rainbow!

rainbow33 (paint your own)Sometimes the sky above us is filled with so many dark clouds that the idea of ever being able to find a rainbow seems impossible. We know that one is there. . .somewhere. . .but where oh where? When you were a child and you first saw the film, “The Wizard of Oz,” how did you feel when you heard Judy Garland singing, “Somewhere over the Rainbow”? Didn’t it make you feel happy inside? The mere idea of a rainbow fills most of with joy, perhaps because rainbows are magical jewels of nature, rather than manufactured marvels. Sure, a Hollywood production studio helped provide a rainbow to inspire Judy’s song, but, for us, rainbows are those exquisite jewel-like ribbons of color that appear in the sky after a storm.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret when it comes to rainbows. If you want to experience a rainbow in your life and you’re waiting to see one until a thunderstorm clears, you may never have the privilege of enjoying one. For, they don’t just pop up whenever we desire them. In fact, I have come to see that there are times when we actually have to paint them ourselves, out of whatever materials we have on hand. Whether we use crayons or paint or colored pencils or magic markers, we can paint our own rainbow. And we don’t have to be a Pablo Picasso to create a rainbow that is worthy of admiration. Even children paint rainbows. In fact, a child is much more likely to draw or paint a rainbow than an adult is. Why? Because children believe in impossibilities. They haven’t yet been conditioned to have ceilings on their dreams or lids on their fantasies. This is one reason that children are so creative. Oddly enough, scientific studies have shown that between the ages of five and seven, a child’s creativity level decreases at an enormous rate.  The reason for this is thought to stem from the fact that, when a child first attends school, he or she begins learning about all the things that he/she cannot do. . .all the things that are “impossible” or “illogical”. Prior to being told that he or she cannot do something, a child tends to believe that anything is possible. This is probably why Picasso was once quoted as saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I will never forget hearing actress Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech when she on her second Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of The Lambs”. Jodie thanked her mother for enabling her to believe that she could make any of her dreams come true—for convincing her that “all her fingerpaintings” were “Picassos”.  And, perhaps, Jodie’s unfailing determination to go after the roles she has wanted, in spite of those who have tried to held her back, has something to do with the seed of self-confidence her mother nourished within her beginning at a very young age. Ironically enough, Jodie wasn’t the first choice for either her role in “The Accused” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” and yet, her performance in each film was impressive enough to garner her an Academy Award.

Although some people would say that thinking “big” is unrealistic, I think that only when we step outside so-called “realism” and dare to have big dreams, can we truly get enthusiastic about life.  David Schwarz in his classic book, The Magic of Thinking Big, promotes the theory that the main thing holding people back in life is actually their “small thoughts”. According to Schwarz, whether or not you dream big dreams or small dreams is actually more of a factor in your ultimate success than talent, education, or connections.

Who says we have to remain strapped in by the seat belts of probability? Who can predict what is possible or impossible? Sure, there will always be well-meaning friends and relatives in our midst to tell us when we are engaging in what they call “wishful thinking”. But we make the choice whether we decide to believe them, or whether we continue to pursue our dreams, no matter how many people tell us we’re being illogical.You see, one of the problems is that the people who tell us that we have to be “logical” are generally people who have chosen to repress their own dreams themselves. Now they may claim they had no choice in the matter, but, the truth is, we all have a choice. Some of us may have to be more patient than others to make our dreams a reality, but all of have the chance to paint that rainbow.

I have spoken before about Jim Carrey at my blog, but what I haven’t mentioned was how Jim Carrey visualized his dream before it  became a reality. He used to imagine himself as a famous actor, and even thought up scenarios in which he was preparing to audition for roles in major films. At one point, he wrote himself a check for several million dollars, writing on the blank side of the check, “For services rendered.” Was this not an example of someone painting his own rainbow? Jim had no sign that he was going to be a major movie stair. If anything, things were pointing in the opposite direction. Yet, he made a choice to see himself as what he wanted to be, and his vision of himself was a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’ve always believed in magic,” Jim said later. He spoke of how he would go sit on Mulholland Drive and look out at the city, stretching out his arms, telling himself over and over again that he was a “really good actor” and that everybody wanted to work with him.  Jim said these positive affirmations were his way of erasing the negative thought patterns that had been passed down to him from his family.

A self-fulfilling prophecy can be positive or negative. That part is up to you. And, whether you realize it or not, you are actually forming self-fulfilling prophecies in your mind every day. Every time you tell yourself that you can or cannot do something, you are predicting either a positive or negative outcome. To put it another way, you are either painting storm clouds or a rainbow. You may think that you are simply being realistic when you tell yourself that something you dream of doing isn’t going to happen, but what you’re really doing is painting a cloud. And then you find yourself wondering why others don’t see your dreams for you. Well, how can you expect anyone to believe in your dreams, if you don’t wholeheartedly believe in them yourself?

Early on in singer and entertainer Barbra Streisand’s illustrious career, she went to an audition at St. James Theater for “I Can Get It For You Wholesale”. She arrived looking frazzled and unkempt and spilled sheet music all over the floor when she crossed the stage.  It was a situation that most actresses would have been humiliated to find themselves in. But Barbara—or Babs, as her fans like to call her—-has always been one to handle things in stride.  She played up the comedic part of the situation, leading the production staff to wonder if she was a kook or merely a brilliant comedian. In fact, she made such a splash that she was asked back for another audition with the celebrated Broadway producer, David Merrick, who was eventually persuaded into casting Barbra in the part of Miss Masselstein, even though the role was written for an actress in her fifties.

As you see, those who make their dreams a reality are rarely afraid to take chances. That’s because they know that there are times when taking a risk is the only option that will get them anywhere near the results they are after. This is why you must not let yourself be satisfied with painting a rainbow in a few lackluster shades. If you want to make things start happening in your life, paint your rainbow in the boldest colors you can find! Although pastel hues are becoming when it comes to baby shower decor and bridesmaids’ dresses, living a life in pastel colors is only going to make you feel powerless and ineffective. Imagine if every actress who showed up at the Oscars each year wore a gown that was in a pastel shade? After awhile, even if you thought the dresses were pretty, you would begin to be bored by the lack of color.

Well, how can you expect to get excited about a life that is painted in pale hues? If your life was a canvas, what colors of paint would you use to create your picture?? Would you use all the colors of the rainbow, or would your restrict yourself to shades of gray? Would you choose bold, passionate red and bright, vibrant yellow and cool, brilliant blue. . .or, would you water these colors down by adding lots of white? If  you could create a canvas that would represent your ideal life, what would it look like? Who would be part of your ideal life? What career would you be involved with? What city or state would you be living in? Would those people who are closest to you now still be the ones you would turn to? When you stop to answer all these questions, you start gaining clarity about your life. Certain things that haven’t been clear before start to become obvious. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel the freedom to think in terms of our “ideal lives” because we’re so caught up in our day-to-day existence. In a way, some of us may fear thinking in terms of “the ideal” as it will only make us more aware of how different our lives are from what we would consider the “life of our dreams”.

However, until we fully allow ourselves to embrace the liberating experience of self-awareness, we will never be able to make even one of our dreams a reality, for we’ll never be honest with ourselves about what has to change in order to make our dream come true.  Although it pains me to admit this, there are some people who simply live in what I would call a “state of oblivion”. These people labor under the illusion that somehow, in some miraculous way, their lives are going to turn around for the better even though they’re not making any consistent effort to change them. Sometimes they fantasize about winning the lottery or, perhaps, finding a rich man or woman to marry. Or they imagine that a talent scout will approach them in a supermarket or shopping mall and offer them a movie contract.  Now, I’m not saying that such scenarios are not possible. However, to depend on such fanciful twists of fate is not going to bring a person any closer to his or her dreams.

So, what’s the difference in believing in dreams that others would consider to be impossibilities and fantasizing about winning the lottery? Well, your personal dreams are something that you have control over. You can decide what dream to pursue, and you can begin to back up that which you yearn for with definitive actions. On the other hand, whether or not you win the lottery is something that you have very little control over. And we’ve already examined how important it is to focus on the things that we actually have power over as opposed to the things that are not under our control. Believe me, when you begin to become aware of all the things in your life that you really do have control over, you’ll start to see that not nearly as much is left up to chance—or fate, as some might call it—as you might think. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, you aren’t even dependent on whether or not a rainbow appears in the sky because you can paint your own. Similarly, if you prefer, you can paint a series of dark storm clouds. Do you see how much power you really do wield over your own destiny? I think that more than anything else, what holds people back is fear. And, to a certain extent, I think they are afraid of their own power. They think that once they start making changes, they’ll move outside their comfort zone and nothing will be the same. Well, indeed you will move outside of your comfort zone when you start designing that life you’ve always dreamed of. You see, your mind has been conditioned to accept things as they are, which means that even if what you’re pursuing is what you frantically yearn for, there will be a part of you that tries to sabotage your efforts. The only thing to do is to push past that fear. Sure, that’s easier said than done. But the only alternative is to wait for the fear to go away, and that isn’t going to happen because as long as you try anything new, you will experience fear.

In fact, you’re probably going to experience fear when you start to paint your rainbow. You’ll worry that you aren’t using the right shades of paint. . .or that the canvas you’ve chosen to paint the rainbow on is too big or too small.  Yet, I think you’ll also realize that these fears are perfectly natural, and that the fact  you’re having them shows that you’re doing precisely what you should be doing.  Even though some of you aren’t going to be happy about this, security is going to be something you’ll have to give up if you’re going to make your dreams come true. So, you might as well get used to living on the edge because it’s the only kind of life that’s going to get you to the destination you desire!

In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait until tomorrow to start painting your rainbow. Why should you sit looking at a grey sky or a blank canvas for another day?

Until soon.  .  .live with passion and make each moment matter!

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

Reinventing yourself!

believe43 (butterfly)There is only one way to truly live. . .and that is on the edge. Although I believe that we must use wisdom in the choices we make, if we don’t learn to take risks, we’ll never be able to use our full potential. You know, I lived my life with the dream that I would one day be a performing classical violinist. However, when that dream came to an end I was faced with two choices: either I could give up on life entirely or I could decide to reinvent myself.  A lot of people come from the place where they think that they have to somehow make a career or a relationship work out that seems to be dead-end. They don’t understand that only in letting go of that which is no longer beneficial can they bring the things into their lives that will give them fulfillment. It would be like keeping your closet full of clothes that don’t fit anymore or shoes that are too worn-out to continue wearing. Would you actually do that? I know I wouldn’t.

And yet, many of us are doing something similar to this with our lives. We make the mistake of trying to change ourselves while keeping things and people in our lives that are not part of our long-term vision. Reinventing yourself is about more than simply altering you. You also have to be willing to unclutter that closet! You must pull the weeds out of the garden to enjoy the flowers.

In addition to toxic thoughts, there are also toxic people, and they can be every bit as deadly to keep in your life as toxic thoughts are to keep in your mind. At the heart of most motivational thinking and writing is the basic concept that your thoughts can transform your world. Now I’ve been told by some people that so-called “positive thinking” does nothing for them. Well, if your thoughts are not followed up by relevant actions, you aren’t going to notice a transformation taking place. And that’s what you need sometimes, isn’t it? A transformation in your life.

I have had to transform both myself and how I see the world countless times, and I still struggle with breaking free from toxic thinking. Like anything that is nourished by practice, toxic thinking can easily become a habit. Pretty soon, you may notice that it’s not even something you actually. . .well. . .think about. You simply lapse into thoughts of unworthiness, hopelessness, helplessness, or despair. But, even if you have been guilty of this up to this very moment, you don’t have to continue down that beaten road that isn’t ever going to take you anywhere. Remember how I keep talking about the yellow brick road that will lead you to the Emerald City of your dreams?

When I think of someone who has constantly reinvented herself from one decade to the next, I cannot help but think of the singer and actress, Madonna. Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, I think it’s almost impossible not to admire her determination to continue to do whatever is takes to continue being successful. Even when things haven’t worked out the way she undoubtedly intended them to, she hasn’t let it get her down. My songwriter friend, the amazingly talented Anna Ginetti-Ricci, pointed out what an icon of courage and strength Madonna has always represented to her. And I found myself agreeing with Anna that Madonna truly is a woman who has been uncommonly resilient and resourceful.

Many of Madonna’s films, for example, have been box-office bombs. Yet, she hasn’t stopped trying to pursue a career in movies. She has been crucified by her critics, mercilessly attacked in the press, and scrutinized in a way that would have surely torn apart the self-esteem of a lesser woman. But she’s understood that only in bouncing back from every temporary defeat will she have the kind of life and career she desires.

The American author, Terry McMillan, probably best known for her New York Times bestseller, the novel, Waiting to Exhale, once said,  “There is a price for popularity. Critics look for your weaknesses, your flaws, anything that makes the work seem like a fluke and not seem worthy of all the attention is getting.” And Henry Fielding, the celebrated English author of such classics as the novel, Tom Jones, once wrote, “Now, in reality, the world has paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them to be men of greater profundity than they really are. ” And there’s no doubt that both Terry McMillan and Henry Fielding are right. If you don’t have some people around telling you that your dreams are impossibilities, your dreams probably aren’t big enough. You know, a lot of people might not have thought of looking at it this way. However, it really does take every bit as much energy and effort to create big dreams as little dreams. It’s sort of like nourishing yourself on positive emotions rather than negative, destructive emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, hate, and bitterness wear you down, both from a physical and a psychological standpoint.

Haven’t you ever noticed how tired you feel after you have a fight with someone? For instance, if you have a quarrel with a friend or with your spouse in the morning, haven’t you perceived that the rest of the day seems to automatically go in the wrong direction? It’s as if the entire day has been jinxed, simply because of the spat. And most of the time, nothing positive has been accomplished from the argument. Instead, you and your friends or partner most likely feel unloved, unappreciated, and misunderstood. One of my role models, the marvelous motivational speaker and author, Stephen Covey, speaks of the importance of seeking to understand the people around us. In fact, his philosophy is summed up in this sentence, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Yet how many of us really live that way?

In treating life as the opportunity it is, I feel that what we must do is transform the way we relate to the people in our lives. In fact, improving and changing the way we communicate with others is essential to redefining who we are. We can’t reinvent ourselves if we hold onto old patterns of behavior. I grew up with a father who frequently lost his temper, and, when he did, he would alienate everyone around him. He had difficulty with authority and was compelled to own and run his own businesses because the idea of working for anyone else filled him with resentment.

Because I saw the way in which my father’s attitude towards life and other people affected his relationships, I have understood how important it is to treat others with respect and dignity. It can be devastating when we allow our destructive emotions to take over our behavior. When we react to situations and other people’s actions and words with anger or hate, all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be overpowered by our emotions. And it’s our thoughts that will transform our world—not our emotions.

It’s important to cultivate a generous and compassionate heart. When we let our heart rule our head, though, we can easily get into a lot of stressful predicaments. We must think before we speak and before we act. . .otherwise we will inevitably succumb to feelings that will negatively influence both ourselves and others. An encouraging thing to keep in mind is that the more often we take control over our thoughts, words, and behavior, the easier it will become to continue doing so.

In recent times I have found myself desperately holding on to my inner serenity, mostly because I have been too caught up in letting other people’s actions influence my own opinion of myself. However, when I look towards those who have persisted in spite of relentless critcism that has been unfair and unjust, I know that I, too, can choose not to listen to the critics. I remember a few months ago when Oprah Winfrey was lambasted in the press because a situation involving child molestation arose in the girls’ school she founded in Africa. Even though Oprah was in no way personally responsible for this set of circumstances taking place, she was vastly criticized by her detractors, who did their best to cast aspersions on her character. Rather than putting the blame where it belonged, some wanted to take away from all the wonderful, benevolent things Oprah has done. They chose to try to make her feel guilty.

While I cannot know for sure how deeply Oprah was affected by all this criticism, I do know that she’s a resilient lady. She would not allow anyone to permanently diminish her feelings of self-worth. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not how many times we let ourselves be affected by the things that people say about us or the way in which they behave towards us. The most significant question is: do we let other peoples’ opinions of us and/or actions affect us permanently?

For example, if, like me, you grew up with a father who made you feel inadequate because you were a girl, do you continue to remind yourself of the things he told you and the way those words made you feel? Or do you choose to let the feelings of rejection you experienced from him strengthen you? There really are just two ways to respond to any negative situation, you know—you can either let it weaken you or you can let it make you stronger. Courage is not something that you are born with. It’s something that you learn to acquire. It may not be able to be purchased, but as you continue to reinvent yourself, you’ll start to see that courage really can be learned.

Courage is like “learned helplessness”, a term that the American psychologist and writer, Martin Seligman, coined. When you were born, you were not made to remain helpless as you grew. You did not come into the world with an inability to bounce back from the hurdles life put in your path. Any feelings of helplessness that you have now or have had in the past are a by-product of  the negative experiences that you have lived through. This is why the only way to start living a life that will be in alignment with your deepest desires is for you to replace the learned helplessness with courage and resilience. If you tend to focus on the negative side of life, it will be very difficult for you to turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. However, even if you can’t see it, if you’re holding onto negative thoughts and nourishing yourself with destructive feelings, there’s a big sign that says DEAD END at the end of the street you’re walking down. And, sooner or later, you’re going to reach that dead end. Then, what will you do?

The time to reinvent yourself is not next year, next week, or tomorrow. Why would you want to wait any longer to start walking down that yellow brick road that will lead you to happiness, success, and ultimate fulfillment? I know that the actor,  Jim Carrey, didn’t let roadblocks get in his way. He came from a family where money was so scarce that his family barely had enough to eat. Both of Jim’s parents battled deep depression, and, starting at a young age, Jim was faced with the responsibility of trying to cheer them up. Of course, he had it in his favor that he was naturally funny. In fact, he was a born mimic.

Although Jim was not a popular kid in school, he managed to become well-liked because of his amusing antics. At age fourteen, he was given the chance to perform in a well-respected club in his hometown of Toronto. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a success. But Jim had drive and determination, and he committed himself to not letting one failure steal his dreams. He perfected his comedy routine and, awhile later, returned to the same club, where he made a magnificent splash. His talent as a comedian was noticed by the American actor and comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. This connection is what landed Jim on the first step that would take him up the spiraling staircase of success. 

Your diva can tell you that she has experienced more setbacks than she would care to claim. However, my perseverance in not letting any of those setbacks be permanent is why I’m where I am today. I could never share my words of encouragement with all of you if I hadn’t first shared them with myself. I am very grateful to such inspirational people as Denis Waitley, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Les Brown, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, and Zig Ziglar for writing books and recording tape and CD programs that have encouraged me, but on a day-to-day basis I have to be my own coach. This is why I emphasize the importance of reinventing yourself.

If you’ve had crossroads and setbacks in your life that you haven’t yet recovered from, you need to start seeing a brand-new you every time you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter whether you made a big mistake yesterday or last week. . .you can start anew at this very moment. Have you ever noticed how some flowers blossom overnight? Our next-door neighbors gave us a pot of spectacular trumpet flowers. The thing about it is, trumpet flowers only bloom for a few hours, and, when they do bloom, their blossoms unfold all at once. The transformation takes place overnight. Now it’s not going to be nearly as easy for you to transform yourself and/or certain aspects of your life. But it doesn’t have to take a minute for you to start the process of transformation. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Until soon,

Alexis

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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

Born to be you!

believe52 (star-born to be you)Close your eyes for a moment. If you can’t do this now, do it as soon as you possibly can. I want you to envision yourself at a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible. If you’re anything like me, this may have been so far back that you can barely remember it. But, if you can, even if you were four or five years of age, I want you to return to that time. Really soak in that sensation you had that you were invincible, and that the only thing that could keep you from achieving something was if you made a choice not to pursue it. How does returning to that moment in time when you felt the world was at your feet make you feel?? Are you experiencing any feelings of sadness because you weren’t able to hold on to that unconquerable belief in yourself for a longer period of time?? Well, let go of any disappointment, discouragement, and/or unhappiness and listen to your diva when she tells you that you can recapture that faith in yourself that you once had. You were born to fulfill a certain role. . .to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. And just as this was the case when you were five or ten years old, so it is also the case at this point in your life. No matter how many curves you have had to evade or how many setbacks have come your way, the only thing that can actually prevent you from making your dreams come true is you. “What?” you interject. “But you don’t understand, Success Diva. I have all these bills piling up, and I’ve been out of work for six months, and my husband left me two years ago with three kids to support. I’m not the one who is keeping me from living the life of my dreams.” You aren’t?? Then who, if I may ask, is preventing you from it?? If you try to blame circumstances or someone else for the fact that life isn’t giving you what you feel you deserve, then aren’t you giving away your own personal power?? I remember when I first listened to the CD program, Personal Power, by the motivational speaker and author, Anthony Robbins. It was a mind-blowing experience for me! In fact, I wasn’t really ready for it when I first heard it. Some of Tony’s concepts seemed to take me so far out of what I perceived to be my personal “comfort zone” that I began to be reluctant to listen to his advice. I didn’t think that I had it in me to become all that Tony told me I could become, and hearing him speak of all this untapped potential inside of me was. . .well. . .just a little bit intimidating. In other words, I was allowing myself to fall into what I would call the Fear Trap. I was so afraid that I might not be able to succeed the way that Tony was trying to persuade me into believing I could that it was easier to put the CDs back on the shelf. And that happens to be exactly what I did!

Do I regret my choice?? Well, yes. . .and no. I think that there’s a right and a wrong time for everything. We aren’t all at the same place in our lives, and it’s even possible that some of you reading this blog aren’t yet ready to step forward and really start making things happen in your life. That’s okay. Although I love my friend and foremost inspiration Denis Waitley’s quote about there being plenty of time to win but no time to lose, I also understand that not everybody is ready to take on the role of a winner. However, if you’re one of Success Diva’s supporters, there’s a good chance that you’re at least halfheartedly committed to making your dreams a reality. There’s even a possibility that all you need is a little extra encouragement to get you running down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City I’ve spoken of before. You know, when you think about all the people who have had to overcome obstacles that you and I can only vaguely imagine to accomplish magnificent things, you have to admit that you don’t have much of an excuse to be what you might call a bystander in life’s game. One thing that  helps me is focusing on people who inspire me. This is one reason I’ve created two Icons of Inspiration Photo Albums over at Facebook. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Angelina Jolie are ladies whom I will always look up to, and those who have inspired millions of people through their generosity of spirit and compassionate deeds, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana, cannot help but make me feel more determined than ever to continue to pursue my goals with passion, persistence, perseverance, and a definitive sense of purpose. At the same time, I always remember that I am uniquely me. That is, I wasn’t born to be anyone else nor do I compare myself to any other person.

When I think about someone who has always genuinely embraced his individuality, I would have to mention the actor, Sylvester Stallone. He has often made comments that indicated he didn’t feel that he was blessed with a first-class intellect, and he’s also been largely criticized for his acting capabilities. But, you know what? Sylvester Stallone should be a role model for a person who has dreams that seem beyond his or her grasp. During the 1970s, when Sylvester Stallone barely had enough money to eat, he decided to start writing. On most days, he stayed up until dawn writing. Even though most people would have regarded his efforts as merely the result of wishful thinking, Stallone believed in himself enough to press on until he had completed the screenplay that would eventually be the basis for the film, “Rocky”. And when he was offered $300,000 to sell the rights to his screenplay to a filmmaker, on the condition that he didn’t play the lead role, Stallone was committed enough to his dream of playing the lead to refuse the offer. Now, in some situations, not being willing to compromise could easily mean that a person loses what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, when you have a dream in your heart and you commit every fibre of your being to that dream, you can’t let anyone steal it from you, even if holding on to it seems like an unwise decision. As you and I both know, Stallone made the right choice because he ended up having the chance to play the role of Rocky Balboa, and he was even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work. Although he was only paid minimum wage for his work in the film, Stallone admitted later that he would have played the part for free. That is how dedicated he was to making his dream come true.

So, how dedicated are you? Or have you determined what your ultimate dream is? Are you still searching for your purpose or do you have a definite aim? A lot of motivational experts encourage you to write what is called a “personal mission statement”, and I don’t think this is a bad idea. In fact, it can be very profitable because it forces you to really look at  your life from a distance. In other words, you are unable to let yourself get too caught up in the chaos of the moment. Rather, you are compelled to really review and ascertain what your permanent destination is.  When I use the term “permanent destination”, I am not speaking of death, which is indeed inevitable for all of us. What I’m talking about is your ultimate goal—the thing that you most want in your life, the accomplishment or series of accomplishments that would mean more to you than anything else. For someone who is in medical school, a mission statement would probably include a few key phrases about the kind of doctor they want to be. Rather than simply focusing on academic achievements, a mission statement should center around the contribution that a woman or man in medical school would like to make to medicine and to the lives of his/her patients in his or her career as a doctor. Am I making sense?? In other words, if you wanted to be a well-known actor or actress, simply saying “I want to be one of the most famous actors/actresses in the world” would not constitute a successful mission statement. Why? Well, those of us who understand what true success is all about realize that fame, fortune, and superificial acclaim will not ever fill that internal void within ourselves. And isn’t that really what striving towards the life of your dreams is all about?? Isn’t it about creating a life that gives you a sense of self-fulfillment on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis? I remembering hearing the actress, Angelina Jolie, in an interview awhile back, and being impressed with what she said about how her decision to adopt children from underprivileged countries and to visit and do the charitable work she has done has prevented her from continuing in what she called a “self-destructive lifestyle”. Instead of continuing on a downward spiral that would inevitably have landed her in what your Success Diva terms the “Pit of Despair”, Jolie turned her life around by changing the way she saw the world and by altering her own personal value system. When Jolie was in her 20s, her life was centered mostly around her own desires and concerns, but as she has entered her 30s, she has begun to reach out more and more to other people until, at this point, she is a true icon of inspiration. And this brings to mind something I was recently reading about what’s called the “Hierarchy of  Needs”,  according to psychologist Abraham Maslow. Our first set of needs are very basic and pertain to things that are essential to our health and lives, such as water, food, and oxygen. But by the time we reach our fourth set of needs, the focus shifts to such things as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. And by the time we get to our fifth set of needs, we enter into an entirely different aspect of ourselves because the focus is on what is called self-actualization. What is self-actualization? To sum it up at its most basic level, it is the sense that we are doing what we are most suited to—in other words, it is the pursuit of what we perceive to be our life’s purpose. If you don’t think that you have a purpose in life, you’re wrong. Without a purpose, you wouldn’t be here in the world. Each and every one of us has what is called a purpose, and, as I’ve stated before, it hasn’t anything to do with religion or a person’s spiritual beliefs. Even if you don’t think that you believe you have a purpose, in your heart you know you do. If you didn’t know that, you would have ended your life years ago because you wouldn’t have seen any reason for continuing to exist. No matter how hopeless you have felt at certain times, if you’re still alive, deep within you, whether you’re fully aware of it or not, you have a sense of purpose. And in order for you to ever realize or use your full potential, you must acknowledge and embrace that purpose. You will never be able to completely escape that which you were designed to do. I know this to be true because I have done my best to repress my own innate belief that I was destined to be a writer. Why? Well, like so many other people—including you, quite possibly—I allowed myself to be coerced into living in fear. My fear that I would not be able to achieve success in the field of writing unconsciously persuaded me into pursuing other careers.  I will never regret the time I spent acting and modeling, and I also learned a lot from my attempt to have a career as an artist. But, even though I fully enjoyed these endeavors, I always had a nagging sense within myself that what I was really supposed to be doing was not what I was spending my time and energy on. I used to come home from theater rehearsals with a deep sense of discontentment, and, when I finished a painting I was always left with a sense of emptiness, even if I was pleased with my work. I can’t help but think of the American author Carson McCullers who trained to be a concert pianist before she ever pursued a career as a writer. I’m sure that a part of her never felt entirely satisfied when she was practicing the piano, even though she undoubtedly loved music and believed that performing on concert stages around the world was what she was most suited to do. I think her pain at not having her musical career work out as she intended is beautifully conveyed in her short story, “Wunderkind”. However, just because McCullers experienced regret over the fact her musical dreams came to an end does not mean that she didn’t eventually realize that being a writer was really her personal destiny. It can take years for some of us to let go of the dreams that didn’t come true. Yet, until we are willing to do so, the dreams of the future will never be ours.  Each one of us has a map that is uniquely our own—a blueprint that is centered around that which we are destined to do. We are born to be ourselves. . .and born to contribute something exceptional to the world and to the lives of those around us. Whether what we end up contributing is something that brings us fame or recognition or not, it is something that will give us a sense of inner contentment and satisfaction. And if we let ourselves buy into the erroneous idea that we have to subscribe to the limited ideas that others try to pass on to us or hold onto the limiting beliefs that we have allowed ourselves to adopt, we will end up dying with all our potential still inside us. Which would you rather do?? Would you rather commit yourself to fully using all your talents and capabilities or would you rather watch while others who do choose to believe in themselves make their dreams come true? I can only inspire and encourage you—I’m a diva of success, not a miracle worker. So, even though I am willing to support you every step of the way, you have to be the one to make the magic happen in your life.  You can blame other people, complain about the injustice of the world, or find a dozen excuses for why you haven’t made full use of  your potential, or you can start making the choices today that will enable you to live a life of true significance. The choice is yours.  . .and only you can make it.

Live each moment of today with enthusiasm and passion, and don’t let anyone steal your dreams from you!

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

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

Capture your vision!

astronaut1It’s so easy to get caught up in the trap of day-to-day living, which essentially involves doing the things that are tasks, rather than pursuing our dreams. Is it not so? When you write down your daily to-do list  (or mentally think about it), don’t you notice that you’re focusing on a lot of activities that have little or no bearing on your ultimate desires? In other words, are you really working to create the life of your dreams every day? I know that I am guilty of letting myself get caught up in the struggle to do what has to be done in each 24-hour period. It’s frustrating but sometimes it seems inevitable. But, is it? Well, I think there’s no doubt about the fact that there are certain tasks that we must accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. However, when we focus on just those things at the exclusion of the activities that would get us closer to the life of our dreams, this is when we start to feel pessimistic. Do you remember my mentioning the film, “Groundhog Day”? Do you recall my talking about how it sometimes seems as if the same day is virtually repeating itself over and over again? You see, I have felt like that too often not to completely relate to the concept. There have even been certain periods of my life in which I dreaded getting up in the morning because I was certain that I would simply be repeating the day I had just lived through. “Okay,” you say, “I get the point. But what I don’t see is how I can prevent myself from feeling this way.” Well, the only way you can prevent yourself from feeling this way is if you choose to see life from a specific vantage point. You must replace those thoughts of hopelessness and frustration with faith in yourself. The only way you will ever accomplish anything is if you see it as being completely within the realm of possibility. In other words, you must capture your vision. . .and you must hold onto that vision, no matter what.

Let me ask you: do you think an astronaut goes into space without first envisioning the trip in his/her mind? I would say not. Indeed, my guess would be that before an astronaut ever enters his/her space shuttle, he/she has visualized the endeavor in intricate detail. I would also imagine that many surgeons use visualization before they ever enter the operating room. Believe it or not, the mind often cannot distinguish between the things we do and the things we imagine that we do. This is why it’s essential that you begin to incorporate visualization into your daily routine. It’s particularly effective if you tend to get nervous or anxious easily. To envision that you complete a task successfully prior to beginning it will automatically give you a sense of self-assurance. And this self-assurance will make it extremely likely that you’ll accomplish whatever it is you want or need to do. When I was a stage actress, I used to envision myself making a fabulous impression at an auditon before I ever arrived there. Did this mean I necessarily got the role I was auditioning for? Of course, it didn’t. But what it did do was prevent me from letting my confidence be eroded by stage fright or feelings that I wasn’t experienced and/or talented enough to be cast in the part I was up for. Sometimes, we have to coach ourselves, you know. If we wait around for someone else to tell us that we have what it takes to achieve success in our chosen career, we may find that a lot of opportunities come our way that we fail to seize. It was the legendary singer, Janis Joplin, who once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” And, you know what? To a certain extent, I think she’s right. Although I will always declare that I wouldn’t be half the diva I am without my fans and friends supporting me and offering me words of encouragement, I know that, if I stop believing in myself, no matter who else believes in me, it won’t matter much. Your psyche responds in a certain way to the image you hold in your mind of the person you are.  You cannot deceive yourself. If you are frequently allowing yourself to focus on thoughts of worthlessness and self-doubt, you aren’t going to ever be able to use most of your potential. I use the word “most” because there are very few of us who will ever use all of our potential. We are amazing, complex creatures, and it’s rare that any of us will ever understand all that we’re truly capable of accomplishing over the course of a lifetime.  We are actually consistently limiting ourselves. It isn’t that we lack the talent, intelligence or social skills to make great things happen in our lives. Rather, it’s that we’ve attached ourselves, body and soul, to a self-limiting belief system. Whether we are aware of it or not, we let ourselves absorb the negative energy that other people around us are nourishing themselves with. Rarely do we take the time to create a psychological barrier between ourselves and these self-destructive individuals, and because we fail to do this, we end up letting other peoples’ ways of thinking control the way we think. I know it may not be easy to accept this idea, but I assure you, it’s true. And, with years of being conditioned by the pessimistic thought patterns that are handed over to us and passed down to us by friends, family members, and acquaintances, we eventually get to the point where we feel like our chance of ultimate success is practically impossible. How can I speak with such authority on this subject? Well, I was raised with a father who believed that girls were intrinsically less valuable than boys, and, in spite of doing my best to eliminate this toxic viewpoint from my world, my father’s words and ideas seeped into my system and poisoned my blood. Yes, I still do have to convince myself that women are capable of accomplishing remarkable and incredible things. Although I am dedicated to not being controlled by the erroneous views that my father tried to impart to me, it is nevertheless a struggle to have an enormous amount of faith in myself. I remember reading about the actress Candice Bergen, and how she battled her feelings of rejection from her father for a number of years. When she was a teenager, Candice’s father, the famous ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, made Candace feel that she was unattractive simply because she didn’t have a curvy figure. In later life, Candice has spoken candidly about the self-esteem issues that came about as a direct result of her father’s rejection of her and her appearance. And yet, when we look at Candice in such classic films as “Gandhi,” “The Wind and the Lion,” and “Starting Over,” for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, it’s not easy to believe that anyone would have ever thought she was anything less than beautiful. In fact, she bears a striking resemblance to one of the classic sex symbols of the 1980s, actress Kim Basinger. And, oddly enough, Basinger also struggled with a lack of self-acceptance. In fact, she made the erotic film ,”9 1/2 weeks”, mostly to please the man she was married to at the time, whose approval Basinger desperately wanted. Do you see what happens when you depend upon other people to make you feel as if you are worthwhile?? This brings me back to what I said in one of my most recent posts about establishing a genuine sense of self-worth. But you must go beyond that if you want to live the life of your dreams. You must actually create a vision of your ideal life and sustain that vision no matter how many obstacles come your way. The only person who can hold you back in the long run is yourself. It may be easier to blame other people or various circumstances for the fact that you don’t achieve your goals, but unless you are fully prepared to acknowledge the role you played in not making your dreams a reality, you will not succeed. Yes, the psychological and emotional scars that are inflicted upon us at the most vulnerable times of our lives may not ever completely heal. However, continuing to blame those scars for the fact that we haven’t done more with our lives will only hinder us. In fact, in blaming the scars for our lack of success, we are really giving power to those persons or events that caused the scars in the first place. Am I making sense? I wish I didn’t feel like I had to keep re-iterating these things, but, if I don’t repeat important concepts, there is no way I’ll be able to help you eliminate the thought patterns that are preventing you from finding happiness and fulfillment right now. Every day, this diva works to erase the carefully installed negative conditioning of the past. Sometimes I feel like my mind is a computer, and I am constantly having to re-program it to think in a way that will make it possible for me to be the success diva of my dreams. The good news is that the more committed you are to the task, the easier it will become. So, even if you feel that you are fighting an uphill battle at first, as time passes, you will find that your mind is starting to work with you. Rather than having to force yourself to think differently, you’ll find that any negative ideas you have about yourself will be easily replaced with positive ideas. Now, I’m not going to predict how long it might take for this change to take place. For all I know, it could take a year, two years, or even five years. But those years will pass even if you keep your old, poisonous thought patterns. So, you might as well do yourself a favor and make it possible for you to do something with all your talents and abilities, instead of sitting back and using phrases like “I wish” and “If only.” I’ll talk in future posts about the phrases we use on a daily basis that are automatically sending us down a tunnel of doubt, fear, and repression. For the moment, I urge you to pay attention to your thoughts. If you find it’s difficult to keep track of the toxic thoughts you’re having about yourself, those around you, and your life, keep a tablet or some notepaper and a pen or pencil nearby and start writing down your thoughts. You don’t have to write your thoughts down often, but you should at least check in with yourself a couple of a times a day, preferably when you’re feeling especially miserable or unhappy. When you see that you’re having thoughts that involve feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, address them immediately. Don’t let them take up residence in your mind like a teabag, steeping in a cup of hot water. If you don’t work to eliminate the destructive thought as soon as you’re aware of them, they’ll have a chance to start poisoning your system. Before you know it, you’ll be psychologically ill, and you’ll have lost nearly all your confidence in your ability to do anything that you consider worthwhile.

So, to sum up Success Diva’s input and suggestions, let’s re-visit the subject of your personal vision. As I said of earlier in this post, an astronaut or a surgeon or anyone else who is going to perform a major task scracely starts that activity without visualizing in their mind what how they’re going to go about it. You need to have a definite idea of what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and why it’s essential that you do it. This means you must come up with a what, a why, and a how. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? However, some of you may be prepared to tell me that there isn’t a specific reason for why you do many of the things you do. If this is the case, then why are you even reading Success Diva’s blog? I think you are wanting to live your life on purpose, rather than by default. I believe that’s why you’re here. And if you make up your mind to capture your vision, I have complete confidence in the fact that you will one day have not only the life of your dreams but maybe even a life that exceeds anything you could have ever dreamed of. 

I hope you will make each minute of this day matter and that you will start replacing doubt with faith and feelings of apathy with passion and enthusiasm! Only you can capture your vision. No one, including your diva, can do it for you.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

If you haven’t yet subscribed to my marvelous Success Diva mailing list, why wait another second?

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To contact me personally about a specific situation, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com I will reply to all e-mails 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

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