Believe in yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

You are a diamond!

diamond3I’ve continued to emphasis that you should be yourself—that is, that being comfortable in your own skin is essential to achieving ultimate fulfillment and success. I still stand by this statement, but a new concept has come to me during the past week or so that I want to share with you. To be at peace with who you are doesn’t mean that you can’t re-invent yourself. That is, just  because you don’t want to be someone other than you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work at becoming a completely new and better you. When a diamond is taken out of a mine, does it look anything like the diamonds you see under a glass case at the jewelry store? Of course, it doesn’t. Actually, it looks like a plain, unattractive rock. Well, what if no one had ever decided to polish up one of those rocks? What would have happened? Am I making a point? Every one of us is like that diamond before it gets polished up and put into a necklace, ring, or set of earrings. Usually, we’re fortunate if even half of the polishing has been done by the time we reach middle age. However, if we don’t at least make up our minds to strive towards being that brilliant, faceted diamond, we’re never going to tap into our true potential. Now, are you ready to get rid of those rough edges and begin the process towards becoming a glistening gemstone? I know I am. I will caution you, however. There are going to be a lot of people who will fight you on your way towards turning yourself into a faceted jewel. They’ll try to tell you that, no matter what you do, you’re always going to be a jagged, old rock.  They may even discourage you with stories of their own about changes they tried to make that didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. . .or the way they hoped they would. Listen, let me tell you something that you need to never forget: change first takes place in the mind. In other words, you need to really ascertain whether or not these people who try to hold you back by offering depressing tales of discouragement and disappointment ever wanted to make changes in their lives in the first place. Isn’t it even remotely possible that they were blocked by fear? Might they not have been afraid of failure or afraid of accepting responsibility for certain aspects of their lives. . .or even (now don’t be too shocked!) afraid of success?? “Afraid of success,” you exclaim. “Now you’ve gone too far, Success Diva! Who in their right mind would be afraid of success?” I know the concept of being fearful of success may sound ludicrous, but it’s actually very real. For one thing, once you start accomplishing some of your goals, certain things about your life are going to change. Just to give one example, friends may start to distance themselves from you. In fact, your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend may start to feel threatened. Moreover, your family could express resentment, masked as concern for your well-being and/or your future. “We just don’t know if you’ll be able to handle all these new responsibilities,” they may tell you. “You’ve always been sensitive,  you know, and it could be too much for you.” How do you handle such well-meaning advice? Well, thank whoever it is who has given it to you with a smile, and then forget you ever heard it. Remember what I told you about Renoir and how the master teacher asked if he was merely “dabbling in paints” early on in his career? That isn’t the only instance in which a person who went on to achieve magnificent things was discouraged by someone whose advice should have been able to be relied upon. I cannot help but think of actress Jessica Lange, who was told that she would never be pretty enough to be a successful Hollywood leading lady. And look at Bette Davis, who had to fight studios tooth and nail to get good roles. Her fellow actress, Geraldine Fitzgerald, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1930s film adaptation of Emily Bronte’s _Wuthering Heights_ didn’t have Bette’s gumption. She wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to get a big break. I believe I remember Bette saying that she was too ladylike and passive to be the kind of gusty dame that would shake things up to get a part she could really sink her teeth into. Well, what are you going to be? Passive or passionate? Are you going to pursue your goals halfheartedly, or are you going to get fired up about the things you want to achieve in your life?? Which is it going to be?

I can tell you one thing, and even though it may sound like I am exaggerating, I’m not. If you’re waiting for others to crowd around you offering their support and encouragement, you may never get started on your journey of success and self-fulfillment. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have some marvelous people on my Success Diva team, not everyone is so blessed. Depending on what your goals are and who you’ll be fighting to make them a reality, you must be prepared for detractors and naysayers. There are going to be more people fighting you in the enemy camp than there will ever be on your side. But you know what your aim is—to turn your rough edges into brilliantly polished facets, so that you’ll be a radiant diamond instead of a rough rock. If you ever lose sight of your aim, you will never accomplish your goals. Now I’m not talking about a day every now and then in which you experience moments or even hours of discouragement. No, I’m talking about weeks or months when you allow yourself to take your eyes off your goals and instead let yourself be distracted by people and/or circumstances that are destructive to your ultimate purpose. “My purpose?” you echo. “I never thought about having a purpose. Are you talking about something religious?” Indeed, I’m not talking about anything the least bit religious. To have a purpose in your life is no different than a filmmaker having a purpose in a film he creates. It’s also no different than Angelina Jolie having a purpose in all the philanthropic work she does. Do you think that she simply adopted the children she’s added to her family on a whim?? Of course, she didn’t. You know better than that. It wouldn’t even make sense. Had she done that, it would have been no different than her purchasing a new car or a designer piece of jewelry. No, Angelina Jolie’s purpose in adopting each child was to give that child a life that he/she wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. She is providing both the necessities for each child, in addition to privileges that only a star of her magnitude could offer. Although she doesn’t spoil her children by giving them things they don’t need and/or wouldn’t appreciate, she does give them plenty of love and affection. However, if she hadn’t had a purpose behind all her efforts, she would not be accomplishing all that she is. We can shrug or sigh all we want when words like “purpose” and “goals” are mentioned, but, whether we like it or not, the life of our dreams cannot be created without both goals and a clearly defined purpose. Do you know what it is that you truly want out of life? If you’ve already got a wonderful partner and/or a lovely family, what else would  you need in your life to be completely content? Think about it. And, if you don’t yet have a partner or a family, would you need to have one or both to be fulfilled? These are all things you need to decide for yourself. Your diva can only share her input and ideas with you—it isn’t her responsibility to write down your dreams for you.

Last year, I went through a period of time in which I wrote down 20 or 25 lifetime goals. . .or maybe it was 50 lifetime goals. The journal I wrote these things down in is lost amid a stack of other books somewhere in my bedroom, but I do know that I took the time to at least figure out what most of my goals were. There’s a good chance that a few of these goals will now be different, although I would imagine that most of them are still the same. I know that one of my goals was inspiring and encouraging others, and I also know that I started my first success blog sometime last fall. So, why didn’t I keep it up? Well, I tend to think that there’s a “right” time for everything. I’m not saying that there’s ever a “right” time for some things, such as the crises that all of us experience at one time or another. But I do think that we have to be at a certain point in our lives before we can commit ourselves to specific endeavors. I wasn’t ready to commit myself to being a diva of success last September. The desire was there, but I think the genuine passion and enthusiasm I needed to make things really happen was missing. Have you ever heard of what’s called “movers and shakers”? Do you know what a “mover and shaker” is? No, it’s not someone who dances really well *wink*. Rather, it’s somebody who decides to take an active role in life, rather than a passive role. It’s somebody who makes the choice not to merely sit on the sidelines and let life happen to him/her, but rather, who makes up his/her mind to make life happen. Sure, there are tons of things that we cannot control about the world. But our life is ours, and we do have power over ourselves and over the choices that we make. From the moment we were born, we were always a diamond in the rough. It’s up to us, though, how long we remain that rough diamond. If we decide that we’re tired of having to look in the mirror at a rugged rock, then we will start making definitive changes immediately. In fact, we’ll probably even get to the point where we start to realize which people and/or influences are beneficial to us without having to spend much time considering it. One of my good friends was just telling me about how inclined she is to justify behavior on the part of others that is inconsiderate or unkind. I couldn’t help but relate to her as I think that anyone who has a generous and forgiving heart finds it easy to make excuses for other people. However, if you don’t make the decision to stop justifying other peoples’ mistreatment of you, you aren’t ever going to be happy or fulfilled. Rather, you’ll end up feeling betrayed, rejected, and lonely. You’ll wonder if there is anyone around whom you can turn to and/or anyone whom you can trust. Indeed, in the long run, your forgiving spirit will make you a bit cynical about life. Because you allowed people to remain in your world who continued hurting you, you’ll start putting barriers up whether you intend to or not. And then, when someone comes along who is worthy of your friendship and/or your love, you may not be open to receiving their affection and acceptance. I have spoken more than once about guarding your heart. What I may not have made clear is that it, in addition to it being an essential part of being happy, it is also an essential part of being successful. If you are experiencing emotional pain and turmoil because you are letting yourself be mistreated, you are not going to be able to pursue your own desires with any genuine enthusiasm. Why? Well, what I’ve noticed is that cruel, unkind, and/or critical people steal your joy from you. When they get finished turning your heart inside out and making you feel like most of your opinions and/or ideas are without value or meaning, you aren’t going to even believe that you have it in you to be a success. You’ll probably decide that you simply must content yourself with being a diamond in the rough for the rest of  your life. Or, even better, you’ll look upon yourself as an ugly, old rock, rather than a rock that would even be capable of being transformed into a jewel. I know you may not think you can do it, but you simply must get rid of every person in your life who is preventing you from being happy and from believing in yourself. The only people who cannot be entirely removed from your existence are close family members, such as children, siblings, and parents. But even with them, you can create a psychological barrier. What does this mean? Well, while listening to them tell you what you can or can’t do, rather than really hearing what they’re saying, you will be choosing to focus on the faith you have in yourself instead. Although it often seems like someone can make us feel worthless, the truth is, we have to give them permission to diminish our sense of self-worth. So, next time you hear a person tell you, “You know you’ll never be able to do that,” or “Well,  you haven’t done it yet. What makes you think you’ll ever be able to?”. Negate their words by telling yourself, “I know I can do anything that I commit myself to because I have unlimited potential.” Even if you feel silly telling yourself something like this at first, after awhile you will automatically begin thinking in these terms. And, once you do, you are on your way to becoming that sparkling diamond that you know you can be.

So, make each moment of today count, and pursue your dreams passionately, not passively!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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If you want my input on a specific situation in your life, write me at this account, and I will reply at my earliest convenience.

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