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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If you would like my input on a specific situation, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com I will respond to your message 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

Finding your purpose. . .

believe19Although it’s not something a lot of people are ready to accept, the first and most essential step to changing your life is taking complete responsibility for every choice you make. In a way, this sounds like it might be dis-empowering. When we make a mistake, it doesn’t feel pleasant to acknowledge the role we played in it. We would prefer to blame someone else. . .or something else. . .or the weather. . .or fate. . . .or some unseen force. To blame ourselves, particularly when we feel like we were simply naive or too trusting, is painful. Yes, it is painful, but what you have to ascertain is whether or not you would rather deal with the short-term pain now or with long-term misery later.

Have you ever heard the saying about winning the battle but losing the war? This is something I’ve given thought to this week as I’ve been tempted to react to thoughtless critcism in a way that would have been destructive to both me and those who criticized me. Sometimes we have to weigh the importance of a situation—we have to consider whether or not it’s truly significant from a long-range perspective. There will always be people who, for whatever reason, don’t like us. We can spend time trying to figure out why they have negative feelings towards us or we can forget about them and move towards those who do support us and encourage us. It’s essential that we learn to conserve our energy so that we can use it on the tasks that really matter. Energy is as precious as time, and neither one can be replaced. No matter how many cups of coffee or cans of soda you drink or how many pieces of candy you may consume, your natural energy cannot be fully replenished in a day once it is gone.

I remember reading about how the consummate French author, Honore de Balzac, managed to keep himself awake throughout the wee hours of the morning by drinking pots of black coffee. Balzac was not a person with a large amount of self-discipline; so, he was forced to deprive himself of sleep because he frittered so much time away carousing, drinking, and enjoying himself. Although many of Balzac’s books are among the finest of all European literature, you have to wonder how much more he might have accomplished if he had learned how to take responsibility for himself and his choices. None of us really wants to be at the mercy of such substances as alcohol or drugs nor do we want to have to rely on caffeine to keep us awake. This is why getting a clear mental picture of where we are going in our lives is of primary importance.

“Am I talking about a vision again?” you may ask.  In a way, I am. But I’m also talking about a purpose. Someone who wrote me this week and said some very discouraging things about my role as a Success Diva implied that I was merely encouraging people to go after a life of fame, fortune, and personal glory. Well, since this person misunderstood me to such a great extent, I feel it’s incumbent on me to clarify my intentions to all of you. There is no amount of money on earth that will bring you happiness or fulfillment. As for fame, it is fleeting, and often leads to months and years of solitude, misery, and isolation. I am not suggesting that anyone seek fancy cars, expensive clothes, opulent houses, or other material possessions in order to achieve happiness or success. Success, according to this diva’s frame of reference, is the usage of one’s full and unique potential. It is the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that you have done something that you’re proud of and that makes you feel worthwhile. It’s the feeling of contentment and self-satisfaction you get when you look at your life and realize that you have more to be grateful for than you could have ever dreamed of. Success begins with discovering and embracing the reason that you were put on this earth—and then doing everything within your power to make sure your life has not been lived in vain.

Think about a tree. When it’s first planted, does it seem to be full of promise? Do you look at it and become enraptured by its radiance and splendor? Or do you look at it as being full of potential? And, after you’ve planted it, what would happen if you decided to go pull it up after a few weeks because it didn’t appear to be growing? You and I both know what would happen. You would never look forward to the experience of seeing that fragile sapling grow into a tree of strength and resilience. Well, we are not so different from the young tree. We  begin as saplings, too. Unfortunately, we often remain saplings because we do not allow ourselves the chance to sink our roots deep into the ground. Rather, we allow the gutsy winds of life to cause us to fall down, and, even though we sometimes sense that we have the tenacity to get back up, if we don’t use this tenacity the first time we’re knocked down, it becomes easier and easier to let the storms leave us in a state of permanent decay. At a certain point, we’re not even fresh young saplings anymore. Instead, we’re rotten trees with broken branches and cracks that seem too severe to ever mend.

Recently, I read about Walt Disney, and how he fought so hard to hold onto his dreams when everyone told him that his ideas were outrageous and unrealistic. Nowadays, Disney has his share of critics because people are so narrow-minded that they cannot look past the Walt Disney Pictures that we’re familiar with today and focus on the man behind it all. It’s tragic when people associate an individual and his or her specific dreams with those who carry on those dreams in years to come. Personally, I think Walt Disney had one of the most ingeniously creative minds in history. He was a pioneer. . .a trendsetter. . .a man who continued to go after his dreams, in spite of countless obstacles. Now what’s not to admire about that?  What amazes me is that Walt Disney suffered two nervous breakdowns at critical times of his life. So often, we think of nervous breakdowns as being something that those who are truly icons of success do not succumb to. And yet, time after time, I encounter details about famous authors, artists, musicians, actors/actresses, and other creative artists having mental and emotional breakdowns. It almost seems like having to overcome a setback of such a devastating nature strengthens the resolve of these determined individuals. Is that possible? If so, we have been overlooking a secret to ultimate success that those who have achieved great things have known all along. Namely, this secret is that, if we take any negative experience that happens to us, whether it be significant or not and reverse its affect, so that it makes us stronger rather than weaker, our chances of success have actually improved because of the setback. Hey, I realize that’s a radical concept.  . .but this diva is radical.  Indeed, what I’m slowly starting to discover is that only in combining radical, cutting-edge ideas with more solid philosophies and “traditional” thought patterns will I be able to be the diva I want to be. It’s the mix of the daring with the tame. . .the spontaneous with the carefully considered. . .the old with the new. . .the spicy with the sweet.  You’re never going to make an impact on anyone if you’re not flexible. You have to be willing to take leaps of faith, even if you worry that they’re too risky. Fear is something to overcome–not something to run from.

Walt Disney didn’t let his breakdowns cause him to let go of his ultimate goal. So, why should you let petty annoyances and narrow-minded people cause you to renounce your dreams? Most of the time, the things we spend so much time thinking about aren’t even important. And most of the people who try to cause us to fall down are of no consequence at all.  If they were really worthwhile people, they would know that true success is only achieved by building others up. For only when you are willing to extend a hand to help another person make the life they desire a reality will you be ready to embrace your own dreams. Sure, some of your dreams may come true, even if you do mistreat those around you. But your dream of personal fulfillment and of inner happiness will never be yours. And no matter what any of us try to say, we all have at least one thing in common—we want to feel a certain sense of satisfaction with ourselves. We want to have respect for the person we are. Yet how can we ever respect ourselves if we achieve our goals at the expense of others?

This is why I have emphasized the importance of seeing life as a team effort. Remember how I compared us to the clans of meerkats on the television show, “Meerkat Manor”? If you didn’t read that particular post, I’ll elucidate a bit. On the cable channel, Animal Planet, there’s a successful show called “Meerkat Manor”. It centers on the day-to-day existence of families of meerkats. And unlike human beings, who often seem to have no instinctual desire to support each other, meerkats undertake every situation that arises as if it’s a team sport. The result is that, most of the time, the meerkats know that they can rely on each other. It’s sad to think that, in some ways, we are more selfish than meerkats, but I’m afraid it’s true. So many people have bought into what I call a “scarcity mentality” which essentially focuses on the idea that you must lose so that I can win. In reality, what often happens is that both you and I will lose. This is why this philosophy is so toxic, and why it leads to disappointment and unhappiness. On the other hand, the “abundance mentality” centers around the concept that both you and I can win because there is plenty of success, joy, love, and happiness to go around. We don’t have to fervently hold onto our little sliver of the pie, for we know that there will always be more pie where that pie came from. Our willingness to freely share the pie with others ensures that there will be more than plenty for us.

The “abundance mentality” can also be applied to the love and affection we demonstrate towards others. The more we are willing to demonstrate our caring and compassion to the people that surround us, the more likely it is that we will receive a significant amount of caring and compassion in return. That which flows outwards tends to flow back in eventually. It’s part of the way the world works. So, the next time you are tempted to treat someone with cruelty or thoughtlessness, think about the fact that what you are giving will at some point be received by you. And when another person mistreats you, always remember that they will end up bearing the brunt of their mistreatment—not you. The only thing we ever have any power over is our own life. What anybody else does or says to us is outside of our control. 

This is why you must take charge of all of your choices right now. Once you separate the things you really can change from those  you are powerless to do anything about, you’ll be one step closer to designing the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Have fun. . .and make each moment matter!

Until soon,

Alexis, Your Success Diva

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If you would like my personal input on a specific situation, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com

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

How badly do you want it?

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to get all the lucky breaks? Have you noticed how opportunities come their way that you honestly don’t think they deserve? Do you ever feel almost humiliated by seeing others succeed where you have failed, even though you know that they aren’t nearly as smart, savvy, and gifted as you are? And do you feel guilty because you are envious of their success? I know I’ve been in this sort of situation before, and I can tell you, it’s not a scenario you want to see happening in your life again and again. At least, I assume it isn’t. . .or you wouldn’t be here, at Success Diva’s blog.

So. . .why do you think this is? That is, why are people who don’t have even half of your potential getting the opportunties that you would like? Why is your best friend with the woman or man that you would like to be dating, living with, or married to?? Is it because they’re just blessed by the gods, by some unseen deity that has magically given them all their heart’s desires, like Cinderella, whose path from rags to riches was aided by the help of a benevolent fairy godmother? No. You and I both know that ‘luck’ is a word that we use when we haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing why good fortune befalls someone else. . .or even, for that matter, befalls us. It is a bit of a catch-all word, and it’s probably not beneficial to use it too often because true luck is much rarer than you might think. What luck usually is just happens to be. . .and even if this sounds unbelievable, think about it and I suspect you’ll come to see I’m right. . .what we call luck is usually preparation that meets opportunity.  Now the classic film actress, Lana Turner, supposedly was discovered in a drug store—while she was sipping an ice cream soda, I believe. But guess what? It just so happens that, in spite of being thought by many as simply a “sex symbol” and “a dumb blonde,” Lana Turner was a very wise and calculating business woman, who managed her career in a way that few female movie stars of her time were able to match. She may have been initially thought of as merely a “Sweater Girl,” but she went on to have a career that lasted through the 1960s, and when you look at her unforgettable performances in such movies as the stunning film adaptation of James Cain’s  novella, The Postman Always Rings Twice, it’s easy to see why Lana Turner was not only a legend in her own time. . .but in our time, as well.  There are always things to be learned from those who are at the top of their chosen field, and I would advise making sure that you know at least one or two persons who are extremely successful in whatever career you are either pursuing or are currently sustaining. Do not be shy about asking Mr. or Ms. Top-of-Their-Field about how they achieved all that they have accomplished. Shyness can be very charming in personal relationships, particularly in relationships with the opposite sex (or, if you are gay, then with the same sex, but on a romantic level). However, when it comes to your career, banish shyness as if it were lethal! This doesn’t mean you are supposed to come across as a steamroller. You are never going to be able to get people to be interested in giving you their time or attention if you pursue them like a bee going after a pot of honey. Subtlety is very useful as well as tact. Also, no matter how unsuccessful you feel you are, there is no point in lavishing the person you admire with too much praise. For example, if you are an aspiring novelist and you manage to strike up an acqaintanceship (or friendship) with a successfully published author, do not treat him or her as if they were superhuman. I assure you that he/she is a mere mortal, just as you and I and everyone else is. During my career as a stage actress, I was always meeting directors and other actors that people I knew seemed to be intimidated by. I was even told, at one point, “You mustn’t let so-and-so intimidate you,” even though I gave no indication of being intimidated by the person in question. People will simply assume that if you haven’t reached the pinnacle of success in your field that someone else has, you will be intimidated or in awe of that immensely accomplished person. But here’s a bit of advice that you must store in your memory bank: Never be in awe of anyone or anything. The minute you start feeling yourself inclined to be in awe of a person or a thing, you will immediately diminish your own power. You will begin to behave awkwardly and/or nervously, and you will probably end up making some unneccessary blunders. When you meet someone famous or widely recognized, treat them just as if they were anyone else. If you are accustomed to smiling and introducing yourself, do so. If you usually extend your hand when you meet an ‘ordinary’ person, extend your hand to the Mr. or Ms. Top-of-Their Field. Look, I don’t care if you’re a film actress who has only gotten bit parts thus far and you end up in a conversation with Julia Roberts, act nonchalant . Be courteous, compliment the person on something they’ve accomplished (and be as specific as you can, since this will lend an aura of sincerity to your compliment), but do not tremble, giggle anxiously, shift your weight from one foot to the other, or demonstrate any body language that would indicate you were in some way overwhelmed.

The sitatuation is, whether you think this is true or not, the main reason that person has gotten where you want to go but haven’t yet gotten to is because that is how badly they wanted whatever it is they got. What?, you ask, shaking your head with incredulity. Do you mean to say that Success Diva is saying that I can write as well as Salman Rushdie even though I haven’t yet even managed to have one of my short stories published? Of course that’s not what I’m saying. Success Diva isn’t irrational—and she isn’t going to feed you any lies, even if you would like her to. When I say that Mr. or Ms. Top-of-Their Field got where they wanted to go because of how badly they wanted to get there, I mean several different things, and I will go through them one by one. It may take more than one blog post for me to address this issue, and if it does, I don’t mind because this is one of the most important lessons your Success Diva can teach you. To want something badly enough to get it means you will do almost anything to get it. Am I making sense? And, no, I’m not suggesting that you make a pact with the devil. This blog isn’t going to give you any. . .well, spiritual advice (*wink*).

What I am saying is that to make your dreams come true and accomplish the goals that are important to you, you are going to have to decide what the thing you want so much is worth to you. What sacrifices would you have to make in your life to get the career you would like to have, find your ideal job, or marry or be in a committed relationship with the man/woman of your dreams? What would you  have to be willing to give up? Do you know? Would you have to stop drinking so much? If alcohol is an addiction, would you have to be willing to give it  up? Would you have to stop letting distractions prevent you from focusing on the novel you’re trying to write? Would you have to turn off your TV for at least 22 hours out of every 24-hour day? Or would you have to turn off the TV entirely? Would you have to stop eating anything you like and start making wiser and more nourishing dietary choices? Might you need to join a gym or a health club? Or, looking at things from a more serious perspective, might you have to give up a job you have now but realize has no future, even if you’re out of work for awhile? If you have an active social life, might you have to start staying at home more? If you’re in a relationship that isn’t healthy or happy at the moment, will you have to break it off if you ever want to be with someone whom you are truly compatible with?? These would all be tough choices to have to make. . .but, hey, you’re reading Success Diva’s blog. So, I’m assuming you are willing to make the changes that will give you the successful and fulfilled life that you both want and deserve.

Now I can predict what some of you are probably thinking. You’re thinking that I’m telling you different things than you’re hearing from your friends and family. They say that you should abandon that novel and put your energy into your job because you’ll probably never find any publisher who will accept it anyway. They tell you that you might as well marry the boyfriend or girlfriend you’re with right now because. . .well, he/she is probably the best you can do. They tell you that you’ll just end up spending money to purchase a membership at a health club or gym, when you most likely won’t stick with it, even if you do make it through a couple of aerobics classes and go lift a few weights every now and then. They say that you should put those dreamy ideas about fame, success, and fortune right of your head and “get back into the real world.”

And what should you say to them? Thank them for their input but forget you ever heard it. Ah, but that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?? Look, even if these ‘well-meaning’ people think they have your best interests at heart, ask yourself this: why aren’t they willing to encourage you and support you even if they believe you’re being unrealistic?? No, your Success Diva isn’t saying they’re jealous. . .although that is a possibility you should consider, in certain circumstances. What I am saying is that ‘they’—whoever ‘they’ may be (whether a close friend, spouse, parent, child, sibling, etc.)–are refusing to see your dream for you, most likely because their dreams haven’t come true for them. Have you ever noticed that more often than not, those who are at the top of their field seem to be more encouraging and optimistic in regard to your endeavors than those who are stranded in the desert of mediocrity? If so, why do you think this is? Because they haven’t anything to lose if  you succeed, too. They understand that there’s enough success to go around for everyone. . . .not just them. They don’t have to worry, either, that if you succeed, you’ll end up leaving them behind. In other words, if you’re friends right now with someone who is well-known in his/her field, if  you should also succeed in the same field, he/she won’t be worrying that you’ll suddenly think that he/she isn’t ‘important’ enough for you to be friends with. On the other hand, even your closest family members and/or your spouse may worry that, if you should go out there and really make a splash in your chosen career, that, even if  you don’t mean to,  you’ll end up leaving them, getting tired of them, or neglecting them. Is this understandable? Absolutely. If they feel this way does this mean that they (or he/she) doesn’t love you?? Absolutely not. You are simply threatening their innate sense of security. And if security is very important to them, they really will continue to fear that you’ll abandon them no matter how many times you assure them otherwise. However, all you can do is let them know that you will never change, even if you become one of the most famous persons in your respective field. In other words, if you are married or in a relationship with a man or woman whom you deeply love and want to remain with for the rest of your life, make sure they understand that no matter how much success you achieve, you will never want anyone but them by your side. “Yes, Success Diva,” you say, “but what if my husband/wife or my mother/father or my boyfriend/girlfriend actually goes out of his/her way to sabotage my efforts to succeed?” 

Well, this is where Success Diva’s slightly harsh advice comes into the picture. If  the person (s) closest to refuse to support your goals and dreams, at some point you’re going to have decide whether that person or persons and your relationship with him/her (or them, as the case may be) is more important to you. . .or whether you are more important to you. It boils down once again to this question: How badly do you want the desires of your heart? Would you be happy if your life continued exactly the way it is right now until the day you die? An issue that a couple of my favorite fans brought up was whether or not you can ever really go after what you want and pursue happiness strictly for yourself, when you have a long list of obligations that you feel have to come first. I’m truly pleased that this subject was brought to my mind because it’s something I’ve had to struggle with myself. And I’ll address it in a forthcoming blog post. . .either my next update or another one sometime during the next few days.

For now, I just have a few words of. . .well, if not wisdom, at least suggestions that I hope will be of some assistance. First of all, on a daily basis, you need to decide which tasks on your to-do-list (even if you don’t have an ‘official’ to-do-list written down because you dislike making lists, I’m sure you have a ‘mental’ list of the things you need to do each day) are essential. In other words, which tasks must be done today. Once you decide what those must-do taskes are, separate them from the other to-dos and complete them first. Let’s say you have a list of 20 things that you feel you need to do in a day. Well, how many things are really urgent? Do you really have to take that suit to the dry cleaners today or can you wait until tomorrow? Do you really have to prepare your husband’s favorite meal for dinner simply because he’s had a rough day at work? Does your wife have to have that loaf of bread from the store? Do your kids really need for you to go with them to pick out a new puppy? Or can your girlfriend or wife go with them instead? Delegate tasks, too. If you have kids who are old enough to successfully complete chores around the house, let your son (yes, boys should be taught to do housework, too) or daughter wash and dry the dinner dishes.  If you’re one of those persons who is always having people ask him/her to do things for them, start saying ‘no’ more often, even if you’re worried about displeasing them. Look, if someone’s love, acceptance, or approval of you is based on what you do for them, then it has strings attached. Don’t ever let yourself  be so caught up in meeting the needs of others—even if your spouse and/or children are the ‘others’ concerned—that you forget about the most important person: you.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva