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

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

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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