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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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