The Freedom of Truth

There comes a time in our lives when we want to believe that we have discovered, if not all the answers to the meaning of existence, at least a few of those answers. We may even manage to convince ourselves that we have, at long last, found “what works for us”—our personal truth. It seems inconceivable to many of us that we could have reached a certain point in our lives and still know so little. But is it not when we are willing to acknowledge our ignorance that we begin to learn?

I was asked a few days ago how it is that I “verify” my beliefs. My answer was, “I don’t because I can’t.” What did I mean? Am I admitting that I have many beliefs that I question the validity of? In a way, yes. I have had to develop a willingness to examine each of my beliefs in order to discriminate between those which make sense to me and those which don’t. And while I have not abandoned those beliefs that I consider to be part of my core self, I nevertheless understand that I may not be able to prove the validity of those beliefs to anyone besides myself. Fortunately, it isn’t important to me whether I do or not, for I believe that each of us must find our own truth for ourselves.

It is only those who live in fear and ignorance who believe that trying to push their own views and ideas on someone else is going to achieve any effective result. Even if we think that someone whom we know is making all of the wrong choices in his/her life, it is not up to us to point that person in another direction.

Out of kindness and love, we should always attempt to prevent someone from making a decision that might bring him or her harm or endanger the life or well-being of another person. But aside from that, we should give others the freedom to choose for themselves in every area of their lives (I’m speaking of adults, of course—not children).  Each person’s journey is unique and personal, and, whether we understand the individual choices someone makes or not, we must respect their right to choose for themselves.

Unfortunately, even though our world promotes the idea of individuality and personal freedom, most people are no longer thinking for themselves. The illusion is created, through various persuasive techniques on the part of the media, that we are all free to form our own opinions about everything. However, the criticism, ridicule, and outright contempt that are demonstrated towards those who dare to step away from the masses indicate that freedom is merely a concept—not a reality. We have become a nation of “feelers” rather than thinkers, basing our decisions on intuition and “gut feelings” rather than on solid evidence, facts, and proof.

Intuition does play a role in the life of a thinking person. But the fact that our feelings are so capable of being manipulated makes them much less reliable than our intellect. Socrates once said that he was the wisest man on earth because he realized he knew nothing. He believed that all of us must submit to the authority of reason. For him, the “stamp of truth” is that which remains independent of us and our own subjective realities, including our own needs, wants, and desires. Although indulging in dreams and wishes may not be a bad thing in itself, if doing so prevents us from gaining and sustaining a clear view of reality, then it can be dangerous.

Francis Bacon summed up  our tendency to confuse our own reality with true reality when he said, “The assertion that the human senses are the measure of things is false; to the contrary, all perceptions, both of the sense and the mind, are relative to man, not the universe. The human understanding is like an uneven mirror receiving rays from things and merging its own nature with the nature of things, which thus distorts and corrupts it.”

Perhaps, it sounds as if Bacon was encouraging us not to use our senses at all. But a man as clear-headed as Bacon would never subscribe to such an inclusive philosophy. There is no reason to suppose that we cannot use both our intuition and our intellect. However, we must develop a level of self-awareness that enables us to ascertain when are making a choice based on instinct versus critical thinking.

To know when to use one’s abilities in a certain realm can be even more important than whether or not one possesses those abilities. There is always a time to go forward and a time to hold back, a time to feel and a time to think, a time to let go and a time to hold on. Rarely, is anything ever completely final. And yet, some things are.

Being able to accept that is crucial as a failure to do so can result in living in bondage to the past. I don’t agree with those who say that the past should never be examined for I think that analyzing the choices we have made and understanding the reasons behind those choices can be helpful. But, if we remain trapped in the past because we cannot move on, as opposed to re-visiting the past in order to learn more about ourselves, we will not be able to bring all of ourselves into the future.

Freedom is more a process of detaching than it is of attachment. The more freedom you allow yourself, the less dependent you will be on anyone else. And this lack of dependency will enable you to give others their freedom as well. Because our society is so narcissistic and has a habit of nurturing insecurities in us by promoting unrealistic ideas about romance, beauty, youth, and social status, it is only natural that we develop a tendency to look towards others to build up our self-esteem.

We all want to feel loved, cherished, and appreciated. And because society doesn’t allow us to give ourselves these feelings (how can we when everyone else’s lives seem to be so much more perfect than ours?), we seek these things from other people. The problem with this is that no matter how much praise and admiration another person gives us, if we feel inadequate or worthless deep within ourselves, we’re still going to feel that way regardless of what anyone else tells us.

And, if we are dependent on anyone else to validate us, then we have given up our freedom. Just as happiness must come from within, so also must freedom. This does not mean that you won’t ever end up in situations that in some way inhibit your freedom. What it does mean is that you will always maintain the freedom of your own mind.  Even when you feel tempted to turn your back on reality in order to foster a sensation of certainty, if you choose freedom, you will resist the temptation.  You will doubt rather than trust, and, even when it is easier to believe a lie than to disregard it, you will be willing to seek Truth.

If all of us were able to cast off the shackles of preconceived ideas, assumptions, and erroneous beliefs, the world would look so different to us that we would barely recognize it. Yet, we would have found both Truth and Freedom, both of which oftentimes seem to remain just beyond our grasp. When we speak of the misery of existence, we fail to give ourselves credit for creating much of the misery that exists in our own lives.

Our fear drives us to make choices that are not for our highest good. Oftentimes, rather than accepting responsibility for those choices, we either blame others or allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by guilt. Why? Because it seems to be the easier path to take. And in a society that promotes the easy over the difficult, we are conditioned to make the decision that appears to require the least from us.

It is much harder to admit that we’ve made a grave error than it is to attribute one of our mistakes to someone else or to an outside cause. But what does reason dictate? Does evading the truth alter the truth in any way? No. Truth remains the same, whether we acknowledge it or not. Moreover, it may be more difficult to find the truth if we avoid it persistently and for an extended period of time. Yet, not acknowledging something that exists will never negate its existence.

Similarly, pretending that something is real when it isn’t will not make it so. The True is the Real. We can close our eyes and pretend that we’re living in a fairy tale. But at some point we’ll have to open them again and face the reality of our everyday lives. And when we face this reality is when our authentic lives begin.

The only part of you that will ever encourage you to live outside of truth is your False Self. Your True Self, that self who is capable of creating a life of meaning and purpose, fully understands that fulfillment can only come from within Truth. Only Truth is eternal. And, in the end, nothing else will remain.  When each of us comes to the end of our lives, the lies we have told ourselves and others will no longer matter. We will be faced with the results of a life that was either lived in freedom and in truth or in falsehood and imprisonment.

Does it sound like this is yet another matter in which making a choice is the preeminent factor?  Well, in a way, life does consist of the choices we make. We may think we’re being clever when we make choices that bring us pleasure at the expense of bringing pain to others. But the person who will pay the price of all the choices we make is us. And there is always a price to pay, whether we see it immediately or not. If nothing else, we pay the price of selling our soul and freedom to lies and self-deception. We pay the price of betraying humanity by choosing what we thought was best for us over what was right for others.

It is so easy to forget that we are all as connected as we are separate. And yet, the moment we forget that is when we cease to be fully human. It is also the moment when we think we have more answers than we do. There are many who imagine themselves to be smart enough to live successfully by their own rules. But those who make an impact on the world and who lead lives that are of consummate value will never be the many but rather the few. They may not acquire fame or fortune, yet they will have gained something of far greater merit—the freedom of Truth.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said, “He who knows not who he is, and for what purpose he exists, and what is this world, and with whom he is associated, and what things are the good and the bad, and the beautiful and the ugly, and who neither understands discourse nor demonstration, nor what is true nor what is false, and who is not able to distinguish them, will neither desire according to nature, nor turn away, nor move  upward, nor intend, nor assent, nor dissent, nor suspend his judgment: to say all in a few words, he will go about dumb and blind, thinking that he is somebody but being nobody.”

What will your choice be? Is it better to be a nobody who thinks he is a somebody or a somebody who is humble enough to regard himself as a nobody? There is no reason to underestimate ourselves. Nevertheless, it will always be in humility that we find Truth, for Pride is a veil through which knowledge and wisdom cannot penetrate.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(for Mark Stephen Levy, with love, happiness, and much respect)

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~A Quest for Sublimity~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

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Be Extraordinary

I believe that we are all connected to one another. But I also think it’s important not to lose sight of our own individuality. We can be extensions of one another in terms of being fellow human beings. However, you are not a direct extension of me, and I am not a direct extension of you. 

There is a danger in identifying ourselves so closely with someone else that we imagine they are like us in nearly every way. Although we may find ourselves relating more quickly and easily to those who are similar, we need also to understand that our dissimilarities are what make the world the colorful, exciting, remarkable place that it is.

No, I don’t see our universe as being a cold, bleak, brutal place. I have  a vision of a different world. And I think that the more we honor our own individual selves, the more beautiful our world will be. I want those who read my words to feel more freedom than ever to be their true selves.  Oscar Wilde once said, “Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world, there are only individuals.”  

The problem is that our concepts become our reality. Eventually, there may come a time when we find that we are unable to discriminate between the concept we hold in our minds and what is really there. Yes, we do create our own reality, and this is not some off-the-wall New Age idea.

If you actually imagine that the way you see the world is the way anybody else sees the world, then you are allowing yourself to fall into the trap of self-deception. This is why making judgements about other people can bring about so much injustice. Just because you value certain things—such as money or material possessions—it doesn’t mean that another person also should or that something is wrong with that person if he or she doesn’t.

I have noticed that my own lack of materialism appears to make people feel the need to find reasons behind my not caring about accumulating possessions or becoming rich. I have been accused of being “afraid” of money or of having a sense of guilt associated with money. Quite honestly, these assumptions are too ridiculous for me to even respond to. How could I feel guilty about having too much of something that isn’t important to me? And how can I be afraid of something that I don’t care about? While I do want to have my basic needs taken care of and would like to also have enough to take care of those whom I love, my recognition of the fact that money does not bring any lasting happiness prevents me from having a significant interest in it.

At the same time, I give you the freedom to love money and to pursue having lots of money because I give each person his/her freedom to take his/her own personal journey. We must stop imagining that we have the right to criticize or interfere with another person’s journey. When each of us was born, we were given the most precious gift of all: our life. It is only when we allow another person to take parts of our life from us that we are in some way failing to appreciate this priceless gift. This is why I encourage individuality and non-conformity above all else. To reach the point where you understand that your freedom is your birthright is to also reach the point where you feel no desire to take anyone else’s freedom away.

Why is it that so many of us feel the need to criticize those who are choosing a path that is completely dissimilar to ours? Do we have a habit of trying to control other people and how they live their lives? Is it not because we feel so powerless and helpless at times?

Circumstances come about that leave us feeling as if we are at the mercy of some unnamed and perhaps undefined fate. Thus, we seek ways to control our lives by seizing the power that rightfully belongs to others. There are subtle ways to do this, too. One of the most discreet I have seen is the chipping away at the self-concepts that other people hold of themselves. When we belittle, ridicule, or demean another human being, what we never seem to understand is that we are only giving the world a reflection of the person we are.

I see people trying to tear down other people in ways that completely astound me nearly every single day. For example, whether it’s a thoughtless comment about a person’s appearance or a criticism of a book, movie, or TV program another person likes, we often cut people down without even realizing it. Then,  in our same state of mindlessness, we wonder why we feel so unhappy with the person who we are. 

Yet, the clue is right before us if we stop to pay attention.  I don’t believe that people are basically mean, cruel, or thoughtless. What I do think is that thoughtlessness and cruelty can become a habit. I also think that these traits in one person tend to bring them out in others. But does that justify the fact the traits exist in the first place?

I remember what actress Jodie Foster said when she accepted her Best Actress Oscar for “The Silence of the Lambs”. She said that cruelty was very human and normal,  yet still completely unacceptable.  The problem is that we tend to subscribe to conceptualized thinking when it comes to cruelty. We have a rather structured idea of what cruel behavior constitutes. Because of this,  we don’t notice the little ways in which we may be cruel to others on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis.

Until we get to the point where we recognize the lack of compassion and kindness that we show the world, we will never be part of the change that the world needs to experience. It is a spiritual change, even though it has nothing to do with religion. Hate must be replaced with love, misery with joy, violence with peace, and selfishness with compassion. Do you think this is impossible? I’ll agree that it sounds somewhat idealistic. But if we stop believing in possibilities, we give up any hope of change.

Always remember that I do not see myself as an expert, a role model, or someone who has all of the answers. My articles are written for you and for me for this is a journey we are taking both separately and together. We are both acknowledging our individuality yet also learning about ourselves from each other.  If you find yourself resisting some of the ideas and concepts I set forth, before discarding them completely, at least ask yourself why you are resisting them.

There is something very liberating about letting go of the desire to resist those ideas, thoughts, and concepts that do not agree with our own. For resistance helps nourish fear. And fear prevents us from growing and transforming ourselves into the people we can be. We are already in the process of becoming ourselves at this very moment. Yet with each decision we make and each thought we hold in our minds, we are influencing whether the process will be positive or negative.

Who do you want to be? Do you want to be a person whose life has been one of significance? Do you want to make at least one person’s life a little better from having lived? These questions are not as simple as they may sound nor are they profound. However, they are worth thinking about. 

If you are living a life that is centered strictly or even mostly around you, think about whether or not this type of existence will ever bring you any true happiness or fulfillment. Can’t you be extraordinary without living  just for yourself? And must everyone be simply an extension of you in order for you to let them into your world? The minute that we find ourselves closing our lives off from people whom we perceive to be too different for us to be able to relate to, we are once again resisting.

In an article I wrote awhile back called “Releasing yourself,” I didn’t mention all the things that can prevent us from releasing ourselves from that which is holding us back. Two of the things that will always hinder us are restricting and resisting. For, when we restrict ourselves from experiencing an emotion that we need to embrace, and possibly even express, or when we resist the desire to express our thoughts and feelings—or, at least, to acknowledge them to ourselves—we are creating barriers in our soul that will prevent us from being all that we can be. You can’t keep walls around your heart or fences around your mind and expect to live freely or intensely nor can you allow others to have this freedom.

We run from words like “love” and “affection” and use them with discretion because we fail to understand the meaning of these words.  We put words like this in little boxes in our minds, and then we waste loads of mental energy wondering whether or not it’s okay to use them with someone. We are so convinced that another human being has the power to make us feel less valuable than we are that we repress emotions and feelings in order to protect ourselves. But don’t we see that nobody can make us feel a certain way unless we let them?

Before you decide that you don’t agree with me, think about what I’m saying. Nobody besides you can make you feel a certain way about yourself. If you don’t agree with that, you’re essentially saying that another person has the power to make you feel a certain way. There is no in-between. While it’s true that the environment you grew up in and the level of emotional deprivation you received can and does have a tremendous impact on how you respond to the world and other people, you must embrace the power you have within you.

You need to  understand that you are the person who controls what you think and what you feel. This is where the concept of choosing to be happy originates. People have gotten angry or upset with  me for promoting this theory. Yet, if you think about it, if you don’t choose whether or not you’re happy, you’re giving the power away to other people or the circumstances around you. And why would you want to do that?

It is a tremendous responsibility to think that we make the choice about whether we’re happy or not. But isn’t it better to accept responsibility than to give away your freedom? What would you rather be—just another member of the crowd or a unique and extraordinary individual? When you accept responsibility for every choice, even the choice of which emotion you choose to feel at any given moment, you are embracing your individuality. But, what you also must be willing to do is give everyone else the same freedom, too. 

What does this mean? It means honoring the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that another person has, no matter how dissimilar they may be to yours. It also means not needing to identify yourself with anyone else.  It is only when you doubt your own power that you have to identify yourself with another person.

This is why people look up to movie stars and other celebrities. They are choosing to run from their own insecurities by identifying themselves with someone else. Personally, I think this habit is much more common than we think. Otherwise, we wouldn’t constantly be looking to form friendships and connections with those whom we perceive to be a lot like us. It is when we can stand alone, honoring ourselves as completely unique individuals, that we will be able to tap into our true value, power, and strength.

Who do you want to be like? Why not make a vow to yourself that on this day you will free yourself from the need to compete with any other person and simply be your extraordinary self?

Be the best you that you can be.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(this article is dedicated to my wondrous friend, the extraordinary Adriana Sassoon, with love and blessings always)

Want to find out more about me? https://successdiva.wordpress.com/about/

Read my Personal Creed and Thoughts I Live By: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/thoughts-i-live-by/

Is there such a thing as being too extraordinary? Of course not! And these thoughts will empower you towards Being Extraordinary in An Everyday World: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/on-being-extraordinary/

This Diva’s Thoughts on Love: https://successdiva.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/thoughts-on-love/

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The Journey is Yours

When you step back and stop rushing through life, you understand that the destination is to be found not at the end of your journey but within your journey. The moment you understand this is akin to the moment in which you see that the problems you think that others have are more a reflection of you than of them. It is easy to develop the tendency to find fault in things, circumstances, and in other people. Yet, in doing so, we diminish our own strength.

The only thing that is within your power is your own life. You cannot control circumstances nor do you have any power over the way that others react to you. Yes, the world does give us back a reflection of ourselves. But there will always be those who will attempt to thwart you on your journey. And, if you choose to focus on them at all, understand that the only thing they provide you with is a way to more deeply understand yourself.

The work that each of us does will always be more important to us than it is to anyone else. So, accept the fact that nobody else has to share your vision with you. Even if there is no one else looking in the same direction with you, you must stay loyal to your dreams and your goals. There may be moments when you experience a sense of isolation. Allow this feeling to inspire you to cling even more tightly to your dreams. Your dreams are part of you. When you deny your dreams or allow anyone to take them from you, you are disregarding an aspect of yourself.

There have been many deep thinkers and brilliant authors of the past who have expressed thoughts about life and the personal journey that each of us is on. I think Aldous Huxley conveyed his ideas beautifully when he said, ” The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning oneself and one’s life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins a spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.”  So, this being said, the coming to one’s self is also the finding of God. Even if you don’t believe in God, when you allow yourself to tune into the vast power of the universe that surrounds you, you will find yourself seeing things with newly opened eyes.

I recently read about an experiment that was done by a famous scientist a few decades ago. He took a baby and raised her from infancy until adulthood in a room in which the only colors she was exposed to were black and white. When she was at long last allowed to go out into the world, the first color she saw was red. For her, it was as if a new universe had opened up.

Yet, how many of us don’t even notice the color of things around us? If you were to shut your eyes this very moment, would you be able to recall the colors of at least four or five objects in the room around you? Do you remember the color of the first coat or sweater that you were given as a child? Why is it that our memories hold onto some things and completely disregard others? And why have we come to take so many things for granted that others would feel blessed to experience?

Gratitude. That’s a small word with a huge meaning. But what does it have to do with you? Is that what you’re asking? Perhaps, you feel as if you’re very grateful for the things you have in your life. Well, there are different levels of gratitude. And we can be grateful for what we have yet still relentlessly be seeking more.

There are certain things that I feel we should endlessly pursue, such as knowledge, wisdom, and truth. It is healthy to be consistently open to learning—not just from books, but from other people and new experiences. I don’t want to attack materialism even though I feel that it has swept over our world and shifted our values in the wrong direction. When I speak of materialism in this way, I am challenging you to free yourself from judging both those who are materialistic and those who do not want money or possessions.

For me, happiness is the pursuit of fulfillment that is not contingent upon worldly goods. I seek happiness within myself and beyond that. I seek happiness through the positive impact I hope to have in other people’s lives. No, my life isn’t all about me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that my own needs are significant. I just happen to care more about creating positive change in other people’s lives than I do in my own personal gratification.

What you do in your life and how you choose to live is up to you. If anyone tells you that the choices you make are wrong, never lose sight of the fact that only you have the right or the power to choose when it comes to your own life. I have been criticized for most of the choices I have made for as long as I can remember. It seems that most people are under the impression that they have a better idea of how I should live my life than I do. But, whose journey am I on—my own or someone else’s? This is the question I ask myself every day of my life. And I urge you to do the same.

The only person who can take your journey is you. When you allow someone else to steer your course or direct you along the path they have singled out for you, you are still taking your own journey. You’re simply taking it according to another person’s guidance and not your own. One of the films that has affected me most deeply is “Chariots of Fire”. Why? Because it is about a man who was true to himself and pursued his own journey, in spite of those who attempted to stand in his way.

This man, Eric Liddell, chose to ignore those who told him that he couldn’t run in the 1924 Olympics. He was the son of Scottish missionary parents, and his wish to run was considered to be in opposition to his religious faith. Yet, Liddell knew in his heart what his mission was, and the only approval he needed was God’s and his own. He knew that he had been given the gift of running brilliantly, and it was when he ran that he felt connected to the Divine. “I believe that God made me for a purpose,” Liddell said, “but he also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Had Liddell allowed himself to be held back by those who attempted to force him into conforming to their idea of what he should do, he would have abandoned his own dream. In attempting to gain the approval of others, he would had to sacrifice his approval of himself. Yet, how many of us do this on a constant basis, oftentimes without even fully being aware of it? As I have said before, when we choose something, we are automatically not choosing something else. Thus, in being true to ourselves and our own dreams and desires, we will definitely evoke the disapproval of others. This is to be expected.

And the more we allow ourselves to get frustrated over others’ disapproval, the more we inclined we will be to distrust ourselves. Allow yourself the freedom to direct your journey.  Ultimately, the person who will be left with the results of your choices is you. Don’t expect anyone else to see your dreams with the same passion that you do. To find even one other person over the course of a lifetime who shares your vision for your life and supports you unconditionally is miraculous.

I urge those who cross my path to embrace their freedom to make their own choices because I want them to meet at least one other person who supports them in the pursuit of their dreams. Our world is overflowing with those who are only too willing to tear other people down. One reason this is the case is that when a person doesn’t have the courage to step outside the box himself or herself, he/she doesn’t want anyone else to do so, either. Those who follow the crowd will never pose a threat to anyone. It’s the creative thinker, the rebel, the outsider who threatens the confines of society and the preconceived ideas that other people have in their minds.

In order to be able to start absorbing true knowledge, you will need to unlearn that which you have accepted as truth up until this time. So, if I say something that you feel is true and yet part of you rejects it, step back and ask yourself, “What does this tell me about me?” We can understand ourselves so much better than we think we can. The process of self-discovery will never end; yet it doesn’t have to always be fraught with difficulty and frustration.

Tune into the core of your being. Let go of everything that doesn’t feel as if it’s part of your essence. If you don’t consider yourself a judgemental person and yet you find yourself judging others, why do you think that is? If you often feel anger, whether you express it or not, and yet you look  upon yourself as a loving, giving, caring person, pay attention. Discover that part of you that you’ve tried to avoid. We do not have to pretend that the flaws within us don’t exist to accept ourselves. Does not the emerald with a flaw remain an emerald?

The journeys that enrich us most will never be ones in which everything goes smoothly. And only a life half-lived will be without its bitterness and sorrow. Ursula Le Guin, the feminist, thinker, and author of extraordinary works of fantasy and science fiction once said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” What matters to you? Does it matter more to you that you reach a certain pre-set destination? Or are you willing to release yourself and experience the beauty of the journey that life is taking you on?

My very first article was called, “It’s all about you.” And it still is, for it’s your journey that I want you to focus on. The title of my blog may be misleading you. You may have the misimpression that all I am interested in is my success. Well, that isn’t so. I am much more interested in learning, living, and seeking wisdom than I am success—or, at least, success as it is most commonly defined.

And how you define the term “diva” is also something that only you can decide. I would prefer you to see me as an extension of you than as any kind of healer, diva, or role model. We are all connected to the universe as fellow human beings. And even though we each have our own personal journey to take, we are also taking a  journey together. When we work with one another and not separately, we can do so much more to create positive and lasting change. Are you willing to join me?

Love and blessings,

Alexis

(“The Journey is Yours” is dedicated to my dear friend, Barbara Kaplan, with much love always)

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

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What choice will you make?

Although this may sound like a simple argument to set forth, life really is about choices. Almost everything you do each day is a choice— even those things that you think you must do or that someone else is expecting you to do. Sometimes I think that our society conditions us to believe that we have to live a certain way and make certain decisions because the world, at large, thrives upon control. To hold on to individuality in a universe of conformists requires strength and courage. Even those who seem to rebel against the confines of society are often in prison cells of their own making. They do not realize that they aren’t free because the bars of their prison obscure their view, thereby preventing them from seeing their lives and the circumstances of their lives clearly.

For a long time, my favorite quotation has been one that the poet E. E. Cummings once said: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” When I first read this quotation, I found myself asking, why should being ourselves be our hardest battle? Why is it so important to everyone that we all conform to the preconceived image of what they think we ought to be?

It’s ironic, really, that rebels and those who step away from the crowd are ever admired or held up as role models, considering how strongly we are all urged to be like everyone else. Of course, many who have been courageous enough to embrace their individuality and live authentically have been vilified and maligned by the world, at large. Throughout history, this has been the case, and from Jesus to Martin Luther, King, Jr., we have seen the revolutionary leaders cut down, oftentimes in their prime. It is easy for people to criticize, mock, and demean that which they do not understand. And we can all point fingers at those who choose to forge a new and unchartered path for themselves, particularly if we are one of those unfortunate souls who remains entrenched in a life of mediocrity.

Oddly enough, I have encountered so much criticism and mockery at this point, that none of it touches me anymore. I am like the bird who will not be deterred in its migratory flight. But a friend of mine has recently been attacked for some of the choices she has made. When I read the negative comments others made about her, I realized how true it is that those who try to tear others down only end up tearing down themselves. Those who create beautiful castles do not build their masterpieces by destroying the castles that other people have built. 

When we were children, sometimes we may have done things that hurt others without meaning to. Perhaps, we wanted to be liked by our peers. Or maybe we just had not yet learned that there can be lasting consequences to our actions. However, when we grew up, we learned that even those things that are seemingly insignificant can have lasting affects on not only our lives but also the lives of others. And unless we derive satisfaction from cruelty, most of us do our best not to injure other people. At the same time, there are exceptions. If we knew why this was the case, we would be able to solve a question that has been puzzling cognitive scientists, psychiatrists, and philosophers for centuries. As it is, we can only speculate and try to content ourselves with the very plain yet frustrating truth that there are many mysteries in life that will never be understood.

From now on, I am making no more efforts to turn enemies into friends or detractors into fans and admirers of my work. If someone doesn’t like the articles I write, I would suggest that he/she stop reading them. A person’s life  is too short to spend time on things that he/she will never make a choice to appreciate or understand. We each have our own journey to take. Therefore, I encourage everyone to go his/her own way, with both my blessing and my request that he/she gives  me the freedom they are giving themselves. When we let others walk their own path, we should be secure enough in our own choices that we feel no need to criticize them.

I tend to think that those who feel the need to tear down others do so because they have so little power in their own lives that they feel they must try to take the power away from others. This is why you will oftentimes notice that those who are at the top of their chosen professions are more caring, generous, and gracious than those who are living what Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet lives of desperation”. When we feel content in our lives and we are truly aligned with our own purpose, we want those around us to be engaged with life the same way that we are.

But when we are not happy or fulfilled and we see others who seem to be leading lives that are successful and joyful, some of us start subscribing to the idea that we have been shortchanged in some way. Why? Because it’s easier to turn ourselves into victims than to take responsibility for our lives and the choices we have made. If we can blame someone else for our mistakes and our missed opportunities, even if it doesn’t do any good, it can leave us with a temporary feeling of satisfaction. But can it satisfy us on a long-term basis?

Some people speculate about what the driving force throughout the world is. They debate whether it’s love or money or both. Well, although I am still examining this issue, I am relatively certain that it’s neither love nor money. Rather, I believe that it’s desire. If you will look around, you will notice that most of the choices we make have begun with a desire. The problem with this, of course, is that in allowing desire to control our choices we are being moved by passion rather than by critical thinking. Yes, there is something to be said for intuition and “gut feelings”. But by its very nature, desire is a force that should be used with care and caution.

Yet, since desire is what I believe rules this world we live in, it is being misused and abused in ways that most of us would never even be able to imagine. And, it is what brings about most of the pain in the world, too. For it is a desire for power and control that prevents people from giving other people the freedom to lead their own lives and make their own choices. Even crimes like murder and rape are rooted in desire . . .  the desire to take the life of another person or the desire to have sexual and physical power over another person. Neither love nor money is involved in either rape or murder, but both of these vile acts are more prevalent in the world we now live in than ever before.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying and subscribe to the erroneous idea that I’m saying desire is a completely negative force. Desire can be very positive as well. I think the question we all need to examine is this: are we controlling our desires or are our desires controlling us? When we tear down other people, it isn’t because we are powerful but because we are weak. When we criticize, complain, and demean, we are relegating ourselves to the role of victims, rather than victors. We are saying, “My sense of self-worth is so low that I have to try to make others feel less valuable in order to feel good enough about myself.” Once we realize that this is the message we are sending out, it forces us to rethink our behavior—or, at least, it should.

Like everyone else, I have had moments in which I have offered criticism when support and encouragement was what was called for. But this is because I am human as opposed to being a divine being. Thankfully, I’ve learned that I will never have freedom in my own life if I do not let others have their freedom, too. We cannot expect to have something that we try to take away from other people. And we can expect that we will be criticized if all that we offer others is criticism, just as a spirit of hate provokes strife and malevolence breeds disdain. Life seems to have a way of giving us back what we have given to others, which brings us once again back to the issue of choice.

In the past, I have shared certain aspects of my personal story in my SuccessDiva articles. But since everybody has a story, I feel that more can be accomplished if I do not share all of mine. I would rather focus on you and the changes I can inspire you to make if you choose to let my words enter into your soul and bring your deepest and most exquisite dreams to the surface of your consciousness. 

What do you want to accomplish in your life? If you must end your life with regrets, which regrets do you want them to be? Would you rather regret not reaching a goal in spite of all your efforts or would you prefer to regret not ever having tried to reach the goal in the first place? Do you want to regret having stayed in a relationship that never made you happy because you were unwilling to give up your security? Or would you rather take a chance at finding the man or woman of your dreams, even if you never find him or her?  

Yes, life really is about choices. And the choices you make today truly will influence not just tomorrow but also the rest of your life. Choosing wisely isn’t enough—you also have to choose courageously. Taking risks is part of what will bring you the life you want to live. None of us have a user’s manual to help guide us through our lives. To imagine that we will never have self-doubt or fear or moments of panic and anxiety isn’t realistic. What the determining factor in each of our lives is is whether we overcome all of these things. Do we let society dictate our needs and desires? Do we let other people make our decisions for us? Do we waver in our choices, even when we know we are making the choices that are right for us?  

A life of purpose is a life that is lived with a sense of conviction. A person who wants to live freely and authentically must be brave enough to break free from the boxes that others try to keep him/her trapped in. He or she must understand that it is better to be rejected for his/her authentic self than to be accepted for a role that he/she is playing. The approval of the multitudes matters not when we have lost all genuine respect for ourselves. And how can we respect ourselves unless we are being authentic?

One reason I have ceased to care what others say about me is because I have tuned in to who I really am. When you reach this point, you become aware of the fact that it doesn’t really matter who says what about you, if the things they say don’t match up with reality. We may all see the world through our own pair of glasses. But if we take the time to examine ourselves, we can get to the truth of who we are. If we don’t like that person, no matter who else may like us, we will be unhappy. But if we do like that person, then no matter how many people don’t like us, we should be content.

I only like the authentic me . . . the me who does not want to be identified with a specific persona or “image”. And because of this, I have chosen to let go of the image of me to embrace the authentic me. This is a choice I will never regret—not now nor at the end of my life.

What choice are you not making right now that you know is right for you? What’s holding you back?

Live today as if there will be no tomorrow . . .

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

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

Getting outside of the box

day1Earlier today, a friend of mine asked me why, if I am a success diva, I am worried about what others think of my decisions or actions.  She told me that it “troubles” her that I would be bothered by other peoples’ opinions of me. Well, since I have committed myself to being completely honest with all of you, I have a confession to make. I have always been a person who has battled a plethora of insecurities. At one time or another, I have considered myself to not be pretty enough, accomplished enough, successful enough, or popular enough to achieve anything important in life, and I have consistently found myself blaming that which I have achieved on mere “luck”.  If you think for a moment that I have always been someone who has possessed a tremendous amount of self-assurance, you are quite mistaken. What I have discovered, however, at this point in my life, is that I must accept myself for who I am, in spite of all my perceived flaws. To do otherwise will prevent me from ever making any of my dreams a reality. Does this mean that I feel confident about all the choices I make?? No, far from it. In fact, I have to work each day to convince myself that I am doing the best I can at the point I’m at in my life. It sometimes seems like a bit of an uphill struggle, yet I persist. In reply to my friend and anyone else who thinks that being a success diva means that I am immune to the criticism I receive from others, I can only say that the opposite is true. If anything, I am more sensitive to criticism than ever, for I am more committed than ever to being the kind of person that others look up to and are inspired by. So, when someone comes along and sends a dart in my direction—whether that is their intention or not—it penetrates far below the surface. I have said in past times that I am a “deeply flawed diva”. Well, I think what I was really feeling when I made this remark is that I am an entirely human diva, which means that, like each one of you, I, too, want to be approved of and appreciated. The difficulty with this sort of mind-set is that you will always be frustrated because no matter what you do or how much you strive to make all the right decisions, there will always be someone that you end up disappointing.

So, how do you manage to hold on to your feelings of self-worth, knowing that there are others who are going to find fault with  you? First of all, you have to free yourself from what I would call in-the-box thinking. What is in-the-box thinking? It’s the kind of thinking that many of us have lived our whole lives with. It is rooted in fear and tends to encourage us to dwell on all of our past mistakes rather than focus on the things that we have done well. Although most people don’t realize it, fear is something that will hold you with an iron grip that is so tight that it often feels as if you’re in a prison. Author Dorothy Parker once wrote of how she felt an enormous amount of apprehension when it came to writing. She even implied that trying to express herself was sheer torture, even though she knew that she must do so in order to be fulfilled creatively. Another example of someone who ended up imprisoned in a cage of fear is writer Ernest Hemingway. Who would think that a man who seemed to live so fully and enjoy life so thoroughly would end up being paralyzed by fear? And yet, Hemingway was so incapable of conquering his fear that he ultimately ended up taking his own life. His suicide was blamed on manic depression and memory loss, but it’s also likely that his inability to unleash his creativity and continue to express himself through writing contributed to his tragic end. It’s very simple, really—when you are destined to be a writer, you need to be able to write in order to be content. This could be why I have experienced such a lack of satisfaction for most of my life. Although I have pursued writing as a hobby, I have been swept into other avenues when it has come to a career, and now, when those other avenues ended up all being dead ends, I am forced to finally come face to face with that which I was supposed to do in the first place.  “So,” you may ask, “how do you know when you have truly found that which you are meant to do?” Well, I remember how actress and ballerina Moira Shearer responded in the classic film, “The Red Shoes,” when the conductor who ended up being her mentor asked her why she wanted to dance. “Why do you want to breathe?” she asked him. When he couldn’t answer her, she added, “You don’t know, do you? You just do it.” This is how I think it seems when we find that which are destined to do. We may not be able to put into words precisely why we must do it—we only know that when we aren’t doing it, nothing else in our lives seems to be quite right. For me, there was always a nagging sense that I wasn’t fulfilling some part of myself that needed to be nourished. I knew that no matter how many plays I acted in or how many paintings I finished, I would still be left with a feeling of discontentment. Yet, when I express myself through words. . .when I truly put that which I am feeling into sentences, phrases, and paragraphs, it’s as if I have been given a pair of wings with which to fly. It really is the most liberating sensation in the world.

And this brings me back to what I said about in-the-box thinking. As you might have guessed, there is also what you might call in-the-box living. This is the sort of living that consists in going through the motions of life. A good way to be certain that you are experiencing in-the-box living is when you wake up with the sense that you’ll be doing well simply to make it through the day. People who live in the box are frequently making comments about not being able to wait until the weekend is here. . .or about how they are constantly busy and feel stressed and overwhelmed.  I happen to find myself guilty of in-the-box living much too frequently. However, the fact that I’m aware of it means that I am on the way to freeing myself from it. And freedom is a large part of living outside the box. When we are shackled to the past, concentrating on the pain that others have caused us or on the mistakes we have made, we are automatically preventing ourselves from being free. It is a fallacy to imagine that just because we have come from a dysfunctional background and/or have had certain mistaken ideas passed down to us from our parents, teachers, and other people who have crossed our path, that we have to remain in bondage to these mistaken notions and repressed mind-sets. We do not have to repeat the patterns of the past, no matter how impossible it may initially seem to us to break free from them. This diva was told, beginning at a very young age, that she was without any value or worth, simply on the basis of her being female. Unfortunately, for many years, I was unable to erase the messages that had been repeated to me so often that they had inadvertently become part of my own mental programming. Try as I might, I constantly found myself lapsing into the thought patterns that I had grown up subscribing to. Indeed, I allowed the way that someone else—namely, my father—had perceived me to shape the image I had of myself. And only when I fully understood that his perception of me was not based in any sort of conceivable reality was I able to spread my wings and fly. Even now, there are days when I lapse into in-the-box thinking. Overall, in-the-box thoughts are as toxic as noxious fumes. Yet, just like a perfume that is overpowering but somehow strangely bewitching, in-the-box thinking will draw you to it with all the tenacity of a magnet. It can sometimes seem like a herculean effort to break free from the box, and you may even find yourself resisting the idea, simply because it seems beyond your capabilities. But you and I both know that nothing miraculous has ever been achieved without a large amount of courage and persistence. Although we usually think of other people being the ones to thwart us in the pursuit of our dreams, the truth is, we are the ones who prevent ourselves from accomplishing our goals a hundred times more often than anyone else does. This bare and fundamental fact is why it is crucial that we accept responsibility for our lives and the choices we make. It has been pointed out recently in the  media, that, of the young women in Hollywood who have been known as “party girls”, the only one who has chosen to transform herself into a lady whom others can really respect is the actress and singer, Nicole Richie. Rather than continuing to live a careless and promiscuous lifestyle, Richie has devoted herself to her new role as a fiancee and mother. What does this prove?? Why has Richie chosen a different path than her fellow party girls, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan? Well, I think Richie obviously chose to stop and analyze her life with an unmitigated amount of clarity and concluded that she was not achieving the results she wanted from the choices she was making. In other words, she made the decision to take charge of her life, even if it meant losing the friendship of those whom she had been spending time with previously.  When you start to make things happen in your life, you may notice that some of your old friends won’t be happy for you. For one thing, they’re going to feel threatened by your new powerful attitude. You may also remind them of all the things that they could be doing but aren’t choosing to do because they would rather complain about the misfortunes they’ve experienced or the way that others are treating them. As hard as it may be to comprehend, there are people who prefer to hold onto ill feelings and destructive emotions, rather than moving forward and fully pursuing their goals and dreams. Whether fear is what’s keeping them from taking any action or it’s their own inability to work through issues that they need to resolve is something that only they know for sure. I tend to think that fear is the most common factor that prevents people from taking responsibility for their lives. I am reminded of a story that my mentor and friend, Denis Waitley, shares in his phenomenal book, The Psychology of Winning. Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier almost had a nervous breakdown early on in his career. Why?? Well, he became terrified of performing. He was convinced that he would embarrass himself by having a memory lapse or making some other unforgivable mistake. However, he was wise enough to seek the advice of a doctor, who worked with Maurice until he came to the point where he understood that he would have to perform in spite of  his fear. You see, many of us wait for our fear to disappear before we take action, and then we wonder why we can’t seem to ever really go after the things we want. The reason why is because we wait for our fear to disappear, when what we must do is to act in spite of the fear. Life is about new experiences, and there is no way that you will ever create an existence that even approaches the life you dream of if you are waiting for the moment when everything feels safe and secure. Ultimately,  you have to make a choice: would you rather be “safe” and banish your dreams or would you rather take risks and make your dreams come true??  The famous boxer and activist, Muhammad Ali once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Well. . .the choice is yours. Do you want to continue living and thinking inside the box or would you like to step out of that box and start designing your life the way you want it to be?? You can’t have it both ways. Living or thinking inside that box will never give you anything but a life lived in shades of black and white. And is that what you really want??

Until soon. . .make every moment matter!

Your Success Diva

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

The magic is within you!

magic5You know, I think too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that something wonderful must happen before we really can expect to feel inspired. In other words, we wait for the magic to happen to us. . .rather than making the magic happen. This diva has been guilty herself of waiting for an opportunity to come her way, instead of going forth and seeking it. And yet, most of us have heard the quotation from the Bible, “Seek and ye shall find.” Indeed, this principle is at the root of most motivational programs and books. So, why do we sit waiting for good things to come our way? Could it be that it’s easier to accept the idea that the opportunities and “lucky breaks” didn’t find us as opposed to admitting that we tried and failed? Michael Jordan, the world-renowned basketball player and promoter of the philosophy that it’s more important to try than to succeed, has some interesting thoughts on failure. During the height of Jordan’s career, he was asked by a school publishing outfit whether or not it would be all right to post pictures of him in classrooms to inspire thousands of school children to pursue their dreams as he had pursued his. Jordan agreed, but only if his message could be about failure, rather than success. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life,” he declared, “and that is why I succeed.”

Now, if someone like Michael Jordan is able to acknowledge failure as a valuable and essential part of the success process, why are we so afraid to fail?? Well, I think it’s because society tends to regard failure as something that none of us should admit to. We’re supposed to disguise our failures at all costs. And this type of misguided programming is why we are so afraid to really take the risks that are necessary to turn the life we’re living right now into the life of our richest dreams and deepest desires. For example, there are men and women who marry whoever comes along because it’s easier than holding out for that man or woman who would make their lives truly complete. After all, a bird in the hand is better than ten in the tree, such people tell themselves. And, indeed, it is important not to throw away a relationship that is important to us simply to pursue a whimsical fantasy. However, I think that once we begin to “settle” for second best, we will never stand a chance of getting first best. Do you really think that any athlete goes to the Olympics saying, “I want to win a silver medal”? No, of course they don’t. Because they know that only in striving for that gold medal are they going to be able to give their all to the competition. Look, it isn’t always about the results of your efforts. It’s about how hard you try. There are many days in which this diva wonders how she’ll ever be able to write a blog post that is as inspired as the one she wrote a day or two before. But, you know what? When you write from the heart as I do, it isn’t as important whether or not I express my thoughts as eloquently as I would like to as it is whether or not I reach you with my words.  When I read back over some of my old posts, there are all sorts of ways in which I feel they could be improved. However, at the time I wrote them, I was making my very best effort.

Well, life is a lot like that, you see. Sure, you may have made some unwise choices yesterday or last week, but, at the time, you probably weren’t aware of the fact that you were using poor judgment. And, in order to keep having the kind of faith you need to have in yourself, it’s crucial that you not dwell on all the errors you’ve made. How can you possibly find magic in your life if all you’re focusing on is your mistakes? You must let go of the gray clouds of the past and embrace the rainbow of the present. Otherwise, you’re like someone who only notices the weather when there’s a thunderstorm. Magic can be found in things that are seemingly insignificant, too. For example, there can be magic in the smile of a child or in the song of a bird. You don’t have to wait for a major event to take place to feel grateful and joyful about life. In fact, the more things you find to feel joyful about, the more likely it is that wonderful things will begin to take place in your life. Haven’t you ever noticed that on days when you seem to see the world through rose-colored glasses people seem to treat you more thoughtfully and you seem to have a more established sense of self-worth? Do you think this is merely a coincidence? Or, could it be that something about the positive energy you are feeling is felt by those whom you come into contact with?

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the life and work of the remarkable artist, Frida Kahlo, but, when I saw the 2002 film focusing on her life, it struck me that she would never have been the painter she became if it hadn’t been for the suffering she endured and the obstacles she had to overcome.  The reason she came to embrace life so wholeheartedly was because she knew what it was like to live for months bed-ridden and in excruciating pain. She understood that if you respond to the trials that come into your life with courage and strength, you can actually become a more powerful individual because of that which you have overcome. When I look at Frida Kahlo’s art, her use of color is one of the first things that attracts me. It is incredible that a woman who could so easily have chosen to live her life in shades of black and white responded to the agony of living with such exuberance and enthusiasm. Truly, Frida Kahlo is a testimony to the triumph and vibrancy of the human spirit. So many of us tend to get caught up in petty annoyances and concerns. We make mountains out of molehills, to use a trite expression that is nevertheless relevant to this diva’s train of thought. We concern ourselves with whether or not our favorite film is out on video yet or whether one of our best friends is giving us enough attention. Yet, if we really stop to think about it, how important are these things? What if you found out tomorrow that you only had six months to live? Would it change the way you saw your life? Which of the things that are annoying you now would seem important? I don’t know about you, but very few of the issues I worry about on a daily basis would seem essential if I knew my life would be ending in a matter of months. It wouldn’t matter to me whether or not everyone approved of everything I did because I would be devoted to being completely true to myself. To borrow a famous quote from comedian and actor Bill Cosby,” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” The question I would like to pose to you is this: should the way you’re living right now be so different than the way you would live if you knew you only had a certain amount of time left on this earth? And, if you answer is “yes,” then why should it be so different? None of us know how many more days we’ll actually be alive. This being said, shouldn’t we start finding the magic in our lives right now? Shouldn’t we stop letting ourselves be sidetracked by other peoples’ opinions of us? Shouldn’t we cease to let the criticism and discouragement of those around us cloud our personal vision?

I’ve had a lot of you tell me how much my last post, “Capture Your Vision” meant to you. Well, one of the clues to capturing your vision is to notice the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. In a way, gratitude is directly related to magic. How? Okay, think about when you were a child and Christmas morning came around. When you went downstairs and saw presents under the tree, didn’t you feel as if you were experiencing a moment of magic? And, when you opened your presents, even if you didn’t get the gifts you wanted, didn’t you feel grateful? Now perhaps some of you will tell me that you didn’t feel a large amount of gratitude because you rarely were given what you had asked for. But, in all likelihood, you can still relate to the feelings of intermingled gratitude and magic that you felt when Christmas morning arrived. And, if your family didn’t celebrate Christmas, think of another occasion that seemed magical to you when you were growing up. Perhaps, your birthday seemed like a magical time when you were a child because it was a day that was all about you. Well, the life you’re living right now is about you, too. The only difference is, now that you’re an adult, you fully understand that you’re not on this planet alone. So, you realize that even if you’re the focus of your life, the other people in it are very important, too. In fact, if you’ve been applying some of your diva’s philosophy to your day-to-day existence, you may have even come to see that you are dependent upon the special people in your life to make your dreams come true. The well-known motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, believes that only when you help enough other people make their dreams a reality do you experience the life that you’ve always dreamed of. Now, when I was younger, I might not have fully understood Zig’s belief system. However, the more time that passes, the more aware I become of the fact that life really is more like a team sport than most of us realize. It may seem like you’re on the path to success for awhile when you focus exclusively on you, but, sooner or later, the road you’re walking down will turn into a dead end. For one thing, there’s only so much magic you’re going to find in your life when your primary focus is yourself. At some point, your feelings of self-confidence are going to be eclipsed by a sense of extreme loneliness. Although you may be experiencing plenty of success, the fact that you have nobody to share it with will eventually oppress your spirit. This is why you must both find the magic in your life and help others find the magic in their lives. Of course, you’ll never be able to instill a sense of gratitude in toxic people because they are never truly happy. Rather, they not only will prevent themselves from experiencing happiness but also they will do their best to steal your joy from you. In the most fundamental sense, toxic people are what I call “dream-stealers,” and, if you let them stay in your life, they’ll snatch your dreams from you. However, once you de-clutter your world and make sure that everyone whom you’re spending time with supports and encourages you and shares your vision, then you’ll be able to find those magical moments in your life that you might overlook otherwise.

One thing that is exceedingly difficult to cope with is when someone very close to you refuses to let you spread your wings and fly. I cannot begin to count the number of people who have crossed my path who have told me how impossible it seems to them to make their dreams come true when their spouse, parent, or boyfriend/girlfriend continues to challenge and criticize their opinions and/or attempts to sabotage their goals.  All I can advise is that you determine whether having this dream-stealer in your life is more important than making your dreams a reality. I know that walking away from someone who has had a pivotal role in your existence can seem almost impossible, but there are times when you’re not going to have another choice. Although I would never advise you to make a decision that you would always regret, the people who remain in your life must respect your determination to pursue your dreams with passion and a sense of purpose. There’s no way that you’ll ever be able to discover the magic if your world is clouded by fog. You must be able to see the beauty of the world through eyes that are full of wonder and joy. . .not blinded by the bitterness and cynicism that dream-stealers nourish themselves with. So, loose yourself and your life from the limitations that you and others have placed upon it, and start seeing every day as a fresh opportunity. . .as a chance to make magic happen in your world.

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