Rediscovering yourself

believe53 (flower and sand)The great philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” So often, I think we succumb to the mistaken notion that structure and creativity cannot work together to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, this is far from being true. Actually, in an environment that is too cluttered, creativity becomes stifled by that which is excessive and extraneous.

Clutter is something that we usually think of in relation to domestic activities. For instance, countless books have been written on the subject of getting rid of clutter around our houses. What is not addressed nearly as frequently is the issue of clutter in connection with the people and activities in our lives.

When we think of success and fulfillment, we usually turn our attention to what we want to add to our lives, disregarding the fact that it is every bit as important what we let go of as what we acquire. Although a chaotic environment can be used to foster creative endeavors, when you are spending time and energy on relationships or activities that are not bringing you any closer to your dreams and goals, you have to step back and examine whether or not those things and/or people should remain in your life.

I have spoken a lot about happiness in my SuccessDiva writing, and I am sure that many people would say that happiness is something they are searching for. But is happiness what you are really seeking, or are you craving the state of mind that you think happiness will  bring you?
In a way, happiness is a catchall for a sense of overall well-being that is not necessarily connected to any specific person or thing. It is different from joy, which conveys a sensation of exuberance.

In reading a chapter on happiness from Robert Nozick’s The Examined Life, Philosophical Meditations, I became more cognizant of how misguided the idea of pursuing happiness can be. If we were able to purchase happiness like any other consumer good, would our lives suddenly become perfect? Or must we experience trials and challenges and even crises in order to live a rich, full, complete existence?

Yes, there are moments in our lives when we seem so connected with our own inner bliss that, if someone asked us if we were happy, we would answer “yes” in a heartbeat. But how often is this feeling of happiness long lasting? Like a movie that you are momentarily touched by–yet forget the details of in days to come–happiness is fleeting. Happiness is the butterfly that alights on your hand, only to fly away a few seconds later.

Thus, we must get beyond “happiness” and strive towards a state of fulfillment that can be sustained. To a certain extent, I think Socrates was right when he said that the “unexamined life” is not worth living. When we let obligations control our decisions and the expectations of others become more important than our own personal needs, we have crucified our dreams on the cross of other people’s desires. We have given up our birthright.

Happiness can and does exist, and it is a viable pursuit. At the same time, it is contingent on other variables within our lives. If we are not following what we feel to be our personal calling, any sense of “happiness” we experience is merely an illusion. In the society we live in now, where “quick fixes” and instant gratification are heavily encouraged, many people never stop to look within themselves and honestly acknowledge that sense of incompleteness that exists inside them.

When they do recognize and admit their inner emptiness, they frantically search for ways to fill it. Sometimes they look towards such things as alcohol, drugs, and food to numb their pain, Other times they attempt to satisfy their inner longing with material possessions, a relationship, or even a child. The problem with all of these solutions is that they will never quench that insatiable thirst within the human soul. For until we become comfortable with who we are, we will not find peace through something or someone else.,

To a large extent, one of the reasons that so many relationships fail is because people enter relationships looking for a partner to meet a need within themselves that only they can truly fulfill. And it’s oftentimes easier to run into the arms of another person than to look within ourselves at the person we are. Some of us are so damaged and wounded from the battles we have fought through life thus far that to acknowledge our wounds is almost unbearable; for, in doing so, we must remember memories from our past that we have no desire to resurrect. Rather than reliving them, we would prefer to have new encounters and experiences erase those memories for us. But can they ever be erased entirely? 

Might it not be more effective if we faced our past, no matter how painful it is, and tried to make some sense of it? True, we might have to deal with a lot of destructive emotions such as anger, resentment, and even contempt. At the same time, unless we work through this emotional process, how can we move on into a state of forgiveness and inner peace? We must not only forgive those who have hurt us but also ourselves for the mistakes we have made.

It has been said that we have become a culture of victims. Rather than taking responsibility for ourselves and our behavior, we sometimes try to find someone else to blame our wrong decisions on. Or we may even say that circumstances conspired to force us into acting the way we did. Well, what’s the truth? If we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of victimization, we will always be at the mercy of unseen forces and events.

So, even though it may appear to be easier to blame someone or something else for a mistake that we make, in the end, we are letting go of our own personal power in doing so. The moment that you choose to take complete responsibility for your life is the moment when you will be at the peak of personal empowerment. Only then will you be able to apply the knowledge that you have absorbed and turn it from lumps of coal into clear, brilliant diamonds of wisdom.

Have you sometimes wondered why it is that in an age of nearly boundless opportunity, so many people still haven’t found inner contentment? I think one problem is that information has become so readily available and in such vast quantities that it’s difficult to know what to ignore and what to pay attention to. Similarly, it is all too easy to accumulate a multitude of acquaintances rather than a few, genuine friends. In a universe that promotes “the power of now”, we all want everything immediately–or, to use a somewhat trite phrase, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. Or . . . do we?

Robert Nozick, in his examination of happiness, presents an interesting hypothesis about an experience machine that would automatically give us any experience that we desire. By making use of this machine, we would feel the pleasure of things–or as he puts it, how they would feel “from the inside”. Although, on the surface, this machine might sound ideal, Nozick makes a strong point when he draws attention to the fact that, although we would feel these experiences, the fact they were not really happening but were instead a product of our imagination (via the machine, of course) would mean that we were essentially living in a dream world. And, even though we might enjoy escaping to a dream world every now and then, most of us would not want to live the rest of our lives in an illusion. In spite of all the pain we may associate with the real world, there are few people who would trade actuality for an existence that was nothing more than a fantasy.

For me, this hypothetical experiment that Nozick suggests puts a new spin on the idea of happiness being a preeminent achievement. Sure, to say that we are pursuing happiness sounds good, and it can even be good. The question is this: is it realistic? And even more than that, if we were given a life that consisted of nothing but happiness, would we be completely content? I find that part of what makes life so interesting is a variety of experiences. If the four seasons of the year were all spring, even though there might be a lot of beauty to appreciate, that fertile splendor might get rather commonplace after a while.

Well, like the seasons of the year, our lives are about seasons, too. To expect that there will not be a certain amount of sorrow and grief along our personal journey is not accepting reality.  And as we start to acquire more and more wisdom, we become more inclined to acknowledge those things in life over which we have no control. What we do always have the power to change is the lens through which we view the world. Also, we have the ability to choose the way we will spend our time and the people with whom we will share it. 

Susan Ford Collins, in her book The Joy of Success, makes it clear that deleting is as much a component of ultimate success as either creation or completion. “Success,” Collins says, “is being able to let go of an unworkable method or system. An outgrown relationship you’ve tried everything conceivable to fix. A well-paying job you’ve done the same way far too many times . . . Success is cutting out, down, or back.”

If we are the scriptwriter of our own lives, should anybody besides us be creating the plot or writing the lines? No. Yet, tragically, many people come to the end of their time on earth realizing that they only achieved a fraction of what they were capable of accomplishing. And, what is perhaps even worse, they oftentimes come to the startling realization that the dreams that became a reality belonged to someone other than themselves.

Thus, rather than using their own unique potential, they were allowing someone else’s vision of success and fulfillment to be lived vicariously through them. Generally, these unfulfilled individuals justify their decisions with heartfelt phrases about not having wanted to disappoint their mother or father, their spouse, their children, or their friends. But, what they are not realizing is that in not wanting to disappoint others, they have ended up disappointing the most important person of all–themselves. And, in disappointing themselves they have inevitably disappointed everyone else, too, for they have not been able to put their heart into what they have accomplished. This means that no matter how impressive the results of their labor appear to be, they are the product of time and effort rather than passion and enthusiasm.

When motivational guru Anthony Robbins ends one of his Personal Power II audio programs, he always says, “Live with passion”.  And even though I used to pay little attention to this key phrase, I now understand how much significance there is beneath the words.  To live with passion is the opposite of living the life of “quiet desperation” that author Henry David Thoreau spoke of. It is to be engaged fully in work that you find deeply satisfying or to be in a relationship or marriage that is ignited by the flames of love, ardor, and affection. When you are living with passion, you are able to appreciate the sensation of raindrops falling on your skin or the crackle of autumn leaves under your feet.

Moreover, when this passion and zest for life is combined with wisdom, you start to understand that it is in being that you will feel contentment rather than in having. Sometimes, you may have to give up certainty in order to embrace opportunity. You may have to walk more by faith than by sight, for those who play it safe are rarely the passionate souls. To let go of that to which you are accustomed in order to step out into the unknown is indeed a risk. Yet, isn’t life itself a risk?

Although tomorrow will give you another chance to start creating your ideal life, a lot of hours will pass  between now and then. And, since the one thing that none of us seems to have enough of is time, why not start now?

Live Without Limits!

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva

when you have to walk away. . .

We all have those moments in life, don’t we? That second in time when a part of us realizes that there is someone in our life who is pulling us down rather than building us up. If you look around, you can probably find someone who is in your life right now who shouldn’t really be there.  It isn’t so much that they are cutting you to pieces. Their behavior doesn’t have to be destructive in an obvious way. But perhaps they do thoughtless things or speak to you in a harsh and hurtful way at the times when you most need to feel valued, appreciated and even loved.  Yet time after time you overlook their behavior. . .you give them another chance, even though you realize that they are going to keep hurting you, whether the pain they are causing you is intentional or not. What do you do?? Well, obviously, if the person in question is a spouse, a long-term partner, a parent, child, or close family member. . well, as hard as it is to say this, you won’t be able to just walk away. You already know that, of course, since you’re smart and already have so many of the answers and solutions all within yourself anyway. Actually, when it seems like your Success Diva is providing you with answers, what she’s really doing is helping you tap into the answers that you already possess within. Sometimes the problem is that you just don’t know which questions you should be asking. And that is where I come into the picture. Sure, if I can provide a few answers, too, that’s wonderful. But I would rather think that you had the answers all along just waiting to be discovered. Imagine that you have a mound of gold buried in your backyard that you haven’t ever known about. Then imagine if somebody told you about that mound of gold. Would you believe them? Well, if you’re a skeptic, I would imagine you’d shrug, roll  your eyes, and say, “Yeah, right. Dream on. There isn’t a mound of gold in my backyard.” But whether you choose to believe it or not, there is. But the mound of gold is within you because that’s where the answers to how you can create the life of your dreams are: within you. Your life may seem like a jigsaw puzzle right now, but when you start putting the pieces together, you’re going to see what you’ve got. . .and you know what? You’ll be amazed. You’ll also be very pleased that you let the Success Diva into your life. You’ll see that all these things she’s been telling you haven’t just been a lot of bunk. And one reason what I’m saying to you isn’t a lot of ‘bunk’ is because it’s all deeply personal. I”m not telling you to do anything that I wouldn’t do, haven’t done and am not continuing to do myself. I practice what I preach, so to speak. If I’m having a bad day, the advice I give myself is the very same advice you are going to get from me. And that I promise (and remember, The Success Diva doesn’t break promises).

But let’s revisit the subject of this post, “When you have to walk away.” Do you know what one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life will be? Have you guessed it yet? It will be walking away from someone or something that you have become dependent on in some way. It will be realizing that just because something seems good or even looks good doesn’t make it right or healthy for you. Usually, I am the sort of diva who would not advise walking away from a person or a situation without giving it a lot of consideration. There is the weighing of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and all that. You wonder what your life will be like without that person in it. . .or what your days will be like if you quit that job or stop pursuing that career. And when you try to envision your life without that person in it or when you try to imagine what it would be like to head down a different career path or look for another job. . .well, it feels kind of scary, doesn’t it?? Admit it—it makes you feel afraid. It’s like closing your eyes and walking into a room that you’ve never seen before. You have no idea what you might bump into. . .or whether or not there’s a rug that you’ll slip on. . . .or if the room is empty or occupied. So, what do you do? Do you turn around and reverse your choice? Do you decide, rather than walking away, that you should just try to stick it out, no matter what?? No, no, and again, No. If something or someone shouldn’t be part of your life right now, do you really think that’s going to change? Let’s face it, if you’re on that yellow brick road that will take you to your own Emerald City of dreams, are you really going to want to be encumbered by people or things that will only hinder you?? Sure, maybe the job seems steady and reliable. . .and maybe the person whom you know you ought to walk away from says they care about you and have your best interest at heart. But do they? Don’t be fooled by pretty words. If someone says, “I love you,” make sure that their actions are matching their words. If a person tells you that they fully support you, if or when they start sabotaging you in some way, don’t ignore their behavior. Say, “Hey, wait a minute. You said such-and-such but the way you’re acting indicates something else entirely.” Call them on the carpet if you have to.  Confront them. Don’t be afraid. Fear won’t ever get you anywhere. Granted, if they are completely toxic to you and your well-being, they will probably have a whole book full of excuses. Instead of “little black books” some people carry around little books of excuses. If  you look closely, you’ll start seeing that people will be scribbling in these books when you go places. Next time you’re at the airport, in the train station, or at a doctors’ office, observe. Are people scribbling away?? Don’t assume they’re writing in a journal. They’re probably trying to jot down more excuses before they forget about them. Now to frequently use an excuse when you make a mistake that only causes you to suffer. . .well, that’s human and completely understandable.  It’s when you begin using excuses for behavior you demonstrate that hurts other people that you need to realize what’s happening. You are following in the footsteps of the toxic people who came before you. You are avoiding taking responsibility for your behavior. If you fail to apologize when you hurt someone, then you are raising your own toxicity level. Pretty soon, you may be the person that someone else chooses to walk away from. And I know you don’t want people walking away from you. . .unless they’re toxic, of course, and then you’ve had a stroke of good luck. Remember how rare true luck is? Well, you can count yourself truly lucky when a toxic person vanishes from your life. Just look at it as an unexpected blessing.

But what about those people who don’t walk away? Well, you have to decide what you’re willing to put up with. You have to make a choice: Is my relationship with him or her more important than my overall well-being? And however you answer this will determine whether or not it’s time for you to walk away. There are times, of course, when those who care about you or love you don’t fully understand what it is that you need from them. That’s why communication is always essential in any and every relationship you have with another person. What communicating honestly and effectively will enable you to do is determine whether or not the person you are contemplating walking away from is willing to change the behavior that you are finding hurtful or harmful. You cannot present this to the other person in what would be described as an “ultimatum.” Never say something like, “Either you do such-and-such or else I’m out of here.” This will only bring about an atmosphere of intense negativity, and will probably also create hostility. Rather, tell the person that they mean a great deal to you, but that they are hurting you by acting and/or speaking in a certain way. Don’t ever say, “If you love me, you’ll do this” because this will make it sound as if you are questioning the fact that they love or care about you. It will come across as an attempt to make them feel guilty, and if they feel any guilt, make sure that it comes from within them. . .not at your special urging. You can say “Hey, you really hurt me and I won’t be able to keep you in my life if you keep doing this,” but make it clear that you are prepared to walk away. What I mean is, you don’t want to give the impression that you are demanding something that the other person isn’t willing to give. What you want to do is share how you feel, see if he/she respects your feelings, and depending upon whether or not they don’t, either keep them in your life or walk away.

I know I said earlier that if  the other person is a spouse, parent, child, or close relative that you wouldn’t be able to walk away. Well, in many instances, you won’t be able to. But as long as that person isn’t completely dependent upon you (such as a child who isn’t yet an adult or an elderly parent who must be cared for), always know that walking away is at least an option. I have spoken of psychologically distancing yourself and this is possible, too, although, it will never be enough, which means that if there is any way you can walk away and you know, in your heart, that it’s the only way you will ever experience true happiness and fulfillment, do it. Don’t look back over your shoulder, though. Remember the Biblical legend about Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. Salt is something you should be seasoning your life with. It won’t do you any good to turn into a pillar of it *wink*.

Aside from personal relationships, there can also be times when you do have to walk away from a job or a career. I mentioned this briefly, mostly because once I start talking about toxic people and the havoc they can wreak in a person’s life it’s hard for me to address another issue. But, lest you wonder, there are indeed jobs and careers that you should let go of. There can be a lot of different reasons behind this decision, but what should ultimately be the deciding factor is this: if this job or career isn’t the most important thing in my life, how is it preventing me from being able to devote my time and energy to what is most important?? Once you answer that question (and all you have to do is look deeply within yourself), you will know what you must do. You should also ask yourself: Will this job or career fully satisfy me? Or will there always be a feeling of discontentment, a lack of fulfillment, really, deep within myself? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you have but one choice—-walk away. Hey, it’s better to make very little money doing something you love than to spend your entire life doing something you hate or are indifferent towards. For example, if you have a full-time job as an accountant, but you’ve really always wanted to be an artist. . .what are  you waiting for? “But my wife and kids won’t have any food to eat,” you exclaim, “and we won’t be able to pay any of our bills.” Then don’t quit your job right away, but, at least, start making plans for another career. Don’t just let dreams of being the next Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso stay in your head. Make them real. Find a way to do it. Whenever you want something badly enough, when you want it so much that you would be willing to do anything to get it as long as it didn’t compromise your principles and your personal integrity. . .well, go for it.

In a way, I’m realizing that this post is about shedding your life of the things that no longer belong in it, whether they be people or careers or jobs. And I don’t know why I was inspired to address this particular topic at half-past 5 am on a Saturday morning, but, hey, does a Success Diva really have to explain herself? *grin*

It is my hope that I have given you the impetus—or at least, the courage–that you need to start de-cluttering more than your closets. Your life is much more important than those closets, you know, and, there’s a good chance that your life has more clutter in it than any of your closets has ever contained.

Until soon. . .live with passion and enthusiasm every moment of the day! Your life is yours. Live it!

Your Success Diva