Journey Through My Mind 1

 

 from March 17, 2010

To live to unlearn . . . to re-examine . . . to re-create . . . this is the road to true self-discovery. When we cease needing to be right . . . and are willing to admit we might be wrong, this is when we may start to gain wisdom. To embrace our ignorance is to open ourselves up to this wondrous universe we live in.”

  

“Life continues to bring us unexpected challenges, and the only way to meet them and handle them effectively is by continuing to question everything we think we know. There will always be someone to tell us which dreams we should give up on—to point us in the direction of what they call ‘realism’ but which is really just their vision for us. We have to be the ones to let go of our dreams for no one can take them from us without our permission. We fear our own power, our strength, and this prevents us from living freely, intensely, fully.”

(March 17, 2010)

  

from March 11, 2010

“There is such a fine line between not allowing yourself to be preyed upon by those who will attempt to abuse you and make you suffer yet remaining open-hearted and compassionate enough to not be afraid to risk caring about or loving someone.”

 from March 12, 2010

“When we are secure in ourselves, we have no desire to set ourselves up as superior to anyone else. We simply celebrate our own individuality and allow others to do the same.”

from March 21, 2010

“True creativity is never the product of compulsion. It is spontaneous, like breathing.”

from March 31, 2010 

“Let us not presume to have knowledge of people, circumstances, or subjects about which we know nothing. There is no clearer way to demonstrate stupidity than by attempting to disguise our own ignorance. To choose looking clever over being wise may provide instant gratification, but it will bring no lasting satisfaction.”

 

from April 16, 2010 

Joy is not an action nor is it something to seek. Rather, it is to be found in breathing, giving, loving, and being.”

 

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

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The Magic of Imagination

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” But, if this is so, why are so many of us frantically seeking knowledge and giving so little time to using our imaginations? If it seems ironic that a writer who calls herself a “critical thinker” and says that she is on a quest for wisdom and truth would be emphasizing the importance of using one’s imagination, all I can say is that I am not the least bit predictable. I do think that critical and particularly reflective thinking is an essential part of creating a life of personal fulfillment, but I also think that if you don’t use your imagination, you will end up stifling a crucial part of yourself.

How far back do your first memories go? Do you remember a point where the world was filled with wonder and every new bird or flower made you feel exhilarated, at least temporarily? What do you think brought an end to this state of mind in which the world and all that inhabits it overwhelmed you with awe? When did you stop asking so many questions? When did you become afraid that the thoughts or feelings you had were outrageous or strange or “outside the norm?”

If you are like many people, you probably found that a lot of your imaginative ideas were discouraged by teachers, parents, and other authority figures in your environment. When I was a child of five, I was a very creative artist and drew the letters of the alphabet in a way that nobody else did. I added animals to each letter, such as giraffes, birds, and kangaroos. I was unaware that what I was doing was odd until many years later, when my mother confessed to me that my teacher had taken her aside and told her that the way I drew my letters was “unacceptable.” Now, over two decades have passed since then, and I have recently discovered that Picasso created his letters the same way that I created mine.  I may not ever have possessed Picasso’s artistic talent,  but what he and I do share is a vivid imagination.

Of course, I think most of us do have wonderful imaginations. It’s simply that society doesn’t encourage us to make adequate use of them. When you hear the phrase, “experimental thinking,” what comes to mind? Does the term bring positive or negative thoughts to your mind? Since I have an ever developing interest in science, experimental thinking is a concept that I naturally embrace. If you don’t, that’s okay. What I do hope you’ll at least do is consider the concept. It’s really just another way to define out-of-the-box thinking. And, who wants to live inside a box?

For me, every day is an experiment, which means that I am engaging in experimental thinking on a full-time basis. My blog posts are part of my experimenting with ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Nothing I say is written in stone. I am constantly examining and re-examining my own thoughts, and I hope that’s what you’ll start doing, too. When we look at the world, we oftentimes think that it’s changing, when we are the ones who are in the process of change. Remember my last blog article, The Process of Becoming? Did you read it? If not, I urge you to do so. It is my intention to challenge the way that you are thinking now. I want to persuade you into examining your thoughts more carefully. Life must be lived boldly and intensely or not at all. You must be willing to take risks, and that includes engaging in risky thinking.

Have you ever known anyone who thought that he/she had all the answers? Have you conversed with someone who seemed to be under the delusion that whatever their opinions and beliefs were, they were always right? I’ve known a few of these people myself, and what I am becoming more and more aware of is how vastly they are limiting themselves. Naturally, they are oftentimes the first people to call themselves “open-minded”. They will do their best to convince you that their beliefs and views are the result of critical thinking and personal reflection. But, what is the truth? People are fully capable of telling us anything, particularly when it comes to defining themselves. The question is, can any of us really be sure that more than a handful of our beliefs and opinions are valid?

Okay, I know you think I’ve gone too far this time. You probably think I’m trying to question all of your convictions. Well, I’m not. I just want you to become aware of  how limited your thought patterns might be. Are you really thinking outside the box or do you just think you are? How many of your personal beliefs and opinions would you be willing to stake your life on? One or two? Three or four? A half-dozen? You know you don’t have to tell me the answer to this question nor do you have to be honest with anyone, including  yourself. But why not be honest with yourself? What will you gain by remaining in a state of self-deception?

If you hope to make any positive changes in your life, you’re going to have to be willing to rip the veil off of some of the ideas you’re subscribing to now. And, if you engage your imagination, I think you’ll discover that the life you want doesn’t match up with the life you’re living now. Or, am I wrong? I would love to think that everything is perfect in your world. Yet, I have a sense that some aspect of your life isn’t quite the way you want it to be. If my perceptions are correct, then take a few minutes to listen to my ideas instead of just tossing them aside.

You are the creator of your destiny. That’s right, you. Although you may want to blame someone or something else for your mistakes, you’re the one who made them. But, you’re also the one who can change your life because you are in control of all of your choices. Even the choice you make now is one that you alone have power over. If you’re reading this article, you are the one who decided to read it. And you are also the one who decides whether you’ll let my words enter into your mind and soul and become part of your being. I think I’ve already made it clear that I don’t care who agrees with me anymore. Ridicule or criticize me if you like–it’s all the same to me. I simply don’t care, for part of gaining wisdom and enlightenment (and no, I’m not talking about anything religious) is the cutting away of that which is not essential and/or significant. Those who demean my work are not significant to me. And my focusing on their denigrating words is not essential to my life.

There is much to be said about letting go of everything that is not essential. If you were to look upon your life as a house that you were moving out of and you could only pack up the things you really needed to move to a new and smaller place, what choices would you make? How many friendships would you keep pursuing or maintaining? How many books would you give away? Which pieces of furniture would you sell? Are you starting to follow my line of thinking? In a way, it’s like asking yourself, “How would I live if I only had six months left on this earth?” If you like, you can substitute that concept instead. Whatever works for you works for me, too. We each have our own “comfort zone” when it comes to thinking, and some of us are slower to move out of that comfort zone than others.

But, just to re-iterate point about the importance of “experimental” (i.e., outside-the-box) thinking, let’s turn to the words of John Dewey. “Taken merely as a doubt, an idea would paralyze inquiry. Taken merely as a certainty, it would arrest inquiry. Taken as a doubtful possibility, it affords a standpoint, a platform, a method of inquiry.” What Dewey is encouraging us to do is to make sure that we do not become too certain of the ideas we subscribe to. Yet,  instead of doubting our ideas, he suggests that we consider them as possibilities. So, we can imagine that an idea is correct, while simultaneously holding the thought in our mind that the idea might not be true.

In a way, we can become the scientists of our worlds. We can look upon our lives as a laboratory and conduct various experiments every day. Has anything great every be achieved by those who played it safe? What novel or innovative concept has anyone come up with who refused to re-examine his or her thoughts and ideas? Unfortunately, society tends to foster the spirit of certainty. We are supposed to be die-hard fans of someone or something–we are urged to have vehement political and religious views. If we don’t, we have accusations hurled at us about lacking conviction.

Well, conviction is very important. But, you have to make sure that your convictions are the result of reflective, critical, and experimental thinking. John Dewey in his book, How We Think, speaks in some detail about what he refers to as “empirical thinking” or “empiricism.” This type of thinking brings about a lack of flexibility that can lead to dogmatism and an attitude in which a person engages in heated debates and not productive discussions. As you may have already surmised,  empirical thinking leaves little room for the imagination to be nourished. It’s antithetical to the type of thinking that children engage in. Awe and wonderment become replaced with cynicism and skepticism, and new ideas are usually discarded before they have the chance to take root. Imagine how few scientific experiments would have ever been performed if each scientist was certain beforehand that nothing would turn out the way he/she wanted it to. I suspect Einstein would never have discovered his theory of relativity, and none of us would ever have heard Marie Curie’s name.

I’ve brought you this far. I know this because you’re still reading. Now I’m going to ask you to go one step further. Ask yourself this question: what experiments am I wanting to try in my life now that I haven’t dared to attempt? Is there a job opportunity you want to go after but believe you would never be chosen for? Or do you have an idea for a wonderful novel but can’t get yourself to sit down and start writing it because you’re already sure that it won’t be published? Do you want to find the man or woman of your dreams but find yourself looking upon any kind of committed relationship with skepticism and/or apprehension?

Once you decide what you’re afraid of, you’ll probably know what experiment you need to try. If there is anything in your life that seems to be holding you back, it’s only your fear of change. The “status quo” has become a habit. You want things to be different, but part of you has gotten comfortable with the way things are now. Am I talking about you? Maybe, maybe not. Everything I say is colored by what I’ve read, absorbed, and experienced. But, this is the case when it comes to anyone. That’s why I am so adamant about stating that I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I emphasize the fact that I cannot “fix” anyone’s problems. If I were to say anything other than that, I would be taking away your power. I would be suggesting that you needed a Savior. I would be saying, “You need me to create your destiny.” You and I both know that you don’t need me or anyone else besides yourself. Even if you feel incomplete or inadequate, you’re not. You only think you are.  In many ways, you have probably been conditioned to think the way that you do. This means that you may have to unlearn things that you think you know. For, in order to acquire true knowledge we must empty our minds of all that is false.

I know that you may read this article today and forget most of it tomorrow. So, I’m going to end with a thought I want you to hold onto: Live today as if there will be no tomorrow. 

Until soon,
Alexis, your SuccessDiva

~”The Magic of Imagination” is dedicated to Kate Anderson, 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

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

Live Without Limits!

ballerina31I have oftentimes said that in order to achieve the results we want in any area of our lives, we have to discover the ingredients we need to make those results happen. Pretend for just one moment that you are a master chef who is creating a new recipe with no guidance or direction . . . a recipe that will be the product of creativity, expertise, knowledge, and perhaps a dash of two of instinct. Do you see that having each ingredient in the right proportion will be essential to the eventual outcome? This may sound a bit like a scientific experiment to some of you, and in a way life can be like that, also. When we find that the thought patterns and attitudes that we have held onto for so long are no longer working for us, we are forced to either remain unfulfilled or to explore new choices and different decisions.

As I said in my blog article “Be Yourself”, you cannot always count on someone else backing you up in a decision that you make. Why? Well, although there are those toxic individuals who might well not have your best interest at heart, there are also those people who are rather timid souls themselves and are therefore apt to discourage you from taking any major risks.

I’m sure you realize by now that I am a diva who is willing to take risks. But that doesn’t mean that I have’t had plenty of times in which I have either pressured myself or  been pressured by others into continuing down a path that was not the right one for me.

To cut away from the path that has been chosen by you or by others for you requires you to be bold and daring. Does it require you to let go of fear? No, it doesn’t. What it does require, however, is for you to allow your faith in yourself to overcome your fear.

Susan Jeffers wrote a book entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and I think that title sums up the kind of attitude towards life that you have to adopt. If you wait for fear to go away, you will die with most of your potential still locked inside you. Conversely, if you understand that only until you push past the fear and do what you want to do or need to do in spite of fear, you will end up creating the kind of life that you have always desired.

I remember reading Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway a couple of years ago. I thought I had absorbed the concept of the book completely. For a few weeks, I recommended the book to everyone who crossed my path, thinking that it contained the “secret” to ultimate success and fulfillment. The problem was, even though I had read every word in Susan Jeffers’ book, I had not learned how to apply the knowledge I had acquired.  Have you ever listened to a self-help CD program or read a motivational book and felt incredibly enthusiastic about it only to find that the feeling was only temporary? If so, why do you think that is? Well, for one thing, you have probably fallen into a set of habits in your life–habits that pretty much have control over most of your thoughts and actions.

The American psychologist and philosopher William James, in his work The Principles of Psychology, discusses the role that habit plays in our destiny in the chapter entitled “Habit”. James recounts incidents in which people’s habits have become so deeply ingrained that much of the time they do not even think about that which they are doing. He encourages us to make our nervous system our ally in the establishment of a new habit, for it is within our nervous system that habits take root, for better or worse. 

When someone talks about being on “automatic pilot,” what he or she means is that whatever action is being spoken of has become almost entirely automatic on his or her part. In a way, if you let enough of your habits become automatic, you are more like an automaton than a human being. That is, of course, an exaggeration. Yet I think it points out with remarkable clarity how dangerous it could be to allow yourself to lapse into a mode in which your cognitive functions are scarcely being used at all.

One thing that sets humans apart from animals is our ability to reason and to make conscious choices about our behavior. In the animal world, procreation is more of an instinct than a decision, whereas many people never have offspring. When we choose to ignore the pivotal role that our mind and our thoughts have in our lives, we are negating that which sets us apart as unique and remarkable human beings. At any given moment in time, we have the ability to make a change in our lives, whether small or large, simply by changing the way we think. Yet, so many of us do not take advantage of this incredible ability we possess. Yes, sometimes it is a struggle to change our thoughts when our emotions are in conflict with those thoughts.  But when we minimize our instinctual responses and try to tap into our incredible reasoning capabilities, we will usually find that we can make a change that might have seemed impossible at first.

Since I mentioned recipes, cooking, and ingredients at the beginning of my post, I want to return to the idea of life being like a recipe. There are not only things you have to put into the recipe but also there are ingredients that you have to leave out. That means that concocting the dish of your dreams may be as much about letting go as it is about increasing. Some things that you will find necessary to let go of may not ever have been very important to you. You may not miss a friend whom you only saw a couple of times a year or a summer vacation to Disney World.  And, deleting trivial relationships and insignificant activities from your life can accomplish a great deal.

But, there are usually a few things in life that we are attached to that we find we must also let go of . . .  if, that is, we are to create a life that even begins to match up with our dreams. We may have to break ties with a toxic parent who continues to be an unhealthy influence on our lives. Or we might have to give up our “secure” job to pursue a career that everyone else tells us is “wishful thinking”. Do you see where feeling the fear yet doing it anyway is such a powerful and essential philosophy?

The writer Anais Nin once said, “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I think that waiting until the idea of not taking a risk becomes painful is not necessarily the wisest course of action. However, if you need to get to that point to become aware of how desperately you need to make a change or take a chance, it is a positive turn of events. I have spent my life taking risks of one kind or another, and I have oftentimes been asked by people where what they perceive to be a steadfast confidence in myself and my abilities comes from.

When I tell them that I actually have to overcome a massive amount of fear to do whatever it is that they find so remarkable, they find it astonishing. This is usually because many people assume that anyone who would dare to take a significant risk must have a sense of assurance that taking that risk will be to their benefit. But, what is the truth? Even though most of us were adventurous when we were children, as we grow up, it is nearly impossible not to be conditioned by society and those around us into believing that there are certain things we simply cannot do.

So, why do certain individuals go after goals that would seem unreachable to some and actually achieve them? Is it probable that these particular people never came into contact with anyone who discouraged them? I think both you and I know the answer to that question. If anything, those who have accomplished things of the greatest significance have had to overcome an outrageous amount of criticism and/or negativity in order to do so. What they did not generally have to overcome is a timidity of the soul that prevented them from being willing to cast aside the opinions of others and pursue their dreams regardless of anyone else’s advice or views. In the end, no matter how many times these incredible achievers listened to those who had no faith in them and their dreams–no matter how many times they allowed these naysayers to affect their behavior–they ultimately believed in themselves enough to go after what they wanted.

Whenever I speak of faith, I tend to suspect that many of you think I am talking about religious faith. But that isn’t what I’m speaking of. Although it can indeed be beneficial to have faith in a force greater than yourself, what I am talking about is faith in you. It’s so easy to exaggerate our flaws and to focus on our past failures and disappointments. After awhile, the person we see ourselves as is not the person we are but rather the person whom our decisions and actions have made us believe that we are. It takes a lot of effort and determination to let go of every negative judgement you’ve made about yourself and every preconceived idea you may be subscribing to about your abilities. Yet, until you can separate the “you” that you are from the “you” that you think you are, you will never become the person that you are meant to be. 

You have to take off those dusty spectacles through which you are seeing yourself and the world around you and put on a clean pair of glasses that will enable you to see everything the way it really is. You do want to perceive things from a realistic vantage point, don’t you? Well then, it’s essential that you be willing to let go of your limiting ideas and your narrow-minded views. Then, you can embrace the full potentiality of who you are and all the possibilities and opportunities that are waiting for you in your life.

Sure, you will make mistakes when you decide to be adventurous and take risks. Yes, you will disappoint people when your actions and choices fail to match up with what they think you should do. You will probably also not meet the expectations others have of you . . . possibly even those whose approval and acceptance you have been completely dependent on. But what’s better–disappointing everyone else or disappointing yourself?

You know in your heart that there is something right now you want to do that you’re not doing. There is a choice or a change you want to make that you are apprehensive about. Well, what is apprehension but another form of fear? It is with courage that we achieve great things.

Fear only weakens us. Although it may seem to be protecting us from making a decision that could be wrong, it is actually eroding every bit of our self-confidence. When you protect yourself, you are also shielding yourself. You are putting a barrier up between yourself and everything that surrounds you. I still maintain that it is important to guard our hearts. But there is a vast difference in preserving our emotional well-being and protecting ourselves from the universe that surrounds us.

You can be trusting and still be careful. You can be wise yet still be vulnerable. I love the verse in the Bible that says, “be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). I think that passage of scripture illustrates how well two seemingly contradictory attributes can work together. We do need to be able to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world with the innocence of a dove . . . or, as the case may be, of a child. At the same time, if we do not use discernment and wisdom in all that we do, we will be ravaged by the cruelty and brutality of those who have lost all sense of humanity.

I have perfect faith that every one of you who is reading this post is going to discover that you are capable of much more than you ever imagined. And I hope that you won’t wait another moment to let go of your mental restraints and limiting beliefs so that you can live a life without limits!

Until soon,

Alexis, the 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

Paint your own rainbow!

rainbow33 (paint your own)Sometimes the sky above us is filled with so many dark clouds that the idea of ever being able to find a rainbow seems impossible. We know that one is there. . .somewhere. . .but where oh where? When you were a child and you first saw the film, “The Wizard of Oz,” how did you feel when you heard Judy Garland singing, “Somewhere over the Rainbow”? Didn’t it make you feel happy inside? The mere idea of a rainbow fills most of with joy, perhaps because rainbows are magical jewels of nature, rather than manufactured marvels. Sure, a Hollywood production studio helped provide a rainbow to inspire Judy’s song, but, for us, rainbows are those exquisite jewel-like ribbons of color that appear in the sky after a storm.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret when it comes to rainbows. If you want to experience a rainbow in your life and you’re waiting to see one until a thunderstorm clears, you may never have the privilege of enjoying one. For, they don’t just pop up whenever we desire them. In fact, I have come to see that there are times when we actually have to paint them ourselves, out of whatever materials we have on hand. Whether we use crayons or paint or colored pencils or magic markers, we can paint our own rainbow. And we don’t have to be a Pablo Picasso to create a rainbow that is worthy of admiration. Even children paint rainbows. In fact, a child is much more likely to draw or paint a rainbow than an adult is. Why? Because children believe in impossibilities. They haven’t yet been conditioned to have ceilings on their dreams or lids on their fantasies. This is one reason that children are so creative. Oddly enough, scientific studies have shown that between the ages of five and seven, a child’s creativity level decreases at an enormous rate.  The reason for this is thought to stem from the fact that, when a child first attends school, he or she begins learning about all the things that he/she cannot do. . .all the things that are “impossible” or “illogical”. Prior to being told that he or she cannot do something, a child tends to believe that anything is possible. This is probably why Picasso was once quoted as saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I will never forget hearing actress Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech when she on her second Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of The Lambs”. Jodie thanked her mother for enabling her to believe that she could make any of her dreams come true—for convincing her that “all her fingerpaintings” were “Picassos”.  And, perhaps, Jodie’s unfailing determination to go after the roles she has wanted, in spite of those who have tried to held her back, has something to do with the seed of self-confidence her mother nourished within her beginning at a very young age. Ironically enough, Jodie wasn’t the first choice for either her role in “The Accused” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” and yet, her performance in each film was impressive enough to garner her an Academy Award.

Although some people would say that thinking “big” is unrealistic, I think that only when we step outside so-called “realism” and dare to have big dreams, can we truly get enthusiastic about life.  David Schwarz in his classic book, The Magic of Thinking Big, promotes the theory that the main thing holding people back in life is actually their “small thoughts”. According to Schwarz, whether or not you dream big dreams or small dreams is actually more of a factor in your ultimate success than talent, education, or connections.

Who says we have to remain strapped in by the seat belts of probability? Who can predict what is possible or impossible? Sure, there will always be well-meaning friends and relatives in our midst to tell us when we are engaging in what they call “wishful thinking”. But we make the choice whether we decide to believe them, or whether we continue to pursue our dreams, no matter how many people tell us we’re being illogical.You see, one of the problems is that the people who tell us that we have to be “logical” are generally people who have chosen to repress their own dreams themselves. Now they may claim they had no choice in the matter, but, the truth is, we all have a choice. Some of us may have to be more patient than others to make our dreams a reality, but all of have the chance to paint that rainbow.

I have spoken before about Jim Carrey at my blog, but what I haven’t mentioned was how Jim Carrey visualized his dream before it  became a reality. He used to imagine himself as a famous actor, and even thought up scenarios in which he was preparing to audition for roles in major films. At one point, he wrote himself a check for several million dollars, writing on the blank side of the check, “For services rendered.” Was this not an example of someone painting his own rainbow? Jim had no sign that he was going to be a major movie stair. If anything, things were pointing in the opposite direction. Yet, he made a choice to see himself as what he wanted to be, and his vision of himself was a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’ve always believed in magic,” Jim said later. He spoke of how he would go sit on Mulholland Drive and look out at the city, stretching out his arms, telling himself over and over again that he was a “really good actor” and that everybody wanted to work with him.  Jim said these positive affirmations were his way of erasing the negative thought patterns that had been passed down to him from his family.

A self-fulfilling prophecy can be positive or negative. That part is up to you. And, whether you realize it or not, you are actually forming self-fulfilling prophecies in your mind every day. Every time you tell yourself that you can or cannot do something, you are predicting either a positive or negative outcome. To put it another way, you are either painting storm clouds or a rainbow. You may think that you are simply being realistic when you tell yourself that something you dream of doing isn’t going to happen, but what you’re really doing is painting a cloud. And then you find yourself wondering why others don’t see your dreams for you. Well, how can you expect anyone to believe in your dreams, if you don’t wholeheartedly believe in them yourself?

Early on in singer and entertainer Barbra Streisand’s illustrious career, she went to an audition at St. James Theater for “I Can Get It For You Wholesale”. She arrived looking frazzled and unkempt and spilled sheet music all over the floor when she crossed the stage.  It was a situation that most actresses would have been humiliated to find themselves in. But Barbara—or Babs, as her fans like to call her—-has always been one to handle things in stride.  She played up the comedic part of the situation, leading the production staff to wonder if she was a kook or merely a brilliant comedian. In fact, she made such a splash that she was asked back for another audition with the celebrated Broadway producer, David Merrick, who was eventually persuaded into casting Barbra in the part of Miss Masselstein, even though the role was written for an actress in her fifties.

As you see, those who make their dreams a reality are rarely afraid to take chances. That’s because they know that there are times when taking a risk is the only option that will get them anywhere near the results they are after. This is why you must not let yourself be satisfied with painting a rainbow in a few lackluster shades. If you want to make things start happening in your life, paint your rainbow in the boldest colors you can find! Although pastel hues are becoming when it comes to baby shower decor and bridesmaids’ dresses, living a life in pastel colors is only going to make you feel powerless and ineffective. Imagine if every actress who showed up at the Oscars each year wore a gown that was in a pastel shade? After awhile, even if you thought the dresses were pretty, you would begin to be bored by the lack of color.

Well, how can you expect to get excited about a life that is painted in pale hues? If your life was a canvas, what colors of paint would you use to create your picture?? Would you use all the colors of the rainbow, or would your restrict yourself to shades of gray? Would you choose bold, passionate red and bright, vibrant yellow and cool, brilliant blue. . .or, would you water these colors down by adding lots of white? If  you could create a canvas that would represent your ideal life, what would it look like? Who would be part of your ideal life? What career would you be involved with? What city or state would you be living in? Would those people who are closest to you now still be the ones you would turn to? When you stop to answer all these questions, you start gaining clarity about your life. Certain things that haven’t been clear before start to become obvious. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel the freedom to think in terms of our “ideal lives” because we’re so caught up in our day-to-day existence. In a way, some of us may fear thinking in terms of “the ideal” as it will only make us more aware of how different our lives are from what we would consider the “life of our dreams”.

However, until we fully allow ourselves to embrace the liberating experience of self-awareness, we will never be able to make even one of our dreams a reality, for we’ll never be honest with ourselves about what has to change in order to make our dream come true.  Although it pains me to admit this, there are some people who simply live in what I would call a “state of oblivion”. These people labor under the illusion that somehow, in some miraculous way, their lives are going to turn around for the better even though they’re not making any consistent effort to change them. Sometimes they fantasize about winning the lottery or, perhaps, finding a rich man or woman to marry. Or they imagine that a talent scout will approach them in a supermarket or shopping mall and offer them a movie contract.  Now, I’m not saying that such scenarios are not possible. However, to depend on such fanciful twists of fate is not going to bring a person any closer to his or her dreams.

So, what’s the difference in believing in dreams that others would consider to be impossibilities and fantasizing about winning the lottery? Well, your personal dreams are something that you have control over. You can decide what dream to pursue, and you can begin to back up that which you yearn for with definitive actions. On the other hand, whether or not you win the lottery is something that you have very little control over. And we’ve already examined how important it is to focus on the things that we actually have power over as opposed to the things that are not under our control. Believe me, when you begin to become aware of all the things in your life that you really do have control over, you’ll start to see that not nearly as much is left up to chance—or fate, as some might call it—as you might think. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, you aren’t even dependent on whether or not a rainbow appears in the sky because you can paint your own. Similarly, if you prefer, you can paint a series of dark storm clouds. Do you see how much power you really do wield over your own destiny? I think that more than anything else, what holds people back is fear. And, to a certain extent, I think they are afraid of their own power. They think that once they start making changes, they’ll move outside their comfort zone and nothing will be the same. Well, indeed you will move outside of your comfort zone when you start designing that life you’ve always dreamed of. You see, your mind has been conditioned to accept things as they are, which means that even if what you’re pursuing is what you frantically yearn for, there will be a part of you that tries to sabotage your efforts. The only thing to do is to push past that fear. Sure, that’s easier said than done. But the only alternative is to wait for the fear to go away, and that isn’t going to happen because as long as you try anything new, you will experience fear.

In fact, you’re probably going to experience fear when you start to paint your rainbow. You’ll worry that you aren’t using the right shades of paint. . .or that the canvas you’ve chosen to paint the rainbow on is too big or too small.  Yet, I think you’ll also realize that these fears are perfectly natural, and that the fact  you’re having them shows that you’re doing precisely what you should be doing.  Even though some of you aren’t going to be happy about this, security is going to be something you’ll have to give up if you’re going to make your dreams come true. So, you might as well get used to living on the edge because it’s the only kind of life that’s going to get you to the destination you desire!

In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait until tomorrow to start painting your rainbow. Why should you sit looking at a grey sky or a blank canvas for another day?

Until soon.  .  .live with passion and make each 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

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