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

it’s up to you, you know. . .

Okay, yes, I know that frustration is essentially a negative emotion. . .but the Success Diva truly does get frustrated every now and then.  “Really?” you ask, nearly speechless. Yes, really. One of the things that frustrates me most is when someone is unwilling to see for themselves that success and happiness are really possible. You would be surprised at how many people have told the Success Diva, “Well, I see success for you, dear diva. . .but not for me. My life is just too messed up for it to ever get straightened out again. ” Have you ever, by any chance, heard of something called a self-fulfilling prophecy? No, it hasn’t anything to do with mysticism or clairvoyance. . .so, skeptics, don’t start scoffing yet! A self-fulfilling prophecy usually is the sort of thing that has you saying to yourself, when you start having what seems to be the beginning of a quarrel with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, “Hey, this is going to turn into a big argument. I just have a feeling that it is.” Or, let’s say that you’re going to a job interview and you end up telling yourself as you dash out the door fifteen minutes late, “Well, I’ve really blown it this time. Of course, what’s new?” Do you see what you’re doing when you say things like this to yourself? You are already predicting a negative outcome. You’re essentially setting yourself up for defeat and/or disaster. Rather than saying, for instance, “Well, my spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend and I could easily get into an argument here, but I’m going to try to make sure that doesn’t happen” or “Okay, I’m fifteen minutes late leaving, but maybe the traffic won’t be heavy and I’ll still make it to the job interview on time,” you’re already predicting that you will fail. “But Success Diva,” you say, “if you knew the history of my life, you would see that at least 3/4 of the time, I do fail.” First of all, I think you are probably choosing to remember the times you have failed and forgetting about the times when you have succeeded. If so, this is only natural. It’s what I’ve done for most of my life. It’s sort of like being an actress and getting wonderful reviews from all the critics except one, and concentrating on that one critic who wasn’t impressed by your performance instead of the three or four others who said you were absolutely fantastic. Have you ever noticed how much more willing you are to accept someone’s criticism of your appearance or of something you’ve done than you are to accept a compliment? You forget about the person who said that the poem you wrote was magnificent and reminded them of some of Sylvia Plath’s remarkable poetry, and you remember the other person who said that your poetry would never be good enough to get published. If you’re an artist, you don’t remember all the people who have told you that your paintings remind them of Paul Cezanne’s. . .rather you remember that one art teacher you had who smugly asked you what you were bothering to take art lessons for in the first place. Speaking of art, I heard something interesting about Pierre-Auguste Renoir recently. At an early point in the career of the French Impressionist painter, a well-known artist whom he admired said to him:  “I assume, monsieur, that you are merely dabbling in paints to amuse yourself.” What do you think would have happened if Renoir had listened to this man’s negative words? Why none of us would have ever had the opportunity to see one of Renoir’s luminous paintings. Instead, he would have died with nearly all of his potential inside him. Rather than deciding to bring to the world of art a brand new ‘voice’ through his unique and extraordinary style of painting, he would have given up, allowing the words of someone who failed to see the greatness within him discourage him from ever making his personal dreams a reality. I also remember hearing that, when Renoir was old and in a tremendous amount of pain with severe rheumatoid arthritis, he was asked why he continued to paint, even though it caused him such a significant amount of pain. His reply? Renoir said that he continued to paint because the pain would end, but the art he created would endure forever. And here we are, 90 years after his death, still enraptured by his art. Now his life demonstrates the will to survive, doesn’t it? When we think of a man who was determined to prove his critics wrong and not to let any obstacle get in the way of his dreams, we should think of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I am tempted to remind people of success stories like this one when they tell me that they have reconciled themselves to never accomplishing anything of significance. Don’t get me wrong—if you’re someone who views your life this way or who sees yourself as a permanent failure, it isn’t just your fault. Sure, you ultimately make the choice when it comes to deciding what you are or are not capable of. However, I don’t think I’d be making false assumptions if I suggested that there have been plenty of people throughout your life who have been there to tell you what you could or couldn’t do. And I also think I could safely assume that many of these people seemed to be. . .well, experts in their chosen field. I would imagine that, compared to many of them, you felt relatively insignificant.  Most of them were probably older than you and had a lot more life experience behind them. It’s possible that one of your parents or an older relative has even been there to remind you of what you wouldn’t be capable of doing. I’m not going to say that they meant you any harm by stealing your dreams away from you. In nine cases out of ten, it’s those who “mean well” who are the ones who tell us that we can’t do something. But what frustrates me is how willing many of us are to automatically take the limitations that others place upon us and make them our own. Just because our mother/ father or one of our teachers or even our husband/wife tells us that we don’t have it in is to do something we dream of doing, what makes us assume that he/she is right?? The Russian composer, Mily Balakirev, was told that he had “no talent for composition,” yet he went on to create compositions that have inspired such famous composers as Rimsy-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin. The actress, Jessica Lange, was told, when she wanted to be a successful model at the start of her multi-faceted career, that she was too unattractive for any modeling agency to hire her and there was no way she would ever make it in the movies. Yet where is she today?? Lange, who has been referred to as a “fragile and luminous beauty,” has two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes to her credit, and she has had one of the most impressive and lasting careers of any leading lady in Hollywood history. So, as you see, the people who oft-times make it to the top of their field haven’t necessarily been encouraged and supported by everybody along the way. Actually, I would say that more successful people have had a large share of detractors rather than the other way around. In fact, I would almost be inclined to say that the more hurdles and obstacles life seems to be throwing in your path the greater are your chances of living a life that is successful, happy, and fulfilled.  Okay, I know that may sound ridiculous and unrealistic and a multitude of other things. However. . .I am urging you to think about this for a second. If an emotion such as anger or resentment can be turned around and used positively—if, for example, you can take your fear, flip it over, and use it as energy—then doesn’t it just make sense that having people tell you that you can’t do something could make you decide to prove them wrong?? At one point in my life, I made a list of every single person I could think of who had ever discouraged me or made me feel that I was less than worthwhile in some way. And believe me, I came up with a very long list. All sorts of names were on there—close relatives, good friends, professors, teachers, and even people whom I had only had two or three of conversations with but whom I always remembered because of how deeply their criticism of me had affected me. I remembered the doctor who told me I needed to lose weight because of diffuse swelling I experienced as a result of a drug reaction when I was 11. I also remembered the guy who told me that I would really be pretty if I would just gain some weight when I was 13. I thought about those people who had told me how beautiful and charismatic and enchanting my mother was and hadn’t bothered to pay me any compliments at all. Now I ask you: did any or all of these people mean to permanently influence my self-image and/or my self-esteem? Well, I can’t know for sure, but I am assuming that they didn’t. Yet I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that every one of these persons had a destructive impact on my life. Why?? Because I gave them permission to influence me negatively.  I hadn’t yet lived long enough to understand that the only way someone can make you feel that you are less than you are is if you allow them to do so.  I immediately subscribed to the idea that I wasn’t thin enough. . .or that I was too thin. . .or that I would always live in the shadow of my mother. . .or that I was some sort of wallflower who would never make a vivid or memorable impression on anybody. Was it my fault that I viewed everything that such people said to me as if it had been written in stone? No, of course it wasn’t. And if you are allowing the criticism, negative comments, and/or limitations others have put upon you cause you to feel that you are lacking in some, if not many, ways, it isn’t your fault, either. There is nothing to feel guilty of. . .at least, not so far. After all, the Success Diva has just now come into your life. Now, true, you probably had most of the answers within yourself before you met her. However, she is enabling you to dig deeply into yourself to discover that well-spring of knowledge and wisdom that you haven’t been thoroughly tapping into.

So, what is the Success Diva frustrated about? Isn’t that what you want to know? For I did say that I am experiencing a certain amount of frustration. Well, you see, it’s like this: the Success Diva can only come into your world and help you start transforming it if you allow her to do so. You can read her suggestions and listen to her advice. . .but if some part of you is still closing the Success Diva out, then she is only going to be moderately effective. And that is what frustrates her. There isn’t a diva around who doesn’t want to make an impact on the lives of those around her. Now, granted, there are some divas who try to make an impression through how they dress or how they sing. . .or, well, simply by how they enter a room. But this diva is more interested in you than she is in herself. As the Success Diva said in her very first post at her blog, it’s really all about you. Sure, I want to be happy and successful, too, but if you aren’t happy and successful, then I never will be, either. So, don’t keep frustrating your diva by refusing to listen to her when she tells you that you really can create and live the life of your dreams. And don’t try to make her believe that everything in your life is so perfect right now that there’s no room for improvement. Yes, it would please me greatly to hear that. . .however, I haven’t yet known one person who was living a life in which there wasn’t some area that could be improved. Usually, people are fulfilled and/or successful in one or two areas at the expense of one or two others. I’ll speak more about how you can arrange your life in such a way that you experience contentment in every area in the future. And, no, don’t worry—I’m not just going to tell you that you need to be ‘balanced’. I tend to think that a perfectly ‘balanced’ life is far from ideal because such a life tends to suppress a certain amount of passion, enthusiasm, and spontaneity. But, hey, I’d better not talk too much about that right now. You can’t find out all of Success Diva’s secrets in a day, you know! *wink* Besides, Success Diva is still finding out how to achieve fulfillment in every area of her own life. So. . .she’ll be growing wiser, happier, and more successful along with you.

For now, I urge you to live every moment with passion!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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