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

Getting outside of the box

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

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

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

Until soon. . .make every moment matter!

Your Success Diva

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