Creating Your Vision

I’ve spoken about vision in earlier blog articles, but as I look upon life as a laboratory and as myself as a scientist in this laboratory, I want to look at vision from two different perspectives. There is the vision of our outer world, which may involve the plans we hold for our future, and the vision of our inner world, which pertains to our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Although it may not be immediately obvious that these two kinds of vision can work together, I’m going to look at the possibility that they can.

Before any type of plan can be created do you not have to form a conception of it in your mind? And without seeing yourself clearly, what sort of plans will you create? If you see yourself as a loving, kind, caring, and giving individual but, in reality, you are self-centered, insensitive, and critical, how can you possibly design a plan for your life that will ever be achievable? The opportunities that you will expect to find will never come your way and any romantic relationship that you pursue will never be successfully sustained. Even friendships may dissolve almost as quickly as they began. Of course, if you are living with an inaccurate self-concept, you will find yourself asking in bewilderment, “Why don’t I ever seem to have any luck?”

Without self-honesty, there can be no genuine success or fulfillment because even if the rest of the world holds you in high esteem, you’ll never be happy with yourself. And how can any amount of public approbation replace self-respect? The problem is, that no amount of my encouraging you to look within yourself and acknowledge your true self will ever do any good until you are so dissatisfied with how your life is going that you are willing to do so on your own. How are you going to reach that point? This is something that only you can answer.  I suppose it may depend upon whether you want to continue to live in a world of half-truths or whether you wish to experience a genuine awakening.

When I mentioned enlightenment in a previous article, it was assumed by a few people that I was speaking of the type of “enlightenment” that comes from religion. Unfortunately, our society encourages us to attach labels to things as quickly as possible. Thus, rather than taking the time to consider the various ways in which a word, term, or phrase can be meant, we immediately label it in some way.

Perhaps, labels give us a sense of security.  After all, don’t we oftentimes find ourselves reaching for the name-brand products at the grocery store? Why is this? Because being able to attach a brand name to something gives us a sense of reassurance. Similarly, attaching labels and names to people and ideas enables us to move on without having to spend a lot of time in reflective thinking. Once we decide someone is “neurotic” or “dysfunctional” or “hot-tempered”, we’re able to save ourselves the effort that would be involved in trying to understand them.

I think that intuition has its place, but I also think that most of us don’t engage in nearly enough thinking. And, when we do think, we are usually so quick about it that we reach conclusions that are only partially valid, at best. No wonder so few of us have been successful in creating an outer vision that empowers us. We take no time to create an inner vision that is clear, accurate, and empowering.

Society encourages us to judge things by appearances and on a scanty amount of valid evidence. And we allow ourselves to be swept into the mindlessness and insanity that this generates. The beliefs and opinions that we claim are our own are as original as clothes bought at a secondhand clothing store. Yet, we opt for the security of our limited ideas and views because the amount of risk-taking that would be involved in throwing them away fills us with fear.

Fear . . . Vision. Do you see how strange it sounds to put these two words together? The two words and the concepts beneath them are incongruous. In order to create a vision for yourself and for your life that empowers you, you have to let go of fear completely. Lord Byron is, by all accounts, one of the most popular and widely read poets in the history of poetry. I have always enjoyed reading his work, but it wasn’t until I read his masterpiece, Don Juan, that I found myself falling under his spell.

What’s ironic about this is that Don Juan was a departure from Lord Byron’s other work. It is witty, satirical, and utterly engaging in a way that astonishes me. It has been speculated that this side of Lord Byron was there all along but that he felt he needed to repress it to make sure that his poetry was popular. However, most critics agree that Don Juan is Byron’s most impressive and innovative work. So, what would have happened if Lord Byron had been more fearless and cared less for public approval at an earlier time of his life? None of us will ever know though I, for one, will always wonder.

Vision, both inner and outer, is something not only that you need to find the courage to create but also that you must hold on to no matter who or what attempts to thwart  you. I have always been struck by the cutting perspicacity in playwright George Bernard Shaw’s thoughts. He may be known for his wit, but the wisdom beneath the wit is what makes it work so effectively. Shaw once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

How can you expect to be fulfilled unless you allow yourself to take your own personal journey? You can’t follow the rest of the world and be uniquely you at the same time. You must make a choice. And depending on what you choose, you’ll have to sacrifice certain things. To choose conformity you sacrifice individuality and to decide upon individuality you may have to give up popularity. It’s like being in a restaurant and choosing dishes off a menu. Choosing one entrée means you don’t choose something else. 

Many things in life come down to what is most important to you. That’s why achieving both outer and inner vision is a crucial aspect to designing a life that brings you fulfillment. The famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, said, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart.”  As painful a process as self-examination can be, there will come a time when you will either choose or be forced into engaging in this process.

Life sometimes has a way of bringing circumstances into our world that force us to take a long, hard look at who we are. We can run from everyone, including ourselves. But what we will never be able to do is hide our true nature from both ourselves and the world indefinitely. From a chance word or a thoughtless action, we give ourselves away more times than we could ever imagine. But only when we find ourselves faced with the consequences of our words or actions do we regret not having faced the truth about ourselves before.

Every day I engage in the process of self-examination and analyze my motives behind my actions. I make plenty of mistakes, but analyzing them helps me come to terms with them and also helps prevent me from making them again. I’m committed to living in an awakened state—a state that will enable me to sustain both inner and outer vision. Vision is more than merely a spiritual or inspirational term that is supposed to define a “game plan” for your future. It is actually another form of seeing. It is a type of eyesight that incorporates the art of observation and reflection.

A new pair of glasses or a pair of contact lenses can improve how well a person sees. But he/she still only sees what is readily visible unless he/she engages in reflection and observation. The difference in seeing and observing is similar to the difference in hearing and listening. You can hear many sounds every day, but you only listen to the ones that capture your attention.

In Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening, the heroine, Edna Pontellier, has a sexual awakening. But she also has an awakening of the spirit. She struggles to release herself from the confines of the society that she lives in. Her spirit is suffocated by the repressive atmosphere of her world. Yet her attempts to pursue her own desires cause her to be rejected by those around her. There are some of us who let ourselves remain almost as much a prisoner of society and of other people’s expectations of us as Chopin’s legendary heroine.

We feel obligated to find a boyfriend/girlfriend or wife/husband because society tells us that being single isn’t as desirable as being in a committed relationship. We have children not because we’ve chosen to but, rather, because society tells us that having a family is more acceptable than choosing not to. Dreams such as writing a great novel or creating a brilliant work of art or starting our own business are discouraged in favor of jobs that give us financial security. Rather than individuals, we become just another member of an essentially meaningless society where everyone is so much like everyone else that even though we talk about out-of-the-box thinking we rarely, if ever, engage in it.

Have I gone too far yet? Have I pushed things over the edge and thrown out ideas that are forcing you to step outside your comfort zone? Would you prefer me to tell you that pursuing the dreams that other people have for you is perfectly all right? I can’t do that because if I did I would be compromising my personal integrity. Instead, I’m encouraging you to let go of every dream that doesn’t belong exclusively to you that you’re holding in your mind and heart now. If you’re in a job or relationship that you know doesn’t match up with your outer or inner vision, either walk away from it now or begin creating a plan to do so in the near future.

Until recently, I was addicted to the approval of other people. In fact, for most of my life,  I was constantly feeling as if I had to behave a certain way or do certain things so that others would love and accept me. Then, one day,  I realized two things that I should have been clear to me years ago. First of all, no matter how hard you try, you will never gain everyone’s love or approval. Secondly, when you come to the end of your life, if you have allowed yourself to be influenced by other people’s opinions and have followed their dreams for you instead of your dreams for yourself, the regrets you have will be enormous. For, in not taking control of your own destiny, you’ll have put it in the hands of other people and outside forces. So, you’ll never  know what you might have accomplished because you’ll have let others make your choices for you. How appealing does that sound?

I’m not going to ask you to write down goals or plans. Why? Well, I’m a very spontaneous person, and the moment that someone tells me to start writing down things, I usually cringe. I prefer to think things through and toss ideas around in my mind as opposed to writing down structured plans. This may change for me, in time. I am an experimental thinker, which means that I am always willing to shake things up when they aren’t working.

Thankfully, I don’t believe there’s any  need to write down anything to tune into your inner vision or to create your outer vision. However, you can simplify things by asking yourself a few key questions. What are the things about my life that I want to change? How do my personal goals, dreams, and wishes differ from what other people are telling me that I should do? And perhaps most importantly: are the choices I’m making on a daily basis moving me further or closer away from my long-term goals?

Capturing your outer vision may be crucial to accomplishing what you want to achieve. But tuning into your inner vision is a necessary step in creating your outer vision. Whether you’re ready to decide what you want out or your life or not, to remove the veil that’s shielding your gaze from your true self will guide you towards the path that will eventually take you where you want to go. And, unless you’re content exactly where you are, I hope that you’ll let my words enter your soul and persuade you into letting go of everything in your life that’s preventing you from being honest with yourself. My mentor Denis Waitley has said, “Life is the movie  you see through your own eyes.”  Let us all work on developing the eyesight that will give us clear vision.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(I dedicate this article to my close friend, the extraordinary Laurie Elle, who constantly inspires me to continue creating my vision)

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Cultivate your garden!

garden13 (rose)The great author, Oscar Wilde once said, “All of us are living in the gutter; but some of us are looking at the stars.” In a way, I think that this sums up the two types of people who are in the world. There are those who focus on all the problems and difficulties in their lives. . .and there are those who strive towards concentrating on their blessings. Whether we call this an attitude of gratitude or something similar yet different, there is something to be said for those who make a conscious choice not to allow the difficulties that cross their paths to prevent them from ever experiencing any joy or contentment.

Have you ever wondered why some people with cancer that is supposed to be terminal end up living long lives yet others, who have a better prognosis, end up surviving only a short amount of time? Do you find it hard to understand sometimes why there are those people who seem to bounce back from a series of setbacks that would cause most people to give up, but do you find yourself giving into despair simply because the supermarket is out of the flavor of ice cream you enjoy most? Well, in a way, I think that gratitude is a cultivated habit, rather than something that a person comes by naturally. And, like any other habit, it requires practice before it becomes second nature. However, you cannot expect wonderful things to happen in your life if all you are do is complain about the things that aren’t taking place.

Each of us has a choice–we can either embrace our lives fully or we can live in shades of black and white. We can be like a multi-colored butterfly that alights on every flower with enthusiasm and delight, or we can be like a dead leaf that falls off a tree, only to be swept up in the current of the first turbulent wind. When you think about a butterfly, you should take into consideration that its life span is very brief. Yet, what does it bring to the world around it before it dies? It gives beauty and joy to those who see it–it adds color and vibrancy to it surroundings.  Should not each of us do the same?

Someone who comes to mind when I think of a person who has truly cultivated the garden in her life is the amazing writer, radio host, and founder of the organization, Joni and Friends, Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni, who was left paralyzed from a diving accident that took place in 1967, reached such a point of personal despair following the catastrophe that she asked her friends to help her commit suicide. But, rather than ending her life, she turned things around and let the riches within her soul blossom forth in ways that have touched millions. Her inspiring biography, Joni, was an international bestseller, and the book was even made into a feature-length film of the same name.

In spite of not having the use of her arms or legs, Joni learned how to paint by holding a paintbrush between her teeth. Her paintings have been collected by dozens of fine art connoisseurs, and Joni has also authored thirty-five books. The question that comes to mind is this: how can a woman who is at such a disadvantage make more of her life than millions of men and women who seem to have an ideal life in comparison to hers? Is it luck? Is it fate? Was she simply blessed by God or the Divine Creator? Well, I tend to agree with the words of Seneca, who once said that luck is “what happens when opportunity meets preparation.” I believe Joni’s heart and soul were both prepared to bless and inspire the lives of those around her, and her accomplishments have merely been a by-product of the extraordinary woman that she is.

The majority of us will never have to face a set of circumstances such as that which Joni has managed to overcome. So, what’s our excuse for not cultivating the garden we’ve been given? Why do our flowers die from lack of nourishment, and why do we let weeds grow as plentifully as cracked and broken seashells scattered on the beach? Are our lives of so little inherent value to us that we allow them to be frittered away on petty worries, distractions, and obstacles that are only insurmountable in our own minds?  As you and I both know, we make all the choices in our lives, whether we accept responsibility for them or not. In accepting responsibility, what we do is hand ourselves the power to make the decisions that are best for us, rather than engaging in what I call “living by default”.  When you live by default, you imagine yourself to be at the mercy of chance. You may even let yourself buy into such lies as the idea that you are born to be a failure or are meant to never have happiness. One can easily draw conclusions as to how the life of Joni Eareckson might have been different if she had subscribed to such negative patterns of thinking. I daresay she would have never made an impact on the life of anyone. In all likelihood, she would have succeeded only in ending her own life.

So, do our thoughts really shape our destiny? Can the way we see the world truly end up transforming our life in a negative or positive way, depending on which pair of glasses we choose to view the world through? I believe the answer to both these questions is a definitive ‘yes’, and many of  those who are experts in psychology and psychiatry, in addition to scientists, share this vantage point. My friend and mentor, Denis Waitley, wrote a wonderful book called Empires of the Mind, and, in a way, merely from its title, this book exemplifies the concept that our minds are miniature kingdoms over which we must proclaim dominion. All of us know that the power of the human mind is greater than any of us can even envision. This is why we need to take ownership of our mind, discriminating between those thoughts which we allow to remain etched in our subconscious and those that we should instantly let go of.

Without taking ownership of our mind, the gardens of our lives will always be in disarray. They may even end up being entirely overridden with weeds. It’s not the thorns on the roses that end up preventing us from enjoying the beauty of the blossoms. Rather, it’s those weeds choking our roses, smothering them with their toxic energy and preventing them from breathing the oxygen that gives them  life. Unfortunately, weeds don’t always look like weeds, either. There are times when weeds appear to be flowers, and they may even look particularly beguiling in terms of their outward appearance. But like anything that possesses beauty that is strictly superficial, a weed disguised as a flower will not wait long to show its true nature. As soon as it’s planted among your gorgeous flowers, it will immediately began to draw energy from those blossoms, depleting them of their richness, their vitality, their splendor, and their very essence. This is why cultivating your garden on a daily basis is so important. The weeds must be disposed of immediately, before they have a chance to do any permanent damage. One strategy to combat weeds is to make sure that you always plant and nurture plenty of flowers. 

Flowers such as as generosity, compassion, integrity, persistence, courage, kindness and faith will always have a unique and innate power of their own. Even when weeds attempt to cut off their supply of oxygen, these flowers are too tenacious to be destroyed. St. Augustine came to the conclusion that man made a mistake in attempting to eradicate such evil forces as hate, violence, jealousy, and bitterness in the world. Rather than embarking on a quest to destroy or battle evil, he suggested that we focus instead on the nature of goodness, which embodies the attributes of grace and virtue. When we strive to be kind, generous, honest, thoughtful, and loving, we are actively participating in creating goodness.  

The problem is, in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day existence, it’s easy to lose sight of those essential traits and focus on that which is superficial and of short-term benefit to us and our lives. We worry about which movie we’re going to see at the cinema or which restaurant we’re going to eat lunch or supper at. Yet, what lasting value do these activities have? Would our lives be changed in a dramatic way if we skipped the movie altogether or if we decided to dine at home? Whenever we choose to do something, we are automatically giving up the chance of doing something else. After awhile, fully comprehending this makes you see things a little differently. For example, watching a television program that is more of a way to fill up time than something that we truly enjoy or benefit from becomes a lot less important. Similarly, whether or not we get to try a dish that a restaurant in town is famous for starts to seem insignificant.

When you begin to think bigger and expand your viewpoint, the things that were important move into the distance, almost out of view. Your garden starts to look like an earthly paradise because your flowers are strong and luscious, capable of withstanding the most pernicious weeds. Sure, you’ll always need to keep a pair of gardening gloves handy, for those roses will always have a few thorns. But, in a way, those thorns make the roses even more beautiful, for they force those who handle them to use a gentle touch.

What would you like for your garden to look like in six months.  . .in a year.  .  . in five years? Do you want to see clumps of weeds strangling your flowers, or would you prefer to see magical blossoms of splendor and vitality? The choice is yours, for only you are the keeper of your garden. So, cultivate the flowers and discard the weeds!

Make each moment matter! Live with enthusiasm, passion, and courage! Celebrate life!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva 

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

Star Power!

star5I think we all sense when we are not fully engaged with life. Don’t you? It’s when you have that feeling of just trying to make it through the day. . or when even the smallest issues make you feel discouraged or annoyed. So, what’s happening when you feel like this? Does it mean you should blame yourself? Actually, I never think that blaming ourselves accomplishes anything. However, it is crucial to take full responsibility for our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. This means that we must refuse to shower blame on outside forces or other people, even if we’re tempted to do so. Hey, there’s no doubt about the fact that there will always be people around who are going to mistreat us or say unkind words. And, although this saddens me to have to admit this, we may often not be able to comprehend the motives behind the behavior of those around us. All we can do is simply recognize that everyone is at a different place in their lives. . .and some have not reached that turning point that they must come to before they reach the end of themselves and begin to focus on the feelings and needs of others.

This is one of the key reasons why we cannot allow ourselves to become dependent on anyone else’s opinion of us. In order to establish and maintain a genuine and healthy sense of self-worth, we must be the ones to give ourselves our own approval. When we know that we have done our best in a certain situation or set of circumstances, even if everyone around us criticizes us, it’s important that we put up a psychological barrier between our own fragile psyche and the negative energy that others are sending in our direction. Energy can be very powerful, you know. In fact, the sort of mental energy that is required for physically demanding activities is something that many people are unaware of. However, when you read about athletes who have trained for the Olympics, you continue to hear about what they call mental preparation. Well, preparing in any realm requires energy, time, commitment, and effort. When Mary Lou Retton, the first American gymnast to win the all-around Olympic title, was asked whether or not she felt strange or awkward getting up on the platform to get her medal, she said that she had already replayed the scene countless times in her mind.

What Mary Lou Retton was doing was practicing what my mentor and friend, author and speaker, Denis Waitley, calls the habit of “positive self-expectancy”. I must make something clear: positive self-expectancy is not just another term for wishful thinking. Rather, it is the visualization of your desired outcome. Now, if this outcome is viewed to be unrealistic or even impossible by other people, you have to decide whether or not you would rather hold onto the limitations those around you are placing upon you or if you would prefer to be true to yourself and what you inherently believe you are capable of. Haven’t you ever had a distinct feeling that you were cut out for something extraordinary? Have you ever had moments when you’ve thought that you could write like John Steinbeck or Dorothy Parker or days when you thought you had the artistic talent to one day paint like Henri Matisse or Van Gogh or do something else extraordinary? If so, did you shrug off these thoughts as soon as they passed, telling yourself that you were simply having inflated ideas about your own capabilities? Many of those who have made it to the top of their field could have easily been dissuaded by those who told them that their dreams were impossibilities. When Fred Astaire, the incomparable dancer and film star, first auditioned for a screen test, it was said that there was nothing about him that would ever make him successful as a leading man.  Fred’s detractors even said that he wasn’t able to dance.  What if Fred had listened to this criticism?  A true legend in entertainment history would have never been born!

I’m not encouraging you to imagine that you are gifted in some area that you have no aptitude in. However, if you do seem to have talent in something, and you are also enthusiastic and passionate about it, don’t ever be quick to listen to the naysayers, even if their advice sounds logical. Although we all must use logic in our thinking to a certain extent, we cannot be so devoted to using common sense that we don’t have big dreams. Small dreams aren’t going to get  you anywhere. Why? Well, for one thing, they won’t fire you up. How can small dreams ignite the flame within you? How can a little goal make you tap into your inner Star Power?  Have you read my post from July 11 called “You Are the Star”? If not, I hope you’ll do so because I make a very valid point in that particular post. I urge you to fully realize that you are the only person who can be the star of your own show. There is one small hitch, though. In order to be the star of your own show, you have to have Star Power. What is Star Power? It’s that unshakable faith in yourself and your dreams—that determination not to let anything or anyone get you down no matter what—that commitment to your personal vision. That is Star Power. It isn’t something that you’ll only find in such exceptional icons of entertainment as singers Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, and Madonna. And it’s not something that you have to ever walk down red carpet to acquire. Instead, it is that deep-rooted sense that you have something unique and exceptional to contribute to the world and to the lives of those around you. You can use your Star Power to be a supermom or a supermodel. . .you can use it in a courtroom or an operating room. . .you can tap into it whether you are building a house or creating a poem.  It all begins with believing that what you are doing is truly significant—and in understanding that, even if you don’t yet see the results of the effort you are putting into your work, it is still in keeping with your ultimate vision for your life.

The thing about Star Power is that it cannot be purchased or borrowed from somebody else. You can’t rely on someone else to lend you a little bit of the Star Power they have.  It will only be effective if it belongs to you exclusively. Like your self-image and your self-respect, Star Power begins and ends with you. And no one can take it away from you, either. For, once you’ve got it, you’re a candle that has been lit from within. You are on the path to ultimate fulfillment, and, when obstacles cross your path, you will find that your Star Power will enable you to overcome them in a way that you would never have dreamed possible at one time. 

To avoid any possible misunderstandings, Star Power is never about thinking that you are superior to anyone else. It is only about recognizing and embracing your potential, your talents, and your creative vision.  Yes, when you possess Star Power, you should feel a significant amount of self-assurance, but it is the kind of genuine self-assurance that will never leave you feeling as if you must impress anyone else. Rather, your feelings of inner worth will be so firmly rooted that what others think of you will matter less to you than ever before.  You will be like a house that is built on firm ground, instead of a castle made of sand that the first ocean wave is able to tear down.  And, even if some of your dreams don’t become a reality, in knowing that you have worked towards making them come true, you will experience a genuine feeling of self-satisfaction. Whenever, we pursue anything we do with the intention of excelling, we cannot really consider our efforts a failure.

Of course, failure is only devastating if it is permanent. Otherwise, it can be a profitable learning experience. For, the more times you fail and bounce back again, the easier you’ll find it to regard failures as stepping-stones to ultimate success. As Zig Ziglar says, “Failure is a detour. .  ..not a dead-end street.” What can become a dead-end street, however, is a road that leads you away from your dreams rather than towards them. The direction in which we are heading is of monumental importance. This is why one of the first things you must make sure you’ve done is visualize a clear-cut image of what your personal vision is. In life, all of us are on a quest—-and even though we may not be seeking The Holy Grail or some other legendary treasure, what we are searching for is an existence that gives us a feeling of significance. For me, inspiring others is what makes me feel significant. For you, it might be finishing law school and becoming part of a well-respected firm. . .or meeting and marrying the man or woman of your dreams. . .or writing and publishing a best-selling novel.  Only you can know for sure what would give you that sense of deep contentment that you yearn for. Similarly, whether or not your quest is ever successful is something that only you can decide. You hold the keys to your destiny.

So, you can either start tapping into that innate potential that I call your Star Power, or you can continue to merely indulge in fantasies about the kind of life you would like to lead. Which option are you going to choose? We are all created equally in nearly every way, but so few of us even begin to use the talents that are within us or fully embrace the chances that are offered us. The good news, though, is that things don’t have to be this way. No matter how many times you’ve made the wrong decision or how many times you haven’t taken advantage of a opportunity that came your way, you can begin changing your behavior starting now. You can take the lid off that well of Star Power within you and start making magical things happen in your life, for only The Star has control over his or her Star Power. So, it’s up to you whether you let it ferment or whether you begin using and multiplying it.

Live with passion, courage, and enthusiasm. . .and make each moment count!

Until Soon,

Your Success Diva

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

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

Born to be you!

believe52 (star-born to be you)Close your eyes for a moment. If you can’t do this now, do it as soon as you possibly can. I want you to envision yourself at a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible. If you’re anything like me, this may have been so far back that you can barely remember it. But, if you can, even if you were four or five years of age, I want you to return to that time. Really soak in that sensation you had that you were invincible, and that the only thing that could keep you from achieving something was if you made a choice not to pursue it. How does returning to that moment in time when you felt the world was at your feet make you feel?? Are you experiencing any feelings of sadness because you weren’t able to hold on to that unconquerable belief in yourself for a longer period of time?? Well, let go of any disappointment, discouragement, and/or unhappiness and listen to your diva when she tells you that you can recapture that faith in yourself that you once had. You were born to fulfill a certain role. . .to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. And just as this was the case when you were five or ten years old, so it is also the case at this point in your life. No matter how many curves you have had to evade or how many setbacks have come your way, the only thing that can actually prevent you from making your dreams come true is you. “What?” you interject. “But you don’t understand, Success Diva. I have all these bills piling up, and I’ve been out of work for six months, and my husband left me two years ago with three kids to support. I’m not the one who is keeping me from living the life of my dreams.” You aren’t?? Then who, if I may ask, is preventing you from it?? If you try to blame circumstances or someone else for the fact that life isn’t giving you what you feel you deserve, then aren’t you giving away your own personal power?? I remember when I first listened to the CD program, Personal Power, by the motivational speaker and author, Anthony Robbins. It was a mind-blowing experience for me! In fact, I wasn’t really ready for it when I first heard it. Some of Tony’s concepts seemed to take me so far out of what I perceived to be my personal “comfort zone” that I began to be reluctant to listen to his advice. I didn’t think that I had it in me to become all that Tony told me I could become, and hearing him speak of all this untapped potential inside of me was. . .well. . .just a little bit intimidating. In other words, I was allowing myself to fall into what I would call the Fear Trap. I was so afraid that I might not be able to succeed the way that Tony was trying to persuade me into believing I could that it was easier to put the CDs back on the shelf. And that happens to be exactly what I did!

Do I regret my choice?? Well, yes. . .and no. I think that there’s a right and a wrong time for everything. We aren’t all at the same place in our lives, and it’s even possible that some of you reading this blog aren’t yet ready to step forward and really start making things happen in your life. That’s okay. Although I love my friend and foremost inspiration Denis Waitley’s quote about there being plenty of time to win but no time to lose, I also understand that not everybody is ready to take on the role of a winner. However, if you’re one of Success Diva’s supporters, there’s a good chance that you’re at least halfheartedly committed to making your dreams a reality. There’s even a possibility that all you need is a little extra encouragement to get you running down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City I’ve spoken of before. You know, when you think about all the people who have had to overcome obstacles that you and I can only vaguely imagine to accomplish magnificent things, you have to admit that you don’t have much of an excuse to be what you might call a bystander in life’s game. One thing that  helps me is focusing on people who inspire me. This is one reason I’ve created two Icons of Inspiration Photo Albums over at Facebook. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Angelina Jolie are ladies whom I will always look up to, and those who have inspired millions of people through their generosity of spirit and compassionate deeds, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana, cannot help but make me feel more determined than ever to continue to pursue my goals with passion, persistence, perseverance, and a definitive sense of purpose. At the same time, I always remember that I am uniquely me. That is, I wasn’t born to be anyone else nor do I compare myself to any other person.

When I think about someone who has always genuinely embraced his individuality, I would have to mention the actor, Sylvester Stallone. He has often made comments that indicated he didn’t feel that he was blessed with a first-class intellect, and he’s also been largely criticized for his acting capabilities. But, you know what? Sylvester Stallone should be a role model for a person who has dreams that seem beyond his or her grasp. During the 1970s, when Sylvester Stallone barely had enough money to eat, he decided to start writing. On most days, he stayed up until dawn writing. Even though most people would have regarded his efforts as merely the result of wishful thinking, Stallone believed in himself enough to press on until he had completed the screenplay that would eventually be the basis for the film, “Rocky”. And when he was offered $300,000 to sell the rights to his screenplay to a filmmaker, on the condition that he didn’t play the lead role, Stallone was committed enough to his dream of playing the lead to refuse the offer. Now, in some situations, not being willing to compromise could easily mean that a person loses what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, when you have a dream in your heart and you commit every fibre of your being to that dream, you can’t let anyone steal it from you, even if holding on to it seems like an unwise decision. As you and I both know, Stallone made the right choice because he ended up having the chance to play the role of Rocky Balboa, and he was even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work. Although he was only paid minimum wage for his work in the film, Stallone admitted later that he would have played the part for free. That is how dedicated he was to making his dream come true.

So, how dedicated are you? Or have you determined what your ultimate dream is? Are you still searching for your purpose or do you have a definite aim? A lot of motivational experts encourage you to write what is called a “personal mission statement”, and I don’t think this is a bad idea. In fact, it can be very profitable because it forces you to really look at  your life from a distance. In other words, you are unable to let yourself get too caught up in the chaos of the moment. Rather, you are compelled to really review and ascertain what your permanent destination is.  When I use the term “permanent destination”, I am not speaking of death, which is indeed inevitable for all of us. What I’m talking about is your ultimate goal—the thing that you most want in your life, the accomplishment or series of accomplishments that would mean more to you than anything else. For someone who is in medical school, a mission statement would probably include a few key phrases about the kind of doctor they want to be. Rather than simply focusing on academic achievements, a mission statement should center around the contribution that a woman or man in medical school would like to make to medicine and to the lives of his/her patients in his or her career as a doctor. Am I making sense?? In other words, if you wanted to be a well-known actor or actress, simply saying “I want to be one of the most famous actors/actresses in the world” would not constitute a successful mission statement. Why? Well, those of us who understand what true success is all about realize that fame, fortune, and superificial acclaim will not ever fill that internal void within ourselves. And isn’t that really what striving towards the life of your dreams is all about?? Isn’t it about creating a life that gives you a sense of self-fulfillment on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis? I remembering hearing the actress, Angelina Jolie, in an interview awhile back, and being impressed with what she said about how her decision to adopt children from underprivileged countries and to visit and do the charitable work she has done has prevented her from continuing in what she called a “self-destructive lifestyle”. Instead of continuing on a downward spiral that would inevitably have landed her in what your Success Diva terms the “Pit of Despair”, Jolie turned her life around by changing the way she saw the world and by altering her own personal value system. When Jolie was in her 20s, her life was centered mostly around her own desires and concerns, but as she has entered her 30s, she has begun to reach out more and more to other people until, at this point, she is a true icon of inspiration. And this brings to mind something I was recently reading about what’s called the “Hierarchy of  Needs”,  according to psychologist Abraham Maslow. Our first set of needs are very basic and pertain to things that are essential to our health and lives, such as water, food, and oxygen. But by the time we reach our fourth set of needs, the focus shifts to such things as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. And by the time we get to our fifth set of needs, we enter into an entirely different aspect of ourselves because the focus is on what is called self-actualization. What is self-actualization? To sum it up at its most basic level, it is the sense that we are doing what we are most suited to—in other words, it is the pursuit of what we perceive to be our life’s purpose. If you don’t think that you have a purpose in life, you’re wrong. Without a purpose, you wouldn’t be here in the world. Each and every one of us has what is called a purpose, and, as I’ve stated before, it hasn’t anything to do with religion or a person’s spiritual beliefs. Even if you don’t think that you believe you have a purpose, in your heart you know you do. If you didn’t know that, you would have ended your life years ago because you wouldn’t have seen any reason for continuing to exist. No matter how hopeless you have felt at certain times, if you’re still alive, deep within you, whether you’re fully aware of it or not, you have a sense of purpose. And in order for you to ever realize or use your full potential, you must acknowledge and embrace that purpose. You will never be able to completely escape that which you were designed to do. I know this to be true because I have done my best to repress my own innate belief that I was destined to be a writer. Why? Well, like so many other people—including you, quite possibly—I allowed myself to be coerced into living in fear. My fear that I would not be able to achieve success in the field of writing unconsciously persuaded me into pursuing other careers.  I will never regret the time I spent acting and modeling, and I also learned a lot from my attempt to have a career as an artist. But, even though I fully enjoyed these endeavors, I always had a nagging sense within myself that what I was really supposed to be doing was not what I was spending my time and energy on. I used to come home from theater rehearsals with a deep sense of discontentment, and, when I finished a painting I was always left with a sense of emptiness, even if I was pleased with my work. I can’t help but think of the American author Carson McCullers who trained to be a concert pianist before she ever pursued a career as a writer. I’m sure that a part of her never felt entirely satisfied when she was practicing the piano, even though she undoubtedly loved music and believed that performing on concert stages around the world was what she was most suited to do. I think her pain at not having her musical career work out as she intended is beautifully conveyed in her short story, “Wunderkind”. However, just because McCullers experienced regret over the fact her musical dreams came to an end does not mean that she didn’t eventually realize that being a writer was really her personal destiny. It can take years for some of us to let go of the dreams that didn’t come true. Yet, until we are willing to do so, the dreams of the future will never be ours.  Each one of us has a map that is uniquely our own—a blueprint that is centered around that which we are destined to do. We are born to be ourselves. . .and born to contribute something exceptional to the world and to the lives of those around us. Whether what we end up contributing is something that brings us fame or recognition or not, it is something that will give us a sense of inner contentment and satisfaction. And if we let ourselves buy into the erroneous idea that we have to subscribe to the limited ideas that others try to pass on to us or hold onto the limiting beliefs that we have allowed ourselves to adopt, we will end up dying with all our potential still inside us. Which would you rather do?? Would you rather commit yourself to fully using all your talents and capabilities or would you rather watch while others who do choose to believe in themselves make their dreams come true? I can only inspire and encourage you—I’m a diva of success, not a miracle worker. So, even though I am willing to support you every step of the way, you have to be the one to make the magic happen in your life.  You can blame other people, complain about the injustice of the world, or find a dozen excuses for why you haven’t made full use of  your potential, or you can start making the choices today that will enable you to live a life of true significance. The choice is yours.  . .and only you can make it.

Live each moment of today with enthusiasm and passion, and don’t let anyone steal your dreams from you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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