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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The magic is within you!

magic5You know, I think too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that something wonderful must happen before we really can expect to feel inspired. In other words, we wait for the magic to happen to us. . .rather than making the magic happen. This diva has been guilty herself of waiting for an opportunity to come her way, instead of going forth and seeking it. And yet, most of us have heard the quotation from the Bible, “Seek and ye shall find.” Indeed, this principle is at the root of most motivational programs and books. So, why do we sit waiting for good things to come our way? Could it be that it’s easier to accept the idea that the opportunities and “lucky breaks” didn’t find us as opposed to admitting that we tried and failed? Michael Jordan, the world-renowned basketball player and promoter of the philosophy that it’s more important to try than to succeed, has some interesting thoughts on failure. During the height of Jordan’s career, he was asked by a school publishing outfit whether or not it would be all right to post pictures of him in classrooms to inspire thousands of school children to pursue their dreams as he had pursued his. Jordan agreed, but only if his message could be about failure, rather than success. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life,” he declared, “and that is why I succeed.”

Now, if someone like Michael Jordan is able to acknowledge failure as a valuable and essential part of the success process, why are we so afraid to fail?? Well, I think it’s because society tends to regard failure as something that none of us should admit to. We’re supposed to disguise our failures at all costs. And this type of misguided programming is why we are so afraid to really take the risks that are necessary to turn the life we’re living right now into the life of our richest dreams and deepest desires. For example, there are men and women who marry whoever comes along because it’s easier than holding out for that man or woman who would make their lives truly complete. After all, a bird in the hand is better than ten in the tree, such people tell themselves. And, indeed, it is important not to throw away a relationship that is important to us simply to pursue a whimsical fantasy. However, I think that once we begin to “settle” for second best, we will never stand a chance of getting first best. Do you really think that any athlete goes to the Olympics saying, “I want to win a silver medal”? No, of course they don’t. Because they know that only in striving for that gold medal are they going to be able to give their all to the competition. Look, it isn’t always about the results of your efforts. It’s about how hard you try. There are many days in which this diva wonders how she’ll ever be able to write a blog post that is as inspired as the one she wrote a day or two before. But, you know what? When you write from the heart as I do, it isn’t as important whether or not I express my thoughts as eloquently as I would like to as it is whether or not I reach you with my words.  When I read back over some of my old posts, there are all sorts of ways in which I feel they could be improved. However, at the time I wrote them, I was making my very best effort.

Well, life is a lot like that, you see. Sure, you may have made some unwise choices yesterday or last week, but, at the time, you probably weren’t aware of the fact that you were using poor judgment. And, in order to keep having the kind of faith you need to have in yourself, it’s crucial that you not dwell on all the errors you’ve made. How can you possibly find magic in your life if all you’re focusing on is your mistakes? You must let go of the gray clouds of the past and embrace the rainbow of the present. Otherwise, you’re like someone who only notices the weather when there’s a thunderstorm. Magic can be found in things that are seemingly insignificant, too. For example, there can be magic in the smile of a child or in the song of a bird. You don’t have to wait for a major event to take place to feel grateful and joyful about life. In fact, the more things you find to feel joyful about, the more likely it is that wonderful things will begin to take place in your life. Haven’t you ever noticed that on days when you seem to see the world through rose-colored glasses people seem to treat you more thoughtfully and you seem to have a more established sense of self-worth? Do you think this is merely a coincidence? Or, could it be that something about the positive energy you are feeling is felt by those whom you come into contact with?

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the life and work of the remarkable artist, Frida Kahlo, but, when I saw the 2002 film focusing on her life, it struck me that she would never have been the painter she became if it hadn’t been for the suffering she endured and the obstacles she had to overcome.  The reason she came to embrace life so wholeheartedly was because she knew what it was like to live for months bed-ridden and in excruciating pain. She understood that if you respond to the trials that come into your life with courage and strength, you can actually become a more powerful individual because of that which you have overcome. When I look at Frida Kahlo’s art, her use of color is one of the first things that attracts me. It is incredible that a woman who could so easily have chosen to live her life in shades of black and white responded to the agony of living with such exuberance and enthusiasm. Truly, Frida Kahlo is a testimony to the triumph and vibrancy of the human spirit. So many of us tend to get caught up in petty annoyances and concerns. We make mountains out of molehills, to use a trite expression that is nevertheless relevant to this diva’s train of thought. We concern ourselves with whether or not our favorite film is out on video yet or whether one of our best friends is giving us enough attention. Yet, if we really stop to think about it, how important are these things? What if you found out tomorrow that you only had six months to live? Would it change the way you saw your life? Which of the things that are annoying you now would seem important? I don’t know about you, but very few of the issues I worry about on a daily basis would seem essential if I knew my life would be ending in a matter of months. It wouldn’t matter to me whether or not everyone approved of everything I did because I would be devoted to being completely true to myself. To borrow a famous quote from comedian and actor Bill Cosby,” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” The question I would like to pose to you is this: should the way you’re living right now be so different than the way you would live if you knew you only had a certain amount of time left on this earth? And, if you answer is “yes,” then why should it be so different? None of us know how many more days we’ll actually be alive. This being said, shouldn’t we start finding the magic in our lives right now? Shouldn’t we stop letting ourselves be sidetracked by other peoples’ opinions of us? Shouldn’t we cease to let the criticism and discouragement of those around us cloud our personal vision?

I’ve had a lot of you tell me how much my last post, “Capture Your Vision” meant to you. Well, one of the clues to capturing your vision is to notice the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. In a way, gratitude is directly related to magic. How? Okay, think about when you were a child and Christmas morning came around. When you went downstairs and saw presents under the tree, didn’t you feel as if you were experiencing a moment of magic? And, when you opened your presents, even if you didn’t get the gifts you wanted, didn’t you feel grateful? Now perhaps some of you will tell me that you didn’t feel a large amount of gratitude because you rarely were given what you had asked for. But, in all likelihood, you can still relate to the feelings of intermingled gratitude and magic that you felt when Christmas morning arrived. And, if your family didn’t celebrate Christmas, think of another occasion that seemed magical to you when you were growing up. Perhaps, your birthday seemed like a magical time when you were a child because it was a day that was all about you. Well, the life you’re living right now is about you, too. The only difference is, now that you’re an adult, you fully understand that you’re not on this planet alone. So, you realize that even if you’re the focus of your life, the other people in it are very important, too. In fact, if you’ve been applying some of your diva’s philosophy to your day-to-day existence, you may have even come to see that you are dependent upon the special people in your life to make your dreams come true. The well-known motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, believes that only when you help enough other people make their dreams a reality do you experience the life that you’ve always dreamed of. Now, when I was younger, I might not have fully understood Zig’s belief system. However, the more time that passes, the more aware I become of the fact that life really is more like a team sport than most of us realize. It may seem like you’re on the path to success for awhile when you focus exclusively on you, but, sooner or later, the road you’re walking down will turn into a dead end. For one thing, there’s only so much magic you’re going to find in your life when your primary focus is yourself. At some point, your feelings of self-confidence are going to be eclipsed by a sense of extreme loneliness. Although you may be experiencing plenty of success, the fact that you have nobody to share it with will eventually oppress your spirit. This is why you must both find the magic in your life and help others find the magic in their lives. Of course, you’ll never be able to instill a sense of gratitude in toxic people because they are never truly happy. Rather, they not only will prevent themselves from experiencing happiness but also they will do their best to steal your joy from you. In the most fundamental sense, toxic people are what I call “dream-stealers,” and, if you let them stay in your life, they’ll snatch your dreams from you. However, once you de-clutter your world and make sure that everyone whom you’re spending time with supports and encourages you and shares your vision, then you’ll be able to find those magical moments in your life that you might overlook otherwise.

One thing that is exceedingly difficult to cope with is when someone very close to you refuses to let you spread your wings and fly. I cannot begin to count the number of people who have crossed my path who have told me how impossible it seems to them to make their dreams come true when their spouse, parent, or boyfriend/girlfriend continues to challenge and criticize their opinions and/or attempts to sabotage their goals.  All I can advise is that you determine whether having this dream-stealer in your life is more important than making your dreams a reality. I know that walking away from someone who has had a pivotal role in your existence can seem almost impossible, but there are times when you’re not going to have another choice. Although I would never advise you to make a decision that you would always regret, the people who remain in your life must respect your determination to pursue your dreams with passion and a sense of purpose. There’s no way that you’ll ever be able to discover the magic if your world is clouded by fog. You must be able to see the beauty of the world through eyes that are full of wonder and joy. . .not blinded by the bitterness and cynicism that dream-stealers nourish themselves with. So, loose yourself and your life from the limitations that you and others have placed upon it, and start seeing every day as a fresh opportunity. . .as a chance to make magic happen in your world.

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