Journey Through My Mind 1

 

 from March 17, 2010

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

  

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

(March 17, 2010)

  

from March 11, 2010

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

 from March 12, 2010

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

from March 21, 2010

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

from March 31, 2010 

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

 

from April 16, 2010 

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

 

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

The Journey is Yours

When you step back and stop rushing through life, you understand that the destination is to be found not at the end of your journey but within your journey. The moment you understand this is akin to the moment in which you see that the problems you think that others have are more a reflection of you than of them. It is easy to develop the tendency to find fault in things, circumstances, and in other people. Yet, in doing so, we diminish our own strength.

The only thing that is within your power is your own life. You cannot control circumstances nor do you have any power over the way that others react to you. Yes, the world does give us back a reflection of ourselves. But there will always be those who will attempt to thwart you on your journey. And, if you choose to focus on them at all, understand that the only thing they provide you with is a way to more deeply understand yourself.

The work that each of us does will always be more important to us than it is to anyone else. So, accept the fact that nobody else has to share your vision with you. Even if there is no one else looking in the same direction with you, you must stay loyal to your dreams and your goals. There may be moments when you experience a sense of isolation. Allow this feeling to inspire you to cling even more tightly to your dreams. Your dreams are part of you. When you deny your dreams or allow anyone to take them from you, you are disregarding an aspect of yourself.

There have been many deep thinkers and brilliant authors of the past who have expressed thoughts about life and the personal journey that each of us is on. I think Aldous Huxley conveyed his ideas beautifully when he said, ” The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning oneself and one’s life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins a spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.”  So, this being said, the coming to one’s self is also the finding of God. Even if you don’t believe in God, when you allow yourself to tune into the vast power of the universe that surrounds you, you will find yourself seeing things with newly opened eyes.

I recently read about an experiment that was done by a famous scientist a few decades ago. He took a baby and raised her from infancy until adulthood in a room in which the only colors she was exposed to were black and white. When she was at long last allowed to go out into the world, the first color she saw was red. For her, it was as if a new universe had opened up.

Yet, how many of us don’t even notice the color of things around us? If you were to shut your eyes this very moment, would you be able to recall the colors of at least four or five objects in the room around you? Do you remember the color of the first coat or sweater that you were given as a child? Why is it that our memories hold onto some things and completely disregard others? And why have we come to take so many things for granted that others would feel blessed to experience?

Gratitude. That’s a small word with a huge meaning. But what does it have to do with you? Is that what you’re asking? Perhaps, you feel as if you’re very grateful for the things you have in your life. Well, there are different levels of gratitude. And we can be grateful for what we have yet still relentlessly be seeking more.

There are certain things that I feel we should endlessly pursue, such as knowledge, wisdom, and truth. It is healthy to be consistently open to learning—not just from books, but from other people and new experiences. I don’t want to attack materialism even though I feel that it has swept over our world and shifted our values in the wrong direction. When I speak of materialism in this way, I am challenging you to free yourself from judging both those who are materialistic and those who do not want money or possessions.

For me, happiness is the pursuit of fulfillment that is not contingent upon worldly goods. I seek happiness within myself and beyond that. I seek happiness through the positive impact I hope to have in other people’s lives. No, my life isn’t all about me, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that my own needs are significant. I just happen to care more about creating positive change in other people’s lives than I do in my own personal gratification.

What you do in your life and how you choose to live is up to you. If anyone tells you that the choices you make are wrong, never lose sight of the fact that only you have the right or the power to choose when it comes to your own life. I have been criticized for most of the choices I have made for as long as I can remember. It seems that most people are under the impression that they have a better idea of how I should live my life than I do. But, whose journey am I on—my own or someone else’s? This is the question I ask myself every day of my life. And I urge you to do the same.

The only person who can take your journey is you. When you allow someone else to steer your course or direct you along the path they have singled out for you, you are still taking your own journey. You’re simply taking it according to another person’s guidance and not your own. One of the films that has affected me most deeply is “Chariots of Fire”. Why? Because it is about a man who was true to himself and pursued his own journey, in spite of those who attempted to stand in his way.

This man, Eric Liddell, chose to ignore those who told him that he couldn’t run in the 1924 Olympics. He was the son of Scottish missionary parents, and his wish to run was considered to be in opposition to his religious faith. Yet, Liddell knew in his heart what his mission was, and the only approval he needed was God’s and his own. He knew that he had been given the gift of running brilliantly, and it was when he ran that he felt connected to the Divine. “I believe that God made me for a purpose,” Liddell said, “but he also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Had Liddell allowed himself to be held back by those who attempted to force him into conforming to their idea of what he should do, he would have abandoned his own dream. In attempting to gain the approval of others, he would had to sacrifice his approval of himself. Yet, how many of us do this on a constant basis, oftentimes without even fully being aware of it? As I have said before, when we choose something, we are automatically not choosing something else. Thus, in being true to ourselves and our own dreams and desires, we will definitely evoke the disapproval of others. This is to be expected.

And the more we allow ourselves to get frustrated over others’ disapproval, the more we inclined we will be to distrust ourselves. Allow yourself the freedom to direct your journey.  Ultimately, the person who will be left with the results of your choices is you. Don’t expect anyone else to see your dreams with the same passion that you do. To find even one other person over the course of a lifetime who shares your vision for your life and supports you unconditionally is miraculous.

I urge those who cross my path to embrace their freedom to make their own choices because I want them to meet at least one other person who supports them in the pursuit of their dreams. Our world is overflowing with those who are only too willing to tear other people down. One reason this is the case is that when a person doesn’t have the courage to step outside the box himself or herself, he/she doesn’t want anyone else to do so, either. Those who follow the crowd will never pose a threat to anyone. It’s the creative thinker, the rebel, the outsider who threatens the confines of society and the preconceived ideas that other people have in their minds.

In order to be able to start absorbing true knowledge, you will need to unlearn that which you have accepted as truth up until this time. So, if I say something that you feel is true and yet part of you rejects it, step back and ask yourself, “What does this tell me about me?” We can understand ourselves so much better than we think we can. The process of self-discovery will never end; yet it doesn’t have to always be fraught with difficulty and frustration.

Tune into the core of your being. Let go of everything that doesn’t feel as if it’s part of your essence. If you don’t consider yourself a judgemental person and yet you find yourself judging others, why do you think that is? If you often feel anger, whether you express it or not, and yet you look  upon yourself as a loving, giving, caring person, pay attention. Discover that part of you that you’ve tried to avoid. We do not have to pretend that the flaws within us don’t exist to accept ourselves. Does not the emerald with a flaw remain an emerald?

The journeys that enrich us most will never be ones in which everything goes smoothly. And only a life half-lived will be without its bitterness and sorrow. Ursula Le Guin, the feminist, thinker, and author of extraordinary works of fantasy and science fiction once said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” What matters to you? Does it matter more to you that you reach a certain pre-set destination? Or are you willing to release yourself and experience the beauty of the journey that life is taking you on?

My very first article was called, “It’s all about you.” And it still is, for it’s your journey that I want you to focus on. The title of my blog may be misleading you. You may have the misimpression that all I am interested in is my success. Well, that isn’t so. I am much more interested in learning, living, and seeking wisdom than I am success—or, at least, success as it is most commonly defined.

And how you define the term “diva” is also something that only you can decide. I would prefer you to see me as an extension of you than as any kind of healer, diva, or role model. We are all connected to the universe as fellow human beings. And even though we each have our own personal journey to take, we are also taking a  journey together. When we work with one another and not separately, we can do so much more to create positive and lasting change. Are you willing to join me?

Love and blessings,

Alexis

(“The Journey is Yours” is dedicated to my dear friend, Barbara Kaplan, with much love always)

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

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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)

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

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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

Be yourself!

snowflake3 (icy snowflake)Deepak Chopra, the author, lecturer, and endocrinologist once said, “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss.” But what if, like me occasionally, you feel as if you have lost your bliss entirely . . . or perhaps you even feel as if you never found your bliss in the first place? I have said many times in my blog posts that material possessions and such ephemeral things as fame and fortune will not give you happiness or contentment. The question is, what will fill that void within your soul?

The key may begin with making sure that you are living a life that is authentically yours. If, for example, you are living a life in which your goals have been guided  by the desires or wishes of others or you are pursuing your goals for the wrong reasons, then you are compromising the person that you are. In a world in which the superficial is often more highly prized than the ordinary and jealousy is much more common than feelings of generosity and benevolence towards others, there is a tendency to compare ourselves to other people . . . people who may or may not be anything like us.

Rather than focusing on that which we can do, many of us expend our mental energy thinking about that which those around us are able to do, and resenting the advantages they have over us. It could be said that envy and covetousness are perfectly “normal” emotions, and that those who do not admit to experiencing traces of them at least every now and then are hypocrites. Yet, when we envy that which someone else has or we are jealous of that which someone else has accomplished, are we not failing to acknowledge and appreciate the authentic being that we are?

I’m certain that you’ve heard that every snowflake is different from another . . . that each is in some way unique. Do you know what causes the dissimilarities in snowflakes? It is the discrepancies in temperature and the humidity conditions that bring about the changes. Remarkably enough, even snowflakes created in laboratory snow tanks are dissimilar to each other. It has been said that each snowflake carries the physical history of its own personal travels. Well, are we not in many ways like a snowflake? Whether they be good or bad, painful or joyful, the experiences that come into our life and the people who cross our paths help mold us into the people who we become.  And in many ways we determine whether or not the outcome is positive or negative.

To a certain extent, I am a bit of a skeptic. I do not subscribe to the idea that we are at the mercy of fate or that the stars will predict our destiny. Yet, how we use our minds on a daily basis truly will impact the way that our lives continue and end. All too often, people become so accustomed to destructive thought patterns that they develop the habit of thinking negatively, even when they are unconscious of it. To a significant extent, the environment in which we were raised as children influences how we see the world when we are adults. If we were discouraged from expressing ourselves in a way that enabled us to appreciate our own uniqueness–if, for instance, we were compared to other siblings or experienced abuse or neglect–we will tend to look upon the world as being intensely competitive. We may even see it as a hostile universe where no one can be trusted, not even those to whom we are closest. The danger is when we allow ourselves to subscribe to the idea that this type of vantage point is based in reality.

Indeed, the world is competitive in many ways, and, yes, it can be cold and brutal. But that does not mean that we are doomed to lead lives of what author Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet desperation”. Even if we have suffered nothing but abuse, betrayal, and pain up until this time, if we do not believe that our lives can turn around for the better, it isn’t the universe or fate that is placing a curse upon us. Rather, we are placing a curse upon ourselves.

Stephen Covey has spoken of how there are two types of people in this world: those who are effective and those who are ineffective. Covey believes that the ineffective people are those who allow life to happen to them . . . those who think that they were born under an “unlucky star” or who somehow think the forces of the universe are conspiring to make their lives miserable. The ineffective people are the first to cast blame on others for the mistakes they made, for many times admitting their own guilt would chip away at their already fragile self-esteem.

Conversely, effective people are those who are willing to admit their mistakes and who do their best to profit by them. They tend to disregard such terms as “destiny” and “fate” and refuse to accept the idea that they do not have power over most of the events that take place in their lives. To a large extent, ineffective people are guided by their emotions. Instead of stopping to think before they act, they frequently behave rashly, only to be perplexed, bewildered, and overwhelmed when the ramifications of their actions leave them playing the part of the “victim”.

At many times in my own life, I have been an ineffective person. Having come from a dysfunctional family, I did not have the role models I would have needed growing up that would have enabled me to effortlessly become an effective individual. When  you already feel inadequate or have issues with your self-image, the last thing you want to do is accept the fact that you have had a pivotal part in the mess that you’ve made of a specific situation, a career, or an important relationship. However, until you can see yourself clearly and objectively–until you can look in the mirror and see the real you rather than an idealized image of yourself–how will you ever create a personal vision for your life?

I find it interesting that, according to scientific studies, a large percentage of people see both themselves and their lives as being better than they actually are.  Could it be that gaining clarity about every aspect of our life is too painful for many of us to bear on a psychological level? And, if so, is the short-term attempt to sugarcoat our lives going to bring us long-term happiness, or will it only prevent us from ever experiencing true bliss? If you chose to ignore all the flaws in a diamond or an emerald, would those flaws go away? Even if the gem appears to be flawless from a distance or to an unobservant eye, would it diminish the imperfections?

 As I have said before, we are all, in a way, a gem that is in the process of being polished. But if there are flaws that we need to work to eliminate first, all the polishing in the world isn’t going to make us into the person that we want to be. Although many thinkers, philosophers, and authors have expressed this thought in similar words, I still believe that Gandhi said it best: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” One person cannot even begin to change the world, but if we want to see the world start to change, we should start with changing ourselves.

I have found that one of the most important things we can do–an essential step in starting to embrace our own authentic selves–is to let go of the judgements and assumptions we make about other people. When we begin to criticize those around us, we shift the focus from something that we have control over to something that is completely outside our “zone of power”. While you do not have to agree with others or even pretend to, to let the people whom you know have their own opinions and views on every subject, even those which you feel vehement about, is mandatory for creating the life of your dreams. Ultimately, the only life you are going to live is your own. And, no matter what anyone else does, whether you agree with it or not, your own decisions, thoughts, and opinions are the only ones you have the right to establish, change, or sustain.

A lot of complications that come into our lives stem from our inability to separate that which we can control from that which we cannot control. Author and speaker Wayne Dyer has used the label “authoritarian” to describe those people who have the need to force others to subscribe to their same views and opinions. I think that authoritarians oftentimes seek a sense of self-importance that comes from shoving their beliefs down someone else’s throat. But, even if they are successful at doing this, that feeling of self-importance that they want to experience will continue to elude them.

The only way that you will feel important is if you establish a definitive sense of self-worth within yourself . . . and nobody else can give that to you, even if they share all of your beliefs and opinions. In fact, there is no amount of money on earth and no relationship, no matter how fulfilling it may seem, that will give you a feeling of self-worth if you don’t already experience that inside yourself. You have to let go of what you think you should be and what others have told you that you could or couldn’t be to become the person that you’re meant to be. Sometimes, that which will give us ultimate satisfaction in life is so far removed from that which anyone else has encouraged us to pursue that we feel as if we are walking alone down a road that is dark and lonely, bordered by trees on both sides. There may not be anyone there to tell us that we’re making the right choice–it may be a case of us having to trust our instincts about what is right for us.  

A man who had to carve his own niche in life, in spite of criticism from everyone around him, was Wilson Bentley, the farmer who went on to compile the most remarkable photographic collection in history. What were the photographs of? Snowflakes. Although the idea of studying snowflakes would not inspire most people, Bentley was utterly inspired by the magnificence of what he referred to as his “snow blossoms”. Because he followed his instincts and embraced his own extraordinary potential, he not only found his bliss but also stayed connected to it.

In one scientific paper that Bentley wrote about his studies of snowflakes, he used the word “beauty” or “beautiful” forty times in a mere nine pages. To be so enraptured with one’s work is what anyone would surely desire. If more of us were this enthralled with the career path we decided upon, think of what our world would be  like! Rather than a society made up primarily of people leading a humdrum existence that never fills up the void within them, people would wake up each day feeling exuberant and glad to be alive for another twenty-four hours.

Isn’t that the way you want to live? Don’t delude yourself into imagining that you will find bliss or contentment through anything other than fulfilling your individual purpose in the world. If you look at those who have millions of dollars and are famous around the world, only a mere handful of them are truly happy. Shakespeare may have said that the world is a stage and we are all players, but, if you could trade in a “fake” life, a makeshift existence that is leaving you empty and unfulfilled, wouldn’t you do so in a heartbeat? It doesn’t matter what we’ve been told that we must survive . . . whether we have subscribed to the idea that life is difficult and unfair and we must simply bear with it. We are not a character out of a novel by Charles Dickens, and we do not go through our entire existence being miserable and unhappy. Although great works of literature, art, and music have been produced through emotional and physical suffering, it wasn’t necessarily because of this suffering that these masterpieces were produced but rather in spite of them.

I am learning so much about life as I write my blog and share my insight with you. There are so many questions I still have in regard to how optimal happiness is attainable and how we can differentiate between dreams and goals that are realistic and those that will always be just beyond our grasp. Having not written a blog post in nearly three weeks, I have had quite a lot of time to reflect upon my own life and to recommit to being the kind of Diva who will truly make a difference in the lives of those who read my blog. You and I are on this journey together . . . and that is something I hope you will never forget.

For today, it is my heartfelt wish that you will look upon yourself as a snowflake, in human form . . . a unique being entirely different from anyone else. I want you to pursue the destiny that is yours alone. It is waiting for you, but only you can discover it and fulfill it.

Live with enthusiasm, faith, confidence, and passion!

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages are written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva

Surrender to Life!

believe172I’m sure that you’ve heard the saying about winning the battle but losing the war. Well, what does that mean, and how does it happen? Oftentimes I think those who wish to accomplish great success have a certain mind-set. This mind-set is rooted in the concept that in order to achieve you must be fighting an uphill struggle constantly. The problem with this philosophy is that, sooner or later, you will deplete yourself of all your resources. I’ve spoken about this in a previous blog post, but, as time has gone on, I have become more and more aware of how it applies to my own life.

An incessant struggle ends up causing you a lot of anxiety and fear, whether you’re always consciously aware of it or not. To be the authentic You, the You that you want to be to surmount obstacles and use your unique potential, you have to establish and maintain an inner sense of peace and calm. Waves of turbulence would be fine if you were an ocean instead of a person. But you are a person and therefore should treat yourself with a certain amount of gentleness.

First of all, it’s essential that you let go of all fears you have about not achieving your goals or making your dreams into a reality. Secondly, it’s crucial that you understand that you’ll have to let go of some things in order to bring certain other and better things into your life. We usually associate the word “sacrifice” with something negative. It implies that you’re giving up something that you want or need. If you go on a diet, you might speak of sacrificing chocolate candy or ice cream or french fries or some other food that you particularly enjoy.

However, the sacrifice I’m speaking of should be regarded as something entirely beneficial for you and your  life. You may actually have to sacrifice your inordinate desire to succeed in order to experience true success. If that sounds like a contradiction on my part, let me explain.

When you experience a hunger for anything–whether it be food or fame, money or sex or something else–your body moves into a mode of tension that will not let up until your need is satisfied. But, what if that need cannot be immediately satisfied? How will you cope with a state of ceaseless tension or anxiety? The answer is, in letting go. Even if it seems like you are miles away from achieving anything significant, until you acknowledge the success that you’ve achieved thus far, no matter how minimal it seems to be, you will not accomplish more. To remind yourself constantly of that which you haven’t done or are not yet able to achieve will diminish your self-esteem and create a psychological barrier between you and ultimate accomplishment.

For most of my life, I’ve been someone who might easily be referred to as an overachiever. At the times when I’ve not achieved something, I’ve still maintained the mind-set of an overachiever. What does this mean? Well, I’ve always had difficulty relaxing and enjoying life for the miracle that it is.

Instead of living in the present, I’ve lived between a past in which I feel I haven’t accomplished enough and a future in which I have envisioned myself not accomplishing even half of what I might desire. Naturally, this has prevented me from experiencing the level of success that I might have enjoyed otherwise. And at this point in time, I recognize that I’ve been walking down the wrong path. Instead of walking down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of my dreams, I’ve been walking through a forest of painful memories and shattered dreams. Rather than a fairy tale, I’ve been living in a nightmare of my own making. So, where did everything go wrong? How did I end up locking myself up in a dungeon of misery and dissatisfaction?

I don’t honestly think that we can always explain the twists and turns of life. Nor do I think we can necessarily analyze our choices and reactions to the circumstances that take place–no matter how much we might want to. To try to examine every detail of our existence would be like attempting to explain an exquisite work of art or to analyze a symphony or some other piece of complex music. We can conjecture and come to a few conclusions. But, just as many literary critics perceive what they wish to see in a work about which they’re writing, so we, when it comes to our lives, can only make random guesses as to why specific things have taken place.  Although it’s important to take responsibility for our lives and the choices we make, it’s impossible to completely comprehend many of our actions.

However, what we need is to surrender ourselves to life and that which comes our way. We need to combine striving for excellence with letting go of our fears of failure. When we come to a fork in the road of our lives, we need to stand still and actually listen to our own heartbeat. We’ll find ourselves at one with the harmony of the universe. There we’ll accept ourselves for the person that we are, in spite of whatever flaws or shortcomings we possess. That moment–the moment when we’re completely fearless–is when we will leave an open window for magic to come into our world. Miracles can only happen to those who are receptive to them, and fear is a great inhibitor. As long as you fear anything, whether it be failure or even death, you will not be able to use your full potential or experience personal success or fulfillment.

When I think of a story that demonstrates how easy it is to give up almost everything you have because of a desire to have achieved more in life, the classic black-and-white film It’s a Wonderful Life comes to mind. If you have seen the film, you probably remember how close George Bailey (played by actor Jimmy Stewart) came to ending his life. He had a beautiful wife he loved and who loved him as well as a healthy family and a host of friends.

But George reached that moment of despair when he could not look past the misery of the moment to the long-term consequences of a rash action. It was only through the divine intervention of an angel that he regained his faith in life and his desire to continue living. When that angel showed George what the lives of those whom he was thinking of deserting would be like if he committed suicide, George understood what a mistake it would be for him to end his life. In those minutes when George could only think of death, he also thought of all the exquisite dreams he had abandoned in order to live what some would think of as a humdrum existence as an “ordinary” husband and father and wage earner.  

In a way, the novel Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates echoes this same theme. It tells of a man and woman who end up living a life that neither of them would have chosen, simply because of a certain set of circumstances that came about. But whereas in Revolutionary Road the husband and wife don’t learn to accept their lives without constantly yearning for more, in It’s A Wonderful Life Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed manage to be content with what they have. Granted, a great deal more complexity exists in Yates’ novel than there is in the nostalgic holiday film. But each has a valuable message we can apply to ourselves and our lives.

Moreover, I think a valid point can be made–namely, that we can destroy ourselves by never being satisfied with what life has brought us. This lack of satisfaction is one reason that society is full of people who live in a continual state of unhappiness. They assume that another child, a new car or gadget, a new house, a trip to Europe, or something similar will give them the joy and satisfaction that they have not yet found. But, joy begins with a state of mind that lives in the present–a state of mind that can look at the beauty in everyday existence rather than at that which hasn’t yet been accomplished or acquired.

In another blog post some two months ago, I spoke about the importance of having a “vision”. Well, to have a vision is necessary. But not if it means that you’re incapable of enjoying today. You must surrender yourself to the present in order to get in touch with your destiny. And you must also surrender your ideas about how things must be in order to leave room for your subconscious to guide you. Unlike your conscious mind which acts like a self-critic, who is always there to tell you what won’t work or what you cannot do, your subconscious mind allows you the freedom to explore a myriad of possibilities in every aspect of your life.  When you’re guided by your subconscious, it’s like being a child again–fearless and intrepid, without mental tapes playing in your mind telling you about all the things that are unrealistic or unacceptable or just plain “bad”.

There will always be critics out there to try to make you feel less capable than you are. A few naysayers have told this Success Diva that I’m too compassionate and that I care too much for others. I’ve also been criticized for calling myself a “diva” since the term can have negative connotations.  But it’s our lives we’re leading–not someone else’s. We have to do what we think is best. When you start freely using such words as “Powerful” and “Successful” about yourself, some people will actually back away from you. But it’s only because it evokes feelings of inadequacy and/or insecurity in them.

Do not ever be afraid to go after that which you want with gusto and determination. Those who sit or stand on the sidelines watching the show are there because they did not dare to take part in the production. Seldom is it a lack of talent or intelligence or good looks or personality which prevents someone from achieving his or her goals. Generally, it is fear–either fear of criticism or fear of failure, or a little bit of both. Although it’s rarely possible to be completely impervious to other people’s opinions, it’s nevertheless crucial that you follow your own instincts and make the choices that you know in your heart are best for you, regardless of what others may think.

One thing that you must be prepared for is abandonment by some of your friends and, perhaps,  even family members. When you start to transform yourself from a timid or fearful person who felt incapable of making big dreams come true into someone who’s willing to step onto that path that will take him or her to his or her dreams, you’ll notice that some people simply can’t handle it. It isn’t that these people want you to fail, per se. They simply do not want you to succeed.

As difficult as it may be to comprehend, they would rather see a stranger excel in your chosen field than they would you. Of course, they will only end up bringing unhappiness into their lives with this type of mind-set. However, everyone is at a certain place in his or her life. And some people truly are not yet at the place where they can allow others to succeed when they themselves are not successful.

Every year, many people turn on the Academy Awards Ceremony to see actors and actresses whom they revere win coveted  gold statuettes that they themselves wish they could possess. Oftentimes, those who watch these award shows with such intense interest covet the fame and glory that these celebrities have gained. Yet, would these same envious onlookers be willing to make the sacrifices that those actors and actresses have made? Would they have been willing to wait tables just to pay for acting classes? Would they have given up spending money on things they desired, but didn’t need, in order to pay for training in singing, dancing, modeling, or acting? You might be surprised to learn how infrequently people are willing to sacrifice their immediate wants for their long-term dreams.

This brings me to what I said about winning the battle but losing the war. What are you holding onto in your life right now that you would need to give up in order to start making your dreams come true? Would you have to stop watching so much television? Would you have to stop drinking excessively? Would you have to make dietary changes or start managing your finances more shrewdly? Only you know what changes are necessary, and only you can decide whether it’s worth making those changes. If you would rather just survive instead of thrive, then you can continue living as you are now. However, if you would like to experience the sheer ecstasy of thriving, if you would like to stop being tormented by the chaos of the world around you, if you have goals that seem more like wishes because you see no hope of them coming true, tap into that courage and resilience that you already have within you and surrender to your destiny!

Make the most of today and cherish every moment! Live with passion, enthusiasm, courage, and confidence. Live Without Limits, Success Diva style!

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

Exploit Your Potential!

ballerina25There are moments in our lives when we feel as if there is no one to turn to. Or, perhaps, there are people to turn to, but deep within ourselves we know that they would never truly comprehend what we are going through. It’s not always easy to ascertain that which is genuine from that which is fake. It’s rather like lab-created gems. There are many jewels that are the product of a laboratory instead of nature. Yet they appear so authentic that even a jeweler is unable to tell the difference at first glance. These jewels that are “created” by lab technicians are not so different from some people. True caring and compassion are qualities that have always been  rare. But in a world where instant gratification has become more of an addiction than even a habit, authentic individuals are oftentimes scarce.

This is why I stress the importance of always being yourself and of never letting society or the group of people whom you associate with dictate your opinions, your thoughts, or your actions. To a certain extent, you have to exploit yourself  in order to completely embrace life. You must exploit your own potential before anyone else does, for, at the end of your existence here on earth, the person who is going to be left with regrets will be you. The actress Bette Davis once said, “Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.” And Davis demonstrated her steely determination by fighting relentlessly for the roles she got. At her prime, she was the highest paid woman in America, and, during a time when the entertainment industry was dominated by men, Davis set the stage for the powerful leading actresses who have followed in her footsteps such as Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, and Jodie Foster.

In keeping with Bette Davis’ personal motto, what would you attempt to do if you knew with absolute certainty that you simply could not fail? Would the choices you’re making in your life right now be different than they are? If you have any role models or people whom you look up to, whether dead or alive, do you think that they allowed themselves to become overcome with feelings of self-doubt? Or did they live fearlessly?

I have always admired the dancer Isadora Duncan, who dared to be herself both in her career and in her personal life. She was an original, and she was proud of it. It’s true that Isadora did not always use the wisest judgment. But at least she pursued her dreams and made them into a reality by her willingness to take risks and fly in the face of convention. Who wants to conform to what society tells us we should be? In an era when women who had children out-of-wedlock were branded and crucified, Isadora held her head up high and bore two children by two separate lovers. While this lifestyle isn’t something I’m condoning, what I do admire is Isadora’s determination to hold onto her self-respect in a world in which everyone was attempting to take it away from her. Her self-worth was innate and not dependent on anyone else. This is why Isadora followed her heart and married a Russian poet who was eighteen years younger than she was.

Even in today’s much more liberal and open-minded world, much of Isadora’s behavior would be considered reckless.  Yet, are we to only admire those who live by the standards that we hold dear? I think it’s important to find people whom we look up to or who inspire us for different reasons. We should never emulate another person entirely, for, if we do so, then we are cutting short our own uniqueness.

I have been candid about the fact that I believe in God, but even if you don’t, perhaps a part of you still senses that there is a Divine Force at work in the universe. And perhaps you believe that this Divine Force created and molded each of us in a specific way. Whenever we try to be like another person or envy someone else because of his or her special attributes or capabilities, we are negating our own worth. There is positively no way that I can place enough emphasis on embracing that which is exclusively yours. And your potential is your most valuable commodity.

Many people believe that an icon like Madonna is not a role model–that her fame has been centered around the wrong values and principles. However, I think it’s much easier to make judgments about other people and their lives than it is to see ourselves clearly. We attach labels to those whom we do not approve of. Then we wonder why someone decided to label us or our actions in a certain way. Only when we let go of labels and stop being so judgmental will we be free to be ourselves. As I’ve said in other blog posts, we can put ourselves into a prison of our own making if we so choose. That prison can be made up of negative and destructive thoughts such as hate, anger, fear, and resentment. The moment that we allow ourselves to judge another person, we are actually judging ourselves. Rather than focusing on the ways in which someone else falls short in our mind, we should focus instead on how we can improve.

The great Russian author Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Who can be naive or delusional enough to imagine that they can make such an impact on the world that they are able to alter it in a significant way? Although I began my work as the Success Diva with the objective of reaching out to others and making a genuine difference in their lives, I am still aware that unless I pay enough attention to developing myself and exploiting my own potential, I will never accomplish anything meaningful.

Even though the word “exploit” has negative connotations, I am using it in a broader sense to fully embody the idea of using every bit of your potential for all its worth . . . and then some! Opportunities do not always come knocking on the door of your world. Sometimes, you have to seek them. And there are moments when you must grab something that looks like a possibility and make it into the chance of a lifetime.  Never hesitate to take the blessings that are brought into your life. If you do not make use of them, someone else will.

In the Bible, Jesus tells the parable about the talents (in this instance, a talent was a weight of precious metal) a master gave his servants as he was going to leave on a journey. When he returned, the master greatly rewarded the man who had used and multiplied his talents. He was told, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” On the other hand, the unwise servant who had buried the one talent he was given–who had dug a hole in the ground and buried it–had even that taken away by his angry master. Even if you don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God or anything more than a myth, you can still relate to the concept that that potential which we cultivate. invest, and use is increased rather than diminished.

Life can be like this. For when we allow our potential to drown in the ocean of petty worries and other peoples’ opinions, it is the same as if we never had that potential in the first place. As my friend and mentor, Denis Waitley, says in his book Seeds of Greatness, we have the power within ourselves to achieve virtually anything. “We all have the power within,” Denis writes, in the chapter “The Seed of Purpose”. “There is a potential gold mine inside each of our goals.” What Denis says is true, even if you think it seems hard to believe.

Not only is there a gold mine inside of your goals, but there is a gold mine inside of you. The very fact that you are reading this blog indicates that you have already won. Even at this moment, you are a winner for yov have been brave enough to seek ideas about how you can improve yourself and your life. You have chosen to stop living by default and to begin living on purpose . . . like a boat that has finally found a clear-cut direction.

I have spoken about the Yellow Brick Road that will take you to the Emerald City of your dreams. Well, the path that will take you to that road is strewn with obstacles. There are distractions and day-to-day worries, in addition to people who will attempt to sabotage your efforts, whether they intend to or not.  Even those who are closest to us and claim to have our best interests at heart cannot always be expected to see our dreams and goals for us. You must capture your vision yourself . . . and only you should be the person to exploit your own potential. It’s almost a law of nature that only two options are possible. If we do not exploit our potential, either it goes to waste or someone else will exploit it for us.

I have emphasized the importance of working together as a team and surrounding yourself with those who share similar vantage points to yours. This is crucial if you want to achieve ultimate success or happiness. However, in the end, it still comes down to you making full use of your potential. You cannot ever become entirely dependent on anyone or anything else. You make the magic happen in your life. As I said from the beginning, it really is all about you for no one can live your life for you.

Have you ever seen an episode from the old TV program, “This is Your Life?” If so, do you remember how the most noteworthy moments in the life of whoever happened to be honored were flashed on the screen? Did you ever wonder, “How would my life look if this documentary were about me?” When I was growing up, I recall speculating as to what significant accomplishments might be mentioned. Having been trained to be a concert musician, nearly all of my daydreams, when I was a little girl, included the creation of  award-winning musical recordings and international concert performances. I always had the tendency to dream big, in shades of bright colors, rather than shades of gray or black and white. At this point, it amazes me to remember how grand many of my fantasies were. But, dreaming extravagantly is a wonderful way to prepare you to embrace your potential.

If you do not believe you’re capable of something remarkable, how will you ever attempt it? Claude Bristol’s book The Magic of Believing really does illuminate the importance of believing in yourself unlike nearly any other book I’ve ever read. And what is exploitation of your potential but one more step past believing in yourself? On many occasions, the only true difference between someone who lives a life in obscurity and someone who accomplishes things that bring them a tremendous amount of recognition is belief. I use the word “belief” in its most profound sense for it is something beyond mere self-confidence. It is an innate sense of trust in yourself–faith in your ability to make the most out of your life and to maximize your abilities.

Although we have been conditioned by society and often also by the environment in which we have been reared to subscribe to the idea that our capabilities are limited, we were all born with the capacity to do nearly anything. The depth of the potential that is inherent in each of us is something that many people never become fully cognizant of. For, on a conscious level, it seems impossible to imagine that we can  achieve things that we would call extraordinary if we haven’t seen them being accomplished by those around us. 

When we hear stories of those who have surmounted monumental odds to achieve recognition, renown, and in many instances “celebrity” status, there is sometimes a tendency to tell ourselves that these people were somehow special and set apart from the rest of humanity, whereas we are “ordinary” mortals. In doing this, we are automatically placing limitations on our potential that aren’t really there. Yet, when you subscribe to a false idea for long enough, you will soon begin to imagine that it’s true.  It’s rather like wearing fake diamonds for an extended period of time. After awhile, you may barely be able to ascertain the difference between a real diamond and one that has been created by a lab technician.

So, instead of suppressing your potential by telling yourself lies about what you can’t do, embrace and exploit that potential for all it’s worth. I dedicate this particular blog post to my friend Elizabeth, who first used the phrase, “exploit your potential”. Elizabeth, you are one of those rare persons who lives life fearlessly and is forever true to herself. Thank you for coming into my life.

May you continue to embrace every moment . . . and to live with passion, courage, enthusiasm. . and belief in Yourself!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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If you would like my input on a specific situation or problem in your life, do not hesitate to write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com Alternatively, you can find me as Alexis Wingate at Facebook. Just send me a personal message, and I will respond at my earliest convenience.

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

Free yourself!

believe173 (bird flying)As I’ve said many times before, life is a series of peaks and valleys, and what can seem like the most difficult thing in the world is holding onto the idea that there is still a mountain to climb when we feel as if we’re sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of despair. It’s not always easy to convince ourselves that changing our life is really as simple as changing our thoughts, and, to a certain extent, it is a bit more complicated than that. We must combine actions with our thoughts to design a life that will bring us ultimate fulfillment.  When these two things match up–deeds and thoughts–in a way that is positive and effective, miraculous events actually do take place.

Those who are skeptical are reluctant to believe in miracles, and you don’t actually have to subscribe to that belief in order to bring into your life blessings that seem like miracles. One thing that keeps us from engaging fully in life is the fact that we set definitive limits on ourselves and our abilities, whether we realize it or not. These limits shape our thoughts, and those thoughts, in turn, determine our actions.  It may be daunting to think about the fact that what you’re doing on a daily basis right now is going to have a significant impact on the way your life turns out, but day-to-day living has a much greater influence on our destiny than we want to admit.

If, for example, you’re holding onto toxic energy connected with past experiences or your own fears and doubts about yourself, the life force within you will never be able to free itself, which means that you will always live in a prison of your own creation. I’ve spoken before about getting outside the box, but that concept can be explored even more profoundly. It isn’t just a “box” that we put ourselves in–it’s actually a prison. After all, some boxes can be unlocked and opened. But when you’re in a prison, you’re kept away from the outside world by bars and locks. Ironically, many people consider that they have a realistic view of the world and human nature when they allow themselves to think the worst of everyone they meet, rather than allowing themselves to continue to trust. Living can be experienced richly on a very instinctual basis, but,  when those instincts are wrong or clouded by subjective reasoning, it’s beneficial to begin examining things more analytically and less instinctively. Is it realistic to think that you can never achieve anything just because you have had disappointing results thus far? Realism and faith may seem antithetical, but, in an ideal scenario, the two should work hand in hand like two ingredients in a recipe that never fails to produce outstanding results. Does that make sense?

Realism is not and never has been the same as pessimism. George Lucas, the well-known film producer of such movies as Star Wars and Return of the Jedi has confessed that he is a cynic. At the same time, he also says that he is an optimist who has never let himself be hampered by the critics or by those who have told him that his dreams couldn’t come true. Perhaps, the fact that Lucas was at one time a race car driver demonstrates that he had the inherent spirit of a risk-taker. To take risks demands a tremendous amount of courage, not merely because it’s so hard to have complete faith in ourselves but because there are always those naysayers around us who will tell us what we “cannot” do. Since Star Wars was such a groundbreaking movie, it only stands to reason that plenty of narrow-minded people told Lucas that it was an impossibility, before he got the project off the ground.  Had Lucas not been such a big dreamer and had he not had an enormous amount of confidence in his dreams, he would not be the household name that he is today.

There is little doubt that the surest way to accomplish any dream, big or small, is to visualize its completion from the beginning.  For one thing, our minds generally cannot tell the difference between something that we strongly imagine and that which actually transpires. Wayne Dyer, the self-development expert whose books and audio programs have sold millions of copies around the world, says that the the only way to see any sort of transformation in our lives is to believe in it before we see it. At the root of visualization is will-power. We must be willing to visualize ourselves accomplishing that which we aspire towards. We have to make a conscious choice to engage in visualization, casting aside any misplaced ideas we may have about such concepts being nothing more than funky New Age ideas. Regrettably, some people are so quick to label anything that they don’t understand fully as being “weird” that they close themselves off from strategies that could make a world of difference in their lives.

Labels–in regard to people, ideas, and life itself–are something I would urge everyone to dispense of. For like deeply ingrained prejudices, labels have a way of narrowing your own way of thinking, even if you mistakenly believe that you’re only applying them to someone else. Once  you begin to label things,  you will find that you’re closing windows and doors of your world that might have offered you interesting and perhaps even life-changing experiences. It’s one thing to make wise choices and use sound judgment, but labels are unnecesary and only serve to foster a limited belief system. And, there are certain labels that can destroy others and corrupt the beauty of your own soul. Such words as “fat”,” stupid”, and “ugly” should be permanently removed from the vocabulary of anyone who wants to experience happiness or success over the course of their life. In a way, such labels are words of hate. And, as I said in my most recent post, “Cultivate your Garden,” destructive emotions are like weeds in your garden. No matter how beautiful your flowers may be, if you grow an abundance of weeds the blossoms will all be destroyed. For, just as dark clouds passing over the sky block out the sun, toxic emotions will seep into your heart, eventually leaving no oxygen to nourish love, kindness, compassion, or generosity. As surely as water quenches one’s thirst, a spirit of hate will also quench a spirit of love, and, even if you think that you can love and hate at the same time, I challenge you to examine whether or not you’re genuinely experiencing both of these emotions simultaneously.

When I was younger, I was someone who often spoke without thinking and allowed myself to give into outbursts of temper. Although I always felt depleted after getting angry, I failed to connect the fact that I was robbing myself of energy and power by letting such a destructive emotion overtake me. Those who get angry easily sometimes experience a false sense of power when they manage to intimidate others. True power, however, can never be had at the expense of others. If what you believe to be power comes from evoking fear in another person, it’s not really power at all. It is inherent weakness, stemming from a tarnished self-image and a lack of genuine self-assurance. Cowards are the ones who tyrannize and manipulate others. Courageous men and women are secure enough in themselves and their own capacities that they have no need to control anyone around them. When you think about Napoleon, the notorious onetime Emperor of France, even though you may admire his tenacity and determination, you have to admit that he did demonstrate a certain amount of cowardice. His ruthless desire for power without considering the needs of anyone else shows that he had a need to win at all costs simply to be important in his own eyes.

Do any of us really want to live that way? Do we want to be imprisoned by fears, doubts, and feelings of worthlessness? I tend to think that prisons we build for ourselves come in many different shapes and sizes. There are those that allow us room to reach our own goals, yet prevent us from considering the needs of those around us. And there are also prisons that force us to place limits on ourselves, thereby eliminating the possibility of us ever enjoying contentment on any level.  In order to be free, we have to let others have their freedom, too. That’s a lesson that isn’t learned overnight, but it’s one that will change everything about the lives of those who  haven’t yet learned it. When you free yourself, you free those around you, too. You realize that the only thing you can control and should control are your thoughts, opinions, and decisions. When you are completely free, you want to give others the freedom to be free, too, for you realize that the only way you will be able to sustain your freedom is if everyone else has freedom, too. There are situations in which it seems impossible to give another person that freedom that they deserve. For example, if you love someone and they don’t want to be with you, you may have to fight every fibre of your being to pull back and let them go. But, in not letting go of someone or something, you are putting yourself back in a prison and giving up your own freedom. Freedom cannot exist unless everyone is given the right to make their own choices and subscribe to their own belief systems.

The writer Dame Rebecca West was a woman who destroyed her ability to have any happiness in life because of her desire to imprison others in the cage of her own expectations. Although the heroines in much of her literature are liberated and free-spirited, West herself was unable to remove the gate around her heart in order to give unconditional love and acceptance to those who she cared for most. In her personal relationships, West thrived on the art of intimidation, for she wrongly believed that she could manipulate others into behaving in a way that conformed with her wishes by using the force of her will. Willpower may be a potent force, but the results it achieves sometimes come about at the expense of kindness and love. West was forced to be satisfied with the contentment she experienced through the success of her writing for even her son didn’t want to spend much time in her company. West’s objectives were achieved–yet she paid dearly for them.

It all comes down to the simple fact that there are consequences from every one of your actions. This is why you have to let go of destructive thinking patterns that include limiting beliefs about yourself and negative emotions towards others in order to be free–free in the truest sense of the word, like a bird that has been let out of its cage in order to fly. Don’t let another day go by in which you remain imprisoned in a web of false ideas and narrow-minded beliefs. Let go. . .free yourself and let the joy of your freedom be shared with everyone else!

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

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

Steer Your Ship!

boat1I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three ways to live: you can live without any dreams, you can be a dreamer, or you can have dreams and dance those dreams into reality. You can either take the initiative to design your own life, or you can let circumstances and other people mold your life for you. What you’ll end up with is something akin to a manufactured product, rather than something definitive and organic—but, hey, you’ll have made the choice. Right?

It’s easy to shrug off things like positive thinking if we’ve been living with our negative thought patterns for a long time. They’ve almost become a source of comfort to us—something that we rely upon, and maybe even use as an excuse for the times when we do not measure up to the expectations that other people have of us. Perhaps it’s easier to say, “Well, what did  you expect of me? I’m just a born loser anyway!” when we disappoint a parent, friend, or partner.

The problem is, although at first our subconscious rejects these thoughts, after awhile, we begin to accept them as a reality. If we tell ourselves that we’re overweight or unattractive for a long enough period of time, even if we’re slim, fit, and extremely good-looking, we will begin to  develop a very poor self-image. I read about a situation in which a woman went to a plastic surgeon to have her nose fixed. She had always felt that she was tremendously unattractive because of what she perceived to be an ugly nose. Well, even though the surgeon gave her the nose that she had always dreamed of having, she was unable to see herself as being pretty because she was still holding onto the image of herself as an unattractive person.  

The truth is, no matter how much time or money you spend on your appearance to try to make yourself beautiful or attractive, unless you alter your perception of yourself, you will continue to see the same person you’ve always seen when you look into the mirror. Similarly, even if you have several degrees and academic accolades, if you persist in imagining yourself to be stupid, you will continue to see yourself as stupid, in spite of your level of education and/or academic excellence. And how you see yourself directly determines how you will behave. If you think you are not deserving of an opportunity that comes your way, you will manage to reject it, whether you intend to or not. For example, if  you are an actress and you have a chance to audition for an important part in a top-notch play, how you succeed at that audition will probably be determined by how worthy you think you are of getting the part. If you walk into the audition slumping, holding your head down, walking timidly or if your voice is soft and weak, the message you’ll be sending to everyone is: “I know I don’t really deserve to be here, but I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Remember how Barbra Streisand auditioned for “I Can Get it For You Wholesale”?  She went into that theater like she already owned the place.  No one had to wonder whether or not Barbra had confidence—it was evident how much self-assurance she had by how she moved, how she talked, and how she walked. She exuded self-confidence. And I have the feeling that even if Barbra hadn’t felt as confident as she acted like she was, she would have behaved exactly the same way. Why? Well, like all of those who are at the top of their field, Barbra understands that those around her are going to value her at the same level at which she values herself.

You really cannot expect other people to give you respect and to admire you if you don’t respect and admire yourself. If you question all your choices and berate yourself for every mistake you make, what message are you sending out to other people? Do you realize that you’re automatically causing them to make judgments about you? When you put limits on yourself and decide what you are or are not capable of, you will soon find that those around you start to agree with you. Instead of saying to you, “You can do it”, they’ll start to doubt that you actually can do what you say you want to do. They’ll begin to suspect that you know yourself better than they do. . .and that you are right in thinking that you have limited capabilities.

If you have demonstrated a pattern of failing or of not living up to other peoples’ expectations of you, you have an added challenge to contend with. It’s sometimes difficult enough to get people to believe in you and your endeavors when you’ve had a great deal of success in the past. But, when you’ve been someone who has consistently disappointed those who wanted to have faith in you, you’ll probably discover that getting to the point where people have confidence in you will take both time and patience.

One of the books that meant a lot to me when I was growing up was by a violinist named Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. It was called On My Way. Nadja is a fiercely tenacious woman with a strong will and an indomitable spirit. When you hear her play in person, you sense that you are in the presence of an amazing musician. Her playing is electric. She is passionate about music, and her love for the violin shines through every note she plays. But there was a time when Nadja’s vibrant spirit and tenacity were not enough. Although she had the talent to accomplish remarkable things, she lacked the essential level of commitment. She was too busy focusing on the aspects of her life that were inessential. . .the distractions. . .the things that brought her short-term gratification. And, she had to pay the consequences of this behavior. Her teacher at the Juilliard School, the world-renowned Dorothy DeLay, informed Nadja that she need not come back for another lesson until she decided whether or not she really wanted to be a concert violinist. At the time, Nadja had been planning to enter The 1981 Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition. However, DeLay scoffed at the idea, telling her that she was certain she wouldn’t even be accepted to enter the competition.

Essentially, Nadja had two choices. She could either let her teacher’s words become a reality for her, or she could turn things around and go after what she wanted, no matter who told her it was impossible. Nadja chose to ignore her teacher. She abandoned the undisciplined habits she had been adopting and completely transformed her life. For a few months, she locked herself in a room and practiced for hours, only leaving to go to the kitchen for the two meals she let herself have each day. To simplify things, she chose to eat nothing but canned sausages and ice cream. By the time the date of the competition arrived, Nadja had brought her playing to a level of excellence that was truly phenomenal. She had also lost fifteen pounds. And, rather than simply being someone who participated in the Naumburg Competition, Nadja ended up winning the top prize! The impact this event had on her career was tremendous. It’s doubtful that the opportunities that have enabled her to become one of the world’s most renowned performers and recording artists today would have come her way had Nadja not won the prestigious competition.

But what if she had let Dorothy DeLay’s expectations of her became her own self-fulfilling prophecy? How would it have changed her life? Where would she be today? Would any of us even know who Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is? We can’t answer any of these questions with certainty, but one thing I do know for certain is that Nadja’s story presents a marvelous example of a woman who took charge of her own life. She wasn’t about to let someone steer her ship for her. She grabbed hold of the helm and took on the role of captain of  her ship.

What I want to know is. . .is there any reason that you shouldn’t do the same thing? The universe is like a fathomless, rough, beautiful, yet turbulent, ocean.  And your life is a ship on this ocean. The question is this: are you going to steer your ship, or are you going to let someone else steer it for you? Don’t imagine for a moment that your ship will steer itself. If you refuse to take on the role of captain, another person will take on that part for you—or a group of people will. Perhaps, a succession of people will steer your ship—friends, relatives, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends—those who pass through your life for various lengths of time. Some of these people will probably support your dreams and goals, and others will make you feel like you’re incapable of doing much of anything. Even if you don’t let toxic individuals stay in your life for very long, if you aren’t at the helm of your ship, you’ll still be letting anyone and everyone who comes into your life have some influence on it, whether it’s a lasting impact or not.

When I was growing up, my father frequently made comments to me about my being worthless, unattractive, and inadequate. Although part of me knew that there were things about me that must make me valuable, I wasn’t steering my own ship. Rather, my father was at the helm. And, even after my parents separated and later divorced, I let other people take over my ship rather than grabbing hold of it myself. I chose not to take on the role of the captain—I chose to turn over the power that was rightfully mine to other people. I could tell you that I simply didn’t know I was supposed to do anything else, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Although I was conditioned to believe that I had a multitude of inadequacies, I think I let myself subscribe to toxic thought patterns even when I knew they were wrong. And in letting myself be nourished on toxic thoughts, I was automatically depriving myself of having control over my life. A person who thinks his/her capabilities are limited or that he/she is essentially without value will never imagine that he/she will be able to steer his/her own ship. If they don’t rely on other people to steer it, then they’ll turn to things such as alcohol, drugs, or food to help them cope with what they perceive to be an overwhelming responsibility. On a short-term basis, these vices can numb us. They can distract us and/or make us forget that we have problems in our lives that we need to deal with. But, what happens when we stop drinking or when the drugs wear off? What do things look like when we’ve just finished the latest eating binge? Did that gallon of butter pecan ice cream you polished off make you feel any stronger? Do you feel better physically? Are you happier?  Or, do you feel that once again you’ve tried to find a way to escape from the reality of you life? If so, is that truly the way you want to live?

There have been plenty of alcoholics who had big dreams, and there have been drug addicts who have died of overdoses with most of their potential still inside them. Even though we may never know what lifetime goals people such as musician Kurt Cobain and actors Heath Ledger and River Phoenix had, it’s important that we understand that an early death or a life of destitution and poor health is something that can happen to anyone depending on the choices that he or she makes on a daily basis. Jim Belushi didn’t die because of the choices that other people made for him. His death was caused by an overdose of drugs that he made the choices to take. Sure, other people were probably at the helm of Belushi’s ship at one time or another, but whether he was captain of his ship or not, he ended up being a victim of his own unwise decisions.

The difference between those who end up living unfufilled lives or who succeed in being just another statistic and those who experience incredible succeess has much less to do with talent, education, experience, or ability than you might think. Yes, these things can help. However, what’s more important than anything else is the thoughts that you hold in your mind on a daily basis. It’s the image you have of yourself that will determine how you live your life. The classic film actor, Cary Grant, was once asked how he managed to retain his slim and sophisticated figure. He replied that he had always envisioned himself as slender. He once said: “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until I finally became that person. Or he became me.”

Even if you don’t feel you have the power to steer your own ship, take on the role of captain starting today. See yourself as having the ability to move your ship in the right direction, even if those around you tell you you can’t do it. After all, it’s not important what others think of you and your capabilities—what ultimately determines whether or not you will succeed is the image you hold in your own mind of yourself.

So, toss your negative thoughts into the ocean, and start steering your ship towards your dreams, rather than away from them.

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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If you would like my input on a specific situation, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com I will respond to your message at my earliest convenience.

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

~Be your own mirror~

mirror1My great uncle once told my mother that he believed there are two types of people in the world: “givers” and “takers”. Although I would never be so quick to stack individuals into two boxed-in categories, I think the point he was trying to make was a valid one. As a diva of success, it would probably be easy for me to become so focused on my own endeavors that I didn’t give much thought to others except in terms of how they could in some way benefit me.

A couple of weeks ago, someone who has been my friend for several months suggested that self-promotion was at the heart of my Success Diva activities although he has never actually taken the time to read the articles at my blog.  Obviously, to be successful in any area of your life, you do have to take personal initiative. You must make the most of opportunities and, to loosely paraphrase a quote by author Francis Bacon, you sometimes have to create more opportunities than you find.

But, does this mean that suddenly you are the only important person in your world and everyone else is a background player?? Are you the only star in your sky? If so, isn’t it getting a little lonely up there in the heavens?? I have known plenty of people over the course of my life who seemed to concentrate exclusively on themselves and their own needs and desires. There are even those who would say that such behavior is “natural” and “normal”. Yet, is it? Or is that just an attempt on a person’s part to validate the fact that they are always putting themselves first?

Our society nourishes and promotes a philosophy that is immensely ego-driven. We are brainwashed into believing that if we accomplish enough and acquire enough, we will find happiness and fulfillment. When we turn on the television set, we see add after add telling us what perfume we should wear, what shaving cream we should use, where we should shop for clothes, and what sort of lifestyle we should crave. We can think that we aren’t being influenced by the messages that we’re hearing on television or reading in magazines and books, but, after awhile, the thoughts behind the words begin to seep into our consciouness. We imagine that we will always remain consistently devoted to our own personal goals and dreams, but aren’t we kidding ourselves? How can we not be affected by all that we see, hear, and experience?

If, for instance, our society was more inclined to encourage everyone to think first of others and then of themselves, how would things be different than they are now? Many people think that  “looking out for number one” is the strategy that drives achievement.  But what sort of achievement does it bring? We all reside on this earth together, don’t we? The only way that focusing exclusively on ourselves and our needs would be an ideal situation is if each of us were residing on our own planet. We are dependent upon other people, whether we want to be or not.

Zig Ziglar, one of my favorite motivational speakers is noted for saying, “You can have everything in life you want, if you just help enough people get what they want.” What I think Zig’s trying to point out is that you we must embrace the spirit of harmony that pervades our universe, rather than trying to fight it. Instead of looking at each relationship as being something that could benefit us, we should be thinking of ways in which each connection we make can be mutually beneficial. When it comes to the people you love, don’t you usually think of their wishes, in addition to your own? Of course, you do. So, you know what it’s like to experience that feeling of connection with another person. Why not enjoy it in all of your relationships?

It’s only our ego that makes us think that giving too much attention or affection to others will in some way cause us to be depleted. When we allow ourselves to lapse into what I call a “scarcity mentality”, we truly fear that if we let someone else take center stage in our world instead of us, we’ll somehow end up as the understudy in our own life.  And yet, the examples that have been shown in books and films of those whose lives have been lived solely to benefit themselves demonstrate that happiness is not generally found in mere self-gratification.

The film “Sunset Boulevard” comes to mind when I think of a story in which the leading figure was completely at the command of her own ego. Norma Desmond had become so fixated on her status as a “star”, that she lives in an imaginary gothic fairy tale of her own making.  Her world was a spider’s web spun from threads of lies, delusions, and memories.  She existed in the past because facing the future would have meant that she would have had to fly out of her gilded cage and face the woman she really was when she looked in the mirror. A looking glass doesn’t lie to us, but we can lie to it if we choose to see a reflection other than our own when we peer into it.

If, for instance, we see ourselves as a generous, caring, and benevolent person, but we are actually selfish, jealous, and resentful, we will never be looking at our reflection in a mirror no matter how many times we gaze into it. When you take a few moments to think about it, it’s amazing how much time many of us have taken to try to erase a small blemish on our complexions. And, yet, how much time have we spent trying to rectify the blemishes in our soul? How often have we contemplated whether or not we were exhibiting compassion and caring to the people in our lives? How frequently have we stopped and engaged in a full self-assessment of ourselves and our inner natures? It’s so much easier to ignore what we don’t like about ourselves. “Nobody knows I’m really this way,” we whisper to our souls, and maybe some part of us really buys into that theory.

However, would  you think a diamond that looked magnificent on the surface was nearly as lovely if you held it under a microscope and saw it was full of black carbon spots? It would lose a lot of its allure, would it not? Well, if our outsides don’t match up with our insides, we’re no different than that deeply flawed diamond. So, no matter how radiant we think we are when we’re under the spotlight, sooner or later people are going to notice those telltale blemishes. It’s never comfortable to acknowledge that we’re not the person we want to be and/or that we’re pretending to be, but, in order to find true contentment within our souls and spirits, it’s much better to admit even that which is unpleasant as opposed to allowing an illusion to become our reality.

After all, no matter how many people come into our lives or how many significant others or children or relatives or friends we have over the course of our lifetime, the person we will end up spending the most time with is still ourselves. Would you choose to spend the largest amount of your time with someone who was pretending to be someone besides themselves? If you had a friend who told you that they were hiding their true nature from you and everyone else, would you continue wanting to spend lots of time around them? Well, if you haven’t been honest with yourself and others about the person you are, is it really any different?

Actually, it is different because whether or not you lie to yourself is something you have control over. On the other hand, you have no power over whether or not others are manipulating or lying to you about who they are. If someone whom you love and trust is presenting you with a fake mirror image of their true nature, there isn’t anything you can do to change that. It’s because people do deceive others and convey a false impression of themselves that many of us are quick to imagine there is a hidden agenda behind someone’s friendliness or kindness. “What do they want from me?”, we sometimes asks ourselves. And, who can blame us for wondering that? Since our culture teaches people that self-gratifaction is of the utmost importance, why would we not look for hidden motives?

What we need to make sure of is that we are not guilty of having hidden motives ourselves. It’s easy to engage in behavior that appears to be benefiting others, but if all we’re thinking about is how what we’re doing will benefit us, there will come a time when someone will start to question our authenticity. At the very least, we’ll know that our seemingly altruistic gestures are being guided by personal motives. If, for example, the only reason we take someone out to lunch is because we think that they’ll invest in a project we’re trying to get up and running, we may accomplish what we’re setting out to do, but we’ll be left with a feeling of dissatisfication because we’ll know that we had a private agenda that was intended to only benefit us.

Anthony Robbins, another of my favorite motivational speakers and authors, has ensured that his children learn the value of giving to other people. I have always remembered the story of how one of his children was given a huge bunch of balloons on a special occasion. Rather than encouraging his son to bask in the feeling of overwhelming gratification that being the recipient of so many balloons could have given him, Tony suggested that he go to a nursing home and give some the balloons away to the people staying there. At first, Tony’s young son wasn’t overly enthusiastic at the prospect of letting go of his highly prized balloons. However, after he did give them away and saw the looks of appreciation and affection on the faces of the elderly residents, his sensation of happiness far exceeded what it had been when the balloons belonged to him.  

I think what is true of the balloons is true of love, generosity, kindness, and compassion. We can allow all these emotions to reside within us. . .we can hold onto them frantically, fearing that sharing them will be too great a risk. . .or we can let go of our fears and allow ourselves to embrace the spirit of harmony that is inherent in the universe. I am tremendously fond of saying that Love is Queen of all. I imagine Love as a magnificent queen, dressed in opulent robes and sitting on a jewel-encrusted throne. I think of her ruling over an kingdom in which goblins and ghouls of hate, anger, malice, and envy roam with wild abandon on nights when she sleeps soundly. I envision her engaging in battle with these nefarious beings and conquering them not with the blade of a sword, but rather with magical words of persuasion and gestures of grace. For Love is a Queen whose power comes from stillness and calm rather than bluster, brashness, and brutality. Like those rulers who have been sagacious enough to realize that psychological combat can be more effective than sword play or fist fights, Love plays her game with chess pieces that are pure, genuine, and will not harm anyone. For she knows that truth and kindness will ultimately win, since the universe would not maintain its spirit of harmony otherwise. 

Our world may be full of those who hate and hurt those around them, but the path to happiness and fulfillment is only walked upon by those who are devoted to nourishing themselves and those around them with love, honesty, affection, generosity, and empathy. If you’re thriving on anger, envy, greed, and hatred, you may make enough money to purchase a fancy sports car to drive around in, but sooner or later you’re going to either run off the road or end up on a dead-end street. 

So, unless what you’re pursuing is short-term satisfaction or success that gives you plenty of material possessions but no feeling of inner contentment, look at yourself in the mirror and make sure that the person you think you are matches up with the reflection. And if you prefer the reflection, start making the changes today that will transform that image into your reality.

As always, make every moment matter. . .and life with passion, courage, faith, and enthusiasm!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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