Don’t struggle when you can soar!

believe71 white bird at take-off)There is a common belief that great success is a by-product of intense struggle. In other words, if we are pushing ourselves to our limits and beyond, then we assume that we must be on our way to accomplishing productive things. Is this true? Well, in my mind, this theory has been a reality for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, I would often be so weary when I would finish my music practice for the day that I would fall asleep standing up. The problem was I had a lot of times when I felt genuinely overwhelmed. I never allowed myself to give in on an emotional level, but the fact I had to strive in spite of what I now realize was physical and psychological depletion left me with a sense of permanent discontentment. How can you enjoy your success when you’re too tired to fully embrace it??

Several weeks ago, two of my friends, Timothy and Sarah, asked me to write a blog post centered around the idea of finding ways to enjoy life in spite of the hassle of day-to-day existence. In the back of my mind, thoughts on this subject have been forming and fermenting ever since the topic was suggested to me. I remember reading an interview that the actress, Brooke Shields, gave shortly after the birth of her second child. She was lamenting the fact that she was consistently sleep deprived, even though she was overwhelmed with joy at having another beautiful daughter to take care of. I think Brooke’s predicament is similar to what many men and women find themselves in on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Although what they would technically term obligations are things they know they must do—and even, to a certain extent, want to do—there are times when they feel as if they are sinking instead of swimming because their days consist of nothing but must-do tasks instead of activities that would bring them inner contentment.

At the moment, I am feeling the strain of being a Success Diva myself. I am passionate about what I do. . .and I love the fact that I am having the opportunity to inspire people. However, there is a tendency in my nature to make things too urgent. Having a chronic illness has taught me patience to a certain extent, but there are still times when I have an overwhelming desire to make things happen right now. I berate myself for not posting more blog posts or for not sending more personal messages to my friends, and I seem to ofttimes forget about the meaningful things I actually do accomplish.

It reminds me of those occasions when I have remembered the one critical remark someone has made to me instead of the half dozen compliments I received. I think it’s all part of our inherent tendency to think that life must be difficult in order to be profound. If we laugh too much or have too much fun, we must be slacking off on the things we should be doing. But is this necessarily true? I grew up watching classic films, and, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also developed a sincere appreciation of foreign cinema as well. However, since I began my Success Diva blog, I haven’t taken the time to sit down and watch even one film in its entirety. Why? Well, I have a nagging feeling of guilt when I do something that is basically just about bringing me pleasure because I feel like I ought to be reaching out to other people. How can I spend a couple of hours watching a film when there are people whose messages I haven’t yet replied to??

There really is a fine balance between making sure we meet the needs of those whom we care about and not letting our own needs be neglected. We must nourish ourselves. The actress, Ashely Judd, represents a fine example of a woman who eventually collapsed because she failed to pay attention to her own needs. She was always a high achiever, and, when she ended up moving into the spotlight at a relatively young age, I think she stopped listening to the signals her body was giving her. . .signals that indicated she needed to take more time out for her. When you come from a family of strong and successful women like the Judds, not being a role model of tenacity and resilience is probably not something you let yourself contemplate. Yet, Ashley, in an interview with Glamour magazine in 2006, revealed that she spent 47 days in a Texas treatment facility for depression and other emotional difficulties.

What happened? How could one of the Judd women end up in a situation where the world around her seemed to be falling apart? Well, Ashley admitted that she had issues with codependence in her relationships and that she had a lot of rage and anger inside her that she had been repressing for years. On the surface, she seemed to be “together”. Yet, inside she was going through intense emotional turmoil. Naturally, Ashley received her fair share of criticism for being so open and honest about her problems. But, in demonstrating such candor, she was letting all of us know how human she really is. In addition, she was teaching us an important lesson, which is that we need to get in touch with ourselves and what we’re feeling, even if doing so makes us aware that we should seek therapy or take some time off simply to nourish our souls.

Success can be achieved through pushing and struggling, but, when it is achieved by these means, does it bring us lasting happiness? And, when we put everyone else’s needs before ours or spend nearly every waking moment of our lives at work, what sort of long-term impact is this going to have upon our lives? No one can answer these questions for each person with even the slightest degree of certainty, for each person’s life is different. However, we must never focus so much on our career or on our family or on our partner that we forget to take care of ourselves.

In a way, I think that ultimate success is about soaring rather than struggling. When we break free of the expectations we have of ourselves and accept our best efforts without chastising ourselves, this is when we will be able to enjoy that which we accomplish. How can you paint your own rainbow if you’re so worried about getting the right colors of paints that you never get around to picking up a paintbrush? How can you enjoy a delicious meal at a fine restaurant if all you’re thinking about is how much all the food is going to cost? Letting go of fears, even if they are valid, can be an integral part in designing the life of your dreams.

The brilliant French author, Albert Camus, once said, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Sometimes we miss an opportunity that comes through a door because we’re too busy polishing the windows. And there are moments when we could be experiencing  joy, but we’re so occupied with our daily worries that we cannot allow ourselves to feel joyful. We are too busy struggling to let ourselves soar. But, in a way, when we keep ourselves from soaring, we’re like a bird with clipped wings. We’ve built a cage around ourselves, and, rather than looking up at the glorious sky above, we are surrounded by the bars of our own prison. 

In a way, the difference in soaring and struggling can be compared to the difference between living and merely existing. You may think you are fully engaged with life because you have a list of goals that you’re determined to accomplish. However, if you don’t stop and replenish your soul and body in-between checking off all those things on your daily to-do lists, the satisfaction you seek will be as elusive as that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No matter how close you think you’re getting to being completely fulfilled, you will find that self-satisfaction is always just beyond your grasp.

When I was growing up, I was taught that crying was a weakness. But now I see that tears, just like expressing anger or disappointment, must be part of a life in which we soar, rather than struggle. The only way that we will ever be able to push ourselves to the limit without ceasing is if we become robots, instead of people. We will come to a breaking point, unless we take time to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us before we deplete all our resources. If an eagle did nothing every waking moment but hunt for food. . .if he or she never stopped to alight on a tree branch and rest, how long do you think he/she would survive? It’s essential to practice the habit of self-discipline and taking initiative, if you’re ever going to accomplish your goals. But, there is something to be said for those moments of tranquillity when we let ourselves be quiet and still as we nurture that inner part our beings that will only be replenished in moments of peace.  For our soul to soar, it has to be well-nourished. For our  bodies to continue to carry us through life, we must treat them with care and love.

As I continue to try to live up to the expectations I have of myself, I am becoming more and more aware of how much more finely attuned I need to become to my body and my soul. This diva wants to soar, not struggle.  .  .and she knows that’s what each one of you wants to do, too. So, free yourself from your cage of expectations. Reward yourself more often for the things you do well and start looking towards success as a journey that can be paved with more smooth stones than jagged rocks. Sure, adversity, obstacles, and setbacks can end up transforming us into the kind of people we want to be. . .but we must never think we have to struggle in order to have success. For only when the struggling ceases can we soar!

Live today with enthusiasm and passion. . .and make each moment count!

Until soon,

Alexis, Your Success Diva

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

Star Power!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Soon,

Your Success Diva

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

Reinventing yourself!

believe43 (butterfly)There is only one way to truly live. . .and that is on the edge. Although I believe that we must use wisdom in the choices we make, if we don’t learn to take risks, we’ll never be able to use our full potential. You know, I lived my life with the dream that I would one day be a performing classical violinist. However, when that dream came to an end I was faced with two choices: either I could give up on life entirely or I could decide to reinvent myself.  A lot of people come from the place where they think that they have to somehow make a career or a relationship work out that seems to be dead-end. They don’t understand that only in letting go of that which is no longer beneficial can they bring the things into their lives that will give them fulfillment. It would be like keeping your closet full of clothes that don’t fit anymore or shoes that are too worn-out to continue wearing. Would you actually do that? I know I wouldn’t.

And yet, many of us are doing something similar to this with our lives. We make the mistake of trying to change ourselves while keeping things and people in our lives that are not part of our long-term vision. Reinventing yourself is about more than simply altering you. You also have to be willing to unclutter that closet! You must pull the weeds out of the garden to enjoy the flowers.

In addition to toxic thoughts, there are also toxic people, and they can be every bit as deadly to keep in your life as toxic thoughts are to keep in your mind. At the heart of most motivational thinking and writing is the basic concept that your thoughts can transform your world. Now I’ve been told by some people that so-called “positive thinking” does nothing for them. Well, if your thoughts are not followed up by relevant actions, you aren’t going to notice a transformation taking place. And that’s what you need sometimes, isn’t it? A transformation in your life.

I have had to transform both myself and how I see the world countless times, and I still struggle with breaking free from toxic thinking. Like anything that is nourished by practice, toxic thinking can easily become a habit. Pretty soon, you may notice that it’s not even something you actually. . .well. . .think about. You simply lapse into thoughts of unworthiness, hopelessness, helplessness, or despair. But, even if you have been guilty of this up to this very moment, you don’t have to continue down that beaten road that isn’t ever going to take you anywhere. Remember how I keep talking about the yellow brick road that will lead you to the Emerald City of your dreams?

When I think of someone who has constantly reinvented herself from one decade to the next, I cannot help but think of the singer and actress, Madonna. Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, I think it’s almost impossible not to admire her determination to continue to do whatever is takes to continue being successful. Even when things haven’t worked out the way she undoubtedly intended them to, she hasn’t let it get her down. My songwriter friend, the amazingly talented Anna Ginetti-Ricci, pointed out what an icon of courage and strength Madonna has always represented to her. And I found myself agreeing with Anna that Madonna truly is a woman who has been uncommonly resilient and resourceful.

Many of Madonna’s films, for example, have been box-office bombs. Yet, she hasn’t stopped trying to pursue a career in movies. She has been crucified by her critics, mercilessly attacked in the press, and scrutinized in a way that would have surely torn apart the self-esteem of a lesser woman. But she’s understood that only in bouncing back from every temporary defeat will she have the kind of life and career she desires.

The American author, Terry McMillan, probably best known for her New York Times bestseller, the novel, Waiting to Exhale, once said,  “There is a price for popularity. Critics look for your weaknesses, your flaws, anything that makes the work seem like a fluke and not seem worthy of all the attention is getting.” And Henry Fielding, the celebrated English author of such classics as the novel, Tom Jones, once wrote, “Now, in reality, the world has paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them to be men of greater profundity than they really are. ” And there’s no doubt that both Terry McMillan and Henry Fielding are right. If you don’t have some people around telling you that your dreams are impossibilities, your dreams probably aren’t big enough. You know, a lot of people might not have thought of looking at it this way. However, it really does take every bit as much energy and effort to create big dreams as little dreams. It’s sort of like nourishing yourself on positive emotions rather than negative, destructive emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, hate, and bitterness wear you down, both from a physical and a psychological standpoint.

Haven’t you ever noticed how tired you feel after you have a fight with someone? For instance, if you have a quarrel with a friend or with your spouse in the morning, haven’t you perceived that the rest of the day seems to automatically go in the wrong direction? It’s as if the entire day has been jinxed, simply because of the spat. And most of the time, nothing positive has been accomplished from the argument. Instead, you and your friends or partner most likely feel unloved, unappreciated, and misunderstood. One of my role models, the marvelous motivational speaker and author, Stephen Covey, speaks of the importance of seeking to understand the people around us. In fact, his philosophy is summed up in this sentence, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Yet how many of us really live that way?

In treating life as the opportunity it is, I feel that what we must do is transform the way we relate to the people in our lives. In fact, improving and changing the way we communicate with others is essential to redefining who we are. We can’t reinvent ourselves if we hold onto old patterns of behavior. I grew up with a father who frequently lost his temper, and, when he did, he would alienate everyone around him. He had difficulty with authority and was compelled to own and run his own businesses because the idea of working for anyone else filled him with resentment.

Because I saw the way in which my father’s attitude towards life and other people affected his relationships, I have understood how important it is to treat others with respect and dignity. It can be devastating when we allow our destructive emotions to take over our behavior. When we react to situations and other people’s actions and words with anger or hate, all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be overpowered by our emotions. And it’s our thoughts that will transform our world—not our emotions.

It’s important to cultivate a generous and compassionate heart. When we let our heart rule our head, though, we can easily get into a lot of stressful predicaments. We must think before we speak and before we act. . .otherwise we will inevitably succumb to feelings that will negatively influence both ourselves and others. An encouraging thing to keep in mind is that the more often we take control over our thoughts, words, and behavior, the easier it will become to continue doing so.

In recent times I have found myself desperately holding on to my inner serenity, mostly because I have been too caught up in letting other people’s actions influence my own opinion of myself. However, when I look towards those who have persisted in spite of relentless critcism that has been unfair and unjust, I know that I, too, can choose not to listen to the critics. I remember a few months ago when Oprah Winfrey was lambasted in the press because a situation involving child molestation arose in the girls’ school she founded in Africa. Even though Oprah was in no way personally responsible for this set of circumstances taking place, she was vastly criticized by her detractors, who did their best to cast aspersions on her character. Rather than putting the blame where it belonged, some wanted to take away from all the wonderful, benevolent things Oprah has done. They chose to try to make her feel guilty.

While I cannot know for sure how deeply Oprah was affected by all this criticism, I do know that she’s a resilient lady. She would not allow anyone to permanently diminish her feelings of self-worth. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not how many times we let ourselves be affected by the things that people say about us or the way in which they behave towards us. The most significant question is: do we let other peoples’ opinions of us and/or actions affect us permanently?

For example, if, like me, you grew up with a father who made you feel inadequate because you were a girl, do you continue to remind yourself of the things he told you and the way those words made you feel? Or do you choose to let the feelings of rejection you experienced from him strengthen you? There really are just two ways to respond to any negative situation, you know—you can either let it weaken you or you can let it make you stronger. Courage is not something that you are born with. It’s something that you learn to acquire. It may not be able to be purchased, but as you continue to reinvent yourself, you’ll start to see that courage really can be learned.

Courage is like “learned helplessness”, a term that the American psychologist and writer, Martin Seligman, coined. When you were born, you were not made to remain helpless as you grew. You did not come into the world with an inability to bounce back from the hurdles life put in your path. Any feelings of helplessness that you have now or have had in the past are a by-product of  the negative experiences that you have lived through. This is why the only way to start living a life that will be in alignment with your deepest desires is for you to replace the learned helplessness with courage and resilience. If you tend to focus on the negative side of life, it will be very difficult for you to turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. However, even if you can’t see it, if you’re holding onto negative thoughts and nourishing yourself with destructive feelings, there’s a big sign that says DEAD END at the end of the street you’re walking down. And, sooner or later, you’re going to reach that dead end. Then, what will you do?

The time to reinvent yourself is not next year, next week, or tomorrow. Why would you want to wait any longer to start walking down that yellow brick road that will lead you to happiness, success, and ultimate fulfillment? I know that the actor,  Jim Carrey, didn’t let roadblocks get in his way. He came from a family where money was so scarce that his family barely had enough to eat. Both of Jim’s parents battled deep depression, and, starting at a young age, Jim was faced with the responsibility of trying to cheer them up. Of course, he had it in his favor that he was naturally funny. In fact, he was a born mimic.

Although Jim was not a popular kid in school, he managed to become well-liked because of his amusing antics. At age fourteen, he was given the chance to perform in a well-respected club in his hometown of Toronto. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a success. But Jim had drive and determination, and he committed himself to not letting one failure steal his dreams. He perfected his comedy routine and, awhile later, returned to the same club, where he made a magnificent splash. His talent as a comedian was noticed by the American actor and comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. This connection is what landed Jim on the first step that would take him up the spiraling staircase of success. 

Your diva can tell you that she has experienced more setbacks than she would care to claim. However, my perseverance in not letting any of those setbacks be permanent is why I’m where I am today. I could never share my words of encouragement with all of you if I hadn’t first shared them with myself. I am very grateful to such inspirational people as Denis Waitley, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Les Brown, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, and Zig Ziglar for writing books and recording tape and CD programs that have encouraged me, but on a day-to-day basis I have to be my own coach. This is why I emphasize the importance of reinventing yourself.

If you’ve had crossroads and setbacks in your life that you haven’t yet recovered from, you need to start seeing a brand-new you every time you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter whether you made a big mistake yesterday or last week. . .you can start anew at this very moment. Have you ever noticed how some flowers blossom overnight? Our next-door neighbors gave us a pot of spectacular trumpet flowers. The thing about it is, trumpet flowers only bloom for a few hours, and, when they do bloom, their blossoms unfold all at once. The transformation takes place overnight. Now it’s not going to be nearly as easy for you to transform yourself and/or certain aspects of your life. But it doesn’t have to take a minute for you to start the process of transformation. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Until soon,

Alexis

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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

when you have to close your heart. . .

heart23I have always been a compassionate person, but, as I have gotten older, I have been even more inclined to demonstrate caring and love towards those around me. Perhaps, my mother’s battle with advanced stage cancer over two years ago has had something to do with my desire to truly be a loyal and supportive friend to the people in my life. When something of that nature comes about, you are reminded of the brevity of life. . .and you also realize how important it is to make sure that the people whom you love know that you love them. Saying the words “I love you” becomes twice as important—hugging people and making sure that you never make them feel as if you have forgotten them seems essential. What is difficult, however, is knowing when the time comes that you must not let your compassion for others prevent you from making the choices that are best for you.

As you know, my blog posts are loaded with examples from my own life experiences. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m putting into words a documentary of the Success Diva’s life. It isn’t always easy to open up my heart to those who are reading these posts, particularly since there are so many of you whom I do not know and probably never will know. Yet it is my choice to come from a very personal place, even if that place is full of pain, heartache, and unhappiness. Remember what I said in my last post about the heart being like your inner sanctuary? Well, that’s what it’s like. Pretend that you have a little church or cottage within yourself and that there are gates around this place. Whom you open the gates to is your decision and no one can force you to open those gates if you choose not to. But when someone has managed to persuade you to open your heart to them, and then they end up mistreating you or betraying you, what do you do? Well, you close those gates in their face, of course, and never look back. However, that is easier to suggest than it actually is to do. The person whom I just discovered has betrayed me has tried to offer an explanation for his conduct now. He has told me that he didn’t mean the mean and cruel things that he said about me behind my back. Well, being the compassionate diva that I am, it would not be impossible for me to keep him in my life as a friend. When we think of certain books we have read or movies we have seen, we can probably recall cases in which someone forgave and accepted the person who betrayed them. One book that comes to my mind without having to give it an abundance of thought is Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina. In this story, Anna, the title character, is unfaithful to her husband. She has a passionate affair with the dashing Count Vronsky. Her affair soon ostracizes her from society, and her husband becomes aware of her disloyalty. However, he chooses to forgive her and even offers her a divorce so that she can marry her lover. Unfortunately, Anna makes a series of unwise decisions, ultimately resulting in her eventual suicide. This book has been immortalized a few times in films, and, even if you haven’t read the book or seen the film, you may well have heard references to it in other books or movies. Yet another example of betrayal is in the consummate novel by the American author, Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence. In this story, a man, Newland Archer, marries an innocent young lady from a good background, only to be drawn into a beguiling infatuation with the exotic Countess Olenska, who lives on the fringes of society because of scandalous behavior. Archer’s wife, May Welland, knows that her husband’s affections reside elsewhere, and, yet, throughout a marriage that lasts several decades, she never once indicates that she suspects the truth. Finally, towards the end of the book, after his wife’s death, Newland finds out that what he thought was a secret that only he and Countess Olenska shared was known by his wife from the very beginning.

So, if characters in books and movies can not only forgive such instances of betrayal but also keep the person who betrayed them in in their lives, how can we know when we should refuse to accept any excuses or explanations?? Well, this is a difficult point to address as each situation is obviously different. However, if we are talking about someone whom we are in a committed relationship with who continues to be unfaithful to us, I would have to say that choosing to end that relationship is the decision that is in your best interest. But, if we’re speaking of instances of betrayal that are. . .well, less significant, the line between forgiveness and actual acceptance can become a wee bit hazy. For me, betrayal is unacceptable in all its forms. I truly do expect loyalty from those whom I let into my life. Whether or not you do is exclusively your choice. At the same time, never think that you have to have someone in your life. I don’t care how dependent you think you are on someone—or how dependent they make you feel you are on them. Should a person whom you have trusted and cared about betray you in any way, you are always perfectly justified in cutting that person out of  your life. If we look at our circle of friends as a large round of cheese, any treachery on the part of one of our friends would be like a portion of that cheese that became corroded with mold. Would you let that portion of cheese stay where it is. . .or would you cut it off? I know you wouldn’t eat the moldy cheese. Well, when you keep a traitor in your life, you are essentially serving slices of mildewed cheese to yourself on a cracker or a piece of bread. How does that make you feel? It sounds rather disgusting, doesn’t it? You probably feel like saying, “Yuck. I would never eat cheese with mildew all over it. . .and I don’t see how continuing to keep someone in my life who has betrayed me is like eating rotten cheese.” Oh, but it is like that. Just as your body is precious and requires certain types of food to nourish it, your heart and soul also require certain things to remain well nourished. One of the things your heart and soul both need is loyalty. Another essential need is unconditional love and acceptance. If someone betrays you, even if they say they love you, the type of love they are capable of giving you is not worth very much. Never imagine when you are betrayed that you are at fault. I mention this because I have noticed there is a tendency to blame ourselves when someone we care about mistreats us. Yet, we have the choice not to blame ourselves. We can make sure we look at the situation with a clear-headed and analytical vantage point. We can say, “The person who hurt me is the one with the problem—not me.” Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of this, particularly if we tend to be too benevolent or generous. I must admit, I have to consistently strive to make sure that I don’t allow myself to feel guilt over someone else’s mistreatment of me. Why? Well, I always think that if I had done or said something differently, they would not have betrayed me, lied to me, or treated me cruelly. In a way, this is what is called “if only” thinking.  I’ll speak about this more in future posts, but I must at least caution you now: the “if only” mind-set is dangerous. It’s the sort of mind-set that people have who are eighty years old and have chosen to let all sorts of opportunities pass by them over the course of their lives. It reminds me of my grandmother, who chose to marry a man other than her great love. She can now look back over her shoulder and say, “If only I had married so-and-so instead.” As hard as it sometimes is, we have to accept the decisions we make once we make them. If we use poor judgment, we must profit by this and use better judgment next time. I tend to poke fun at myself, saying that it’s unlikely I will ever use better judgment, when I rarely use good judgment *wink*. Yes, I am a diva who rarely takes herself very seriously. And, in a way, it’s a wonderful way to live because you don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed by those things which are relatively insignificant. If I ever am dramatic, I can assure you that  something major has happened in my life as I am generally a pretty level-headed lady. I won’t say that I can’t be capricious and even volatile at times, for I am a spirited diva, too. But, I think it’s essential for us to all be able to laugh at ourselves. If we let ourselves cry and castigate ourselves for every dish we break or every purchase we make that we didn’t really need, we’ll end up feeling rather worthless. I think that we tend to forget, too, that the only way we will ever feel truly worthwhile is a person is if we have a strong sense of self-worth. This is the complete opposite of conceit or arrogance. Conceit or arrogance is a state of mind in which a person believes that they are superior to another person—or, to people, in general. A strong sense of self-worth, on the other hand, is a state of mind in which you understand that you have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world and to the lives of those around you. It is when you begin to embrace yourself, flaws and all. A friend of mine asked me recently, “How do you love yourself?” Well, I think it begins with creating a deep and dynamic sense of self-worth. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you have made or even keep making, for if you learn something from each one, you are succeeding. You must guard your heart, though, and make sure that the people in your life do not have a negative effect upon your well-being. Although Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent”, I still think that as long as we keep toxic people and predators of the heart in our lives, we’ll never feel as valuable as we should. Even when they tell us how wonderful they think we are, we shouldn’t believe them. As I said, predators of the heart will tell you anything they think you may need to hear in order to keep controlling your life. Although they may not always tell you what you want to hear, if they sense that you are slipping out of their nefarious clutches, they’re capable of saying the most beautiful and flattering words.  After all, they must seduce their way into your heart. . .and seduction is an art in which many tactics are used. So, when you begin to hear exquisite phrases from someone whom you don’t entirely trust, be very careful. Even though you don’t think it is doing you any harm to listen to them, sooner or later you may notice that you become addicted to their flattery.

Since the main subject of this post has to do with when you should not let someone who has hurt you remain in your life, I want to make a few more points about that. There are several different kinds of wounds that others can inflict upon us. Some of them are unintentional, and some of them aren’t. Betrayal, by its very nature, is intentional. The cases in which betrayal is unintentional are very rare. We all know that, if we say things that were confided to us by a friend in private, and we broadcast these things to other people, that we are betraying our friend. Right? Did we know we were doing something we shouldn’t do? Of course, we did. This being said, we can safely assume that if someone does this to us, they were fully aware of what they were doing. Also, if a man or woman who is a friend goes out of their way to pursue a friendship or relationship with someone who has mistreated us, we can feel pretty certain that they realize they are betraying us. I do think it’s crucial to forgive those who hurt us, even if they hurt us in some way that seems unforgivable to us. To forgive is something we do not for the person or persons who hurt us, but rather for ourselves. However, keeping the person or persons who hurt us in our lives is something else entirely. It is accepting what they have done—not merely forgiving it. And I do not think that accepting mistreatment of any kind can benefit us. Thus, your diva’s final word on this subject is this: if someone hurts you unintentionally, keeping them in your lives might not be an unwise choice. However, if someone hurts you intentionally, you should carefully examine whether that person deserves to be in your life because only those whom we can trust are worthy of our friendship, our love, or our affection.

Thanks to those who have told me how much my last post on predators of the heart meant to them! It always inspires this diva so much when I feel that I have helped or encouraged someone. Please know that I will respond to any personal mail that I receive at successdiva7@yahoo.com And, if you aren’t already a member of my mailing list, consider joining. It’s free and lots of fun!

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Until next time, friends. . .live with passion and guard your heart! Remember: there are times in your life when you have to close your heart to someone, and you must always be willing to do so when it is necessary, no matter how difficult a decision it may be.

Your Success Diva

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

It isn’t just about you. . .

meerkat-team spirit2

 

Sometimes I think we have to make happiness. . .you know, like making a batch of cookies. Yes, it sounds easier than it is (now you know I’ve admitted that most things seem that way, right?). Admittedly, you cannot manufacture happiness like a chocolate factory manufactures candy bars. Happiness is not a commodity that is mass produced. And I haven’t seen any available for purchase at the local discount store, either. What I have seen, though, is that it’s almost impossible to find happiness if all you focus on in life is yourself. Have you noticed this, too?? Now don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you aren’t the star of your show or that the title of my first post here, “It’s All About You” didn’t mean that it is, in fact, all about you. The thing about it is it’s not just about you. Does that make sense?? It’s like saying that you can have anything you want (and you can!), but not everything you want. For one thing, acquiring one thing in your life may automatically make it impossible for you to acquire something else. If, for example, you want a new car and you want both a BMW and a jaguar,  you probably aren’t going to be able to get both, unless you are a millionaire.  Now this diva couldn’t afford either car, but that’s beside the point *wink*.  Let me give you another illustration. If you go into a restaurant and you order a slice of cheesecake, the chances are that by making this choice, you will have to forfeit the chocolate cake and the apple pie. So, as you see, we make choices. We also make a choice as to whether we want a life that centers exclusively around us, or whether we would like to have a cast of supporting players. Having been a theater actress for a few years, I can safely say that one of the very worst things you can do, when you are starring in a play, is not realize that the entire cast of the play is a team. Competitiveness can be a positive thing, but if it means that you don’t want the best for someone else, especially someone whom you’re working with, it can become very destructive. In a way, life is the same way as a play. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of similarities between the world and a stage and between people and actors and actresses. The American author Nathanael West, in his bleak but brilliant novel, The Day of the Locust, presented the pessimistic theory that life is essentially like a Hollywood sound stage. There is a scene in the book that I found particularly painful. Oddly enough, it involves a cock fight. On my initial reading of the book, I failed to see the significance of this brutal scene. Reading about two roosters brutalizing each other seemed as if it hadn’t much of a point. But now, on reflection, I’m wondering something: was Nathanael West trying to make a point about life and what some people do to other people? Was he not basically saying that the world supports and promotes the idea of the “survival of the fittest”, so to speak? Was he not saying that if you’re weaker than someone else, they will take advantage of that fragility? West himself had to witness other writers succeeding who certainly didn’t possess his genius, while he was forced to sell Hollywood scripts just to have enough money to eat and feed his family. Maybe his own experiences are what shaped his oppressive worldview. But what West failed to see is that just because the world is attempting to promise this “you win/I lose” mindset, it doesn’t mean that we have to buy into it. Society and “popular” culture will always try to get us to buy into what they say everyone is doing, thinking, saying, or experiencing. However, let me ask you: when you go into a clothing shop, do you buy everything you see? If one of the sales assistants comes up to you and tries to persuade you to buy a dress or a suit by telling you about how many other people have bought it, do you automatically go into the dressing room and try it on? And if you try it on, do you purchase it, even if you don’t like how it looks on you?? Well, if you answered “no” to that, then why are you purchasing the opinions and ideas that society promotes?? If you believe in God but society tells you that you shouldn’t, why would you listen to them?? Similarly, if your best friend is a Christian, but you have no interest in becoming one, are you going to let him/her convince you? I’m not saying that having faith in a power beyond ourselves cannot provide us with solace in our darkest hours. Your Success Diva believes in God. But she doesn’t try to push others to believe in Him just because she does. Why?? Well, you see, here’s the way I look at it: only those who feel a weakness within themselves would feel it was necessary to alter the opinions and beliefs of those around them. If you have full confidence in your convictions, you don’t feel you have to persuade others to share them nor do you feel that you have to defend them or disguise them.

I have a great many friends who are atheists, and we all get along beautifully. On the other hand, my grandmother, a religious fundamentalist, tends to alienate those who do not believe exactly the same way she does. In fact, her best friend, whom she knew for several decades, didn’t feel that she could share personal things with her. She knew my grandmother would judge her for any conduct that she didn’t approve of. It’s funny how so many people who believe in God want to adopt the role of God for themselves. Rather than allowing everyone to have the freedom to believe the way they like, they somehow feel they have the right to interfere and control the lives of those around them. What I feel would be so much more beneficial is to merely share the positive qualities that others might associate with religious faith with your friends and acquaintances. Could there be a better testimony than that? I daresay not. Of course, whether you are Jewish, an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Mormon, or someone who hasn’t ever made up his/her mind what you believe, you will probably see at some point that making yourself the only focus of your life isn’t going to leave you feeling very content.  We are not made to be solitary creatures. If you will note, birds tend to migrate in flocks more often than not. And if you have the cable channel, Animal Planet, you might have had the chance to watch the fascinating and entertaining show, “Meerkat Manor”. If so, did you notice how the meerkats supported and cared for each other?? Yes, they had misunderstandings and quarrels and so forth. Yet, ultimately, they bonded with one another and saw that living in harmony with each other provided them more benefits than braving it out by themselves. “But I’m not a meerkat, dear diva,” you say. No, of course you’re not. You are a living, breathing human being, and my guess is that you need to give and receive love and affection a great deal more than any meerkat in existence does.

One of the most difficult things to do, though, is to reach out to others when you are in the depths of despair. How do I know?? Well, I have often isolated myself when I have been experiencing deep depression. I have shut people who cared about me out of my life by refusing to return phone calls and/or answer e-mails and letters sent to me by post. It was not a conscious decision on my part—or, at least, I didn’t think it was at the time. The problem is, the more I isolated myself, the more depressed I became. The fact that I wasn’t willing to give affection to others made me even less able to give myself any affection. The more I withdrew, the more I disliked myself. The less love I gave, the less I received, and the less I was able to give to myself. Even now, when I am feeling extremely sad, I have a habit of closing myself off. It often seems like such a formidable task to talk to others about how you are feeling, when all you really want to do is sit in a chair and/or cry for a few hours. You also fear that no one will really understand. To be honest, there are plenty of people who won’t understand. They’ll tell you things like “Pull yourself (or your act) together,” or they are sometimes even insensitive enough to say, “Snap out of it.” Does this mean that they don’t care about you?? No, it doesn’t. What it means is that they haven’t yet learned how to respond to the needs of other people. To them, depression is merely a state of mind, and they probably think that a state of mind can be changed as easily as a pair of shoes. It’s very easy to resent such people and to blame them for their uncaring attitude. But what I think will benefit you the most (and remember, you are the most important person in your life, even if you aren’t the only important person) is to not allow yourself to give way to resentment and bitterness. The moment you start feeling yourself getting angry at the people who don’t understand, ask yourself this: if I let myself be driven by a negative emotion because of this person, who is in control of me and of my life—me or them?? Do you see that the answer is “them”? I hope you do because it is. Anger can be used positively, but more often than not it is used destructively. Reacting in anger to something another person says or does is the same as saying: “Hey, I want you to know that you have had such a powerful influence on my life by what you said or did, that I am allowing you to make me angry, even though I know that anger is a destructive emotion and that I am hurting myself more than anyone else.” Is that what you want to do?? Is anything that anyone does or says worth it? Have you noticed, too, that anger, even if it seems to lend you energy at first, usually exhausts you in the long run? I have. Emotions such as love and compassion and generosity will actually give you energy, but resentment, frustration, anger, and hate will take energy from you. Now it’s one thing to remove toxic people from your life. There are indeed times when you simply must walk away from someone. However, never do so out of anger, even if ridding yourself of the anger you feel towards a particular person seems impossible. Always keep in mind that the last impression you make on someone can be every bit as important as the first impression. Wrap your mind about that thought for a moment, and tell me whether or not you want a person’s final impression of you to be of someone who has no control over his/her own emotions.

Now that you’ve heard your diva’s thoughts about anger, I will return to the subject of reaching out to those around you. Have you ever noticed that when you get intensely preoccupied, you forget about other things that are going on in your life?? For example, let’s say that you love foreign films. Well, if you go to the video store and rent a couple of movies directed by Federico Fellini or Francois Truffaut or Ingmar Bergman or another foreign filmmaker who is among your favorites, even if you just found out that your boyfriend or girlfriend has been cheating on you, are you focusing on that when you sit down to watch the films? Sure, you can’t exactly forget about it entirely. I mean, it’s a real situation—it does exist. But if you’re watching Fellini’s muse, Giulietta Masina, light up the screen in “La Strada” or “The Nights of Cabiria,” are you thinking every second about your unfaithful “significant other”? I doubt you are. To give another example, if you have a headache, but you love ice cream and decide to stop by the ice cream shop to get a scoop of your favorite flavor (whatever that might be), are you thinking about your headache as you enjoy the ice cream? If so, are you thinking about it as much as you were?? Are you sure?? Come on now, you know you weren’t.

Well, the emotional turmoil that comes from depression is not unlike the pain that you would experience if you found out that the man or woman you love has been involved with someone else at the same time he/she has been romancing you. It’s also not unlike a stomach ache. Sure, stomach pain is usually the result of a physical ailment, but it’s still pain, isn’t it? Next time you’re feeling blue or having a bad day, try reaching out to someone else. You don’t have to do anything that requires a lot of time and/or effort. Your act of kindness can be as simple as a short phone call, a brief e-mail, or a greeting card sent by post. Also, you don’t have to say much. I emphasize this because often, when a person is hurting themselves, they are unsure what to say and have difficulty communicating. What I would suggest is a simple message such as “You are in my thoughts” or “I’m sending you a hug” or “I just want you to know that you are one of the special people in my life.” You don’t have to worry about being eloquent or profound or charming. Just be sincere. A simple and small gesture can often mean as much to another person as an expensive gift, a bouquet of roses, or a lengthy letter or e-mail. And a phone call just to say “hello” can make the difference in both how you feel and how the person on the other end of the phone feels. You can make it a situation that is mutually beneficial. Is there anything better than that? Our competitive and fast-paced society is repsonsible for the “What’s in it for me?” attitude. But you know what? If you adopt your diva’s suggestion, you will find that there’s always something in it for you when you show caring for someone else.

I must provide one word of caution, though: not everyone is receptive. Why? Well, it’s easy for people to be skeptical when people do nice things for them or say kind things to them. They tend to think that you must have a motive behind your actions and/or words. This is why being completely sincere is essential. If someone is a friend but not a close friend, don’t pretend they are. It will probably make them suspicious. And when you tell another person that you love them, make sure the words are coming from your heart. And don’t expect them to say that they love you, too. Love is something that must be unconditional if it is to be at all genuine. Perhaps they are at a place in their life where they feel they must withhold affection. Maybe they have been rejected so much that they are afraid to freely give love. Or maybe they usually associate love with romantic love, and feel that saying they love you wouldn’t be appropriate. Whatever the case, don’t worry about it. You have done yourself a favor by verbally expressing your love. Love happens to be one of those emotions that has no negative consequences. Even if it isn’t reciprocated, it will not harm you or anyone else. Indeed, it is the only emotion that can fully heal someone.

That being said, I urge you to open yourself up to the love that others demonstrate towards you. In accepting the love you receive, you will be able to pass it along to others. What is essential is that you not count on the fact that the love you give to others will necessarily be returned to you from those specific people. You will get the love back, but it may come from other sources. Life is an odd thing, really—it’s incredibly complicated, utterly unpredictable, but ultimately fulfilling. But it can only be fulfilling if you let yourself be fulfilled by it. Now, it’s going to be complicated and unpredictable whether you want it to be or not. Those are two things that you haven’t any choice about. Personal fulfillment is something you do have a choice about, though. And although you should never look to others to fulfill you, I think you’ll find that in reaching out to others, you will be enabling yourself to experience a significant feeling of fulfillment.

To all of you, I send love, peace, joy, happiness. . .& loads of success!

Your Success Diva

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(photo: a group of meerkats show what team spirit is all about)

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

You are the Star. . .

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 Life has a way of being all about peaks and valleys, doesn’t it? There are days when you really don’t feel like getting out of bed. . .and other days when you awaken and seem to see the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, even though it’s raining. How do I know this? Well, I’m much more like you than you might think. This diva is certainly not always on top of the world. Indeed, there are moments when writing one of my incomparable Success Diva updates actually seems like an overwhelming task. And I use the word ‘task’ to illustrate a point: when I am having what I would call a day of joy, sharing my thoughts and ideas with all of you is something I look forward to. However, on days when I am tired or in pain or simply feeling disheartened, it’s not always easy for me to inspire or uplift those around me, even though I care about each and every one of you so very much. But you know what? I think we have to look at life the way a theatre actress or actor looks upon going onstage every night. Am I making sense? Well, let me elaborate. I was once a stage actress, and I remember well those nights when having to face a live audience was almost more than I could bear. It wasn’t that I didn’t love to act or that I didn’t feel I was adequately prepared. It was usually that I hadn’t slept well. . .or that there were other things going on in my life that were making me miserable. .  .or, well, you get the idea by now, don’t you? The situation is, generally speaking, the thing that was making me feel apprehensive about going onstage usually didn’t have anything to do with the play itself or my performance in it. I remember once when I nearly forgot my lines during a performance of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play, The Physicists. Was it because I don’t have a good memory? No, I have an excellent memory. Was it because I hadn’t rehearsed often enough? Indeed not. It was because I had insomnia the night before and had gotten two or three hours of sleep. Well, guess what? That just happened to be the very night that an important theatre director came to see the show. Things have a way of being like that in life, don’t they? It’s rather like meeting a beautiful woman or a handsome man at the grocery store when you know you aren’t looking your best. You’d really like to run and hide in the bathroom or around the corner, but you know that if you do you’ll miss the chance of meeting someone whom you might be interested in. So, what do you do? Do you take a chance? Of course, you do. Why? Because even though a lot of things in your life haven’t turned out the way you wanted them to, you know that only in not trying will you ever truly fail. Success in any area of your life isn’t something that will ever happen overnight. Rather, it is a result of the choices you make on a daily basis. The success expert and author, Dennis Waitley, said something that I have posted by my computer: “Real success comes in small portions day by day.” And you know what? He’s right. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to admit that Dennis Waitley knows a lot more about success than I do. He’s been studying success for a few decades, whereas. . .well, I’m a bit of a novice, really. However, I do continually study success, along with other subjects that I wish to master. Since you’re smart, I know that you already realize that the only way to ever get good at anything is to study it. Did you manage to ride a bicycle smoothly the first time you tried? I doubt it. To this day, I am not very adept at riding a bicycle. Know why? Well, it’s mostly because my father became very impatient with me growing up, and, rather than understanding that learning to ride a bicycle would take time, he thought I should be able to ride one beautifully within a matter of minutes. Well, that isn’t how life works. Is that fair? Actually, I think it is. I believe that the patience a person must acquire in order to master something—even something as simple as riding a bicycle—enables him/her to weather the storms that life sends his/her way. If everything we ever wanted was handed to us on a platter made out of platinum and encrusted with diamonds without us having to do anything to get it, what would that teach us? Do you think we would really be happy? Admittedly, there are times when you are tempted to say “Well, sure, I’d be happy.” I’ve felt that way, too. So, you’re not alone. At the same time, there is a feeling of sincere and deep accomplishment when we achieve something that we’ve really had to work for. When that which we want is something we have had to earn, it makes us value it a lot more. This is why we must have confidence in ourselves that we can accomplish our goals and that we can make our dreams into a reality.

Look, I am here to offer you my insight and my support, but you know what? You’re the star in your own show. If William Shakespeare is right (and why shouldn’t he have been?) and life is a stage and all the people in it are actors, who is going to be playing the lead in your show?? If you don’t think it’s you, then you need to stop and evaluate the way you’re seeing your life. In order to make your dreams come true, you have to be the one starring in your production. You may have a magnificent spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, loving and encouraging friends, and a family who truly does want to see you succeed, but none of those people should be the star in your show. Nope, you are the star. You and nobody but you. As I said in my very first post at this blog, it’s all about YOU. Now, what did I mean by “it?” It means life. . .specifically, your life. So, I could easily have mentioned the concept of your being the star of your show at that point. However, I only thought of it now. You see what I mean when I confess that this diva doesn’t plan her posts far in advance?? I am completely spontaneous, which is something that has gotten me into my share of difficulties before, I assure you! *wink* But I think it’s far better to be spontaneous than to plan things too much. There’s nothing wrong with having one year, five year, and even lifetime goals. . .but, on a daily basis, you have to allow yourself room to do something impulsive, whether it’s deciding to go out to lunch with a friend or shop in some vintage clothing stores like my good friend, Diana. This doesn’t mean that you engage in such activities at the expense of the things that you absolutely must do. However, it is important to be at least reasonably flexible.

Another friend of mine, Sarah, is constantly finding that she gets so caught up in the things that have to be done that she doesn’t have enough time just for her. What comes into play here—and it’s very helpful, by the way—is making a list (at least a mental list, although writing it down is even better, in this particular instance) of the things that are urgent and the things that are important. Often that which seems urgent isn’t really urgent at all. For example, it might seem to be urgent that you make your husband’s favorite dish for dinner, but is it important? I sometimes find myself writing e-mails or making phone calls that I could have put off or doing other things that I have allowed the urgency of the moment to lead me into succumbing to. The most important things are usually those things that involve spending time with someone instead of doing something for them. In other words, if you have a friend who has a birthday tomorrow and you haven’t yet gotten him/her a present, and you already have so much on your to-do list that day that you don’t know how you’re going to fit in anything more, decide whether or not it might not be better to buy a card (or use one you already have around the house), and tell your friend that you’ll be giving them a present, but you haven’t yet been able to decide on just the right thing. “But I couldn’t do that!,” you exclaim. “It would seem as if his/her birthday wasn’t important to me.” Whoa. Hold on. If you’re putting your friend’s needs before yours, who is the one who is in charge of your life? Is it your friend or you? “But I have to be thoughtful,” you say, “and besides, he/she gave me such a beautiful sweater for my birthday. I have to give more than a card!!” Of course, you have to give more than a card. And you know what? You will. But who is the star of your life? Is it your friend or is it you? And if this friend is worthy of a lovely present, than he/she would surely care about  you enough that he/she wouldn’t want you to stress yourself out over his/her birthday. Am I not right? Father’s Day came around this year, and I hadn’t yet purchased a present for my father. Now he and I aren’t very close, to be honest. Indeed, we have had periods of estrangement between us that have lasted for. . .well, a few years. However, we are on good terms again, and I was certainly committed to remembering him on Father’s Day. I was simply very late about ordering his present, and I realized the week before Father’s Day that there was no way I could count on the fact that the book I wanted to get him from Amazon would reach him on time. So, I sent him a $4 Father’s Day card and told him that a special present would be on its way. As you see, there is a way to solve these issues when they come up. Similarly, I have arrived home from grocery shopping at ten o’clock in the evening before and have wanted to prepare a somewhat elaborate dinner. To me, it seemed urgent that I prepare my special roasted potatoes before the potatoes started to spoil. But what was more important? Preparing the dinner of my desires or making sure I got to bed before I was so tired that I could barely stand up? I’m sure you know the answer to that. Phone calls and e-mails are two areas of your life that you need to use the urgent vs. important tactic with. Make sure that the people whom you are calling and/or writing must be written or called on that specific day. If a call or e-mail can be postponed, do it. And don’t spend time sending short e-mails or making short phone calls saying that you’ll “write more later”. I used to do this sort of thing all the time, and, while it is sometimes essential, more often than not, you’ll notice that you end up writing or talking almost as much as you would have if you had fully committed yourself to the task. Remember: you must be the star of your own show. Everyone else in your life is a supporting player. The person who is closest to you—whether it be a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or parent/close relative—should be looked upon as a co-star. But you are the person who receives top billing. When you think of a film with a big-name star such as Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise, don’t you often find yourself associating their name with the film’s title? For example, haven’t you ever found yourself saying that you’re going to the theatre to see “the new Johnny Depp movie” or “the latest Michelle Pfeiffer flick.” I know I have. . .although I rarely go to movie theaters these days. However, when I order a film from the library, for example (and they have the latest releases, by the way, which is something you should know now that video rentals are so expensive), I find myself looking up films I might want to see via a specific star’s name. If I want to see a film starring Angelina Jolie, I don’t put the name of one of her co-stars in the library search engine. Am I making a point?? And I don’t think most of us even remember the other ladies who made up the singing group, “The Supremes”. Who do we remember? Why Diana Ross, of course. Why? Because she was the star. It was her show and she knew it.

And that’s what you must know, too. You are the star. Don’t decide that you have to find the ‘ideal’ supporting cast in order to make your production a hit. You don’t even have to have a co-star. When you’re a true star, you can carry the show all by yourself with very little assistance. But are you ready to take on the role of superstar? Are you ready to step onto the stage and take the world by storm?? If not, why not? If you’re afraid, then use that fear as energy to make your show a true success. You can do it, you know. You know you can. And I know that deep within yourself, no matter what you think, you are fully capable of being the star in your production.

For now, remember that to be content to merely fly when you can soar is not enough. So, make the most of every day. . .and cherish every minute.

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

The present is yours

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I have been very personal with everyone so far. In fact, I have gone out of my way to present everything from a personal perspective. This means, of course, that I share a lot about myself with all of you—some of you being people I have never met and probably never will meet. So, why am I sharing so much so freely?? It’s because I care about every one of you, even if I don’t know your name. The fact that you are reading this blog lets me know that you want to change your life, and this means that you and I have a lot in common. We are already what some people would call ‘kindred spirits’ whether you realize it or not. I use that phrase knowing that it is used too often and that sometimes it is not regarded with enough sincerity. If you loathe that phrase, forget this diva ever used it.

In keeping with sharing so many of my personal thoughts and feelings with all of you, I have a confession. There has already been more than one day this very month that I would call “one of the worst days of my life.” Yeah, we all have them, don’t we? And sometimes, after a good night’s sleep, we’re fortunate enough to view the world once more as a place that feels the warmth of the sun. Then again, there are times in our lives in which we have several bad days in succession. These are the really tough times, aren’t they? The times when even lots of sleep and eating your favorite flavor of ice cream doesn’t seem to help. Even watching one of your favorite films—a film that would usually make you laugh or cry or inspire you—leaves you feeling numb. I tend to think that there is a state of despair that is beyond sadness. Sadness can be dreadful when it is severe, and crying for several hours can wear you out. But what is worse than that, I think, is a feeling of numbness. It’s a feeling where you have reached your threshold of emotional or mental pain, and your body just closes down. Nothing really even moves you because nothing can—you have shut off your emotions. At times like these, even the death of a loved one might not affect you. In fact, the death of a loved one can actually bring about a feeling of numbness. The thing that’s frightening about that numb feeling is that you wonder if you are still fully alive. You wonder if a part of you—something that is essential to who you are—has died. Do I sound like I am fully familiar with this feeling? If so, it’s because I am.

You know, there are times when I know I am not having the right attitude towards life, and I have the idea that many of you have experienced this, too. Have there not been hours, days, and maybe even weeks when, rather than feeling grateful for all the blessings in your life, you have chosen to focus on all the problems instead? If there haven’t been, I admire you! In fact, I rather envy you. I would very much like to be one of those persons who always, without fail, had a wonderful attitude. The exceptional motivational speaker and author, Keith Harrell, wrote a book called Attitude Is Everything. I have recommended the book to strangers before—that is how impressed I was by it. It’s actually been a few years since I read it from cover to cover, but every now and then I pick it up—usually when my own attitude leaves a lot to be desired. I do think Keith Harrell has a point, but sometimes. . .well, isn’t it just almost impossible to transform a negative attitude into a positive one? Well.  .  .I think it can certainly seem impossible, particularly when we don’t stop to analyze why our attitude is so negative. Obviously, if our beloved pet has just died or our fiance/fiancee has broken up with us, we know why we’re feeling lousy. But are there not times when a bad attitude just seems to come out of the blue? I’ll admit that generally the cause is right under our nose. . .and right before our eyes. We also tend to have a tendency to take our less-than-wonderful attitude out on other people, usually people whom we know will love us no matter how badly we act. The problem is, of course, that inflicting our own pain on other people is only going to make us feel worse. Or haven’t you noticed? *wink* Truly, you do feel worse when other people are as miserable as you are. For one thing, you feel guilty. So, in addition to feeling depression or discouragement or hopelessness or anger. . .well, you also blame yourself. So, by that time, you have so many destructive emotions on your plate that there’s no room for the emotions that would nourish you, such as hope, faith, gratitude, and joy. Imagine if you were at a buffet and you decided to pile your plate high with nothing but foods that were laden with heavy sauces and gravy. How would you feel after you finished eating? Would you feel good? Might you not feel sluggish and lethargic? Well, life is like that, too. You must find a way to get rid of those emotions that are making you feel like giving up on yourself and on life if you’re ever going to feel brave and hopeful and happy. Doesn’t that make sense?? When a theatre has a sold out performance, there are no empty seats. When your freezer is packed with so much food that you can barely close the door, you aren’t going to be able to fit another carton of ice cream or another bag of frozen peas in there. It just isn’t going to happen. This is why I suggesting ridding your life of as many toxic people as you can. If you don’t, what’s going to happen is that there won’t be space for those people who will uplift you, inspire you, and make your life more marvelous.

I know my thoughts may seem to be more scattered than usual, but your diva is not in a mood to worry about how tidy her thought patterns are today. If it seems like I’m talking to myself almost as much as I’m talking to you. . .well, what can I say? I watched too many videos of Glenn Gould playing Bach over at You Tube. For those who are not very familiar with Glenn Gould, he often mumbled and hummed to himself while he was performing on the piano. Actually, I am talking to you. I’m just sharing with you the thoughts and ideas I share with myself on a constant basis. I continually berate myself for not having enough of what I call an “attitude of gratitude”. I realize that life is a gift, and I understand that allowing one day to pass in which you let yourself thrive on negative and destructive emotions is the same as not thanking someone who gives you a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a book you have always wanted for your birthday. I remember once when I wanted a copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell for my birthday. I was 16 years old at the time, and I had always loved the film adaptation of the book. For one thing, Vivien Leigh has always been my favorite actress. At any rate, I let it be known—in a very subtle way, of course—that I would really love to have a copy of Gone with the Wind. One of my girlfriends, who had always made a point of trying to give me presents she thought I would like, seemed like the most likely person to give me a copy of the novel. Well, imagine my surprise and my disappointment when she gave me William Bennett’s Book of Virtues instead. To this day, I have never read much of the book. It wasn’t because I had anything against the book. In fact, I’m sure it’s an excellent book, and it would probably benefit me in some significant way were I to read it from cover to cover. It is supposed to include stories about such laudable virtues as responsibility, courage, self-discipline, perseverance, honesty, faith, and compassion. However, I really wanted to read about Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. I did not care about being morally enlightened. I have always been what people would call a ‘good’ person, and, although I realize I am in some ways very much flawed, I didn’t see that The Book of Virtues was something I need to own. Let’s just forget that everyone who read it at Amazon seems to have given it 4-5 stars *wink*. Hey, maybe it was what I needed. Perhaps I should even pull it out now and start reading it. Who knows? What I do know is that it wasn’t the present I wanted on my sixteenth birthday.

Of course, there could be a lesson here, couldn’t there? It is only at this moment that I am seeing the lesson. . .so, please know that I am sharing this with you at the very time that it has become clear to me. I am very spontaneous in most of my writing at this blog. I do not consciously plan what I am going to say nor do I have lots of books here that I am gathering thoughts from. I am what you might call my own diva. There are other experts on success and happiness who know more than I do, I am certain. But you have chosen me—not them. So, you want to hear my own personal ideas, not the ideas of another person even if that person is more of an expert than I am. The revelation I have just had is this. My girlfriend giving me The Book of Virtues, a book I didn’t want, instead of Gone with the Wind, a book I did want, is a lot like life. How?? Well, aren’t we oftentimes getting something different than what we want? Haven’t there been men or women whom we have found attractive who were not interested in us? And have we not decided to go out with someone whom we originally thought wasn’t “our type”? Yet, are there not some of you who have ended up realizing that the person who wasn’t your “type” was more your “type” than that other man/woman who rejected you? And haven’t you ever been in a restaurant and found out that the entree or dessert you wanted wasn’t available? I have. Last October, on my birthday, I went to a French restaurant. My heart was set on trying the cherry claufouti. However, when I got there, I was told that they had already run out of that particular dessert earlier in the evening. So, what did I do? Well, I ordered a banana and chocolate crepe with whipped creme. How was it? Well, let’s just say I forgot all about the claufouti once I had devoured the crepe. I think life can be like this, too. I was trained to be a classical musician and spent years thinking that I would never find any other career that I felt so passionate and enthusiastic about. Indeed, if you had asked me, when I was 12 years old, what I would do if a concert career on the violin or the piano didn’t work out, I would have told  you, “It has to work out. It must work out.” You know what, though? It didn’t work out. Yes, I had a plan for my life. . .but, you see, life had a plan for me. And the two plans didn’t match up. Carson McCullers, one of the greatest writers that the Southern part of the United States has ever produced, also wanted a career in classical music. In fact, that’s what she trained for, too. But life clearly had other plans. I never knew Carson McCullers. . .so, I never had the chance to ask her how she felt about the career in music not working out. Yet the chances are that at some point she saw it as a blessing. By the time that her career as a writer was flourishing, I would find it hard to believe that she was looking back over her shoulder, feeling an enormous amount of regret.

So, as you see, some of the things that we are given in life may not be just what we want when we get them.  . .but sometimes they’re what we end up needing. As I have been writing this, I feel as if another window has been opened in my life. That window needed to be opened, and I want to thank those of you who support your diva for making my life so much richer by allowing me into your world. I am looking forward to the rest of the day, whereas there was a time during the early morning hours when your diva, much to her chagrin, was looking upon this day as merely a certain period of hours to get through. Now, though, I see it as an opportunity. . . and as a gift. Thank you.

Life isn’t just one gift. . .but a series of gifts. Each day is a present, and I don’t know about you, but these aren’t presents I want to return to the store.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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You are. . .well, You

For as long as I can remember, I have been an incessantly driven person. When I was a little girl, I was constantly wanting to be the best at everything I did. Whether it was playing the violin or singing, I would always strive not only use all of my potential. . .but I would also try to outdo everyone else. Part of it was an inner sense that I somehow wasn’t worthy on my own—that my accomplishments were what made me valuable and unique as a person. Without saying that I had a miserable childhood, what I will say is that I shut myself off from experiencing any genuine joy because of my relentless worth ethic. In a way, I am grateful for the fact that I was taught the importance of hard work at a very young age. It shaped who I have become.  . .and has certainly forced me to be tenacious and resilient during those times in my life when I could easily have allowed obstacles to block my path. What I now ascertain, which is something I didn’t understand for a very long time, is that we can really only compete against ourselves. Do you know why this is? It’s because each of us is different in nearly every aspect of ourselves. Thus, to compare ourselves to someone else automatically removes the essential element from the scenario—and this is our own uniqueness. A few years ago I read a book by Oprah’s long-time boyfriend, Stedman Graham, called Build Your Own Life Brand. Although the book left a less vivid impression on me than many books of the same type that I’ve perused, I will say that the concept of creating your own “Brand” is something I like. What would the world be like, for example, if there weren’t such instantly recognizable brand names as Gucci, Guess, and Chanel?? I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to pick up a fashion magazine at a doctor’s office without coming across an ad featuring one of these brands. “But what does this have to do with me?” you ask. Well, think about it—aren’t you the designer of your own life?? Just as Guess designed jeans and Gucci designed handbags. . .aren’t you designing your life? And, if you’re not, who is?? You may not yet have the fashion know-how to pull off a life plan that would be on a par with a master designer, but with a little practice, why can’t you do it? Now don’t pull out your little book of excuses and hunt for something there. Your Success Diva won’t let you get away with that! *wink* I want to hear a real—a viable—reason for why you can’t design your own life? Are you letting things other people have said to you throughout the years prevent you from pursuing your dreams and goals? Are you thriving off negative emotions like anger, hate, or fear? That last one, fear, can be flipped over and used effectively as I said in one of my previous posts. Come to think of it, anger can be used effectively, too. I suspect hate is truly a thoroughly destructive emotion; yet the root of all hate is self-hate, which means that the solution to overcoming hate is to begin loving and accepting yourself.  I know that sounds kind of. . . .well, like something from a 1980s ‘self-help’ book, but see if this doesn’t make sense if you really stop and think about it. How can you give an emotion to someone else that you don’t feel within yourself? It would be like trying to purchase a yacht when you’re broke. There has been a massive focus on issues of self-esteem and self-image during the past couple of decades, and I would like to think that this, even if it has been overly excessive in some ways, may have enabled people to more readily accept themselves. But. . .what I notice is that there is a tendency to forget what you’ve read in a book a week, two weeks, or three weeks after you’ve read it. Now an unforgettable novel, such as Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. . .perhaps certain details of the plots of these books remain with you for a very long time, if not forever.

However, when it comes to books that would be classified as “motivational” material, it’s easy to forget half of what you’ve read a few days after reading it. Of course, you can continue to re-read these books. . .and re-read them. . .and re-read them. It won’t do you any harm, that’s for sure. But is that really how you want to spend your time? As smart as I know you are, your answer would have to be no. Yet what alternative is there, if you want to change the way you think about yourself, about other people, and about the world around you?? Well, there are a few specific changes that you can make that need to be as permanent as possible. One of these changes is the tendency to compare  yourself to anyone else. You are you are you are YOU. If someone tells you that you write like Ernest Hemingway. . .or Philip Roth. . .or that when they see you acting onstage you remind them of  Nicole Kidman, by all means thank them. . .and fully accept and appreciate the compliment. But don’t start seeing yourself as someone else, even if it’s someone you happen to look up to a great deal. Part of creating and living the life of your dreams is acknowledging and embracing your own individuality. You must create your own ‘life brand’, or you will spend your life trying to be like other people. And who wants to do that?? Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves to be like other people.” I think this was a valid observation on his part. From what I have seen, people so often try to dress, speak, look, and act like someone that isn’t them. I’m not simply talking about withholding a part of yourself when you meet a stranger—or trying to repress certain aspects of yourself while disguising others. I’m actually talking about living with the constant need to ‘fit in’ with your surroundings. . .and with the people who populate your surroundings. What’s wrong with just being you? When I was much younger, I was always trying to imitate a certain celebrity’s style of dress. Usually, I would attempt to adopt Audrey Hepburn’s impeccable fashion style. To me, she was and still is an icon of beauty, grace, elegance, and style. However, it is disheartening to see so many women trying to copy Audrey, rather than simply being themselves. Although I cannot imagine there being a  much more perfect role model for a woman to emulate—at least, not in terms of both style and humanitarian accomplishments–it’s still preferable for each woman to be completely herself. No, there will never be another Audrey Hepburn. But then, there will never be another you, either.

I must admit, I used to think that trying to outdo and/or outperform others provided me with just the zeal I needed to develop what I would call competitive edge. The problem with this mentality is that in trying to be the very best, there is a tendency to focus more on what others are doing than exclusively on what  you are doing and can do. The movie from the 1980s, “The Competition” provides me with a perfect example of why focusing on merely winning isn’t the answer. If you’ve seen this film, you probably haven’t forgotten the tension that existed between the two main characters, played by Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss. Both of these characters were concert-level classical pianists. . .and both of them were competing in the same competition. However, whereas Dreyfuss’ character arrived at the competition viewing it as something he must win, the pianist that Irving depicted always seemed to look at the competition as a challenge. . .an opportunity. . .something she would like to win but not something that she was dependent upon winning. Well, if you’ve seen the film, you already know which pianist won. If you haven’t seen it. . .well, what can I say? Watch it as soon as you can. If you really stop to analyze the difference in the two final piano performances that Irving and Dreyfuss give, you will see that Irving’s is indeed superior. ..but perhaps not for the reason you will initially conclude. The reason that Irving’s performance of the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto is better than Dreyfuss’ performance of Beethoven’s Fifth (“The Emperor”) Piano Concerto is because Dreyfuss is concentrated solely on taking home a gold medal; yet Irving plays from her heart and soul. She isn’t thinking about whether she’ll win or lose the competition because she understands that if she gives her all out there in that final performance, she’ll have achieved victory whether she takes home a medal or not.

Is the point I’m trying to make becoming clearer now? Is it starting to make sense to you? Are you beginning to see where your focus needs to be? Who cares whether one of your co-workers got the promotion you deserved? And what does it matter if one of your best friends managed to purchase an expensive new car? If you let yourself constantly think about the little and big successes in the lives of other people, you’ll be so caught up in focusing on them that you won’t be able to start making your dreams come true. If you imagine I don’t know how difficult it is not to compete with other people, you’re mistaken. There was a point in my life when I found my own competitiveness to be unhealthy. It tended to breed negative emotions such as jealousy, selfishness, and greed. I couldn’t help but look at those who succeeded where I had failed and think that I wished I could be in their shoes. But would I have really wanted to live someone else’s life?? Would I have suddenly wanted to stop being me and become another person simply because that other person was more of a success than me? The truth is that whether or not you win all the prizes in life isn’t nearly as important as whether you contribute to the world something that only you can give. If you want to be a singer but you bemoan the fact that you don’t have a voice like such legends as Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, relax. Embrace your talent—appreciate your voice. Let the world hear what you have to offer. Similarly, if you’re a struggling writer who is frustrated that he/she can’t write like Fyodor Dostoevsky or William Faulkner or Marcel Proust, stop trying to be like any author who came before you. Write like you, not like somebody else. This applies to any career and any area of your life. Don’t decide that you have to get married and have two or three kids just because that’s what your sister, your best friend, and your mother and father did. What is it that you want? Do you want to conform at the expense of never experiencing true love? Do you want to always be compared to a bunch of other writers, rather than being hailed as a new and innovative author? It’s up to you. . .but I know what I’m going to choose. Although there are plenty of things that I want to change about myself—many of which I will be successful at changing, and a few of which I probably won’t—I still wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world. Would you? If you answered ‘yes,’ you need to re-read Success Diva’s post.

Live each moment with passion. . and remember, there is only one of you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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