~A Quest for Sublimity~

With all the feel-good messages about pursuing our bliss and visualizing our dreams in order to make them come true, we oftentimes forget that even though life is and should be joyful and happy, there is an inherent pain in being human that nothing will ever diminish. We can have the best intentions and the most wondrous goals, but even when we seem to be making what we feel in our hearts are the “right” choices, torment and emotional suffering can still exist.

For me, there is pain in not being able to live up to the image of myself that I want the world to see. To speak highly of virtues such as kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity is one thing. But, to consistently demonstrate behavior that embodies these character traits is sometimes another matter entirely.

We should never attempt to regard ourselves as being more loving, thoughtful, or considerate than we actually are. And yet we do. I find myself making judgments about other people and the choices they make even though I continue to regard a judgmental attitude as one of the greatest causes of suffering in human existence.

What is the difference in suffering and pain? This is a question I am still examining. For now, I will simply say that for me, at least, the concept of suffering seems less transitory than pain, which can be over in mere seconds.  Yet is it not from the soul that has suffered that the well of eternal hope springs? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Know how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong.” Sublimity is not always achieved through joy and bliss. It can also come through intense anguish, pain, sorrow, and grief.

When I speak of grief, I am not talking about merely deeply traumatic events such as the illness or death of a loved one. I am also speaking of the type of grief that comes from having your dreams seemingly shattered into pieces from a wrong choice or a missed opportunity . . . the kind of grief that you feel when you are in an unresolved relationship in which effective communication seems to have become impossible. Grief can be experienced on so many different levels. And the suffering that comes about from this grief cannot ever be measured, even by those who must cope with it.

We will never comprehend the anguish and pain that others experience. And most of the time we find ways to escape from our own pain and sorrow. Do we somehow think that in ignoring pain it will disappear? Or is it that we find the idea of connecting with our pain to be so formidable that we dare not close enough to it to truly feel it?

Life is a gift, but we were never told that it didn’t have a high price tag. We may wish to see ourselves as entitled to the best of everything. But only when we understand that what we get out of life is in direct proportion to that which we give to life will be experience authentic happiness and fulfillment. It is never in possessions, material success, or recognition that we will find joy. We only think that these things give us happiness because they satisfy us on a superficial level.

We want to believe that diamonds or shoes or dinners at five-star restaurants actually lift our spirits. However, oftentimes we are just seeking ways to fill the void within ourselves. But a soul that is hungry can only receive genuine nourishment from food that has substance. In order to be physically healthy, you would never feed your body nothing but candy bars, cookies, and cake. So, why feed your soul, mind, and spirit with material riches that have no eternal value?

If you’re serious about becoming the best you that you can be—if you sincerely do want to live a life of purpose and significance—you’re going to have to develop a level of self-awareness that will enable you to see yourself as you really are. You’ll have to be tough enough on yourself to recognize your weakness while simultaneously treating yourself with a level of gentleness and compassion that enables you to hold fast to your dreams. In releasing yourself from the need to please others, you must make a stronger attempt to please yourself.

Rather then worrying about whether or not you live up to the expectations others have of you, create an image of yourself that you can be proud of and work towards becoming that person. You will find that you have acquired a new level of freedom when you start focusing on your journey and stop trying to control anyone else’s journey. We may choose to define the need to judge any way we choose, but ultimately it’s both a subtle and an obvious way to control other people.

Admittedly, there are many areas of life in which the tendency to make judgments seems so prevalent, so common—and even, to a certain extent, so understandable—that we find the idea of overcoming it to be nearly insurmountable. Yet, if each of us makes the effort to stop judging, although our individual impact may appear to be negligible at first, the lasting impact of our joint efforts might prove to be far greater than we might ever imagine.

There is already enough pain and suffering in the world without our adding to it through cruel, insensitive, and thoughtless words and actions. When we understand that in judging others we are coming from a place of fear and personal insecurity, it puts a different spin on the whole process of judgment. It no longer becomes about just tearing down other people. It becomes a process by which we tear down ourselves.

The world will always find a way to present to you a reflection of your true self. You may see an idealized image of yourself when you look into the mirror. But life will not let you get away with holding onto this fabricated self-concept forever. When you start to notice that the way others react to you doesn’t match up with how you want them respond to you, it may be time to take a long, hard look at who you really are. Similarly, when you find yourself pointing fingers and finding fault with those whom you know, attaching labels to them that represent some feeble effort on your part to define their behavior, just make sure that you are not defining yourself instead. 

Life has a way of giving us back what we have given out, whether it be in a positive or a negative way. Don’t imagine an existence that is centered mostly around you will ever bring you the dividends you seek because it won’t. You must understand the simple law of cause and effect in order to make your dreams a reality. A life that is strictly or even mostly about you may bring you what seems to be happiness right now. But ultimately, you will experience a level of emptiness, sadness, and loneliness that words may be inadequate in conveying.

Many times over the course of our lives, we may be faced with a situation in which we must decide between obtaining immediate gratification or attaining long-term satisfaction.  And developing a strong sense of self-awareness is what will give us the strongest possibility of not making a choice that we ultimately regret.  At the same time, there are probably few mortals who haven’t made a choice at some point in their lives that did not appear to be an irremediable mistake.

Yet, for every fall we take, if we manage to profit from the unwise choice or choices that led to our temporary defeat, we will discover that we are stronger than we were before. To borrow words from the captivating silent film actress Mary Pickford, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start at any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Unfortunately, in this world in which we live, we are not always encouraged to get back up when we fall. This is why we must always remember that we are the ones who see our dreams most clearly and that we are the creators of our own destiny. The reasons behind the lack of encouragement and support that others exhibit may not be something we will ever comprehend. 

In many cases, those whom we might have expected to stand behind us feel threatened by our determination to keep going in spite of obstacles. They assume that if they desert us in our time of need, we will give up out of hopelessness and despair. It isn’t necessarily because such people are malicious or vindictive or hateful that they behave in this way. Rather, it is oftentimes because they are so deeply insecure that they are simply incapable of supporting those whom they perceive might have a greater chance of success than they do.

It isn’t always easy to accept the concept that there is enough success in the world to go around. Some people subscribe to the erroneous idea that success is like a piece of pie and that, in order for them to get their slice, someone else must forfeit his or hers. But ideas such as these are rooted in fear. And there can be no freedom where fear exists. To release ourselves from all fear is to give ourselves true freedom. When this occurs, we will rejoice in the accomplishments of those around us. We may even look for ways in which we can help others achieve their goals more swiftly.

Reaching this level of personal security and self-assurance will enable us to stop competing with anyone but ourselves. It will thereby provide us with the opportunity to become the best version of ourselves instead of a copy of someone else. The more you cease to compare the less inclined you will be to judge for you will embrace your own individuality. You will understand that you are every bit as exceptional as any other human being on the planet.

Why try to hinder anyone else’s journey when you are fully engaged with your own? If you see yourself as exceptional, there is no reason to be envious of anyone else. If you don’t agree with another person’s choices, stop to ask yourself whether or not it is up to you to agree or disagree. For in either agreeing or disagreeing, are you not moving from a place of mere observation into a place of judgment? Since the only thing any of us really has power over in this world is our own life, how can expending time and energy assessing the choices that others make benefit us?

In many ways, life is complicated. If your personal journey is anything like mine, there are plenty of things you have to concern yourself with on a day-to-day basis that pertain to your own life. So, why worry about other people’s lives, too?  The environment that best fosters a sense of self-awareness is that in which everything extraneous is let go of. 

In cutting away that which is not essential you will find both peace and clarity. In this way, life is a lot like love. When you bring yourself out of a place of need and release yourself from all expectations and conditions, you will discover what is genuine and what is false. Even if you experience pain and suffering, the joy you will eventually find in allowing into your life only that which is true, deep, and meaningful will surpass even the most excruciating heartache.

Don’t continue to clutter your life with the rhinestones of temporary bliss when you can have diamonds of happiness, joy, and lasting contentment instead. Allow yourself to acknowledge your pain and to gain strength from your suffering. Release yourself from the need to judge others and embrace the beauty that exists within you.

Be joyful. Be extraordinary. Be the best you that you can be . . . .

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(“A Quest For Sublimity” is dedicated to my extraordinary friends Scot Conway and Dawn Marie Knott) 

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

The Magic of Imagination

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” But, if this is so, why are so many of us frantically seeking knowledge and giving so little time to using our imaginations? If it seems ironic that a writer who calls herself a “critical thinker” and says that she is on a quest for wisdom and truth would be emphasizing the importance of using one’s imagination, all I can say is that I am not the least bit predictable. I do think that critical and particularly reflective thinking is an essential part of creating a life of personal fulfillment, but I also think that if you don’t use your imagination, you will end up stifling a crucial part of yourself.

How far back do your first memories go? Do you remember a point where the world was filled with wonder and every new bird or flower made you feel exhilarated, at least temporarily? What do you think brought an end to this state of mind in which the world and all that inhabits it overwhelmed you with awe? When did you stop asking so many questions? When did you become afraid that the thoughts or feelings you had were outrageous or strange or “outside the norm?”

If you are like many people, you probably found that a lot of your imaginative ideas were discouraged by teachers, parents, and other authority figures in your environment. When I was a child of five, I was a very creative artist and drew the letters of the alphabet in a way that nobody else did. I added animals to each letter, such as giraffes, birds, and kangaroos. I was unaware that what I was doing was odd until many years later, when my mother confessed to me that my teacher had taken her aside and told her that the way I drew my letters was “unacceptable.” Now, over two decades have passed since then, and I have recently discovered that Picasso created his letters the same way that I created mine.  I may not ever have possessed Picasso’s artistic talent,  but what he and I do share is a vivid imagination.

Of course, I think most of us do have wonderful imaginations. It’s simply that society doesn’t encourage us to make adequate use of them. When you hear the phrase, “experimental thinking,” what comes to mind? Does the term bring positive or negative thoughts to your mind? Since I have an ever developing interest in science, experimental thinking is a concept that I naturally embrace. If you don’t, that’s okay. What I do hope you’ll at least do is consider the concept. It’s really just another way to define out-of-the-box thinking. And, who wants to live inside a box?

For me, every day is an experiment, which means that I am engaging in experimental thinking on a full-time basis. My blog posts are part of my experimenting with ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Nothing I say is written in stone. I am constantly examining and re-examining my own thoughts, and I hope that’s what you’ll start doing, too. When we look at the world, we oftentimes think that it’s changing, when we are the ones who are in the process of change. Remember my last blog article, The Process of Becoming? Did you read it? If not, I urge you to do so. It is my intention to challenge the way that you are thinking now. I want to persuade you into examining your thoughts more carefully. Life must be lived boldly and intensely or not at all. You must be willing to take risks, and that includes engaging in risky thinking.

Have you ever known anyone who thought that he/she had all the answers? Have you conversed with someone who seemed to be under the delusion that whatever their opinions and beliefs were, they were always right? I’ve known a few of these people myself, and what I am becoming more and more aware of is how vastly they are limiting themselves. Naturally, they are oftentimes the first people to call themselves “open-minded”. They will do their best to convince you that their beliefs and views are the result of critical thinking and personal reflection. But, what is the truth? People are fully capable of telling us anything, particularly when it comes to defining themselves. The question is, can any of us really be sure that more than a handful of our beliefs and opinions are valid?

Okay, I know you think I’ve gone too far this time. You probably think I’m trying to question all of your convictions. Well, I’m not. I just want you to become aware of  how limited your thought patterns might be. Are you really thinking outside the box or do you just think you are? How many of your personal beliefs and opinions would you be willing to stake your life on? One or two? Three or four? A half-dozen? You know you don’t have to tell me the answer to this question nor do you have to be honest with anyone, including  yourself. But why not be honest with yourself? What will you gain by remaining in a state of self-deception?

If you hope to make any positive changes in your life, you’re going to have to be willing to rip the veil off of some of the ideas you’re subscribing to now. And, if you engage your imagination, I think you’ll discover that the life you want doesn’t match up with the life you’re living now. Or, am I wrong? I would love to think that everything is perfect in your world. Yet, I have a sense that some aspect of your life isn’t quite the way you want it to be. If my perceptions are correct, then take a few minutes to listen to my ideas instead of just tossing them aside.

You are the creator of your destiny. That’s right, you. Although you may want to blame someone or something else for your mistakes, you’re the one who made them. But, you’re also the one who can change your life because you are in control of all of your choices. Even the choice you make now is one that you alone have power over. If you’re reading this article, you are the one who decided to read it. And you are also the one who decides whether you’ll let my words enter into your mind and soul and become part of your being. I think I’ve already made it clear that I don’t care who agrees with me anymore. Ridicule or criticize me if you like–it’s all the same to me. I simply don’t care, for part of gaining wisdom and enlightenment (and no, I’m not talking about anything religious) is the cutting away of that which is not essential and/or significant. Those who demean my work are not significant to me. And my focusing on their denigrating words is not essential to my life.

There is much to be said about letting go of everything that is not essential. If you were to look upon your life as a house that you were moving out of and you could only pack up the things you really needed to move to a new and smaller place, what choices would you make? How many friendships would you keep pursuing or maintaining? How many books would you give away? Which pieces of furniture would you sell? Are you starting to follow my line of thinking? In a way, it’s like asking yourself, “How would I live if I only had six months left on this earth?” If you like, you can substitute that concept instead. Whatever works for you works for me, too. We each have our own “comfort zone” when it comes to thinking, and some of us are slower to move out of that comfort zone than others.

But, just to re-iterate point about the importance of “experimental” (i.e., outside-the-box) thinking, let’s turn to the words of John Dewey. “Taken merely as a doubt, an idea would paralyze inquiry. Taken merely as a certainty, it would arrest inquiry. Taken as a doubtful possibility, it affords a standpoint, a platform, a method of inquiry.” What Dewey is encouraging us to do is to make sure that we do not become too certain of the ideas we subscribe to. Yet,  instead of doubting our ideas, he suggests that we consider them as possibilities. So, we can imagine that an idea is correct, while simultaneously holding the thought in our mind that the idea might not be true.

In a way, we can become the scientists of our worlds. We can look upon our lives as a laboratory and conduct various experiments every day. Has anything great every be achieved by those who played it safe? What novel or innovative concept has anyone come up with who refused to re-examine his or her thoughts and ideas? Unfortunately, society tends to foster the spirit of certainty. We are supposed to be die-hard fans of someone or something–we are urged to have vehement political and religious views. If we don’t, we have accusations hurled at us about lacking conviction.

Well, conviction is very important. But, you have to make sure that your convictions are the result of reflective, critical, and experimental thinking. John Dewey in his book, How We Think, speaks in some detail about what he refers to as “empirical thinking” or “empiricism.” This type of thinking brings about a lack of flexibility that can lead to dogmatism and an attitude in which a person engages in heated debates and not productive discussions. As you may have already surmised,  empirical thinking leaves little room for the imagination to be nourished. It’s antithetical to the type of thinking that children engage in. Awe and wonderment become replaced with cynicism and skepticism, and new ideas are usually discarded before they have the chance to take root. Imagine how few scientific experiments would have ever been performed if each scientist was certain beforehand that nothing would turn out the way he/she wanted it to. I suspect Einstein would never have discovered his theory of relativity, and none of us would ever have heard Marie Curie’s name.

I’ve brought you this far. I know this because you’re still reading. Now I’m going to ask you to go one step further. Ask yourself this question: what experiments am I wanting to try in my life now that I haven’t dared to attempt? Is there a job opportunity you want to go after but believe you would never be chosen for? Or do you have an idea for a wonderful novel but can’t get yourself to sit down and start writing it because you’re already sure that it won’t be published? Do you want to find the man or woman of your dreams but find yourself looking upon any kind of committed relationship with skepticism and/or apprehension?

Once you decide what you’re afraid of, you’ll probably know what experiment you need to try. If there is anything in your life that seems to be holding you back, it’s only your fear of change. The “status quo” has become a habit. You want things to be different, but part of you has gotten comfortable with the way things are now. Am I talking about you? Maybe, maybe not. Everything I say is colored by what I’ve read, absorbed, and experienced. But, this is the case when it comes to anyone. That’s why I am so adamant about stating that I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I emphasize the fact that I cannot “fix” anyone’s problems. If I were to say anything other than that, I would be taking away your power. I would be suggesting that you needed a Savior. I would be saying, “You need me to create your destiny.” You and I both know that you don’t need me or anyone else besides yourself. Even if you feel incomplete or inadequate, you’re not. You only think you are.  In many ways, you have probably been conditioned to think the way that you do. This means that you may have to unlearn things that you think you know. For, in order to acquire true knowledge we must empty our minds of all that is false.

I know that you may read this article today and forget most of it tomorrow. So, I’m going to end with a thought I want you to hold onto: Live today as if there will be no tomorrow. 

Until soon,
Alexis, your SuccessDiva

~”The Magic of Imagination” is dedicated to Kate Anderson, with much love always

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

Live Without Limits!

ballerina31I have oftentimes said that in order to achieve the results we want in any area of our lives, we have to discover the ingredients we need to make those results happen. Pretend for just one moment that you are a master chef who is creating a new recipe with no guidance or direction . . . a recipe that will be the product of creativity, expertise, knowledge, and perhaps a dash of two of instinct. Do you see that having each ingredient in the right proportion will be essential to the eventual outcome? This may sound a bit like a scientific experiment to some of you, and in a way life can be like that, also. When we find that the thought patterns and attitudes that we have held onto for so long are no longer working for us, we are forced to either remain unfulfilled or to explore new choices and different decisions.

As I said in my blog article “Be Yourself”, you cannot always count on someone else backing you up in a decision that you make. Why? Well, although there are those toxic individuals who might well not have your best interest at heart, there are also those people who are rather timid souls themselves and are therefore apt to discourage you from taking any major risks.

I’m sure you realize by now that I am a diva who is willing to take risks. But that doesn’t mean that I have’t had plenty of times in which I have either pressured myself or  been pressured by others into continuing down a path that was not the right one for me.

To cut away from the path that has been chosen by you or by others for you requires you to be bold and daring. Does it require you to let go of fear? No, it doesn’t. What it does require, however, is for you to allow your faith in yourself to overcome your fear.

Susan Jeffers wrote a book entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and I think that title sums up the kind of attitude towards life that you have to adopt. If you wait for fear to go away, you will die with most of your potential still locked inside you. Conversely, if you understand that only until you push past the fear and do what you want to do or need to do in spite of fear, you will end up creating the kind of life that you have always desired.

I remember reading Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway a couple of years ago. I thought I had absorbed the concept of the book completely. For a few weeks, I recommended the book to everyone who crossed my path, thinking that it contained the “secret” to ultimate success and fulfillment. The problem was, even though I had read every word in Susan Jeffers’ book, I had not learned how to apply the knowledge I had acquired.  Have you ever listened to a self-help CD program or read a motivational book and felt incredibly enthusiastic about it only to find that the feeling was only temporary? If so, why do you think that is? Well, for one thing, you have probably fallen into a set of habits in your life–habits that pretty much have control over most of your thoughts and actions.

The American psychologist and philosopher William James, in his work The Principles of Psychology, discusses the role that habit plays in our destiny in the chapter entitled “Habit”. James recounts incidents in which people’s habits have become so deeply ingrained that much of the time they do not even think about that which they are doing. He encourages us to make our nervous system our ally in the establishment of a new habit, for it is within our nervous system that habits take root, for better or worse. 

When someone talks about being on “automatic pilot,” what he or she means is that whatever action is being spoken of has become almost entirely automatic on his or her part. In a way, if you let enough of your habits become automatic, you are more like an automaton than a human being. That is, of course, an exaggeration. Yet I think it points out with remarkable clarity how dangerous it could be to allow yourself to lapse into a mode in which your cognitive functions are scarcely being used at all.

One thing that sets humans apart from animals is our ability to reason and to make conscious choices about our behavior. In the animal world, procreation is more of an instinct than a decision, whereas many people never have offspring. When we choose to ignore the pivotal role that our mind and our thoughts have in our lives, we are negating that which sets us apart as unique and remarkable human beings. At any given moment in time, we have the ability to make a change in our lives, whether small or large, simply by changing the way we think. Yet, so many of us do not take advantage of this incredible ability we possess. Yes, sometimes it is a struggle to change our thoughts when our emotions are in conflict with those thoughts.  But when we minimize our instinctual responses and try to tap into our incredible reasoning capabilities, we will usually find that we can make a change that might have seemed impossible at first.

Since I mentioned recipes, cooking, and ingredients at the beginning of my post, I want to return to the idea of life being like a recipe. There are not only things you have to put into the recipe but also there are ingredients that you have to leave out. That means that concocting the dish of your dreams may be as much about letting go as it is about increasing. Some things that you will find necessary to let go of may not ever have been very important to you. You may not miss a friend whom you only saw a couple of times a year or a summer vacation to Disney World.  And, deleting trivial relationships and insignificant activities from your life can accomplish a great deal.

But, there are usually a few things in life that we are attached to that we find we must also let go of . . .  if, that is, we are to create a life that even begins to match up with our dreams. We may have to break ties with a toxic parent who continues to be an unhealthy influence on our lives. Or we might have to give up our “secure” job to pursue a career that everyone else tells us is “wishful thinking”. Do you see where feeling the fear yet doing it anyway is such a powerful and essential philosophy?

The writer Anais Nin once said, “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I think that waiting until the idea of not taking a risk becomes painful is not necessarily the wisest course of action. However, if you need to get to that point to become aware of how desperately you need to make a change or take a chance, it is a positive turn of events. I have spent my life taking risks of one kind or another, and I have oftentimes been asked by people where what they perceive to be a steadfast confidence in myself and my abilities comes from.

When I tell them that I actually have to overcome a massive amount of fear to do whatever it is that they find so remarkable, they find it astonishing. This is usually because many people assume that anyone who would dare to take a significant risk must have a sense of assurance that taking that risk will be to their benefit. But, what is the truth? Even though most of us were adventurous when we were children, as we grow up, it is nearly impossible not to be conditioned by society and those around us into believing that there are certain things we simply cannot do.

So, why do certain individuals go after goals that would seem unreachable to some and actually achieve them? Is it probable that these particular people never came into contact with anyone who discouraged them? I think both you and I know the answer to that question. If anything, those who have accomplished things of the greatest significance have had to overcome an outrageous amount of criticism and/or negativity in order to do so. What they did not generally have to overcome is a timidity of the soul that prevented them from being willing to cast aside the opinions of others and pursue their dreams regardless of anyone else’s advice or views. In the end, no matter how many times these incredible achievers listened to those who had no faith in them and their dreams–no matter how many times they allowed these naysayers to affect their behavior–they ultimately believed in themselves enough to go after what they wanted.

Whenever I speak of faith, I tend to suspect that many of you think I am talking about religious faith. But that isn’t what I’m speaking of. Although it can indeed be beneficial to have faith in a force greater than yourself, what I am talking about is faith in you. It’s so easy to exaggerate our flaws and to focus on our past failures and disappointments. After awhile, the person we see ourselves as is not the person we are but rather the person whom our decisions and actions have made us believe that we are. It takes a lot of effort and determination to let go of every negative judgement you’ve made about yourself and every preconceived idea you may be subscribing to about your abilities. Yet, until you can separate the “you” that you are from the “you” that you think you are, you will never become the person that you are meant to be. 

You have to take off those dusty spectacles through which you are seeing yourself and the world around you and put on a clean pair of glasses that will enable you to see everything the way it really is. You do want to perceive things from a realistic vantage point, don’t you? Well then, it’s essential that you be willing to let go of your limiting ideas and your narrow-minded views. Then, you can embrace the full potentiality of who you are and all the possibilities and opportunities that are waiting for you in your life.

Sure, you will make mistakes when you decide to be adventurous and take risks. Yes, you will disappoint people when your actions and choices fail to match up with what they think you should do. You will probably also not meet the expectations others have of you . . . possibly even those whose approval and acceptance you have been completely dependent on. But what’s better–disappointing everyone else or disappointing yourself?

You know in your heart that there is something right now you want to do that you’re not doing. There is a choice or a change you want to make that you are apprehensive about. Well, what is apprehension but another form of fear? It is with courage that we achieve great things.

Fear only weakens us. Although it may seem to be protecting us from making a decision that could be wrong, it is actually eroding every bit of our self-confidence. When you protect yourself, you are also shielding yourself. You are putting a barrier up between yourself and everything that surrounds you. I still maintain that it is important to guard our hearts. But there is a vast difference in preserving our emotional well-being and protecting ourselves from the universe that surrounds us.

You can be trusting and still be careful. You can be wise yet still be vulnerable. I love the verse in the Bible that says, “be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). I think that passage of scripture illustrates how well two seemingly contradictory attributes can work together. We do need to be able to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the world with the innocence of a dove . . . or, as the case may be, of a child. At the same time, if we do not use discernment and wisdom in all that we do, we will be ravaged by the cruelty and brutality of those who have lost all sense of humanity.

I have perfect faith that every one of you who is reading this post is going to discover that you are capable of much more than you ever imagined. And I hope that you won’t wait another moment to let go of your mental restraints and limiting beliefs so that you can live a life without limits!

Until soon,

Alexis, the SuccessDiva

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

Surrender to Life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

 

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

~Be your own mirror~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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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

Finding your purpose. . .

believe19Although it’s not something a lot of people are ready to accept, the first and most essential step to changing your life is taking complete responsibility for every choice you make. In a way, this sounds like it might be dis-empowering. When we make a mistake, it doesn’t feel pleasant to acknowledge the role we played in it. We would prefer to blame someone else. . .or something else. . .or the weather. . .or fate. . . .or some unseen force. To blame ourselves, particularly when we feel like we were simply naive or too trusting, is painful. Yes, it is painful, but what you have to ascertain is whether or not you would rather deal with the short-term pain now or with long-term misery later.

Have you ever heard the saying about winning the battle but losing the war? This is something I’ve given thought to this week as I’ve been tempted to react to thoughtless critcism in a way that would have been destructive to both me and those who criticized me. Sometimes we have to weigh the importance of a situation—we have to consider whether or not it’s truly significant from a long-range perspective. There will always be people who, for whatever reason, don’t like us. We can spend time trying to figure out why they have negative feelings towards us or we can forget about them and move towards those who do support us and encourage us. It’s essential that we learn to conserve our energy so that we can use it on the tasks that really matter. Energy is as precious as time, and neither one can be replaced. No matter how many cups of coffee or cans of soda you drink or how many pieces of candy you may consume, your natural energy cannot be fully replenished in a day once it is gone.

I remember reading about how the consummate French author, Honore de Balzac, managed to keep himself awake throughout the wee hours of the morning by drinking pots of black coffee. Balzac was not a person with a large amount of self-discipline; so, he was forced to deprive himself of sleep because he frittered so much time away carousing, drinking, and enjoying himself. Although many of Balzac’s books are among the finest of all European literature, you have to wonder how much more he might have accomplished if he had learned how to take responsibility for himself and his choices. None of us really wants to be at the mercy of such substances as alcohol or drugs nor do we want to have to rely on caffeine to keep us awake. This is why getting a clear mental picture of where we are going in our lives is of primary importance.

“Am I talking about a vision again?” you may ask.  In a way, I am. But I’m also talking about a purpose. Someone who wrote me this week and said some very discouraging things about my role as a Success Diva implied that I was merely encouraging people to go after a life of fame, fortune, and personal glory. Well, since this person misunderstood me to such a great extent, I feel it’s incumbent on me to clarify my intentions to all of you. There is no amount of money on earth that will bring you happiness or fulfillment. As for fame, it is fleeting, and often leads to months and years of solitude, misery, and isolation. I am not suggesting that anyone seek fancy cars, expensive clothes, opulent houses, or other material possessions in order to achieve happiness or success. Success, according to this diva’s frame of reference, is the usage of one’s full and unique potential. It is the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that you have done something that you’re proud of and that makes you feel worthwhile. It’s the feeling of contentment and self-satisfaction you get when you look at your life and realize that you have more to be grateful for than you could have ever dreamed of. Success begins with discovering and embracing the reason that you were put on this earth—and then doing everything within your power to make sure your life has not been lived in vain.

Think about a tree. When it’s first planted, does it seem to be full of promise? Do you look at it and become enraptured by its radiance and splendor? Or do you look at it as being full of potential? And, after you’ve planted it, what would happen if you decided to go pull it up after a few weeks because it didn’t appear to be growing? You and I both know what would happen. You would never look forward to the experience of seeing that fragile sapling grow into a tree of strength and resilience. Well, we are not so different from the young tree. We  begin as saplings, too. Unfortunately, we often remain saplings because we do not allow ourselves the chance to sink our roots deep into the ground. Rather, we allow the gutsy winds of life to cause us to fall down, and, even though we sometimes sense that we have the tenacity to get back up, if we don’t use this tenacity the first time we’re knocked down, it becomes easier and easier to let the storms leave us in a state of permanent decay. At a certain point, we’re not even fresh young saplings anymore. Instead, we’re rotten trees with broken branches and cracks that seem too severe to ever mend.

Recently, I read about Walt Disney, and how he fought so hard to hold onto his dreams when everyone told him that his ideas were outrageous and unrealistic. Nowadays, Disney has his share of critics because people are so narrow-minded that they cannot look past the Walt Disney Pictures that we’re familiar with today and focus on the man behind it all. It’s tragic when people associate an individual and his or her specific dreams with those who carry on those dreams in years to come. Personally, I think Walt Disney had one of the most ingeniously creative minds in history. He was a pioneer. . .a trendsetter. . .a man who continued to go after his dreams, in spite of countless obstacles. Now what’s not to admire about that?  What amazes me is that Walt Disney suffered two nervous breakdowns at critical times of his life. So often, we think of nervous breakdowns as being something that those who are truly icons of success do not succumb to. And yet, time after time, I encounter details about famous authors, artists, musicians, actors/actresses, and other creative artists having mental and emotional breakdowns. It almost seems like having to overcome a setback of such a devastating nature strengthens the resolve of these determined individuals. Is that possible? If so, we have been overlooking a secret to ultimate success that those who have achieved great things have known all along. Namely, this secret is that, if we take any negative experience that happens to us, whether it be significant or not and reverse its affect, so that it makes us stronger rather than weaker, our chances of success have actually improved because of the setback. Hey, I realize that’s a radical concept.  . .but this diva is radical.  Indeed, what I’m slowly starting to discover is that only in combining radical, cutting-edge ideas with more solid philosophies and “traditional” thought patterns will I be able to be the diva I want to be. It’s the mix of the daring with the tame. . .the spontaneous with the carefully considered. . .the old with the new. . .the spicy with the sweet.  You’re never going to make an impact on anyone if you’re not flexible. You have to be willing to take leaps of faith, even if you worry that they’re too risky. Fear is something to overcome–not something to run from.

Walt Disney didn’t let his breakdowns cause him to let go of his ultimate goal. So, why should you let petty annoyances and narrow-minded people cause you to renounce your dreams? Most of the time, the things we spend so much time thinking about aren’t even important. And most of the people who try to cause us to fall down are of no consequence at all.  If they were really worthwhile people, they would know that true success is only achieved by building others up. For only when you are willing to extend a hand to help another person make the life they desire a reality will you be ready to embrace your own dreams. Sure, some of your dreams may come true, even if you do mistreat those around you. But your dream of personal fulfillment and of inner happiness will never be yours. And no matter what any of us try to say, we all have at least one thing in common—we want to feel a certain sense of satisfaction with ourselves. We want to have respect for the person we are. Yet how can we ever respect ourselves if we achieve our goals at the expense of others?

This is why I have emphasized the importance of seeing life as a team effort. Remember how I compared us to the clans of meerkats on the television show, “Meerkat Manor”? If you didn’t read that particular post, I’ll elucidate a bit. On the cable channel, Animal Planet, there’s a successful show called “Meerkat Manor”. It centers on the day-to-day existence of families of meerkats. And unlike human beings, who often seem to have no instinctual desire to support each other, meerkats undertake every situation that arises as if it’s a team sport. The result is that, most of the time, the meerkats know that they can rely on each other. It’s sad to think that, in some ways, we are more selfish than meerkats, but I’m afraid it’s true. So many people have bought into what I call a “scarcity mentality” which essentially focuses on the idea that you must lose so that I can win. In reality, what often happens is that both you and I will lose. This is why this philosophy is so toxic, and why it leads to disappointment and unhappiness. On the other hand, the “abundance mentality” centers around the concept that both you and I can win because there is plenty of success, joy, love, and happiness to go around. We don’t have to fervently hold onto our little sliver of the pie, for we know that there will always be more pie where that pie came from. Our willingness to freely share the pie with others ensures that there will be more than plenty for us.

The “abundance mentality” can also be applied to the love and affection we demonstrate towards others. The more we are willing to demonstrate our caring and compassion to the people that surround us, the more likely it is that we will receive a significant amount of caring and compassion in return. That which flows outwards tends to flow back in eventually. It’s part of the way the world works. So, the next time you are tempted to treat someone with cruelty or thoughtlessness, think about the fact that what you are giving will at some point be received by you. And when another person mistreats you, always remember that they will end up bearing the brunt of their mistreatment—not you. The only thing we ever have any power over is our own life. What anybody else does or says to us is outside of our control. 

This is why you must take charge of all of your choices right now. Once you separate the things you really can change from those  you are powerless to do anything about, you’ll be one step closer to designing the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Have fun. . .and make each moment matter!

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

Getting outside of the box

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

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

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

Until soon. . .make every moment matter!

Your Success Diva

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

Born to be you!

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

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

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