The Journey is Yours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and blessings,

Alexis

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

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

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Living On Purpose

When I first began my career as a SuccessDiva, it didn’t occur to me that people would subscribe to the mistaken idea that I was promoting the idea of securing happiness through material possessions. However, there is oftentimes the assumption that success equals wealth or fame or an elevated social status. Although I have made it clear, both at this blog and elsewhere, that I am not encouraging you to seek this type of “success”, I am impassioned anew to point out not only the fact I am not promoting these ideas but also my reasons for not doing so.

The Russian author Leo Tolstoy believed that wealth actually came from “the number of things one can do without.” And since many of my principles in regard to life are very closely attuned with those of the Greek philosophers such as Epictetus, whom I mentioned in my last blog post, “The Authentic You”, I wholeheartedly agree with Tolstoy’s sentiments.

In many ways, abundance is the opposite of  accumulation. When we accumulate, we are adding things to our lives, many of which we don’t really need.  Yet, in achieving a state of abundance, we learn to appreciate that which we already have.  I was reading a book written by a well-known psychologist and anthropologist in which she gave a beautiful illustration of how her perspective towards life changed by sharing an encounter she had with her grandmother, when the  latter was dying of cancer. “Grandmother, have you had a happy life?” she asked her. The grandmother’s reply is profound in its inherent wisdom. “Mary,” she answered, “I don’t think of my life that way. I ask, ‘Have I made good use of my time and my talent? Is the world a better place because I have been here?'”

In a world where people cannot wait for the weekend to come so that they can relax and watch a lot of television or spend time hanging out with their buddies and friends, I think too many of us have lost sight of the fact that we were put on this earth for a reason. Skeptics and cynics scoff at the idea of our having a purpose. But which is better—a life lived by default or a live lived on purpose? Would you like to come to the end of your life without being able to name one fellow human being whose life you had touched?

If you have children, how you rear them is what will be the determining factor in whether or not you make a lasting difference in their lives. Unless you teach your children that who they are as people is infinitely more important than what they do, how much money they make, what they own, or even what relationships they have, you will be setting the stage for them to experience a lifetime of inner emptiness and disappointment.

Unfortunately, even living a life in which we devote ourselves to helping others can be evoked by a desire for self-gratification. The only way to ensure that our efforts towards making a difference in the world are sincere and done for the  benefit of others is to ask ourselves how much further we would go in our pursuits if we knew that we would gain very little or nothing through our efforts. A female acquaintance of mine who is a “self-styled psychologist” recently complained that she felt she was “putting herself out” in her endeavors to help other people without getting the proper level of appreciation in return. Now, what’s wrong with this picture? Well, when we begin to expect rewards for actions that we say are solely to benefit other people, we are sending the clear message that, no matter how compassionate our behavior seems to those around us, the motive behind our actions has been self-serving.

The demonstration of gratitude is becoming more and more rare in the culture we now live in. Those who have little want everything, and those who have much want still more. We are inclined to value quantity over quality, both in our material possessions and in our relationships. Oftentimes, sex, rather than being something meaningful and significant, has become yet another outlet to distract us from lives that are unfulfilled and devoid of any real importance. Children are conceived without consideration and then resented for all of the extra time and effort they require. Not only have we not learned that less is often more—we seem to be embracing the concept that more is essential.

So, why do so much misery, hopelessness, and despair exist? Why is there such a high suicide rate, and why are so many seemingly stable marriages ending in divorce? What has happened to our society? Can the world be fixed? These are all questions that cannot be answered easily, and there is no “right” answer to any of them. Like most things in life, these questions are relative to the respective situations. Many variables are always involved.

Whereas one couple may divorce because of infidelity on the part of one or more partners, another couple may split up simply because they disagree over who should pick out the DVDs they rent from the nearest Blockbuster Video store. But there is one common denominator that is usually present in a set of circumstances that seems tragic or unnecessary. That denominator is a lack of clarity about that which matters most. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once expressed a profound statement about that which matters most never being at the mercy of that which matters least. The question is, what does matter most?

I believe that at a certain point in his or her life, any critical thinker becomes cognizant of the fact that peace of mind and inner contentment are to be prized far more highly than either the esteem of others or the extent of one’s personal achievements. We are all connected to each other in this world, and, perhaps, at the root of the general hopelessness that is pervading our society is the idea that we have lost touch with one another. We are so occupied trying to persuade others to think the way we think and to see life the way we see it that the spirit of love and harmony has gotten cast aside in favor of being “right” and making our points about politics, religion, sex, or whatever the subject du jour may be.

As we toss out labels like “animal rights extremists”, “radical feminists”, “pro-abortion fanatics”, or, on the flip side of the coin, “fundamentalists”, “rednecks”, and “right-wing conservatives”, we don’t stop to think of the long-term consequences this name-calling will bring about. We have abandoned empathy for dehumanization and instead of discussing important issues we jump right  in and start virulent debates. What would happen if we stood back and tried to put aside our differences long enough to form a connection with our fellow individuals, however tenuous that connection might be?

You may well have heard Gandhi’s frequently repeated quotation, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Yet, have you ever applied that particular quotation to yourself? Do you see yourself as merely one grain of sand on an overly populated seashore. Or do you understand that, even though you are only one person, you can still make an impact on the lives of those around you?

Forget everything you’ve heard about so-called positive thinking. Open your mind up and listen to my words for, though I speak with my own voice, my philosophy is summed up in the texts of many sages, philosophers, and poets who came into this world centuries before you or I were born.  If we do not find some way to make our lives mean something, then many of us will come to the end of our lives fully comprehending why Arthur Schopenhauer wrote an essay entitled, “On Vanity of Existence”. According to Schopenhauer, man is a “compound of needs which are hard to satisfy . . . [and] their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which [man] is only given to boredom . . . [and] boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence.”

When was the last time you said you were feeling bored? Did you ever stop to consider it was because you were not engaging in any activities that were of any lasting value?  I cannot help but think, when I read these words of Schopenhauer, that the only solution to the “vanity” of existence is in focusing our attention on something besides our own personal needs. If indeed the fulfillment of these needs does not bring lasting satisfaction to begin with, would we not be better off  looking outside ourselves and our own wants and desires and focusing instead on the needs and desires of others?

I’m not encouraging you to live a life of unmitigated self-sacrifice. But I do feel that until we get to the end of ourselves, we will not be able to fill the void within our souls. We must let go of our preoccupation with ourselves and our own needs in order to leave a lasting imprint on the lives of those whom we leave behind. Whether we have children or not, there will be those who come after us whose lives will be affected in some way, however minimal, by the choices and decisions we have made.

It’s easy to regard yourself as insignificant, but in a way, by doing this, you are avoiding responsibility for your life. In demeaning your own importance, you are removing any sort of obligation you might have to accomplish something worthwhile, whether it be raising your children with values and principles or using your gifts and capabilities to their full potential. Sometimes, we use fear as an escape mechanism. After all, if we’re too afraid to take charge of our lives, no one will blame us if we don’t do all we could or should. And, if we add the habit of blaming others to our own feelings of fear and anxiety, we’ll end up having plenty of reasons to justify our indolence, apathy, self-pity, and sloth.

It’s also tempting to attribute our lack of initiative to depression or discouragement. But when we hear about those who have  overcome insurmountable odds to accomplish remarkable things, we’re left with the inner knowledge that our excuses don’t hold up so well under scrutiny. Although you may not realize this, if you are living a life in which you’re letting fear control you or using blame to validate your own mistakes, you are actually living in a state of bondage. You have managed to victimize yourself—you have become a martyr of your own feeble attempts to excuse yourself from living a life of purpose and significance. 

In a way, we are not entirely to blame for this tendency many of us have to avoid responsibility for our lives. Our society and culture encourage us to feel like our lives and the world at large are spiraling out of control. Messages of fear about global warning, political upheavals, and nuclear disaster are hurled at us like missiles. Almost every time we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper we hear about yet another case of injustice or brutality. How is it possible to have peace of mind in such a chaotic universe?

One of the most fundamental ways to achieve a state of inner calm is to separate that which we can control from that which is out of our control. Although we can make an impact on the world, we cannot change the world, no matter  how strong our desire might be to do so. It is not uncommon to embrace the concept of being a superhero who manages to bring about transformation on a monumental scale. But each of us is just one person with one life to make into either a story that nobody will remember or a masterpiece that others can reflect upon with admiration and respect.  

Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who died of typhus in a concentration camp at the age of sixteen, summed it up with exquisite eloquence when she said,  “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it’s a simple act of kindness.” What we must let go of, when we decide to give to those around us, is the expectation that we must get something back. In order to live authentically, to truly break free from self-limiting beliefs and live a life without limits, we must  be willing to stop asking ourselves that age-old question, “What’s in it for me?”

To stop clinging to the habit of expecting to be repaid for our good deeds and kind gestures takes courage. But until we learn to be masters of the art of self-sufficiency, we will always be looking for fulfillment in things, people, and achievements. We will never get to the place where we can look in the mirror and feel a surge of self-respect and acceptance for the face looking back at us. The choice is up to you. Do you want to continue living a life by default or would you like to start living on purpose?

Until soon,

Your 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

Cultivate your garden!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva 

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

The magic is within you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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The present is yours

gift2

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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