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

Exploit Your Potential!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

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

when you have to close your heart. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Success Diva

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

You are. . .well, You

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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