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

Capture your vision!

astronaut1It’s so easy to get caught up in the trap of day-to-day living, which essentially involves doing the things that are tasks, rather than pursuing our dreams. Is it not so? When you write down your daily to-do list  (or mentally think about it), don’t you notice that you’re focusing on a lot of activities that have little or no bearing on your ultimate desires? In other words, are you really working to create the life of your dreams every day? I know that I am guilty of letting myself get caught up in the struggle to do what has to be done in each 24-hour period. It’s frustrating but sometimes it seems inevitable. But, is it? Well, I think there’s no doubt about the fact that there are certain tasks that we must accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. However, when we focus on just those things at the exclusion of the activities that would get us closer to the life of our dreams, this is when we start to feel pessimistic. Do you remember my mentioning the film, “Groundhog Day”? Do you recall my talking about how it sometimes seems as if the same day is virtually repeating itself over and over again? You see, I have felt like that too often not to completely relate to the concept. There have even been certain periods of my life in which I dreaded getting up in the morning because I was certain that I would simply be repeating the day I had just lived through. “Okay,” you say, “I get the point. But what I don’t see is how I can prevent myself from feeling this way.” Well, the only way you can prevent yourself from feeling this way is if you choose to see life from a specific vantage point. You must replace those thoughts of hopelessness and frustration with faith in yourself. The only way you will ever accomplish anything is if you see it as being completely within the realm of possibility. In other words, you must capture your vision. . .and you must hold onto that vision, no matter what.

Let me ask you: do you think an astronaut goes into space without first envisioning the trip in his/her mind? I would say not. Indeed, my guess would be that before an astronaut ever enters his/her space shuttle, he/she has visualized the endeavor in intricate detail. I would also imagine that many surgeons use visualization before they ever enter the operating room. Believe it or not, the mind often cannot distinguish between the things we do and the things we imagine that we do. This is why it’s essential that you begin to incorporate visualization into your daily routine. It’s particularly effective if you tend to get nervous or anxious easily. To envision that you complete a task successfully prior to beginning it will automatically give you a sense of self-assurance. And this self-assurance will make it extremely likely that you’ll accomplish whatever it is you want or need to do. When I was a stage actress, I used to envision myself making a fabulous impression at an auditon before I ever arrived there. Did this mean I necessarily got the role I was auditioning for? Of course, it didn’t. But what it did do was prevent me from letting my confidence be eroded by stage fright or feelings that I wasn’t experienced and/or talented enough to be cast in the part I was up for. Sometimes, we have to coach ourselves, you know. If we wait around for someone else to tell us that we have what it takes to achieve success in our chosen career, we may find that a lot of opportunities come our way that we fail to seize. It was the legendary singer, Janis Joplin, who once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” And, you know what? To a certain extent, I think she’s right. Although I will always declare that I wouldn’t be half the diva I am without my fans and friends supporting me and offering me words of encouragement, I know that, if I stop believing in myself, no matter who else believes in me, it won’t matter much. Your psyche responds in a certain way to the image you hold in your mind of the person you are.  You cannot deceive yourself. If you are frequently allowing yourself to focus on thoughts of worthlessness and self-doubt, you aren’t going to ever be able to use most of your potential. I use the word “most” because there are very few of us who will ever use all of our potential. We are amazing, complex creatures, and it’s rare that any of us will ever understand all that we’re truly capable of accomplishing over the course of a lifetime.  We are actually consistently limiting ourselves. It isn’t that we lack the talent, intelligence or social skills to make great things happen in our lives. Rather, it’s that we’ve attached ourselves, body and soul, to a self-limiting belief system. Whether we are aware of it or not, we let ourselves absorb the negative energy that other people around us are nourishing themselves with. Rarely do we take the time to create a psychological barrier between ourselves and these self-destructive individuals, and because we fail to do this, we end up letting other peoples’ ways of thinking control the way we think. I know it may not be easy to accept this idea, but I assure you, it’s true. And, with years of being conditioned by the pessimistic thought patterns that are handed over to us and passed down to us by friends, family members, and acquaintances, we eventually get to the point where we feel like our chance of ultimate success is practically impossible. How can I speak with such authority on this subject? Well, I was raised with a father who believed that girls were intrinsically less valuable than boys, and, in spite of doing my best to eliminate this toxic viewpoint from my world, my father’s words and ideas seeped into my system and poisoned my blood. Yes, I still do have to convince myself that women are capable of accomplishing remarkable and incredible things. Although I am dedicated to not being controlled by the erroneous views that my father tried to impart to me, it is nevertheless a struggle to have an enormous amount of faith in myself. I remember reading about the actress Candice Bergen, and how she battled her feelings of rejection from her father for a number of years. When she was a teenager, Candice’s father, the famous ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, made Candace feel that she was unattractive simply because she didn’t have a curvy figure. In later life, Candice has spoken candidly about the self-esteem issues that came about as a direct result of her father’s rejection of her and her appearance. And yet, when we look at Candice in such classic films as “Gandhi,” “The Wind and the Lion,” and “Starting Over,” for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, it’s not easy to believe that anyone would have ever thought she was anything less than beautiful. In fact, she bears a striking resemblance to one of the classic sex symbols of the 1980s, actress Kim Basinger. And, oddly enough, Basinger also struggled with a lack of self-acceptance. In fact, she made the erotic film ,”9 1/2 weeks”, mostly to please the man she was married to at the time, whose approval Basinger desperately wanted. Do you see what happens when you depend upon other people to make you feel as if you are worthwhile?? This brings me back to what I said in one of my most recent posts about establishing a genuine sense of self-worth. But you must go beyond that if you want to live the life of your dreams. You must actually create a vision of your ideal life and sustain that vision no matter how many obstacles come your way. The only person who can hold you back in the long run is yourself. It may be easier to blame other people or various circumstances for the fact that you don’t achieve your goals, but unless you are fully prepared to acknowledge the role you played in not making your dreams a reality, you will not succeed. Yes, the psychological and emotional scars that are inflicted upon us at the most vulnerable times of our lives may not ever completely heal. However, continuing to blame those scars for the fact that we haven’t done more with our lives will only hinder us. In fact, in blaming the scars for our lack of success, we are really giving power to those persons or events that caused the scars in the first place. Am I making sense? I wish I didn’t feel like I had to keep re-iterating these things, but, if I don’t repeat important concepts, there is no way I’ll be able to help you eliminate the thought patterns that are preventing you from finding happiness and fulfillment right now. Every day, this diva works to erase the carefully installed negative conditioning of the past. Sometimes I feel like my mind is a computer, and I am constantly having to re-program it to think in a way that will make it possible for me to be the success diva of my dreams. The good news is that the more committed you are to the task, the easier it will become. So, even if you feel that you are fighting an uphill battle at first, as time passes, you will find that your mind is starting to work with you. Rather than having to force yourself to think differently, you’ll find that any negative ideas you have about yourself will be easily replaced with positive ideas. Now, I’m not going to predict how long it might take for this change to take place. For all I know, it could take a year, two years, or even five years. But those years will pass even if you keep your old, poisonous thought patterns. So, you might as well do yourself a favor and make it possible for you to do something with all your talents and abilities, instead of sitting back and using phrases like “I wish” and “If only.” I’ll talk in future posts about the phrases we use on a daily basis that are automatically sending us down a tunnel of doubt, fear, and repression. For the moment, I urge you to pay attention to your thoughts. If you find it’s difficult to keep track of the toxic thoughts you’re having about yourself, those around you, and your life, keep a tablet or some notepaper and a pen or pencil nearby and start writing down your thoughts. You don’t have to write your thoughts down often, but you should at least check in with yourself a couple of a times a day, preferably when you’re feeling especially miserable or unhappy. When you see that you’re having thoughts that involve feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, address them immediately. Don’t let them take up residence in your mind like a teabag, steeping in a cup of hot water. If you don’t work to eliminate the destructive thought as soon as you’re aware of them, they’ll have a chance to start poisoning your system. Before you know it, you’ll be psychologically ill, and you’ll have lost nearly all your confidence in your ability to do anything that you consider worthwhile.

So, to sum up Success Diva’s input and suggestions, let’s re-visit the subject of your personal vision. As I said of earlier in this post, an astronaut or a surgeon or anyone else who is going to perform a major task scracely starts that activity without visualizing in their mind what how they’re going to go about it. You need to have a definite idea of what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and why it’s essential that you do it. This means you must come up with a what, a why, and a how. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? However, some of you may be prepared to tell me that there isn’t a specific reason for why you do many of the things you do. If this is the case, then why are you even reading Success Diva’s blog? I think you are wanting to live your life on purpose, rather than by default. I believe that’s why you’re here. And if you make up your mind to capture your vision, I have complete confidence in the fact that you will one day have not only the life of your dreams but maybe even a life that exceeds anything you could have ever dreamed of. 

I hope you will make each minute of this day matter and that you will start replacing doubt with faith and feelings of apathy with passion and enthusiasm! Only you can capture your vision. No one, including your diva, can do it for you.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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To contact me personally about a specific situation, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com I will reply to all e-mails 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