Believe in yourself!

believe135 (flower)Many people have the erroneous idea that faith must be in some way inevitably connected with religion. However, I have never thought that this was necessarily the case. True, it can help in times of immense turmoil to imagine that the universe is guided by a Divine Force, whether we call that force God, the Creator, or something entirely different. At the same time, there is the unshakable sense of self-assurance that I feel those who succeed in life never quite lose sight of–and who can deny that this, too, is a type of faith?

Norman Vincent Peale, the preacher, speaker and self-improvement author extraordinaire who first brought the concept of “positive thinking” to the forefront of society, believed that the most important seed we must plant in ourselves is the seed of self-worth. I think our world is so focused on outward appearances and on the superficialities of life that many people don’t even know what they should base their self-worth on. If their sense of value comes from their appearance, what do they do when they start to see the first signs of aging on their face? Does their self-worth suddenly plummet? And, if so, is there any validity behind their feeling they are less valuable than they once were? You can pick up fashion magazines or newspapers or turn on the television, and you see impossibly gorgeous models, both male and female, advertising everything from perfume and shampoo to blue jeans and designer duds. After awhile, you cannot help but wonder, “Is how I look truly the most important thing?”

This is where a personal “vision” comes into play. I have heard people scoff at the idea of a “mission statement”, and, perhaps, it does sound like too grandiose a term to describe a sentence or two summing up what a person wants to accomplish in his or her life. The irony is, the people who roll their eyes in amusement or smile smugly at such terms are the very people who don’t honestly have a clear-cut direction for their life. They are those who drift aimlessly, like boats which glide across the ocean, allowing themselves to be tumbled about by the waves. They are the people who swim but never make it up to the diving board. Such people may have moments in which they occasionally accomplish something significant, but, with no clearly defined plan, how can they ever use even a fraction of their innate potential?

Truthfully, I have never enjoyed writing down goals. In fact, I find it downright tedious! But, like the treadmill some of you get on at the gym, I write down goals because they  help me achieve my objectives–not because they bring me any momentary gratification. How many times do you go to the grocery store without having made some sort of shopping list, even if all you’ve done is scribble down a handful of items you desperately need? Well, is a trip to the grocery store that much more important than your life? Even though there may not seem to be a logical explanation for this, there is something about writing down a goal or plan that turns it into a reality for your subconscious mind. The crucial part of this strategy is that your goal or plan must be entirely your own. That is, you must let go of everyone else’s expectations of you.

I am currently re-reading my friend and mentor Denis Waitley’s incomparable book, Seeds of Greatness, and I am struck yet again by the story he shares about trying to live out his father’s vision for his life. Like so many parents who mean well, yet do not understand the importance of their children making their own path in life, Denis’ father encouraged him to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Knowing Denis both from his writing and through my friendship with him, I fully perceive that his spirit is too poetic and creative for him to experience total fulfillment in fields such as mechanical engineering and marine engineering. And, even though Denis did graduate from the Naval Academy and enjoyed a nine-year career as a naval aviator, he was never at home in that profession. However, like those who always manage to find the positive aspect of those sets of circumstances that don’t turn out precisely the way they want, Denis credits being a naval aviator with teaching him an incalculable amount of self-discipline, in addition to the invaluable importance of goal-setting and teamwork.

How many of us would have looked upon those nine years as being wasted? I must confess, it took me a few years to fully cherish the benefits I gained from all the years I dedicated to the goal of one day being a world-renowned concert violinist–a career which never became an actuality. I had to fight the impulse not to consider the largest part of my life as having been wasted. Although I read about such remarkable women as actresses Jane Seymour and Charlize Theron, both of whom began as dancers only to be swept into acting because of an injury, I still found it hard to stomach the idea that there could have been a purpose in my having worked so hard to design, create, and shape a career that was cut short by lupus. There were moments in which I somewhat cynically thought, “Sure, it sounds good to say that everything has a purpose. But isn’t that just what we want to think?” If you ever have had moments like that, you know that they are generally accompanied by a feeling of despair, hopelessness, and diminished self-worth. Why?  Well, I think that all of us want to believe that the things that happen in our lives have a purpose behind them, even if we don’t admit it.

Once again, I will reiterate that the word “purpose” has nothing to do with religion. It can incorporate God, for those who do believe in Him like me, but it can also be that inner sense that you have a role to play in the universe–a role that only you can perform. Shakespeare once said, in his play All’s Well that Ends Well that all the world is a stage, and all of us are merely actors on it. To a certain extent, I think Shakespeare was right in comparing the universe to a stage. And in drawing on this comparison, you can look upon your life as being a specific part in a production that the world is staging. It is a part that no understudy will ever be able to take over, even on the days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed or when you feel like everything is going wrong. It’s also a part that you cannot walk away from, no matter how badly you may sometimes want to.

So, what are you going to do? If you were a bird or an angel, would you clip your wings, or would you use them to enable you to fly? The potential you have within you is as miraculous as the wings on a bird or a butterfly. . . or the aura around a celestial being. I’m not certain that anyone has ever expressed the remarkable capabilities of the human spirit more aptly than Thomas Edison when he said: “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” The reason why we so rarely astound ourselves is because we have so little faith in our own unique potential. We allow the doubts we have about ourselves and the skeptical comments others make about our endeavors to cloud our vision. Instead of looking through a glass that shows us what we can do, we’re actually looking through a glass that shows us what other people think we can or cannot do. And, if we’re not doing that, we’re looking at a reflection of ourselves that only gives us a close-up of our flaws and our failures.  After awhile, we will experience a sense of fear about even trying to do something because our conscious reminds us of all the times we’ve failed in the past.

It’s this sense of fear I speak of that makes faith so important. You may still be at a point in your life where you think that the fear you feel when you’re taking a risk or striving towards a goal will somehow magically evaporate. Well, guess what? That fear will only get stronger if you’re waiting for it to go away. It’s kind of like thinking that the stack of dirty dishes in your kitchen sink is going to diminish if you leave it there long enough. Unless you have a fairy godmother somewhere in your midst, you or someone else will have to wash and dry all those dishes. Similarly, you are going to have overcome your fear at some point, whether you want to or not. Because a more powerful emotion is often the only thing that can diminish or eradicate a weaker emotion, the best way to combat fear is through faith.  You don’t have to complete your vision in your mind of what you want your life to be like–just start with a few pieces of the puzzle. Like an architect building a cathedral, you will soon see that patience and perseverance will do more for you than any momentary bursts of exuberance. I have had many people tell me that patience is what they find to be the hardest virtue to learn. Yet, when you remove patience from your stack of playing cards, you will find that you are trying to win a game with an incomplete deck.

Perhaps, having a chronic illness has forced me to learn the importance of patience. Who knows? I do think that anyone can learn the art of patience, though. It is when you become completely aware of what a difference patience can make in the quality and substance of your accomplishments that you begin to work towards mastering it. Faith and patience actually go hand in hand, too–for we must often have faith about things that have not yet happened. When we take a trip by airplane, we usually have faith that we’ll have a safe journey, just as we have confidence that we’ll get up the next morning when we go to sleep at night. If your belief system has been grounded in fear, it won’t be easy to change it. But, I have often found that what we must work hardest for is that which is most worth our achieving.

The psychologist and author William James summed it up well when he said, “To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” Even if the fear is never completely gone, it can become so diluted by the level and strength of our faith that it will lose any power it has over us and our lives. That is when the forces of the universe, whether we believe in a Creator or not, begin to somehow work together to help us achieve our aims. Whether you call it a miracle or simply the way the world works is up to you. But, I challenge you to start replacing fear with faith for the next month and to observe how your life begins to change. See whether or not those obstacles you imagine to be mountain peaks are really molehills in disguise. . .and whether or not that setback that you thought was permanent might not pave the way for an undiscovered opportunity. Although being realistic about what’s possible is always important, we do sometimes have to look at what can be instead of what is.

May you live each moment of today with courage, passion, enthusiasm, and faith! Make each moment count!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

I am getting more new members signing  up on my amazing Success Diva  mailing list with each passing week! What are you waiting for? Sign up, too, and celebrate life, SuccessDiva-style!

http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/successdiva/

If you should need my personal input on a specific situation or problem, please write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com  I will respond at my earliest convenience, I assure you!

This message 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’re not just telling me to think positively, are you?

When Norman Vincent Peale, the motivational speaker and author, first published his best-selling book, The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952, many people thought his theories in regard to focusing on positive thoughts and ridding your mind of all negative thoughts would completely alter their lives. Well, there are plenty of documented cases in which Peale’s way of. . .well, thinking. . . played a definitive role in people recovering from emotional/mental breakdowns, terminal illnesses, and poverty. But is positive thinking as beneficial and effective as it has been reputed to be by Peale and his followers? The answer is no.

You see, there is a basic problem underlying positive thinking that people like Peale don’t really stop and address—namely, that you have to think about it. That’s right. . .think about it. This means that, no matter how sad or depressed you’re feeling, no matter how scattered and unclear your mind may feel, you’re supposed to be able to somehow ‘magically’ get your mind to start thinking in a specific direction. Is it impossible?? No, course not. Is it logical, though? Not from the Success Diva’s frame of reference. I know, from personal experience, that just thinking sweet, pretty, little ‘happy thoughts’ isn’t going to really do me one bit of good at all. You know why? Because I’m too smart to buy into that sort of philosophy. And you see, friends, I know that you are too smart, too. That’s why you’re at this blog. You’re aren’t coming to my blog to hear a lot of recycled theories about how you can force-feed yourself positive thoughts all the time, trying to delude yourself into believing that your life is better than it is. Your life isn’t better than you think it is.  What? Your Success Diva is telling you that your life isn’t better than you perceive it to be?? Nope. She isn’t. She promised she would always be straightforward with you, and she isn’t going to stop now. Hey she’s on a roll!

The bare, cold, hard, truth. . .and for some of you, this may not be easy to accept. . .is that most of the time we have made a pretty accurate assessment of the problems that are going on in our lives. If our marriage is falling apart, we know it. If we didn’t get that promotion at work because we weren’t willing to put the time and effort into pursuing it that was required, we know it. Sure, we can lie to ourselves–we can tell ourselves, “Things can’t be as bad as all that,” but they really may well be. Would it make any sense for me to tell you that you were one step away from getting the job opportunity of your dreams if you’re out of work right now?? Would that kind of advice do you any good whatsoever? I daresay it would do you more harm than good as you would start having unrealistic expectations. Similarly, if your husband or wife has just filed for divorce and won’t communicate with you except through an attorney.  .  .well, the chances of putting your marriage back together are probably slight, at best.

Believe me, I’m familiar with nearly every aspect of the positive thinking theories. And even though they won’t do you any harm, they really won’t turn the life you’ve got right now into the life of your dreams. Thus, we must disregard them, mustn’t we? There are certain things, such as not watching CNN all the time and not trying to find out details about every crime that’s committed all over the nation that will naturally make you feel more optimistic. I mean, who wants to think that we’re living in such a cold, cruel, harsh world?? But to live in oblivion isn’t wise, either.  As I spoke of in two of my previous posts, there are those toxic people out there, and they come in many different guises. I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that all toxic people are intentionally toxic. Overall, toxic people don’t really love or accept themselves, and this lack of self-acceptance prevents them from being able to contribute in a positive way to the lives of those around them. At certain points of our lives, I think that many, if not most of us, can exhibit behavior that could possibly prove to be detrimental to the health and/or life of someone we love. Does this make us toxic, then? Well, that depends. If we know, for example, that we have emotional or psychological issues that we haven’t worked through and we are aware that these issues are preventing us from being able to be the kind of parent, child, friend, or partner/spouse that we should be, then, yes, in a way we are in danger of becoming toxic. I have known women who have not worked through the repressed anger within themselves stemming from a childhood in which they didn’t feel they received love from one of their parents, and they have gone on to verbally and physically abuse their children. Can they help it? Well, in a way, they can’t entirely be held responsible for it—not for the abuse, that is. What they can and should be held responsible for is not getting therapy for their issues when they knew they needed to do so years earlier, probably before they ever met their partner/husband, much less had any children. 

I have learned in recent times that those who hurt others are usually desperately hurting within themselves, and I feel there is a lot of validity in this viewpoint. This is why, if you are hurting, you may need more than your Success Diva to help you deal with your pain. Hey, Success Diva herself needs a little outside input at times. There are, of course, books you can read and tape/CD programs you can listen to that will provide you with some very helpful suggestions. I’m not going to list any right now because I want this blog to be a place where you can safely know you will receive advice that is original, personal, and carefully considered. This blog is all about success, Diva style. And that means it’s about pursuing your goals and dreams with passion, zest, and enthusiasm—not merely a handful of ‘positive’ thoughts. What you need to do, this very moment, is stop blaming anyone else for the way your  life is right now. Now this is a very hard thing to do, and even though you may not think you’re blaming others for the poor choices you made, there is probably a part of you that is still holding on to something. . .whether it be feelings of guilt, rejection, resentment, or emotions that are similarly destructive. Even if you suffered extensive abuse—physical, emotional, sexual, etc.—at the hands of a parent, family member, or other severely damaged person while you were growing up, if you don’t let go of every single bit of hate, anger, bitterness, and resentment that you have stored within yourself  because of what you suffered at the hands of those who hurt you, then you won’t ever be living the life of your dreams because you won’t ever have made the choice to take ownership of  your life. Tough words, hmm? Yes, but keep in mind that they are every bit as hard for me to have to say as they may be for you to hear. But here’s the question: do you want the people who hurt you to continue to have power over you? Do you want to be in control of your destiny or do you want everybody in the past who has ever caused you pain to continue to control your life? Because as long as you do not let go of all the destructive emotions you have inside you that are tied to that abuse, cruelty, rejection, or neglect, you will not ever achieve long-term success and happiness. . .and that is something your Success Diva virtually guarantees you.

I want to address in a forthcoming post the ways in which we drown our miseries via distractions and addictions because that’s another issue that is very close to my heart. A few years ago, I had to break an addiction I had to prescription painkillers and, although it was a mild addiction compared to those that many people cope with, it has made me well aware of how easy it is to let substances (drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes) become not just a vice. . .not just a dependency. . .but what I would call, to put if very bluntly, a ‘crutch.’  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t take medication when you need it. In fact, Success Diva encourages those who need medication for physical or emotional/mental health issues to take all their medications regularly and to have them monitored by a doctor. But when we’re speaking of recreational drugs, excessive alcohol, and things of a similar nature. . .all I can say is that once you really decide (and it is up to you—remember that) to ‘own’ your life, once your life becomes really and truly yours, you will quickly see that you cannot be dependent on anything and ever experience the feeling of personal freedom you need to pursue the life of your dreams. So, ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision: do you want to continue to be dependent on a drug or a drink to make you happy and fulfilled or do you want to find true and lasting fulfillment? The same thing applies to eliminating toxic people from your life and/or making sure that you are not becoming toxic yourself because of your reluctance to get help in working through personal issues in your life and/or your past that you’ve never dealt with. The unfortunate truth you must face is that there are really just two types of people in the world: ‘owners’ and ‘victims.’ The owners are the ones who accept responsibility for every choice they make, whether good or bad. They are the ones who refuse to blame others when they make a mistake and they are the ones who will ultimately create the life of their dreams. Now what about the victims? Well, they’re in a prison of their very own making. Rather than freeing themselves from the ties that bind them to past hurts, they are letting themselves be drawn deeper and deeper into what I refer to as the “Pit of Despair.” Let me make one thing clear, too: victims, not owners, are the people who victimize other people. An owner has no desire to make another person his/her victim because he/she realizes that in victimizing another person he/she is ultimately also victimizing him/herself.  On the other hand, victims are always very unfulfilled people, who have no idea how to fulfill themselves because they have gotten so accustomed to playing the ‘part’ of a victim that in many ways ‘the victim’ has become their actual identity. They have a deep, overwhelming need within themselves to rid themselves of emotions that they have never worked through and may not even fully comprehend. And this means that a victim will never been entirely harmless, which is why, if you are a victim right now, you must become an owner no matter how much effort it takes. Effort, you ask? But I thought that was the whole point of Success Diva’s blog. I was going to be able to make my dreams come true with a minimal amount of effort, simply by following her one-of-a-kind advice. I wish I didn’t have to disappoint you, but it isn’t going to work that way. Why? Because you and your Success Diva are two entirely separate persons. And even though your Success Diva is behind you every step of the way, you are the one who is going to be transforming your life—not me. I’m just an adviser. . .not a miracle worker.  I can tell you which ingredients you need to purchase to make the cake or pie, but I cannot make the cake or pie for you. You have to do that. I’m not even going to be able to be there to make sure that you measure all the ingredients perfectly and/or mix them together properly. In other words, I can give you the recipe that might very well result in the life of your dreams, but unless you want that recipe to turn out beautifully, your life may very well always be merely about trying to exist on a day-to-day basis rather than truly living.

Your Success Diva is going to be a sleeping diva soon, which means that you won’t hear any more from me for awhile. Were it otherwise, she would certainly post more of her thoughts in regard to the fundamental flaws behind nearly all positive thinking theories, and how her personal success philosophy is in most ways completely antithetical to the advice that’s been handed out like bags of rainbow-colored M & Ms by such motivational ‘gurus’ as the both reviled and beloved Norman Vincent Peale.

But it really is time for Success Diva to catch that train to Dreamland. So, come back later on and see what I’m up to.  I know you’ll miss me in the meantime, yet keep this in mind: the best things in life are often those which are most worth waiting for.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva