The Magic of Imagination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,
Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

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

Paint your own rainbow!

rainbow33 (paint your own)Sometimes the sky above us is filled with so many dark clouds that the idea of ever being able to find a rainbow seems impossible. We know that one is there. . .somewhere. . .but where oh where? When you were a child and you first saw the film, “The Wizard of Oz,” how did you feel when you heard Judy Garland singing, “Somewhere over the Rainbow”? Didn’t it make you feel happy inside? The mere idea of a rainbow fills most of with joy, perhaps because rainbows are magical jewels of nature, rather than manufactured marvels. Sure, a Hollywood production studio helped provide a rainbow to inspire Judy’s song, but, for us, rainbows are those exquisite jewel-like ribbons of color that appear in the sky after a storm.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret when it comes to rainbows. If you want to experience a rainbow in your life and you’re waiting to see one until a thunderstorm clears, you may never have the privilege of enjoying one. For, they don’t just pop up whenever we desire them. In fact, I have come to see that there are times when we actually have to paint them ourselves, out of whatever materials we have on hand. Whether we use crayons or paint or colored pencils or magic markers, we can paint our own rainbow. And we don’t have to be a Pablo Picasso to create a rainbow that is worthy of admiration. Even children paint rainbows. In fact, a child is much more likely to draw or paint a rainbow than an adult is. Why? Because children believe in impossibilities. They haven’t yet been conditioned to have ceilings on their dreams or lids on their fantasies. This is one reason that children are so creative. Oddly enough, scientific studies have shown that between the ages of five and seven, a child’s creativity level decreases at an enormous rate.  The reason for this is thought to stem from the fact that, when a child first attends school, he or she begins learning about all the things that he/she cannot do. . .all the things that are “impossible” or “illogical”. Prior to being told that he or she cannot do something, a child tends to believe that anything is possible. This is probably why Picasso was once quoted as saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I will never forget hearing actress Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech when she on her second Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of The Lambs”. Jodie thanked her mother for enabling her to believe that she could make any of her dreams come true—for convincing her that “all her fingerpaintings” were “Picassos”.  And, perhaps, Jodie’s unfailing determination to go after the roles she has wanted, in spite of those who have tried to held her back, has something to do with the seed of self-confidence her mother nourished within her beginning at a very young age. Ironically enough, Jodie wasn’t the first choice for either her role in “The Accused” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” and yet, her performance in each film was impressive enough to garner her an Academy Award.

Although some people would say that thinking “big” is unrealistic, I think that only when we step outside so-called “realism” and dare to have big dreams, can we truly get enthusiastic about life.  David Schwarz in his classic book, The Magic of Thinking Big, promotes the theory that the main thing holding people back in life is actually their “small thoughts”. According to Schwarz, whether or not you dream big dreams or small dreams is actually more of a factor in your ultimate success than talent, education, or connections.

Who says we have to remain strapped in by the seat belts of probability? Who can predict what is possible or impossible? Sure, there will always be well-meaning friends and relatives in our midst to tell us when we are engaging in what they call “wishful thinking”. But we make the choice whether we decide to believe them, or whether we continue to pursue our dreams, no matter how many people tell us we’re being illogical.You see, one of the problems is that the people who tell us that we have to be “logical” are generally people who have chosen to repress their own dreams themselves. Now they may claim they had no choice in the matter, but, the truth is, we all have a choice. Some of us may have to be more patient than others to make our dreams a reality, but all of have the chance to paint that rainbow.

I have spoken before about Jim Carrey at my blog, but what I haven’t mentioned was how Jim Carrey visualized his dream before it  became a reality. He used to imagine himself as a famous actor, and even thought up scenarios in which he was preparing to audition for roles in major films. At one point, he wrote himself a check for several million dollars, writing on the blank side of the check, “For services rendered.” Was this not an example of someone painting his own rainbow? Jim had no sign that he was going to be a major movie stair. If anything, things were pointing in the opposite direction. Yet, he made a choice to see himself as what he wanted to be, and his vision of himself was a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’ve always believed in magic,” Jim said later. He spoke of how he would go sit on Mulholland Drive and look out at the city, stretching out his arms, telling himself over and over again that he was a “really good actor” and that everybody wanted to work with him.  Jim said these positive affirmations were his way of erasing the negative thought patterns that had been passed down to him from his family.

A self-fulfilling prophecy can be positive or negative. That part is up to you. And, whether you realize it or not, you are actually forming self-fulfilling prophecies in your mind every day. Every time you tell yourself that you can or cannot do something, you are predicting either a positive or negative outcome. To put it another way, you are either painting storm clouds or a rainbow. You may think that you are simply being realistic when you tell yourself that something you dream of doing isn’t going to happen, but what you’re really doing is painting a cloud. And then you find yourself wondering why others don’t see your dreams for you. Well, how can you expect anyone to believe in your dreams, if you don’t wholeheartedly believe in them yourself?

Early on in singer and entertainer Barbra Streisand’s illustrious career, she went to an audition at St. James Theater for “I Can Get It For You Wholesale”. She arrived looking frazzled and unkempt and spilled sheet music all over the floor when she crossed the stage.  It was a situation that most actresses would have been humiliated to find themselves in. But Barbara—or Babs, as her fans like to call her—-has always been one to handle things in stride.  She played up the comedic part of the situation, leading the production staff to wonder if she was a kook or merely a brilliant comedian. In fact, she made such a splash that she was asked back for another audition with the celebrated Broadway producer, David Merrick, who was eventually persuaded into casting Barbra in the part of Miss Masselstein, even though the role was written for an actress in her fifties.

As you see, those who make their dreams a reality are rarely afraid to take chances. That’s because they know that there are times when taking a risk is the only option that will get them anywhere near the results they are after. This is why you must not let yourself be satisfied with painting a rainbow in a few lackluster shades. If you want to make things start happening in your life, paint your rainbow in the boldest colors you can find! Although pastel hues are becoming when it comes to baby shower decor and bridesmaids’ dresses, living a life in pastel colors is only going to make you feel powerless and ineffective. Imagine if every actress who showed up at the Oscars each year wore a gown that was in a pastel shade? After awhile, even if you thought the dresses were pretty, you would begin to be bored by the lack of color.

Well, how can you expect to get excited about a life that is painted in pale hues? If your life was a canvas, what colors of paint would you use to create your picture?? Would you use all the colors of the rainbow, or would your restrict yourself to shades of gray? Would you choose bold, passionate red and bright, vibrant yellow and cool, brilliant blue. . .or, would you water these colors down by adding lots of white? If  you could create a canvas that would represent your ideal life, what would it look like? Who would be part of your ideal life? What career would you be involved with? What city or state would you be living in? Would those people who are closest to you now still be the ones you would turn to? When you stop to answer all these questions, you start gaining clarity about your life. Certain things that haven’t been clear before start to become obvious. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel the freedom to think in terms of our “ideal lives” because we’re so caught up in our day-to-day existence. In a way, some of us may fear thinking in terms of “the ideal” as it will only make us more aware of how different our lives are from what we would consider the “life of our dreams”.

However, until we fully allow ourselves to embrace the liberating experience of self-awareness, we will never be able to make even one of our dreams a reality, for we’ll never be honest with ourselves about what has to change in order to make our dream come true.  Although it pains me to admit this, there are some people who simply live in what I would call a “state of oblivion”. These people labor under the illusion that somehow, in some miraculous way, their lives are going to turn around for the better even though they’re not making any consistent effort to change them. Sometimes they fantasize about winning the lottery or, perhaps, finding a rich man or woman to marry. Or they imagine that a talent scout will approach them in a supermarket or shopping mall and offer them a movie contract.  Now, I’m not saying that such scenarios are not possible. However, to depend on such fanciful twists of fate is not going to bring a person any closer to his or her dreams.

So, what’s the difference in believing in dreams that others would consider to be impossibilities and fantasizing about winning the lottery? Well, your personal dreams are something that you have control over. You can decide what dream to pursue, and you can begin to back up that which you yearn for with definitive actions. On the other hand, whether or not you win the lottery is something that you have very little control over. And we’ve already examined how important it is to focus on the things that we actually have power over as opposed to the things that are not under our control. Believe me, when you begin to become aware of all the things in your life that you really do have control over, you’ll start to see that not nearly as much is left up to chance—or fate, as some might call it—as you might think. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, you aren’t even dependent on whether or not a rainbow appears in the sky because you can paint your own. Similarly, if you prefer, you can paint a series of dark storm clouds. Do you see how much power you really do wield over your own destiny? I think that more than anything else, what holds people back is fear. And, to a certain extent, I think they are afraid of their own power. They think that once they start making changes, they’ll move outside their comfort zone and nothing will be the same. Well, indeed you will move outside of your comfort zone when you start designing that life you’ve always dreamed of. You see, your mind has been conditioned to accept things as they are, which means that even if what you’re pursuing is what you frantically yearn for, there will be a part of you that tries to sabotage your efforts. The only thing to do is to push past that fear. Sure, that’s easier said than done. But the only alternative is to wait for the fear to go away, and that isn’t going to happen because as long as you try anything new, you will experience fear.

In fact, you’re probably going to experience fear when you start to paint your rainbow. You’ll worry that you aren’t using the right shades of paint. . .or that the canvas you’ve chosen to paint the rainbow on is too big or too small.  Yet, I think you’ll also realize that these fears are perfectly natural, and that the fact  you’re having them shows that you’re doing precisely what you should be doing.  Even though some of you aren’t going to be happy about this, security is going to be something you’ll have to give up if you’re going to make your dreams come true. So, you might as well get used to living on the edge because it’s the only kind of life that’s going to get you to the destination you desire!

In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait until tomorrow to start painting your rainbow. Why should you sit looking at a grey sky or a blank canvas for another day?

Until soon.  .  .live with passion and make each moment matter!

Your Success Diva

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

Portrait of an Innovative Artist: Marc Chagall

Portrait of an ArtistPromenade

Success Diva pays tribute to the legendary and highly innovative artist, Marc Chagall. Born on July 7, 1887, Chagall was highly skilled in nearly every artistic medium.  He was adept at illustrating books, creating stained-glass windows, theatre sets, tapestries, fine art prints, and more. Chagall has been called one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and his art is beloved by both art connoisseurs and those who merely appreciate his bold, vibrant, striking use of color. Chagall’s ingenious paintings convey a spirit of exuberance, passion, and enthusiasm, and the art critic, Robert Hughes, referred to him as “the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century.” Much of Chagall’s work defies classification, for he was a true individual who did not conform to any specific ‘style.’ However, he is most closely associated with the art movements of Surrealism and Expressionism. Pablo Picasso once said, “When Henri Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”  Marc Chagall died on March 28, 1985. He was 97.

“We all know that a good person can be a bad artist. But no one will ever be a genuine artist unless he is a great human being and thus also a good one.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ~ Marc Chagall~

 

To see more of Chagall’s artwork, check out this site: http://www.chagallpaintings.org/

For a website entirely devoted to Chagall, go here: http://www.marcchagall.narod.ru/

                             

(At the top of the page: Chagall, the artist at work (unspecified date). Below:  Chagall’s masterpiece, Promenade.  1917. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg)

when you have to walk away. . .

We all have those moments in life, don’t we? That second in time when a part of us realizes that there is someone in our life who is pulling us down rather than building us up. If you look around, you can probably find someone who is in your life right now who shouldn’t really be there.  It isn’t so much that they are cutting you to pieces. Their behavior doesn’t have to be destructive in an obvious way. But perhaps they do thoughtless things or speak to you in a harsh and hurtful way at the times when you most need to feel valued, appreciated and even loved.  Yet time after time you overlook their behavior. . .you give them another chance, even though you realize that they are going to keep hurting you, whether the pain they are causing you is intentional or not. What do you do?? Well, obviously, if the person in question is a spouse, a long-term partner, a parent, child, or close family member. . well, as hard as it is to say this, you won’t be able to just walk away. You already know that, of course, since you’re smart and already have so many of the answers and solutions all within yourself anyway. Actually, when it seems like your Success Diva is providing you with answers, what she’s really doing is helping you tap into the answers that you already possess within. Sometimes the problem is that you just don’t know which questions you should be asking. And that is where I come into the picture. Sure, if I can provide a few answers, too, that’s wonderful. But I would rather think that you had the answers all along just waiting to be discovered. Imagine that you have a mound of gold buried in your backyard that you haven’t ever known about. Then imagine if somebody told you about that mound of gold. Would you believe them? Well, if you’re a skeptic, I would imagine you’d shrug, roll  your eyes, and say, “Yeah, right. Dream on. There isn’t a mound of gold in my backyard.” But whether you choose to believe it or not, there is. But the mound of gold is within you because that’s where the answers to how you can create the life of your dreams are: within you. Your life may seem like a jigsaw puzzle right now, but when you start putting the pieces together, you’re going to see what you’ve got. . .and you know what? You’ll be amazed. You’ll also be very pleased that you let the Success Diva into your life. You’ll see that all these things she’s been telling you haven’t just been a lot of bunk. And one reason what I’m saying to you isn’t a lot of ‘bunk’ is because it’s all deeply personal. I”m not telling you to do anything that I wouldn’t do, haven’t done and am not continuing to do myself. I practice what I preach, so to speak. If I’m having a bad day, the advice I give myself is the very same advice you are going to get from me. And that I promise (and remember, The Success Diva doesn’t break promises).

But let’s revisit the subject of this post, “When you have to walk away.” Do you know what one of the hardest things you will ever do in your life will be? Have you guessed it yet? It will be walking away from someone or something that you have become dependent on in some way. It will be realizing that just because something seems good or even looks good doesn’t make it right or healthy for you. Usually, I am the sort of diva who would not advise walking away from a person or a situation without giving it a lot of consideration. There is the weighing of the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and all that. You wonder what your life will be like without that person in it. . .or what your days will be like if you quit that job or stop pursuing that career. And when you try to envision your life without that person in it or when you try to imagine what it would be like to head down a different career path or look for another job. . .well, it feels kind of scary, doesn’t it?? Admit it—it makes you feel afraid. It’s like closing your eyes and walking into a room that you’ve never seen before. You have no idea what you might bump into. . .or whether or not there’s a rug that you’ll slip on. . . .or if the room is empty or occupied. So, what do you do? Do you turn around and reverse your choice? Do you decide, rather than walking away, that you should just try to stick it out, no matter what?? No, no, and again, No. If something or someone shouldn’t be part of your life right now, do you really think that’s going to change? Let’s face it, if you’re on that yellow brick road that will take you to your own Emerald City of dreams, are you really going to want to be encumbered by people or things that will only hinder you?? Sure, maybe the job seems steady and reliable. . .and maybe the person whom you know you ought to walk away from says they care about you and have your best interest at heart. But do they? Don’t be fooled by pretty words. If someone says, “I love you,” make sure that their actions are matching their words. If a person tells you that they fully support you, if or when they start sabotaging you in some way, don’t ignore their behavior. Say, “Hey, wait a minute. You said such-and-such but the way you’re acting indicates something else entirely.” Call them on the carpet if you have to.  Confront them. Don’t be afraid. Fear won’t ever get you anywhere. Granted, if they are completely toxic to you and your well-being, they will probably have a whole book full of excuses. Instead of “little black books” some people carry around little books of excuses. If  you look closely, you’ll start seeing that people will be scribbling in these books when you go places. Next time you’re at the airport, in the train station, or at a doctors’ office, observe. Are people scribbling away?? Don’t assume they’re writing in a journal. They’re probably trying to jot down more excuses before they forget about them. Now to frequently use an excuse when you make a mistake that only causes you to suffer. . .well, that’s human and completely understandable.  It’s when you begin using excuses for behavior you demonstrate that hurts other people that you need to realize what’s happening. You are following in the footsteps of the toxic people who came before you. You are avoiding taking responsibility for your behavior. If you fail to apologize when you hurt someone, then you are raising your own toxicity level. Pretty soon, you may be the person that someone else chooses to walk away from. And I know you don’t want people walking away from you. . .unless they’re toxic, of course, and then you’ve had a stroke of good luck. Remember how rare true luck is? Well, you can count yourself truly lucky when a toxic person vanishes from your life. Just look at it as an unexpected blessing.

But what about those people who don’t walk away? Well, you have to decide what you’re willing to put up with. You have to make a choice: Is my relationship with him or her more important than my overall well-being? And however you answer this will determine whether or not it’s time for you to walk away. There are times, of course, when those who care about you or love you don’t fully understand what it is that you need from them. That’s why communication is always essential in any and every relationship you have with another person. What communicating honestly and effectively will enable you to do is determine whether or not the person you are contemplating walking away from is willing to change the behavior that you are finding hurtful or harmful. You cannot present this to the other person in what would be described as an “ultimatum.” Never say something like, “Either you do such-and-such or else I’m out of here.” This will only bring about an atmosphere of intense negativity, and will probably also create hostility. Rather, tell the person that they mean a great deal to you, but that they are hurting you by acting and/or speaking in a certain way. Don’t ever say, “If you love me, you’ll do this” because this will make it sound as if you are questioning the fact that they love or care about you. It will come across as an attempt to make them feel guilty, and if they feel any guilt, make sure that it comes from within them. . .not at your special urging. You can say “Hey, you really hurt me and I won’t be able to keep you in my life if you keep doing this,” but make it clear that you are prepared to walk away. What I mean is, you don’t want to give the impression that you are demanding something that the other person isn’t willing to give. What you want to do is share how you feel, see if he/she respects your feelings, and depending upon whether or not they don’t, either keep them in your life or walk away.

I know I said earlier that if  the other person is a spouse, parent, child, or close relative that you wouldn’t be able to walk away. Well, in many instances, you won’t be able to. But as long as that person isn’t completely dependent upon you (such as a child who isn’t yet an adult or an elderly parent who must be cared for), always know that walking away is at least an option. I have spoken of psychologically distancing yourself and this is possible, too, although, it will never be enough, which means that if there is any way you can walk away and you know, in your heart, that it’s the only way you will ever experience true happiness and fulfillment, do it. Don’t look back over your shoulder, though. Remember the Biblical legend about Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. Salt is something you should be seasoning your life with. It won’t do you any good to turn into a pillar of it *wink*.

Aside from personal relationships, there can also be times when you do have to walk away from a job or a career. I mentioned this briefly, mostly because once I start talking about toxic people and the havoc they can wreak in a person’s life it’s hard for me to address another issue. But, lest you wonder, there are indeed jobs and careers that you should let go of. There can be a lot of different reasons behind this decision, but what should ultimately be the deciding factor is this: if this job or career isn’t the most important thing in my life, how is it preventing me from being able to devote my time and energy to what is most important?? Once you answer that question (and all you have to do is look deeply within yourself), you will know what you must do. You should also ask yourself: Will this job or career fully satisfy me? Or will there always be a feeling of discontentment, a lack of fulfillment, really, deep within myself? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you have but one choice—-walk away. Hey, it’s better to make very little money doing something you love than to spend your entire life doing something you hate or are indifferent towards. For example, if you have a full-time job as an accountant, but you’ve really always wanted to be an artist. . .what are  you waiting for? “But my wife and kids won’t have any food to eat,” you exclaim, “and we won’t be able to pay any of our bills.” Then don’t quit your job right away, but, at least, start making plans for another career. Don’t just let dreams of being the next Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso stay in your head. Make them real. Find a way to do it. Whenever you want something badly enough, when you want it so much that you would be willing to do anything to get it as long as it didn’t compromise your principles and your personal integrity. . .well, go for it.

In a way, I’m realizing that this post is about shedding your life of the things that no longer belong in it, whether they be people or careers or jobs. And I don’t know why I was inspired to address this particular topic at half-past 5 am on a Saturday morning, but, hey, does a Success Diva really have to explain herself? *grin*

It is my hope that I have given you the impetus—or at least, the courage–that you need to start de-cluttering more than your closets. Your life is much more important than those closets, you know, and, there’s a good chance that your life has more clutter in it than any of your closets has ever contained.

Until soon. . .live with passion and enthusiasm every moment of the day! Your life is yours. Live it!

Your Success Diva