Getting outside of the box

day1Earlier today, a friend of mine asked me why, if I am a success diva, I am worried about what others think of my decisions or actions.  She told me that it “troubles” her that I would be bothered by other peoples’ opinions of me. Well, since I have committed myself to being completely honest with all of you, I have a confession to make. I have always been a person who has battled a plethora of insecurities. At one time or another, I have considered myself to not be pretty enough, accomplished enough, successful enough, or popular enough to achieve anything important in life, and I have consistently found myself blaming that which I have achieved on mere “luck”.  If you think for a moment that I have always been someone who has possessed a tremendous amount of self-assurance, you are quite mistaken. What I have discovered, however, at this point in my life, is that I must accept myself for who I am, in spite of all my perceived flaws. To do otherwise will prevent me from ever making any of my dreams a reality. Does this mean that I feel confident about all the choices I make?? No, far from it. In fact, I have to work each day to convince myself that I am doing the best I can at the point I’m at in my life. It sometimes seems like a bit of an uphill struggle, yet I persist. In reply to my friend and anyone else who thinks that being a success diva means that I am immune to the criticism I receive from others, I can only say that the opposite is true. If anything, I am more sensitive to criticism than ever, for I am more committed than ever to being the kind of person that others look up to and are inspired by. So, when someone comes along and sends a dart in my direction—whether that is their intention or not—it penetrates far below the surface. I have said in past times that I am a “deeply flawed diva”. Well, I think what I was really feeling when I made this remark is that I am an entirely human diva, which means that, like each one of you, I, too, want to be approved of and appreciated. The difficulty with this sort of mind-set is that you will always be frustrated because no matter what you do or how much you strive to make all the right decisions, there will always be someone that you end up disappointing.

So, how do you manage to hold on to your feelings of self-worth, knowing that there are others who are going to find fault with  you? First of all, you have to free yourself from what I would call in-the-box thinking. What is in-the-box thinking? It’s the kind of thinking that many of us have lived our whole lives with. It is rooted in fear and tends to encourage us to dwell on all of our past mistakes rather than focus on the things that we have done well. Although most people don’t realize it, fear is something that will hold you with an iron grip that is so tight that it often feels as if you’re in a prison. Author Dorothy Parker once wrote of how she felt an enormous amount of apprehension when it came to writing. She even implied that trying to express herself was sheer torture, even though she knew that she must do so in order to be fulfilled creatively. Another example of someone who ended up imprisoned in a cage of fear is writer Ernest Hemingway. Who would think that a man who seemed to live so fully and enjoy life so thoroughly would end up being paralyzed by fear? And yet, Hemingway was so incapable of conquering his fear that he ultimately ended up taking his own life. His suicide was blamed on manic depression and memory loss, but it’s also likely that his inability to unleash his creativity and continue to express himself through writing contributed to his tragic end. It’s very simple, really—when you are destined to be a writer, you need to be able to write in order to be content. This could be why I have experienced such a lack of satisfaction for most of my life. Although I have pursued writing as a hobby, I have been swept into other avenues when it has come to a career, and now, when those other avenues ended up all being dead ends, I am forced to finally come face to face with that which I was supposed to do in the first place.  “So,” you may ask, “how do you know when you have truly found that which you are meant to do?” Well, I remember how actress and ballerina Moira Shearer responded in the classic film, “The Red Shoes,” when the conductor who ended up being her mentor asked her why she wanted to dance. “Why do you want to breathe?” she asked him. When he couldn’t answer her, she added, “You don’t know, do you? You just do it.” This is how I think it seems when we find that which are destined to do. We may not be able to put into words precisely why we must do it—we only know that when we aren’t doing it, nothing else in our lives seems to be quite right. For me, there was always a nagging sense that I wasn’t fulfilling some part of myself that needed to be nourished. I knew that no matter how many plays I acted in or how many paintings I finished, I would still be left with a feeling of discontentment. Yet, when I express myself through words. . .when I truly put that which I am feeling into sentences, phrases, and paragraphs, it’s as if I have been given a pair of wings with which to fly. It really is the most liberating sensation in the world.

And this brings me back to what I said about in-the-box thinking. As you might have guessed, there is also what you might call in-the-box living. This is the sort of living that consists in going through the motions of life. A good way to be certain that you are experiencing in-the-box living is when you wake up with the sense that you’ll be doing well simply to make it through the day. People who live in the box are frequently making comments about not being able to wait until the weekend is here. . .or about how they are constantly busy and feel stressed and overwhelmed.  I happen to find myself guilty of in-the-box living much too frequently. However, the fact that I’m aware of it means that I am on the way to freeing myself from it. And freedom is a large part of living outside the box. When we are shackled to the past, concentrating on the pain that others have caused us or on the mistakes we have made, we are automatically preventing ourselves from being free. It is a fallacy to imagine that just because we have come from a dysfunctional background and/or have had certain mistaken ideas passed down to us from our parents, teachers, and other people who have crossed our path, that we have to remain in bondage to these mistaken notions and repressed mind-sets. We do not have to repeat the patterns of the past, no matter how impossible it may initially seem to us to break free from them. This diva was told, beginning at a very young age, that she was without any value or worth, simply on the basis of her being female. Unfortunately, for many years, I was unable to erase the messages that had been repeated to me so often that they had inadvertently become part of my own mental programming. Try as I might, I constantly found myself lapsing into the thought patterns that I had grown up subscribing to. Indeed, I allowed the way that someone else—namely, my father—had perceived me to shape the image I had of myself. And only when I fully understood that his perception of me was not based in any sort of conceivable reality was I able to spread my wings and fly. Even now, there are days when I lapse into in-the-box thinking. Overall, in-the-box thoughts are as toxic as noxious fumes. Yet, just like a perfume that is overpowering but somehow strangely bewitching, in-the-box thinking will draw you to it with all the tenacity of a magnet. It can sometimes seem like a herculean effort to break free from the box, and you may even find yourself resisting the idea, simply because it seems beyond your capabilities. But you and I both know that nothing miraculous has ever been achieved without a large amount of courage and persistence. Although we usually think of other people being the ones to thwart us in the pursuit of our dreams, the truth is, we are the ones who prevent ourselves from accomplishing our goals a hundred times more often than anyone else does. This bare and fundamental fact is why it is crucial that we accept responsibility for our lives and the choices we make. It has been pointed out recently in the  media, that, of the young women in Hollywood who have been known as “party girls”, the only one who has chosen to transform herself into a lady whom others can really respect is the actress and singer, Nicole Richie. Rather than continuing to live a careless and promiscuous lifestyle, Richie has devoted herself to her new role as a fiancee and mother. What does this prove?? Why has Richie chosen a different path than her fellow party girls, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan? Well, I think Richie obviously chose to stop and analyze her life with an unmitigated amount of clarity and concluded that she was not achieving the results she wanted from the choices she was making. In other words, she made the decision to take charge of her life, even if it meant losing the friendship of those whom she had been spending time with previously.  When you start to make things happen in your life, you may notice that some of your old friends won’t be happy for you. For one thing, they’re going to feel threatened by your new powerful attitude. You may also remind them of all the things that they could be doing but aren’t choosing to do because they would rather complain about the misfortunes they’ve experienced or the way that others are treating them. As hard as it may be to comprehend, there are people who prefer to hold onto ill feelings and destructive emotions, rather than moving forward and fully pursuing their goals and dreams. Whether fear is what’s keeping them from taking any action or it’s their own inability to work through issues that they need to resolve is something that only they know for sure. I tend to think that fear is the most common factor that prevents people from taking responsibility for their lives. I am reminded of a story that my mentor and friend, Denis Waitley, shares in his phenomenal book, The Psychology of Winning. Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier almost had a nervous breakdown early on in his career. Why?? Well, he became terrified of performing. He was convinced that he would embarrass himself by having a memory lapse or making some other unforgivable mistake. However, he was wise enough to seek the advice of a doctor, who worked with Maurice until he came to the point where he understood that he would have to perform in spite of  his fear. You see, many of us wait for our fear to disappear before we take action, and then we wonder why we can’t seem to ever really go after the things we want. The reason why is because we wait for our fear to disappear, when what we must do is to act in spite of the fear. Life is about new experiences, and there is no way that you will ever create an existence that even approaches the life you dream of if you are waiting for the moment when everything feels safe and secure. Ultimately,  you have to make a choice: would you rather be “safe” and banish your dreams or would you rather take risks and make your dreams come true??  The famous boxer and activist, Muhammad Ali once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Well. . .the choice is yours. Do you want to continue living and thinking inside the box or would you like to step out of that box and start designing your life the way you want it to be?? You can’t have it both ways. Living or thinking inside that box will never give you anything but a life lived in shades of black and white. And is that what you really want??

Until soon. . .make every 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

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The magic is within you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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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