So you need more time?

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There just isn’t enough time to do it all, is there? Hey, this diva knows what it’s like to have a mere 24 hours in which to accomplish everything she both wants and needs to do. It isn’t easy, and you and I both know that certain choices are going to have to be made. I spoke a little bit about this in my last Success Diva Speaks post. I mentioned the things that are urgent as opposed to those things that are important. Well, on a very basic level, it is about prioritizing. However, when we start using terms like prioritizing, I tend to think that we’re taking an overly business-like approach to making our dreams into a reality. Sure, you do need to prioritize. In other words, you need to decide which things on a daily basis must be done vs. those things that you could put off doing, even though you very much want to do them. But if you’re like your diva, you probably notice that the hours skip by faster than you can blink. Also, sometimes it seems like the same day is repeating itself over and over again. Have you ever seen the film with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell called “Groundhog Day”? If so, do you remember how each day started off the very same way? Well, this happens in life, too, I think. We can decide that we’ll manage our time much more efficiently tomorrow than we have today, only to discover that we’re making most of the same misguided choices.

So what happens when we continue to make the choices on a daily basis that prevent us from ever getting to spend the time we need to spend on the things that are really important to us? I’m not talking about the quality time we spend with our spouse or our kids or our family.  What your diva is speaking about is what it important to you. Let’s say that you want to be a writer.  For you, the idea of never seeing your name in print is unbearable. You’ve seen prolific authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, and the late John Updike, produce book after book, and, in the back of your mind, you think, “You know, I could do that, too.” Well, what’s stopping you?? Do you know?? I would say that one of the main things that’s preventing you from pursuing your writing endeavors with determination and persistence is the fact that you haven’t yet found a way to separate the things you do each day into three separate categories (yes, three! Count  ’em.) The first category are the things that are urgent. This might be something as simple as picking up some select food items from the grocery store or picking up the dry cleaning. In other words, these are things that you think you should do, yet they aren’t really things you absolutely must do. Am I making sense? In the middle category are those things that are important. If you’re an actor, showing up at a theater rehearsal is obviously important. It’s not even something you think about—you just do it. Similarly, if you’re a mother or father and  you’re supposed to pick your child up from a soccer game or a ballet class, that’s going to also fall into the important category. But baking cookies for your neighbor who just recovered from surgery is not important. And watching the latest reality TV show isn’t important, either. In fact, these aren’t things that are urgent, either. They bring us to our third category which, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll just call the inessential. To be honest, nearly 75% of the things you’re doing on a daily basis might fit into this final category. “What?” you shout, “you’re saying that I’m spending 3/4 of my life doing things that are inessential??” Well, how much time do you spend on-line each day? And how much of this time is spent actually doing something that’s important? Are you answering e-mails that must be replied to immediately during the time that you’re on-line? Are you updating your blog, writing a review, or making contacts to promote your personal endeavors? Or are you talking to friends who have a special place in your life? If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of these three questions, then the time you’re spending on-line truly is important. But don’t lie to yourself. Please. It won’t do you any good to delude yourself into thinking that you are doing things that are more meaningful to you than they really are. You know this, of course, but your diva can still remind you of it *wink*. Now when I say that 75% of the things you’re doing each day could fit into the category of that which is inessential, I’m not saying to stop doing all these things. If you enjoy watching a movie every night, there’s no need to deprive yourself of that. And if you like to read fashion magazines, then don’t berate yourself for doing so. However, do spend at least a few minutes thinking about the activity you are about to engage in before you engage in it, simply to make sure that the time you will lose from making that choice will be worth the benefits you will receive from it. Your diva loves fashion and she enjoys a bit of celebrity gossip every now and then, but the only two magazines she regularly reads are Smithsonian and National Geographic. Why? Well, I see life as being all about choices, you see, and this means that every time I decide to spend time doing one thing, I’m losing the chance to do all the other things I could be doing instead. Does it really matter what the latest news on Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie might be? Do I need to know which actress or supermodel is expecting a baby? Is it important whether Heidi Klum and Seal decide to have any more children? And if so, why? How do these people affect my life? Are they starring in my show?? I hope I’m staring to make a valid point by now. Am I? All that I’m saying does connect in some ways to my post, You Are the Star. I’m trying to help you see that if you spend time on activities that will distract you from designing your life and if you focus on the lives of people whom you do not know and will probably never meet, your life isn’t going to be a hit show–it’s going to be a flop. You won’t even have to look in the morning newspapers to see what the critics are saying. You’ll know without anyone else telling you that all your reviews are dreadful.

I think it’s nearly impossible, in the media-crazed culture we currently live in, not to be continuously distracted by things that are not the least bit essential to our lives, our goals, or our well-being. We can look at the worldwide frenzy surrounding the unexpected death of pop star Michael Jackson, and see how easy it is to become swept up in the latest celebrity scandal.  And if celebrities don’t interest you, there are things such as politics to keep you thoroughly preoccupied. I’ve noticed that several hours of my day can actually sweep right past me without my being aware of it. Why? Because I’ve been busy watching the news, reading e-mails, and/or contemplating how I was going to get everything done on that particular day. See, contemplation can only get you so far. There comes a time when you just have to. . .well, do it. If you’re a writer and you want to finish and publish a novel, at some point you’ll have to stop just talking about it, and you’ll actually have to sit down and start writing it. Scary, isn’t it? It actually scares me a little. But then, I’m a writer. My most recent novel is still in the embryonic stage, meaning I haven’t fully committed to writing it, re-writing it, editing it, and publishing it. The reason I’m confessing this is because I want to stress how important it is that you are honest about the direction you’re moving in right now. Are you driving down a dead-end road? Are you on the path that will take you to your dreams, or are you heading down a one-way street? Moments come in the lives of those of us like you and me who really are interested in making our dreams a reality, in which we have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves. Ruthlessly? Yes, ruthlessly. Do you know what that means? It means that the excuses we would usually try to find in our Little Book of Excuses (remember that? We all have one of those. Don’t deny it!) must be disregarded by us. We must not let ourselves even be tempted to use those excuses. Rather, we need to get a cold, hard, clear look at our lives, and, no matter how difficult it is, we need to determine what path we’re taken. Are we on the Yellow Brick Road that will take us to the Emerald City of our dreams? Or are we on a road made out of dirt and mud that will take us into a meadow full of weeds?? If we are not absolutely certain that we’re on the Yellow Brick Road, it’s time to stop walking. Sometimes you have to stand still if you want to analyze things with any significant amount of clarity. To continue running, if you’re running in the wrong race, isn’t going to do you any good at all, is it?? Of course it’s not. And this is what you are doing if you are living a life in which your time is spent mostly on that which is urgent and inessential, rather than on that which is genuinely important.

Each day is made up of twenty-four hours. You and I both know that, and we also know that how we spend them is entirely up to us. Now don’t even bother to disagree with me because, if you are honest with yourself, you’ll see that your diva is correct. It may seem like how you spend some of those hours of each day is a decision that other people are making for you, yet, unless someone is forcing you to do something with your time that you haven’t any desire to do, you are making the choice when it comes to how you spend every second, minute, and hour. And if something isn’t a choice for us at this point, it was at an earlier time. What do I mean by that? Well, let me illustrate with an example. Let’s say that you have to get up around the clock to feed your newborn baby. Is it a choice whether you feed the baby or not? Technically it is, but what sort of mother would you be if you didn’t feed your own child? So, we’ve established that feeding your baby around the clock isn’t a choice you’re making now. . .or not really, at any rate. However, somewhere along the way you probably did  make a choice to have the baby—or, at the very least, you had sex without using contraceptives that were reliable enough. And here’s another example: let’s say that your husband or wife now wants you to prepare all the meals for him/her. Usually, this is more the sort of thing a woman does, but, hey, there are guys out there who cook, right? Well, if your husband or wife is expecting you to prepare all the food, you’ll probably say that you don’t have a choice. Maybe you don’t, at this point. But you were the one who chose to marry him or her, right? When you said “I do” and cut the wedding cake, you were making a choice that you must have suspected could greatly impact your entire future. Now you are having to make choices that you don’t want to make based on decisions that you already made by your own volition. Do you see? So, what do you do? Unfortunately, there are certain situations in which you must accept the consequences of a decision you have already made, whether you want to or not. But think of all the other choices that are yours to make. You can decide whether or not you have another baby, for instance. You can even decide, depending on what your views are on divorce, whether or not the sacrifices you’re having to make to keep your marriage together are worth the possible benefits. Of course, I’m simplifying things a little. Nothing is ever as easy as it sounds like it is, although, if you’ve been reading Success Diva’s  blog for any length of time, you already know that she’s the first to admit that.

Okay. Let’s do something we’ve never done before! Let’s summarize some of the issues I’ve addressed in this post. What are the three categories that you can put each of the items on your list of daily tasks into?  The three compartments are: the urgent, the important, and the inessential. I’m really only summarizing all this because I haven’t any guarantee that you’ll read this post more than once, even though you very much need to. Trust me. Your Success Diva senses what you need. She is very intuitive, and she knows that not mastering the art of categorizing the different areas of your life will essentially spell ultimate disaster for you. So, bear with me here, and really remember the points I’m making. As you have probably heard countless times before, we all have 24 hours in a day. That is one gift that is given to each of us equally. But how we use that 24 hours—that is a choice that each one of us makes. So, make time for that which matters most. Let the other stuff wait. What I’ve often noticed is that half of the things I thought were urgent last week didn’t really have to be done at all. And as for that which is inessential?? Well, you’ll have to decide how much of your time you want to spend doing the things that fall into that category. As always, it’s entirely up to you.

This moment in time is passing and today will never come again. Make the  most of every second.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are. . .well, You

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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