In Search of Ourselves

When the word purpose is used in conjunction with existence, people oftentimes assume that one is religious. There is a tendency to assume that unless you view the world as the result of creation as opposed to evolution, you cannot possibly believe that any of us has a specific destiny or reason for being here. We are simply living, oftentimes with no clear-cut sense of direction or meaning. Thus, we drift, like rudderless ships on a vast ocean of nothingness, perpetually in the present or in the past, failing to make adequate or effective plans for our future.

The question is: is this realism or are we trapped in a cycle of self-deception? Is it possible that in ceasing to think we have any purpose for being here, we are actually providing ourselves with an excuse for living exactly as we please? If we define living as we please as freedom, then the answer might be yes. To imagine that we have no obligations to anyone can be alluring for it provides us with a justification for not taking responsibility for anything, not even ourselves.

But how lasting is this type of freedom? And how much happiness does it bring us? When we fail to connect with those around us and develop a capacity to share in their pain and suffering, what have we become?

We see ourselves as beyond personal vulnerability. Yet it is our frailties and inadequacies that make us fully human. In turning our back on the dark side of human existence, we deny the innate courage, resilience, and strength that we possess both to cope and overcome these things.

The human will has infinite power, depth, and tenacity. We were not born to crumble under the tyranny of pain and suffering. And, in order to honor ourselves and humanity, we must be willing to bear the truth of all experiences, whether they be painful or joyous.

Ernest Becker, the noted anthropologist, scientist, thinker, and writer once spoke of the incapability of suffering as “obsessive denial of reality”. A few months ago, I wrote an article that encouraged you to create your own reality. I now perceive how dangerous this advice could have been. In choosing your own subjective reality over the reality that is part of all our lives, you can too easily subscribe to beliefs and opinions about yourself, other people, and the world that have no basis in truth. This does not mean that I do not support the idea of having faith in yourself or in trying to improve your life in every possible way.

What it does mean is that no matter how tempted we are to allow imagination to expand our minds, we must never let illusion substitute for reality. When we refuse to acknowledge that certain experiences are genuine or do not allow ourselves the freedom to express our own frustration about life, we are asking ourselves to live a lie. Children enjoy fairy tales because they enable them to escape into a world of fantasy where they imagine themselves as fanciful figures who have magical powers to overcome the everyday stress and tedium that mere mortals experience.

Trying to escape the monotony of existence is something that we learn to do early in life. Yet, as we grow older, if we continue to attempt to run from reality, what are we accomplishing? To face the truth takes strength. But what is more difficult than acknowledging truth is finding it. We manage to cast our own veils over Truth, much as we might cover the face of a statue that we are afraid to look at.

We fear that Truth will force us to see ourselves as we are, rather than as we wish to be. And that is something that many of us are not prepared for. The logic behind this rationality is difficult to fathom when you begin to understand that until you see yourself as you are you will not be able to take the steps necessary to become what you want to be.

Why it is that seeing ourselves as either less or more than we are is easier than seeing ourselves as we are?  Is it so difficult to accept our true selves? Perhaps, our narcissistic society is somewhat to blame for our inability to see ourselves clearly. We choose the ideal self—the image—over the reality of who we really are.

We may even manage to convince ourselves that we will bring this ideal image into existence by holding it in our minds. But isn’t there something terribly irrational about that concept? If we do not see and embrace our true selves, how can we create genuine change? Can we live authentically and yet see ourselves as being different than we are?

If the answer is no, do we then choose to live without authenticity? And how meaningful would such a life be? As children, we were intoxicated by fairy tales, and, perhaps, many of us still are. There will always be something deeply alluring about entering into a magical land of make-believe where we may have a chance to “live happily ever after”. But would we choose that if we knew that none of it could ever be real?

Would we rather live outside of reality and create wondrous experiences in our minds. Or would we rather enter into the realm of being and accept both the good and the bad that life has to offer us? We cannot have it both ways. Our own reality can be created. But unless it exists within truth (which is not possible as our own reality is, by its very nature, purely subjective), it remains part of an illusion that will only lead us further along the path of self-deception.

For awhile, self-deception can seem harmless enough. It enables us to believe whatever we want to about any given circumstance within our lives. Moreover, we can choose to ignore anything unpleasant, too. We can even deceive ourselves into believing that life is nothing but a series of positive experiences for when we imagine that we can create whatever reality we choose there are no limits. Unfortunately, such thinking tends to promote narcissism. We begin to see others as being here to serve us and our purposes. As a result, we lose sight of the fact that it is actually the other way around—we are here to serve others.

It has been said before that the love you give away is the only love you really get to keep. Then, might it not also be said that the life that is spent in service to others is the only life that is truly meaningful? Or do we dare to imagine that giving could be more important than getting?

Our consumer-oriented culture wants us to believe that the more things we have, the happier we’ll be. But what is the truth? How many of  us will come to the end of our lives wishing that we had more clothes or a more expensive car? Will it matter how many trips around the world we took or how much jewelry we own?

Perhaps, I have it wrong. Maybe it is more important how much we have than who we are as people. But, if so, why is it that so many people who have everything they could ever ask for remain so unfulfilled? If getting and having do not bring us satisfaction, is it possible that the more we have and get, the more dissatisfied we become? In our attempts to diminish our inner thirst with that which will never quench it, it would seem that it’s possible we may actually be making ourselves thirstier. It is akin to trying to nourish our body with food that has no nutritive value. Eventually, we will starve.

This is why pulling ourselves out of our own reality and into the light of Truth is so crucial to having a life of purpose. In the words of philosopher Harry Frankfurt, “Our success or failure in whatever we undertake, and therefore in life altogether, depends on whether we are guided by truth or whether we proceed in ignorance or on the basis of falsehood.”

Frankfurt believes that we need truth not only to understand how to live effectively but even in order to survive. When we look at the state of the world we live in, we have to wonder whether or not the fact that the search for Truth has been replaced by a desire to believe whatever we want to hasn’t contributed to the collapse of humanity. We may talk of creating our own beliefs, but stepping too far outside the truth can affect not merely us but society, as a whole.  

Even though we may not want to acknowledge it, we have responsibility in this world for more than just our own lives. We have an obligation to humanity. It’s not really all about you anymore, nor is it about me or any other single person. It is about us. Our journey is both personal and part of a collective journey that all of us are on. It is the experience of being human, and each of us can has the ability to make of this experience anything we choose. We can either accept the pain and the joy and make the best of each, or we can allow ourselves to lose sight of our collective purpose as we get immersed in ourselves and our narcissistic realities.

Whether you are religious or not, imagine, if you will, the impact that Christianity would have had on the world if we had been told that Jesus came only to save a few select individuals who were in some way set apart as being “special”. Rather than being seen as a figure of eternal selflessness and self-sacrifice, we would perceive Jesus as the ultimate elitist. Yet, much of the time we set ourselves apart as being exempt from the human experience—as having a purpose that is somehow more unique or exceptional than anyone else’s.

Then, we wonder why it seems as if we are unable to establish relationships of any true significance. How can we when we are so absorbed by ourselves and our own lives? The irony is that in spite of our all-encompassing self-absorption, we have not necessarily ever really “found” ourselves. Often, we are absorbed by the false image of ourselves that we hold within our minds and the things we feel that others should be doing for us and/or that the world should be giving to us.

However, beneath all of the superficiality, we still want something deeper . . .  something more, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. We are seeking the purpose that we say we don’t believe in—the reason for living that we say doesn’t exist. For, we are oftentimes so out of touch with our authentic selves that we cannot discriminate between that which we think we want and that which we truly need.

Perhaps the brilliant and contemplative philosopher, Jacob Needleman, sums it up perfectly when he says, “We human beings are in search of meaning, in search of our selves. Very little of what we already are and already have brings us deeper meaning or happiness. We are  born for meaning, not pleasure, unless it is pleasure that is steeped in meaning. And we are born as well for sufferings, not the suffering that leads to madness but the suffering that leads to joy: the struggle with ourselves and our illusions. We are born to overcome ourselves, and through that overcoming to find great harmony and being. We are born for that . . . We are searchers: that is the essence of our present humanness.”

Maybe we have failed to learn one basic truth that would have illuminated our paths from the beginning had we been cognizant of it. We find true meaning not in lives of pleasure and contentment but rather in overcoming, in struggling, in surviving, and not merely in living. For in order to be part of the collective journey—the journey that is not just about us but rather about humanity—we must experience these things.

When we do not expand our minds to see beyond the now, the pursuit of pleasure may remain a permanent quest. In turning our backs upon Truth, we can convince ourselves that our own gratification is all that really matters. Why should we work harder for that which is evanescent, and, in many ways, seemingly indefinable? Unlike money, sex, food, and material possessions, Truth remains elusive . . . always slightly outside our  grasp. And yet, until we are courageous enough to let go of the superficial, the only self we will ever discover will be rooted in subjective reality instead of truth and freedom. 

What will you choose? The fairy tale that will never be anything more than a dream or a reality that is rich with meaning, purpose, and significance?

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(dedicated to Armina Evangelista, with much love)

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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

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The process of becoming

 

The psychiatrist David Viscott once said, “You must think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be.” For me, this quotation brings up an interesting question: should we be focusing more on the person we are now or on the person we want to be? And are we already this person? That is, do we already have the qualities within ourselves that will enable us to become the person we want to be?

Earlier this week, I found myself telling a friend that we should focus on the present moment and the person we are now as opposed to thinking of ourselves as being a better, wiser, and smarter person at a future date. But then, upon reflecting, I disagreed with my advice. To be a free being, a person at one with himself or herself and his/her individuality, are we not always becoming and evolving? Do we not change on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis? And if we do, how can we be content with the person we are now? How can we live “in the now” and yet desire to improve certain aspects of ourselves and our lives at the same time?

The ancient philosopher Plato famously immortalized Socrates in both The Republic and many of his other writings. The term “socratizing” was created to define the idea of constantly examining one’s life and questioning everything, even those things that one would commonly regard as “facts”. Socrates believed that death was preferable to a life in which one ceased to question commonly held beliefs and opinions.

Thus, to live a life inspired by Socrates is to exist in a world in which questioning is as natural as breathing. However, this type of life is not altogether welcome in a universe that is overridden with mindless television and other distractions. It has become much easier to adopt views that are handed to us by other people than to think for ourselves. Even those who regard themselves as “critical thinkers” and non-conformists oftentimes have sets of views that are as unoriginal as store-bought cake mixes.

So, what is it like to truly think “outside of the box”? Well, one of the keys to out-of-the-box thinking is the determination to question and examine everything. There are very few things that we should consider to be facts, and even information that we regard as factual needs to be examined and reanalyzed. If our thoughts help create our ultimate destiny, to consistently be thinking new thoughts and challenging our old ideas would seem to be the only way in which we can always be learning and growing. This means that we should continue the process of becoming as opposed to simply being.

The very concept of “being” is one that philosophers have focused on for centuries. As Martin Heidegger so aptly points out, “Being is the most universal concept.” Heidegger also thinks that the concept of ‘Being’ is “indefinable”. If the concept of ‘Being’ is incapable of being defined, the concept of “Becoming” is still more difficult to fathom. Yet, from the moment we are born, we are becoming something more than we are. For everything that we experience in some way becomes a part of our identity, whether consciously or not. The person who we become at different points of our life is indelibly a product of our environment and our experiences And even though we can choose our thoughts, we are oftentimes helpless to choose that which we experience. As for our environment, only at the point when we reach adulthood and are capable of being independent do we have direct control over our environment.  

For the most part, I assume that those of you who are reading my articles are not children. Thus, to say that you do not have control over your environment would be incorrect. However, I suspect that even as adults we oftentimes choose to stay in environments that are contributing in a negative way to our lives and goals. Moreover, we bring experiences into our lives that greatly restrict our choices and that also bring us pain and unhappiness. Does this mean that if we are homeless or without a job that we have brought this experience into our lives? No. However, it could mean that from choices we have made over the course of our lives that we have ended up without a home and/or a job.

I realize that accepting responsibility for your life isn’t easy if you have made a lot of mistakes. But not doing so will only make you less powerful than ever. In sharing my thoughts on this matter, I realize I am creating a breeding ground for detractors to attack me and say that I am suggesting that people choose that which happens to them. Why? Because those who feel threatened by me and the concepts I share in my articles will always find some way to criticize or denigrate me.  It is part of human nature that we reject truths that in some way threaten our “world view”. And, if we can find a way to disapprove of the truth that threatens us, we will do so, even if we end up looking foolish in the process.

On a very simple level, it would be like pretending that you were not interested in a man or woman whom you were actually very much attracted to because you knew that he/she would not reciprocate your feelings. In acting as if he/she isn’t “your type”, you manage to save your pride. But, at what cost? At the cost of lying to yourself, of course. Yet, isn’t that what many of us do each day?

Does it surprise you that I would admit that I lie to myself, too? I’m not ashamed of it for I understand that it’s part of what we oftentimes call “human nature”. Believe me, if we were completely honest with ourselves every minute of every day for 365 days of the year, we would find life almost unbearable. Could this be why suicide has been a problem that so many philosophers have been obsessed with? Is the “examined life” that Socrates promoted so difficult to stomach that committing suicide becomes a viable option?

For me, the idea of not examining life would be much less bearable than living a life where seeking the truth was the first priority. I am very tired of an existence in which persuasive lies masquerade as truth and in which people play roles. This is why I urge my readers to be their authentic selves. The problem is in finding that authentic self.

If we play a role for long enough, being ourselves may become nearly impossible. It may also be difficult for others to accept us as being a different person from the individual they have come to know. I recently read about a man whose self-concept was so warped that even years of psychotherapy prevented him from being able to disassociate himself from it. Our self-concepts are part of who we are. But must they also be an part of the person we become?

Well, if the person you want to become is different from the person you are now, then I would say that you will have to let go of the self-concept you are currently identifying yourself with. For example, if you are overweight but you want to be thin, you’ll have to change your self-concept to create a new reality. Similarly, if all of your past relationships with the opposite sex have been unsuccessful, you will need to make sure that you do not have a self-concept that matches up with a person who is incapable of having a healthy relationship before you pursue another man/woman. Otherwise, you will most likely find a way to sabotage any relationship that you begin, no matter how much potential the relationship has. Why? Scientific studies have shown that most of us are more inclined to pursue experiences that are congruent with the person we perceive ourselves to be instead of pursuing experiences that would be more in keeping with the person we want to be. The reasons for this are still being examined.  

Is it that we’re afraid of change? Or as some people have suggested, are we afraid of our own power? To me, the latter explanation makes very little sense, even though I have friends who would disagree with me. I’m sure that there are instances of people being afraid of how powerful they are, but, where are such people? Those people whom I have known who have been afraid to make changes in their lives seem to be convinced of their own powerlessness. They seem to regard themselves as being relatively insignificant in the scope of things, and the decisions they make on a daily basis seem to show their own sense of insignificance.

For me, the very word ‘power’ is a problem. I tend to see power as one of the things that is misused most often in the world. Moreover, it is the desire for power that has caused some of the events that have destroyed hundreds and even millions of lives. Thus, I prefer to embrace the idea of a life of purpose. There is nothing wrong with having powerful convictions, but we should be careful how we throw around words like “power”. 

What should we even try to have power over besides ourselves? Do we have the power to control anything other than our own thoughts, words, and actions? And, if we do, is it power that we should take? Only those who are weak need to have power over anything besides themselves. To control other people and to attempt to control events shows a lack of strength. We must give others the same freedom that we give ourselves.

But, what is freedom? Isn’t that also a word that is capable of being defined in more than one way? Are not those who promote the idea of freedom often the same people who try to take people’s freedom away? In answer to my first question, I would say that freedom is the ability to live your life as you choose to, without having to answer to someone else for your opinions, views, or decisions. As for defining freedom, I would suggest that it can be defined in both general and specific terms. My definition was very broad and general because examining freedom is not the object of this article.  Obviously, I do not believe that we are free to make decisions that adversely affect the lives of other people. In other words, we are not free to kill, rape, or harm other people, even if we want to do so.

My last question is the most complex to answer because I believe it is dependent upon specific circumstances and is a subject that is worthy of much debate. Are those who promote the concept of freedom oftentimes inclined to take freedom away from others? From personal observation, my answer would be yes. This is because that which we say we believe so often fails to match up with that which we truly believe. And, freedom is a word that most people would publicly define in a similar way, even though most of us have our own private concept of the term.  

As I have said more than once, the purpose of my articles is not to sway you to see things the way I do—but rather to prompt you to examine your own views. If I challenge some of your beliefs, perhaps you should look within yourself instead of finding fault with me. As interested as some people are in contemplating the cosmos without, I tend to think that the cosmos within is worth a lot more thought. What do you think? If the person you are now is not the same as the person you want to be, might it  not be worth spending some time in self-examination? That’s a question only you can answer, and it may well depend on whether you choose the security of the present over the unpredictability of the future.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

What choice will you make?

Although this may sound like a simple argument to set forth, life really is about choices. Almost everything you do each day is a choice— even those things that you think you must do or that someone else is expecting you to do. Sometimes I think that our society conditions us to believe that we have to live a certain way and make certain decisions because the world, at large, thrives upon control. To hold on to individuality in a universe of conformists requires strength and courage. Even those who seem to rebel against the confines of society are often in prison cells of their own making. They do not realize that they aren’t free because the bars of their prison obscure their view, thereby preventing them from seeing their lives and the circumstances of their lives clearly.

For a long time, my favorite quotation has been one that the poet E. E. Cummings once said: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” When I first read this quotation, I found myself asking, why should being ourselves be our hardest battle? Why is it so important to everyone that we all conform to the preconceived image of what they think we ought to be?

It’s ironic, really, that rebels and those who step away from the crowd are ever admired or held up as role models, considering how strongly we are all urged to be like everyone else. Of course, many who have been courageous enough to embrace their individuality and live authentically have been vilified and maligned by the world, at large. Throughout history, this has been the case, and from Jesus to Martin Luther, King, Jr., we have seen the revolutionary leaders cut down, oftentimes in their prime. It is easy for people to criticize, mock, and demean that which they do not understand. And we can all point fingers at those who choose to forge a new and unchartered path for themselves, particularly if we are one of those unfortunate souls who remains entrenched in a life of mediocrity.

Oddly enough, I have encountered so much criticism and mockery at this point, that none of it touches me anymore. I am like the bird who will not be deterred in its migratory flight. But a friend of mine has recently been attacked for some of the choices she has made. When I read the negative comments others made about her, I realized how true it is that those who try to tear others down only end up tearing down themselves. Those who create beautiful castles do not build their masterpieces by destroying the castles that other people have built. 

When we were children, sometimes we may have done things that hurt others without meaning to. Perhaps, we wanted to be liked by our peers. Or maybe we just had not yet learned that there can be lasting consequences to our actions. However, when we grew up, we learned that even those things that are seemingly insignificant can have lasting affects on not only our lives but also the lives of others. And unless we derive satisfaction from cruelty, most of us do our best not to injure other people. At the same time, there are exceptions. If we knew why this was the case, we would be able to solve a question that has been puzzling cognitive scientists, psychiatrists, and philosophers for centuries. As it is, we can only speculate and try to content ourselves with the very plain yet frustrating truth that there are many mysteries in life that will never be understood.

From now on, I am making no more efforts to turn enemies into friends or detractors into fans and admirers of my work. If someone doesn’t like the articles I write, I would suggest that he/she stop reading them. A person’s life  is too short to spend time on things that he/she will never make a choice to appreciate or understand. We each have our own journey to take. Therefore, I encourage everyone to go his/her own way, with both my blessing and my request that he/she gives  me the freedom they are giving themselves. When we let others walk their own path, we should be secure enough in our own choices that we feel no need to criticize them.

I tend to think that those who feel the need to tear down others do so because they have so little power in their own lives that they feel they must try to take the power away from others. This is why you will oftentimes notice that those who are at the top of their chosen professions are more caring, generous, and gracious than those who are living what Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet lives of desperation”. When we feel content in our lives and we are truly aligned with our own purpose, we want those around us to be engaged with life the same way that we are.

But when we are not happy or fulfilled and we see others who seem to be leading lives that are successful and joyful, some of us start subscribing to the idea that we have been shortchanged in some way. Why? Because it’s easier to turn ourselves into victims than to take responsibility for our lives and the choices we have made. If we can blame someone else for our mistakes and our missed opportunities, even if it doesn’t do any good, it can leave us with a temporary feeling of satisfaction. But can it satisfy us on a long-term basis?

Some people speculate about what the driving force throughout the world is. They debate whether it’s love or money or both. Well, although I am still examining this issue, I am relatively certain that it’s neither love nor money. Rather, I believe that it’s desire. If you will look around, you will notice that most of the choices we make have begun with a desire. The problem with this, of course, is that in allowing desire to control our choices we are being moved by passion rather than by critical thinking. Yes, there is something to be said for intuition and “gut feelings”. But by its very nature, desire is a force that should be used with care and caution.

Yet, since desire is what I believe rules this world we live in, it is being misused and abused in ways that most of us would never even be able to imagine. And, it is what brings about most of the pain in the world, too. For it is a desire for power and control that prevents people from giving other people the freedom to lead their own lives and make their own choices. Even crimes like murder and rape are rooted in desire . . .  the desire to take the life of another person or the desire to have sexual and physical power over another person. Neither love nor money is involved in either rape or murder, but both of these vile acts are more prevalent in the world we now live in than ever before.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying and subscribe to the erroneous idea that I’m saying desire is a completely negative force. Desire can be very positive as well. I think the question we all need to examine is this: are we controlling our desires or are our desires controlling us? When we tear down other people, it isn’t because we are powerful but because we are weak. When we criticize, complain, and demean, we are relegating ourselves to the role of victims, rather than victors. We are saying, “My sense of self-worth is so low that I have to try to make others feel less valuable in order to feel good enough about myself.” Once we realize that this is the message we are sending out, it forces us to rethink our behavior—or, at least, it should.

Like everyone else, I have had moments in which I have offered criticism when support and encouragement was what was called for. But this is because I am human as opposed to being a divine being. Thankfully, I’ve learned that I will never have freedom in my own life if I do not let others have their freedom, too. We cannot expect to have something that we try to take away from other people. And we can expect that we will be criticized if all that we offer others is criticism, just as a spirit of hate provokes strife and malevolence breeds disdain. Life seems to have a way of giving us back what we have given to others, which brings us once again back to the issue of choice.

In the past, I have shared certain aspects of my personal story in my SuccessDiva articles. But since everybody has a story, I feel that more can be accomplished if I do not share all of mine. I would rather focus on you and the changes I can inspire you to make if you choose to let my words enter into your soul and bring your deepest and most exquisite dreams to the surface of your consciousness. 

What do you want to accomplish in your life? If you must end your life with regrets, which regrets do you want them to be? Would you rather regret not reaching a goal in spite of all your efforts or would you prefer to regret not ever having tried to reach the goal in the first place? Do you want to regret having stayed in a relationship that never made you happy because you were unwilling to give up your security? Or would you rather take a chance at finding the man or woman of your dreams, even if you never find him or her?  

Yes, life really is about choices. And the choices you make today truly will influence not just tomorrow but also the rest of your life. Choosing wisely isn’t enough—you also have to choose courageously. Taking risks is part of what will bring you the life you want to live. None of us have a user’s manual to help guide us through our lives. To imagine that we will never have self-doubt or fear or moments of panic and anxiety isn’t realistic. What the determining factor in each of our lives is is whether we overcome all of these things. Do we let society dictate our needs and desires? Do we let other people make our decisions for us? Do we waver in our choices, even when we know we are making the choices that are right for us?  

A life of purpose is a life that is lived with a sense of conviction. A person who wants to live freely and authentically must be brave enough to break free from the boxes that others try to keep him/her trapped in. He or she must understand that it is better to be rejected for his/her authentic self than to be accepted for a role that he/she is playing. The approval of the multitudes matters not when we have lost all genuine respect for ourselves. And how can we respect ourselves unless we are being authentic?

One reason I have ceased to care what others say about me is because I have tuned in to who I really am. When you reach this point, you become aware of the fact that it doesn’t really matter who says what about you, if the things they say don’t match up with reality. We may all see the world through our own pair of glasses. But if we take the time to examine ourselves, we can get to the truth of who we are. If we don’t like that person, no matter who else may like us, we will be unhappy. But if we do like that person, then no matter how many people don’t like us, we should be content.

I only like the authentic me . . . the me who does not want to be identified with a specific persona or “image”. And because of this, I have chosen to let go of the image of me to embrace the authentic me. This is a choice I will never regret—not now nor at the end of my life.

What choice are you not making right now that you know is right for you? What’s holding you back?

Live today as if there will be no tomorrow . . .

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

Looking within

I was recently browsing an on-line forum at which I read a post by a young female acquaintance who has been spending time in India helping a woman take care of children at a makeshift orphanage. This young woman related details about one boy, who appears physically to be about seven years of age but is actually closer to thirteen, who has been the victim of a brutal rape. Although she clearly offered a certain amount of solace to the boy by holding his hand, helping him bathe, and spending time with him for several hours, she scoffed at the idea of being anybody’s savior. “I have a whole problem with the thought process that assumes somebody needs saving and I’m the one to do it,” she declared.

But wait, I wanted to say, isn’t the truth of the matter that half of the world’s population at least feels that it needs saving? Even those of us who have the advantage of a comfortable home to live in and plenty of food to eat oftentimes allow ourselves to succumb to feelings of hopelessness and despair. In fact, one of the problems is that not only do many of us feel that we need saving, but also there are some of us who actually do. Yet, inherent in this problem is also the means of solving it.

The renowned Danish physicist Niels Bohr once said, “Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution.” The solution to this problem is simple. We have to accept responsibility for our lives and, in a sense, be our own saviors for there will never be any one person who will manage to fulfill us on every level. One of the reasons that our world is overcome by such a sense of disillusionment is because so many of us have looked towards presidents and other leaders to guide us out of the tunnel of darkness and despair and into the light of hope. We want to feel that there is someone who will help us bear the heavy burden of our personal crosses. And when we are let down by these would-be saviors whom we have turned to in our hour of need, we feel bitterness, resentment, and sometimes even a certain amount of hostility.

If you’ve turned on the news at all these past several days or picked up a newspaper, you’ve probably heard about the scandal involving golf legend Tiger Woods. From all indications, Woods would have seemed like a man who had everything he could possibly desire—an opulent lifestyle, a beautiful wife and two healthy children, and a golf career that has continued to be incredibly successful. What more could anyone ask for? Well, Woods clearly wanted a great deal more. Yet, instead of giving any significant amount of thought to what issues might have led Woods to shame himself and his family by behaving in an inconceivably reprehensible way, most people are content to simply label Woods a “wife cheater”, a “womanizer”, and “an adulterer”.

But let’s stop for a minute and consider this situation carefully. Is Woods that different from many other people who have found, after reaching what others would consider to be the apex of success, that they are still hungry for more?  What Woods seems to suffer from is an insatiable desire to fill the emptiness within himself. The fame and all the accoutrements that have come along with it haven’t been enough for Woods. There’s still been a void inside him. 

Rather than facing his inner dissatisfaction and taking appropriate measures to deal with it, Woods opted for the easy path to contentment— short-term gratification that involved little commitment on his part and even less critical thinking. Like those who pursue the objective without carefully considering the possible consequences, Woods blithely carried on affairs with multiple women over the course of his married life, apparently never imagining that his escapades would at some point become public knowledge.

At this point, Woods has become fodder for the gossip magazines, and his wife undoubtedly feels humiliated. But as much as anything else, I suspect that the public who so adored Woods feels betrayed by the fact that he tainted the glowing image that they had of him. In a way, it takes us back to the days of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, a time when Americans both snickered and wept at the realization that their president was every bit as human as themselves.

Why is it that so many of us seek a role model to place upon a pedestal and naively expect this role model to conform to our idealized standards of acceptable conduct? In a way, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment, for, alas, no matter how famous or renowned someone is, he or she is every bit as much a mortal as you and I are. Thus, that person is capable of the same mistakes and privy to the same vices. While I’m not saying that there is any justification for the conduct that Tiger Woods has demonstrated, I am challenging us to examine why we are so utterly bewildered and shocked at his indiscretions.

Rather than pointing fingers and casting aspersions on Wood’s character, let’s stop to figure out what our reaction to his behavior says about us. Is it possible that we are almost as disappointed in ourselves for idealizing Woods to such an extent as we are with him for his reprehensible actions? Do some of us, on some level, feel that we have been made a fool of? And if so, when are going to cease to regard our fellow mortals as objects of hero-worship and adulation? When are we going to see that celebrities and those in positions of power and/or leadership are only presenting to us the sides of themselves that they want us to see? Much of the time, if we ripped off the masks that people wear and looked beneath them, we would be appalled.

One of the last blog articles I wrote, “The Authentic You”, was about the masks that so many of us hide under—the masks that prevent us from revealing our authentic selves. When I look at Woods, who presented the sugar-coated family man image to the public while  leading the life of a promiscuous playboy on the sly, I cannot help but think of how important the concept of authenticity is. Although Woods will have a difficult time living down the scandal his behavior has created, I believe that in order for him to ever grow into the person he has the potential to become, the details of his private escapades needed to be disclosed to the public. How will those of us who are living a lie ever cease to do so unless we’re exposed for the frauds that we are?  Oftentimes, it takes what some people call a “defining moment” for them to gain clarity about themselves and the personal issues they may never have taken the time to come to terms with.

In my SuccessDiva work, I have already traversed many paths, all of which are leading to the same destination, but with many twists and turns . . . and, yes, even a few roadblocks. I started this blog with the intention of instilling hope in those who felt like giving up. Since I have felt like giving up so many times in my life, I felt that I might be able to speak with a voice that others could relate to and perhaps even find to be a source of strength. Yet, somewhere down the road, I realized that I needed to refine my objectives and be honest with myself about how much it is possible for me to do.

When you are only one person, you must always remain aware of the fact that your influence is going to be vastly limited, no matter how committed your efforts may be. This undeniable truth has frustrated me so greatly at times that it has taken a considerable effort for me to push forward. However, I never forget what Helen Keller once said, “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

I suppose, to a certain extent, each of us, who wants to make a difference in this world, must have faith that what we do will create a ripple effect. And that our willingness to look outside of ourselves and our own personal lives will inspire others to do the same. Although we should never regard ourselves as being more successful or better than we are, what we also must keep in mind is that to be all that we can be we sometimes have to believe in our ability to accomplish things that we haven’t yet done.  In order to pursue anything wholeheartedly, we must have some faith in ourselves.

A life without passion and a sense of purpose is only an existence, and, when we limit ourselves in our own minds, we are actually removing the possibility of doing all that we can. We’re deciding how the game of cards is going to end before we even start playing. This being said, perhaps it was better that I overestimated what I would be able to achieve at the start of my SuccessDiva work. Maybe it would have been difficult for me to withstand the amount of criticism and ridicule that has been lavished upon me if I hadn’t had an innate belief that I was doing something meaningful and purposeful.

At this point, I don’t need critics to tell me that trying to fix people’s problems isn’t ever going to work. The young woman, whom I spoke of earlier who finds the idea that people might need “a savior” to be personally distasteful, admitted to me that she had the impression that I was trying to heal people’s wounds with Band-Aids (TM) when what they really required was stitches. What I happen to know is that many of those with wounds that require stitches actually prefer to wrap bandages around them so that will not be forced to deal with the harsh reality of their situation. If this were not so, why would people be drowning their pain in drugs and alcohol? Why would people need to take sleeping pills to get adequate rest? Why would so many marriages be ending in divorce?

We are a world in which the quick-fix option is what we turn to first instead of as a last resort. Rather than true faith in an all-powerful God or Divine Creator, many people use religion as a way to escape the chaos in their souls. They are so afraid of having to face their inner torment, that they will latch onto anything that brings them some feeling of security. But, is this any way to live?

Rather than naively imagining that nobody in the world needs a savior, what we need to do is realize that the majority of the population feels a desire to be saved, whether that desire is consciously acknowledged or not. At certain times of our lives, we may have experienced this desire, too. And, until we can separate a desire from an authentic need, our perception of reality will be much more real to us than actual reality ever is.

The brilliant psychologist Carl Jung once admitted, “The whole world has a savior expectation; you find it everywhere. The savior complex is certainly not a personal motif; it is a world-wide expectation, an idea which you will find all over the world and in every epoch of history. It is the archetypal idea of the magic personality . . . and image of the collective unconscious. ” Doesn’t this explain why we look towards everything from food, drugs, and alcohol to celebrities and material possessions to bring us personal fulfillment?

We want to be saved from the void that exists within us—we want to find some way to bear the emptiness we feel inside. If we can find someone or something to cling to in our hours of doubt and despair, perhaps we’ll manage to get by. But what happens when we give up drinking or using drugs or overeating? What happens when the person whom we’ve been looking up to does something completely unforgivable? How do we go on then? In a way, aren’t we worse than we would have been if we had simply taken responsibility for ourselves and used our own inner strength to make the most of our lives?

It’s important that I make it clear that I’m not suggesting that merely visualizing our “ideal” lives or adopting positive thinking patterns is going to change anything. These concepts, though widely promoted by those in the self-help field, are only as reliable and/or effective as the person making use of them wants them to be. What I do believe, though, is that each person has the tools within himself to create a life that is at least reasonably satisfying. Even if years of therapy and/or psychoanalysis are needed, a person still ultimately chooses whether he or she lives a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. There is no psychiatrist or psychologist in the world who will be able to provide more help to someone than that person is willing to accept.

Gandhi may have summed up a profound truth when he said that we must be the change we want to see in the world. But what he neglected to mention is that we have to want to be that change. Nothing will ever change in your life unless you want it to. So, you can either continue looking for salvation from some outside source or you can turn your vision inwards and accept the knowledge that nobody besides you can transform your life. Which choice will you make?

Until soon . . . Live without Limits, SuccessDiva style!

Your SuccessDiva

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

Living On Purpose

When I first began my career as a SuccessDiva, it didn’t occur to me that people would subscribe to the mistaken idea that I was promoting the idea of securing happiness through material possessions. However, there is oftentimes the assumption that success equals wealth or fame or an elevated social status. Although I have made it clear, both at this blog and elsewhere, that I am not encouraging you to seek this type of “success”, I am impassioned anew to point out not only the fact I am not promoting these ideas but also my reasons for not doing so.

The Russian author Leo Tolstoy believed that wealth actually came from “the number of things one can do without.” And since many of my principles in regard to life are very closely attuned with those of the Greek philosophers such as Epictetus, whom I mentioned in my last blog post, “The Authentic You”, I wholeheartedly agree with Tolstoy’s sentiments.

In many ways, abundance is the opposite of  accumulation. When we accumulate, we are adding things to our lives, many of which we don’t really need.  Yet, in achieving a state of abundance, we learn to appreciate that which we already have.  I was reading a book written by a well-known psychologist and anthropologist in which she gave a beautiful illustration of how her perspective towards life changed by sharing an encounter she had with her grandmother, when the  latter was dying of cancer. “Grandmother, have you had a happy life?” she asked her. The grandmother’s reply is profound in its inherent wisdom. “Mary,” she answered, “I don’t think of my life that way. I ask, ‘Have I made good use of my time and my talent? Is the world a better place because I have been here?'”

In a world where people cannot wait for the weekend to come so that they can relax and watch a lot of television or spend time hanging out with their buddies and friends, I think too many of us have lost sight of the fact that we were put on this earth for a reason. Skeptics and cynics scoff at the idea of our having a purpose. But which is better—a life lived by default or a live lived on purpose? Would you like to come to the end of your life without being able to name one fellow human being whose life you had touched?

If you have children, how you rear them is what will be the determining factor in whether or not you make a lasting difference in their lives. Unless you teach your children that who they are as people is infinitely more important than what they do, how much money they make, what they own, or even what relationships they have, you will be setting the stage for them to experience a lifetime of inner emptiness and disappointment.

Unfortunately, even living a life in which we devote ourselves to helping others can be evoked by a desire for self-gratification. The only way to ensure that our efforts towards making a difference in the world are sincere and done for the  benefit of others is to ask ourselves how much further we would go in our pursuits if we knew that we would gain very little or nothing through our efforts. A female acquaintance of mine who is a “self-styled psychologist” recently complained that she felt she was “putting herself out” in her endeavors to help other people without getting the proper level of appreciation in return. Now, what’s wrong with this picture? Well, when we begin to expect rewards for actions that we say are solely to benefit other people, we are sending the clear message that, no matter how compassionate our behavior seems to those around us, the motive behind our actions has been self-serving.

The demonstration of gratitude is becoming more and more rare in the culture we now live in. Those who have little want everything, and those who have much want still more. We are inclined to value quantity over quality, both in our material possessions and in our relationships. Oftentimes, sex, rather than being something meaningful and significant, has become yet another outlet to distract us from lives that are unfulfilled and devoid of any real importance. Children are conceived without consideration and then resented for all of the extra time and effort they require. Not only have we not learned that less is often more—we seem to be embracing the concept that more is essential.

So, why do so much misery, hopelessness, and despair exist? Why is there such a high suicide rate, and why are so many seemingly stable marriages ending in divorce? What has happened to our society? Can the world be fixed? These are all questions that cannot be answered easily, and there is no “right” answer to any of them. Like most things in life, these questions are relative to the respective situations. Many variables are always involved.

Whereas one couple may divorce because of infidelity on the part of one or more partners, another couple may split up simply because they disagree over who should pick out the DVDs they rent from the nearest Blockbuster Video store. But there is one common denominator that is usually present in a set of circumstances that seems tragic or unnecessary. That denominator is a lack of clarity about that which matters most. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once expressed a profound statement about that which matters most never being at the mercy of that which matters least. The question is, what does matter most?

I believe that at a certain point in his or her life, any critical thinker becomes cognizant of the fact that peace of mind and inner contentment are to be prized far more highly than either the esteem of others or the extent of one’s personal achievements. We are all connected to each other in this world, and, perhaps, at the root of the general hopelessness that is pervading our society is the idea that we have lost touch with one another. We are so occupied trying to persuade others to think the way we think and to see life the way we see it that the spirit of love and harmony has gotten cast aside in favor of being “right” and making our points about politics, religion, sex, or whatever the subject du jour may be.

As we toss out labels like “animal rights extremists”, “radical feminists”, “pro-abortion fanatics”, or, on the flip side of the coin, “fundamentalists”, “rednecks”, and “right-wing conservatives”, we don’t stop to think of the long-term consequences this name-calling will bring about. We have abandoned empathy for dehumanization and instead of discussing important issues we jump right  in and start virulent debates. What would happen if we stood back and tried to put aside our differences long enough to form a connection with our fellow individuals, however tenuous that connection might be?

You may well have heard Gandhi’s frequently repeated quotation, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Yet, have you ever applied that particular quotation to yourself? Do you see yourself as merely one grain of sand on an overly populated seashore. Or do you understand that, even though you are only one person, you can still make an impact on the lives of those around you?

Forget everything you’ve heard about so-called positive thinking. Open your mind up and listen to my words for, though I speak with my own voice, my philosophy is summed up in the texts of many sages, philosophers, and poets who came into this world centuries before you or I were born.  If we do not find some way to make our lives mean something, then many of us will come to the end of our lives fully comprehending why Arthur Schopenhauer wrote an essay entitled, “On Vanity of Existence”. According to Schopenhauer, man is a “compound of needs which are hard to satisfy . . . [and] their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which [man] is only given to boredom . . . [and] boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence.”

When was the last time you said you were feeling bored? Did you ever stop to consider it was because you were not engaging in any activities that were of any lasting value?  I cannot help but think, when I read these words of Schopenhauer, that the only solution to the “vanity” of existence is in focusing our attention on something besides our own personal needs. If indeed the fulfillment of these needs does not bring lasting satisfaction to begin with, would we not be better off  looking outside ourselves and our own wants and desires and focusing instead on the needs and desires of others?

I’m not encouraging you to live a life of unmitigated self-sacrifice. But I do feel that until we get to the end of ourselves, we will not be able to fill the void within our souls. We must let go of our preoccupation with ourselves and our own needs in order to leave a lasting imprint on the lives of those whom we leave behind. Whether we have children or not, there will be those who come after us whose lives will be affected in some way, however minimal, by the choices and decisions we have made.

It’s easy to regard yourself as insignificant, but in a way, by doing this, you are avoiding responsibility for your life. In demeaning your own importance, you are removing any sort of obligation you might have to accomplish something worthwhile, whether it be raising your children with values and principles or using your gifts and capabilities to their full potential. Sometimes, we use fear as an escape mechanism. After all, if we’re too afraid to take charge of our lives, no one will blame us if we don’t do all we could or should. And, if we add the habit of blaming others to our own feelings of fear and anxiety, we’ll end up having plenty of reasons to justify our indolence, apathy, self-pity, and sloth.

It’s also tempting to attribute our lack of initiative to depression or discouragement. But when we hear about those who have  overcome insurmountable odds to accomplish remarkable things, we’re left with the inner knowledge that our excuses don’t hold up so well under scrutiny. Although you may not realize this, if you are living a life in which you’re letting fear control you or using blame to validate your own mistakes, you are actually living in a state of bondage. You have managed to victimize yourself—you have become a martyr of your own feeble attempts to excuse yourself from living a life of purpose and significance. 

In a way, we are not entirely to blame for this tendency many of us have to avoid responsibility for our lives. Our society and culture encourage us to feel like our lives and the world at large are spiraling out of control. Messages of fear about global warning, political upheavals, and nuclear disaster are hurled at us like missiles. Almost every time we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper we hear about yet another case of injustice or brutality. How is it possible to have peace of mind in such a chaotic universe?

One of the most fundamental ways to achieve a state of inner calm is to separate that which we can control from that which is out of our control. Although we can make an impact on the world, we cannot change the world, no matter  how strong our desire might be to do so. It is not uncommon to embrace the concept of being a superhero who manages to bring about transformation on a monumental scale. But each of us is just one person with one life to make into either a story that nobody will remember or a masterpiece that others can reflect upon with admiration and respect.  

Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who died of typhus in a concentration camp at the age of sixteen, summed it up with exquisite eloquence when she said,  “Give whatever you have to give, you can always give something, even if it’s a simple act of kindness.” What we must let go of, when we decide to give to those around us, is the expectation that we must get something back. In order to live authentically, to truly break free from self-limiting beliefs and live a life without limits, we must  be willing to stop asking ourselves that age-old question, “What’s in it for me?”

To stop clinging to the habit of expecting to be repaid for our good deeds and kind gestures takes courage. But until we learn to be masters of the art of self-sufficiency, we will always be looking for fulfillment in things, people, and achievements. We will never get to the place where we can look in the mirror and feel a surge of self-respect and acceptance for the face looking back at us. The choice is up to you. Do you want to continue living a life by default or would you like to start living on purpose?

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva

Exploit Your Potential!

ballerina25There are moments in our lives when we feel as if there is no one to turn to. Or, perhaps, there are people to turn to, but deep within ourselves we know that they would never truly comprehend what we are going through. It’s not always easy to ascertain that which is genuine from that which is fake. It’s rather like lab-created gems. There are many jewels that are the product of a laboratory instead of nature. Yet they appear so authentic that even a jeweler is unable to tell the difference at first glance. These jewels that are “created” by lab technicians are not so different from some people. True caring and compassion are qualities that have always been  rare. But in a world where instant gratification has become more of an addiction than even a habit, authentic individuals are oftentimes scarce.

This is why I stress the importance of always being yourself and of never letting society or the group of people whom you associate with dictate your opinions, your thoughts, or your actions. To a certain extent, you have to exploit yourself  in order to completely embrace life. You must exploit your own potential before anyone else does, for, at the end of your existence here on earth, the person who is going to be left with regrets will be you. The actress Bette Davis once said, “Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.” And Davis demonstrated her steely determination by fighting relentlessly for the roles she got. At her prime, she was the highest paid woman in America, and, during a time when the entertainment industry was dominated by men, Davis set the stage for the powerful leading actresses who have followed in her footsteps such as Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, and Jodie Foster.

In keeping with Bette Davis’ personal motto, what would you attempt to do if you knew with absolute certainty that you simply could not fail? Would the choices you’re making in your life right now be different than they are? If you have any role models or people whom you look up to, whether dead or alive, do you think that they allowed themselves to become overcome with feelings of self-doubt? Or did they live fearlessly?

I have always admired the dancer Isadora Duncan, who dared to be herself both in her career and in her personal life. She was an original, and she was proud of it. It’s true that Isadora did not always use the wisest judgment. But at least she pursued her dreams and made them into a reality by her willingness to take risks and fly in the face of convention. Who wants to conform to what society tells us we should be? In an era when women who had children out-of-wedlock were branded and crucified, Isadora held her head up high and bore two children by two separate lovers. While this lifestyle isn’t something I’m condoning, what I do admire is Isadora’s determination to hold onto her self-respect in a world in which everyone was attempting to take it away from her. Her self-worth was innate and not dependent on anyone else. This is why Isadora followed her heart and married a Russian poet who was eighteen years younger than she was.

Even in today’s much more liberal and open-minded world, much of Isadora’s behavior would be considered reckless.  Yet, are we to only admire those who live by the standards that we hold dear? I think it’s important to find people whom we look up to or who inspire us for different reasons. We should never emulate another person entirely, for, if we do so, then we are cutting short our own uniqueness.

I have been candid about the fact that I believe in God, but even if you don’t, perhaps a part of you still senses that there is a Divine Force at work in the universe. And perhaps you believe that this Divine Force created and molded each of us in a specific way. Whenever we try to be like another person or envy someone else because of his or her special attributes or capabilities, we are negating our own worth. There is positively no way that I can place enough emphasis on embracing that which is exclusively yours. And your potential is your most valuable commodity.

Many people believe that an icon like Madonna is not a role model–that her fame has been centered around the wrong values and principles. However, I think it’s much easier to make judgments about other people and their lives than it is to see ourselves clearly. We attach labels to those whom we do not approve of. Then we wonder why someone decided to label us or our actions in a certain way. Only when we let go of labels and stop being so judgmental will we be free to be ourselves. As I’ve said in other blog posts, we can put ourselves into a prison of our own making if we so choose. That prison can be made up of negative and destructive thoughts such as hate, anger, fear, and resentment. The moment that we allow ourselves to judge another person, we are actually judging ourselves. Rather than focusing on the ways in which someone else falls short in our mind, we should focus instead on how we can improve.

The great Russian author Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Who can be naive or delusional enough to imagine that they can make such an impact on the world that they are able to alter it in a significant way? Although I began my work as the Success Diva with the objective of reaching out to others and making a genuine difference in their lives, I am still aware that unless I pay enough attention to developing myself and exploiting my own potential, I will never accomplish anything meaningful.

Even though the word “exploit” has negative connotations, I am using it in a broader sense to fully embody the idea of using every bit of your potential for all its worth . . . and then some! Opportunities do not always come knocking on the door of your world. Sometimes, you have to seek them. And there are moments when you must grab something that looks like a possibility and make it into the chance of a lifetime.  Never hesitate to take the blessings that are brought into your life. If you do not make use of them, someone else will.

In the Bible, Jesus tells the parable about the talents (in this instance, a talent was a weight of precious metal) a master gave his servants as he was going to leave on a journey. When he returned, the master greatly rewarded the man who had used and multiplied his talents. He was told, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” On the other hand, the unwise servant who had buried the one talent he was given–who had dug a hole in the ground and buried it–had even that taken away by his angry master. Even if you don’t believe that the Bible is the Word of God or anything more than a myth, you can still relate to the concept that that potential which we cultivate. invest, and use is increased rather than diminished.

Life can be like this. For when we allow our potential to drown in the ocean of petty worries and other peoples’ opinions, it is the same as if we never had that potential in the first place. As my friend and mentor, Denis Waitley, says in his book Seeds of Greatness, we have the power within ourselves to achieve virtually anything. “We all have the power within,” Denis writes, in the chapter “The Seed of Purpose”. “There is a potential gold mine inside each of our goals.” What Denis says is true, even if you think it seems hard to believe.

Not only is there a gold mine inside of your goals, but there is a gold mine inside of you. The very fact that you are reading this blog indicates that you have already won. Even at this moment, you are a winner for yov have been brave enough to seek ideas about how you can improve yourself and your life. You have chosen to stop living by default and to begin living on purpose . . . like a boat that has finally found a clear-cut direction.

I have spoken about the Yellow Brick Road that will take you to the Emerald City of your dreams. Well, the path that will take you to that road is strewn with obstacles. There are distractions and day-to-day worries, in addition to people who will attempt to sabotage your efforts, whether they intend to or not.  Even those who are closest to us and claim to have our best interests at heart cannot always be expected to see our dreams and goals for us. You must capture your vision yourself . . . and only you should be the person to exploit your own potential. It’s almost a law of nature that only two options are possible. If we do not exploit our potential, either it goes to waste or someone else will exploit it for us.

I have emphasized the importance of working together as a team and surrounding yourself with those who share similar vantage points to yours. This is crucial if you want to achieve ultimate success or happiness. However, in the end, it still comes down to you making full use of your potential. You cannot ever become entirely dependent on anyone or anything else. You make the magic happen in your life. As I said from the beginning, it really is all about you for no one can live your life for you.

Have you ever seen an episode from the old TV program, “This is Your Life?” If so, do you remember how the most noteworthy moments in the life of whoever happened to be honored were flashed on the screen? Did you ever wonder, “How would my life look if this documentary were about me?” When I was growing up, I recall speculating as to what significant accomplishments might be mentioned. Having been trained to be a concert musician, nearly all of my daydreams, when I was a little girl, included the creation of  award-winning musical recordings and international concert performances. I always had the tendency to dream big, in shades of bright colors, rather than shades of gray or black and white. At this point, it amazes me to remember how grand many of my fantasies were. But, dreaming extravagantly is a wonderful way to prepare you to embrace your potential.

If you do not believe you’re capable of something remarkable, how will you ever attempt it? Claude Bristol’s book The Magic of Believing really does illuminate the importance of believing in yourself unlike nearly any other book I’ve ever read. And what is exploitation of your potential but one more step past believing in yourself? On many occasions, the only true difference between someone who lives a life in obscurity and someone who accomplishes things that bring them a tremendous amount of recognition is belief. I use the word “belief” in its most profound sense for it is something beyond mere self-confidence. It is an innate sense of trust in yourself–faith in your ability to make the most out of your life and to maximize your abilities.

Although we have been conditioned by society and often also by the environment in which we have been reared to subscribe to the idea that our capabilities are limited, we were all born with the capacity to do nearly anything. The depth of the potential that is inherent in each of us is something that many people never become fully cognizant of. For, on a conscious level, it seems impossible to imagine that we can  achieve things that we would call extraordinary if we haven’t seen them being accomplished by those around us. 

When we hear stories of those who have surmounted monumental odds to achieve recognition, renown, and in many instances “celebrity” status, there is sometimes a tendency to tell ourselves that these people were somehow special and set apart from the rest of humanity, whereas we are “ordinary” mortals. In doing this, we are automatically placing limitations on our potential that aren’t really there. Yet, when you subscribe to a false idea for long enough, you will soon begin to imagine that it’s true.  It’s rather like wearing fake diamonds for an extended period of time. After awhile, you may barely be able to ascertain the difference between a real diamond and one that has been created by a lab technician.

So, instead of suppressing your potential by telling yourself lies about what you can’t do, embrace and exploit that potential for all it’s worth. I dedicate this particular blog post to my friend Elizabeth, who first used the phrase, “exploit your potential”. Elizabeth, you are one of those rare persons who lives life fearlessly and is forever true to herself. Thank you for coming into my life.

May you continue to embrace every moment . . . and to live with passion, courage, enthusiasm. . and belief in Yourself!

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

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

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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

Finding your purpose. . .

believe19Although it’s not something a lot of people are ready to accept, the first and most essential step to changing your life is taking complete responsibility for every choice you make. In a way, this sounds like it might be dis-empowering. When we make a mistake, it doesn’t feel pleasant to acknowledge the role we played in it. We would prefer to blame someone else. . .or something else. . .or the weather. . .or fate. . . .or some unseen force. To blame ourselves, particularly when we feel like we were simply naive or too trusting, is painful. Yes, it is painful, but what you have to ascertain is whether or not you would rather deal with the short-term pain now or with long-term misery later.

Have you ever heard the saying about winning the battle but losing the war? This is something I’ve given thought to this week as I’ve been tempted to react to thoughtless critcism in a way that would have been destructive to both me and those who criticized me. Sometimes we have to weigh the importance of a situation—we have to consider whether or not it’s truly significant from a long-range perspective. There will always be people who, for whatever reason, don’t like us. We can spend time trying to figure out why they have negative feelings towards us or we can forget about them and move towards those who do support us and encourage us. It’s essential that we learn to conserve our energy so that we can use it on the tasks that really matter. Energy is as precious as time, and neither one can be replaced. No matter how many cups of coffee or cans of soda you drink or how many pieces of candy you may consume, your natural energy cannot be fully replenished in a day once it is gone.

I remember reading about how the consummate French author, Honore de Balzac, managed to keep himself awake throughout the wee hours of the morning by drinking pots of black coffee. Balzac was not a person with a large amount of self-discipline; so, he was forced to deprive himself of sleep because he frittered so much time away carousing, drinking, and enjoying himself. Although many of Balzac’s books are among the finest of all European literature, you have to wonder how much more he might have accomplished if he had learned how to take responsibility for himself and his choices. None of us really wants to be at the mercy of such substances as alcohol or drugs nor do we want to have to rely on caffeine to keep us awake. This is why getting a clear mental picture of where we are going in our lives is of primary importance.

“Am I talking about a vision again?” you may ask.  In a way, I am. But I’m also talking about a purpose. Someone who wrote me this week and said some very discouraging things about my role as a Success Diva implied that I was merely encouraging people to go after a life of fame, fortune, and personal glory. Well, since this person misunderstood me to such a great extent, I feel it’s incumbent on me to clarify my intentions to all of you. There is no amount of money on earth that will bring you happiness or fulfillment. As for fame, it is fleeting, and often leads to months and years of solitude, misery, and isolation. I am not suggesting that anyone seek fancy cars, expensive clothes, opulent houses, or other material possessions in order to achieve happiness or success. Success, according to this diva’s frame of reference, is the usage of one’s full and unique potential. It is the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that you have done something that you’re proud of and that makes you feel worthwhile. It’s the feeling of contentment and self-satisfaction you get when you look at your life and realize that you have more to be grateful for than you could have ever dreamed of. Success begins with discovering and embracing the reason that you were put on this earth—and then doing everything within your power to make sure your life has not been lived in vain.

Think about a tree. When it’s first planted, does it seem to be full of promise? Do you look at it and become enraptured by its radiance and splendor? Or do you look at it as being full of potential? And, after you’ve planted it, what would happen if you decided to go pull it up after a few weeks because it didn’t appear to be growing? You and I both know what would happen. You would never look forward to the experience of seeing that fragile sapling grow into a tree of strength and resilience. Well, we are not so different from the young tree. We  begin as saplings, too. Unfortunately, we often remain saplings because we do not allow ourselves the chance to sink our roots deep into the ground. Rather, we allow the gutsy winds of life to cause us to fall down, and, even though we sometimes sense that we have the tenacity to get back up, if we don’t use this tenacity the first time we’re knocked down, it becomes easier and easier to let the storms leave us in a state of permanent decay. At a certain point, we’re not even fresh young saplings anymore. Instead, we’re rotten trees with broken branches and cracks that seem too severe to ever mend.

Recently, I read about Walt Disney, and how he fought so hard to hold onto his dreams when everyone told him that his ideas were outrageous and unrealistic. Nowadays, Disney has his share of critics because people are so narrow-minded that they cannot look past the Walt Disney Pictures that we’re familiar with today and focus on the man behind it all. It’s tragic when people associate an individual and his or her specific dreams with those who carry on those dreams in years to come. Personally, I think Walt Disney had one of the most ingeniously creative minds in history. He was a pioneer. . .a trendsetter. . .a man who continued to go after his dreams, in spite of countless obstacles. Now what’s not to admire about that?  What amazes me is that Walt Disney suffered two nervous breakdowns at critical times of his life. So often, we think of nervous breakdowns as being something that those who are truly icons of success do not succumb to. And yet, time after time, I encounter details about famous authors, artists, musicians, actors/actresses, and other creative artists having mental and emotional breakdowns. It almost seems like having to overcome a setback of such a devastating nature strengthens the resolve of these determined individuals. Is that possible? If so, we have been overlooking a secret to ultimate success that those who have achieved great things have known all along. Namely, this secret is that, if we take any negative experience that happens to us, whether it be significant or not and reverse its affect, so that it makes us stronger rather than weaker, our chances of success have actually improved because of the setback. Hey, I realize that’s a radical concept.  . .but this diva is radical.  Indeed, what I’m slowly starting to discover is that only in combining radical, cutting-edge ideas with more solid philosophies and “traditional” thought patterns will I be able to be the diva I want to be. It’s the mix of the daring with the tame. . .the spontaneous with the carefully considered. . .the old with the new. . .the spicy with the sweet.  You’re never going to make an impact on anyone if you’re not flexible. You have to be willing to take leaps of faith, even if you worry that they’re too risky. Fear is something to overcome–not something to run from.

Walt Disney didn’t let his breakdowns cause him to let go of his ultimate goal. So, why should you let petty annoyances and narrow-minded people cause you to renounce your dreams? Most of the time, the things we spend so much time thinking about aren’t even important. And most of the people who try to cause us to fall down are of no consequence at all.  If they were really worthwhile people, they would know that true success is only achieved by building others up. For only when you are willing to extend a hand to help another person make the life they desire a reality will you be ready to embrace your own dreams. Sure, some of your dreams may come true, even if you do mistreat those around you. But your dream of personal fulfillment and of inner happiness will never be yours. And no matter what any of us try to say, we all have at least one thing in common—we want to feel a certain sense of satisfaction with ourselves. We want to have respect for the person we are. Yet how can we ever respect ourselves if we achieve our goals at the expense of others?

This is why I have emphasized the importance of seeing life as a team effort. Remember how I compared us to the clans of meerkats on the television show, “Meerkat Manor”? If you didn’t read that particular post, I’ll elucidate a bit. On the cable channel, Animal Planet, there’s a successful show called “Meerkat Manor”. It centers on the day-to-day existence of families of meerkats. And unlike human beings, who often seem to have no instinctual desire to support each other, meerkats undertake every situation that arises as if it’s a team sport. The result is that, most of the time, the meerkats know that they can rely on each other. It’s sad to think that, in some ways, we are more selfish than meerkats, but I’m afraid it’s true. So many people have bought into what I call a “scarcity mentality” which essentially focuses on the idea that you must lose so that I can win. In reality, what often happens is that both you and I will lose. This is why this philosophy is so toxic, and why it leads to disappointment and unhappiness. On the other hand, the “abundance mentality” centers around the concept that both you and I can win because there is plenty of success, joy, love, and happiness to go around. We don’t have to fervently hold onto our little sliver of the pie, for we know that there will always be more pie where that pie came from. Our willingness to freely share the pie with others ensures that there will be more than plenty for us.

The “abundance mentality” can also be applied to the love and affection we demonstrate towards others. The more we are willing to demonstrate our caring and compassion to the people that surround us, the more likely it is that we will receive a significant amount of caring and compassion in return. That which flows outwards tends to flow back in eventually. It’s part of the way the world works. So, the next time you are tempted to treat someone with cruelty or thoughtlessness, think about the fact that what you are giving will at some point be received by you. And when another person mistreats you, always remember that they will end up bearing the brunt of their mistreatment—not you. The only thing we ever have any power over is our own life. What anybody else does or says to us is outside of our control. 

This is why you must take charge of all of your choices right now. Once you separate the things you really can change from those  you are powerless to do anything about, you’ll be one step closer to designing the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Have fun. . .and make each moment matter!

Until soon,

Alexis, 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

Born to be you!

believe52 (star-born to be you)Close your eyes for a moment. If you can’t do this now, do it as soon as you possibly can. I want you to envision yourself at a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible. If you’re anything like me, this may have been so far back that you can barely remember it. But, if you can, even if you were four or five years of age, I want you to return to that time. Really soak in that sensation you had that you were invincible, and that the only thing that could keep you from achieving something was if you made a choice not to pursue it. How does returning to that moment in time when you felt the world was at your feet make you feel?? Are you experiencing any feelings of sadness because you weren’t able to hold on to that unconquerable belief in yourself for a longer period of time?? Well, let go of any disappointment, discouragement, and/or unhappiness and listen to your diva when she tells you that you can recapture that faith in yourself that you once had. You were born to fulfill a certain role. . .to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. And just as this was the case when you were five or ten years old, so it is also the case at this point in your life. No matter how many curves you have had to evade or how many setbacks have come your way, the only thing that can actually prevent you from making your dreams come true is you. “What?” you interject. “But you don’t understand, Success Diva. I have all these bills piling up, and I’ve been out of work for six months, and my husband left me two years ago with three kids to support. I’m not the one who is keeping me from living the life of my dreams.” You aren’t?? Then who, if I may ask, is preventing you from it?? If you try to blame circumstances or someone else for the fact that life isn’t giving you what you feel you deserve, then aren’t you giving away your own personal power?? I remember when I first listened to the CD program, Personal Power, by the motivational speaker and author, Anthony Robbins. It was a mind-blowing experience for me! In fact, I wasn’t really ready for it when I first heard it. Some of Tony’s concepts seemed to take me so far out of what I perceived to be my personal “comfort zone” that I began to be reluctant to listen to his advice. I didn’t think that I had it in me to become all that Tony told me I could become, and hearing him speak of all this untapped potential inside of me was. . .well. . .just a little bit intimidating. In other words, I was allowing myself to fall into what I would call the Fear Trap. I was so afraid that I might not be able to succeed the way that Tony was trying to persuade me into believing I could that it was easier to put the CDs back on the shelf. And that happens to be exactly what I did!

Do I regret my choice?? Well, yes. . .and no. I think that there’s a right and a wrong time for everything. We aren’t all at the same place in our lives, and it’s even possible that some of you reading this blog aren’t yet ready to step forward and really start making things happen in your life. That’s okay. Although I love my friend and foremost inspiration Denis Waitley’s quote about there being plenty of time to win but no time to lose, I also understand that not everybody is ready to take on the role of a winner. However, if you’re one of Success Diva’s supporters, there’s a good chance that you’re at least halfheartedly committed to making your dreams a reality. There’s even a possibility that all you need is a little extra encouragement to get you running down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City I’ve spoken of before. You know, when you think about all the people who have had to overcome obstacles that you and I can only vaguely imagine to accomplish magnificent things, you have to admit that you don’t have much of an excuse to be what you might call a bystander in life’s game. One thing that  helps me is focusing on people who inspire me. This is one reason I’ve created two Icons of Inspiration Photo Albums over at Facebook. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Angelina Jolie are ladies whom I will always look up to, and those who have inspired millions of people through their generosity of spirit and compassionate deeds, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana, cannot help but make me feel more determined than ever to continue to pursue my goals with passion, persistence, perseverance, and a definitive sense of purpose. At the same time, I always remember that I am uniquely me. That is, I wasn’t born to be anyone else nor do I compare myself to any other person.

When I think about someone who has always genuinely embraced his individuality, I would have to mention the actor, Sylvester Stallone. He has often made comments that indicated he didn’t feel that he was blessed with a first-class intellect, and he’s also been largely criticized for his acting capabilities. But, you know what? Sylvester Stallone should be a role model for a person who has dreams that seem beyond his or her grasp. During the 1970s, when Sylvester Stallone barely had enough money to eat, he decided to start writing. On most days, he stayed up until dawn writing. Even though most people would have regarded his efforts as merely the result of wishful thinking, Stallone believed in himself enough to press on until he had completed the screenplay that would eventually be the basis for the film, “Rocky”. And when he was offered $300,000 to sell the rights to his screenplay to a filmmaker, on the condition that he didn’t play the lead role, Stallone was committed enough to his dream of playing the lead to refuse the offer. Now, in some situations, not being willing to compromise could easily mean that a person loses what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, when you have a dream in your heart and you commit every fibre of your being to that dream, you can’t let anyone steal it from you, even if holding on to it seems like an unwise decision. As you and I both know, Stallone made the right choice because he ended up having the chance to play the role of Rocky Balboa, and he was even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work. Although he was only paid minimum wage for his work in the film, Stallone admitted later that he would have played the part for free. That is how dedicated he was to making his dream come true.

So, how dedicated are you? Or have you determined what your ultimate dream is? Are you still searching for your purpose or do you have a definite aim? A lot of motivational experts encourage you to write what is called a “personal mission statement”, and I don’t think this is a bad idea. In fact, it can be very profitable because it forces you to really look at  your life from a distance. In other words, you are unable to let yourself get too caught up in the chaos of the moment. Rather, you are compelled to really review and ascertain what your permanent destination is.  When I use the term “permanent destination”, I am not speaking of death, which is indeed inevitable for all of us. What I’m talking about is your ultimate goal—the thing that you most want in your life, the accomplishment or series of accomplishments that would mean more to you than anything else. For someone who is in medical school, a mission statement would probably include a few key phrases about the kind of doctor they want to be. Rather than simply focusing on academic achievements, a mission statement should center around the contribution that a woman or man in medical school would like to make to medicine and to the lives of his/her patients in his or her career as a doctor. Am I making sense?? In other words, if you wanted to be a well-known actor or actress, simply saying “I want to be one of the most famous actors/actresses in the world” would not constitute a successful mission statement. Why? Well, those of us who understand what true success is all about realize that fame, fortune, and superificial acclaim will not ever fill that internal void within ourselves. And isn’t that really what striving towards the life of your dreams is all about?? Isn’t it about creating a life that gives you a sense of self-fulfillment on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis? I remembering hearing the actress, Angelina Jolie, in an interview awhile back, and being impressed with what she said about how her decision to adopt children from underprivileged countries and to visit and do the charitable work she has done has prevented her from continuing in what she called a “self-destructive lifestyle”. Instead of continuing on a downward spiral that would inevitably have landed her in what your Success Diva terms the “Pit of Despair”, Jolie turned her life around by changing the way she saw the world and by altering her own personal value system. When Jolie was in her 20s, her life was centered mostly around her own desires and concerns, but as she has entered her 30s, she has begun to reach out more and more to other people until, at this point, she is a true icon of inspiration. And this brings to mind something I was recently reading about what’s called the “Hierarchy of  Needs”,  according to psychologist Abraham Maslow. Our first set of needs are very basic and pertain to things that are essential to our health and lives, such as water, food, and oxygen. But by the time we reach our fourth set of needs, the focus shifts to such things as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. And by the time we get to our fifth set of needs, we enter into an entirely different aspect of ourselves because the focus is on what is called self-actualization. What is self-actualization? To sum it up at its most basic level, it is the sense that we are doing what we are most suited to—in other words, it is the pursuit of what we perceive to be our life’s purpose. If you don’t think that you have a purpose in life, you’re wrong. Without a purpose, you wouldn’t be here in the world. Each and every one of us has what is called a purpose, and, as I’ve stated before, it hasn’t anything to do with religion or a person’s spiritual beliefs. Even if you don’t think that you believe you have a purpose, in your heart you know you do. If you didn’t know that, you would have ended your life years ago because you wouldn’t have seen any reason for continuing to exist. No matter how hopeless you have felt at certain times, if you’re still alive, deep within you, whether you’re fully aware of it or not, you have a sense of purpose. And in order for you to ever realize or use your full potential, you must acknowledge and embrace that purpose. You will never be able to completely escape that which you were designed to do. I know this to be true because I have done my best to repress my own innate belief that I was destined to be a writer. Why? Well, like so many other people—including you, quite possibly—I allowed myself to be coerced into living in fear. My fear that I would not be able to achieve success in the field of writing unconsciously persuaded me into pursuing other careers.  I will never regret the time I spent acting and modeling, and I also learned a lot from my attempt to have a career as an artist. But, even though I fully enjoyed these endeavors, I always had a nagging sense within myself that what I was really supposed to be doing was not what I was spending my time and energy on. I used to come home from theater rehearsals with a deep sense of discontentment, and, when I finished a painting I was always left with a sense of emptiness, even if I was pleased with my work. I can’t help but think of the American author Carson McCullers who trained to be a concert pianist before she ever pursued a career as a writer. I’m sure that a part of her never felt entirely satisfied when she was practicing the piano, even though she undoubtedly loved music and believed that performing on concert stages around the world was what she was most suited to do. I think her pain at not having her musical career work out as she intended is beautifully conveyed in her short story, “Wunderkind”. However, just because McCullers experienced regret over the fact her musical dreams came to an end does not mean that she didn’t eventually realize that being a writer was really her personal destiny. It can take years for some of us to let go of the dreams that didn’t come true. Yet, until we are willing to do so, the dreams of the future will never be ours.  Each one of us has a map that is uniquely our own—a blueprint that is centered around that which we are destined to do. We are born to be ourselves. . .and born to contribute something exceptional to the world and to the lives of those around us. Whether what we end up contributing is something that brings us fame or recognition or not, it is something that will give us a sense of inner contentment and satisfaction. And if we let ourselves buy into the erroneous idea that we have to subscribe to the limited ideas that others try to pass on to us or hold onto the limiting beliefs that we have allowed ourselves to adopt, we will end up dying with all our potential still inside us. Which would you rather do?? Would you rather commit yourself to fully using all your talents and capabilities or would you rather watch while others who do choose to believe in themselves make their dreams come true? I can only inspire and encourage you—I’m a diva of success, not a miracle worker. So, even though I am willing to support you every step of the way, you have to be the one to make the magic happen in your life.  You can blame other people, complain about the injustice of the world, or find a dozen excuses for why you haven’t made full use of  your potential, or you can start making the choices today that will enable you to live a life of true significance. The choice is yours.  . .and only you can make it.

Live each moment of today with enthusiasm and passion, and don’t let anyone steal your dreams from you!

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

You are a diamond!

diamond3I’ve continued to emphasis that you should be yourself—that is, that being comfortable in your own skin is essential to achieving ultimate fulfillment and success. I still stand by this statement, but a new concept has come to me during the past week or so that I want to share with you. To be at peace with who you are doesn’t mean that you can’t re-invent yourself. That is, just  because you don’t want to be someone other than you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work at becoming a completely new and better you. When a diamond is taken out of a mine, does it look anything like the diamonds you see under a glass case at the jewelry store? Of course, it doesn’t. Actually, it looks like a plain, unattractive rock. Well, what if no one had ever decided to polish up one of those rocks? What would have happened? Am I making a point? Every one of us is like that diamond before it gets polished up and put into a necklace, ring, or set of earrings. Usually, we’re fortunate if even half of the polishing has been done by the time we reach middle age. However, if we don’t at least make up our minds to strive towards being that brilliant, faceted diamond, we’re never going to tap into our true potential. Now, are you ready to get rid of those rough edges and begin the process towards becoming a glistening gemstone? I know I am. I will caution you, however. There are going to be a lot of people who will fight you on your way towards turning yourself into a faceted jewel. They’ll try to tell you that, no matter what you do, you’re always going to be a jagged, old rock.  They may even discourage you with stories of their own about changes they tried to make that didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. . .or the way they hoped they would. Listen, let me tell you something that you need to never forget: change first takes place in the mind. In other words, you need to really ascertain whether or not these people who try to hold you back by offering depressing tales of discouragement and disappointment ever wanted to make changes in their lives in the first place. Isn’t it even remotely possible that they were blocked by fear? Might they not have been afraid of failure or afraid of accepting responsibility for certain aspects of their lives. . .or even (now don’t be too shocked!) afraid of success?? “Afraid of success,” you exclaim. “Now you’ve gone too far, Success Diva! Who in their right mind would be afraid of success?” I know the concept of being fearful of success may sound ludicrous, but it’s actually very real. For one thing, once you start accomplishing some of your goals, certain things about your life are going to change. Just to give one example, friends may start to distance themselves from you. In fact, your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend may start to feel threatened. Moreover, your family could express resentment, masked as concern for your well-being and/or your future. “We just don’t know if you’ll be able to handle all these new responsibilities,” they may tell you. “You’ve always been sensitive,  you know, and it could be too much for you.” How do you handle such well-meaning advice? Well, thank whoever it is who has given it to you with a smile, and then forget you ever heard it. Remember what I told you about Renoir and how the master teacher asked if he was merely “dabbling in paints” early on in his career? That isn’t the only instance in which a person who went on to achieve magnificent things was discouraged by someone whose advice should have been able to be relied upon. I cannot help but think of actress Jessica Lange, who was told that she would never be pretty enough to be a successful Hollywood leading lady. And look at Bette Davis, who had to fight studios tooth and nail to get good roles. Her fellow actress, Geraldine Fitzgerald, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the 1930s film adaptation of Emily Bronte’s _Wuthering Heights_ didn’t have Bette’s gumption. She wasn’t willing to do whatever it took to get a big break. I believe I remember Bette saying that she was too ladylike and passive to be the kind of gusty dame that would shake things up to get a part she could really sink her teeth into. Well, what are you going to be? Passive or passionate? Are you going to pursue your goals halfheartedly, or are you going to get fired up about the things you want to achieve in your life?? Which is it going to be?

I can tell you one thing, and even though it may sound like I am exaggerating, I’m not. If you’re waiting for others to crowd around you offering their support and encouragement, you may never get started on your journey of success and self-fulfillment. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have some marvelous people on my Success Diva team, not everyone is so blessed. Depending on what your goals are and who you’ll be fighting to make them a reality, you must be prepared for detractors and naysayers. There are going to be more people fighting you in the enemy camp than there will ever be on your side. But you know what your aim is—to turn your rough edges into brilliantly polished facets, so that you’ll be a radiant diamond instead of a rough rock. If you ever lose sight of your aim, you will never accomplish your goals. Now I’m not talking about a day every now and then in which you experience moments or even hours of discouragement. No, I’m talking about weeks or months when you allow yourself to take your eyes off your goals and instead let yourself be distracted by people and/or circumstances that are destructive to your ultimate purpose. “My purpose?” you echo. “I never thought about having a purpose. Are you talking about something religious?” Indeed, I’m not talking about anything the least bit religious. To have a purpose in your life is no different than a filmmaker having a purpose in a film he creates. It’s also no different than Angelina Jolie having a purpose in all the philanthropic work she does. Do you think that she simply adopted the children she’s added to her family on a whim?? Of course, she didn’t. You know better than that. It wouldn’t even make sense. Had she done that, it would have been no different than her purchasing a new car or a designer piece of jewelry. No, Angelina Jolie’s purpose in adopting each child was to give that child a life that he/she wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. She is providing both the necessities for each child, in addition to privileges that only a star of her magnitude could offer. Although she doesn’t spoil her children by giving them things they don’t need and/or wouldn’t appreciate, she does give them plenty of love and affection. However, if she hadn’t had a purpose behind all her efforts, she would not be accomplishing all that she is. We can shrug or sigh all we want when words like “purpose” and “goals” are mentioned, but, whether we like it or not, the life of our dreams cannot be created without both goals and a clearly defined purpose. Do you know what it is that you truly want out of life? If you’ve already got a wonderful partner and/or a lovely family, what else would  you need in your life to be completely content? Think about it. And, if you don’t yet have a partner or a family, would you need to have one or both to be fulfilled? These are all things you need to decide for yourself. Your diva can only share her input and ideas with you—it isn’t her responsibility to write down your dreams for you.

Last year, I went through a period of time in which I wrote down 20 or 25 lifetime goals. . .or maybe it was 50 lifetime goals. The journal I wrote these things down in is lost amid a stack of other books somewhere in my bedroom, but I do know that I took the time to at least figure out what most of my goals were. There’s a good chance that a few of these goals will now be different, although I would imagine that most of them are still the same. I know that one of my goals was inspiring and encouraging others, and I also know that I started my first success blog sometime last fall. So, why didn’t I keep it up? Well, I tend to think that there’s a “right” time for everything. I’m not saying that there’s ever a “right” time for some things, such as the crises that all of us experience at one time or another. But I do think that we have to be at a certain point in our lives before we can commit ourselves to specific endeavors. I wasn’t ready to commit myself to being a diva of success last September. The desire was there, but I think the genuine passion and enthusiasm I needed to make things really happen was missing. Have you ever heard of what’s called “movers and shakers”? Do you know what a “mover and shaker” is? No, it’s not someone who dances really well *wink*. Rather, it’s somebody who decides to take an active role in life, rather than a passive role. It’s somebody who makes the choice not to merely sit on the sidelines and let life happen to him/her, but rather, who makes up his/her mind to make life happen. Sure, there are tons of things that we cannot control about the world. But our life is ours, and we do have power over ourselves and over the choices that we make. From the moment we were born, we were always a diamond in the rough. It’s up to us, though, how long we remain that rough diamond. If we decide that we’re tired of having to look in the mirror at a rugged rock, then we will start making definitive changes immediately. In fact, we’ll probably even get to the point where we start to realize which people and/or influences are beneficial to us without having to spend much time considering it. One of my good friends was just telling me about how inclined she is to justify behavior on the part of others that is inconsiderate or unkind. I couldn’t help but relate to her as I think that anyone who has a generous and forgiving heart finds it easy to make excuses for other people. However, if you don’t make the decision to stop justifying other peoples’ mistreatment of you, you aren’t ever going to be happy or fulfilled. Rather, you’ll end up feeling betrayed, rejected, and lonely. You’ll wonder if there is anyone around whom you can turn to and/or anyone whom you can trust. Indeed, in the long run, your forgiving spirit will make you a bit cynical about life. Because you allowed people to remain in your world who continued hurting you, you’ll start putting barriers up whether you intend to or not. And then, when someone comes along who is worthy of your friendship and/or your love, you may not be open to receiving their affection and acceptance. I have spoken more than once about guarding your heart. What I may not have made clear is that it, in addition to it being an essential part of being happy, it is also an essential part of being successful. If you are experiencing emotional pain and turmoil because you are letting yourself be mistreated, you are not going to be able to pursue your own desires with any genuine enthusiasm. Why? Well, what I’ve noticed is that cruel, unkind, and/or critical people steal your joy from you. When they get finished turning your heart inside out and making you feel like most of your opinions and/or ideas are without value or meaning, you aren’t going to even believe that you have it in you to be a success. You’ll probably decide that you simply must content yourself with being a diamond in the rough for the rest of  your life. Or, even better, you’ll look upon yourself as an ugly, old rock, rather than a rock that would even be capable of being transformed into a jewel. I know you may not think you can do it, but you simply must get rid of every person in your life who is preventing you from being happy and from believing in yourself. The only people who cannot be entirely removed from your existence are close family members, such as children, siblings, and parents. But even with them, you can create a psychological barrier. What does this mean? Well, while listening to them tell you what you can or can’t do, rather than really hearing what they’re saying, you will be choosing to focus on the faith you have in yourself instead. Although it often seems like someone can make us feel worthless, the truth is, we have to give them permission to diminish our sense of self-worth. So, next time you hear a person tell you, “You know you’ll never be able to do that,” or “Well,  you haven’t done it yet. What makes you think you’ll ever be able to?”. Negate their words by telling yourself, “I know I can do anything that I commit myself to because I have unlimited potential.” Even if you feel silly telling yourself something like this at first, after awhile you will automatically begin thinking in these terms. And, once you do, you are on your way to becoming that sparkling diamond that you know you can be.

So, make each moment of today count, and pursue your dreams passionately, not passively!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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