The Freedom of Truth

There comes a time in our lives when we want to believe that we have discovered, if not all the answers to the meaning of existence, at least a few of those answers. We may even manage to convince ourselves that we have, at long last, found “what works for us”—our personal truth. It seems inconceivable to many of us that we could have reached a certain point in our lives and still know so little. But is it not when we are willing to acknowledge our ignorance that we begin to learn?

I was asked a few days ago how it is that I “verify” my beliefs. My answer was, “I don’t because I can’t.” What did I mean? Am I admitting that I have many beliefs that I question the validity of? In a way, yes. I have had to develop a willingness to examine each of my beliefs in order to discriminate between those which make sense to me and those which don’t. And while I have not abandoned those beliefs that I consider to be part of my core self, I nevertheless understand that I may not be able to prove the validity of those beliefs to anyone besides myself. Fortunately, it isn’t important to me whether I do or not, for I believe that each of us must find our own truth for ourselves.

It is only those who live in fear and ignorance who believe that trying to push their own views and ideas on someone else is going to achieve any effective result. Even if we think that someone whom we know is making all of the wrong choices in his/her life, it is not up to us to point that person in another direction.

Out of kindness and love, we should always attempt to prevent someone from making a decision that might bring him or her harm or endanger the life or well-being of another person. But aside from that, we should give others the freedom to choose for themselves in every area of their lives (I’m speaking of adults, of course—not children).  Each person’s journey is unique and personal, and, whether we understand the individual choices someone makes or not, we must respect their right to choose for themselves.

Unfortunately, even though our world promotes the idea of individuality and personal freedom, most people are no longer thinking for themselves. The illusion is created, through various persuasive techniques on the part of the media, that we are all free to form our own opinions about everything. However, the criticism, ridicule, and outright contempt that are demonstrated towards those who dare to step away from the masses indicate that freedom is merely a concept—not a reality. We have become a nation of “feelers” rather than thinkers, basing our decisions on intuition and “gut feelings” rather than on solid evidence, facts, and proof.

Intuition does play a role in the life of a thinking person. But the fact that our feelings are so capable of being manipulated makes them much less reliable than our intellect. Socrates once said that he was the wisest man on earth because he realized he knew nothing. He believed that all of us must submit to the authority of reason. For him, the “stamp of truth” is that which remains independent of us and our own subjective realities, including our own needs, wants, and desires. Although indulging in dreams and wishes may not be a bad thing in itself, if doing so prevents us from gaining and sustaining a clear view of reality, then it can be dangerous.

Francis Bacon summed up  our tendency to confuse our own reality with true reality when he said, “The assertion that the human senses are the measure of things is false; to the contrary, all perceptions, both of the sense and the mind, are relative to man, not the universe. The human understanding is like an uneven mirror receiving rays from things and merging its own nature with the nature of things, which thus distorts and corrupts it.”

Perhaps, it sounds as if Bacon was encouraging us not to use our senses at all. But a man as clear-headed as Bacon would never subscribe to such an inclusive philosophy. There is no reason to suppose that we cannot use both our intuition and our intellect. However, we must develop a level of self-awareness that enables us to ascertain when are making a choice based on instinct versus critical thinking.

To know when to use one’s abilities in a certain realm can be even more important than whether or not one possesses those abilities. There is always a time to go forward and a time to hold back, a time to feel and a time to think, a time to let go and a time to hold on. Rarely, is anything ever completely final. And yet, some things are.

Being able to accept that is crucial as a failure to do so can result in living in bondage to the past. I don’t agree with those who say that the past should never be examined for I think that analyzing the choices we have made and understanding the reasons behind those choices can be helpful. But, if we remain trapped in the past because we cannot move on, as opposed to re-visiting the past in order to learn more about ourselves, we will not be able to bring all of ourselves into the future.

Freedom is more a process of detaching than it is of attachment. The more freedom you allow yourself, the less dependent you will be on anyone else. And this lack of dependency will enable you to give others their freedom as well. Because our society is so narcissistic and has a habit of nurturing insecurities in us by promoting unrealistic ideas about romance, beauty, youth, and social status, it is only natural that we develop a tendency to look towards others to build up our self-esteem.

We all want to feel loved, cherished, and appreciated. And because society doesn’t allow us to give ourselves these feelings (how can we when everyone else’s lives seem to be so much more perfect than ours?), we seek these things from other people. The problem with this is that no matter how much praise and admiration another person gives us, if we feel inadequate or worthless deep within ourselves, we’re still going to feel that way regardless of what anyone else tells us.

And, if we are dependent on anyone else to validate us, then we have given up our freedom. Just as happiness must come from within, so also must freedom. This does not mean that you won’t ever end up in situations that in some way inhibit your freedom. What it does mean is that you will always maintain the freedom of your own mind.  Even when you feel tempted to turn your back on reality in order to foster a sensation of certainty, if you choose freedom, you will resist the temptation.  You will doubt rather than trust, and, even when it is easier to believe a lie than to disregard it, you will be willing to seek Truth.

If all of us were able to cast off the shackles of preconceived ideas, assumptions, and erroneous beliefs, the world would look so different to us that we would barely recognize it. Yet, we would have found both Truth and Freedom, both of which oftentimes seem to remain just beyond our grasp. When we speak of the misery of existence, we fail to give ourselves credit for creating much of the misery that exists in our own lives.

Our fear drives us to make choices that are not for our highest good. Oftentimes, rather than accepting responsibility for those choices, we either blame others or allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by guilt. Why? Because it seems to be the easier path to take. And in a society that promotes the easy over the difficult, we are conditioned to make the decision that appears to require the least from us.

It is much harder to admit that we’ve made a grave error than it is to attribute one of our mistakes to someone else or to an outside cause. But what does reason dictate? Does evading the truth alter the truth in any way? No. Truth remains the same, whether we acknowledge it or not. Moreover, it may be more difficult to find the truth if we avoid it persistently and for an extended period of time. Yet, not acknowledging something that exists will never negate its existence.

Similarly, pretending that something is real when it isn’t will not make it so. The True is the Real. We can close our eyes and pretend that we’re living in a fairy tale. But at some point we’ll have to open them again and face the reality of our everyday lives. And when we face this reality is when our authentic lives begin.

The only part of you that will ever encourage you to live outside of truth is your False Self. Your True Self, that self who is capable of creating a life of meaning and purpose, fully understands that fulfillment can only come from within Truth. Only Truth is eternal. And, in the end, nothing else will remain.  When each of us comes to the end of our lives, the lies we have told ourselves and others will no longer matter. We will be faced with the results of a life that was either lived in freedom and in truth or in falsehood and imprisonment.

Does it sound like this is yet another matter in which making a choice is the preeminent factor?  Well, in a way, life does consist of the choices we make. We may think we’re being clever when we make choices that bring us pleasure at the expense of bringing pain to others. But the person who will pay the price of all the choices we make is us. And there is always a price to pay, whether we see it immediately or not. If nothing else, we pay the price of selling our soul and freedom to lies and self-deception. We pay the price of betraying humanity by choosing what we thought was best for us over what was right for others.

It is so easy to forget that we are all as connected as we are separate. And yet, the moment we forget that is when we cease to be fully human. It is also the moment when we think we have more answers than we do. There are many who imagine themselves to be smart enough to live successfully by their own rules. But those who make an impact on the world and who lead lives that are of consummate value will never be the many but rather the few. They may not acquire fame or fortune, yet they will have gained something of far greater merit—the freedom of Truth.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus once said, “He who knows not who he is, and for what purpose he exists, and what is this world, and with whom he is associated, and what things are the good and the bad, and the beautiful and the ugly, and who neither understands discourse nor demonstration, nor what is true nor what is false, and who is not able to distinguish them, will neither desire according to nature, nor turn away, nor move  upward, nor intend, nor assent, nor dissent, nor suspend his judgment: to say all in a few words, he will go about dumb and blind, thinking that he is somebody but being nobody.”

What will your choice be? Is it better to be a nobody who thinks he is a somebody or a somebody who is humble enough to regard himself as a nobody? There is no reason to underestimate ourselves. Nevertheless, it will always be in humility that we find Truth, for Pride is a veil through which knowledge and wisdom cannot penetrate.

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(for Mark Stephen Levy, with love, happiness, and much respect)

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

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Transform Your Reality

Although people oftentimes do not realize it, each day we are in the process of creating ideas that will or will not affect the rest of our lives. Ideas are different from choices, but they can and do lead to choices. We form ideas about the world and about other people who shape our viewpoint of life. But we also form ideas about ourselves.

These ideas usually fit into one of two categories: they will either help us reach our goals and dreams, or they will take us further away from them. To put it more simply—and to borrow a motto from a friend of mine—ideas take us either “closer to the dream or further away.”

What ideas are you creating at this moment? Which ones did you create yesterday that you have acted on today? The great  German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “Daring ideas are like chess men moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

Are the ideas you create daring or not? Or do you sometimes find yourself discarding daring ideas because you feel you had better “play it safe” ?In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with ideas from the outside, both from other people and from books, the television, movies, the radio, magazines, newspapers, and the internet,  there are many times when I don’t think we stop and listen to our inner voice.

What do we want our lives to be like? Which goals are our own and not handed to us by another person? Who are we trying to please by continuing to do something or by not doing it? It’s easy to tell people that they should “follow their bliss” but much harder to actually let them do so without interrupting them with our advice and suggestions. Have you ever noticed that?  It’s not that we want to hold anyone back—we really do believe that we know better than they do what they need to do with their lives.

But do we? And, even if we did, aren’t we trying to take power that isn’t ours? If you feel stronger when you try to control another person, it is only an illusion. You are deceiving yourself into believing that you are managing to control another person’s destiny. And because you feel that there is some aspect of your life or your destiny that you don’t have power over, you can temporarily experience a sense of satisfaction from controlling someone else.

Why do you need to do it though? I’m playing with concepts now . . . throwing out ideas that you may or may not agree with. If you’re analyzing everything I say to pick it apart later, just stop reading. I’m not looking for critics. I’m looking for ways to inspire you—to challenge your thoughts and your vantage point towards life. Those who think that they have all the answers shouldn’t even read my articles because they already think that they’re on the pathway that will lead them to fulfillment. And, nothing I say will change how they perceive the world because they are not open to change.

As time goes on, I am becoming more and more willing to admit that I know absolutely nothing about anything. Wait—don’t argue. I realize that some of you think that I have an abundance of insight and wisdom. And it overwhelms me when people say that about my writing. But I tend to adopt Socrates’ theory which was summed up in these famous words he once said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” It’s difficult for some people to subscribe to this view because they need to believe that they have figured everything out or that they at least know what works for them. Yet, if you can just reach the point where you find yourself able to acknowledge and embrace your own ignorance, you are at the point where miraculous changes can begin.

Yes, I said embrace your own ignorance. Acknowledging our ignorance isn’t enough because we can still hold a negative view of our ignorance and nevertheless acknowledge it. When we embrace it though, we create in ourselves the desire to learn and absorb knowledge. Do you remember what I said in my article, What Choice Will You Make?, about desire ruling the world. Well, desire is one of those powerful incentives that can be used both negatively and positively. If you use desire as a learning tool and as the impetus to seek truth and wisdom, then you are the one controlling it rather than letting it control  you.

What power are you giving away today? Who is holding you back from pursuing your bliss? The answer to the first question is one that only you know. But I can easily answer the second question for you. You and you alone are the only person who can hold you back from pursuing your bliss. To share details of my personal story with you isn’t something I enjoy doing, except for those times when I feel I can help or inspire you by sharing it. I don’t like the focus to be on me. Rather, I prefer to focus on you. But today, I want to talk briefly about a time in my life when I did walk away from something even though very few people understood my reasons for doing so.

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a playwright. I have written fiction and non-fiction in various forms for more than a decade, but my interest in the structure of drama came about through the reading of texts by Shakespeare, Ibsen, Strindberg, and especially Chekhov. After an excursion into the writings of Russian actor and theater director Constantin Stanislavski, I decided that in order to be the kind of playwright I wanted to be, I needed to pursue work in the theater. I intended to both act and to write plays.

However, within a few months of being a theater actress, I was finding myself with very little time to write anything, even a reflective letter to a friend. What had happened by that point, of course, was that many people already associated me with the identity of an “actress”, and eventually I found myself seeing myself in that way, too. Very little interest was shown in my playwriting. And I was oftentimes discouraged from writing plays even by those who had never read any of my work.

Ultimately, I left the world of acting. And it was a choice that I’ve always been happy about, in spite of all of those who have expressed their disapproval  of my decision. The fact that my original goal of becoming a playwright was only hindered through my acting work didn’t matter to most people. Why? They saw me as an “actress” not as a playwright or even a potential playwright.

The more time you spend on this earth the more aware you become of the fact that people have a way of casting other people in molds to suit their own fancy. And, once they’ve “molded” us in their minds, to see us in some other way is almost impossible. Philosopher Robert Nozick speaks about this in the Introduction to his marvelous compilation of philosophical meditations, The Examined Life. Nozick writes, “Once having pigeonholed people and figured out what they are saying, we do not welcome new information that would require us to re-understand and re-classify them, and we resent their forcing us to devote fresh energy to this when we expended more than enough in their direction already.”

The question I have is this: who gave us the right to pigeonhole people? Do we like it when others pigeonhole us? And if we don’t, why do we engage in behavior towards others that we would mind if they did the same to us? You may not think that you are pigeonholing people. But the moment that we start attaching any labels to anyone, we must be careful.

I’m not talking about basic descriptions of people such as, “he/she is a very sincere person” or “he/she is intelligent and outspoken.” I’m speaking more about phrases that define other people or mind structures that we build up that we think define other people. Just because we think that a certain activity or relationship or career will make another person happy, that doesn’t mean that he, she, or it really will. We must understand that we all have our own reality, no matter how “open-minded” we consider ourselves to be.

To become all that we can be, we need to empty our minds of every preconceived idea. We need to abandon the habit of judging today or next week or next year by any previous time in our past. Freeing ourselves is more than we think it is. Freeing ourselves means being free not just when it comes to choosing our own thoughts and making our own decisions. It also means letting everyone else have that same freedom.

If it sounds now and then as if I am repeating myself, that is my intention. I am not trying to be redundant—I am trying to open your eyes. Each time you find something wrong with someone else and/or another person doesn’t behave as you think he/she should, stop, take a deep breath and look within. What does your reaction to someone else’s behavior tell you about you?

Before you blame yourself for not allowing someone else the freedom that you expect, first take a few moments to discover why you want to take this freedom away from another person.  We do not have to look upon behavior that doesn’t match up with the person that we want to be as being reprehensible. Rather we should look upon it as something we can learn from.

If you end up in a discussion and someone disagrees with your opinion and you lose your temper with that person, what does that tell you? What part of you feels threatened by another person not sharing your views and opinions? Why isn’t it enough that you feel a certain way about something? Why does anyone else have to agree with you? Is it possible that you don’t feel strongly enough about your deeply held beliefs? And, if so, wouldn’t it  make more sense to examine them and take time to challenge them on your own?

I am constantly challenging my beliefs, and I have found that it’s a process that teaches me a great deal about myself. Because our world is so solution-oriented, there is a tendency to form opinions and come to conclusions too quickly without examining a situation from every viewpoint. For example, if a friend leaves one career to open his/her own business or retires from his/her steady job to write a novel, from one viewpoint, your friend’s decision may seem foolish. You might even think that he/she will regret it later. You may also believe that it’s your place to suggest that he/she will be sorry for that decision. But what’s the reality? Is it your choice or not? Whose life is it—yours or your friend’s? 

I’m sure you see what your diva is getting at in throwing out these ideas and exploring these concepts. I’m wanting you to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can be. You don’t have to agree with me nor do you have to absorb any of my words. I hope you’ll allow me to let you open up your mind. But if you don’t, that’s your concern, too. My desire for you to be honest with yourself has to do with my wanting what is best for you

Self-deception won’t get you anywhere you want to go. It will only impede your personal growth.  And always remember that what you say about yourself and how you see yourself is only your personal truth. That being said, just because you think that you’re open-minded and that you give others the freedom that you give yourself doesn’t mean that you actually do.  

If people are oftentimes backing away from you, you most likely don’t. The way the world responds to you is a direct reflection of the person you are. Wait . . . what did I just say? Let me repeat my words just to make sure that you’re listening to them. The way the world responds to you is a direct reflection of the person you are. So, if the world isn’t responding to  you the way that you want it to, it isn’t the world that needs to change—it’s you. Yes, you.

As you see, I’m not just going to tell you everything that you want to hear. That’s why I continue to suggest that you not read my articles if you don’t like how I go about things. If you want me to feed you words about being perfect just as you are and not needing to change anything about yourself or your life, you’re not going to get that. I care about you too much to lie to you. None of us are “perfect” as we are. All of us have plenty of room for self-improvement. Moreover, none of us have all the answers. Most of us have very few of them, if any. And, the only way that we’re  going to transform our reality is if we are willing to transform ourselves. For you to be honest with me isn’t necessary nor do I expect you to be.

But for your own sake, do be honest with you. I once said that even if you lie to everyone else, the one person with whom you need to be honest is you. I don’t even have to tell you why self-honesty is essential, do I? You know the answer within yourself. And, something else you know is whether you are being honest with yourself.  If you’re being honest with yourself, ask yourself this question now: how important is it to me to create the life I want? That’s another answer that you already know, and it’s also one that only you can give.

What’s my suggestion? It’s summed up in these words: Live today as if there will be no tomorrow.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(I dedicate this article to my incomparable friend, Krystal Rushing, with much love always. Krystal is a beautiful and extraordinary person who continues to be an inspiration to me in every way).

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

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

Rediscovering yourself

believe53 (flower and sand)The great philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” So often, I think we succumb to the mistaken notion that structure and creativity cannot work together to achieve a desired outcome. Yet, this is far from being true. Actually, in an environment that is too cluttered, creativity becomes stifled by that which is excessive and extraneous.

Clutter is something that we usually think of in relation to domestic activities. For instance, countless books have been written on the subject of getting rid of clutter around our houses. What is not addressed nearly as frequently is the issue of clutter in connection with the people and activities in our lives.

When we think of success and fulfillment, we usually turn our attention to what we want to add to our lives, disregarding the fact that it is every bit as important what we let go of as what we acquire. Although a chaotic environment can be used to foster creative endeavors, when you are spending time and energy on relationships or activities that are not bringing you any closer to your dreams and goals, you have to step back and examine whether or not those things and/or people should remain in your life.

I have spoken a lot about happiness in my SuccessDiva writing, and I am sure that many people would say that happiness is something they are searching for. But is happiness what you are really seeking, or are you craving the state of mind that you think happiness will  bring you?
In a way, happiness is a catchall for a sense of overall well-being that is not necessarily connected to any specific person or thing. It is different from joy, which conveys a sensation of exuberance.

In reading a chapter on happiness from Robert Nozick’s The Examined Life, Philosophical Meditations, I became more cognizant of how misguided the idea of pursuing happiness can be. If we were able to purchase happiness like any other consumer good, would our lives suddenly become perfect? Or must we experience trials and challenges and even crises in order to live a rich, full, complete existence?

Yes, there are moments in our lives when we seem so connected with our own inner bliss that, if someone asked us if we were happy, we would answer “yes” in a heartbeat. But how often is this feeling of happiness long lasting? Like a movie that you are momentarily touched by–yet forget the details of in days to come–happiness is fleeting. Happiness is the butterfly that alights on your hand, only to fly away a few seconds later.

Thus, we must get beyond “happiness” and strive towards a state of fulfillment that can be sustained. To a certain extent, I think Socrates was right when he said that the “unexamined life” is not worth living. When we let obligations control our decisions and the expectations of others become more important than our own personal needs, we have crucified our dreams on the cross of other people’s desires. We have given up our birthright.

Happiness can and does exist, and it is a viable pursuit. At the same time, it is contingent on other variables within our lives. If we are not following what we feel to be our personal calling, any sense of “happiness” we experience is merely an illusion. In the society we live in now, where “quick fixes” and instant gratification are heavily encouraged, many people never stop to look within themselves and honestly acknowledge that sense of incompleteness that exists inside them.

When they do recognize and admit their inner emptiness, they frantically search for ways to fill it. Sometimes they look towards such things as alcohol, drugs, and food to numb their pain, Other times they attempt to satisfy their inner longing with material possessions, a relationship, or even a child. The problem with all of these solutions is that they will never quench that insatiable thirst within the human soul. For until we become comfortable with who we are, we will not find peace through something or someone else.,

To a large extent, one of the reasons that so many relationships fail is because people enter relationships looking for a partner to meet a need within themselves that only they can truly fulfill. And it’s oftentimes easier to run into the arms of another person than to look within ourselves at the person we are. Some of us are so damaged and wounded from the battles we have fought through life thus far that to acknowledge our wounds is almost unbearable; for, in doing so, we must remember memories from our past that we have no desire to resurrect. Rather than reliving them, we would prefer to have new encounters and experiences erase those memories for us. But can they ever be erased entirely? 

Might it not be more effective if we faced our past, no matter how painful it is, and tried to make some sense of it? True, we might have to deal with a lot of destructive emotions such as anger, resentment, and even contempt. At the same time, unless we work through this emotional process, how can we move on into a state of forgiveness and inner peace? We must not only forgive those who have hurt us but also ourselves for the mistakes we have made.

It has been said that we have become a culture of victims. Rather than taking responsibility for ourselves and our behavior, we sometimes try to find someone else to blame our wrong decisions on. Or we may even say that circumstances conspired to force us into acting the way we did. Well, what’s the truth? If we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of victimization, we will always be at the mercy of unseen forces and events.

So, even though it may appear to be easier to blame someone or something else for a mistake that we make, in the end, we are letting go of our own personal power in doing so. The moment that you choose to take complete responsibility for your life is the moment when you will be at the peak of personal empowerment. Only then will you be able to apply the knowledge that you have absorbed and turn it from lumps of coal into clear, brilliant diamonds of wisdom.

Have you sometimes wondered why it is that in an age of nearly boundless opportunity, so many people still haven’t found inner contentment? I think one problem is that information has become so readily available and in such vast quantities that it’s difficult to know what to ignore and what to pay attention to. Similarly, it is all too easy to accumulate a multitude of acquaintances rather than a few, genuine friends. In a universe that promotes “the power of now”, we all want everything immediately–or, to use a somewhat trite phrase, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. Or . . . do we?

Robert Nozick, in his examination of happiness, presents an interesting hypothesis about an experience machine that would automatically give us any experience that we desire. By making use of this machine, we would feel the pleasure of things–or as he puts it, how they would feel “from the inside”. Although, on the surface, this machine might sound ideal, Nozick makes a strong point when he draws attention to the fact that, although we would feel these experiences, the fact they were not really happening but were instead a product of our imagination (via the machine, of course) would mean that we were essentially living in a dream world. And, even though we might enjoy escaping to a dream world every now and then, most of us would not want to live the rest of our lives in an illusion. In spite of all the pain we may associate with the real world, there are few people who would trade actuality for an existence that was nothing more than a fantasy.

For me, this hypothetical experiment that Nozick suggests puts a new spin on the idea of happiness being a preeminent achievement. Sure, to say that we are pursuing happiness sounds good, and it can even be good. The question is this: is it realistic? And even more than that, if we were given a life that consisted of nothing but happiness, would we be completely content? I find that part of what makes life so interesting is a variety of experiences. If the four seasons of the year were all spring, even though there might be a lot of beauty to appreciate, that fertile splendor might get rather commonplace after a while.

Well, like the seasons of the year, our lives are about seasons, too. To expect that there will not be a certain amount of sorrow and grief along our personal journey is not accepting reality.  And as we start to acquire more and more wisdom, we become more inclined to acknowledge those things in life over which we have no control. What we do always have the power to change is the lens through which we view the world. Also, we have the ability to choose the way we will spend our time and the people with whom we will share it. 

Susan Ford Collins, in her book The Joy of Success, makes it clear that deleting is as much a component of ultimate success as either creation or completion. “Success,” Collins says, “is being able to let go of an unworkable method or system. An outgrown relationship you’ve tried everything conceivable to fix. A well-paying job you’ve done the same way far too many times . . . Success is cutting out, down, or back.”

If we are the scriptwriter of our own lives, should anybody besides us be creating the plot or writing the lines? No. Yet, tragically, many people come to the end of their time on earth realizing that they only achieved a fraction of what they were capable of accomplishing. And, what is perhaps even worse, they oftentimes come to the startling realization that the dreams that became a reality belonged to someone other than themselves.

Thus, rather than using their own unique potential, they were allowing someone else’s vision of success and fulfillment to be lived vicariously through them. Generally, these unfulfilled individuals justify their decisions with heartfelt phrases about not having wanted to disappoint their mother or father, their spouse, their children, or their friends. But, what they are not realizing is that in not wanting to disappoint others, they have ended up disappointing the most important person of all–themselves. And, in disappointing themselves they have inevitably disappointed everyone else, too, for they have not been able to put their heart into what they have accomplished. This means that no matter how impressive the results of their labor appear to be, they are the product of time and effort rather than passion and enthusiasm.

When motivational guru Anthony Robbins ends one of his Personal Power II audio programs, he always says, “Live with passion”.  And even though I used to pay little attention to this key phrase, I now understand how much significance there is beneath the words.  To live with passion is the opposite of living the life of “quiet desperation” that author Henry David Thoreau spoke of. It is to be engaged fully in work that you find deeply satisfying or to be in a relationship or marriage that is ignited by the flames of love, ardor, and affection. When you are living with passion, you are able to appreciate the sensation of raindrops falling on your skin or the crackle of autumn leaves under your feet.

Moreover, when this passion and zest for life is combined with wisdom, you start to understand that it is in being that you will feel contentment rather than in having. Sometimes, you may have to give up certainty in order to embrace opportunity. You may have to walk more by faith than by sight, for those who play it safe are rarely the passionate souls. To let go of that to which you are accustomed in order to step out into the unknown is indeed a risk. Yet, isn’t life itself a risk?

Although tomorrow will give you another chance to start creating your ideal life, a lot of hours will pass  between now and then. And, since the one thing that none of us seems to have enough of is time, why not start now?

Live Without Limits!

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