The magic is within you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

So you need more time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are the Star. . .

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 Life has a way of being all about peaks and valleys, doesn’t it? There are days when you really don’t feel like getting out of bed. . .and other days when you awaken and seem to see the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, even though it’s raining. How do I know this? Well, I’m much more like you than you might think. This diva is certainly not always on top of the world. Indeed, there are moments when writing one of my incomparable Success Diva updates actually seems like an overwhelming task. And I use the word ‘task’ to illustrate a point: when I am having what I would call a day of joy, sharing my thoughts and ideas with all of you is something I look forward to. However, on days when I am tired or in pain or simply feeling disheartened, it’s not always easy for me to inspire or uplift those around me, even though I care about each and every one of you so very much. But you know what? I think we have to look at life the way a theatre actress or actor looks upon going onstage every night. Am I making sense? Well, let me elaborate. I was once a stage actress, and I remember well those nights when having to face a live audience was almost more than I could bear. It wasn’t that I didn’t love to act or that I didn’t feel I was adequately prepared. It was usually that I hadn’t slept well. . .or that there were other things going on in my life that were making me miserable. .  .or, well, you get the idea by now, don’t you? The situation is, generally speaking, the thing that was making me feel apprehensive about going onstage usually didn’t have anything to do with the play itself or my performance in it. I remember once when I nearly forgot my lines during a performance of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play, The Physicists. Was it because I don’t have a good memory? No, I have an excellent memory. Was it because I hadn’t rehearsed often enough? Indeed not. It was because I had insomnia the night before and had gotten two or three hours of sleep. Well, guess what? That just happened to be the very night that an important theatre director came to see the show. Things have a way of being like that in life, don’t they? It’s rather like meeting a beautiful woman or a handsome man at the grocery store when you know you aren’t looking your best. You’d really like to run and hide in the bathroom or around the corner, but you know that if you do you’ll miss the chance of meeting someone whom you might be interested in. So, what do you do? Do you take a chance? Of course, you do. Why? Because even though a lot of things in your life haven’t turned out the way you wanted them to, you know that only in not trying will you ever truly fail. Success in any area of your life isn’t something that will ever happen overnight. Rather, it is a result of the choices you make on a daily basis. The success expert and author, Dennis Waitley, said something that I have posted by my computer: “Real success comes in small portions day by day.” And you know what? He’s right. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to admit that Dennis Waitley knows a lot more about success than I do. He’s been studying success for a few decades, whereas. . .well, I’m a bit of a novice, really. However, I do continually study success, along with other subjects that I wish to master. Since you’re smart, I know that you already realize that the only way to ever get good at anything is to study it. Did you manage to ride a bicycle smoothly the first time you tried? I doubt it. To this day, I am not very adept at riding a bicycle. Know why? Well, it’s mostly because my father became very impatient with me growing up, and, rather than understanding that learning to ride a bicycle would take time, he thought I should be able to ride one beautifully within a matter of minutes. Well, that isn’t how life works. Is that fair? Actually, I think it is. I believe that the patience a person must acquire in order to master something—even something as simple as riding a bicycle—enables him/her to weather the storms that life sends his/her way. If everything we ever wanted was handed to us on a platter made out of platinum and encrusted with diamonds without us having to do anything to get it, what would that teach us? Do you think we would really be happy? Admittedly, there are times when you are tempted to say “Well, sure, I’d be happy.” I’ve felt that way, too. So, you’re not alone. At the same time, there is a feeling of sincere and deep accomplishment when we achieve something that we’ve really had to work for. When that which we want is something we have had to earn, it makes us value it a lot more. This is why we must have confidence in ourselves that we can accomplish our goals and that we can make our dreams into a reality.

Look, I am here to offer you my insight and my support, but you know what? You’re the star in your own show. If William Shakespeare is right (and why shouldn’t he have been?) and life is a stage and all the people in it are actors, who is going to be playing the lead in your show?? If you don’t think it’s you, then you need to stop and evaluate the way you’re seeing your life. In order to make your dreams come true, you have to be the one starring in your production. You may have a magnificent spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, loving and encouraging friends, and a family who truly does want to see you succeed, but none of those people should be the star in your show. Nope, you are the star. You and nobody but you. As I said in my very first post at this blog, it’s all about YOU. Now, what did I mean by “it?” It means life. . .specifically, your life. So, I could easily have mentioned the concept of your being the star of your show at that point. However, I only thought of it now. You see what I mean when I confess that this diva doesn’t plan her posts far in advance?? I am completely spontaneous, which is something that has gotten me into my share of difficulties before, I assure you! *wink* But I think it’s far better to be spontaneous than to plan things too much. There’s nothing wrong with having one year, five year, and even lifetime goals. . .but, on a daily basis, you have to allow yourself room to do something impulsive, whether it’s deciding to go out to lunch with a friend or shop in some vintage clothing stores like my good friend, Diana. This doesn’t mean that you engage in such activities at the expense of the things that you absolutely must do. However, it is important to be at least reasonably flexible.

Another friend of mine, Sarah, is constantly finding that she gets so caught up in the things that have to be done that she doesn’t have enough time just for her. What comes into play here—and it’s very helpful, by the way—is making a list (at least a mental list, although writing it down is even better, in this particular instance) of the things that are urgent and the things that are important. Often that which seems urgent isn’t really urgent at all. For example, it might seem to be urgent that you make your husband’s favorite dish for dinner, but is it important? I sometimes find myself writing e-mails or making phone calls that I could have put off or doing other things that I have allowed the urgency of the moment to lead me into succumbing to. The most important things are usually those things that involve spending time with someone instead of doing something for them. In other words, if you have a friend who has a birthday tomorrow and you haven’t yet gotten him/her a present, and you already have so much on your to-do list that day that you don’t know how you’re going to fit in anything more, decide whether or not it might not be better to buy a card (or use one you already have around the house), and tell your friend that you’ll be giving them a present, but you haven’t yet been able to decide on just the right thing. “But I couldn’t do that!,” you exclaim. “It would seem as if his/her birthday wasn’t important to me.” Whoa. Hold on. If you’re putting your friend’s needs before yours, who is the one who is in charge of your life? Is it your friend or you? “But I have to be thoughtful,” you say, “and besides, he/she gave me such a beautiful sweater for my birthday. I have to give more than a card!!” Of course, you have to give more than a card. And you know what? You will. But who is the star of your life? Is it your friend or is it you? And if this friend is worthy of a lovely present, than he/she would surely care about  you enough that he/she wouldn’t want you to stress yourself out over his/her birthday. Am I not right? Father’s Day came around this year, and I hadn’t yet purchased a present for my father. Now he and I aren’t very close, to be honest. Indeed, we have had periods of estrangement between us that have lasted for. . .well, a few years. However, we are on good terms again, and I was certainly committed to remembering him on Father’s Day. I was simply very late about ordering his present, and I realized the week before Father’s Day that there was no way I could count on the fact that the book I wanted to get him from Amazon would reach him on time. So, I sent him a $4 Father’s Day card and told him that a special present would be on its way. As you see, there is a way to solve these issues when they come up. Similarly, I have arrived home from grocery shopping at ten o’clock in the evening before and have wanted to prepare a somewhat elaborate dinner. To me, it seemed urgent that I prepare my special roasted potatoes before the potatoes started to spoil. But what was more important? Preparing the dinner of my desires or making sure I got to bed before I was so tired that I could barely stand up? I’m sure you know the answer to that. Phone calls and e-mails are two areas of your life that you need to use the urgent vs. important tactic with. Make sure that the people whom you are calling and/or writing must be written or called on that specific day. If a call or e-mail can be postponed, do it. And don’t spend time sending short e-mails or making short phone calls saying that you’ll “write more later”. I used to do this sort of thing all the time, and, while it is sometimes essential, more often than not, you’ll notice that you end up writing or talking almost as much as you would have if you had fully committed yourself to the task. Remember: you must be the star of your own show. Everyone else in your life is a supporting player. The person who is closest to you—whether it be a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or parent/close relative—should be looked upon as a co-star. But you are the person who receives top billing. When you think of a film with a big-name star such as Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise, don’t you often find yourself associating their name with the film’s title? For example, haven’t you ever found yourself saying that you’re going to the theatre to see “the new Johnny Depp movie” or “the latest Michelle Pfeiffer flick.” I know I have. . .although I rarely go to movie theaters these days. However, when I order a film from the library, for example (and they have the latest releases, by the way, which is something you should know now that video rentals are so expensive), I find myself looking up films I might want to see via a specific star’s name. If I want to see a film starring Angelina Jolie, I don’t put the name of one of her co-stars in the library search engine. Am I making a point?? And I don’t think most of us even remember the other ladies who made up the singing group, “The Supremes”. Who do we remember? Why Diana Ross, of course. Why? Because she was the star. It was her show and she knew it.

And that’s what you must know, too. You are the star. Don’t decide that you have to find the ‘ideal’ supporting cast in order to make your production a hit. You don’t even have to have a co-star. When you’re a true star, you can carry the show all by yourself with very little assistance. But are you ready to take on the role of superstar? Are you ready to step onto the stage and take the world by storm?? If not, why not? If you’re afraid, then use that fear as energy to make your show a true success. You can do it, you know. You know you can. And I know that deep within yourself, no matter what you think, you are fully capable of being the star in your production.

For now, remember that to be content to merely fly when you can soar is not enough. So, make the most of every day. . .and cherish every minute.

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

it’s up to you, you know. . .

Okay, yes, I know that frustration is essentially a negative emotion. . .but the Success Diva truly does get frustrated every now and then.  “Really?” you ask, nearly speechless. Yes, really. One of the things that frustrates me most is when someone is unwilling to see for themselves that success and happiness are really possible. You would be surprised at how many people have told the Success Diva, “Well, I see success for you, dear diva. . .but not for me. My life is just too messed up for it to ever get straightened out again. ” Have you ever, by any chance, heard of something called a self-fulfilling prophecy? No, it hasn’t anything to do with mysticism or clairvoyance. . .so, skeptics, don’t start scoffing yet! A self-fulfilling prophecy usually is the sort of thing that has you saying to yourself, when you start having what seems to be the beginning of a quarrel with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, “Hey, this is going to turn into a big argument. I just have a feeling that it is.” Or, let’s say that you’re going to a job interview and you end up telling yourself as you dash out the door fifteen minutes late, “Well, I’ve really blown it this time. Of course, what’s new?” Do you see what you’re doing when you say things like this to yourself? You are already predicting a negative outcome. You’re essentially setting yourself up for defeat and/or disaster. Rather than saying, for instance, “Well, my spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend and I could easily get into an argument here, but I’m going to try to make sure that doesn’t happen” or “Okay, I’m fifteen minutes late leaving, but maybe the traffic won’t be heavy and I’ll still make it to the job interview on time,” you’re already predicting that you will fail. “But Success Diva,” you say, “if you knew the history of my life, you would see that at least 3/4 of the time, I do fail.” First of all, I think you are probably choosing to remember the times you have failed and forgetting about the times when you have succeeded. If so, this is only natural. It’s what I’ve done for most of my life. It’s sort of like being an actress and getting wonderful reviews from all the critics except one, and concentrating on that one critic who wasn’t impressed by your performance instead of the three or four others who said you were absolutely fantastic. Have you ever noticed how much more willing you are to accept someone’s criticism of your appearance or of something you’ve done than you are to accept a compliment? You forget about the person who said that the poem you wrote was magnificent and reminded them of some of Sylvia Plath’s remarkable poetry, and you remember the other person who said that your poetry would never be good enough to get published. If you’re an artist, you don’t remember all the people who have told you that your paintings remind them of Paul Cezanne’s. . .rather you remember that one art teacher you had who smugly asked you what you were bothering to take art lessons for in the first place. Speaking of art, I heard something interesting about Pierre-Auguste Renoir recently. At an early point in the career of the French Impressionist painter, a well-known artist whom he admired said to him:  “I assume, monsieur, that you are merely dabbling in paints to amuse yourself.” What do you think would have happened if Renoir had listened to this man’s negative words? Why none of us would have ever had the opportunity to see one of Renoir’s luminous paintings. Instead, he would have died with nearly all of his potential inside him. Rather than deciding to bring to the world of art a brand new ‘voice’ through his unique and extraordinary style of painting, he would have given up, allowing the words of someone who failed to see the greatness within him discourage him from ever making his personal dreams a reality. I also remember hearing that, when Renoir was old and in a tremendous amount of pain with severe rheumatoid arthritis, he was asked why he continued to paint, even though it caused him such a significant amount of pain. His reply? Renoir said that he continued to paint because the pain would end, but the art he created would endure forever. And here we are, 90 years after his death, still enraptured by his art. Now his life demonstrates the will to survive, doesn’t it? When we think of a man who was determined to prove his critics wrong and not to let any obstacle get in the way of his dreams, we should think of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I am tempted to remind people of success stories like this one when they tell me that they have reconciled themselves to never accomplishing anything of significance. Don’t get me wrong—if you’re someone who views your life this way or who sees yourself as a permanent failure, it isn’t just your fault. Sure, you ultimately make the choice when it comes to deciding what you are or are not capable of. However, I don’t think I’d be making false assumptions if I suggested that there have been plenty of people throughout your life who have been there to tell you what you could or couldn’t do. And I also think I could safely assume that many of these people seemed to be. . .well, experts in their chosen field. I would imagine that, compared to many of them, you felt relatively insignificant.  Most of them were probably older than you and had a lot more life experience behind them. It’s possible that one of your parents or an older relative has even been there to remind you of what you wouldn’t be capable of doing. I’m not going to say that they meant you any harm by stealing your dreams away from you. In nine cases out of ten, it’s those who “mean well” who are the ones who tell us that we can’t do something. But what frustrates me is how willing many of us are to automatically take the limitations that others place upon us and make them our own. Just because our mother/ father or one of our teachers or even our husband/wife tells us that we don’t have it in is to do something we dream of doing, what makes us assume that he/she is right?? The Russian composer, Mily Balakirev, was told that he had “no talent for composition,” yet he went on to create compositions that have inspired such famous composers as Rimsy-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin. The actress, Jessica Lange, was told, when she wanted to be a successful model at the start of her multi-faceted career, that she was too unattractive for any modeling agency to hire her and there was no way she would ever make it in the movies. Yet where is she today?? Lange, who has been referred to as a “fragile and luminous beauty,” has two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes to her credit, and she has had one of the most impressive and lasting careers of any leading lady in Hollywood history. So, as you see, the people who oft-times make it to the top of their field haven’t necessarily been encouraged and supported by everybody along the way. Actually, I would say that more successful people have had a large share of detractors rather than the other way around. In fact, I would almost be inclined to say that the more hurdles and obstacles life seems to be throwing in your path the greater are your chances of living a life that is successful, happy, and fulfilled.  Okay, I know that may sound ridiculous and unrealistic and a multitude of other things. However. . .I am urging you to think about this for a second. If an emotion such as anger or resentment can be turned around and used positively—if, for example, you can take your fear, flip it over, and use it as energy—then doesn’t it just make sense that having people tell you that you can’t do something could make you decide to prove them wrong?? At one point in my life, I made a list of every single person I could think of who had ever discouraged me or made me feel that I was less than worthwhile in some way. And believe me, I came up with a very long list. All sorts of names were on there—close relatives, good friends, professors, teachers, and even people whom I had only had two or three of conversations with but whom I always remembered because of how deeply their criticism of me had affected me. I remembered the doctor who told me I needed to lose weight because of diffuse swelling I experienced as a result of a drug reaction when I was 11. I also remembered the guy who told me that I would really be pretty if I would just gain some weight when I was 13. I thought about those people who had told me how beautiful and charismatic and enchanting my mother was and hadn’t bothered to pay me any compliments at all. Now I ask you: did any or all of these people mean to permanently influence my self-image and/or my self-esteem? Well, I can’t know for sure, but I am assuming that they didn’t. Yet I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that every one of these persons had a destructive impact on my life. Why?? Because I gave them permission to influence me negatively.  I hadn’t yet lived long enough to understand that the only way someone can make you feel that you are less than you are is if you allow them to do so.  I immediately subscribed to the idea that I wasn’t thin enough. . .or that I was too thin. . .or that I would always live in the shadow of my mother. . .or that I was some sort of wallflower who would never make a vivid or memorable impression on anybody. Was it my fault that I viewed everything that such people said to me as if it had been written in stone? No, of course it wasn’t. And if you are allowing the criticism, negative comments, and/or limitations others have put upon you cause you to feel that you are lacking in some, if not many, ways, it isn’t your fault, either. There is nothing to feel guilty of. . .at least, not so far. After all, the Success Diva has just now come into your life. Now, true, you probably had most of the answers within yourself before you met her. However, she is enabling you to dig deeply into yourself to discover that well-spring of knowledge and wisdom that you haven’t been thoroughly tapping into.

So, what is the Success Diva frustrated about? Isn’t that what you want to know? For I did say that I am experiencing a certain amount of frustration. Well, you see, it’s like this: the Success Diva can only come into your world and help you start transforming it if you allow her to do so. You can read her suggestions and listen to her advice. . .but if some part of you is still closing the Success Diva out, then she is only going to be moderately effective. And that is what frustrates her. There isn’t a diva around who doesn’t want to make an impact on the lives of those around her. Now, granted, there are some divas who try to make an impression through how they dress or how they sing. . .or, well, simply by how they enter a room. But this diva is more interested in you than she is in herself. As the Success Diva said in her very first post at her blog, it’s really all about you. Sure, I want to be happy and successful, too, but if you aren’t happy and successful, then I never will be, either. So, don’t keep frustrating your diva by refusing to listen to her when she tells you that you really can create and live the life of your dreams. And don’t try to make her believe that everything in your life is so perfect right now that there’s no room for improvement. Yes, it would please me greatly to hear that. . .however, I haven’t yet known one person who was living a life in which there wasn’t some area that could be improved. Usually, people are fulfilled and/or successful in one or two areas at the expense of one or two others. I’ll speak more about how you can arrange your life in such a way that you experience contentment in every area in the future. And, no, don’t worry—I’m not just going to tell you that you need to be ‘balanced’. I tend to think that a perfectly ‘balanced’ life is far from ideal because such a life tends to suppress a certain amount of passion, enthusiasm, and spontaneity. But, hey, I’d better not talk too much about that right now. You can’t find out all of Success Diva’s secrets in a day, you know! *wink* Besides, Success Diva is still finding out how to achieve fulfillment in every area of her own life. So. . .she’ll be growing wiser, happier, and more successful along with you.

For now, I urge you to live every moment with passion!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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How badly do you want it?

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to get all the lucky breaks? Have you noticed how opportunities come their way that you honestly don’t think they deserve? Do you ever feel almost humiliated by seeing others succeed where you have failed, even though you know that they aren’t nearly as smart, savvy, and gifted as you are? And do you feel guilty because you are envious of their success? I know I’ve been in this sort of situation before, and I can tell you, it’s not a scenario you want to see happening in your life again and again. At least, I assume it isn’t. . .or you wouldn’t be here, at Success Diva’s blog.

So. . .why do you think this is? That is, why are people who don’t have even half of your potential getting the opportunties that you would like? Why is your best friend with the woman or man that you would like to be dating, living with, or married to?? Is it because they’re just blessed by the gods, by some unseen deity that has magically given them all their heart’s desires, like Cinderella, whose path from rags to riches was aided by the help of a benevolent fairy godmother? No. You and I both know that ‘luck’ is a word that we use when we haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing why good fortune befalls someone else. . .or even, for that matter, befalls us. It is a bit of a catch-all word, and it’s probably not beneficial to use it too often because true luck is much rarer than you might think. What luck usually is just happens to be. . .and even if this sounds unbelievable, think about it and I suspect you’ll come to see I’m right. . .what we call luck is usually preparation that meets opportunity.  Now the classic film actress, Lana Turner, supposedly was discovered in a drug store—while she was sipping an ice cream soda, I believe. But guess what? It just so happens that, in spite of being thought by many as simply a “sex symbol” and “a dumb blonde,” Lana Turner was a very wise and calculating business woman, who managed her career in a way that few female movie stars of her time were able to match. She may have been initially thought of as merely a “Sweater Girl,” but she went on to have a career that lasted through the 1960s, and when you look at her unforgettable performances in such movies as the stunning film adaptation of James Cain’s  novella, The Postman Always Rings Twice, it’s easy to see why Lana Turner was not only a legend in her own time. . .but in our time, as well.  There are always things to be learned from those who are at the top of their chosen field, and I would advise making sure that you know at least one or two persons who are extremely successful in whatever career you are either pursuing or are currently sustaining. Do not be shy about asking Mr. or Ms. Top-of-Their-Field about how they achieved all that they have accomplished. Shyness can be very charming in personal relationships, particularly in relationships with the opposite sex (or, if you are gay, then with the same sex, but on a romantic level). However, when it comes to your career, banish shyness as if it were lethal! This doesn’t mean you are supposed to come across as a steamroller. You are never going to be able to get people to be interested in giving you their time or attention if you pursue them like a bee going after a pot of honey. Subtlety is very useful as well as tact. Also, no matter how unsuccessful you feel you are, there is no point in lavishing the person you admire with too much praise. For example, if you are an aspiring novelist and you manage to strike up an acqaintanceship (or friendship) with a successfully published author, do not treat him or her as if they were superhuman. I assure you that he/she is a mere mortal, just as you and I and everyone else is. During my career as a stage actress, I was always meeting directors and other actors that people I knew seemed to be intimidated by. I was even told, at one point, “You mustn’t let so-and-so intimidate you,” even though I gave no indication of being intimidated by the person in question. People will simply assume that if you haven’t reached the pinnacle of success in your field that someone else has, you will be intimidated or in awe of that immensely accomplished person. But here’s a bit of advice that you must store in your memory bank: Never be in awe of anyone or anything. The minute you start feeling yourself inclined to be in awe of a person or a thing, you will immediately diminish your own power. You will begin to behave awkwardly and/or nervously, and you will probably end up making some unneccessary blunders. When you meet someone famous or widely recognized, treat them just as if they were anyone else. If you are accustomed to smiling and introducing yourself, do so. If you usually extend your hand when you meet an ‘ordinary’ person, extend your hand to the Mr. or Ms. Top-of-Their Field. Look, I don’t care if you’re a film actress who has only gotten bit parts thus far and you end up in a conversation with Julia Roberts, act nonchalant . Be courteous, compliment the person on something they’ve accomplished (and be as specific as you can, since this will lend an aura of sincerity to your compliment), but do not tremble, giggle anxiously, shift your weight from one foot to the other, or demonstrate any body language that would indicate you were in some way overwhelmed.

The sitatuation is, whether you think this is true or not, the main reason that person has gotten where you want to go but haven’t yet gotten to is because that is how badly they wanted whatever it is they got. What?, you ask, shaking your head with incredulity. Do you mean to say that Success Diva is saying that I can write as well as Salman Rushdie even though I haven’t yet even managed to have one of my short stories published? Of course that’s not what I’m saying. Success Diva isn’t irrational—and she isn’t going to feed you any lies, even if you would like her to. When I say that Mr. or Ms. Top-of-Their Field got where they wanted to go because of how badly they wanted to get there, I mean several different things, and I will go through them one by one. It may take more than one blog post for me to address this issue, and if it does, I don’t mind because this is one of the most important lessons your Success Diva can teach you. To want something badly enough to get it means you will do almost anything to get it. Am I making sense? And, no, I’m not suggesting that you make a pact with the devil. This blog isn’t going to give you any. . .well, spiritual advice (*wink*).

What I am saying is that to make your dreams come true and accomplish the goals that are important to you, you are going to have to decide what the thing you want so much is worth to you. What sacrifices would you have to make in your life to get the career you would like to have, find your ideal job, or marry or be in a committed relationship with the man/woman of your dreams? What would you  have to be willing to give up? Do you know? Would you have to stop drinking so much? If alcohol is an addiction, would you have to be willing to give it  up? Would you have to stop letting distractions prevent you from focusing on the novel you’re trying to write? Would you have to turn off your TV for at least 22 hours out of every 24-hour day? Or would you have to turn off the TV entirely? Would you have to stop eating anything you like and start making wiser and more nourishing dietary choices? Might you need to join a gym or a health club? Or, looking at things from a more serious perspective, might you have to give up a job you have now but realize has no future, even if you’re out of work for awhile? If you have an active social life, might you have to start staying at home more? If you’re in a relationship that isn’t healthy or happy at the moment, will you have to break it off if you ever want to be with someone whom you are truly compatible with?? These would all be tough choices to have to make. . .but, hey, you’re reading Success Diva’s blog. So, I’m assuming you are willing to make the changes that will give you the successful and fulfilled life that you both want and deserve.

Now I can predict what some of you are probably thinking. You’re thinking that I’m telling you different things than you’re hearing from your friends and family. They say that you should abandon that novel and put your energy into your job because you’ll probably never find any publisher who will accept it anyway. They tell you that you might as well marry the boyfriend or girlfriend you’re with right now because. . .well, he/she is probably the best you can do. They tell you that you’ll just end up spending money to purchase a membership at a health club or gym, when you most likely won’t stick with it, even if you do make it through a couple of aerobics classes and go lift a few weights every now and then. They say that you should put those dreamy ideas about fame, success, and fortune right of your head and “get back into the real world.”

And what should you say to them? Thank them for their input but forget you ever heard it. Ah, but that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?? Look, even if these ‘well-meaning’ people think they have your best interests at heart, ask yourself this: why aren’t they willing to encourage you and support you even if they believe you’re being unrealistic?? No, your Success Diva isn’t saying they’re jealous. . .although that is a possibility you should consider, in certain circumstances. What I am saying is that ‘they’—whoever ‘they’ may be (whether a close friend, spouse, parent, child, sibling, etc.)–are refusing to see your dream for you, most likely because their dreams haven’t come true for them. Have you ever noticed that more often than not, those who are at the top of their field seem to be more encouraging and optimistic in regard to your endeavors than those who are stranded in the desert of mediocrity? If so, why do you think this is? Because they haven’t anything to lose if  you succeed, too. They understand that there’s enough success to go around for everyone. . . .not just them. They don’t have to worry, either, that if you succeed, you’ll end up leaving them behind. In other words, if you’re friends right now with someone who is well-known in his/her field, if  you should also succeed in the same field, he/she won’t be worrying that you’ll suddenly think that he/she isn’t ‘important’ enough for you to be friends with. On the other hand, even your closest family members and/or your spouse may worry that, if you should go out there and really make a splash in your chosen career, that, even if  you don’t mean to,  you’ll end up leaving them, getting tired of them, or neglecting them. Is this understandable? Absolutely. If they feel this way does this mean that they (or he/she) doesn’t love you?? Absolutely not. You are simply threatening their innate sense of security. And if security is very important to them, they really will continue to fear that you’ll abandon them no matter how many times you assure them otherwise. However, all you can do is let them know that you will never change, even if you become one of the most famous persons in your respective field. In other words, if you are married or in a relationship with a man or woman whom you deeply love and want to remain with for the rest of your life, make sure they understand that no matter how much success you achieve, you will never want anyone but them by your side. “Yes, Success Diva,” you say, “but what if my husband/wife or my mother/father or my boyfriend/girlfriend actually goes out of his/her way to sabotage my efforts to succeed?” 

Well, this is where Success Diva’s slightly harsh advice comes into the picture. If  the person (s) closest to refuse to support your goals and dreams, at some point you’re going to have decide whether that person or persons and your relationship with him/her (or them, as the case may be) is more important to you. . .or whether you are more important to you. It boils down once again to this question: How badly do you want the desires of your heart? Would you be happy if your life continued exactly the way it is right now until the day you die? An issue that a couple of my favorite fans brought up was whether or not you can ever really go after what you want and pursue happiness strictly for yourself, when you have a long list of obligations that you feel have to come first. I’m truly pleased that this subject was brought to my mind because it’s something I’ve had to struggle with myself. And I’ll address it in a forthcoming blog post. . .either my next update or another one sometime during the next few days.

For now, I just have a few words of. . .well, if not wisdom, at least suggestions that I hope will be of some assistance. First of all, on a daily basis, you need to decide which tasks on your to-do-list (even if you don’t have an ‘official’ to-do-list written down because you dislike making lists, I’m sure you have a ‘mental’ list of the things you need to do each day) are essential. In other words, which tasks must be done today. Once you decide what those must-do taskes are, separate them from the other to-dos and complete them first. Let’s say you have a list of 20 things that you feel you need to do in a day. Well, how many things are really urgent? Do you really have to take that suit to the dry cleaners today or can you wait until tomorrow? Do you really have to prepare your husband’s favorite meal for dinner simply because he’s had a rough day at work? Does your wife have to have that loaf of bread from the store? Do your kids really need for you to go with them to pick out a new puppy? Or can your girlfriend or wife go with them instead? Delegate tasks, too. If you have kids who are old enough to successfully complete chores around the house, let your son (yes, boys should be taught to do housework, too) or daughter wash and dry the dinner dishes.  If you’re one of those persons who is always having people ask him/her to do things for them, start saying ‘no’ more often, even if you’re worried about displeasing them. Look, if someone’s love, acceptance, or approval of you is based on what you do for them, then it has strings attached. Don’t ever let yourself  be so caught up in meeting the needs of others—even if your spouse and/or children are the ‘others’ concerned—that you forget about the most important person: you.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva