Believe in yourself!

believe135 (flower)Many people have the erroneous idea that faith must be in some way inevitably connected with religion. However, I have never thought that this was necessarily the case. True, it can help in times of immense turmoil to imagine that the universe is guided by a Divine Force, whether we call that force God, the Creator, or something entirely different. At the same time, there is the unshakable sense of self-assurance that I feel those who succeed in life never quite lose sight of–and who can deny that this, too, is a type of faith?

Norman Vincent Peale, the preacher, speaker and self-improvement author extraordinaire who first brought the concept of “positive thinking” to the forefront of society, believed that the most important seed we must plant in ourselves is the seed of self-worth. I think our world is so focused on outward appearances and on the superficialities of life that many people don’t even know what they should base their self-worth on. If their sense of value comes from their appearance, what do they do when they start to see the first signs of aging on their face? Does their self-worth suddenly plummet? And, if so, is there any validity behind their feeling they are less valuable than they once were? You can pick up fashion magazines or newspapers or turn on the television, and you see impossibly gorgeous models, both male and female, advertising everything from perfume and shampoo to blue jeans and designer duds. After awhile, you cannot help but wonder, “Is how I look truly the most important thing?”

This is where a personal “vision” comes into play. I have heard people scoff at the idea of a “mission statement”, and, perhaps, it does sound like too grandiose a term to describe a sentence or two summing up what a person wants to accomplish in his or her life. The irony is, the people who roll their eyes in amusement or smile smugly at such terms are the very people who don’t honestly have a clear-cut direction for their life. They are those who drift aimlessly, like boats which glide across the ocean, allowing themselves to be tumbled about by the waves. They are the people who swim but never make it up to the diving board. Such people may have moments in which they occasionally accomplish something significant, but, with no clearly defined plan, how can they ever use even a fraction of their innate potential?

Truthfully, I have never enjoyed writing down goals. In fact, I find it downright tedious! But, like the treadmill some of you get on at the gym, I write down goals because they  help me achieve my objectives–not because they bring me any momentary gratification. How many times do you go to the grocery store without having made some sort of shopping list, even if all you’ve done is scribble down a handful of items you desperately need? Well, is a trip to the grocery store that much more important than your life? Even though there may not seem to be a logical explanation for this, there is something about writing down a goal or plan that turns it into a reality for your subconscious mind. The crucial part of this strategy is that your goal or plan must be entirely your own. That is, you must let go of everyone else’s expectations of you.

I am currently re-reading my friend and mentor Denis Waitley’s incomparable book, Seeds of Greatness, and I am struck yet again by the story he shares about trying to live out his father’s vision for his life. Like so many parents who mean well, yet do not understand the importance of their children making their own path in life, Denis’ father encouraged him to go to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Knowing Denis both from his writing and through my friendship with him, I fully perceive that his spirit is too poetic and creative for him to experience total fulfillment in fields such as mechanical engineering and marine engineering. And, even though Denis did graduate from the Naval Academy and enjoyed a nine-year career as a naval aviator, he was never at home in that profession. However, like those who always manage to find the positive aspect of those sets of circumstances that don’t turn out precisely the way they want, Denis credits being a naval aviator with teaching him an incalculable amount of self-discipline, in addition to the invaluable importance of goal-setting and teamwork.

How many of us would have looked upon those nine years as being wasted? I must confess, it took me a few years to fully cherish the benefits I gained from all the years I dedicated to the goal of one day being a world-renowned concert violinist–a career which never became an actuality. I had to fight the impulse not to consider the largest part of my life as having been wasted. Although I read about such remarkable women as actresses Jane Seymour and Charlize Theron, both of whom began as dancers only to be swept into acting because of an injury, I still found it hard to stomach the idea that there could have been a purpose in my having worked so hard to design, create, and shape a career that was cut short by lupus. There were moments in which I somewhat cynically thought, “Sure, it sounds good to say that everything has a purpose. But isn’t that just what we want to think?” If you ever have had moments like that, you know that they are generally accompanied by a feeling of despair, hopelessness, and diminished self-worth. Why?  Well, I think that all of us want to believe that the things that happen in our lives have a purpose behind them, even if we don’t admit it.

Once again, I will reiterate that the word “purpose” has nothing to do with religion. It can incorporate God, for those who do believe in Him like me, but it can also be that inner sense that you have a role to play in the universe–a role that only you can perform. Shakespeare once said, in his play All’s Well that Ends Well that all the world is a stage, and all of us are merely actors on it. To a certain extent, I think Shakespeare was right in comparing the universe to a stage. And in drawing on this comparison, you can look upon your life as being a specific part in a production that the world is staging. It is a part that no understudy will ever be able to take over, even on the days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed or when you feel like everything is going wrong. It’s also a part that you cannot walk away from, no matter how badly you may sometimes want to.

So, what are you going to do? If you were a bird or an angel, would you clip your wings, or would you use them to enable you to fly? The potential you have within you is as miraculous as the wings on a bird or a butterfly. . . or the aura around a celestial being. I’m not certain that anyone has ever expressed the remarkable capabilities of the human spirit more aptly than Thomas Edison when he said: “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” The reason why we so rarely astound ourselves is because we have so little faith in our own unique potential. We allow the doubts we have about ourselves and the skeptical comments others make about our endeavors to cloud our vision. Instead of looking through a glass that shows us what we can do, we’re actually looking through a glass that shows us what other people think we can or cannot do. And, if we’re not doing that, we’re looking at a reflection of ourselves that only gives us a close-up of our flaws and our failures.  After awhile, we will experience a sense of fear about even trying to do something because our conscious reminds us of all the times we’ve failed in the past.

It’s this sense of fear I speak of that makes faith so important. You may still be at a point in your life where you think that the fear you feel when you’re taking a risk or striving towards a goal will somehow magically evaporate. Well, guess what? That fear will only get stronger if you’re waiting for it to go away. It’s kind of like thinking that the stack of dirty dishes in your kitchen sink is going to diminish if you leave it there long enough. Unless you have a fairy godmother somewhere in your midst, you or someone else will have to wash and dry all those dishes. Similarly, you are going to have overcome your fear at some point, whether you want to or not. Because a more powerful emotion is often the only thing that can diminish or eradicate a weaker emotion, the best way to combat fear is through faith.  You don’t have to complete your vision in your mind of what you want your life to be like–just start with a few pieces of the puzzle. Like an architect building a cathedral, you will soon see that patience and perseverance will do more for you than any momentary bursts of exuberance. I have had many people tell me that patience is what they find to be the hardest virtue to learn. Yet, when you remove patience from your stack of playing cards, you will find that you are trying to win a game with an incomplete deck.

Perhaps, having a chronic illness has forced me to learn the importance of patience. Who knows? I do think that anyone can learn the art of patience, though. It is when you become completely aware of what a difference patience can make in the quality and substance of your accomplishments that you begin to work towards mastering it. Faith and patience actually go hand in hand, too–for we must often have faith about things that have not yet happened. When we take a trip by airplane, we usually have faith that we’ll have a safe journey, just as we have confidence that we’ll get up the next morning when we go to sleep at night. If your belief system has been grounded in fear, it won’t be easy to change it. But, I have often found that what we must work hardest for is that which is most worth our achieving.

The psychologist and author William James summed it up well when he said, “To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” Even if the fear is never completely gone, it can become so diluted by the level and strength of our faith that it will lose any power it has over us and our lives. That is when the forces of the universe, whether we believe in a Creator or not, begin to somehow work together to help us achieve our aims. Whether you call it a miracle or simply the way the world works is up to you. But, I challenge you to start replacing fear with faith for the next month and to observe how your life begins to change. See whether or not those obstacles you imagine to be mountain peaks are really molehills in disguise. . .and whether or not that setback that you thought was permanent might not pave the way for an undiscovered opportunity. Although being realistic about what’s possible is always important, we do sometimes have to look at what can be instead of what is.

May you live each moment of today with courage, passion, enthusiasm, and faith! Make each moment count!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

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