Living On Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

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

Be yourself!

snowflake3 (icy snowflake)Deepak Chopra, the author, lecturer, and endocrinologist once said, “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss.” But what if, like me occasionally, you feel as if you have lost your bliss entirely . . . or perhaps you even feel as if you never found your bliss in the first place? I have said many times in my blog posts that material possessions and such ephemeral things as fame and fortune will not give you happiness or contentment. The question is, what will fill that void within your soul?

The key may begin with making sure that you are living a life that is authentically yours. If, for example, you are living a life in which your goals have been guided  by the desires or wishes of others or you are pursuing your goals for the wrong reasons, then you are compromising the person that you are. In a world in which the superficial is often more highly prized than the ordinary and jealousy is much more common than feelings of generosity and benevolence towards others, there is a tendency to compare ourselves to other people . . . people who may or may not be anything like us.

Rather than focusing on that which we can do, many of us expend our mental energy thinking about that which those around us are able to do, and resenting the advantages they have over us. It could be said that envy and covetousness are perfectly “normal” emotions, and that those who do not admit to experiencing traces of them at least every now and then are hypocrites. Yet, when we envy that which someone else has or we are jealous of that which someone else has accomplished, are we not failing to acknowledge and appreciate the authentic being that we are?

I’m certain that you’ve heard that every snowflake is different from another . . . that each is in some way unique. Do you know what causes the dissimilarities in snowflakes? It is the discrepancies in temperature and the humidity conditions that bring about the changes. Remarkably enough, even snowflakes created in laboratory snow tanks are dissimilar to each other. It has been said that each snowflake carries the physical history of its own personal travels. Well, are we not in many ways like a snowflake? Whether they be good or bad, painful or joyful, the experiences that come into our life and the people who cross our paths help mold us into the people who we become.  And in many ways we determine whether or not the outcome is positive or negative.

To a certain extent, I am a bit of a skeptic. I do not subscribe to the idea that we are at the mercy of fate or that the stars will predict our destiny. Yet, how we use our minds on a daily basis truly will impact the way that our lives continue and end. All too often, people become so accustomed to destructive thought patterns that they develop the habit of thinking negatively, even when they are unconscious of it. To a significant extent, the environment in which we were raised as children influences how we see the world when we are adults. If we were discouraged from expressing ourselves in a way that enabled us to appreciate our own uniqueness–if, for instance, we were compared to other siblings or experienced abuse or neglect–we will tend to look upon the world as being intensely competitive. We may even see it as a hostile universe where no one can be trusted, not even those to whom we are closest. The danger is when we allow ourselves to subscribe to the idea that this type of vantage point is based in reality.

Indeed, the world is competitive in many ways, and, yes, it can be cold and brutal. But that does not mean that we are doomed to lead lives of what author Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet desperation”. Even if we have suffered nothing but abuse, betrayal, and pain up until this time, if we do not believe that our lives can turn around for the better, it isn’t the universe or fate that is placing a curse upon us. Rather, we are placing a curse upon ourselves.

Stephen Covey has spoken of how there are two types of people in this world: those who are effective and those who are ineffective. Covey believes that the ineffective people are those who allow life to happen to them . . . those who think that they were born under an “unlucky star” or who somehow think the forces of the universe are conspiring to make their lives miserable. The ineffective people are the first to cast blame on others for the mistakes they made, for many times admitting their own guilt would chip away at their already fragile self-esteem.

Conversely, effective people are those who are willing to admit their mistakes and who do their best to profit by them. They tend to disregard such terms as “destiny” and “fate” and refuse to accept the idea that they do not have power over most of the events that take place in their lives. To a large extent, ineffective people are guided by their emotions. Instead of stopping to think before they act, they frequently behave rashly, only to be perplexed, bewildered, and overwhelmed when the ramifications of their actions leave them playing the part of the “victim”.

At many times in my own life, I have been an ineffective person. Having come from a dysfunctional family, I did not have the role models I would have needed growing up that would have enabled me to effortlessly become an effective individual. When  you already feel inadequate or have issues with your self-image, the last thing you want to do is accept the fact that you have had a pivotal part in the mess that you’ve made of a specific situation, a career, or an important relationship. However, until you can see yourself clearly and objectively–until you can look in the mirror and see the real you rather than an idealized image of yourself–how will you ever create a personal vision for your life?

I find it interesting that, according to scientific studies, a large percentage of people see both themselves and their lives as being better than they actually are.  Could it be that gaining clarity about every aspect of our life is too painful for many of us to bear on a psychological level? And, if so, is the short-term attempt to sugarcoat our lives going to bring us long-term happiness, or will it only prevent us from ever experiencing true bliss? If you chose to ignore all the flaws in a diamond or an emerald, would those flaws go away? Even if the gem appears to be flawless from a distance or to an unobservant eye, would it diminish the imperfections?

 As I have said before, we are all, in a way, a gem that is in the process of being polished. But if there are flaws that we need to work to eliminate first, all the polishing in the world isn’t going to make us into the person that we want to be. Although many thinkers, philosophers, and authors have expressed this thought in similar words, I still believe that Gandhi said it best: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” One person cannot even begin to change the world, but if we want to see the world start to change, we should start with changing ourselves.

I have found that one of the most important things we can do–an essential step in starting to embrace our own authentic selves–is to let go of the judgements and assumptions we make about other people. When we begin to criticize those around us, we shift the focus from something that we have control over to something that is completely outside our “zone of power”. While you do not have to agree with others or even pretend to, to let the people whom you know have their own opinions and views on every subject, even those which you feel vehement about, is mandatory for creating the life of your dreams. Ultimately, the only life you are going to live is your own. And, no matter what anyone else does, whether you agree with it or not, your own decisions, thoughts, and opinions are the only ones you have the right to establish, change, or sustain.

A lot of complications that come into our lives stem from our inability to separate that which we can control from that which we cannot control. Author and speaker Wayne Dyer has used the label “authoritarian” to describe those people who have the need to force others to subscribe to their same views and opinions. I think that authoritarians oftentimes seek a sense of self-importance that comes from shoving their beliefs down someone else’s throat. But, even if they are successful at doing this, that feeling of self-importance that they want to experience will continue to elude them.

The only way that you will feel important is if you establish a definitive sense of self-worth within yourself . . . and nobody else can give that to you, even if they share all of your beliefs and opinions. In fact, there is no amount of money on earth and no relationship, no matter how fulfilling it may seem, that will give you a feeling of self-worth if you don’t already experience that inside yourself. You have to let go of what you think you should be and what others have told you that you could or couldn’t be to become the person that you’re meant to be. Sometimes, that which will give us ultimate satisfaction in life is so far removed from that which anyone else has encouraged us to pursue that we feel as if we are walking alone down a road that is dark and lonely, bordered by trees on both sides. There may not be anyone there to tell us that we’re making the right choice–it may be a case of us having to trust our instincts about what is right for us.  

A man who had to carve his own niche in life, in spite of criticism from everyone around him, was Wilson Bentley, the farmer who went on to compile the most remarkable photographic collection in history. What were the photographs of? Snowflakes. Although the idea of studying snowflakes would not inspire most people, Bentley was utterly inspired by the magnificence of what he referred to as his “snow blossoms”. Because he followed his instincts and embraced his own extraordinary potential, he not only found his bliss but also stayed connected to it.

In one scientific paper that Bentley wrote about his studies of snowflakes, he used the word “beauty” or “beautiful” forty times in a mere nine pages. To be so enraptured with one’s work is what anyone would surely desire. If more of us were this enthralled with the career path we decided upon, think of what our world would be  like! Rather than a society made up primarily of people leading a humdrum existence that never fills up the void within them, people would wake up each day feeling exuberant and glad to be alive for another twenty-four hours.

Isn’t that the way you want to live? Don’t delude yourself into imagining that you will find bliss or contentment through anything other than fulfilling your individual purpose in the world. If you look at those who have millions of dollars and are famous around the world, only a mere handful of them are truly happy. Shakespeare may have said that the world is a stage and we are all players, but, if you could trade in a “fake” life, a makeshift existence that is leaving you empty and unfulfilled, wouldn’t you do so in a heartbeat? It doesn’t matter what we’ve been told that we must survive . . . whether we have subscribed to the idea that life is difficult and unfair and we must simply bear with it. We are not a character out of a novel by Charles Dickens, and we do not go through our entire existence being miserable and unhappy. Although great works of literature, art, and music have been produced through emotional and physical suffering, it wasn’t necessarily because of this suffering that these masterpieces were produced but rather in spite of them.

I am learning so much about life as I write my blog and share my insight with you. There are so many questions I still have in regard to how optimal happiness is attainable and how we can differentiate between dreams and goals that are realistic and those that will always be just beyond our grasp. Having not written a blog post in nearly three weeks, I have had quite a lot of time to reflect upon my own life and to recommit to being the kind of Diva who will truly make a difference in the lives of those who read my blog. You and I are on this journey together . . . and that is something I hope you will never forget.

For today, it is my heartfelt wish that you will look upon yourself as a snowflake, in human form . . . a unique being entirely different from anyone else. I want you to pursue the destiny that is yours alone. It is waiting for you, but only you can discover it and fulfill it.

Live with enthusiasm, faith, confidence, and passion!

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

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

Reinventing yourself!

believe43 (butterfly)There is only one way to truly live. . .and that is on the edge. Although I believe that we must use wisdom in the choices we make, if we don’t learn to take risks, we’ll never be able to use our full potential. You know, I lived my life with the dream that I would one day be a performing classical violinist. However, when that dream came to an end I was faced with two choices: either I could give up on life entirely or I could decide to reinvent myself.  A lot of people come from the place where they think that they have to somehow make a career or a relationship work out that seems to be dead-end. They don’t understand that only in letting go of that which is no longer beneficial can they bring the things into their lives that will give them fulfillment. It would be like keeping your closet full of clothes that don’t fit anymore or shoes that are too worn-out to continue wearing. Would you actually do that? I know I wouldn’t.

And yet, many of us are doing something similar to this with our lives. We make the mistake of trying to change ourselves while keeping things and people in our lives that are not part of our long-term vision. Reinventing yourself is about more than simply altering you. You also have to be willing to unclutter that closet! You must pull the weeds out of the garden to enjoy the flowers.

In addition to toxic thoughts, there are also toxic people, and they can be every bit as deadly to keep in your life as toxic thoughts are to keep in your mind. At the heart of most motivational thinking and writing is the basic concept that your thoughts can transform your world. Now I’ve been told by some people that so-called “positive thinking” does nothing for them. Well, if your thoughts are not followed up by relevant actions, you aren’t going to notice a transformation taking place. And that’s what you need sometimes, isn’t it? A transformation in your life.

I have had to transform both myself and how I see the world countless times, and I still struggle with breaking free from toxic thinking. Like anything that is nourished by practice, toxic thinking can easily become a habit. Pretty soon, you may notice that it’s not even something you actually. . .well. . .think about. You simply lapse into thoughts of unworthiness, hopelessness, helplessness, or despair. But, even if you have been guilty of this up to this very moment, you don’t have to continue down that beaten road that isn’t ever going to take you anywhere. Remember how I keep talking about the yellow brick road that will lead you to the Emerald City of your dreams?

When I think of someone who has constantly reinvented herself from one decade to the next, I cannot help but think of the singer and actress, Madonna. Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, I think it’s almost impossible not to admire her determination to continue to do whatever is takes to continue being successful. Even when things haven’t worked out the way she undoubtedly intended them to, she hasn’t let it get her down. My songwriter friend, the amazingly talented Anna Ginetti-Ricci, pointed out what an icon of courage and strength Madonna has always represented to her. And I found myself agreeing with Anna that Madonna truly is a woman who has been uncommonly resilient and resourceful.

Many of Madonna’s films, for example, have been box-office bombs. Yet, she hasn’t stopped trying to pursue a career in movies. She has been crucified by her critics, mercilessly attacked in the press, and scrutinized in a way that would have surely torn apart the self-esteem of a lesser woman. But she’s understood that only in bouncing back from every temporary defeat will she have the kind of life and career she desires.

The American author, Terry McMillan, probably best known for her New York Times bestseller, the novel, Waiting to Exhale, once said,  “There is a price for popularity. Critics look for your weaknesses, your flaws, anything that makes the work seem like a fluke and not seem worthy of all the attention is getting.” And Henry Fielding, the celebrated English author of such classics as the novel, Tom Jones, once wrote, “Now, in reality, the world has paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them to be men of greater profundity than they really are. ” And there’s no doubt that both Terry McMillan and Henry Fielding are right. If you don’t have some people around telling you that your dreams are impossibilities, your dreams probably aren’t big enough. You know, a lot of people might not have thought of looking at it this way. However, it really does take every bit as much energy and effort to create big dreams as little dreams. It’s sort of like nourishing yourself on positive emotions rather than negative, destructive emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, hate, and bitterness wear you down, both from a physical and a psychological standpoint.

Haven’t you ever noticed how tired you feel after you have a fight with someone? For instance, if you have a quarrel with a friend or with your spouse in the morning, haven’t you perceived that the rest of the day seems to automatically go in the wrong direction? It’s as if the entire day has been jinxed, simply because of the spat. And most of the time, nothing positive has been accomplished from the argument. Instead, you and your friends or partner most likely feel unloved, unappreciated, and misunderstood. One of my role models, the marvelous motivational speaker and author, Stephen Covey, speaks of the importance of seeking to understand the people around us. In fact, his philosophy is summed up in this sentence, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Yet how many of us really live that way?

In treating life as the opportunity it is, I feel that what we must do is transform the way we relate to the people in our lives. In fact, improving and changing the way we communicate with others is essential to redefining who we are. We can’t reinvent ourselves if we hold onto old patterns of behavior. I grew up with a father who frequently lost his temper, and, when he did, he would alienate everyone around him. He had difficulty with authority and was compelled to own and run his own businesses because the idea of working for anyone else filled him with resentment.

Because I saw the way in which my father’s attitude towards life and other people affected his relationships, I have understood how important it is to treat others with respect and dignity. It can be devastating when we allow our destructive emotions to take over our behavior. When we react to situations and other people’s actions and words with anger or hate, all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be overpowered by our emotions. And it’s our thoughts that will transform our world—not our emotions.

It’s important to cultivate a generous and compassionate heart. When we let our heart rule our head, though, we can easily get into a lot of stressful predicaments. We must think before we speak and before we act. . .otherwise we will inevitably succumb to feelings that will negatively influence both ourselves and others. An encouraging thing to keep in mind is that the more often we take control over our thoughts, words, and behavior, the easier it will become to continue doing so.

In recent times I have found myself desperately holding on to my inner serenity, mostly because I have been too caught up in letting other people’s actions influence my own opinion of myself. However, when I look towards those who have persisted in spite of relentless critcism that has been unfair and unjust, I know that I, too, can choose not to listen to the critics. I remember a few months ago when Oprah Winfrey was lambasted in the press because a situation involving child molestation arose in the girls’ school she founded in Africa. Even though Oprah was in no way personally responsible for this set of circumstances taking place, she was vastly criticized by her detractors, who did their best to cast aspersions on her character. Rather than putting the blame where it belonged, some wanted to take away from all the wonderful, benevolent things Oprah has done. They chose to try to make her feel guilty.

While I cannot know for sure how deeply Oprah was affected by all this criticism, I do know that she’s a resilient lady. She would not allow anyone to permanently diminish her feelings of self-worth. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not how many times we let ourselves be affected by the things that people say about us or the way in which they behave towards us. The most significant question is: do we let other peoples’ opinions of us and/or actions affect us permanently?

For example, if, like me, you grew up with a father who made you feel inadequate because you were a girl, do you continue to remind yourself of the things he told you and the way those words made you feel? Or do you choose to let the feelings of rejection you experienced from him strengthen you? There really are just two ways to respond to any negative situation, you know—you can either let it weaken you or you can let it make you stronger. Courage is not something that you are born with. It’s something that you learn to acquire. It may not be able to be purchased, but as you continue to reinvent yourself, you’ll start to see that courage really can be learned.

Courage is like “learned helplessness”, a term that the American psychologist and writer, Martin Seligman, coined. When you were born, you were not made to remain helpless as you grew. You did not come into the world with an inability to bounce back from the hurdles life put in your path. Any feelings of helplessness that you have now or have had in the past are a by-product of  the negative experiences that you have lived through. This is why the only way to start living a life that will be in alignment with your deepest desires is for you to replace the learned helplessness with courage and resilience. If you tend to focus on the negative side of life, it will be very difficult for you to turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. However, even if you can’t see it, if you’re holding onto negative thoughts and nourishing yourself with destructive feelings, there’s a big sign that says DEAD END at the end of the street you’re walking down. And, sooner or later, you’re going to reach that dead end. Then, what will you do?

The time to reinvent yourself is not next year, next week, or tomorrow. Why would you want to wait any longer to start walking down that yellow brick road that will lead you to happiness, success, and ultimate fulfillment? I know that the actor,  Jim Carrey, didn’t let roadblocks get in his way. He came from a family where money was so scarce that his family barely had enough to eat. Both of Jim’s parents battled deep depression, and, starting at a young age, Jim was faced with the responsibility of trying to cheer them up. Of course, he had it in his favor that he was naturally funny. In fact, he was a born mimic.

Although Jim was not a popular kid in school, he managed to become well-liked because of his amusing antics. At age fourteen, he was given the chance to perform in a well-respected club in his hometown of Toronto. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a success. But Jim had drive and determination, and he committed himself to not letting one failure steal his dreams. He perfected his comedy routine and, awhile later, returned to the same club, where he made a magnificent splash. His talent as a comedian was noticed by the American actor and comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. This connection is what landed Jim on the first step that would take him up the spiraling staircase of success. 

Your diva can tell you that she has experienced more setbacks than she would care to claim. However, my perseverance in not letting any of those setbacks be permanent is why I’m where I am today. I could never share my words of encouragement with all of you if I hadn’t first shared them with myself. I am very grateful to such inspirational people as Denis Waitley, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Les Brown, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, and Zig Ziglar for writing books and recording tape and CD programs that have encouraged me, but on a day-to-day basis I have to be my own coach. This is why I emphasize the importance of reinventing yourself.

If you’ve had crossroads and setbacks in your life that you haven’t yet recovered from, you need to start seeing a brand-new you every time you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter whether you made a big mistake yesterday or last week. . .you can start anew at this very moment. Have you ever noticed how some flowers blossom overnight? Our next-door neighbors gave us a pot of spectacular trumpet flowers. The thing about it is, trumpet flowers only bloom for a few hours, and, when they do bloom, their blossoms unfold all at once. The transformation takes place overnight. Now it’s not going to be nearly as easy for you to transform yourself and/or certain aspects of your life. But it doesn’t have to take a minute for you to start the process of transformation. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Until soon,

Alexis

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