Thoughts I Live By

 

~My Personal Creed~

created on February 12, 2010

“Today I release myself from the need to judge anyone, particularly those who are most dissimilar to me. Rather than reacting in a spirit of anger or hate to those who disagree with me or who insult me, I will ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this experience?’ I will allow myself to be a reflection of the spiritual essence within me. I will release myself from every lie, every bitter thought, and every preconceived idea that has taken root within my mind. I will allow those who cross my path to have the same freedom that I give myself. On this day I will live every moment to its fullest. If any adversity or obstacle should come my way, I will meet it with fortitude and strength. I am whole, evolved, and complete within myself. The choices I make today will the ones that are best for me. If others do not accept my choices, that is a choice they are free to make and part of their journey, not mine. I will walk away from those who react to the world and/or its inhabitants with bitterness, hostility, hatred, judgement, envy, criticism, greed, and/or resentment, for I choose to surround myself only with those who are capable of kindness, love, honesty, empathy, and compassion.”

~On Healing & Connecting~

February 2010

“I believe one way to heal our minds, bodies, and souls is through the spiritual connections that we form with other people. Yet, these connections can only be sustained without creating negativity and tension when they are formed between or among those who are like-minded. Those who are enveloped in their own darkness cannot be brought into the light until they seek it for themselves.”

~On Love~

Valentine’s Day Weekend 2010

“For every love that never was, there is a love waiting to unfold.”

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

Transform Your Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

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

The Magic of Imagination

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” But, if this is so, why are so many of us frantically seeking knowledge and giving so little time to using our imaginations? If it seems ironic that a writer who calls herself a “critical thinker” and says that she is on a quest for wisdom and truth would be emphasizing the importance of using one’s imagination, all I can say is that I am not the least bit predictable. I do think that critical and particularly reflective thinking is an essential part of creating a life of personal fulfillment, but I also think that if you don’t use your imagination, you will end up stifling a crucial part of yourself.

How far back do your first memories go? Do you remember a point where the world was filled with wonder and every new bird or flower made you feel exhilarated, at least temporarily? What do you think brought an end to this state of mind in which the world and all that inhabits it overwhelmed you with awe? When did you stop asking so many questions? When did you become afraid that the thoughts or feelings you had were outrageous or strange or “outside the norm?”

If you are like many people, you probably found that a lot of your imaginative ideas were discouraged by teachers, parents, and other authority figures in your environment. When I was a child of five, I was a very creative artist and drew the letters of the alphabet in a way that nobody else did. I added animals to each letter, such as giraffes, birds, and kangaroos. I was unaware that what I was doing was odd until many years later, when my mother confessed to me that my teacher had taken her aside and told her that the way I drew my letters was “unacceptable.” Now, over two decades have passed since then, and I have recently discovered that Picasso created his letters the same way that I created mine.  I may not ever have possessed Picasso’s artistic talent,  but what he and I do share is a vivid imagination.

Of course, I think most of us do have wonderful imaginations. It’s simply that society doesn’t encourage us to make adequate use of them. When you hear the phrase, “experimental thinking,” what comes to mind? Does the term bring positive or negative thoughts to your mind? Since I have an ever developing interest in science, experimental thinking is a concept that I naturally embrace. If you don’t, that’s okay. What I do hope you’ll at least do is consider the concept. It’s really just another way to define out-of-the-box thinking. And, who wants to live inside a box?

For me, every day is an experiment, which means that I am engaging in experimental thinking on a full-time basis. My blog posts are part of my experimenting with ideas, thoughts, and concepts. Nothing I say is written in stone. I am constantly examining and re-examining my own thoughts, and I hope that’s what you’ll start doing, too. When we look at the world, we oftentimes think that it’s changing, when we are the ones who are in the process of change. Remember my last blog article, The Process of Becoming? Did you read it? If not, I urge you to do so. It is my intention to challenge the way that you are thinking now. I want to persuade you into examining your thoughts more carefully. Life must be lived boldly and intensely or not at all. You must be willing to take risks, and that includes engaging in risky thinking.

Have you ever known anyone who thought that he/she had all the answers? Have you conversed with someone who seemed to be under the delusion that whatever their opinions and beliefs were, they were always right? I’ve known a few of these people myself, and what I am becoming more and more aware of is how vastly they are limiting themselves. Naturally, they are oftentimes the first people to call themselves “open-minded”. They will do their best to convince you that their beliefs and views are the result of critical thinking and personal reflection. But, what is the truth? People are fully capable of telling us anything, particularly when it comes to defining themselves. The question is, can any of us really be sure that more than a handful of our beliefs and opinions are valid?

Okay, I know you think I’ve gone too far this time. You probably think I’m trying to question all of your convictions. Well, I’m not. I just want you to become aware of  how limited your thought patterns might be. Are you really thinking outside the box or do you just think you are? How many of your personal beliefs and opinions would you be willing to stake your life on? One or two? Three or four? A half-dozen? You know you don’t have to tell me the answer to this question nor do you have to be honest with anyone, including  yourself. But why not be honest with yourself? What will you gain by remaining in a state of self-deception?

If you hope to make any positive changes in your life, you’re going to have to be willing to rip the veil off of some of the ideas you’re subscribing to now. And, if you engage your imagination, I think you’ll discover that the life you want doesn’t match up with the life you’re living now. Or, am I wrong? I would love to think that everything is perfect in your world. Yet, I have a sense that some aspect of your life isn’t quite the way you want it to be. If my perceptions are correct, then take a few minutes to listen to my ideas instead of just tossing them aside.

You are the creator of your destiny. That’s right, you. Although you may want to blame someone or something else for your mistakes, you’re the one who made them. But, you’re also the one who can change your life because you are in control of all of your choices. Even the choice you make now is one that you alone have power over. If you’re reading this article, you are the one who decided to read it. And you are also the one who decides whether you’ll let my words enter into your mind and soul and become part of your being. I think I’ve already made it clear that I don’t care who agrees with me anymore. Ridicule or criticize me if you like–it’s all the same to me. I simply don’t care, for part of gaining wisdom and enlightenment (and no, I’m not talking about anything religious) is the cutting away of that which is not essential and/or significant. Those who demean my work are not significant to me. And my focusing on their denigrating words is not essential to my life.

There is much to be said about letting go of everything that is not essential. If you were to look upon your life as a house that you were moving out of and you could only pack up the things you really needed to move to a new and smaller place, what choices would you make? How many friendships would you keep pursuing or maintaining? How many books would you give away? Which pieces of furniture would you sell? Are you starting to follow my line of thinking? In a way, it’s like asking yourself, “How would I live if I only had six months left on this earth?” If you like, you can substitute that concept instead. Whatever works for you works for me, too. We each have our own “comfort zone” when it comes to thinking, and some of us are slower to move out of that comfort zone than others.

But, just to re-iterate point about the importance of “experimental” (i.e., outside-the-box) thinking, let’s turn to the words of John Dewey. “Taken merely as a doubt, an idea would paralyze inquiry. Taken merely as a certainty, it would arrest inquiry. Taken as a doubtful possibility, it affords a standpoint, a platform, a method of inquiry.” What Dewey is encouraging us to do is to make sure that we do not become too certain of the ideas we subscribe to. Yet,  instead of doubting our ideas, he suggests that we consider them as possibilities. So, we can imagine that an idea is correct, while simultaneously holding the thought in our mind that the idea might not be true.

In a way, we can become the scientists of our worlds. We can look upon our lives as a laboratory and conduct various experiments every day. Has anything great every be achieved by those who played it safe? What novel or innovative concept has anyone come up with who refused to re-examine his or her thoughts and ideas? Unfortunately, society tends to foster the spirit of certainty. We are supposed to be die-hard fans of someone or something–we are urged to have vehement political and religious views. If we don’t, we have accusations hurled at us about lacking conviction.

Well, conviction is very important. But, you have to make sure that your convictions are the result of reflective, critical, and experimental thinking. John Dewey in his book, How We Think, speaks in some detail about what he refers to as “empirical thinking” or “empiricism.” This type of thinking brings about a lack of flexibility that can lead to dogmatism and an attitude in which a person engages in heated debates and not productive discussions. As you may have already surmised,  empirical thinking leaves little room for the imagination to be nourished. It’s antithetical to the type of thinking that children engage in. Awe and wonderment become replaced with cynicism and skepticism, and new ideas are usually discarded before they have the chance to take root. Imagine how few scientific experiments would have ever been performed if each scientist was certain beforehand that nothing would turn out the way he/she wanted it to. I suspect Einstein would never have discovered his theory of relativity, and none of us would ever have heard Marie Curie’s name.

I’ve brought you this far. I know this because you’re still reading. Now I’m going to ask you to go one step further. Ask yourself this question: what experiments am I wanting to try in my life now that I haven’t dared to attempt? Is there a job opportunity you want to go after but believe you would never be chosen for? Or do you have an idea for a wonderful novel but can’t get yourself to sit down and start writing it because you’re already sure that it won’t be published? Do you want to find the man or woman of your dreams but find yourself looking upon any kind of committed relationship with skepticism and/or apprehension?

Once you decide what you’re afraid of, you’ll probably know what experiment you need to try. If there is anything in your life that seems to be holding you back, it’s only your fear of change. The “status quo” has become a habit. You want things to be different, but part of you has gotten comfortable with the way things are now. Am I talking about you? Maybe, maybe not. Everything I say is colored by what I’ve read, absorbed, and experienced. But, this is the case when it comes to anyone. That’s why I am so adamant about stating that I don’t have all the answers. That’s why I emphasize the fact that I cannot “fix” anyone’s problems. If I were to say anything other than that, I would be taking away your power. I would be suggesting that you needed a Savior. I would be saying, “You need me to create your destiny.” You and I both know that you don’t need me or anyone else besides yourself. Even if you feel incomplete or inadequate, you’re not. You only think you are.  In many ways, you have probably been conditioned to think the way that you do. This means that you may have to unlearn things that you think you know. For, in order to acquire true knowledge we must empty our minds of all that is false.

I know that you may read this article today and forget most of it tomorrow. So, I’m going to end with a thought I want you to hold onto: Live today as if there will be no tomorrow. 

Until soon,
Alexis, your SuccessDiva

~”The Magic of Imagination” is dedicated to Kate Anderson, with much love always

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

The process of becoming

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

What choice will you make?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

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

Releasing Yourself

With the beginning of a new year, I can’t help thinking of Andy Warhol’s sagacious observation, “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” How many of us imagine that the start of a new year presents us with a fresh opportunity for change, success, happiness, and/or fulfillment? Yet, what is the reality? Is it not true that every day gives us a chance to make the changes in our lives that will enable us to live freely and authentically?

A few days before Christmas, I picked up a book by Steve Chandler with the catchy title, 17 Lies that Are Holding You Back and The Truth that Will Set You free. I spend many hours each day reading philosophy and psychology. Thus, I wasn’t sure how much an author who evokes comparisons to some well-known self-help gurus would appeal to me.

However, I tend to consider each book I read profitable if I come away with even two or three new ideas. I enjoy having my thought processes and thinking patterns challenged, for challenge promotes growth. Chandler’s honesty is probably the reason why his writing seems both authentic and persuasive. The minute that we adopt the view that the writer of a book by has never faced any of the problems or issues that we’ve experienced is when he/she will lose most of his/her ability to have an impact on us. Taking each “lie” one chapter at a time, Chandler analyzes the myths and misconceptions many of us have about ourselves and proves the lack of validity beneath them. The lies he speaks of are the lies that others have told us and that we have told ourselves—and they are all lies about us, about other people, and about the world at large.

If you find yourself blaming others for your depression or your perceived failures or find yourself frequently making comments about being “too old” or using the excuse “that’s just the way I am” to exempt yourself from guilt, then you might want to stay away from this book. Unless, of course, you’re really serious about changing. Chandler takes a no-nonsense approach. And, for those who need for others to treat them with kid gloves or to only tell them what they want to hear, he won’t be the author for you. At the same time, I tend to think that many of those who are reading this blog sincerely do want to change, even if they don’t admit it to themselves.

I came under brutal attack for my last blog article, “Reclaim Your Power.” In spite of the incredibly positive responses that I got from most of my readers, there were a few poor souls who didn’t like my article at all. They even ridiculed my work. But I understand that they were only trying to find some way to disguise their own lack of effectiveness as people. I was accused of belittling those who didn’t subscribe to the concept that we have a choice as to whether we can be happy or not. Well, it is never my intention to belittle those who do not agree with me. In fact, I sometimes end up contradicting my own views at a later date. I consider life to be a continual learning process, and, in spite of what others might think, I certainly don’t imagine for a moment that I have all the answers.

Sometimes I think that we are afraid of those whom we choose to demean and criticize because they show us aspects of ourselves that we would rather not reveal. Ridicule and scorn generally come from one of two things—either fear or a diminished sense of self-worth. Jealousy and envy are usually evoked by the same causes. When we start to understand and appreciate our own worth as people, we are able to accept it when others do not share our views without creating a need to attack, insult, or mock them. Moreover, we do not feel threatened by the accomplishments that others achieve.

Does this mean that once we establish a definitive sense of self-worth we are suddenly “perfect” people? Not at all. We are never what you might call “finished products”.  However, until we are willing to let go of preconceived ideas about ourselves and other people and respect the different views that others have and the decisions they make, we will always have a deep sense of inner unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Releasing others from your expectations enables you to release yourself from the expectations others have of you.

Although, at the time I received the insulting remarks that I speak of, I felt compelled to defend myself, I now see that in attempting to defend myself I only gave others power over me. In coming from a place of defensiveness, I ended up making what they said about me have more value than it actually did. But, all of this happened over a week ago, and I’m such a chameleon that I tend to change on a daily basis, constantly transforming myself, my thoughts, and the way I see the universe around me.

There are very few things that I regard as “fixed” in my life. In general, I find that becoming too attached to any one set of beliefs stifles our attempts to grow and expand. On the other hand, let me clarify that I do encourage others to be true their religious faith and also to their code of ethics (like I am), for these are things that should be celebrated because they are part of what makes us authentic individuals. Once we allow anyone to make us question what we truly believe, we are starting to give our power away to others again. And, your life doesn’t belong to anyone but you.  

When my firend, Anna Lieb, spoke of the positive impact that Wayne Dyer’s book, Pulling Your Own Strings, has been having on her and her life, I felt inspired to pick up my copy of the book, too. Needless to say, I have not been following Dyer’s suggestions in recent times. I have become a victim of the whims of others and have even been allowing them to manipulate me into joining them in games of betrayal and self-deception.  Now, you don’t have to tell me that life itself is a bit of a game. The situation is, we all deserve to be victors—not victims. And ultimately, we end up victimizing ourselves more than anyone else does because we give our power away in a number of ways every single day that we enable those around us to manipulate and mistreat us. Unless, of course, we make a conscious decision to make our life strictly our own.

One of the key ways that others will victimize and manipulate you is by telling you things about yourself that aren’t based in reality. For example, if you behave in a manner that they perceive as irrational, they may label you as being “neurotic”. It might even be implied that you are emotionally unstable or much more fragile from a psychological perspective than you actually are. Pay attention. Stop to consider whether the things you’re hearing others say about you are really true.

Just because someone else perceives you a certain way, you don’t have to agree with them. People have been attaching labels to me for most of my life, some of them positive and some of them extremely negative. After awhile, you must learn to disregard any opinion about you that doesn’t match up with your authentic self. You don’t even need to spend time wondering why someone thinks something about you or says something about you. Realize that, in all likelihood, they are dealing with self-esteem issues, and they are demeaning or criticizing you in order to feel better about themselves.

Does this mean that such people are “bad” or “evil”? Not necessarily, although it is certainly within the realm of possibilities. But, whether they are “bad” or “evil” or not, they are undoubtedly toxic to you. For one thing, they are operating from a place of fear rather than joy, and this, according to psychologist Nathaniel Branden, is one of the key elements of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem doesn’t make people toxic (except to themselves, naturally) unless it creates a need in them to control, manipulate, or abuse other people. Manipulative tactics are not always easy to discern either for they can take many forms. For example, being needy and trying to dominate others are both signs of low self-esteem, and the types of behavior that are evoked by either of these things can be forms of manipulation.

It has not been easy for me to get to the point where I have been willing to let go of anything or anyone that might be holding me back. Why? Well, I tend to think that I’ve been coping with self-esteem issues of my own. It’s perfectly normal for those who do not have a definitive sense of self-worth to look towards others to give them the love, acceptance, and approval they are withholding from themselves.

The problem is that you cannot continue this pattern and have control over your own life, for you are at the mercy of other people. In some ways, it can be more difficult to maintain a high level of self-esteem than to continue living with low self-esteem. One reason that this is the case is because we tend to attract people who are quite a bit like us, whether the similarities are immediately visible or not. Thus, if we have been struggling with low self-esteem, we have most likely been drawing other people with low self-esteem to us. So, as we begin to work on our self-esteem and start having the confidence to gain control over our lives and to put our own needs first, we’ll notice that there will be people who have been there to support us who start to distance themselves from us. They may even get angry or feel that we are abandoning them.

What you have to remember though is that only when we esteem ourselves highly will we be capable of holding anyone else in high regard. We may envy others and we may admire them, but a genuine sense of self-respect will be beyond our capabilities. We will end up hurting others and ourselves because we probably won’t love and/or like them any more than we love and/or like ourselves. As Denis Waitley has so wisely pointed out, we must first have an emotion inside us before we can give it to another person. In keeping with this concept, we would have to at least consider the possibility that until we love and/or like ourselves we won’t be able to love and/or like anyone else.

There are a lot of misconceptions about self-esteem. And there are those who will use words like “conceit” or “arrogance” to describe people who simply have a genuine sense of self-worth. But, this is because they have low self-esteem and yet they are still living in too much fear to overcome it. You may well lose such people as friends. Yet this will all be part of the process in your embracing your authentic self.

Never forget that when you let go of those who are holding you back or who fail to respect your desire to take control of your own life, you are doing both them and you a favor, whether they realize it or not. For you are no longer encouraging them to continue the self-destructive patterns in their own lives. There is not any person who is helped by the friendship, companionship, or love of someone who doesn’t expect him/her to take charge of his/her own life. Even parents must understand that, at a certain point, a child must be taught personal responsibility. This isn’t about “tough love” although some people  may label such behavior with that overused and misused term. What it is about is about making sure that others are entitled to the same privileges that you are—namely, the privilege of having power over their own lives.

If you are someone who does look towards a new year as a new beginning, then by all means take that source of inspiration and run with it. I’m certainly not going to try to stop you. The philosophy I live by is this:  if it works for you, then do it. This is why I have to laugh when anyone suggests that I am trying to “fix” people or change the world through my SuccessDiva articles. Even if I wanted to do so, how foolish would I have to be to actually think I could? Let’s get serious for a moment, instead of entertaining fanciful ideas about me and how much power I think I have over anyone’s life besides my own.

I am here to offer suggestions to those who want to hear them and feel that they will benefit from making use of them. Indeed, I feel very fortunate indeed to have such a large following. But I certainly didn’t expect it when I started my SuccessDiva work. My SuccessDiva work was begun as part of my own personal journey towards self-discovery and spiritual and psychological healing. The recognition, respect, and praise I’ve gotten have simply been icing on the cake, so to speak. At the same time, without the support and encouragement of those who have been my fans and admirers, I wouldn’t be half the diva I am. And, this is something I recognize on a daily basis.

I want to close this article by wishing everyone a beautiful new year. I trust that those of you who take the time to read my blog will make the choice to look upon each day as a new beginning. And that rather than trying to follow New Year’s resolutions, you’ll embrace your authentic self each and every day and take responsibility for every aspect of your lives. You don’t need resolutions to do that—you just need to get to the point where you’re willing to let go of all of your excuses, your preconceived ideas, your lies, and any self-destructive patterns you may be holding onto.

Be bold . . . be daring . . . be authentic . . . and Live without Limits, SuccessDiva style!

Blessings,

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.

Reclaim Your Power!

I think that sometimes we must experience the deepest misery in order to give birth to a renewed self. Self-renewal is not a concept that has merely been promoted during the past couple of decades, when the self-improvement industry has overwhelmed the world with a plethora of books and audio programs that have been both worshipped and ridiculed. Renewal of ourselves—of our souls, our bodies, our minds, and our spirits—is a concept that dates back to both the Bible and the ancient philosophers of the past. German author extraordinaire Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”

In a way, I think that life attempts to force us to renew ourselves when we rebel against the idea of doing so.  Why doesn’t it occur to us when we experience the tempests that overwhelm our spirit that if we but hold on and ride out the storm we may well sail more smoothly than we ever have before? At the moment when our souls seem to be screaming in pain, we have the ability to either fight the turbulence or to find a way to use that tidal wave of grief, depression, and/or unhappiness to rediscover ourselves. You can either reclaim your power or you can give it away to those people or circumstances who attempt to take it from you. Unhappiness is, in many ways, a circumstance. It can also be a choice.

I know I have a reputation of being somewhat controversial in many of the ideas I share and promote. But I want you to stop for one second and see if I may not be onto something here. If we have the ability to choose our thoughts and we’re feeling unhappy, is it not possible that we are making a choice to be unhappy? Don’t be upset with me if I’m rocking your boat or turning your world upside-down.

I was recently told by a friend who is a Carl Jung devotee that she is uncertain that we choose our thoughts at all. Well, being a deeply inquisitive person by nature, I couldn’t help wondering . . . if we don’t choose our own thoughts, who or what is choosing them for us? Is it a reincarnation of us? Or is some unseen force putting various thoughts in our head at random? And, if you think any of these scenarios is a possibility, I must ask you this:  how will you ever be able to take control of your own life? If you don’t possess the power to control your thoughts, then you must not have the power to control your actions. Thus, you are at the mercy of a mysterious “fate” . . . or of  The Fates . . . or of mere chance . . . or of other people and unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.

For me, the idea that I do not have control over the thoughts that enter my mind is unacceptable. But hey, if you want to believe that somebody else is putting those thoughts in your mind, that’s obviously your prerogative. However, I do question whether or not you will ever be able to design a life worth living. I also think that reclaiming your power won’t be possible since you are already giving away a large portion of it to unseen forces and random events. But still, the choice is yours.

When I think about circumstances, I tend to remember the words of the witty and brilliant playwright and author, George Bernard Shaw. How do you like this quotation? “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
I realize that it is much easier for us to lie to ourselves and blame other people, past experiences, and events in our lives for the fact that we are miserable, unsuccessful, and/or unfulfilled. But what possible benefit comes from not accepting responsibility for ourselves? I don’t know how it would work for you, but taking ownership of my life has given me more strength and power than I have ever experienced before.

One of the first steps in reclaiming your personal power is letting go of your dependence on the approval and acceptance of other people. In my opinion, this may be the hardest accomplishment of all, and yet I suspect it’s the most crucial. The world really is made up of a lot of foolish and ignorant people, and, if you allow these people to mold your thoughts, your actions, and your decisions, you will be living someone else’s life instead of your own. People actually choose to remain ignorant of that which they do not choose to understand. Such manipulation has been used by those in power for centuries, and, even now, conformity is encouraged as opposed to seeking knowledge and forming our own individual views and opinions. If the opinions of others are more important to you than truth and wisdom, then you will find yourself receiving the approval of others yet living without the approval of yourself. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

What saddens me a bit is that nearly everyone has the power within himself or herself to transform his/her life and to create an authentic self that he/she is content with. However, many people get into the habit of giving their power away and/or denying that they have it in the first place. Thus, after a while the power seems to diminish and, at least, that little spark of energy is lost amid the ashes of conformity and mediocrity.

Although, the legendary phoenix bird rose from the ashes, it is very hard to resurrect your spirit and soul from a heap of what is essentially dust. Do your realize that, in a way, those who are living the lives that others tell them they should be living are already half-dead? They are only one step away from being cremated, and, rather than living freely outside of a box, they are enclosed in a vase of their own ashes. Have you allowed the divine essence of you to be turned into ashes?  If you have, would you prefer to continue to exist only partially from now on ? Or do you think you might consider taking a lesson from the phoenix bird who resurrected itself from its own ashes? It’s your call, and I suspect you know that.

I enjoy reading philosophy, as you might have gathered, and I have noticed that some of the concepts that philosophers promote are antithetical to the very idea that any of us can achieve happiness. I both agree and disagree with this theory. I don’t think that happiness can be achieved. Rather, I think it is a choice. I did caution you that you might not like what I was going to be telling you. The situation is, I would prefer to upset those reading this blog post than to compromise myself by not sharing my true beliefs.

While I was nursing my mother through advanced stage ovarian cancer, I happened to pick up a book by Barry Neil Kaufman called Happiness is a Choice. If you wish to stop reading this article now, go right ahead. I promise I won’t morph myself into some familiar spirit and try to cause chaos in what is undoubtedly already a rather miserable life.  Whether or not you subscribe to any of my ideas is  your choice alone. At the same time, if you wish to be challenged to examine your life and your vantage point towards life, you might want to keep on reading.

Barry Neil Kaufman’s book is not for those who wish to remain in their comfort zone. At one point, he actually is straightforward enough to say, “We become our beliefs. We get stuck in our heads.” He even suggests that we do not have to be miserable to be intelligent. Now, this will come as a blow to the intellectuals who believe that faith and hope are only possibilities within the minds of those who do not “understand” life. If we want to be “smart,” we are told that we must be atheists and existentialists. Science transforms faith into merely “wishful thinking”, and those who reason are supposed to see that hope, rather than being “that thing with feathers that perches in the soul” (as Emily Dickinson so eloquently put it), is on the same par with God, whom I recently heard referred to as “the pixie in the sky”.

So, what are we left with? If there is no God and we don’t have power over ourselves, who does have all the power? Could it be the politicians? But, wait, being human, like us, they wouldn’t have the power to control their thoughts, either. Goodness, I really don’t know who has all the power on this planet, but I am suspecting it could be Santa and his crew of frisky elves. No wonder people do all they can to convince children that there is no Santa Claus. If the truth came out, where would any of us be? Speaking of Santa, I think that December is the ideal month for us to be examining all these things since it’s the last month of the year and so many people like the idea of making New Year’s resolutions.

I have just one quick question about those resolutions: what happens between now and the first day of January? If you wait until then to reclaim your power, won’t you have a few extra pounds to lose and a few more unwise choices to bounce back from? I realize that we’re nearing the end of December, and many of you probably don’t think a few days of letting other people and outside forces control you could possibly do much harm. However, if Santa has all the power in the world, won’t he be at the height of his power on December 25? If so, it seems that reclaiming your power right now might be the smartest move on your part.

Even though many of us have a habit of putting off what should be done today until tomorrow . . . or next week . . . or  next year, I tend to think that taking action now is still the best policy. I was listening to portions of Jim Rohn’s audio program, “The Art of Exceptional Living” over the weekend, and he says that a combination of faith and action is what will give us a life that is fulfilling and satisfying. Yes, I realize that the word, “faith,” is going to make  you cringe if you’re an atheist and/or an existentialist, but if you convert the concept of faith in a God or a “Higher Power” to faith in yourself, I think it still works out. 

As I said before, I’m not here to “fix” your life. Even if I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be able to for we are the only ones who can “fix” ourselves. If our wounds require stitches, we are the ones who must make a choice to get those stitches. And this is true whether we are speaking of physical wounds or psychological injuries. Applying bandages is not what I’m here for. If you want bandages, you’ll have to fetch some from the store and apply them yourself.

I’m here to offer you my thoughts and ideas, and you make the decision as to whether or not you’re open to receiving them. It’s sort of like a spiritual conversion, in many ways. When someone converts to Christianity, for instance, they make a choice to do so. God doesn’t tap them on the shoulder and whisper in their ear, “Believe in me.” Nope. He has better ways to spend His time. And even though I’m not comparing myself to God or even a goddess (all right, I’ll admit that is a beguiling idea, and I recently blushed to my heart’s content when someone referred to me as “The Goddess of Facebook”), I also have better things to do than to ask you to believe what I’m saying. As Barry Neil Kaufman so aptly points out, “No one can be inside our heads pulling our strings. We do that for ourselves.” To me, this is encouraging news as the idea of some invisible puppeteer pulling my strings for me makes me feel like I’m nothing more than a wooden marionette.

What I do have time to do is to challenge you to think through the beliefs and thoughts you are holding in your head right now. Which ones were adopted by you from other people and outside sources? If you had spent all of your life on a deserted island out in the middle of nowhere, how many of the thoughts that you are currently subscribing to right now would have ever entered your mind in the first place? You understand my point, I’m sure. In order to reclaim your power, you’ve got to be willing to be honest with yourself. Even if you lie to everyone else, the one person you need to be completely honest with is you. Are you willing to do it? Is reclaiming your power worth it to you?  Food for thought, is it  not?

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

Your SuccessDiva

I dedicate this blog post to my friend, Kate Anderson, who has given me the support I have needed to reclaim my own power. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, beautiful Kate. ~your Diva

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

Looking within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your SuccessDiva

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

Living On Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

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

The Authentic You

Epictetus once said, “It is impossible for man to learn that which he thinks he already knows.” This quotation sums up why so many of us are not experiencing contentment or serenity in our lives. We think we possess knowledge that we actually haven’t yet acquired. And where our ignorance has the most devastating impact on our ultimate outcome is when it pertains directly to ourselves.

If we think we know ourselves, yet we have never taken the time to understand ourselves, then it will never be possible for us to live an authentic life.  What is an authentic life?  It is a life in which we are making the decisions that are in keeping with what is best for is. It is a life where the opinion of those around us matters a great deal less than the opinions we have about ourselves.

To live authentically, you have to strip yourself of everything that is not genuine. You have to let go of learned behavior that does not match up with who you really are. And you have to get to the point where you would rather disappoint everyone else in your life than to disappoint you.

Some people would say that such a philosophy promotes selfishness. But what it really does is enable you to give others the freedom to be authentic, too. Once you cease meeting or trying to meet the expectations of others at the expense of your own needs, they will be forced to gain clarity about themselves and what their needs may be.

I have spoken about the potency of habits in a previous blog post. And I want to delve more deeply into the way that habits can negatively impact both your life and the lives of those around you. When William James wrote his chapter on “Habit” in his Principles of Psychology, there were many things about human behavior that had not yet been discovered or analyzed. James encouraged people to allow certain actions to become habitual, such as eating a meal or taking a bath.

The problem is, even these seemingly innocuous activities should actually be engaged in while we are thinking about them. Why? Well, the more we get into the pattern of doing things without engaging our mental faculties, the more inclined we are to not use those faculties at times that it is essential for us to do so. Now, there obviously are habits that have a positive influence on our lives. But sometimes we need to make sure that the habits we think are positive actually are.

For example, if we have a habit of repressing our true thoughts and opinions in order to be accepted by others, is that really a good habit?  Or does it simply appear to be good on the surface? And, even if we do win this much sought-after acceptance, is it really worth very much if we had to pretend to be someone other than ourselves in order to gain it?

Let me ask you something. If someone told you that he or she would write a book under your name and that it would be a best-seller, would you think that was a tempting idea? Even if you did, would the accolades that you received when the book was published mean nearly as much to you as if you had written the book yourself? Or would a certain part of you feel like a fraud?

When people told you what a wonderful writer you were, would that mean that you would actually believe them? Or is it possible that you could get to the point where you actually believed that you had written the book? If you answer no, I challenge you to reconsider your reply. Although you may think that I’m taking things too far by using this example to illustrate my point, you probably at least concede that it would be possible for some people to buy into their own fraudulent identity.

Sometimes it is easier to get trapped in a life that is compromised of learned behavior patterns and assumed opinions than it is to explore our own authenticity as an individual. To conform to what others think we should be does not require courage or conviction. What it does take is a self-image that is not clearly defined. I am often told by people who cross my path that they would finally have happiness or contentment in their lives if they could just find the right career or if the man or woman of their dreams would miraculously come into their lives. Although I empathize with such thought patterns, I think that they are both unrealistic and dangerous.

For one thing, such beliefs prevent us from taking the time to work on ourselves. They remove the necessity of personal growth because we are looking at  something outside of ourselves to make us complete.  And, when that person or that career fails to live up to our idyllic fantasies, we are left feeling even more dissatisfied than we were before. In a way, it’s like someone with an eating disorder attempting to “cure” the problem without getting to the root of what is causing it.

When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. The illness itself harmed me far less than the way the doctor I was seeing at the time treated the illness. Rather than taking the time to analyze and examine what was causing me to deprive myself of nourishment, she blamed me for not eating and seemed to subscribe to the erroneous assumption that I was making a conscious choice not to eat. If you know anything about anorexia, you understand that it is not a choice. Even though those who are anorexic often use starvation as a coping mechanism to handle the fact that certain aspects of their lives seem to be beyond their control, they are not consciously engaging in this behavior.

Similarly, if you are unfulfilled or unhappy and you are seeking a relationship or a career to escape from the emptiness within yourself, you may not be doing this intentionally. When we feel a void within us, it is only natural that we might have a frantic need to fill that emptiness.  It’s interesting how quick we are to talk about connecting or reconnecting with our bliss. But is there still not the assumption that we have discovered our “bliss”? Emptiness and bliss are not compatible. Thus, as long as we have a nagging sense of dissatisfaction within ourselves, we are not only not connecting with our bliss–we have not found our “bliss”.

Of course, like the word happiness, bliss is also a word that can be defined in many different ways. However, I have the sense that it conveys the essence of elation or exuberance. If we use that definition of bliss or even partially subscribe to that definition, then we must also admit that there are not many people whom we have ever known who have seemed very exuberant or elated. Does this mean that it is unrealistic to expect to ever feel bliss? No. But it does mean that we may have to redefine the word. The other option is that we will have to accept the fact that, even though we want to believe we are connected to our bliss, we are actually still pursuing it.

One assumption that prevents us from living authentically is the idea that happiness or bliss is a destination that we will someday reach. Perhaps, some of us even think that if we feel loved and appreciated enough, contentment will be ours. But what sort of contentment are we seeking? If you are honest with yourself, I think you’ll admit that you are not looking for the temporary feeling of rapture that comes from devouring a piece of chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake is wonderful, but once you’ve eaten it, it’s gone. If you pursue the wrong type of bliss or if you are not clear about the type of bliss that you won’t, you may end up with a lot of what I would call “chocolate cake” moments but no lasting feeling of fulfillment or significance. Is that what you want? Even if you could exist on a diet of nothing but candy, cake, and cookies, would that ultimately satisfy you?

To me, the satisfaction that comes from lots of  “chocolate cake moments” is a bit like the happiness that is derived from buying clothes and jewelry or taking a trip to some country you’ve never traveled to before. Sure, there is enjoyment–but how long does it last, and how profound is it? Your soul is never going to be content if the only nourishment it gets are from things that have no lasting value.

At the end of your life, knowing that you have lived authentically and honestly is going to mean a great deal more to you than how many pairs of shoes you have in the closet or how many trips to Europe or exotic locales you have taken. And unless you are living authentically at the time that you enter into a relationship or marriage, you will not find happiness in that partnership, either. For no matter how much love, admiration, and acceptance you get, if it isn’t the authentic you who is being accepted or loved or admired, how can it make you happy?  

An actor I once knew told me that he believed that nearly all people are wearing masks and that only when we get to the point in our lives where we are willing to take off our masks will we be at peace with ourselves. It is somewhat uncomfortable to accept this concept. For, if we do, we have to wonder how much of the behavior we are witnessing on the part of those around us is sincere.  But when we understand the reason why we wear masks, we can embrace the idea without it making us feel overwhelmed, confused, or uneasy.

Usually, we put on these masks at a very young age. Why? Because when we are children, we start being told what behavior is “acceptable” and what behavior is “unacceptable”. Our hands are slapped when we touch the hot stove, and we get a spanking when we decide to stick our finger in an electrical outlet. We hear so many “thou shalt nots” that, merely for the sake of ease, we repress our needs and desires and modify our words and actions in order to please those around us.

The problem is that we carry this repressed behavior into our adult life, and, instead of the masks getting more transparent, they oftentimes get more opaque. Eventually, separating our real faces from the masks that have been covering them for so long becomes almost impossible. For one thing, the masks have become our security blankets. As long as we are wearing them, we are able to face the world without having to constantly worry about being rejected. Even though we may get rejected when we wear our masks, the real persons being rejected are the persons we’re pretending to be.

In a way, wearing a mask not only protects us from being hurt but it also means that many of the negative judgements that are made about us can be disregarded. We can tell ourselves, “Well, that person didn’t really know me. If  he had, he wouldn’t have rejected me.” Yes, this  may be the case, but is it not better to be rejected for ourselves than to be accepted for someone we’re not? 

If we do not give other people the chance to see and get to know the true individuals that we are, we are inadvertently forcing them into the role of unwitting conspirators in our  elaborate attempts to weave a life built upon half-truths and lies. So, we are both failing to connect with our own authenticity and encouraging others to be inauthentic as well.

As I learn more and more about human behavior and examine with growing clarity the role that our mental conditioning and our learned patterns of behavior play in our success and happiness, I realize that as much as an artist works to perfect his paintings or a pianist works to polish his or her technique, we must work at mastering the art of living.  Once again, I turn to Epictetus, who said, “For as carpenter’s material is wood, and that of the statuary is copper, so the matter of the art of living is each man’s life.”  In the end, each of our lives if what we have made of it, and we can either choose to master the art of living or we can always be stuck in a never-ending cycle of lies, destructive patterns, deception, emotional pain, and learned behaviors. Which choice will you make?

Until soon,

Alexis, the 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

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