Getting outside of the box

day1Earlier today, a friend of mine asked me why, if I am a success diva, I am worried about what others think of my decisions or actions.  She told me that it “troubles” her that I would be bothered by other peoples’ opinions of me. Well, since I have committed myself to being completely honest with all of you, I have a confession to make. I have always been a person who has battled a plethora of insecurities. At one time or another, I have considered myself to not be pretty enough, accomplished enough, successful enough, or popular enough to achieve anything important in life, and I have consistently found myself blaming that which I have achieved on mere “luck”.  If you think for a moment that I have always been someone who has possessed a tremendous amount of self-assurance, you are quite mistaken. What I have discovered, however, at this point in my life, is that I must accept myself for who I am, in spite of all my perceived flaws. To do otherwise will prevent me from ever making any of my dreams a reality. Does this mean that I feel confident about all the choices I make?? No, far from it. In fact, I have to work each day to convince myself that I am doing the best I can at the point I’m at in my life. It sometimes seems like a bit of an uphill struggle, yet I persist. In reply to my friend and anyone else who thinks that being a success diva means that I am immune to the criticism I receive from others, I can only say that the opposite is true. If anything, I am more sensitive to criticism than ever, for I am more committed than ever to being the kind of person that others look up to and are inspired by. So, when someone comes along and sends a dart in my direction—whether that is their intention or not—it penetrates far below the surface. I have said in past times that I am a “deeply flawed diva”. Well, I think what I was really feeling when I made this remark is that I am an entirely human diva, which means that, like each one of you, I, too, want to be approved of and appreciated. The difficulty with this sort of mind-set is that you will always be frustrated because no matter what you do or how much you strive to make all the right decisions, there will always be someone that you end up disappointing.

So, how do you manage to hold on to your feelings of self-worth, knowing that there are others who are going to find fault with  you? First of all, you have to free yourself from what I would call in-the-box thinking. What is in-the-box thinking? It’s the kind of thinking that many of us have lived our whole lives with. It is rooted in fear and tends to encourage us to dwell on all of our past mistakes rather than focus on the things that we have done well. Although most people don’t realize it, fear is something that will hold you with an iron grip that is so tight that it often feels as if you’re in a prison. Author Dorothy Parker once wrote of how she felt an enormous amount of apprehension when it came to writing. She even implied that trying to express herself was sheer torture, even though she knew that she must do so in order to be fulfilled creatively. Another example of someone who ended up imprisoned in a cage of fear is writer Ernest Hemingway. Who would think that a man who seemed to live so fully and enjoy life so thoroughly would end up being paralyzed by fear? And yet, Hemingway was so incapable of conquering his fear that he ultimately ended up taking his own life. His suicide was blamed on manic depression and memory loss, but it’s also likely that his inability to unleash his creativity and continue to express himself through writing contributed to his tragic end. It’s very simple, really—when you are destined to be a writer, you need to be able to write in order to be content. This could be why I have experienced such a lack of satisfaction for most of my life. Although I have pursued writing as a hobby, I have been swept into other avenues when it has come to a career, and now, when those other avenues ended up all being dead ends, I am forced to finally come face to face with that which I was supposed to do in the first place.  “So,” you may ask, “how do you know when you have truly found that which you are meant to do?” Well, I remember how actress and ballerina Moira Shearer responded in the classic film, “The Red Shoes,” when the conductor who ended up being her mentor asked her why she wanted to dance. “Why do you want to breathe?” she asked him. When he couldn’t answer her, she added, “You don’t know, do you? You just do it.” This is how I think it seems when we find that which are destined to do. We may not be able to put into words precisely why we must do it—we only know that when we aren’t doing it, nothing else in our lives seems to be quite right. For me, there was always a nagging sense that I wasn’t fulfilling some part of myself that needed to be nourished. I knew that no matter how many plays I acted in or how many paintings I finished, I would still be left with a feeling of discontentment. Yet, when I express myself through words. . .when I truly put that which I am feeling into sentences, phrases, and paragraphs, it’s as if I have been given a pair of wings with which to fly. It really is the most liberating sensation in the world.

And this brings me back to what I said about in-the-box thinking. As you might have guessed, there is also what you might call in-the-box living. This is the sort of living that consists in going through the motions of life. A good way to be certain that you are experiencing in-the-box living is when you wake up with the sense that you’ll be doing well simply to make it through the day. People who live in the box are frequently making comments about not being able to wait until the weekend is here. . .or about how they are constantly busy and feel stressed and overwhelmed.  I happen to find myself guilty of in-the-box living much too frequently. However, the fact that I’m aware of it means that I am on the way to freeing myself from it. And freedom is a large part of living outside the box. When we are shackled to the past, concentrating on the pain that others have caused us or on the mistakes we have made, we are automatically preventing ourselves from being free. It is a fallacy to imagine that just because we have come from a dysfunctional background and/or have had certain mistaken ideas passed down to us from our parents, teachers, and other people who have crossed our path, that we have to remain in bondage to these mistaken notions and repressed mind-sets. We do not have to repeat the patterns of the past, no matter how impossible it may initially seem to us to break free from them. This diva was told, beginning at a very young age, that she was without any value or worth, simply on the basis of her being female. Unfortunately, for many years, I was unable to erase the messages that had been repeated to me so often that they had inadvertently become part of my own mental programming. Try as I might, I constantly found myself lapsing into the thought patterns that I had grown up subscribing to. Indeed, I allowed the way that someone else—namely, my father—had perceived me to shape the image I had of myself. And only when I fully understood that his perception of me was not based in any sort of conceivable reality was I able to spread my wings and fly. Even now, there are days when I lapse into in-the-box thinking. Overall, in-the-box thoughts are as toxic as noxious fumes. Yet, just like a perfume that is overpowering but somehow strangely bewitching, in-the-box thinking will draw you to it with all the tenacity of a magnet. It can sometimes seem like a herculean effort to break free from the box, and you may even find yourself resisting the idea, simply because it seems beyond your capabilities. But you and I both know that nothing miraculous has ever been achieved without a large amount of courage and persistence. Although we usually think of other people being the ones to thwart us in the pursuit of our dreams, the truth is, we are the ones who prevent ourselves from accomplishing our goals a hundred times more often than anyone else does. This bare and fundamental fact is why it is crucial that we accept responsibility for our lives and the choices we make. It has been pointed out recently in the  media, that, of the young women in Hollywood who have been known as “party girls”, the only one who has chosen to transform herself into a lady whom others can really respect is the actress and singer, Nicole Richie. Rather than continuing to live a careless and promiscuous lifestyle, Richie has devoted herself to her new role as a fiancee and mother. What does this prove?? Why has Richie chosen a different path than her fellow party girls, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan? Well, I think Richie obviously chose to stop and analyze her life with an unmitigated amount of clarity and concluded that she was not achieving the results she wanted from the choices she was making. In other words, she made the decision to take charge of her life, even if it meant losing the friendship of those whom she had been spending time with previously.  When you start to make things happen in your life, you may notice that some of your old friends won’t be happy for you. For one thing, they’re going to feel threatened by your new powerful attitude. You may also remind them of all the things that they could be doing but aren’t choosing to do because they would rather complain about the misfortunes they’ve experienced or the way that others are treating them. As hard as it may be to comprehend, there are people who prefer to hold onto ill feelings and destructive emotions, rather than moving forward and fully pursuing their goals and dreams. Whether fear is what’s keeping them from taking any action or it’s their own inability to work through issues that they need to resolve is something that only they know for sure. I tend to think that fear is the most common factor that prevents people from taking responsibility for their lives. I am reminded of a story that my mentor and friend, Denis Waitley, shares in his phenomenal book, The Psychology of Winning. Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier almost had a nervous breakdown early on in his career. Why?? Well, he became terrified of performing. He was convinced that he would embarrass himself by having a memory lapse or making some other unforgivable mistake. However, he was wise enough to seek the advice of a doctor, who worked with Maurice until he came to the point where he understood that he would have to perform in spite of  his fear. You see, many of us wait for our fear to disappear before we take action, and then we wonder why we can’t seem to ever really go after the things we want. The reason why is because we wait for our fear to disappear, when what we must do is to act in spite of the fear. Life is about new experiences, and there is no way that you will ever create an existence that even approaches the life you dream of if you are waiting for the moment when everything feels safe and secure. Ultimately,  you have to make a choice: would you rather be “safe” and banish your dreams or would you rather take risks and make your dreams come true??  The famous boxer and activist, Muhammad Ali once said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Well. . .the choice is yours. Do you want to continue living and thinking inside the box or would you like to step out of that box and start designing your life the way you want it to be?? You can’t have it both ways. Living or thinking inside that box will never give you anything but a life lived in shades of black and white. And is that what you really want??

Until soon. . .make every moment matter!

Your Success Diva

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

when you reach a turning point. . .

turningpoint1There are moments in life when something happens that is so unexpected that we really don’t know how to cope with it. Whether it’s finding out that our boyfriend or girlfriend is seeing someone else or whether we just lost our pet dog or cat in a freak accident, there are those times when it’s as if something in our world has gone so wrong that everything else seems to be out of focus. I remember reading about how the actress, Jane Seymour, suffered an injury when she was pursuing a career as a ballerina, and all I could think was how catastrophic this event must have been for her. Of course, watching her in such films as “Somewhere in Time” and “Lassiter”, it’s difficult to imagine her as anything other than an actress. But that’s because she took an incident that could have brought an end to all her ambitions and turned it into something profitable. It reminds me of a passage I came across today from a poem called “Don’t Quit” by an unknown author. The passage was “Success is failure turned inside out.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought of success in those terms. I understand that failure and success are directly connected, and that you cannot have one without the other because rarely do we succeed at anything on the very first effort. But what I don’t think I’ve fully comprehended is what a turning point failure can be for us. One of my favorite actresses, Mary Pickford, once said, “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you.  You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing called ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”  But how often do we really look at our failures in that light? How often do we acknowledge ourselves for picking ourselves back up after we fail?? Don’t we have a  habit of concentrating more on that which we fail at than on that which we succeed at? I know I do. If a relationship or a career doesn’t work out, it can diminish your sense of self-worth to such an extent, that there are moments when you actually feel a sense of overpowering hopelessness.

When I think of someone who has continued to strive in spite of not accomplishing her ultimate objective, the brilliant American figure skater, Michelle Kwan, immediately comes to mind. If you saw Michelle skate at the 1998 Olympic games, you probably remember the look of subtle disappointment on her face when she lost the gold medal to her American rival, Tara Lipinski.  Although a silver medal at the Olympics is scarcely something to feel ashamed of, an athlete with Kwan’s capabilities and work ethic is always somewhat chagrined when he/she doesn’t come in first. However, Michelle handled the situation like a pro. In fact, rather than allowing herself to get discouraged, she decided to bounce back.  At the 2002 Olympic games, she once again tried for that gold model, but again, it eluded her. This time, though, she ended up with the bronze model instead of the silver. The young American skater, Sarah Hughes, took the top prize. Do, did Kwan give up?? No. She made plans to try her luck yet a third time in the 2006 Olympic Games. It wasn’t until Kwan suffered a groin injury in her first practice session in Turin, Italy, that she withdrew from the competition. And Kwan is still talking about the possibility of competing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now that’s the kind of attitude all of us should work towards!  “But Michelle Kwan’s persistence hasn’t really paid off,” you may be thinking. “I mean, she never did get that gold medal she wanted so badly.” No, Kwan didn’t get the gold medal. But I think she got something even more important. She got the kind of respect and deep admiration that only those who persist in the quest for their ultimate goal both deserve and receive. Indeed, Michelle Kwan remains a more reliable role model than either Tara Lipinski or Sarah Hughes, the two skaters who won gold medals at the Olympics she competed in. Perhaps, whether or not we win first prize isn’t as important as the attitude we demonstrate during the competition itself. And life is a bit like a competition, isn’t it?

As a diva of success, I would love to tell you that every one of your dreams will definitely come true. However, since I promised I would always be honest with you, I have to remind you that life gives us no guarantees. What it does give us is lessons, learning experiences, and role models. Those of you who know this diva over at Facebook have probably noticed that I’ve begun a photo album dedicated to women whom I consider to be “Icons of Inspiration.” Well, the group of inspirational women is so diverse that there aren’t that many things that many of the women have in common with each other. But there are a few fundamental character traits that they do all share. What are these traits? Well, all of them have or had an invincible belief in themselves and what they could accomplish. Even when they felt their faith in their talents and abilities was slipping, they managed to pull themselves together and move forward. Your success diva will be the first to tell you that sometimes you have to pretend to have more confidence in yourself than you actually feel. In other words, you have to adopt what I call an “as if” mentality. You act as if  you can accomplish that which you dream of achieving. You act as if  you have an optimisic outlook on life, even when you’re actually feeling despondent. You act as if  the man or woman of your dreams is right around the corner, even though a part of you believes that your soul mate must have gotten lost in another dimension. Do you see the point I’m making? To expect yourself to always be on top of the world simply isn’t realistic. There will be times when you feel like you’ve accomplished very few things in life that are of true significance, and you could feel this way even if you were an Oscar-winning actor/actress or a Nobel prize-winning author. Why? Well, it’s simply part of being human. The world we live in is chaotic and full of all sorts of of negative and cruel people, and circumstances are rarely going to be completely ideal. So, since we are human, we naturally react to the obstacles and crises that come into our lives in a way that isn’t always positive. Should we blame ourselves for this? To be honest, I think that doing so only makes things worse. It would be like blaming yourself for depression, when those of us who are well-informed know that there are many instances of depression in which psychiatric therapy and medication are essential. What you must do, though, is understand that the way in which you react to something can actually turn out to have as significant an impact on you as the event itself. “Wait,” you interject, “are you telling me that if a man/woman is raped, his/her reaction to that rape could have as momentous an affect on him/her as the rape itself?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. . .and, no, I haven’t suddenly lost all my reasoning abilities. Look, I know of women who have allowed an incident of rape to destroy the rest of their lives. There are also many women who have committed suicide after being raped. Does this mean I cannot comprehend their actions? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, I fully understand how a woman or woman who has been raped might feel like taking his or her own life. At the same time, for a victim of rape to take his or her own life means that the person who victimized him/her ultimately has the last word. On the other hand, for a someone who has survived rape to take that terrible catastrophe and turn it into something that benefits both himself/herself and others by doing volunteer work for groups that help counsel rape victims, for example, would mean that an event that could have been devastating would actually end up having a positive result.

I remember when I first heard the motivational speaker and author, Tony Robbins, talking about how our response to something can be as important as the event. I must admit,  I thought he was being utterly illogical at the time.  “Well, you can tell that nothing that bad has ever happened to Tony,” I found myself muttering. Yet as life has gone on, I have come to see Tony’s point. We truly can make a traumatic event a hundred times worse depending on how we react to it. An experience such as rape will always be horrendous no matter how someone responds to it. However, what should always be remembered is that no matter what someone else does to us it does not in any way diminish our self-worth. We may feel that something that someone tells us or does to us makes us less valuable as a person, but this is just a trick our mind is playing on us. It’s also something that the person who mistreats, abuses, or violates us wants us to feel. Why?? Well, that’s one of those questions that I’m reluctant to answer. I always think that those who hurt us, whether it be through their words or their actions, are hurting within themselves. But I don’t think that explanation justifies anything, which means it is scarcely satisfactory, even though there are times at which it can be a source of comfort. The truth is, we will probably never begin to understand why certain people do certain things. As one of my friends reminded me a couple of hours ago, this is an unjust world we live in. So, all that each of us can do is try to treat others with kindness and fairness, whether they treat us the same way or not.

One reason that I can speak with authority on the subject of turning what seems like a failure into a success is because I’ve had to continue to do this throughout my life. I trained for a concert career on the violin beginning at age three, only to be told at age 17 that such a career was impossible because I had a chronic illness called lupus. Did I have a nervous breakdown? Well, no, but I came pretty close to having one. For a couple of years after I had to give up playing the violin, I couldn’t even listen to any of the recordings I owned of violin music. Unfortunately, my sense of self-worth was entirely connected with the violin, and without it, I felt as if I had no real value as a person. It has only been through my accomplishments in other avenues that I have re-established my self-confidence. Although I am blessed to have a mother who has taught me to believe that who I am as a person is far more important than what I do, it has always been difficult for me to separate my personal value from my achievements. I don’t think the materialistic, career-driven world we live in tends to instill in people the sense that such traits as integrity, honesty, and compassion are far more important than how much money you make each year or what kind of car you drive. And yet, unless we start to understand this ourselves, how will we ever teach those who look up to us—-such as our children, if we have them—-what’s really important in life?? When I mentioned Michelle Kwan earlier, another thing I intended to say about her is that she has never compromised who she is simply to get ahead. Yes, she has won two Olympic medals, but I have always had the sense that she would rather be seen as an icon of grace and elegance of spirit than as merely another Olympic medalist. Audrey Hepburn is another lady who had her priorities in order. In spite of the fact that she could easily have acted in dozens of films throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she chose to devote herself to being the best mother that she could. I guess we don’t have to wonder why her son, Sean Ferrer, speaks with such lavish praise about his mother! And this is why it’s so crucial that we stand back and view our lives from a long-term perspective, rather than being sidetracked and discouraged by the setbacks of the moment. Only those who fail to strengthen their inner spirit allow themselves to see any failure as being permanent. Those who understand that life is a like a corridor, in which some doors open while others close, know that resilience is an integral part of success. I think actress Brooke Shields summed up the philosophy that all of us should adopt when she said, “If one window closes, run to the next window—-or break down a door.” Well, this is what your Success Diva advises you to do, too. The only way that a failure can have any lasting impact on your life is if you let it become permanent. So, no matter what happens, don’t let yourself be defeated. Begin to see each failure as a turning point in your life.  .  .as a mere curve in the road that will eventually lead you to the life of your dreams.

If you haven’t yet joined my mailing list, you can subscribe at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/successdiva  This is an announcement list, which means no participation is necessary. Also, I am always available and eager to help anyone with a specific situation they want my input on. Write me at successdiva7@yahoo.com, and I will respond at my earliest convenience.

Live with passion and enthusiasm. . .and remember, it’s only too late to create the life of your dreams if you believe it is!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

Nick Drake: Brilliance, Lost Too Soon

The Success Diva is feeling impetuous today, and this means she’s capable of nearly anything! I’ve featured two very ‘traditional’ creative geniuses thus far in my Inspirational People category. So, it’s time to shake things up a bit. . .and I promise you, you’re going to love the fact that I’m feeling completely and utterly unpredictable.  In general, I am a diva who leans heavily towards classical music, in terms of the music I like to listen to most. I begin every day with Mozart, and I find myself listening to Bach, Chopin, and other similar composers while I’m writing and editing my blog updates, dashing missives off to friends, and networking. I do opt for John Lennon and/or “The Beatles” at times, and there are other specific non-classical singers/groups that are favorites of  mine. 

nickdrake2

But this was one man I didn’t know about until one of my closest friends shared his music with me. His name is Nick Drake, and, if you haven’t ever heard his  music before, I almost envy you. To hear Nick sing and play for the first time is to experience something magical, haunting, and extraordinary. Nick Drake was  born in England on June 19, 1948. He was highly skilled at playing the guitar, in addition to the clarinet, piano, and saxophone. When he was 20-years-old, Nick released his first album, Five Leaves Left with Island Records. He was ambivalent about performing before live audiences, and none of his albums, including Pink Moon and Bryter Layter sold more than 5,000 copies when they were initially released.

Those who knew Drake describe a man who seems to have been enigmatic and complicated. Robert Kirby, a Cambridge friend of Drake’s who orchestrated his first two albums said, “Nick was in a strange way out of time. When you were with him, you always had the sad feeling of him having been born in the wrong century. If he would have lived in the 17th Century Elizabethan Court, together with composers like Dowland and William Byrd, he would have been alright. Nick was elegant, honest, a lost romantic—and at the same time so cool. In brief: the perfect Elizabethan.”

Regrettably, like so many of those who are creatively gifted, Nick suffered from deep depression. Indeed, he had manic-depressive disorder (now also called bi-polar disorder) and also battled insomnia. He completed his third album, the unforgettable Pink Moon in 1972, and, after that he ceased performing and recording. He moved back into his parents’ home in Warwickshire, and, on November 25, 1974, he was found dead from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed anti-depressant. Nick Drake was just 26-years old.

Nick Drake has not been forgotten, though I’ve been unable to find very many sites paying tribute to him on the web. You can find out a little more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Drake

However, I think that you might be even more enlightened in regard to Nick, his life, and his music from watching a clip from a documentary that was made about him, “A Skin Too Few”  It is an amazing documentary, in four parts, featuring rare interviews with those who knew Drake (including his sister), in addition to clips from some of his most memorable songs. This is a link to Part One:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R7vzeEVoV0

 

nickdrake-pinkmoon

 

Nick Drake’s song, “Pink Moon,” has been a favorite of mine ever since I first heard it. Don’t miss hearing it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE0ODrmaiFE

 

 

 

 

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