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.

Steer Your Ship!

boat1I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three ways to live: you can live without any dreams, you can be a dreamer, or you can have dreams and dance those dreams into reality. You can either take the initiative to design your own life, or you can let circumstances and other people mold your life for you. What you’ll end up with is something akin to a manufactured product, rather than something definitive and organic—but, hey, you’ll have made the choice. Right?

It’s easy to shrug off things like positive thinking if we’ve been living with our negative thought patterns for a long time. They’ve almost become a source of comfort to us—something that we rely upon, and maybe even use as an excuse for the times when we do not measure up to the expectations that other people have of us. Perhaps it’s easier to say, “Well, what did  you expect of me? I’m just a born loser anyway!” when we disappoint a parent, friend, or partner.

The problem is, although at first our subconscious rejects these thoughts, after awhile, we begin to accept them as a reality. If we tell ourselves that we’re overweight or unattractive for a long enough period of time, even if we’re slim, fit, and extremely good-looking, we will begin to  develop a very poor self-image. I read about a situation in which a woman went to a plastic surgeon to have her nose fixed. She had always felt that she was tremendously unattractive because of what she perceived to be an ugly nose. Well, even though the surgeon gave her the nose that she had always dreamed of having, she was unable to see herself as being pretty because she was still holding onto the image of herself as an unattractive person.  

The truth is, no matter how much time or money you spend on your appearance to try to make yourself beautiful or attractive, unless you alter your perception of yourself, you will continue to see the same person you’ve always seen when you look into the mirror. Similarly, even if you have several degrees and academic accolades, if you persist in imagining yourself to be stupid, you will continue to see yourself as stupid, in spite of your level of education and/or academic excellence. And how you see yourself directly determines how you will behave. If you think you are not deserving of an opportunity that comes your way, you will manage to reject it, whether you intend to or not. For example, if  you are an actress and you have a chance to audition for an important part in a top-notch play, how you succeed at that audition will probably be determined by how worthy you think you are of getting the part. If you walk into the audition slumping, holding your head down, walking timidly or if your voice is soft and weak, the message you’ll be sending to everyone is: “I know I don’t really deserve to be here, but I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Remember how Barbra Streisand auditioned for “I Can Get it For You Wholesale”?  She went into that theater like she already owned the place.  No one had to wonder whether or not Barbra had confidence—it was evident how much self-assurance she had by how she moved, how she talked, and how she walked. She exuded self-confidence. And I have the feeling that even if Barbra hadn’t felt as confident as she acted like she was, she would have behaved exactly the same way. Why? Well, like all of those who are at the top of their field, Barbra understands that those around her are going to value her at the same level at which she values herself.

You really cannot expect other people to give you respect and to admire you if you don’t respect and admire yourself. If you question all your choices and berate yourself for every mistake you make, what message are you sending out to other people? Do you realize that you’re automatically causing them to make judgments about you? When you put limits on yourself and decide what you are or are not capable of, you will soon find that those around you start to agree with you. Instead of saying to you, “You can do it”, they’ll start to doubt that you actually can do what you say you want to do. They’ll begin to suspect that you know yourself better than they do. . .and that you are right in thinking that you have limited capabilities.

If you have demonstrated a pattern of failing or of not living up to other peoples’ expectations of you, you have an added challenge to contend with. It’s sometimes difficult enough to get people to believe in you and your endeavors when you’ve had a great deal of success in the past. But, when you’ve been someone who has consistently disappointed those who wanted to have faith in you, you’ll probably discover that getting to the point where people have confidence in you will take both time and patience.

One of the books that meant a lot to me when I was growing up was by a violinist named Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. It was called On My Way. Nadja is a fiercely tenacious woman with a strong will and an indomitable spirit. When you hear her play in person, you sense that you are in the presence of an amazing musician. Her playing is electric. She is passionate about music, and her love for the violin shines through every note she plays. But there was a time when Nadja’s vibrant spirit and tenacity were not enough. Although she had the talent to accomplish remarkable things, she lacked the essential level of commitment. She was too busy focusing on the aspects of her life that were inessential. . .the distractions. . .the things that brought her short-term gratification. And, she had to pay the consequences of this behavior. Her teacher at the Juilliard School, the world-renowned Dorothy DeLay, informed Nadja that she need not come back for another lesson until she decided whether or not she really wanted to be a concert violinist. At the time, Nadja had been planning to enter The 1981 Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition. However, DeLay scoffed at the idea, telling her that she was certain she wouldn’t even be accepted to enter the competition.

Essentially, Nadja had two choices. She could either let her teacher’s words become a reality for her, or she could turn things around and go after what she wanted, no matter who told her it was impossible. Nadja chose to ignore her teacher. She abandoned the undisciplined habits she had been adopting and completely transformed her life. For a few months, she locked herself in a room and practiced for hours, only leaving to go to the kitchen for the two meals she let herself have each day. To simplify things, she chose to eat nothing but canned sausages and ice cream. By the time the date of the competition arrived, Nadja had brought her playing to a level of excellence that was truly phenomenal. She had also lost fifteen pounds. And, rather than simply being someone who participated in the Naumburg Competition, Nadja ended up winning the top prize! The impact this event had on her career was tremendous. It’s doubtful that the opportunities that have enabled her to become one of the world’s most renowned performers and recording artists today would have come her way had Nadja not won the prestigious competition.

But what if she had let Dorothy DeLay’s expectations of her became her own self-fulfilling prophecy? How would it have changed her life? Where would she be today? Would any of us even know who Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is? We can’t answer any of these questions with certainty, but one thing I do know for certain is that Nadja’s story presents a marvelous example of a woman who took charge of her own life. She wasn’t about to let someone steer her ship for her. She grabbed hold of the helm and took on the role of captain of  her ship.

What I want to know is. . .is there any reason that you shouldn’t do the same thing? The universe is like a fathomless, rough, beautiful, yet turbulent, ocean.  And your life is a ship on this ocean. The question is this: are you going to steer your ship, or are you going to let someone else steer it for you? Don’t imagine for a moment that your ship will steer itself. If you refuse to take on the role of captain, another person will take on that part for you—or a group of people will. Perhaps, a succession of people will steer your ship—friends, relatives, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends—those who pass through your life for various lengths of time. Some of these people will probably support your dreams and goals, and others will make you feel like you’re incapable of doing much of anything. Even if you don’t let toxic individuals stay in your life for very long, if you aren’t at the helm of your ship, you’ll still be letting anyone and everyone who comes into your life have some influence on it, whether it’s a lasting impact or not.

When I was growing up, my father frequently made comments to me about my being worthless, unattractive, and inadequate. Although part of me knew that there were things about me that must make me valuable, I wasn’t steering my own ship. Rather, my father was at the helm. And, even after my parents separated and later divorced, I let other people take over my ship rather than grabbing hold of it myself. I chose not to take on the role of the captain—I chose to turn over the power that was rightfully mine to other people. I could tell you that I simply didn’t know I was supposed to do anything else, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Although I was conditioned to believe that I had a multitude of inadequacies, I think I let myself subscribe to toxic thought patterns even when I knew they were wrong. And in letting myself be nourished on toxic thoughts, I was automatically depriving myself of having control over my life. A person who thinks his/her capabilities are limited or that he/she is essentially without value will never imagine that he/she will be able to steer his/her own ship. If they don’t rely on other people to steer it, then they’ll turn to things such as alcohol, drugs, or food to help them cope with what they perceive to be an overwhelming responsibility. On a short-term basis, these vices can numb us. They can distract us and/or make us forget that we have problems in our lives that we need to deal with. But, what happens when we stop drinking or when the drugs wear off? What do things look like when we’ve just finished the latest eating binge? Did that gallon of butter pecan ice cream you polished off make you feel any stronger? Do you feel better physically? Are you happier?  Or, do you feel that once again you’ve tried to find a way to escape from the reality of you life? If so, is that truly the way you want to live?

There have been plenty of alcoholics who had big dreams, and there have been drug addicts who have died of overdoses with most of their potential still inside them. Even though we may never know what lifetime goals people such as musician Kurt Cobain and actors Heath Ledger and River Phoenix had, it’s important that we understand that an early death or a life of destitution and poor health is something that can happen to anyone depending on the choices that he or she makes on a daily basis. Jim Belushi didn’t die because of the choices that other people made for him. His death was caused by an overdose of drugs that he made the choices to take. Sure, other people were probably at the helm of Belushi’s ship at one time or another, but whether he was captain of his ship or not, he ended up being a victim of his own unwise decisions.

The difference between those who end up living unfufilled lives or who succeed in being just another statistic and those who experience incredible succeess has much less to do with talent, education, experience, or ability than you might think. Yes, these things can help. However, what’s more important than anything else is the thoughts that you hold in your mind on a daily basis. It’s the image you have of yourself that will determine how you live your life. The classic film actor, Cary Grant, was once asked how he managed to retain his slim and sophisticated figure. He replied that he had always envisioned himself as slender. He once said: “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until I finally became that person. Or he became me.”

Even if you don’t feel you have the power to steer your own ship, take on the role of captain starting today. See yourself as having the ability to move your ship in the right direction, even if those around you tell you you can’t do it. After all, it’s not important what others think of you and your capabilities—what ultimately determines whether or not you will succeed is the image you hold in your own mind of yourself.

So, toss your negative thoughts into the ocean, and start steering your ship towards your dreams, rather than away from them.

Live with passion, courage, and enthusiasm. . .and make each moment matter!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

Born to be you!

believe52 (star-born to be you)Close your eyes for a moment. If you can’t do this now, do it as soon as you possibly can. I want you to envision yourself at a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible. If you’re anything like me, this may have been so far back that you can barely remember it. But, if you can, even if you were four or five years of age, I want you to return to that time. Really soak in that sensation you had that you were invincible, and that the only thing that could keep you from achieving something was if you made a choice not to pursue it. How does returning to that moment in time when you felt the world was at your feet make you feel?? Are you experiencing any feelings of sadness because you weren’t able to hold on to that unconquerable belief in yourself for a longer period of time?? Well, let go of any disappointment, discouragement, and/or unhappiness and listen to your diva when she tells you that you can recapture that faith in yourself that you once had. You were born to fulfill a certain role. . .to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. And just as this was the case when you were five or ten years old, so it is also the case at this point in your life. No matter how many curves you have had to evade or how many setbacks have come your way, the only thing that can actually prevent you from making your dreams come true is you. “What?” you interject. “But you don’t understand, Success Diva. I have all these bills piling up, and I’ve been out of work for six months, and my husband left me two years ago with three kids to support. I’m not the one who is keeping me from living the life of my dreams.” You aren’t?? Then who, if I may ask, is preventing you from it?? If you try to blame circumstances or someone else for the fact that life isn’t giving you what you feel you deserve, then aren’t you giving away your own personal power?? I remember when I first listened to the CD program, Personal Power, by the motivational speaker and author, Anthony Robbins. It was a mind-blowing experience for me! In fact, I wasn’t really ready for it when I first heard it. Some of Tony’s concepts seemed to take me so far out of what I perceived to be my personal “comfort zone” that I began to be reluctant to listen to his advice. I didn’t think that I had it in me to become all that Tony told me I could become, and hearing him speak of all this untapped potential inside of me was. . .well. . .just a little bit intimidating. In other words, I was allowing myself to fall into what I would call the Fear Trap. I was so afraid that I might not be able to succeed the way that Tony was trying to persuade me into believing I could that it was easier to put the CDs back on the shelf. And that happens to be exactly what I did!

Do I regret my choice?? Well, yes. . .and no. I think that there’s a right and a wrong time for everything. We aren’t all at the same place in our lives, and it’s even possible that some of you reading this blog aren’t yet ready to step forward and really start making things happen in your life. That’s okay. Although I love my friend and foremost inspiration Denis Waitley’s quote about there being plenty of time to win but no time to lose, I also understand that not everybody is ready to take on the role of a winner. However, if you’re one of Success Diva’s supporters, there’s a good chance that you’re at least halfheartedly committed to making your dreams a reality. There’s even a possibility that all you need is a little extra encouragement to get you running down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City I’ve spoken of before. You know, when you think about all the people who have had to overcome obstacles that you and I can only vaguely imagine to accomplish magnificent things, you have to admit that you don’t have much of an excuse to be what you might call a bystander in life’s game. One thing that  helps me is focusing on people who inspire me. This is one reason I’ve created two Icons of Inspiration Photo Albums over at Facebook. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Angelina Jolie are ladies whom I will always look up to, and those who have inspired millions of people through their generosity of spirit and compassionate deeds, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana, cannot help but make me feel more determined than ever to continue to pursue my goals with passion, persistence, perseverance, and a definitive sense of purpose. At the same time, I always remember that I am uniquely me. That is, I wasn’t born to be anyone else nor do I compare myself to any other person.

When I think about someone who has always genuinely embraced his individuality, I would have to mention the actor, Sylvester Stallone. He has often made comments that indicated he didn’t feel that he was blessed with a first-class intellect, and he’s also been largely criticized for his acting capabilities. But, you know what? Sylvester Stallone should be a role model for a person who has dreams that seem beyond his or her grasp. During the 1970s, when Sylvester Stallone barely had enough money to eat, he decided to start writing. On most days, he stayed up until dawn writing. Even though most people would have regarded his efforts as merely the result of wishful thinking, Stallone believed in himself enough to press on until he had completed the screenplay that would eventually be the basis for the film, “Rocky”. And when he was offered $300,000 to sell the rights to his screenplay to a filmmaker, on the condition that he didn’t play the lead role, Stallone was committed enough to his dream of playing the lead to refuse the offer. Now, in some situations, not being willing to compromise could easily mean that a person loses what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, when you have a dream in your heart and you commit every fibre of your being to that dream, you can’t let anyone steal it from you, even if holding on to it seems like an unwise decision. As you and I both know, Stallone made the right choice because he ended up having the chance to play the role of Rocky Balboa, and he was even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work. Although he was only paid minimum wage for his work in the film, Stallone admitted later that he would have played the part for free. That is how dedicated he was to making his dream come true.

So, how dedicated are you? Or have you determined what your ultimate dream is? Are you still searching for your purpose or do you have a definite aim? A lot of motivational experts encourage you to write what is called a “personal mission statement”, and I don’t think this is a bad idea. In fact, it can be very profitable because it forces you to really look at  your life from a distance. In other words, you are unable to let yourself get too caught up in the chaos of the moment. Rather, you are compelled to really review and ascertain what your permanent destination is.  When I use the term “permanent destination”, I am not speaking of death, which is indeed inevitable for all of us. What I’m talking about is your ultimate goal—the thing that you most want in your life, the accomplishment or series of accomplishments that would mean more to you than anything else. For someone who is in medical school, a mission statement would probably include a few key phrases about the kind of doctor they want to be. Rather than simply focusing on academic achievements, a mission statement should center around the contribution that a woman or man in medical school would like to make to medicine and to the lives of his/her patients in his or her career as a doctor. Am I making sense?? In other words, if you wanted to be a well-known actor or actress, simply saying “I want to be one of the most famous actors/actresses in the world” would not constitute a successful mission statement. Why? Well, those of us who understand what true success is all about realize that fame, fortune, and superificial acclaim will not ever fill that internal void within ourselves. And isn’t that really what striving towards the life of your dreams is all about?? Isn’t it about creating a life that gives you a sense of self-fulfillment on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis? I remembering hearing the actress, Angelina Jolie, in an interview awhile back, and being impressed with what she said about how her decision to adopt children from underprivileged countries and to visit and do the charitable work she has done has prevented her from continuing in what she called a “self-destructive lifestyle”. Instead of continuing on a downward spiral that would inevitably have landed her in what your Success Diva terms the “Pit of Despair”, Jolie turned her life around by changing the way she saw the world and by altering her own personal value system. When Jolie was in her 20s, her life was centered mostly around her own desires and concerns, but as she has entered her 30s, she has begun to reach out more and more to other people until, at this point, she is a true icon of inspiration. And this brings to mind something I was recently reading about what’s called the “Hierarchy of  Needs”,  according to psychologist Abraham Maslow. Our first set of needs are very basic and pertain to things that are essential to our health and lives, such as water, food, and oxygen. But by the time we reach our fourth set of needs, the focus shifts to such things as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. And by the time we get to our fifth set of needs, we enter into an entirely different aspect of ourselves because the focus is on what is called self-actualization. What is self-actualization? To sum it up at its most basic level, it is the sense that we are doing what we are most suited to—in other words, it is the pursuit of what we perceive to be our life’s purpose. If you don’t think that you have a purpose in life, you’re wrong. Without a purpose, you wouldn’t be here in the world. Each and every one of us has what is called a purpose, and, as I’ve stated before, it hasn’t anything to do with religion or a person’s spiritual beliefs. Even if you don’t think that you believe you have a purpose, in your heart you know you do. If you didn’t know that, you would have ended your life years ago because you wouldn’t have seen any reason for continuing to exist. No matter how hopeless you have felt at certain times, if you’re still alive, deep within you, whether you’re fully aware of it or not, you have a sense of purpose. And in order for you to ever realize or use your full potential, you must acknowledge and embrace that purpose. You will never be able to completely escape that which you were designed to do. I know this to be true because I have done my best to repress my own innate belief that I was destined to be a writer. Why? Well, like so many other people—including you, quite possibly—I allowed myself to be coerced into living in fear. My fear that I would not be able to achieve success in the field of writing unconsciously persuaded me into pursuing other careers.  I will never regret the time I spent acting and modeling, and I also learned a lot from my attempt to have a career as an artist. But, even though I fully enjoyed these endeavors, I always had a nagging sense within myself that what I was really supposed to be doing was not what I was spending my time and energy on. I used to come home from theater rehearsals with a deep sense of discontentment, and, when I finished a painting I was always left with a sense of emptiness, even if I was pleased with my work. I can’t help but think of the American author Carson McCullers who trained to be a concert pianist before she ever pursued a career as a writer. I’m sure that a part of her never felt entirely satisfied when she was practicing the piano, even though she undoubtedly loved music and believed that performing on concert stages around the world was what she was most suited to do. I think her pain at not having her musical career work out as she intended is beautifully conveyed in her short story, “Wunderkind”. However, just because McCullers experienced regret over the fact her musical dreams came to an end does not mean that she didn’t eventually realize that being a writer was really her personal destiny. It can take years for some of us to let go of the dreams that didn’t come true. Yet, until we are willing to do so, the dreams of the future will never be ours.  Each one of us has a map that is uniquely our own—a blueprint that is centered around that which we are destined to do. We are born to be ourselves. . .and born to contribute something exceptional to the world and to the lives of those around us. Whether what we end up contributing is something that brings us fame or recognition or not, it is something that will give us a sense of inner contentment and satisfaction. And if we let ourselves buy into the erroneous idea that we have to subscribe to the limited ideas that others try to pass on to us or hold onto the limiting beliefs that we have allowed ourselves to adopt, we will end up dying with all our potential still inside us. Which would you rather do?? Would you rather commit yourself to fully using all your talents and capabilities or would you rather watch while others who do choose to believe in themselves make their dreams come true? I can only inspire and encourage you—I’m a diva of success, not a miracle worker. So, even though I am willing to support you every step of the way, you have to be the one to make the magic happen in your life.  You can blame other people, complain about the injustice of the world, or find a dozen excuses for why you haven’t made full use of  your potential, or you can start making the choices today that will enable you to live a life of true significance. The choice is yours.  . .and only you can make it.

Live each moment of today with enthusiasm and passion, and don’t let anyone steal your dreams from you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

Capture your vision!

astronaut1It’s so easy to get caught up in the trap of day-to-day living, which essentially involves doing the things that are tasks, rather than pursuing our dreams. Is it not so? When you write down your daily to-do list  (or mentally think about it), don’t you notice that you’re focusing on a lot of activities that have little or no bearing on your ultimate desires? In other words, are you really working to create the life of your dreams every day? I know that I am guilty of letting myself get caught up in the struggle to do what has to be done in each 24-hour period. It’s frustrating but sometimes it seems inevitable. But, is it? Well, I think there’s no doubt about the fact that there are certain tasks that we must accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. However, when we focus on just those things at the exclusion of the activities that would get us closer to the life of our dreams, this is when we start to feel pessimistic. Do you remember my mentioning the film, “Groundhog Day”? Do you recall my talking about how it sometimes seems as if the same day is virtually repeating itself over and over again? You see, I have felt like that too often not to completely relate to the concept. There have even been certain periods of my life in which I dreaded getting up in the morning because I was certain that I would simply be repeating the day I had just lived through. “Okay,” you say, “I get the point. But what I don’t see is how I can prevent myself from feeling this way.” Well, the only way you can prevent yourself from feeling this way is if you choose to see life from a specific vantage point. You must replace those thoughts of hopelessness and frustration with faith in yourself. The only way you will ever accomplish anything is if you see it as being completely within the realm of possibility. In other words, you must capture your vision. . .and you must hold onto that vision, no matter what.

Let me ask you: do you think an astronaut goes into space without first envisioning the trip in his/her mind? I would say not. Indeed, my guess would be that before an astronaut ever enters his/her space shuttle, he/she has visualized the endeavor in intricate detail. I would also imagine that many surgeons use visualization before they ever enter the operating room. Believe it or not, the mind often cannot distinguish between the things we do and the things we imagine that we do. This is why it’s essential that you begin to incorporate visualization into your daily routine. It’s particularly effective if you tend to get nervous or anxious easily. To envision that you complete a task successfully prior to beginning it will automatically give you a sense of self-assurance. And this self-assurance will make it extremely likely that you’ll accomplish whatever it is you want or need to do. When I was a stage actress, I used to envision myself making a fabulous impression at an auditon before I ever arrived there. Did this mean I necessarily got the role I was auditioning for? Of course, it didn’t. But what it did do was prevent me from letting my confidence be eroded by stage fright or feelings that I wasn’t experienced and/or talented enough to be cast in the part I was up for. Sometimes, we have to coach ourselves, you know. If we wait around for someone else to tell us that we have what it takes to achieve success in our chosen career, we may find that a lot of opportunities come our way that we fail to seize. It was the legendary singer, Janis Joplin, who once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” And, you know what? To a certain extent, I think she’s right. Although I will always declare that I wouldn’t be half the diva I am without my fans and friends supporting me and offering me words of encouragement, I know that, if I stop believing in myself, no matter who else believes in me, it won’t matter much. Your psyche responds in a certain way to the image you hold in your mind of the person you are.  You cannot deceive yourself. If you are frequently allowing yourself to focus on thoughts of worthlessness and self-doubt, you aren’t going to ever be able to use most of your potential. I use the word “most” because there are very few of us who will ever use all of our potential. We are amazing, complex creatures, and it’s rare that any of us will ever understand all that we’re truly capable of accomplishing over the course of a lifetime.  We are actually consistently limiting ourselves. It isn’t that we lack the talent, intelligence or social skills to make great things happen in our lives. Rather, it’s that we’ve attached ourselves, body and soul, to a self-limiting belief system. Whether we are aware of it or not, we let ourselves absorb the negative energy that other people around us are nourishing themselves with. Rarely do we take the time to create a psychological barrier between ourselves and these self-destructive individuals, and because we fail to do this, we end up letting other peoples’ ways of thinking control the way we think. I know it may not be easy to accept this idea, but I assure you, it’s true. And, with years of being conditioned by the pessimistic thought patterns that are handed over to us and passed down to us by friends, family members, and acquaintances, we eventually get to the point where we feel like our chance of ultimate success is practically impossible. How can I speak with such authority on this subject? Well, I was raised with a father who believed that girls were intrinsically less valuable than boys, and, in spite of doing my best to eliminate this toxic viewpoint from my world, my father’s words and ideas seeped into my system and poisoned my blood. Yes, I still do have to convince myself that women are capable of accomplishing remarkable and incredible things. Although I am dedicated to not being controlled by the erroneous views that my father tried to impart to me, it is nevertheless a struggle to have an enormous amount of faith in myself. I remember reading about the actress Candice Bergen, and how she battled her feelings of rejection from her father for a number of years. When she was a teenager, Candice’s father, the famous ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, made Candace feel that she was unattractive simply because she didn’t have a curvy figure. In later life, Candice has spoken candidly about the self-esteem issues that came about as a direct result of her father’s rejection of her and her appearance. And yet, when we look at Candice in such classic films as “Gandhi,” “The Wind and the Lion,” and “Starting Over,” for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, it’s not easy to believe that anyone would have ever thought she was anything less than beautiful. In fact, she bears a striking resemblance to one of the classic sex symbols of the 1980s, actress Kim Basinger. And, oddly enough, Basinger also struggled with a lack of self-acceptance. In fact, she made the erotic film ,”9 1/2 weeks”, mostly to please the man she was married to at the time, whose approval Basinger desperately wanted. Do you see what happens when you depend upon other people to make you feel as if you are worthwhile?? This brings me back to what I said in one of my most recent posts about establishing a genuine sense of self-worth. But you must go beyond that if you want to live the life of your dreams. You must actually create a vision of your ideal life and sustain that vision no matter how many obstacles come your way. The only person who can hold you back in the long run is yourself. It may be easier to blame other people or various circumstances for the fact that you don’t achieve your goals, but unless you are fully prepared to acknowledge the role you played in not making your dreams a reality, you will not succeed. Yes, the psychological and emotional scars that are inflicted upon us at the most vulnerable times of our lives may not ever completely heal. However, continuing to blame those scars for the fact that we haven’t done more with our lives will only hinder us. In fact, in blaming the scars for our lack of success, we are really giving power to those persons or events that caused the scars in the first place. Am I making sense? I wish I didn’t feel like I had to keep re-iterating these things, but, if I don’t repeat important concepts, there is no way I’ll be able to help you eliminate the thought patterns that are preventing you from finding happiness and fulfillment right now. Every day, this diva works to erase the carefully installed negative conditioning of the past. Sometimes I feel like my mind is a computer, and I am constantly having to re-program it to think in a way that will make it possible for me to be the success diva of my dreams. The good news is that the more committed you are to the task, the easier it will become. So, even if you feel that you are fighting an uphill battle at first, as time passes, you will find that your mind is starting to work with you. Rather than having to force yourself to think differently, you’ll find that any negative ideas you have about yourself will be easily replaced with positive ideas. Now, I’m not going to predict how long it might take for this change to take place. For all I know, it could take a year, two years, or even five years. But those years will pass even if you keep your old, poisonous thought patterns. So, you might as well do yourself a favor and make it possible for you to do something with all your talents and abilities, instead of sitting back and using phrases like “I wish” and “If only.” I’ll talk in future posts about the phrases we use on a daily basis that are automatically sending us down a tunnel of doubt, fear, and repression. For the moment, I urge you to pay attention to your thoughts. If you find it’s difficult to keep track of the toxic thoughts you’re having about yourself, those around you, and your life, keep a tablet or some notepaper and a pen or pencil nearby and start writing down your thoughts. You don’t have to write your thoughts down often, but you should at least check in with yourself a couple of a times a day, preferably when you’re feeling especially miserable or unhappy. When you see that you’re having thoughts that involve feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, address them immediately. Don’t let them take up residence in your mind like a teabag, steeping in a cup of hot water. If you don’t work to eliminate the destructive thought as soon as you’re aware of them, they’ll have a chance to start poisoning your system. Before you know it, you’ll be psychologically ill, and you’ll have lost nearly all your confidence in your ability to do anything that you consider worthwhile.

So, to sum up Success Diva’s input and suggestions, let’s re-visit the subject of your personal vision. As I said of earlier in this post, an astronaut or a surgeon or anyone else who is going to perform a major task scracely starts that activity without visualizing in their mind what how they’re going to go about it. You need to have a definite idea of what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and why it’s essential that you do it. This means you must come up with a what, a why, and a how. That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? However, some of you may be prepared to tell me that there isn’t a specific reason for why you do many of the things you do. If this is the case, then why are you even reading Success Diva’s blog? I think you are wanting to live your life on purpose, rather than by default. I believe that’s why you’re here. And if you make up your mind to capture your vision, I have complete confidence in the fact that you will one day have not only the life of your dreams but maybe even a life that exceeds anything you could have ever dreamed of. 

I hope you will make each minute of this day matter and that you will start replacing doubt with faith and feelings of apathy with passion and enthusiasm! Only you can capture your vision. No one, including your diva, can do it for you.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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

for some, it’s all about them. . .

cat-snowwhite and the mirrorAs someone who feels that it is her personal mission (ever heard of writing a personal mission statement? No, well. . .we’ll talk about that later) to reach out to others and share with them her insight and ideas, this diva is grieved whenever she encounters those who reject that which she has to offer. Hey, it’s inevitable that such people exist. Why? Well, let’s face it, if this world were full of nothing but positive people, it would be an entirely different place. What frustrates (yes, frustration is a negative emotion. I admit it!) is that no matter how much I try to help and/or show affection to some people, they end up showing a  lack of gratitude at one time or another. “Okay,” you say, “but that’s the way the world works.” You know what? You’re right. However, I tend to think that such individuals are not applying the principles that your Success Diva promotes. Rather than the world not being just about them. . .it really is all about them. “But wait,” you interject, “you have said more than once that each of is the star of our own show.” Sure, that is what I said. But that doesn’t mean that you forget about everyone else’s needs besides your own. To put your needs first in no way means the needs of those whom you care about are unimportant. Does it? It simply means that you understand and realize that only in putting you first can you be all you want to be to those special people in your life. For those of you who are mothers, you know how easy it is to become so wrapped up in your child’s concerns and wants that you forget all about you. I’m not speaking of the things your child actually needs, for what mother who truly loves her child/children doesn’t do her best to provide her child/children with everything he/she/they need (s)? No, what I’m talking about are those times when you choose to spend yet another hour playing with your daughter or son, even though you really need a quiet hour to yourself, perhaps reading one of your favorite authors or writing in your journal. It may seem as if you’re being selfish to spend time on you, but, in the long run, you’re doing both you and your child a favor. I oftentimes notice that parents who devote themselves exclusively to their children and their children’s wants end up losing their temper, getting impatient, and exhibiting other signs of behavior that convey their personal lack of self-fulfillment. It isn’t a matter of it not being just about them—it’s not about them at all. Rather, it’s about a child who will probably grow up feeling that, if  he/she isn’t the center of attention, something must be wrong. When I was a child, I spent a large amount of time practicing music every day. So, I never had the chance to feel I wasn’t being given enough attention because I was alone with whatever musical instrument I was practicing and was generally completely occupied with this activity. My mother was the sort of woman who would willingly have sacrificied all her wants to make me happy, yet she never had the chance to do that since my primary occupation was music practice. I do feel that my mother began identifying herself too closely with the role of being a mother. If I had it to over with, once I was old enough to understand how important it is for parents to have time to pursue their own interests, I would have encouraged her to engage in more activities that were focused primarily on her. However, there are so many things we tend to ignore when we are children. We look towards our parents to provide all the love we need, which means that, at a certain age, we find it difficult to love ourselves, particularly if one or both of our parents failed to give us the unconditional love that we sought and needed. Believe me, neither of my parents were perfect. Of course, who is perfect? Moreover, my father was too young and immature to understand what being a father really meant. He was obsessed with work and spent most of his time away from home. When he was around, he was often verbally, emotionally, and even physically abusive. Without sharing parts of my personal life story (if you know me privately, I’m sure you can fill in a few blanks), I will say that I still have psychological scars from my childhood. At the same time, there were certain things that I was taught that I am very grateful for. I learned a definitive work ethic at a very young age, and I also grew up to understand that integrity, honesty, self-discipline (even if you don’t think you have it, look for it and you might just find it), and compassion are more important than money, material possessions, and other things of a similar nature. It fills my heart with delight whenever someone tells my mother what a lovely and sweet daughter she has raised. I’m certain it makes her proud, also. Indeed, I’m certain that what makes her most proud of me has nothing to do with the things I’ve accomplished. Rather, she is proud of the person I am inside. Have you ever read author and wit extraordinaire Oscar Wilde’s famous novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray?  Or, if you haven’t read the book, have you seen the film, by any chance? Well, I cannot think that there is a better indication of how outer beauty can mask inner hideousness than that particular story. What does it matter if you are exquisite without if you are filled with bitterness, malice, cruelty, vindictiveness, and other poisonous emotions inside?? In the long run, those emotions will destroy your beauty, no matter how magnificent it once was. The people we are and become have a way of revealing themselves to those around us in the most extraordinary ways. Don’t think that you are just fooling yourself if you are thriving on malignant emotions but are showing a mask of goodness and kindness to the world. The masks we wear are sometimes not nearly as opaque as we might think. And ultimately, the person who will be affected most by those pernicious emotions you may be nourishing yourself with is (yes, you guessed it!) you.

It’s easy to blame our childhood and/or the pain others have caused us for the person we are right now. In fact, it’s far easier to do this than to accept responsibility for who we are. And yet, we will never be able to lead the life that we desire until we understand that we are responsible for the person we are and for the life we are leading. What does this mean? Am I suggesting that you crucify yourself for the bad decisions and the cruel things you might have done?? No, I’m not. What I am suggesting is that you decide to make a change starting right now. On a certain level, I think we all do the best we can at the point of our lives that we’re at. Life is like a long and curving road, and that road is much smoother in some places than it is in others. We will never have all the answers nor is wisdom something that you will ever have enough of. But from reading some of my posts and absorbing my ideas and my insight, I hope that you will be willing to admit that you may still have things to learn about life. I hope, too, that you will be willing to learn those things, rather than simply saying that the way you are now is the way you’re probably destined to be. I have invented a new phrase that I feel sums up those people who focus on their own needs at the expense of anyone else’s needs. They have IAATD. Do you know what that is?? Well, it’s “It’s All About Them Disorder“. Now, maybe I emphasized the fact that you’re the star of your own show a bit too strongly. Who knows? I don’t retract anything I’ve said in my previous posts, but I will say that being the star of your show and being the only star in your show are two entirely separate things. Did I not mention how important it is to be part of a team? When have you seen a team in which each player was thinking only of what was best for him or her? If you have ever watched the Olympics, I’m sure you’ve noticed how ALL the players in a team sport relish and delight in the successes of their fellow team members. Did you have a chance to catch the Olympics last summer? If so, didn’t you see how happy the all-around Olympic champion in female gymnastics, Nastia Liukin, was when her teammate, Shawn Johnson, won a gold medal in one of the individual events? And did you also notice the way Shawn Johnson was smiling when Nastia won the all-around gold medal? Don’t you think Shawn must have been disappointed that she didn’t win that all-around gold medal ? Of course, she was. But being the champion she is, she understands that only in being happy in the victories that others achieve will we ever experience any personal triumphs.

When I was an actress, I had a tendency to let my competitive instincts prevent me from fully being pleased when actresses whom I knew got parts in plays that I had auditioned for. I also found it difficult at times to be excited when an actress had the chance to be in a production that was of a higher quality than the production I was acting in at the time. If this means I was a little jealous, okay—I was jealous. Do you think this jealousy helped me in any way? No, it didn’t. It only prevented me from being able to make the most of certain opportunities that came my way. You see, these negative emotions have a way of creating misery in a person’s life sooner or later. You might think that it isn’t doing you any harm to resent someone or even feel contempt or malice towards them. However, you will ultimately pay the price for allowing yourself to keep these emotions as pets. It’s sort of like keeping mildewed cheese or a rotten egg in your refrigerator. I don’t know about you, but after a time, that rotten egg or that mildewed cheese starts to smell terribly bad. In fact, it starts to stink up your entire refrigerator. So, what I’m basically saying is that negative and destructive emotions belong in a garbage can, along with all the other trash. Let the garbage men take them to the dump—don’t keep them around the house.

I want to say a few more things about the IAATD (It’s All About Them Disorder). When you encounter people who have this disorder, the best thing you can do is let them know that you are there if they need you and then simply let go. An alternative to this is to walk away entirely, and that is a choice that you must make for yourself. Your diva isn’t going to say, “Hey, get so-and-so out of your life.” What I will say is that IAATD can be contagious if you spend too much time around someone with it. It’s ideal if you can surround yourself with as many positive, encouraging, and loving people as possible. The people you have in your life should support you in all of your endeavors. When you have to start explaining what you’re doing to them or defending yourself to them or proving to them that you still care about them, even though you aren’t able to give them as much attention as they might like, then you’ve crossed paths with someone who has IAATD. Unfortunately, a lot of people with IAATD like themselves the way they are. Indeed, they are very content focusing exclusively on themselves and what’s best for them. So, even though you can make an effort to help them see the light (so to speak), I would imagine that they’ve gotten so accustomed to the darkness that they have started to enjoy it. But, if you think someone whom you care about who has IAATD is willing to change, by all means let them know that the path to true happiness comes from making sure your life isn’t just about you.

For those who have discovered this blog via Facebook, I want you to know how pleased I am that you’re here. I have done my best to promote my blog at that site as I happen to think there are people there who can truly benefit from what I have to say. Please don’t forget that writing me personally for specific help and/or input is always something I appreciate. My e-mail address is successdiva7@yahoo.com  Also, I do accept most friend requests at Facebook. I think that only in having an open mind and a caring heart can anyone ever experience ultimate joy, fulfillment, and success.

I encourage you to live every moment like it truly matters. Make each hour count! Live with passion and enthusiasm.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

Please join my mailing list! Okay.  .  .I won’t beg. But it would make me one happy diva indeed if you would join the Success Diva mailing list.  To subscribe (and, yes, it’s free!), go here:

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

It isn’t just about you. . .

meerkat-team spirit2

 

Sometimes I think we have to make happiness. . .you know, like making a batch of cookies. Yes, it sounds easier than it is (now you know I’ve admitted that most things seem that way, right?). Admittedly, you cannot manufacture happiness like a chocolate factory manufactures candy bars. Happiness is not a commodity that is mass produced. And I haven’t seen any available for purchase at the local discount store, either. What I have seen, though, is that it’s almost impossible to find happiness if all you focus on in life is yourself. Have you noticed this, too?? Now don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you aren’t the star of your show or that the title of my first post here, “It’s All About You” didn’t mean that it is, in fact, all about you. The thing about it is it’s not just about you. Does that make sense?? It’s like saying that you can have anything you want (and you can!), but not everything you want. For one thing, acquiring one thing in your life may automatically make it impossible for you to acquire something else. If, for example, you want a new car and you want both a BMW and a jaguar,  you probably aren’t going to be able to get both, unless you are a millionaire.  Now this diva couldn’t afford either car, but that’s beside the point *wink*.  Let me give you another illustration. If you go into a restaurant and you order a slice of cheesecake, the chances are that by making this choice, you will have to forfeit the chocolate cake and the apple pie. So, as you see, we make choices. We also make a choice as to whether we want a life that centers exclusively around us, or whether we would like to have a cast of supporting players. Having been a theater actress for a few years, I can safely say that one of the very worst things you can do, when you are starring in a play, is not realize that the entire cast of the play is a team. Competitiveness can be a positive thing, but if it means that you don’t want the best for someone else, especially someone whom you’re working with, it can become very destructive. In a way, life is the same way as a play. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of similarities between the world and a stage and between people and actors and actresses. The American author Nathanael West, in his bleak but brilliant novel, The Day of the Locust, presented the pessimistic theory that life is essentially like a Hollywood sound stage. There is a scene in the book that I found particularly painful. Oddly enough, it involves a cock fight. On my initial reading of the book, I failed to see the significance of this brutal scene. Reading about two roosters brutalizing each other seemed as if it hadn’t much of a point. But now, on reflection, I’m wondering something: was Nathanael West trying to make a point about life and what some people do to other people? Was he not basically saying that the world supports and promotes the idea of the “survival of the fittest”, so to speak? Was he not saying that if you’re weaker than someone else, they will take advantage of that fragility? West himself had to witness other writers succeeding who certainly didn’t possess his genius, while he was forced to sell Hollywood scripts just to have enough money to eat and feed his family. Maybe his own experiences are what shaped his oppressive worldview. But what West failed to see is that just because the world is attempting to promise this “you win/I lose” mindset, it doesn’t mean that we have to buy into it. Society and “popular” culture will always try to get us to buy into what they say everyone is doing, thinking, saying, or experiencing. However, let me ask you: when you go into a clothing shop, do you buy everything you see? If one of the sales assistants comes up to you and tries to persuade you to buy a dress or a suit by telling you about how many other people have bought it, do you automatically go into the dressing room and try it on? And if you try it on, do you purchase it, even if you don’t like how it looks on you?? Well, if you answered “no” to that, then why are you purchasing the opinions and ideas that society promotes?? If you believe in God but society tells you that you shouldn’t, why would you listen to them?? Similarly, if your best friend is a Christian, but you have no interest in becoming one, are you going to let him/her convince you? I’m not saying that having faith in a power beyond ourselves cannot provide us with solace in our darkest hours. Your Success Diva believes in God. But she doesn’t try to push others to believe in Him just because she does. Why?? Well, you see, here’s the way I look at it: only those who feel a weakness within themselves would feel it was necessary to alter the opinions and beliefs of those around them. If you have full confidence in your convictions, you don’t feel you have to persuade others to share them nor do you feel that you have to defend them or disguise them.

I have a great many friends who are atheists, and we all get along beautifully. On the other hand, my grandmother, a religious fundamentalist, tends to alienate those who do not believe exactly the same way she does. In fact, her best friend, whom she knew for several decades, didn’t feel that she could share personal things with her. She knew my grandmother would judge her for any conduct that she didn’t approve of. It’s funny how so many people who believe in God want to adopt the role of God for themselves. Rather than allowing everyone to have the freedom to believe the way they like, they somehow feel they have the right to interfere and control the lives of those around them. What I feel would be so much more beneficial is to merely share the positive qualities that others might associate with religious faith with your friends and acquaintances. Could there be a better testimony than that? I daresay not. Of course, whether you are Jewish, an atheist, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Mormon, or someone who hasn’t ever made up his/her mind what you believe, you will probably see at some point that making yourself the only focus of your life isn’t going to leave you feeling very content.  We are not made to be solitary creatures. If you will note, birds tend to migrate in flocks more often than not. And if you have the cable channel, Animal Planet, you might have had the chance to watch the fascinating and entertaining show, “Meerkat Manor”. If so, did you notice how the meerkats supported and cared for each other?? Yes, they had misunderstandings and quarrels and so forth. Yet, ultimately, they bonded with one another and saw that living in harmony with each other provided them more benefits than braving it out by themselves. “But I’m not a meerkat, dear diva,” you say. No, of course you’re not. You are a living, breathing human being, and my guess is that you need to give and receive love and affection a great deal more than any meerkat in existence does.

One of the most difficult things to do, though, is to reach out to others when you are in the depths of despair. How do I know?? Well, I have often isolated myself when I have been experiencing deep depression. I have shut people who cared about me out of my life by refusing to return phone calls and/or answer e-mails and letters sent to me by post. It was not a conscious decision on my part—or, at least, I didn’t think it was at the time. The problem is, the more I isolated myself, the more depressed I became. The fact that I wasn’t willing to give affection to others made me even less able to give myself any affection. The more I withdrew, the more I disliked myself. The less love I gave, the less I received, and the less I was able to give to myself. Even now, when I am feeling extremely sad, I have a habit of closing myself off. It often seems like such a formidable task to talk to others about how you are feeling, when all you really want to do is sit in a chair and/or cry for a few hours. You also fear that no one will really understand. To be honest, there are plenty of people who won’t understand. They’ll tell you things like “Pull yourself (or your act) together,” or they are sometimes even insensitive enough to say, “Snap out of it.” Does this mean that they don’t care about you?? No, it doesn’t. What it means is that they haven’t yet learned how to respond to the needs of other people. To them, depression is merely a state of mind, and they probably think that a state of mind can be changed as easily as a pair of shoes. It’s very easy to resent such people and to blame them for their uncaring attitude. But what I think will benefit you the most (and remember, you are the most important person in your life, even if you aren’t the only important person) is to not allow yourself to give way to resentment and bitterness. The moment you start feeling yourself getting angry at the people who don’t understand, ask yourself this: if I let myself be driven by a negative emotion because of this person, who is in control of me and of my life—me or them?? Do you see that the answer is “them”? I hope you do because it is. Anger can be used positively, but more often than not it is used destructively. Reacting in anger to something another person says or does is the same as saying: “Hey, I want you to know that you have had such a powerful influence on my life by what you said or did, that I am allowing you to make me angry, even though I know that anger is a destructive emotion and that I am hurting myself more than anyone else.” Is that what you want to do?? Is anything that anyone does or says worth it? Have you noticed, too, that anger, even if it seems to lend you energy at first, usually exhausts you in the long run? I have. Emotions such as love and compassion and generosity will actually give you energy, but resentment, frustration, anger, and hate will take energy from you. Now it’s one thing to remove toxic people from your life. There are indeed times when you simply must walk away from someone. However, never do so out of anger, even if ridding yourself of the anger you feel towards a particular person seems impossible. Always keep in mind that the last impression you make on someone can be every bit as important as the first impression. Wrap your mind about that thought for a moment, and tell me whether or not you want a person’s final impression of you to be of someone who has no control over his/her own emotions.

Now that you’ve heard your diva’s thoughts about anger, I will return to the subject of reaching out to those around you. Have you ever noticed that when you get intensely preoccupied, you forget about other things that are going on in your life?? For example, let’s say that you love foreign films. Well, if you go to the video store and rent a couple of movies directed by Federico Fellini or Francois Truffaut or Ingmar Bergman or another foreign filmmaker who is among your favorites, even if you just found out that your boyfriend or girlfriend has been cheating on you, are you focusing on that when you sit down to watch the films? Sure, you can’t exactly forget about it entirely. I mean, it’s a real situation—it does exist. But if you’re watching Fellini’s muse, Giulietta Masina, light up the screen in “La Strada” or “The Nights of Cabiria,” are you thinking every second about your unfaithful “significant other”? I doubt you are. To give another example, if you have a headache, but you love ice cream and decide to stop by the ice cream shop to get a scoop of your favorite flavor (whatever that might be), are you thinking about your headache as you enjoy the ice cream? If so, are you thinking about it as much as you were?? Are you sure?? Come on now, you know you weren’t.

Well, the emotional turmoil that comes from depression is not unlike the pain that you would experience if you found out that the man or woman you love has been involved with someone else at the same time he/she has been romancing you. It’s also not unlike a stomach ache. Sure, stomach pain is usually the result of a physical ailment, but it’s still pain, isn’t it? Next time you’re feeling blue or having a bad day, try reaching out to someone else. You don’t have to do anything that requires a lot of time and/or effort. Your act of kindness can be as simple as a short phone call, a brief e-mail, or a greeting card sent by post. Also, you don’t have to say much. I emphasize this because often, when a person is hurting themselves, they are unsure what to say and have difficulty communicating. What I would suggest is a simple message such as “You are in my thoughts” or “I’m sending you a hug” or “I just want you to know that you are one of the special people in my life.” You don’t have to worry about being eloquent or profound or charming. Just be sincere. A simple and small gesture can often mean as much to another person as an expensive gift, a bouquet of roses, or a lengthy letter or e-mail. And a phone call just to say “hello” can make the difference in both how you feel and how the person on the other end of the phone feels. You can make it a situation that is mutually beneficial. Is there anything better than that? Our competitive and fast-paced society is repsonsible for the “What’s in it for me?” attitude. But you know what? If you adopt your diva’s suggestion, you will find that there’s always something in it for you when you show caring for someone else.

I must provide one word of caution, though: not everyone is receptive. Why? Well, it’s easy for people to be skeptical when people do nice things for them or say kind things to them. They tend to think that you must have a motive behind your actions and/or words. This is why being completely sincere is essential. If someone is a friend but not a close friend, don’t pretend they are. It will probably make them suspicious. And when you tell another person that you love them, make sure the words are coming from your heart. And don’t expect them to say that they love you, too. Love is something that must be unconditional if it is to be at all genuine. Perhaps they are at a place in their life where they feel they must withhold affection. Maybe they have been rejected so much that they are afraid to freely give love. Or maybe they usually associate love with romantic love, and feel that saying they love you wouldn’t be appropriate. Whatever the case, don’t worry about it. You have done yourself a favor by verbally expressing your love. Love happens to be one of those emotions that has no negative consequences. Even if it isn’t reciprocated, it will not harm you or anyone else. Indeed, it is the only emotion that can fully heal someone.

That being said, I urge you to open yourself up to the love that others demonstrate towards you. In accepting the love you receive, you will be able to pass it along to others. What is essential is that you not count on the fact that the love you give to others will necessarily be returned to you from those specific people. You will get the love back, but it may come from other sources. Life is an odd thing, really—it’s incredibly complicated, utterly unpredictable, but ultimately fulfilling. But it can only be fulfilling if you let yourself be fulfilled by it. Now, it’s going to be complicated and unpredictable whether you want it to be or not. Those are two things that you haven’t any choice about. Personal fulfillment is something you do have a choice about, though. And although you should never look to others to fulfill you, I think you’ll find that in reaching out to others, you will be enabling yourself to experience a significant feeling of fulfillment.

To all of you, I send love, peace, joy, happiness. . .& loads of success!

Your Success Diva

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(photo: a group of meerkats show what team spirit is all about)

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