Free yourself!

believe173 (bird flying)As I’ve said many times before, life is a series of peaks and valleys, and what can seem like the most difficult thing in the world is holding onto the idea that there is still a mountain to climb when we feel as if we’re sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of despair. It’s not always easy to convince ourselves that changing our life is really as simple as changing our thoughts, and, to a certain extent, it is a bit more complicated than that. We must combine actions with our thoughts to design a life that will bring us ultimate fulfillment.  When these two things match up–deeds and thoughts–in a way that is positive and effective, miraculous events actually do take place.

Those who are skeptical are reluctant to believe in miracles, and you don’t actually have to subscribe to that belief in order to bring into your life blessings that seem like miracles. One thing that keeps us from engaging fully in life is the fact that we set definitive limits on ourselves and our abilities, whether we realize it or not. These limits shape our thoughts, and those thoughts, in turn, determine our actions.  It may be daunting to think about the fact that what you’re doing on a daily basis right now is going to have a significant impact on the way your life turns out, but day-to-day living has a much greater influence on our destiny than we want to admit.

If, for example, you’re holding onto toxic energy connected with past experiences or your own fears and doubts about yourself, the life force within you will never be able to free itself, which means that you will always live in a prison of your own creation. I’ve spoken before about getting outside the box, but that concept can be explored even more profoundly. It isn’t just a “box” that we put ourselves in–it’s actually a prison. After all, some boxes can be unlocked and opened. But when you’re in a prison, you’re kept away from the outside world by bars and locks. Ironically, many people consider that they have a realistic view of the world and human nature when they allow themselves to think the worst of everyone they meet, rather than allowing themselves to continue to trust. Living can be experienced richly on a very instinctual basis, but,  when those instincts are wrong or clouded by subjective reasoning, it’s beneficial to begin examining things more analytically and less instinctively. Is it realistic to think that you can never achieve anything just because you have had disappointing results thus far? Realism and faith may seem antithetical, but, in an ideal scenario, the two should work hand in hand like two ingredients in a recipe that never fails to produce outstanding results. Does that make sense?

Realism is not and never has been the same as pessimism. George Lucas, the well-known film producer of such movies as Star Wars and Return of the Jedi has confessed that he is a cynic. At the same time, he also says that he is an optimist who has never let himself be hampered by the critics or by those who have told him that his dreams couldn’t come true. Perhaps, the fact that Lucas was at one time a race car driver demonstrates that he had the inherent spirit of a risk-taker. To take risks demands a tremendous amount of courage, not merely because it’s so hard to have complete faith in ourselves but because there are always those naysayers around us who will tell us what we “cannot” do. Since Star Wars was such a groundbreaking movie, it only stands to reason that plenty of narrow-minded people told Lucas that it was an impossibility, before he got the project off the ground.  Had Lucas not been such a big dreamer and had he not had an enormous amount of confidence in his dreams, he would not be the household name that he is today.

There is little doubt that the surest way to accomplish any dream, big or small, is to visualize its completion from the beginning.  For one thing, our minds generally cannot tell the difference between something that we strongly imagine and that which actually transpires. Wayne Dyer, the self-development expert whose books and audio programs have sold millions of copies around the world, says that the the only way to see any sort of transformation in our lives is to believe in it before we see it. At the root of visualization is will-power. We must be willing to visualize ourselves accomplishing that which we aspire towards. We have to make a conscious choice to engage in visualization, casting aside any misplaced ideas we may have about such concepts being nothing more than funky New Age ideas. Regrettably, some people are so quick to label anything that they don’t understand fully as being “weird” that they close themselves off from strategies that could make a world of difference in their lives.

Labels–in regard to people, ideas, and life itself–are something I would urge everyone to dispense of. For like deeply ingrained prejudices, labels have a way of narrowing your own way of thinking, even if you mistakenly believe that you’re only applying them to someone else. Once  you begin to label things,  you will find that you’re closing windows and doors of your world that might have offered you interesting and perhaps even life-changing experiences. It’s one thing to make wise choices and use sound judgment, but labels are unnecesary and only serve to foster a limited belief system. And, there are certain labels that can destroy others and corrupt the beauty of your own soul. Such words as “fat”,” stupid”, and “ugly” should be permanently removed from the vocabulary of anyone who wants to experience happiness or success over the course of their life. In a way, such labels are words of hate. And, as I said in my most recent post, “Cultivate your Garden,” destructive emotions are like weeds in your garden. No matter how beautiful your flowers may be, if you grow an abundance of weeds the blossoms will all be destroyed. For, just as dark clouds passing over the sky block out the sun, toxic emotions will seep into your heart, eventually leaving no oxygen to nourish love, kindness, compassion, or generosity. As surely as water quenches one’s thirst, a spirit of hate will also quench a spirit of love, and, even if you think that you can love and hate at the same time, I challenge you to examine whether or not you’re genuinely experiencing both of these emotions simultaneously.

When I was younger, I was someone who often spoke without thinking and allowed myself to give into outbursts of temper. Although I always felt depleted after getting angry, I failed to connect the fact that I was robbing myself of energy and power by letting such a destructive emotion overtake me. Those who get angry easily sometimes experience a false sense of power when they manage to intimidate others. True power, however, can never be had at the expense of others. If what you believe to be power comes from evoking fear in another person, it’s not really power at all. It is inherent weakness, stemming from a tarnished self-image and a lack of genuine self-assurance. Cowards are the ones who tyrannize and manipulate others. Courageous men and women are secure enough in themselves and their own capacities that they have no need to control anyone around them. When you think about Napoleon, the notorious onetime Emperor of France, even though you may admire his tenacity and determination, you have to admit that he did demonstrate a certain amount of cowardice. His ruthless desire for power without considering the needs of anyone else shows that he had a need to win at all costs simply to be important in his own eyes.

Do any of us really want to live that way? Do we want to be imprisoned by fears, doubts, and feelings of worthlessness? I tend to think that prisons we build for ourselves come in many different shapes and sizes. There are those that allow us room to reach our own goals, yet prevent us from considering the needs of those around us. And there are also prisons that force us to place limits on ourselves, thereby eliminating the possibility of us ever enjoying contentment on any level.  In order to be free, we have to let others have their freedom, too. That’s a lesson that isn’t learned overnight, but it’s one that will change everything about the lives of those who  haven’t yet learned it. When you free yourself, you free those around you, too. You realize that the only thing you can control and should control are your thoughts, opinions, and decisions. When you are completely free, you want to give others the freedom to be free, too, for you realize that the only way you will be able to sustain your freedom is if everyone else has freedom, too. There are situations in which it seems impossible to give another person that freedom that they deserve. For example, if you love someone and they don’t want to be with you, you may have to fight every fibre of your being to pull back and let them go. But, in not letting go of someone or something, you are putting yourself back in a prison and giving up your own freedom. Freedom cannot exist unless everyone is given the right to make their own choices and subscribe to their own belief systems.

The writer Dame Rebecca West was a woman who destroyed her ability to have any happiness in life because of her desire to imprison others in the cage of her own expectations. Although the heroines in much of her literature are liberated and free-spirited, West herself was unable to remove the gate around her heart in order to give unconditional love and acceptance to those who she cared for most. In her personal relationships, West thrived on the art of intimidation, for she wrongly believed that she could manipulate others into behaving in a way that conformed with her wishes by using the force of her will. Willpower may be a potent force, but the results it achieves sometimes come about at the expense of kindness and love. West was forced to be satisfied with the contentment she experienced through the success of her writing for even her son didn’t want to spend much time in her company. West’s objectives were achieved–yet she paid dearly for them.

It all comes down to the simple fact that there are consequences from every one of your actions. This is why you have to let go of destructive thinking patterns that include limiting beliefs about yourself and negative emotions towards others in order to be free–free in the truest sense of the word, like a bird that has been let out of its cage in order to fly. Don’t let another day go by in which you remain imprisoned in a web of false ideas and narrow-minded beliefs. Let go. . .free yourself and let the joy of your freedom be shared with everyone else!

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

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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Cultivate your garden!

garden13 (rose)The great author, Oscar Wilde once said, “All of us are living in the gutter; but some of us are looking at the stars.” In a way, I think that this sums up the two types of people who are in the world. There are those who focus on all the problems and difficulties in their lives. . .and there are those who strive towards concentrating on their blessings. Whether we call this an attitude of gratitude or something similar yet different, there is something to be said for those who make a conscious choice not to allow the difficulties that cross their paths to prevent them from ever experiencing any joy or contentment.

Have you ever wondered why some people with cancer that is supposed to be terminal end up living long lives yet others, who have a better prognosis, end up surviving only a short amount of time? Do you find it hard to understand sometimes why there are those people who seem to bounce back from a series of setbacks that would cause most people to give up, but do you find yourself giving into despair simply because the supermarket is out of the flavor of ice cream you enjoy most? Well, in a way, I think that gratitude is a cultivated habit, rather than something that a person comes by naturally. And, like any other habit, it requires practice before it becomes second nature. However, you cannot expect wonderful things to happen in your life if all you are do is complain about the things that aren’t taking place.

Each of us has a choice–we can either embrace our lives fully or we can live in shades of black and white. We can be like a multi-colored butterfly that alights on every flower with enthusiasm and delight, or we can be like a dead leaf that falls off a tree, only to be swept up in the current of the first turbulent wind. When you think about a butterfly, you should take into consideration that its life span is very brief. Yet, what does it bring to the world around it before it dies? It gives beauty and joy to those who see it–it adds color and vibrancy to it surroundings.  Should not each of us do the same?

Someone who comes to mind when I think of a person who has truly cultivated the garden in her life is the amazing writer, radio host, and founder of the organization, Joni and Friends, Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni, who was left paralyzed from a diving accident that took place in 1967, reached such a point of personal despair following the catastrophe that she asked her friends to help her commit suicide. But, rather than ending her life, she turned things around and let the riches within her soul blossom forth in ways that have touched millions. Her inspiring biography, Joni, was an international bestseller, and the book was even made into a feature-length film of the same name.

In spite of not having the use of her arms or legs, Joni learned how to paint by holding a paintbrush between her teeth. Her paintings have been collected by dozens of fine art connoisseurs, and Joni has also authored thirty-five books. The question that comes to mind is this: how can a woman who is at such a disadvantage make more of her life than millions of men and women who seem to have an ideal life in comparison to hers? Is it luck? Is it fate? Was she simply blessed by God or the Divine Creator? Well, I tend to agree with the words of Seneca, who once said that luck is “what happens when opportunity meets preparation.” I believe Joni’s heart and soul were both prepared to bless and inspire the lives of those around her, and her accomplishments have merely been a by-product of the extraordinary woman that she is.

The majority of us will never have to face a set of circumstances such as that which Joni has managed to overcome. So, what’s our excuse for not cultivating the garden we’ve been given? Why do our flowers die from lack of nourishment, and why do we let weeds grow as plentifully as cracked and broken seashells scattered on the beach? Are our lives of so little inherent value to us that we allow them to be frittered away on petty worries, distractions, and obstacles that are only insurmountable in our own minds?  As you and I both know, we make all the choices in our lives, whether we accept responsibility for them or not. In accepting responsibility, what we do is hand ourselves the power to make the decisions that are best for us, rather than engaging in what I call “living by default”.  When you live by default, you imagine yourself to be at the mercy of chance. You may even let yourself buy into such lies as the idea that you are born to be a failure or are meant to never have happiness. One can easily draw conclusions as to how the life of Joni Eareckson might have been different if she had subscribed to such negative patterns of thinking. I daresay she would have never made an impact on the life of anyone. In all likelihood, she would have succeeded only in ending her own life.

So, do our thoughts really shape our destiny? Can the way we see the world truly end up transforming our life in a negative or positive way, depending on which pair of glasses we choose to view the world through? I believe the answer to both these questions is a definitive ‘yes’, and many of  those who are experts in psychology and psychiatry, in addition to scientists, share this vantage point. My friend and mentor, Denis Waitley, wrote a wonderful book called Empires of the Mind, and, in a way, merely from its title, this book exemplifies the concept that our minds are miniature kingdoms over which we must proclaim dominion. All of us know that the power of the human mind is greater than any of us can even envision. This is why we need to take ownership of our mind, discriminating between those thoughts which we allow to remain etched in our subconscious and those that we should instantly let go of.

Without taking ownership of our mind, the gardens of our lives will always be in disarray. They may even end up being entirely overridden with weeds. It’s not the thorns on the roses that end up preventing us from enjoying the beauty of the blossoms. Rather, it’s those weeds choking our roses, smothering them with their toxic energy and preventing them from breathing the oxygen that gives them  life. Unfortunately, weeds don’t always look like weeds, either. There are times when weeds appear to be flowers, and they may even look particularly beguiling in terms of their outward appearance. But like anything that possesses beauty that is strictly superficial, a weed disguised as a flower will not wait long to show its true nature. As soon as it’s planted among your gorgeous flowers, it will immediately began to draw energy from those blossoms, depleting them of their richness, their vitality, their splendor, and their very essence. This is why cultivating your garden on a daily basis is so important. The weeds must be disposed of immediately, before they have a chance to do any permanent damage. One strategy to combat weeds is to make sure that you always plant and nurture plenty of flowers. 

Flowers such as as generosity, compassion, integrity, persistence, courage, kindness and faith will always have a unique and innate power of their own. Even when weeds attempt to cut off their supply of oxygen, these flowers are too tenacious to be destroyed. St. Augustine came to the conclusion that man made a mistake in attempting to eradicate such evil forces as hate, violence, jealousy, and bitterness in the world. Rather than embarking on a quest to destroy or battle evil, he suggested that we focus instead on the nature of goodness, which embodies the attributes of grace and virtue. When we strive to be kind, generous, honest, thoughtful, and loving, we are actively participating in creating goodness.  

The problem is, in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day existence, it’s easy to lose sight of those essential traits and focus on that which is superficial and of short-term benefit to us and our lives. We worry about which movie we’re going to see at the cinema or which restaurant we’re going to eat lunch or supper at. Yet, what lasting value do these activities have? Would our lives be changed in a dramatic way if we skipped the movie altogether or if we decided to dine at home? Whenever we choose to do something, we are automatically giving up the chance of doing something else. After awhile, fully comprehending this makes you see things a little differently. For example, watching a television program that is more of a way to fill up time than something that we truly enjoy or benefit from becomes a lot less important. Similarly, whether or not we get to try a dish that a restaurant in town is famous for starts to seem insignificant.

When you begin to think bigger and expand your viewpoint, the things that were important move into the distance, almost out of view. Your garden starts to look like an earthly paradise because your flowers are strong and luscious, capable of withstanding the most pernicious weeds. Sure, you’ll always need to keep a pair of gardening gloves handy, for those roses will always have a few thorns. But, in a way, those thorns make the roses even more beautiful, for they force those who handle them to use a gentle touch.

What would you like for your garden to look like in six months.  . .in a year.  .  . in five years? Do you want to see clumps of weeds strangling your flowers, or would you prefer to see magical blossoms of splendor and vitality? The choice is yours, for only you are the keeper of your garden. So, cultivate the flowers and discard the weeds!

Make each moment matter! Live with enthusiasm, passion, and courage! Celebrate life!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva 

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