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.

Reinventing yourself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Until soon,

Alexis

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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