I have been thinking a lot lately about changing one’s life paradigm. How is it possible that somebody can grow up in a poor and broken, possibly even abusive, home and then grow to be successful and happy? I love the example of Oprah Winfrey, raised by a single teenage mom, abused sexually – and yet in her own biography she mentions nothing of these ills, starting her biography with her first career in radio. A simple point perhaps, but to me it speaks volumes about her way of thinking – she is forward-thinking and chooses to emphasize the positive rather than to dwell on past hurts that can’t be changed. They can’t be erased, but they don’t have the power to hold her back.
Success is multi-faceted. One’s way of thinking must expand in order to create a new normal. Oftentimes, when you meet a highly successful person, you know they are successful within moments, without knowing anything about them. Something about the way they carry themselves, their confidence, the way they dress, the warmth with which they greet you.
Blame my sappy femininity, but three fanciful stories came to mind – My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman and Cinderella. Each character had a shift in identity, a shift caused by learning a new way of life.
In My Fair Lady, Eliza is a poor, uneducated British woman who does much harm to the English Language. She meets an older gentleman who believes the way one speaks is what truly separates social classes. He takes her under his wing and transforms her very life and identity, primarily by teaching her to speak properly.
Our hearts have all been won over by Julia Roberts role in Pretty Woman, a prostitute taken in by a wealthy gentleman, who buys her new clothes, teaches her how to conduct herself as a lady, and of course they fall in love. Dressing differently and behaving differently changed her entire identity. By adjusting her way of conduct, she was transformed.
Every little girl grows up on Cinderella. The love story is often remembered, but if we look merely at the shift in identity… the Fairy Godmother gave her new clothes, new transportation and an opportunity.
These three stories may be classic love stories, but to me that is irrelevant. Each character had somebody who believed in them and guided them to live a new life. In an ideal world, we would each be graced with such role models and teachers. The wonderful thing about life today is we have access to all the mentors and teachers we desire, through books.
Change happens from within. But often we are hardest on ourselves, wanting to be better and follow our dreams but held back by our own limiting self-perceptions. I listened to a wonderful TedTalk recently, where the speaker altered the phrase “Fake it ’til you make it” to “Fake it ‘til you become it”
I once read that before Forbes was successful, he spent all his money on an expensive suit and every week would spend a night in a luxury hotel where successful businessmen would congregate. He took a risk, believing he had it within him to break the boundaries he had previously known, understanding the importance of relationships and perception. Through one of the relationships he formed in that hotel he started freelancing, which clearly evolved.
I don’t believe the outward indicators alone hold any power at all. We’ve all seen somebody wearing an expensive suit, yet feeling awkward … and looking awkward. As we have seen incredibly wealthy people looking amazing in jeans and a t-shirt. True change comes from within.
“If you can’t believe in miracles, then believe in yourself. When you want something bad enough, let that drive push you to make it happen. Sometimes you’ll run into brick walls that are put there to test you. Find a way around them and stay focused on your dream. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
― Isabel Lopez, Isabel’s Hand-Me-Down Dreams