How to live the life you want

betty ming liu Art, Inspiration, Relationships 37 Comments

Right now, the economy is so bad that it’s tempting to give in to fear. I could easily sit home worrying about finding work and protecting my investments. But there’s really only one option: I have to celebrate my life.

My whole outlook has changed because of a month-long online class called “Blast Off.” I took it in June with art consultant Alyson Stanfield. Her specialty is helping creative types to successfully pursue their passions.

She was just what I needed because as a writer and painter, I sometimes feel like a double fail. I mean, really — could I have picked two more unstable fields? But at the end of the course, I was surprised to find myself transformed.

The class covered budget planning, getting organized and ways to keep growing artistically. The material also challenged me to step up my game as an entrepreneur. So to stay on track, I now do three things every morning:

What do I already have?

Here’s a thought for the day:

“Remember that when you are in a state of appreciation and gratitude, you are in a state of abundance.”

Is this quote a wow or what??! It’s from “The Success Principles,” a 2005 bestseller by author Jack Canfield.

P.S. – I just noticed that there’s also “The Success Principles for Teens: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.” I’m going to order it for my daughter and will let you know if she likes it.

By the way, if Canfield’s name sounds familiar, it’s because this guy is a major player in the inspiration publishing world. He’s co-creator of the phenomenally popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series.

What you have in the life you want

Every morning, I think of five “gratitudes.” At first, the process felt forced. But now I look forward to starting the day with a quiet, grateful reflection.

Today, my gratitudes are:

  1. My new shoes look so good on me.
  2. The new family dog keeps me company when I’m driving around on errands.
  3. Counting calories on is actually fun.
  4. Thank God that the dishwasher works.
  5. I got such a good night’s sleep.

What’s next in the life you want 

In addition to gratitudes, I have affirmations. Unlike the gratitudes, these don’t change every day. Instead, they are eight key things that I want to continually acknowledge about my life. It took a while to figure out what really matters. I wrote and re-wrote many times.

I keep my affirmations on some old, unused postcards that my parents had saved. With both of my folks dead, this is a nice way to keep them close on this new journey.

Reading the postcards out loud to myself every morning has been a trip. Some of my initial affirmations sounded cheese-y and defensive. The one that really kicked my butt had to do with defining myself professionally. Here’s what I went through:

I am always true to myself.

I am an artist who makes beautiful paintings.

I am an artist with an irresistible vision, unique vision.

I am a hot new artist.

Bleh, bleh, bleh!

I recently hit on something that sounds okay — for now: I am a beloved writer, painter and teacher.

Here’s the postcard, both the front and back views:

In these next two affirmations, rewriting gave me the confidence to be more engaged:

There was only one affirmation that I wrote with no hesitation. At 54, it’s annoying to be in an obnoxiously youth-fixated society. Women my age are treated like invisible, neutered old ladies. I refuse to be taken for granted. That’s why I say this:

Being real

Eventually, I soul-searched my way to a full list of eight affirmations:

  • I am a beloved writer, painter and teacher.
  • I am making a difference in the world.
  • I enjoy the moment.
  • I am a MILF.
  • I always make time to love someone who needs it.
  • I am a money maker.
  • I am mixed-handed.
  • I am a fulfilled romantic.

Okay, so tell me honestly….how ridiculous do I sound? Well, I don’t care. The affirmations are already helping me. Just the other day, I was negotiating a business contract. During a tense moment, I started to feel overwhelmed. To keep myself from caving, I suddenly thought to myself, “I am a money maker!” and took charge.

My love life has benefited too. After a great start 10 months ago, the bf and I had a difficult winter and nearly-disastrous spring. Then over the last month, my affirmation went from “I am a romantic” to “I am a fulfilled romantic.” Seeing myself as already fulfilled in my own life made me appreciate what we had. The magic is back! Sweet.

I’m even resolved about being being a lefty who was forced into right-handedness. Now I see myself as “mixed-handed.” It’s a description that  eliminates the sense of deficit while being totally accurate. Yessss!

How fast does this work?

If you want me to show you the money, that might take a while. At the moment, I am not quantifiably richer financially or creatively. But at least I wake up feeling great. And that’s an excellent place to start.

Soooo, if you feel like playing, feel free to brainstorm and think out loud in the space below. Is there anything you’re grateful for as you read this? Any truths about your life that are worth celebrating? The act of getting them out of your head and seeing them on this post could be quite magical.xoxoxoxo


Comments 37

  1. Believing in one’s self and the possibility of one’s aspirations is so important – still, I don’t know that it was quite sufficient in the case of my great aunt Adalade.
    An imposing dowager of better than 50 winters, with a shape similar to a very large pouter pigeon and a predilection for lorgnettes and opera length pearls, Adalade was not what one would envisage as the typical free spirit. Yet, in the dim recesses of her heart, she harbored latent radicalism. The first tender shoots to breach the surface took the form of a sudden decision to pursue modern dance( a common symptom, we might note). Adalade had not even waltzed in 20 years but was undeterred by an utter lack of capability. It wasn’t long before not a garden party was complete without Adalade appearing in black tights (the slimming effect of black being quite overmastered by physical reality in this case) trailing long chiffon scarves like Isadora Duncan and executing a series of leaps and bounds, which if not precisely gazelle-like, had at least a certain…ummm…solidity to them – an effect much like a truckload of large rocks being dumped. While these exhibitions did little to enhance Adalade’s reputation as a desirable guest, they did attract the notice of a much younger gentleman of dubious credentials and no money. He convinced her of the youthfulness of her spirit even more quickly than he convinced himself of the adequacy of her portfolio. They eloped to a commune in Nebraska or some-such outrè location where there was an iron-clad community property law. Of course he decamped with as much of the portfolio as he could lay claim to. Adalade didn’t care. Now she lives on granola and performs her interpretive leaps among the tepees, battered trailers and huts of the Rising Star Commune. To the best of my knowledge, she is happy. Still its a cautionary tale.

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    toby, i tried the younger man thing too. and it was fun — just once. that was enough. but who’s to say that your great aunt feels bad about the boy stealing her money? she’s dancing her heart out while living in a trailer park. sounds like she still has enough resources for food, shelter and personal health. i wish she still had her $ but, oh well.

    there’s a really interesting story on this topic in the july 2 edition of the new york times. it’s about acting legend celeste holm, 94, and her husband, 48. her sons — aged 64 and 74 — are in a legal battle with the couple for her inheritance. the feuding has wiped out most of her multi-million dollar fortune. reporter john leland does a really spectacular job of presenting both sides of the story without harsh judgement. i admire that.

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  4. “Chicken Soup for The Kids Soul” was actually one of my favorite books growing up! This is an awesome post.. especially for all of us jobless journalism grads ;) !!

  5. Thank you thank you thank you. This little jewel dropped into my inbox on precisely the right day at precisely the right time. I am struggling to hold on to myself while navigating this “grown-up” life full of responsibilities (a day job, a small business venture, and my own artistic needs/cravings) and commitments (partner, breadwinner, daughter) and figuring out how to live the life I want and deserve. I am inspired especially by the graciousness and self-fulfilling prophecies you put into the world daily. Thank you for remaining a teacher who inspires and motivates. =)

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  7. Good stuff, Betty! Love it! And what an interesting thread from you and Toby. For I indeed offered up the “younger man thing” and tried to woo you, the self-described MILF. (On top of that, I’m originally from Nebraska.)

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    oh my goodness, doug. i can’t believe you’re here!! reading your comment made me smile. aren’t you glad i said “no” to you? you went on to find someone lovely, closer to your age — and artistically asian to boot. the reason i knew our decade-wide age gap wouldn’t work was because i actually tried the younger guy thing for a few months before meeting you. while i have no regrets, after it ended, i knew that i’d NEVER do it again. but you are definitely a catch. ;-)

  9. Actually, there’s more than a decade between us. And yes, I’m deliriously happy and wouldn’t change a thing – but you don’t forget someone who was so easy to talk to. We ought to do that again sometime. :)

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      haha! i think it was something like a 13-year age gap. and of course you’re deliriously happy; you worked hard for this! but it would be fun to catch up — and compare notes on the benefits of dating within our respective age brackets. heehee. :-)

  10. Betty, I love your affirmations! What a challenge to come up with honest statements that confirm and inspire. I will give this a try.
    I had just replied to my daughter’s friend who now has a website for her art. She is Mexican and explores her cultural roots via her art – and describes it all so well! (Her website is if you want to have a look). So I told Aurora, I like old pretty things. Hmmm, guess that’s how I connect to my art. ;-)

  11. btw – I love the paintings you have posted here. GREAT clear color with fascinating shadows and wonderful highlights. Not to mention excellent titles!

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    thanks, dorothy! and i think you’d definitely love alyson’s classes. she’s also headed to the new york area this fall. there’s an october live class that i want to take. maybe you’ll join me! i went to your friend’s website link. love the colors and strength in her work!

  13. About the issue of ten year age gaps – it all depends on how old the people involved are. The difference between a 20 year old and a 30 year old is vast but between a 50 year old and a 60 year old, it’s non-existent. My wonderful husband of 16 stress-free years is 10 years younger than me and in all this time there has never been a cross word – thanks to his seemingly infinite capacity to put up with my eccentricities., or perhaps not to notice them.

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      how wonderful for you, toby! the gap between a 30- and 40-something can also be significant — especially if at least one of the parties is female. think of all those biological clock issues (shudder, shudder). very glad to have all that behind me.

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