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. As always, an inspirational piece. I really how you always think about something life affirming and positive on a daily basis. I try my best to do that too ( but I admit, not every day). This entry was really facetious ( I lol’d). I was also wondering if you read my blog too at times?

    I hope to blog more like you one day. Your entries are more candid and personal than my own. I tend to stick to a semi-impersonal tone.

    When you really believe in your heart that what your doing is going to get you somewhere, anything can go. :)

    I have tremendous respect for you on following your dreams and doing what you want, after dealing with a rather difficult childhood. Your optimism is infectious :)

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    thanks! what’s interesting to me is that so many of you want to juggle arts and a straight job too. i really think that’s a new reality. people want to do more than one thing in their lives. career paths are not always linear and obvious. i think that that’s a good thing!

  3. On the topic of dating out of one’s age group – you know, in this world you can find an example of anything that works. The important thing is that the two people truly want to be together – and that neither person fetishizes the other’s age (having a thing for older women, for example). That’s a house build on sand.

    Also, certain times of life come with very specific needs and behaviors (e.g. 20s -endless partying, late 30s – jonesing for kids, 60s – impending retirement) and if you’re not with someone who can deeply relate, these times will be very difficult. I’m painting with a broad brush here, but you get the idea.

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  5. This is so wonderful, Betty. I definitely need to make a list each morning of that for which I am grateful. I would go well with Ramadan, that I observe and that is fast approaching. Ramadan begins August 1st, 2011.

    The affirmations would also challenge me as well. It’s hard for me to see the good that I’ve done. Yes, this is coming from a psychotherapist. We too are on our path to healing.

    And how interesting that you too on the move to lose weight. And we’re both using LoseIt.

    My internist has given me a meditation/relaxation CD to help with my nighttime eating.

    But his wife said something to me when I was leaving my visit this morning.
    “You look great. And especially after having 3 children.”
    I want to lose the stomach that filled with fat during the last 12 years since I delivered our last child.
    I know I don’t look that bad. Many young women much younger and never pregnant are so much larger and heavier.

    I think I am missing the passing of my youth. I’m post menopausal. And while I don’t miss the monthly messenger, I do miss being young.
    And yet my teens and twenties were filled with such soul-aching anxiety.
    We can’t have it all–and that’s the truth–we certainly can’t have everything all at once. Nor do we need it.

    It’s just that the media portrays celebrities and people has having it all right now.
    To stop even listening to the lies.
    I wish I could go and live in another country for a while.
    I’m always so much more creative when I travel to Europe.
    Much of my reading audience is European, South Asian and Asian.

    Could I have been born in the wrong place?

    Aaahhh. I must show more gratitude.

    And despite all I have very much for which to be grateful.

    Thanks so much for such a heartwarming and honest post.

    It definitely moved me.

    Peace and blessings.

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    anjuelle, in chinese herbal medicine, it is believed that the post-menopausal woman has the potential to be in the best time of her life! friend me on let’s make these years the best.

  7. Regarding “missing the passing of youth,” it seems to me the way of happiness and contentment is to recognize and embrace the advantages that each stage of life offers. As long as one has one’s health and a certain amount of security, one finds that as age closes some doors, it opens others – often doors one never even suspected were there. If we spend our time looking regretfully at the doors that have closed, we don’t notice the newly opened ones. Among the opportunities that increase with age are those of being of help to people we care about. As an example, when I was 20 and a queen of the gay dance floor with distinguished older men offering to buy me drinks, I had a wonderful time and I am comforted by the memories. Now in my senior years however, came the privilege of editing an adopted son’s 63 papers as he worked his way through his MA at U.of Penn – and then, almost overcome with the emotions of pride and happiness, being with him as he put on his cap and gown to graduate. I couldn’t have done that when I was in my 20s. I had neither the skills nor the perception to understand how deeply rewarding this involvement would be – what an inexpressible happiness would derive from it. I would not trade this happiness and others like it that have been made available to me for a return of youth, glittering but shallow though that prospect might be, were it possible. It seems very simple to me – cherish the old, embrace the new and always be alert for the unexpected doors to open.

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    toby, i would never EVER want to be 20-something or 30-something again. i’m with you — as long as i have my health, i’m happy to be an “older woman.” it’s great to be there for our children. and i’ll bet there are still moments when you’re the queen of the dance floor. :-)

  9. The affirmation and gratitude rituals really work. I came to the realization a while ago that I have everything I need in life to make me happy but simply lack the conscious awareness to appreciate it. I write down the 5-gratitude list most every night..and that has kept me going through this very difficult year. (I heard about it from a lady a met at a bed & breakfast 3 years ago). This was what I wrote in my gratitude journal last night: 1-comfortable weather for sleeping; 2-Jeff’s eyes are getting better, 3-squash is growing in my garden; 4-blood pressure continues to be normal; 5-saw very moving Picasso exhibit at the deYoung Museum.

    I love your affirmation list. You ARE a beloved writer/painter, teacher, AND FRIEND

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    judy! i’ve known you for 40 years and had no idea that you’ve been doing the gratitudes. just goes to show that you never really ever know anyone that well. or put it another way…just goes to show that there are always new ways to connect. xoxox.

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    i just changed one of my affirmations. it’s the one that reads: “i am a beloved writer, painter and teacher.” done with that!

    my new affirmation: “my art and writing are magnetic.” :)

  12. I am definitely the same way when it comes to pursuing a career in journalism. I always joke about how “I’m going to be broke when I graduate from college and I’ve made my peace with it.” But honestly, with two years left to go, I still feel like there’s a time where I need to step back and think practically. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find the balance between realism and ambition especially when I’ve always had so many far-reaching and, what some might dub, “unrealistic” goals.

    It’s so refreshing to see something positive written about the “reality” of having a career in an unstable field. I can’t agree more; it’s all about your attitude and just like anything else, it’s what you make of it.

    P.S. I just wanted to commend you for putting up pictures of your affirmations. It definitely (pardon my French) takes some balls to do that. It was unapologetic and I admire that. I can barely get through telling people how to pronounce my last name, I always follow it with a laugh and some sort of explanation of how it has three too many vowels and a silent “n” at the end.

    Loved the post, all in all!

  13. Pingback: Just broke up with my bf of 14 months. Sad yet illuminating. Well, at least I now have a better idea of what I want in a relationship.

  14. i am grateful that you are in my life, setting such a luminous example of what it truly means to live from your heart, & to unabashedly share your journey deeper into the center of your true essence so that we can all be inspired by your courage, by your grace & vulnerability. … i would be even more grateful if i knew what MILF meant tho!!! keep truckin’, betty! xoxo

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