Self-Portrait: What You Do and Who You Want to Be

How do your close friends describe you?
How does your family describe you?
How do your students describe you?

How do you describe yourself?

©Joseph Mattus, Victoria. Grisaille oil on linen, 17 x 14 inches. Used with permission.

©Joseph Mattus, Victoria. Grisaille oil on linen, 17 x 14 inches. Used with permission.

All of those descriptions might be true, but they might also mask your potential.

If you grip too tightly to the stories of who you think you are, you’ll never be open to what you can become. [Tweet this]

For example, you know me as someone who is a no-excuse-action-taking-don’t-stop-working kinda gal. I have never had a problem taking action.

My reputation so precedes me that often the first thing many people do upon meeting me is apologize for their lack of action.

It’s cool with me if I inspire the need for action in artists, but I have many other sides and so do you.

We get to make our own self-portraits.

Who Do You Want to Be?

A number of years ago, I began seeking a new spirituality that aligned with my personal growth.

“Seeking” isn’t really the right word. It’s more like I was hoping to become more spiritual. As if suddenly I would start being filled with spirit and attain enlightenment. Ha!

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that my spiritual desire wasn’t fulfilled because I wasn’t doing anything to make it happen. I wasn’t living in my action-oriented mode. I was only hoping for spirituality to happen.

©John Prout, Saint Francis of Assisi. Bronze sculpture, 5.5 x 2.5 x 5 feet. Used with permission.

©John Prout, Saint Francis of Assisi. Bronze sculpture, 5.5 x 2.5 x 5 feet. Used with permission.

I want to share a quote that is meaningful to me, and I hope it serves you:

The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.
(As best I can tell, this quote can be attributed to fitness guru Bill Phillips.)

Think about it. You are in control of who you are – of how you show up in the world.

What are you doing that is contrary to who you want to be? For example: Gossiping, complaining, watching too much bad TV, or eating the wrong kinds of food.

Most importantly: What are you doing to support who you want to be?

And … Action!

I have since done something about this desire to live a more spirit-filled life.

The first thing I did was to initiate 99 days of prayer after reading this inspirational blog post that challenged readers to take action on something they’ve been procrastinating.

I have also been working with spiritual coaches, reading books to nourish my soul (I highly recommend The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World), slowing down, and resuming my yoga practice to create more space in my life.

I still have a long way to go on my spiritual journey, but I am committed to a daily practice. And it is a practice.

When you are creating the new self-portrait of who you want to be, negative thoughts and beliefs bubble up. Outside forces test your resolve. You must be committed to the practice.

It’s one step at a time, but your life vision won’t take shape without action – no matter how much hoping you do.

What Do You Do?

Please don’t misunderstand my action-oriented approach to mean relentless marketing. This isn’t the case.

©Carol Ann Webster, The Year 2222. Tissue paper, texture paint, and acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

©Carol Ann Webster, The Year 2222. Tissue paper, texture paint, and acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

What is most important is that you take responsibility for your future – without complaints or excuses. You do what is required to be the best possible you. So …

Who do you want to be?
What is missing?
What’s stopping you from being that person?
What could you do immediately to be the person you want to be?
What are you waiting for?

One precious life is all you have. Don’t hope it away. [Tweet this]

Challenge: What do you commit to doing for the next 100 days that will get you closer to who you want to be?

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41 comments to Self-Portrait: What You Do and Who You Want to Be

  • You’ve really got me thinking with this post, enough to look up the number of remaining days in 2014 (69). I’ll be mulling this over today, but the first thing that popped into my head is getting back to that daily gratitude journal. It’s a start.

  • jude

    Your words always inspire and encourage me. Thank you so much Alyson !

  • Alyson, I was surprised to read that you wanted to incorporate more spirituality in your life. When I took your Blast Off class and saw your affirmation card suggestions and sharings, I was inspired to include my own spirituality in my own cards. We can always grow, of course, but don’t sell yourself short: you’ve been setting a good example for many of us for a long time!

  • Thanks for the reminder. After selling our building in town and moving my studio and frame shop back to the country,the past few months have put my painting on the back burner. However. I am back at it with a painting of Central Park in New York City for a client. Your goal of prayer reminded me of years ago when I made the commitment to prayer every morning and now it’s been over20 years. The reminder to take action brings lasting joys and comforts. Praying and Painting today! Thanks again!

  • Alyson :
    I love to read what you say it is very relaxing to my sole ,I also have a lot of spirituality in my life, and what I try to add to the Art world. I am a new artist at the young age of 67 and I am very thankful that I can create, I can only get better as I go on, with the help from inspiring people like you, Thank You for all you wright and please keep helping us all on the right road to becoming successful with our creating Art, as some of the artists make their living ,i just do it for my pleasure. But I for one do listen to you thank you.

  • Michele Pasternak

    Thanks Alyson, I will add the early morning gratitudes again, I use to do this when my eyes first opened. I also am working on making it happen with my art. It helps to see your reinforcement of what I am striving to do. Two shows coming up one on Nov. 1st and the yearly Off The Beaten Path Florida Arts Tour always on the first full weekend of December. Today I am grateful for your positive emails and want to Thank You!!!

  • You ask “are you doing or hoping?”

    Yes. I’d love to be enigmatic and leave it there, but I can’t. I also sometimes answer rhetorical questions.

    You can’t “do” if you have no hope. But to hope without action is to be either incredibly naive or not really as hopefu as thought.

    In life there will be some things that have to be put off. This is not the same as procrastinating. It is prioritizing. Procrastination is putting something off because in reality you want to avoid it for some unadmitted reason.

  • Sometimes one has to let go of something (instead of adding) in order to achieve the desired result in life. It is a constant evaluating to see what is aligned (or not) with your desires.

  • Thank you for this post, Alyson. Lately I’ve been actively addressing what holds me back. The two biggest by far are fear and doubt. As I shed those, confidence grows stronger as I find that yes, I actually *can* do these things and take matters to the next level. So I will continue working with confidence and leave doubt behind. Big things coming next year, and one of the largest is because of something I learned in your book! Thank you for all that you do!

  • Bill Sotomayor

    Alyson, thanks for your posts. They always make me think twice about what is said. I had to look up who stated this quote that follows: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin/French Philosopher.

    Being spiritual is always with us. What we need to do is to live in the experience of it and it will manifest itself more fully. By reading your comments, I see you are on your way. Thanks again.

  • I feel compelled to add that along with daily prayer to become more spiritual, we will be helped along tremendously if we read the Bible daily, for by doing that, we will become more spiritual. By digging into the Bible and finding God’s will for all his people, I have learned how to be spiritual by his grace and mercy and my faith in him and his faith in me.

  • Sue Bussoli

    Timing is everything to use the cliche. Yesterday, while I was working out I thought I got to get back and journaling my creative energy. Kinda of like a blog. Something to jot down ideas about what I should next try to accomplish as well the ride too.
    The fact I take the link to read more has to speak volumes in piquing my interest level with thanks Alyson. And today it was simply karma affirming an action!

  • Barbara Muir

    Great thought Alyson,

    I am eternally grateful for you. Sean Achor’s TED talk is wonderful about gratitude and happiness. I want to be who I am only more so. Tonight I bought a mattress for my new bed. It is perfect, but that’s not the point. The saleslady had a Masters degree in English Literature and I hardly noticed our transaction because we began to discuss literature and teaching. She told me that Buddhists believe that life is made up of moments and you never know what the next moment will bring. Imagine that. In a department store! A friend I met through FaceBook who has taken your courses challenged me to meditate every day for a month. We did it for four months and reported every day! She lives in California, and I live here in Toronto. I thank you for inspiring us. All of us who read your blog, enjoy that special “moment” that carries forward into our lives and our art. I still meditate almost every day, and know that what may seem like arbitrary challenges to change can have profound effects. As always XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

  • Alyson,
    This year I began with the word “audacious,” and changed it in mid-March to “be kind to myself.”

    I’ve almost totally stopped marketing my art. I almost totally stopped making art (thank God for my sketchbooks or truly would’ve stopped). The only one who truly cares about my “making it as an artist” is me…the one woman show. I do have wonderful support as in my husband is always pushing me into my studio/book, into classes, etc…but all of the business is me.

    I have a day job that supports my dreams, which I am forever grateful. I have so much…and time is so limited…and ok I AM AN ARTIST and want to BE an artist to everyone else…but to do that it’s a one woman constant show. I’m tired.

    I am very glad that your soul whispered “prayer.” Mine whispered “be kind…it’s ok to “just” BE an artist. Enjoy making art…the rest will follow.

    This month, I’m in my studio making art…without self given pressure. I’m enjoying the few minutes here and there. I’m allowing myself to sit in front of the TV once a week without guilt (heck, it’s CineBistro Date Night, too, lol) and without my sketchbook….

    Enjoy praying daily…you will find what you seek (methinks you already are finding). Sometimes, quiet is so needed!

  • Thanks for the inspiration Alyson! I started in Sept to do MAMs (meditation, affirmation, manifestations) daily. I’m not daily perfect, but feel good working to build good habits getting better because I miss it when I don’t. I think I create better when I take care of myself.

  • What a fabulous post, Alyson! I think this is my favorite of all time. I have been thinking about this topic for the past 6-8 months and have been slowly working up to a transformation but your article and the blog post you refer to gave me even more encouragement. I am trailblazing, and it’s really scary, but one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I kind of like scary. It makes me feel alive. Thank you for all that you do!

  • Hi Alyson

    I believe we are already “filled with spirit”. It is a revealing, an unveiling that is required. I am very good at action, at doing doing doing. For me, to connect with spirit has required me to S L O W down….and it is challenging!

    My studio biz and art practice can be all consuming, and I LOVE it!! (I am grateful every day for this focus in my life) so much so that I realized that at times there was very little space left for “me” to inhabit, even though technically it is all about me. Funny how that works….

    The intention for me to slow down, to create space for myself, for breath, ahhhhhh….. is an ongoing “undoing” .

    I have been reading your posts for some time now….not every one, and sometimes quickly so I can get back to “doing” as soon as possible. I have found so much of what you share to be helpful advice and I want to thank you for sharing so freely. This is the 1st time I have added my voice and I want to thank you for bringing in this topic.

  • Alyson,
    It sounds like a lot of artists are interested in the spiritual aspect of life. Coincidence or part of the artistic make-up? I don’t know.

    And I don’t know if faith and spirituality overlap 100%, but here is a definition of faith that got me out of the “How can I build my faith? I need more faith!” guilt trip/rut. (I use “he” for convenience, not with intent to describe a gender.)

    “Faith is confidence that God is who he says he is, that he will do what he says he will do, that he is for me, not against me, and that he only allows hard things in my life for his good purposes.”

  • Faith and spirituality do not have to overlap. I am an atheist but I am also very spiritual (where I have defined spiritual to mean a focus of that part of the mind commonly called soul but actually is an unknown aspect of the mind that quite possibly connects us individually to the universe).

    No deity necessary.

    • Hi Patricia, I was beginning to think I was the last atheist left on this venerable site…

      Me? I just paint when I can and I paint my art-vision not the reality as I find the camera does that best.

      • LOL, Phil. It does get a little lonely being a minority, eh? I am also not a realist when it comes to making my art, though I can appreciate it.

        Photography can be very expressive and does not need to remain realistic, interestingly.

  • LOVE this post! Thank you for sharing! it is interesting to read the comments and see how your words touch us in different ways. I pick up on the TAKE ACTION! part. So many times we think about what we want to do or be, how nice it would be if…… but do little to get there. Results do follow continued action. You are inspiring me to go back to daily meditation. 🙂 I slowly stopped doing it and I miss it. Have a lovely day!

  • Moe

    The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do?

    It seems to me, if what you want to be is BETTER, then the difference between who you ARE and who you WANT to be is what you AREN’T currently doing. The stuff I do is why I am who I am now.

    I don’t know. I guess I want to be inspired by the quote but then I get caught up in the logic. I understand the message though.

    “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

    Thomas Jefferson

  • I am committing to a regular practice of contemplative prayer and yoga…slowing down too…also reading more…positive books in addition to painting as a practice too.

  • I commit to stretching again every morning. I will explore yoga as a way to do this better. I’ve wanted to for years, so I am starting today!

  • I just made a place to meditate in my studio. I found that not only does it help me, but others have noticed the change in energy in the studio. Bonus! I’m going to commit to meditating regularly. The challenge will be for me to take time to sit still every day.

  • hi,
    2 steps I’ve taken-
    first -is reduce my work hours by 1/2, now working only 2 days a week!! I have a 5 day weekend!!
    second – we bought a new home on a 1 acre property with a 500 sq ft studio for me!!- have moved a mountain of boxes into it but need to spend some time there getting organized!!

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