Evan Agostini/AP
January 09, 2015 12:15 PM

From her mom to Martha Stewart, plenty of people have given Blake Lively great advice.

But the actress, new mom and founder of lifestyle website Preserve, says one piece has stuck with her the most.

“I asked Ben Affleck for a great piece of advice from a director,” Lively, 27, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story. “He told me, ‘Your movie will speak to you, listen to it.’ ”

Lively, who starred in Affleck’s 2010 thriller The Town, says the thought is one “I apply in every aspect of my life.”

“Whether it’s a performance or a company or a child … the best thing I can do is be present and adjust to what is working and what is not,” the star says. “You have to stay alive and in the moment.”

The Age of Adaline actress has also been greatly influenced by her family.

As the youngest of five, Lively credits her brother Eric, 33, with helping to raise her.

“Oh my Lord, the things I’ve learned from my brother!” she says. “He’s the one who got me into acting.”

But she says their mom Elaine is the one who encouraged her optimistic spirit.

“She is a woman who has experienced so much hardship, but if you said that to her she’d say ‘What are you talking about? No, I have not,’ ” Lively says. “She chose happiness.”

Now, the former Gossip Girl star maintains her mother’s positive attitude every day.

“I know how fortunate how I am,” Lively says. “I can be in a big moment, or on my wedding day, or on a simple afternoon sitting in front of a fire eating popcorn – that is just as amazing as any other day.”

For much more from Blake Lively, pick up the newest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Reporting by KATE COYNE

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