Mon, 28 November 2016
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #132
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” —Douglas H. Everett
The arrival of a new year always fills me with giddy exuberance. No matter what occurred during the current year, I am very much like a child eagerly determined to will even more amazing, fulfilling and growth-opportunities into my world and into the world around me. 2016 has brought many of the latter on the list, growth-opportunities, and while I won't be sad to see it go, I am still very grateful for all that it opened my eyes to, all that it taught me, all that it pushed me to do so that I could begin to step outside of, in many ways, an unconscious self-imposed shell. So for that reason alone, I am thankful, indebted actually, to 2016. Isn't that way it works? Some years we savor, some years we sweat, some years are a mixture of both, but all offer the opportunity to be a different person come the year's end. Speaking of year's end, it isn't quite here yet. In fact, we still have one month to make our resolutions a reality, and I don't know about you, but I am excited to finish strong. Let's talk about how to do just that no matter where you might find yourself at the end of the eleventh month of 2016.
1. Balance the monthly budget
Let's talk money straight-away. Nothing boosts our confidence, settles our nerves and brightens our hopes for the future when we know where we stand with our money. As is the case, businesses want to finish strong as well, but we shouldn't help them at the expense of us not doing the same. Holiday gift giving and travel and entertaining can be a roadblock, but with careful planning and a clear awareness of what you are capable of, by the time the end of the year arrives, you will be feeling at ease when it comes to your financial situation.
2. Assess the goals/resolutions you pursued during 2016
Now to the task at hand. How have you been doing on the resolutions you set at the beginning of 2016? Perhaps you set some mid-year goals. How are those going? Be honest, which goes both ways. Notice how much further you have to go, but also recognize what you have done. Sometimes we stop ourselves from attaining what we seek because we are fearful we will fail. Ironically, we fail if we don't try. Trying, no matter how small the progress, is always reason to celebrate. And as Marilyn Ferguson reminds, “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” So let your fear lead you to keep trying and keep striving forward. The other side is indeed worth seeing and experiencing.
3. What habits have served you well and visa versa
After taking an honest assessment of how you are doing with your goals, what habits are helping you maintaining your progress? Write these down. Do the same exercise for habits that are impeding your progress. Don't worry, I am not about to tell you to break 10 bad habits in 31 days. The first thing to do is recognize what is and isn't working, and then, baby steps. Vow to break one bad habit. Then once that bad habit is broken and you don't even think about it, break the next bad habit. Maybe the chance to begin the second will begin the next week or maybe next month, but have a priority list of habits you want to break and slowly make your way through them.
4. Let go of passivity
Ask for what you want. Remove the possibility of regret.
If events or progress toward your goals aren't moving as you had hoped they would, observe your behavior these past eleven months. Have you been sitting on the sidelines hoping others will notice what you've been working so hard on? Have you been hoping they could read your mind? Speak up. Ask for what you want. Make decisions without asking for approval from others. If it is indeed what you want, what you've been working for, step forward and make what is in your control a reality.
5. Tie up loose ends
Look around your house, look at your planner. Do you see any projects, large or small, that aren't complete yet? Perhaps you are either putting them off or maybe you began but something occurred and zapped your time availability. Reexamine each and do your best to wrap them up so you can move forward without unnecessary expectations and demands when the new year begins. A fresh start is great motivation.
6. Get busy with small steps
There is still one month left in 2016, and a lot can happen in 31 days. A lot can happen in a mere moment, so get moving. Keep Isaac Newton's words in the back of your mind as you start your engine, and no matter how gradual you roll forward always remember, “An object at rest tends to stay at rest, an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”
Perhaps you have some extra time toward the end of the year or maybe at some point during the month. Even if you don't have an immense amount of time, find a way to target the spots in your home, office, life that could you some decluttering. Again, the goal is a fresh of start when 2017 arrives and the visual component of less stuff to look at, take care of, etc. holds incredible power over our state of mind and thus our stress levels. So get busy: go through your closet, your entire home and more specifically your kitchen. Set yourself free and you open the door for more applicable and authentic opportunities and gifts.
8. Bulk up your retirement savings for maximum tax benefit
The list began with finances, but I wanted to focus specifically on retirement savings as well. The more you can invest now, the more powerful compound interest will be and the lower your taxable income will be. So take a close look at your 401(k) or IRA contributions, which have limits of $18,000 and $5,500 this year, respectively. Can you add some more? (Good news: You can actually make 2016 contributions to your IRA through mid-April 2017 which means thereis still time after the New Year.)
9. Decide on a planning system that functions and is something you love
Just prior to each month's beginning I sit down with my planner and add the new month's pages. I then take time to plan out the month with previously schedule events, my weekly and daily routines, etc. I love this monthly rituals, and I especially love the yearly ritual of looking ahead and putting in the pages for 2o17. In fact, I just ordered a new binder and am shifting from Franklin to the six-ring A6 personal binder. And because of this, TSLL readers who have ask for TSLL Planning Pages to fit the A5 and the Personal Planner are in luck. The Personal Planning page (along with the all-inclusive planning package) is now available. Coming in a few weeks, just in time for 2017, you will be able to purchase exclusively sized planning pages for these two new sizes (on top of the Classic and Compact pages already available). It is important to have a system that works for you. Not every one, like myself and many of you, want an all digital planning system, but some do. You know what works well with your lifestyle and routine. Tweak what you have to make it work even better and enjoy setting clear goals, breaking them down and managing each day to help you find the balance of rest and success. ~Shop TSLL Planning Pages for Classic and Compact planners here (and for today only, save 20% with TSLLHOLIDAY20)
~My new planner and binder is seen below. It is an A6 six-ring Ancicraft leather binder (other sizes are available here).
10. What makes you smile spontaneously?
Take a moment and try to recall the moments in which you found yourself smiling without a forethought, smiling due to something tickling your mental funny bone or observing something joyful and pleasure filled. Take a mental note of these events or better yet, write them down. Now, try to cultivate opportunities for these moments to happen in balance with the success you are trying to achieve.
11. Answer this question honestly:
Where and how do you want to wake up on Sunday January 1st, 2017? Now plan accordingly. You will be glad you did and the new year will be assured to be off to a wonderful start. Wishing you a wonderful final month in 2016. May the struggles, if you encounter a few this year, begin to wind down and reveal their fruit and polish, and may the final few days give you a time to celebrate and appreciate all that has gone well and recognize how much you've grown. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Till Brönner, The Good Life
Mon, 21 November 2016
"As long as one keeps searching, the answers come." —Joan Baez
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #131
Life in many ways feels as though it is a treasure hunt. However, I have good news. If my experience is any evidence, Joan Baez's quote above certainly rings true. Case in point, stumbling across British philosopher Bertrand Russell's book The Conquest of Happiness. I happened to have been perusing in my local bookstore, stopping in to pick up another book that I had ordered when I came across the simple bright yellow cover of The Conquest of Happiness. Mind you, the copyright is 1930 and as the new introduction, written in 2012, by philosophy professor at Tufts University Daniel C. Dennett reminds, Russell's views while quite progress at the time clearly leave laid bare his ignorance about women and minorities. However, these should be set aside as we look through the lens as though he is speaking about all people, because what he reveals gave me reason to take a deep breath of appreciation. As Russell reminds straight-away with his title, happiness is something we must cultivate. It is not something that we are born with. Now, this is not to say that we are born unhappy, no, absolutely not. However, we are born, each of us, into a culture and world we did not choose. We must come to understand our place in it, understand the capabilities that are innately ours and how to offer them to the world all the while protecting ourselves and vulnerable heart. Russell offers wise words about what we can and cannot do. What is true and what we should let go of as once assumed as true along the path to attaining happiness and identifying what we think is causing our unhappiness. I have gone through and found 38 points he shares that through welcoming as either habits, practices, approaches or shifts in our thoughts and beliefs, can usher in a true happiness we may have never thought attainable. First: Determine what you most desire Then . . . 1. Diminish your preoccupation with yourself (stop meditating on your perceived sins and shortcomings) 2. Focus primarily on external objects: the state of the world, attainment of knowledge in a variety of avenues, and individuals for whom you feel affection. 3. Practice moderation 4. Aspire to be interested in a variety of things; the more opportunities for happiness you have, the less you are at the mercy of fate since if you lose one thing you can fall back on another. 5. Even when an unexpected negative event takes place, understand that it too can give pleasure. How? Appreciate the knowledge you have gained to better understand the world and reduce unnecessary fear. 6. Bolster your energy so when you have free time you can pursue what interests you without restraint. 7. Vow to have a zest for life, an incessant curiosity. 8. Understand this truth, affection is given to those who least demand it. 9. Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than the contrary. 10. You are more likely to realize what you fear by believing it. 11. Self-confidence comes from being accustomed to receiving as much of the right sort of affection as one has the need for (healthy, non-dependent, etc.) 12. A person who is hardy and adventurous can endure a great deal without damage. 13. The best type of affection is reciprocally life-giving: each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds the whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness. 14. Affection, in the sense of a genuine reciprocal interest of two persons in each other, not solely as means to each other's good but rather as a combination having a common goal, is one of the most important elements of real happiness. 15. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of someone who has escaped from the prison of one's self-absorption. 16. Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. 17. One must cultivate external interests that bring rest and do not call for any action, rather allow you to simply enjoy. 18. Never ignore opportunities to gain knowledge. 19. Contemplate what makes greatness of one's soul. When one is capable of greatness of soul, it will open wide the windows of the mind, letting the winds blow freely upon it from every operation of the universe. 20. During times of grief, loss or pain, turn towards something that is not the source of anxiety. (This is where having many, varied interests comes in quite handy). 21. One cultivates happiness and therefore must find ways of coping with the multitudinous cause of unhappiness. By choosing to unearth the answers, happiness expands. 22. Happiness is an achievement, not a gift. 23. Do your best (effort) and then leave it up to fate (resign). 24. Having an unconquerable hope means it must be large and impersonal (hopes for humanity and being okay with the progress made, no matter how small even if the goal wasn't reached yet). 25. Let go of worry, fret and irritation as they serve no purpose. 26. In times of quandary, it is better to do nothing than to do harm. 27. A certain kind of resignation is involved in the willingness to face the truth about ourselves. 28. Nothing is more fatiguing than to believe things that are only a myth or false. 29. Happiness requires food, shelter, health, love, successful work, and the respect of one's own herd. 30. Fear is the principal reason why humans are so unwilling to admit facts and so anxious to wrap themselves round in a warm garment of myth. 31. Accepting facts and truth is a way to tackle fear and reach true happiness. 32. The happy person is who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures her happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they in turn make the person an object of interest and affection to many others. 33. The person who demands affection is not the person upon whom it is bestowed. 34. Don't think about the causes of unhappiness; get outside of it, it must be by genuine interests, not by simulated interests. 35. Once you let go of self-absorption, let the spontaneous working of your nature and of external circumstances lead you. 36. Only what genuinely interests you can be of any use to you. 37. Undoubtedly, we should desire the happiness of those whom we love, but not as an alternative to our own. 38. A happy person feels a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle it offers and the joys it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because they feel themselves not really separate from those who will come after them. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found. While there is much to digest and contemplate, what left me with hope was the reality that so much of what causes us pain is self-inflicted. While yes, there are many things that are out of our control, understanding the difference is key, but so too is recognizing when we have played a role that has adversely obstructed us from potential happiness. Simply put, we need to get out of our own way, and this list will help us all to do just that. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~soundtrack for the film ~starring Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel (English subtitles) https://youtu.be/XwofBhEMevw
Mon, 14 November 2016
"Comfort is the root of confidence and not the other way around." —Haley Mlotek in The New York Times Style Magazine
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #130
Confidence is attractive. Confidence can be deceiving. Confidence is however hard to fake. But the hard truth about confidence is that it is rooted in feeling comfortable with that which you project to be confident about. Depending upon the arena, the one who exudes confidence draws the attention from the masses due to either curiosity to figure out how they too can emulate such confidence on a particular subject or way of life that they desire or out of appreciation from others who have confidence as well. Because when one projects an air of confidence there is a sense of security, self-worth, and peace of mind knowing that they are able to think and live independently. Confidence is valuable in a variety of aspects throughout our lives. But it must be understood that confidence is a dynamic entity as it depends on understanding something that is as well quite fluid: life, the world, other people, etc. Because of this reality, it requires of each of us to be always pursuing knowledge, asking questions and remaining a participant in the world in which we live. I first came across the quote above as it was pertaining to beauty and the recent trend to no longer wear makeup as inspired by Alicia Keyes who shared openly this past May in a letter (it's well worth the time to read) that she longed to just be herself and stop the constant work of being a chameleon and being what she thought she had to be, rather than be who she truly was. The article gave me pause because it is difficult to put down the masks that we present to the world as they are in many ways our armor, and it is far easier to just do what is expected, project an image or idea that is expected or easy for all to see and hear. So where do we find the comfort that is needed to have the confidence we seek? ~Take the time to get to know yourself and continue this ongoing process ~Build a healthy social network ~Stretch yourself - try things you have never done before but want to do and someday do well ~Read and learn voraciously and endlessly I can think of more than a few instances when I did not have confidence. Most recently, I have become frustrated when I attempt to converse in French at our local conversation group or with friends or instructors who know how to speak the language. I feel as though I am presenting an entirely different person, as though the person they are hearing and seeing is not the real Shannon. And as I gave this some thought, I realized why I wasn't enjoying myself: I wasn't comfortable and therefore I couldn't be confident and relax. It is a vicious cycle. So, I will admit, for a time, I stopped going to the weekly group conversations. Okay, for quite a lengthy time. I chose to study on my own, but I realized that in order to increase my comfort, I needed to stretch myself. That is the most perplexing paradox of this entire conversation. Yes, we need comfort to be and reflect confidence, but confidence can only be gained if we choose to grow, learn and step outside of our comfort zone. Below are just a few examples of arenas that require each of us to experiment, stretch ourselves and try new things in order to gain the confidence we seek:
However, it requires balance. Don't put yourself entirely in uncomfortable scenarios all of the time. Stretch yourself just enough so that you are always able to be growing rather than regressing. For me, on top of trying to develop new friendships as well as learning a new language, I found that I needed to separate the two so that I could be my confident, authentic self with those who were just beginning to know me. So I struck a balance, communicated with them that I wanted dearly to build our friendship, but felt learning a language simultaneously wasn't going to work for me. And they completely understood. When we can come home to a place that allows us to feel comfort, we can then be recharged to go back out and try something new, but we must have a sanctuary of comfort always available to us to retreat to get that fix. The sanctuary of comfort may be your actual house or apartment or it may be a person, an activity or a particular place. The key begins with knowing yourself. Not only knowing what you like and dislike, what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable, but why you feel and prefer what you do. Knowledge is truly power, not only as an approach to life, but as well when it comes to understanding ourselves and living our best lives. ~Similar posts from the Archives you might enjoy:
~Why Not . . . Read? (three part series)
~Blind Date (Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément)
~Starring Mélanie Bernier and Clovis Cornillac (2015)
~Find Blind Date on Netflix here
Image: Paris Vogue, 1974
Mon, 7 November 2016
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #129
NYC stylist Tiffani Rogers returns to the podcast to share her new resource for anyone who travels to, loves visiting and shopping in New York City and wants to know the boutiques and worthwhile shops to visit in order to discover stylish treasures that will last for many seasons to come in their capsule wardrobe. Just released last month, Tiffani has compiled a guide of her hand-picked shops around the island of Manhattan. With more than 14 pages of detailed descriptions organized by neighborhood, enjoy shopping in the city again. ~Shop the City: A Shopping Guide to New York City A digital download available to you immediately upon purchase, save and shop as soon as your shoes hit the pavement. ~TSLL readers have been given an exclusive discount to save $10 off the regular price. Simply enter promo code SIMPLYLUX. ~Items talked about during the episode: