The Simple Sophisticate - Intelligent Living Paired with Signature Style (lifestyle)
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #187
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
Upon stepping off the plane at Heathrow last month and wandering into the Devon countryside for a week, I also drastically limited my access to American news. My focus was initially on successfully arriving at my destinations, not missing my train, exploring desired sites and soaking in all of the beauty of the landscape and the culture. While I did turn on the BBC from time to time out of curiosity of what Britain's culture was focused on and their observations as an outsider of American news, I did so for brief windows of time each morning and evening. Stepping out of my routine of regularly having news radio on in the background while working and scanning my social media, which prior to my trip contained a long list of news sources that I would frequently check out throughout the day happening without conscious intention initially, and going about my days with this new unconscious habit revealed a lightness about my day that I haven't experienced for some time. Due to this observation upon arriving back in the states, I set out to revamp how I took in the news. Now at this point in the post, some readers may be nodding their heads and going so far as to say, "I never read/watch/view the news. It's so depressing." And while, yes, it can be tempting to refrain from all sources of news and go about our days in our own bubble, I would advise that it would be dangerous to do so. As I have shared in 2012, staying abreast of current events is, at its core, crucial to being an informed citizen. And to toss away the power to be able to think critically is a foundational component of living well and creating a world for ourselves and around us now and in the future that we wish to live. In 2020, the United States will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment (women's suffrage), and to understand the struggle and suppression women fought to rise above should never be forgotten. Our voices are reflected in our vote and with such a powerful responsibility, we must stay informed. However, there is a healthy balance to be struck, and while I do need to stay abreast of the news for my teaching curriculum as well as for my own knowledge, I became determined to find a better way of staying informed without decreasing the quality of my life. In a study by the University of Sussex, researchers found that indeed viewing negative news has a negative effect on our well-being. However, as it is important to remain an informed citizen, how does one balance the two? The effect of negative news:
  • exacerbates personal worries and anxieties
  • begin to catastrophize your worries — when you think about a worry so persistently that you begin to make it seem much worse than it was at the outset and much worse than it is in reality
  • begin to think and talk about your worries far more
As mentioned above, I wrote a post regarding the benefits of staying abreast of the current events of the day, and the last reason is a point I want to break down and examine today: become an educated citizen. It can be tempting to ignore news all together. The positive effects on your mind, and lightness of being will be immediately felt as I discovered during my week long holiday in England. But, when we say no to all news, we also say no to progress, not only improving our own lives, but the lives of those we love, the lives of the generations which will come after us and the quality of life and the quality of the world and the environment of which we call home. There is a reason the founding fathers chose to organize a representative government rather than a direct democracy. They didn't trust the common man (or woman as it eventually became her right) to choose well when it came to elections. In other words, they didn't feel the public was educated enough on matters they would be making decisions. And while we should all have the right to vote as free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a democratic society, we wouldn't want ignorant voters to place a vote based on lack of understanding of how a particular system of government works. Below are a few reasons to not run away from the news all together:
  • improve critical thinking skills
    • observe bias
    • determine credibility
    • begin to think objectively
    • understand most issues involve a lot of grey and are not merely black and white
  • change can only occur when we know what is actually going on and thus understand what and how to change it
  • enables you to form your own opinion
  • cast a vote that supports the world you want to see materialize
  • holds those in power accountable
So while yes, the peace I so deeply enjoyed while traveling was something I wanted to return home with, I also knew a balance needed to be struck, as there are many benefits: The Benefits of a Healthy Balance:
  • reduce stress
  • broaden perspective
  • more emotional energy to focus on priorities
  • better sleep
  • healthier relationships
  • confidence in decisions in upcoming elections
Each of us will make different changes, so it is important to understand ourselves and how/why we do welcome excessive news into our lives. With the first suggestion, we will drill down to the core of the shift that needs to be made and then follow with eight more ideas for striking a healthy balance that elevates the quality of your everyday without leaving you in the dark.
1.Become aware of the changes you wish to make and why
Come to understand the cue and why you respond the way you do. What is the reward you think you are going to receive? Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Charles Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit, and within the book he explains how habits occur and how to break them if they are not serving us well. It comes down to understanding the three part cycle: Cue, Reward, Routine (see the detailed graphic here). Part of why I turn on the radio, the news, or scan my social media to stay apprised of current events, is that it is part of my routine. Within in that routine, I am seeking a particular outcome. In other words, I am craving something that I think this habit will satisfy. Once I identified that I wanted to learn, and knowing that this routine is not procurring the outcome I actually desire, I can shift the routine. But first, I needed to understand the cue that shifted my attention to feeling the need to stay aware or learn something. Also, in some moments during the day (because he suggests looking at the time of day in which the habit takes place), it was merely to have background company while I worked. Understanding these three components is a significant step toward altering the habit that you've discovered, in this case watching, reading or hearing too much news. In the following steps we'll talk about how to create new habits that satiate the craving.
2. Understand the tactics and all the purposes of the news business
While yes, the news is meant to inform (find the who, what, when, where and the why), the networks/channels need to keep you watching as each station is funded by advertiser dollars (BBC and PBS being exceptions) and thus, need to keep your eyeballs on the television for as long as possible. Often the "why" is something that cannot be answered immediately; however, the anchors would like you to think they can find the answer: the answer will reveal itself with the next guest that will be chatting in the next segment, and that is one way to keep you tuned in.
3. Adjust the sites, channels you view
Either view a neutral news site or challenge yourself to view the opposing columnists, news sites, opinions and commentaries to better understand their argument. One assignment I give my rhetoric students each year is to read a columnist who leans to the left on political issues (domestic and international) for the first semester, followed by reading a columnist from the opposing side the second (have a look at the list here - I am always adding to and tweaking it). I too continue to read columnists from the left and right to better understand the issues at a level that is far deeper than the short talking points shared in headlines, comment sections, etc. Often, what I find is that I become a bit calmer after reading the opposition (credible source is a must) as the fear mongering has been reduced and I am able to better understand why the other side adheres to their ideology on a particular topic. Another site I would recommend you checking out to view multiple sides of issues is a source our school's librarian has shared with our staff: AllSides. As you will see, it is organized just as the name alludes: each column is placed on its respective place on the continuum, so you can have at your fingertips, multiple sources and opinions about a current event topic.
4. Welcome a deeper understanding of history into your reading repetoire
Part of the fear and angst that intensifies is due to a lack of knowledge of what has happened in the past. A deep understanding. The cause, the effect. It's one thing to memorize the dates of events, but its another to understand the catalyst that led to the event occurring and the outcome that followed. This takes time. This requires more than a viewing of a three minute segment on the news. Pick up a book on a topic that interests you that has parallels to the issues that matter to you and dive deep into the archives of history.
5. Adjust how you receive the news
Perhaps turning off the notifications on your phone is the first step toward change that will limit your stress. Then look to how you are receiving the news: social media or newspapers; radio or television? Often we take in news without being prepared to receive it. In other words, we are passive receivers of the news - we are letting the news come to us when it wants to arrive. Instead, choose to be an active receiver. Choose when and how you will receive the news of the day. I prefer the radio and the newspaper as I have more control as to when I am ready to learn what is going on in the world. I recently went through my Twitter account and unfollowed nearly 100 different people who were associated with news or world events that typically shared information that stressed me out to read. Now my feed contains primarily inspiring, trusted and less inflammatory sources of individuals. I also have chosen to receive a daily news email that arrives in my inbox each morning (rather than alerts), so that I can determine when I see the news and prepare myself for it, read it, and move forward with my day. Most major news sites have an email subscription service like this. Some even have daily podcast episodes: short and current - such as NPR's Up First app (10 minute rundown each weekday morning with the Morning Edition team).  The Daily Skimm is another great news source to receive the headlines of the day upon waking up to start your day. Another idea that will also tickle your interest of other cultures is to read the news through the lense of another country. Part of the reason I enjoyed the news a bit more in England was the distance and perspective an outsider gave to the perceived pressing issues of the United States.
6. Set a time limit
One show I thoroughly enjoy each week is Sunday's Weekend Edition on NPR: the puzzle with Will Shortz, the music and book interviews, as well as a glance at world and domestic news and politics. Also, CBS's Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley. However, once I've heard or viewed them, the radio and television goes off and I enjoy my leisurely or project-driven day to do as I please without rachetting up the worry.
7. Satiate your need for learning with other non-news sources
As I mentioned at the top of the post, part of the reason I sought out the news was to continue my learning, but as I knew but didn't apply, there are many other ways and sources to garner knowledge. Perhaps you have a list of blogs you read each morning or once a week, or maybe you view a particular show or public television program that tickles your fancy for travel or history or antiques or art or the list could go on for some time which means there is a wealth of ways we can welcome knowledge into our lives. Carve out time for these activities as they are a healthy choice for living well and staying informed.
8. Take action
Often part of the reason the abundance of news we receive overwhelms us is that we feel helpless. And while we may not be a politician or an individual who holds a seat in government at the moment, why not do something that supports the cause or causes you believe in. Begin by donating or volunteering your time, but in all sincerity, why not consider running for an office locally? Or if you are someone who prefers to stay behind the scenes, investigate who is running for offices in your local community, state or your state's federally elected senate and representative seats and see how you can support them.
9. Find alternatives to replace previous news viewing/listening/reading moments
Classical music, walking, reading a different section of the newspaper, reading deeper more investigative articles rather than viewing snippets on the news, all of these are ideas I incorporate into my life and now I have added a few more. I recently shared on Instagram Stories that I found the app I have been looking for for months: WRTI, a classical and jazz music station based in Philadelphia (an NPR affiliate). The primary reason I am most a fan of this app is that it has an alarm clock to enable me to wake up to classical music rather than the news radio app I used to use or a beeping sound (it also has a sleep timer). I tend to listen to classic music in the morning and jazz during my work day. If you have found alternatives that are working for you, please do share, as each of us will design the balance of staying informed and reducing stress thereby elevating the overall quality of our lives in our own unique way, and the more ideas, the more options to see what might work best. While my shift is fairly recent and I will continue to share my progress and the changes I observe, I have already noticed a return (or maintenance) of the lightness I so enjoyed while exploring and relaxing in the English countryside. I am certain we all can strike the right balance so long as we know how. And in so doing, continuing to fine tune the dial, we will find the precise spot that works best for us individually.   ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~A Thinking Life = A Happy Life

~Why Not . . . Spend Time in Nature?

~15 Everyday Habits to Live a Life of Contentment (episode #93)

 

Petit Plaisir:

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz
~read this post by David of the process of My Paris Kitchen finally coming to publication ~Listen to my interview with David Leibovitz (episode #182) about his recent book L'Appart in which the purchase and renovation of his now Paris apartment which took place while he was trying to write and publish My Paris Kitchen.  

Sponsors for today’s episode:

Image: TSLL Instagram

Direct download: 187BalanceNews2.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #185
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
By default we choose comfort over a better life, but we don’t think that is what we’re doing. We think we are choosing the better life. Why? We don’t know what or how the “better life” will unfold, but we do at least know what is somewhat okay. For example, we may have gathered up the gumption to let go of a partner because the person we were becoming or the life that was evolving was shrinking or limiting or unhealthy in a myriad of ways, but after a few weeks or months or maybe even a few years, we think, well, at least I know how it will unfold. At least I know. Another example is the job that doesn’t excite us, but it pays decently or enough and at least we know we have a job; we have a rhythm, even if that rhythm includes complaining more than we are cheering. Yet another, our weight is not what we know it should or could be, but we are comfortable with our daily eating and exercise habits. We like the food we are eating, and yes, the food we eat brings comfort, even if we know it doesn’t bring us the best health for our body and mind. Let me share two more examples: the location on this planet we call home. Yes, we can make wherever we are home, but maybe it is too much or too little. Too unkempt or too parochial. Too noisy or unstimulating. But, we think to ourselves, at least we know how the days will unfold, who we will run into in the streets, how to drive on the left or right side of the road, how much are property taxes will be each month or how much our rent will be from month to month. Lastly, our attitude. The words we utter, the thoughts we allow to pop up unsupervised often become a default, and because we know how to navigate in our world with these thoughts, we keep allowing them to have their way. Even if we know we may be a bit too snarky, sarcastic, cynical or negative about the likelihood of unknowns, at least we won’t be made a fool. At least those around us know what to expect, and we know what to expect of their reaction. Since it is the holiday season, I would like to say, and feel free to join me in doing so, bah humbug! Bah humbug to each of these comforts and most certainly more that I could share that limit us, that stand in the way of living a better life that allows us to experience reaching our fullest potential. How can we step out of the comfort zone of each of these? By giving ourselves permission to feel awkward. As many of you know who virtually came along with me on my weeklong trip to England either via Instagram, Facebook or here on the blog, the trip was full of beautiful experiences. And many of these experiences were opportunities to feel awkward. Never before had I rented a car in a foreign country, let alone drove on the left side of the road and in the car. Never before had I traveled internationally during the holiday season, never before had I ventured outside of the metropolis of London. Now for those of you who may have had the opportunity to do any or all of these opportunities, they may seem simple, easy, and/or nothing to stress one’s self about. But to others who have never done them, the response may be quite different. Why? Because we see the comfortable life, the good life, the better life, through our own experience. Some readers who have always wanted to get out of the city and explore the countryside may be daunted by the idea of having to drive in a foreign country in order to spend time in a lovely rustic cottage, or others may dismiss international travel at all, but the truth is, if the only reason you don’t do what you wish to do, long to do, is because it will be uncomfortable and full of unknowns, most likely putting you in a position to feel and appear very awkward, that is actually the sign you need to see. Because that is precisely the new venture that will open your world up and reveal to you a better and more amazing way of life that you couldn’t have imagined if you only kept dreaming. While my experiences in England are timely for me and with the fresh feeling of feeling awkward (I drove quite slow on the narrow, beautiful country farm-lined roads), this is just one example of how giving yourself permission to feel awkward is the right choice. Let’s go back to the list of examples I talked about at the top of the post. Relationships. If you are used to being in a relationship, having a partner, and after months or years of being together, you are no longer in each others’ lives, for some it will be awkward to be alone. I would argue for most of us it will be awkward depending upon how long we’ve been with our partner. But again, allow yourself to feel the awkwardness. Revel in it, dance it, laugh about it, journal about it and then step into it and eventually you will step through it. After time passes, you will look back on your old journal entries, recognize the discomfort you were feeling, but also see that such feelings, while natural, were simply part of the process of growing, of expanding into the life you wanted to live, were capable of living, even though there were many unknowns in front of you. Yes, it would have been easy for me to say, nope, I cannot go to England, stay in the dream country cottage I discovered (more on the details of this cottage on December 15) during the holidays because it isn’t fair to leave my dogs with a dog sitter, who travels alone on the holidays and I don’t want to worry about driving as the English. But instead I said yes. I said yes, and as someone who does know the experience of things not going as we might have hoped, I was truly fortunate for my plans to unfold beautifully and even exceed my expectations. And that is the gift of giving yourself permission to feel awkward: you discover how beautiful the world can be in reality and not just in your dreams, you discover strengths and preferences you may not have been sure about regarding yourself, you begin to trust people and the world again (or at least a little bit more after considerable vetting – doing your homework truly does pay off), and you build a deeper appreciation for life and the clarity of the life you want to build. So whether you are allowing yourself to feel awkward trying a new sport, taking a more challenging fitness class, stepping into a new career, meeting a new person or trying to become more comfortable with your own company, know that feeling awkward as you begin the journey is a brilliant sign that you doing exactly what you should. ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~11 Life Truths About Contentment that Seem Impossible Until We Experience Them

~Why Not . . . Assume It Will Be Brilliant?

~Why Not . . . Ask the Question "What If?"?

~View more images of TSLL's trip to England on Instagram (@thesimplyluxuriouslife) or search #tsllengland on Instagram

Petit Plaisir:

Dries
 

This episode was sponsored by the following:

~Swap.com
  • Save 40% with code SIMPLE40 on your first order through November 30th
  • Receive free shipping on orders over $10
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Direct download: 185Awkward.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #183
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
The arrival of the holiday issue of The English Home in my mailbox brought a larger smile to may face than previous years. As I flipped through the pages of recommendations by the editors of special holiday events in which to partake in London and around the city (Liberty London holiday windows, visiting the Borough Market, and strolling down Regent's street), I immediately began to add the ideas that caught my eye and interest to my itinerary. After five years since my last visit to England, TSLL will be returning for the kick-off of the holiday season, and to say I am excited is to only express a morsel of my eagerness to arrive in the land of Jane Austen. As such, I am fine-tuning my preparation for international travel. Five years ago I shared a three part series on International Travel which is also included in TSLL's first book with further details not included on the blog. With each trip I have since taken requiring a passport, my travel experience deepens and prompts me to want to share what I have discovered.
1. Check Visa requirements and Renew Passport, if necessary
A simple check on this U.S. government website will confirm whether or not you need a Visa or merely your passport to travel to the international country on your itinerary.  For example, if traveling to Australia from the U.S., you will need a Visa. A U.S. passport is valid for 10 years (five years for children under 16) and the renewal fee for an adult passport book is $110 (an additional $30 for a passport card). On the website, it states that renewals take between 4-6 weeks, but to be safe, do it at least 3 months in advance.
2. Apply for a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
One of the best $85 I spent was going through the process to receive my Known Travel Number (KTN). In fewer than five minutes in any U.S. airport, I was moved through security without having to take my shoes off or empty my bags. I do still have to run my carry-on through security, but I was able to remain clothed and not take out all of my personal items. The ease set the tone for the trip that was pleasurable and less harried. Remember to renew within five years. Now for international travelers, the TSA Pre-Check works for our departures, but once we are abroad, we will have to go through international airport security unless we have a Global Entry number. While not all countries are a part of the Global Entry program (check here to see which are), there are certain travel frequency requirements to meet in order to obtain this status. The cost is $100 (also must be renewed every five years).

~the red smiley face was the note to the TSA security check that I was TSA Pre-Check, and I moved swiftly through the security line~

3. Reach out to your financial institutions (credit card and checking) to alert them of your travel destinations Once you know which credit or debit cards you will be taking on your travels, call your bank to let them know where you will be traveling abroad and during which dates. Why? If you have a bank that keeps careful track of where you spend your money as to alert you to any fraudulent purchases, they could prevent your card from being used while you in a destination you normally aren't. Simply let them know and you will be set.
4. Pack the proper adapters and converters
In my first post regarding international travel, I recommended a brand of adapters that while they worked, I found them to be too flimsy and often don't stay in the socket (the post has since been updated). So the hunt began for a new brand which I found and am happy to report is affordable and very sturdy. Made by Ceptics and offering adapters for nearly any country you may be traveling to, I paid $7 for three adapters fit for the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Check this post out for converters and for what purpose you will need them (most laptops convert automatically) - scroll down to #4.
5. Purchase necessary sleep aids to alleviate jet lag as much as possible
I have yet to not experience jet lag whatsoever. And even when I am convinced I am not experiencing it at the time, inevitably, upon reflection, I was. However, taking an over-the-counter sleep aid isn't a bad idea to try to sync your body on the plane sooner rather than later. Bring a sleep mask, and perhaps even change into pajamas if your flight is extra long.
6. Educate yourself about the culture 
If you've never traveled to your destination, do your homework. Come to understand the customs and expectations, and if the country speaks a different language, learn the basic greetings (hello, thank you - see a more detailed list here - check out #7 on the list).
7. Check the driving license requirements
If you are planning on renting a vehicle, check to see if the country you will be driving in requires an international driving license. Some countries simply need your driver's license from the country you are from, but others are more particular. Rick Steve's writes about driving in Europe here and here is a link to AAA which will issue you an IDP for $20 (good for one year).
8. Purchase transportation passesd in advance
If when you arrive you will be using the local transportation (subway, metro, tube, busses, etc.), consider purchasing in advance (if available), the necessary cards. For example, London makes available in advance of your arrival their Oyster card for visitors, as well as offering discounts on the fare prices. I particularly like knowing my transporation from the airport and for the first day is taken care of as due to the lengthy travel itinerary, I am quite exhausted and merely want to arrive at my accommodations and settling in without more stress of the unknowns.
9. Pack a neat and well-stocked travel tote for toiletries
The 3.3 ounce rule applies to liquids and lotions if you are taking your travel tote in your carry-on, so pack thoughtfully. I just found these TSA approved squeezable liquid containers on Amazon which come with pre-made labels. If you are bringing your travel tote full of toiletries and/or make-up, finding the perfect sized tote is the goal. It has taken me some time to find this item. Having gone through a rolled up cloth and mesh version and a plastic version just to name a few, I finally found a leather travel tote with a couple of different compartments and zipper pouches that fit the exact size I needed. (View my list of items for a travel tote here.) This striped toiletry tote also caught my eye.
10. Invest in sturdy and secure luggage
After going through at least three suitcases in which the handle would either be ripped off, the zipper broken or the compressable handle becoming extremely loose, I realized I should have taken my own advice and applied it to travel luggage: invest in quality. Rimowa and Tumi are two top well-known and trusted brands making their luggage available in sturdy aluminum. I happend on a great deal last spring and purchased my Tumi at a fraction of the full-price from Neiman Marcus. Save up, and purchase what you can afford and you won't have to waste money on buying multiple pieces that don't do their job.
11. Reserve your taxis before you leave
If you will need a taxi to and from the airport as you leave your home, as well as when you arrive at your destination, make the reservations ahead of time. Peace of mind and not having to pull your luggage through the local transportation is a simple investment if you have more than a carry-on. As well, when you hop (okay, who am I kidding, after a transcontinental flight, it is more like lumbering) off the plane, seeing your name on a piece of paper with your driver waiting to take you to your accommodations with a nice soft bed is a welcome sight.
12. Prep your home
Depending upon the season and weather, tend to details of home care and home sitting if necessary. As well, alert your mail carrier and newspaper delivery to be held or speak with a trusted neighbor to enjoy the newspaper while you are traveling.
13. Pack your carry-on
Whether you are taking an item of luggage with you as a carry-on or not, you will want to stock your travel tote that will be traveling with you on-board with the necessities. Below is a list of items to consider:
  • sleep mask
  • reading, viewing and listening material (downloaded is applicable)
  • earbuds
  • empty water bottle
  • sleep aid
  • basic beauty bag (facial wipes, concealor, moisturizer, dry shampoo, mascara, blush, facial oil, lip moisturizer, hair brush)
  • favorite tea bags (if you're a tea drinker like myself)
  • work material (laptop, tablet, etc.)
  • phone charger
  • reading glasses & contact solution with case
  • wallet
  • passport
14. Confirm accommodations
Make sure you have the proper addresses, arrival times are clear, and the hotels, vacation rentals, know when you will be arriving if at a unique time.
15. Confirm Online Check-In for Flight 24-hours before departure
Most airlines allow you to check-in online from your phone/computer 24-hours in advance to expedite check-in should you just have a carry-on. Other airlines also allow you to choose your seating for free at this time as well such as British Airways.
16. Download helpful apps
From an app to help you find free wi-fi at many international airports around the world (only $1.99 - WiFox), to transportation apps for your city, as well as Uber and the airlines you will be traveling on so there will be no need for a paper ticket, download them before you wake up early and head to the airport.
17. Now take a deep breath
You are ready to relax, open your mind to the many experiences that await you and enjoy your trip. If you'd like to see exactly where I am going and what I am enjoying, be sure to follow along on Instagram (@thesimplyluxuriouslife) ~VIEW SIMILAR TSLL POSTS ON TRAVEL HERE

~Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? Part Deux (what to pack)

~Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? Part Trois (how enjoy your visit to the fullest)

Petit Plaisir:

~Chocolate Almond Praline Cookies
~click here for the recipe  

This episode was sponsored by the following:

~Swap.com
  • Save 40% with code SIMPLE40 on your first order through November 30th
  • Receive free shipping on orders over $10
    • Free shipping code: C4Y7FP4XJERY
Download the Episode
Direct download: 183InternationalTravel.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #181
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

“There is no end of craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness. Therefore, acquire contentment.” —Swami Sivananda

Recently I overheard someone describe their weekend as boring, using the descriptor in a negative tone (remember this post on my thoughts about being boring?). Being someone who revels in what outsiders consider boring behavior such as reveling in the responsibilities of the tasks I have chosen for my life (doggie mama, tender to my sanctuary, chef of my appetite, etc.), I inquired as to what she did. Without going into specific details, it was a weekend at home without demands on their time, permitting them to mosey about and just have free range to do as they pleased. As many of you may be, I was smiling, as such a weekend sounded glorious. Our everydays, our stay-at-home weekends make up the majority of our lives. The underlying premise of living simply luxuriously is making our everydays extraordinary. Now that doesn't mean, everyday will be a celebration of momentous successes, grand good news or unexpected bonuses, but rather we appreciate the simple moments that we have constructed into our everyday routines. As Sivananada shares above, the cravings will always try to place themselves at the forefront of our minds. We are inundated with marketers, even fellow friends and family, but our culture as well, which ever nudges us to do more, be more, see more, acquire more. So long as we can recognize the bombardment and not fall prey to it, we will open the door to observing how magnificent contentment can be. And the magnificent realization is that contentment can be found in every day we live. Thus happiness (my term of phrase - joy) can be found readily at our fingertips no matter how outstanding, or lack thereof, our lives look to the outside world. Where and how to seek contentment?
1.Develop a health routine you enjoy
From the exercise regimen you embark on throughout your week: is it a class with an instructor that soothes your mind or inspires you to sweat more than you could do on your own, a peaceful weekly kayak outing down the nearby river, a meditation routine each morning that sets the tone for the day; to your approach to eating: making grocery shopping an experience to dazzle your tastebuds, explore seasonal produce, try new recipes, cook with excitement and your food and those you share will feel and enjoy it more than you might imagine.
2. Say hello to nature
Feed the birds, stop and gaze about on your walk, stop and sit on a stump while outdoors and just close your eyes to soak up the sun, water an indoor plant, welcome an orchid into your home.
3. Create an end of the day winding down routine
Designing an evening routine is something you will not only look forward to as your day at work or outside of your home begins to unwind, but it will also ensure that something is within your control no matter how harried the day may have been. And if the day was spectacular, your beloved evening routine will be an additional bonus of goodness.  Have a look at a glimpse of my evening routine here.
4. Design opportunities for experiences rather than time to buy more things
Whenever a day or even an afternoon presents itself in which a movie will be showing that I am eager to see, I plan the afternoon around that experience. Not only do I go see the movie, but I plan the before and after as a date with myself to just enjoy the outing all the more. Maybe afterwards I will bring a journal and head to a local coffee shop (if I go see a matinee), or enjoy a nice lunch before heading to the theater. Recently, when I was visiting a good friend in Eugene, we went for a short walk when the rain abated and then sat down for tea with her neighbor and just caught up while the rain came down. Afterwards, I took out my book and just relaxed until it was time for the dinner party that had been prearranged. As you can see, create opportunities for experience, time to relax, time to engage and time to simply enjoy and let go of time.
5. Create and design a welcoming space
Upon walking into the door of my home, I am often greeted with fresh flowers, an abundance of light filling the dining room and living room and two bubbly pups excited that we have been reunited again. A dear friend of mine has curated a home in which upon walking into her cottage, one is greeted with a pair of high-backed tufted suede sofas engaged in conversation, a wood burning fireplace and a vast picture window that over looks the neighbhood. I gravitate immediately to that space with her company or on my own to just unwind. Whether you are able to curate your entire home or simply just a room of your own to always be welcoming, taking the effort to do so will offer priceless moments of appreciation in your everydays.
6. Do something to let your mind escape 
From an easy reading book, an activity that is a habit which allows your mind to relax or even a nap, better yet, a moment of meditation, care for your mind because it becomes exhausted too.
7. Make progress on a project, no matter how minimal
Whether it is something as grand as completing a significant task to edge you ever closer to your goal, or just adding an idea to your journal to ensure you do not forget the aha moment that presented itself during your day, do something that keeps the flames of your dreams and hopes alive.
8. Express love
In some form or fashion, express love to someone, something, the world in general in a means you are capable and comfortable doing. Part of the reason I know living on my own for so long has been a breath of fresh air is because I do have the opportunity to express love to dogs, to make their lives happier and more enjoyable and see the glee on their faces when we go for a walk. As well, giving to your neighbors, sending an email to someone who danced across your mind and you wanted to say hello. No matter how seemingly small or large, exhale love and you will always be able to feel it around you. At the core of cultivating contentment is you and how you choose to go about your days with the choices you make, the attitude you bring to each moment and the flow your daily life takes no matter what the outside world may expect or desire from you. While we may want happiness, the truth is happiness is something outside of ourselves and it is the contentment that we build in our lives that provokes more and more moments of happiness to be savored. ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Episode #162 — From Seeking Happiness to Cultivating Contentment: A Shift in Pursuit

~11 Life Truths About Contentment that Seem Impossible Until We Experience Them

~Episode #93 — 15 Everyday Habits to Live a Life of Contentment

~One Small Adjustment Away from Contentment

 

Petit Plaisir:

Savory Roasted Filberts (aka Hazelnuts), the secret recipe
16 oz of shelled filberts 1/2 cup of soy sauce 2 cups of olive oil (enough to make a "soup" of filberts) Let marinate for 3-4 hours (overnight is even better). Preheat oven to 300 (anywhere between 275-325 - depending upon your oven) Remove from the marinade and place in a single layer the nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.  
This episode is sponsored by:
~Simply Earth
  • Click here to subscribe to the monthly box with 6 recipes and everything you need to make them. 4 – 5 full size essential oil bottles
  • Enter the coupon code “SIMPLE” to receive a $40 giftcard emailed to you after you subscribe to this fun essential oil recipe box.
    • Click here to begin!
  • Each box comes with 6 recipes and everything you need to make them. 4 – 5 full size essential oil bottles, 100% pure goodness all for $39.
  ~Mark your calendars Foodies & Francophiles! World renowned chef and top food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz is stopping by The Simple Sophisticate on Monday November 6th (episode #182) to talk about his new book: L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making Paris My Home. I am so excited I am pinching myself!!!
Direct download: 181Contentment_copy.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 11:59am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #178
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

 

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.” ― Joseph Campbell

Have you ever thought or uttered this statement, "If only there was someone's journey I could follow, model my life after, then I would be more at ease"? At ease with knowing which step to take when, why I was taking it and where it would lead. While a road map of where to go would be handy - a Google Map for Life, so to speak - I have come to realize I am thankful I do not have one. Why? Well, it isn't because I enjoy adrenaline rushes or the unknown necessarily. Rather it is an understanding I have come to realize that Joseph Campbell explains eloquently in the quote above: Each of our journeys is meant to be unique and while it may be oh so tempting to follow in step those who inspire us, to do so would be to eliminate what can only uniquely come forth from each of us. Don't get me wrong, it can be terrifying to understand such a truth, and to be honest, I know some will say "Not for me. I am going to do what I know and what those before me have done", but I also know many of you, like me, are willing to listen to our internal compass and even if we can't make sense of it, find the courage to step out onto our own trail and forge the path even if we're not quite sure where we will end up or when we will end up where we hope it will lead. Today I'd like to share with you six tips for preparing you for a successful journey that will be uniquely yours.
1. Take the time to get to know the navigator . . . that would be you
One of the first three-part series I wrote when the blog began was a list of benefits of getting to know yourself and how to do it. Ultimately, when you become accustomed to your own unique language, what your true temperament is, what makes your energy soar or sag, what tickles your curiosity and what deflates your hopes and ignites your fears as well as what you value versus what is simply nice, but unnecessary to live a most contented and fulfilling life, you become able to make decisions more readily without second-guessing yourself. You begin to recognize and trust your intuition and you begin to advocate for the direction you know you should head with more confidence.
2. Exercise the mind
The best way to be able to make connections with old and seemingly incompatible concepts is to continue to learn. Read up on history, read a biography, read about the new research findings on neuroscience or the best nutrition. Observe mind-provoking cartoons, challenge yourself with the daily crossword puzzle. Absorb from time to time seemingly unnecessary information because who knows, it may just be the missing piece to solving a problem down the road, or creating a new way of living well for you or those you love or the community at large.
3. Lighten Up

"Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer." —William S. Burroughs

Again and again I am reminded of the above quotes truth when I am trying to locate a solution or think of a particular idea that is escaping me. It is the relaxing of the mind, giving it room to move and be free, which enables it to find what I have been searching for. Even better, when I give my mind a task to work through, sometimes unconsciously, upon getting a good night's sleep, I will wake up in the morning with a fresh mind and often a fresh new idea.
4. Practice gratitude

"Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance." Eckhart Tolle

It initially seems counterintuitive: If you say you are grateful for what you have, why would you the universe interpret that as a person who needs or deserves or should be given more? But the best receiver of any gift is someone who knows how to truly appreciate it, and we demonstrate this truth by how we treat and appreciate the many fortunate opportunities, comforts, necessities, etc. we already have.
5. Focus on welcoming ease

“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” ~Deepak Chopra

A calm mind is a sound mind. If how you have been approaching life isn't working, circle back to what it is that is causing you to stumble. Perhaps it is a default response whether your words, your tone, the thoughts you convey and their connotation, or your physical response - your facial expressions, your body language, your actions, or perhaps it is something so simple, yet so powerful such as your jump to negativity and/or worry that hinders the forward positive progress that you seek. Choose to react differently and you will eventually see different results, sometimes immediately.
6. Always be an iota out of your comfort zone

"If we're growing, we're always going to be out of our comfort zone." —John Maxwell

Back in June I shared a post titled 7 More Signs You Are On the Right Track, and two of the signs were feeling challenged and feeling as though you were in limbo land and not sure of which way to go or if anything was going to work out as you had stepped out of what you knew and were attempting to arrive some place else. Brené Brown also points out in her new book that the most difficult part of the journey you need to be on, is the one that is yours and yours alone, is the in-between. The in-between where you've come from and where you're headed. The truth is the change you seek will require some courage, and stepping out of your comfort zone, if even only in slight increments, is the only way to grow to your fullest potential and seek the destination that is solely yours to inhabit. Choose to have the courage to arrive at this uniquely singular destination and enjoy the journey.

“If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.” ― Joseph Campbell

  ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Be the Hero of Your Own Story (episode #176)

~8 Ways to Become the CEO of Your Own Life (episode #40)

~Create Your Own Unique Journey

~Owning your 'Uniqueness"

 

Petit Plaisir:

~Paris Breakfasts
 
This episode is sponsored by:
~Simply Earth
  • Click here to subscribe to the monthly box with 6 recipes and everything you need to make them. 4 - 5 full size essential oil bottles
  • Enter the coupon code "SIMPLE" to receive a $40 giftcard emailed to you after you subscribe to this fun essential oil recipe box.
    • Click here to begin!
  • Each box comes with 6 recipes and everything you need to make them. 4 - 5 full size essential oil bottles, 100% pure goodness all for $39.
Direct download: 178UniqueJourney_copy.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 7:58am PST

 ~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #177
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end the tale . . . " —Neil Gaiman

The journey of each of our lives meanders and sometimes jet-lines through seasons. As children we are in the spring of our youth, emerging, learning, exploring and stretching our wings to experience all that is unknown. During our summer we invest, we dive deep into life — what we love, whom we love — and beginning the process of reaching a far-off goal that will take time to achieve. The arrival of autumn is that time in which we hope our efforts, our discoveries, our risks, have paid off and what we want to see upon our arrival is a beautiful, bountiful harvest of goodness, of gifts, of joys, and even pleasures. A time to savor is what is desired, a time to take a deep breath and say to ourselves, 'It was worth it. It was all worth the uncertainty, the struggle and the hope without proof during certain moments'. With October's arrival yesterday, I found myself walking along a trail I haven't walked in quite some time. Early in the morning, the sun was only emerging and the aspens along the graveled path were all but brilliant cornflake yellow. They wiggled in the gentle breeze and the glimmers of sun that began to shine through the trees made each leaf glow like gold. The deciduous trees reach their glory in autumn and serve as a vision of what is possible when we choose to be patient, to be thoughtful, to be clear in our focus and present as well to appreciate when the moment comes to stop in awe as I did along my walk and just stand with smile spontaneous, reveling in the beauty. I find it quiet poetic that "deciduous" can be translated to mean "falling off at maturity". In order to ensure our harvest in life is bountiful, below are 10 ways of living during your spring and summer to incorporate into your everyday way of living.
1. Take Action: Daily, Regularly, Steadily
No matter how many exquisite, unique and praise-worthy seeds you hold in your hand, if you do not plant them, they cannot sprout and grow. The seeds are your dreams, planting them is you taking action, learning how to best care for them, and doing so each and every day, season and year. Keep focused on what you want to grow, even if you don't see the small incremental progress because it is underground or happening in such a minuscule manner, trust that so long as you are saving your money, learning your trade or whatever daily tasks must be tended to, every day you are inching ever closer to the bountiful harvest you seek.
2. Become Self-Aware
The world in which each of us lives is ever-changing, and while it may be tempting to, once you've found a way of navigating life that works well, sit back and just relax, to do so stunts our growth. While our core being will not change, how we live within the world of which we do not have entire control is and forever will be. The best way to navigate it successfully is to be self-aware. In other words, come to learn how you are perceived within the world you reside. How do others respond and react to you? What is the reason for the reaction? Is it good or bad? Is what they perceive accurate? Can you improve, better clarify or improve ways of communication to exist more successfully?  (listen to episode #143 in which self-awareness is the topic)
3. Nurture What You Want to Grow
If you want more kindness, be kind to known and unknown individuals. If you want intelligent compassion, continue to learn and along the way be compassionate to those learning as well or encourage them to learn gently. If you want love, give love in ways that are comfortable for you. If you want respect, be thoughtfully respectful and live in such a way that you are proud. We are the farmers who plant the seeds, and so we do have choices everyday that will determine what we will see materialize tomorrow. More division or more understanding? Clear, thoughtful communication or name-calling? We have that choice.
4. Confront the Obstacles
In order to  grow, we cannot turn away from what scares us, what hurts us and what is holding us down from striving forward. What are you fearful of? Address it. Perhaps with a trained professional (counselor) so that you have the net of objective support if the fear is too much to initially face alone. Is a loss preventing you from striking out again toward what you so loved having in your life. Confront it, embrace your feelings and do not judge yourself. If you are someone who regularly becomes jealous, dive deep into where the insecurity comes from. Address it, heal it, so you can move forward. Because you can if you confront the obstacles.
5. Strike a Balance and Protect It Fiercely
Quality work begets quality outcomes. Do not be tricked into believing you have to be working 24/7 week after week, month after month. It's not true. Yes, you may want results now, but don't you want quality results that will last? I have a feeling you do, and in that case, always make time, daily or weekly, for you, for play, for relaxation, for exploration, for no work. Protect it fiercely by learning to say no, especially to yourself. By doing so you are investing in the quality product you wish to materialize when the journey comes to an end.
6. Select the Crop's Components Thoughtfully
Do you have weeds in your life? In other words, naysayers, complainers, squashers of thinking beyond the box? Let them go. Weeding in your crop is necessary because if you don't, you choke out or reduce the potential of what you want to grow. You only have so much energy in any given day. If people regularly exhaust you, stress you out to the point where your thoughts are constantly swirling around what they will say or do, stop and reassess why you are allowing them a place in your field of life.
7. Refrain from Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking, as we've talked about before, promises what it cannot deliver. And upon letting it go you welcome more pleasure, more productivity and less stress. It's a win-win-win!
8. Observe Different Approaches to Living If An Aspect In Your Life Isn't Working
Is there something in your life that just isn't working? For example, have you not figured out how to successfully utilize technology in your life — you need it, but you look at your phone too much. Or maybe you can't figure out how to make time to exercise regularly. Seek out other individuals, other cultures, other anything to see what they do differently in any avenue in which you are finding isn't working in your life. When you travel for example, keep your eyes open as to how others live their everyday lives. There are so many approaches to living well, but the key is to know what you need to enable you to thrive. So long as you keep searching, what will work well for you will be discovered.
9. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a simple practice that aids us in recognizing how wealthy we actually are when it comes to living well. Food on the table, a warm house to enjoy the rainstorm that pounds on our windows while we sip a cup of tea, access to information and entertainment, choices beyond choices. If your schedule or daily routine has strayed away from keeping a gratitude journal or simply having time to sit and savor all that is going well in each day, perhaps usher it back into your life and you may just notice an improved quality in your thoughts and actions toward yourself and others as you go about your day.
10. Invest in Well-Being for Your Unique Self
Today's Petit Plaisir is an example of a small investment I made into my own well-being: knowledge about how to thrive as an introvert. For me this was a small, but powerful choice. The key for each of us is to continue to see our growth as a journey and to come to understand what enables us to be our best selves and reach our highest potential. The mission of this blog, TSLL, is to provide the tools that you need, have been searching for, and break them down so that you can apply them to your life as is best for you in your unique journey. Once you know how to nurture yourself well, you can do so for others and then the world at large. Because when we feel loved, when we feel understood and seen, most importantly by ourselves, we find a centering peace of mind that is the springboard to reach our dreams and savor a bountiful harvest. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Revel in October?

~10 Things I Love About Fall

~How to Attain Success

~7 Myths About Success

 

Petit Plaisirs:

~Clafoutis aux Poires
~The Irresistible Introvert: Harness the Power of Quiet Charisma in a Loud World by Michaela Chung

Today's Sponsor for this week's episode is KIND Bars:

~Visit kindsnacks.com/tss to receive an exclusive free trial of their 10 bar variety pack and snack club (all you pay is shipping).  

Image: source

Direct download: 177Harvest.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #176
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

" . . . bring women to the front of their own stories, and make them the hero of their own stories." —Reese Witherspoon at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards

~Spoiler Alert: The ending of Hallie Meyers-Shyer's new film Home Again will be shared. The power of a Hollywood script which makes it to the silver screen as well as to the small screen better known as our television sets is unconsciously more powerful than most viewers realize, especially younger viewers unaware of the biases, exigence and purpose of the writers and creators as well as producers. Novels as well must be sold to a publishing house, and if the publishers do not believe they will be able to sell the plot to readers, the manuscript isn't accepted. In other words what determines the plots that will eventually be published, produced and brought to consumers is what will sell. But the obvious flip-side is we need to become savvier consumers of entertainment. The good news is producers will listen to noticeable shifts. For example, in 2016 movie ticket sales indicated that the largest growth in sales was taking place with Latino moviegoers, as a result (or possibly, due to) films began offering more diversity in their casting than in previous years. I share this example because when Reese Witherspoon accepted the Emmy with the ensemble for Big Little Lies last weekend (she starred and was an executive producer of all seven episodes), I had to give her credit. She lives what she desires to be brought to the forefront in Hollywood films and series: women being the heroes in their own stories. For example, she started her own production company Pacific Standard with Australian producer Bruna Papandrea (Wild & Gone Girl), branched out on her own with Hello Sunshine, a digital media company and is bringing to the screen a few titles you might recognize Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Something in the Water. And as I shared in episode #174 of the podcast in my review of Home Again, a film produced by Nancy Meyers and written and directed by her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer, it was the ending of the movie which again revealed that Reese is indeed serious about changing the default in Hollywood that is long over-due for a change. Home Again, as she describes it in a recent interview with The New York Times, isn't a romantic comedy, but rather a modern comedy. A comedy in which, in this case, a woman becomes the hero of her own story. She doesn't end up with a man who saves her from a supposed life that is empty without one, rather her character Alice Witherspoon chooses to divorce her husband (not because he cheated and not because he was abusive) because their ways of living life, of making the most of the one journey they have the opportunity to live had strayed into two completely different directions. The love, the fondness was there, but it had changed. Her character sets boundaries, enjoys herself, supports her daughters, chases her dreams and creates a life of everyday moments that she savors on her own terms, not Hollywood's (well, in this case, yes, technically it is Hollywood, but she is now a part of Hollywood and so is Meyers-Shyer and they are changing what the definition of a happy ending). Recently a good friend of mine who is nearing forty (as I am as well) shared that all was well in her life except the missing piece - a man. And having just stepping out of a relationship, that I can honestly say I wasn't looking for but was delighted to have been in, a good life is determined by one and only one person, the person living it. I continue to urge readers and listeners to fall in love with their lives, to cultivate a life you enjoy living regardless of your relationship status because whether you are in a relationship or not, your issues, the hiccups you haven't dealt with will continue to bubble up, the stresses you haven't figured out how to handle, will continue to exacerbate and hinder you ability to savor the everyday goodness and the relationship skills you still need to polish will continue to seek your attention until you heed them whether in a relationship with a lover or a friend. I am not saying being loved and sharing love isn't an extraordinary experience. It absolutely is, but believing that our hero is someone other than ourselves to assuage our conjured up emptiness is a lie that we have accepted (man or woman), and depending up the known or unknown perpetuators of this life story line (Hollywood, novels, parents, church, school, etc.) and need to relinquish. Because I wholeheartedly not only believe, but can say to know as truth, everyday can be truly breath-taking with or without a partner. And the key is to be the hero of your own story.
How?
  • Find an outlet for your love: begin with yourself, and then with what is leftover choose from the following: a hobby, a passion project, a cause you believe in to your core, your pets, your career, your friends, your family, the world.
  • Strengthen your innate talents and deepen your passions.
  • Find others whom you trust to fill the gaps where you are weak (i.e. - a financial advisor, a trusted CPA, a fitness trainer, etc.)
  • Earn your own income
  • Be proactive. Strive daily toward your dreams. Stop waiting for opportunity plop into your lap. It's like a moving target, so get going.
  • Save for retirement beginning yesterday
  • Come to understand your limits and boundaries and speak up when they are crossed without apology
  • Learn to communicate effectively
  • Step up to the plate when needed and only 60%+ ready, not when everything is perfectly set up to do so (hint: it never will be and you will always be waiting)
  • Build other women up
  • Never judge another woman's life decision. Follow Amy Poehler's advice and simply quote when observing a life path taken by another woman that you wouldn't have chosen, "Good for her! Not for me."
  • Refuse to be talked down to whether by names (girl, boy, little lady, son (when you're not their son), sweetheart, etc.) or by limitations (assuming lack of knowledge or capability). Either address the issue if the relationship is necessary to keep or simply don't respond and walk away. Change in what will be tolerated won't change until we speak up in a manner that is calm and clear. If not for yourself, than for the women around you and those that will follow you.
  • Understand that setbacks are part of the journey, so stand back up and keep going. 
  • Remember Billie Jean King's quote, "Pressure is a privilege." Do something with your opportunity when given the chance.
  • Choose well and choose for you. As you come to trust your instincts, this will happen in small and big bursts throughout your journey, you will begin to know what is best for you. The better you know yourself, the quicker the decisions will be made.
  • Be courageous. Say yes to something you've never done before but that is on the trajectory of the journey you wish to be on to help you reach your goal. No matter how trepidatious you may be. You will come out on the other side realizing there was nothing to be afraid of, just the unknown. And now it's not unknown anymore.

"Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe throughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours." —Brené Brown, from Braving the Wilderness

I want to end with mentioning of Brené Brown's new book because her book is a reminder of what type of courage is needed to be the hero of our own story. Stepping away from the city or place of comfort that is not serving us and toward the wilderness is terrifying initially, but as we step away from seeking the approval of others and head in the direction of the wilderness, the "first step will take your breath away". And as writer, pastor, philanthropist and community leader Jen Hatmaker is quoted saying in the book, the loneliest steps are the in between, but if you "stay the course long enough to actually tunnel into the wilderness . . . you'll be shocked by how many people already live out there —thriving, dancing, creating, celebrating, belonging." Ultimately, if we can all just remember and live each day, who we are and what we can give to the world is our gift. "True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are."

~Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown~

  ~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MAY ENJOY FROM THE ARCHIVES: 

~Why Not . . . Be Brave? (episode #83)

~A Powerful Couple: Boundaries & Vulnerability (episode #126)

~Growth is a Choice: 11 Ways to Grow Up (episode #101)

Petit Plaisir:

~French melon, Charentais, with paper-thin slices of prosciutto, sprinkled with a dash of flaky sea salt.
~click here for more pictures and details about the melon and the recipe.   ~The sponsor for today's episode was KIND Bars. Visit kindsnacks.com/tss to receive an exclusive free trial of their 10 bar variety pack and snack club (all you pay is shipping).    

Image from the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards

SaveSaveSaveSave Download the Episode
Direct download: 176BeYourOwnHero.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #174
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
At the age of eleven, now U.S. Tennis Open Champion Sloane Stephens' mom was told by one of the directors at the tennis academy she was attending "that [she'd] be lucky if [she] was a Division II player and I got a scholarship". She didn't believe them. Her mom didn't believe them and now she is only the third woman (which includes the Williams sisters) to win the US Open in the past 15 years. Attaining quality, achieving quality isn't easy and it isn't given out for free. But when we choose to consciously select quality, the experience, the journey and then the outcomes rise in their awesomeness. I've been thinking a lot about quality over the past few weeks, and after years of curating a life built on a foundation of quality, habituating my routines that bring much joy and fulfillment, it has become easier to discern when non-quality events, people, items, etc. cross my path.

"Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company." —Booker T. Washington

The benefits are many when we choose to welcome quality into our lives in all arenas of our life. Such benefits can be as grand as achieving one of the highest pinnacles in the tennis profession as Sloane Stephens or they can be as simple as keeping all of your fingers in tact. Let's take a look at twelve benefits of seeking out and selecting quality in all aspects of our daily life.
1. All fingers remain in tact
As I mentioned above, it only takes the use of an unsharpened or poor quality knife to appreciate a top-knotch slicing and dicing tool. As I shared in this post about the 15 Kitchen Tools to Cook Anything Like a Pro, a sharp, top quality knife is a must. Do not skimp and save on a knife for the sake of having a knife in your kitchen. Your fingers will thank you.
2. Priceless time is saved
Case in point, I give myself my own pedicure every couple of weeks. Using the nail polish remover from a quality brand, the polish is immediately removed. Having, while traveling, used a generic brand, the time it took to remove the polish was absurd. As I flip over the container to see what the main ingredients are, I discover that the ingredient at the top of list was water. Well, no wonder. I just used a product that was doing nearly the job that running my toenails under water would do - nothing. My experience is trivial compared to so many other purchases we make that appear to be saving us money, but in the long run waste our time and effectiveness. In this case, simply paying a few dollars more would have saved me time, wear and tear on my nails and limited my frustration. While not all generic brands are inferior, always check the label to see what the ingredients are to determine if you are indeed buying a similar product.

“There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.”  ― John Ruskin

3. Unnecessary stress is avoided
When we choose quality products for safety supplies, the vehicles we drive, the homes we live in, the neighborhoods we call home, the flight itineraries we travel, the stress decreases. While it may not entirely go away and while we need to make the best choices for the details of which we have control, we put much in our favor by choosing well and not skimping merely to save a dollar.
4. Deeper, more restful sleep is experienced
When we do what is best, when we refrain from doing what is merely easy, we give ourselves the ability to sleep more deeply. When our minds are not wrestling with unnecessary stress and worry, we sleep more deeply.
5. Experience the vast wonders of the world more deeply
When we seek out experiences of substance, people of substance and tools and knowledge to help us better understand beyond the surface level what is going on in the world, what went on in the world and what could go on in the world, we give ourselves the gift of deeper, more fulfilling experiences, memories and opportunities for self-growth and self-reflection.
6. Reach your full potential
We can settle for what is working okay, what is livable, what is just fine, but if we have a deep passion for something, if we can see something others cannot when it comes to possibilities, a quality of life that is possible requires us to not simply be satisfied with what others say is our limitation. We are actually the only limitation that stands in our way, and often when others tell us to stop, we use it as an excuse. We blame someone else for stopping us from achieving what we once thought we could. No. Remember Sloane Stephens and her mother, and if you believe you can do more, be more, ignore the limitation setters and keep on striving forward in order to see with your own eyes what you truly can become.
7. Deepen your trust in mankind
It has been my experience that when I bring into my life quality individuals, my trust in humanity deepens. I begin to see the amazing people who live and breathe in this world along with me and realize we are all, should we choose to be, full of love, dreams and goodness. It can seem simpler to choose to be cynical, protective and isolated after having experienced negative situations, but not all people wish to hurt. In fact, even those who have hurt are not bad people oftentimes. As Morrie Schwartz reminds, hurt people hurt people. Understanding this truth doesn't mean you should stay or surround yourself with hurt people who hurt you, but hopefully it will give you some understanding that it isn't about you and you need to walk away and surround yourself with one or two or three of the many amazingly loving, kind and trustworthy people who reside in our grand old world, thus improving the quality of your life.
8. The odds lean in your favor
Similarly when you choose to seek out quality and let go of the contrary, windows and then gradually doors begin to open in your favor. What you seek you find, often in ways you never could have planned, but if you believe there is good, if you trust that goodness abounds, you will find it, just as those who believe that people are not good and the world cannot be trusted will find it as well. So long as we have more people seeking the former, the goodness grows. Seek out goodness, be goodness and select a quality way of living modeling for others that such a way of life is indeed possible.
9. Optimal health
From the quality food we select, eating what is in season, reducing or eliminating processed foods, treating our bodies well, we amp up the healthy quotient in our lives and deepened the experiences we can have indoors, outdoors and everywhere in between.

"We eat every day, and if we do it in a way that doesn't recognize value, it's contributing to the destruction of our culture and of agriculture. But if it's done with a focus and care, it can be a wonderful thing. It changes the quality of your life." —Alice Waters

10. Elevate others around you
Related to #8, when we model living a life of quality, letting go of the negativity, hurtful ideologies, the isolationist mentality and nay-sayers, we reveal to those around us that choosing such a way of life, a life of optimism, hope, love and strength is indeed the means to living a most contented life. Sight is stronger than words, modeling is stronger than telling and when we have the courage to say no to what no longer feeds us, loves us, nurtures us, and step down a new path that we may not know how to travel well but that feels more accepting, more loving and more authentic and human, we will begin to see ourselves rise, our moods improve, our health improve, and thus the quality of our lives improve. That is inspiring to anyone paying attention, and that is what it takes to elevate those around you.
11. A mind available to be creative, loving and problem solving.
When we no longer are consumed with unnecessary worry if what we've paid for or invested in works or if the people we've chosen to welcome into our lives are trustworthy, we have a mind that is free to explore exciting new avenues. From being creative, to problem solving what may have seemed impossible to coming up with fun ways to spend time with your loved ones, our minds are in need of constant fuel to be energized, why drain it with what it doesn't need to process?

“The quality of your life is a function of the quality of the thinking you have done.”  ― Pearl Zhu

12. Elevate the world you live in
Taking in the above 11 benefits, as our lives rise because our everydays become healthy, inspiring, and pointed in a direction that enables us to reach our full potential, those around us rise as well and ultimately, it can be a domino effect. None of us will probably ever know all of the people we can influence with our actions. Why not make the influence a positive one? One of selecting quality thoughts, behaviors, and people. Because when we reward what we desire and long for, we will begin to see more of it. However, if we spend more time dwelling on what we do not want, we actually give it more bandwidth that it deserves.

"Eventually everything connects - people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se." —Charles Eames

Instead of dreading how long your life will be, why no focus on making sure that everyday day is one full of quality. For it is "the quality of life [that] is more important than life itself". Alexis Carrel certainly has a point. If we are living but not well, just enduring, protecting and hoping we don't get hurt, worrying about what might happen and not being present, appreciating all that is well, such a life is not much fun to live. And the catch really is, if someone has only know the latter life, they may have a hard time trusting the former is a possibility. But it is. It most absolutely is. And when they see someone model that fact, that is when they may just begin to make the positive changes of living a life of quality. Why not be the model they've been looking for? The model the world has been looking for? The model you need in your life today and as you move forward each and every day?   ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Elevate the Quality of What You Consume?

~Why Not . . . Purchase Quality Worth the High Price Tag?

~Why Not . . . Live a Life of Quality?

 

Petit Plaisir:

~Home Again
  • starring Reese Witherspoon, directed and written by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, produced by Nancy Meyers (of It's Complicated, Baby Boom, Something's Got To Give, The Holiday, etc.)
  • The house in which the movie was filmed plays a large role. Located in Brentwood in 1929, it was once owned by Cindy Crawford and was featured in Elle Decor in 2002. You can see a plethora of pictures and details at Cote de Texas who wrote a wonderful spotlight post on the house.
  ~My review of The Intern (written & directed by Nancy Meyers), episode #63 https://youtu.be/y-oFOgFB2uM
Direct download: 174Benefitsquality_-_91017_3.55_PM.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #164
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

 

"With a healthy lifestyle, it's not at all unreasonable to expect ninety or one hundred exceptionally healthy years of life, years in which we will be of sound body, mind and spirit." —Dr. John D. Day, author of The Longevity Plan: 7 Life-Transforming Lessons from Ancient China

In Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, a man who lived from 1706-1790, in Part Two along with his well-known 13 virtues for a good life, he explains his approach to bringing order to his life (the 3rd virtue - "let all things have their place; let each part of your business have its time") with his daily routine written out by the hour. At the young age of twenty, Franklin was clear about a schedule that would enable him to eventually do all that we know he was able to achieve and accomplish, which was quite impressive. Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule:
  • The Morning {5-8}
    • Question: What good shall I do this day?
      • Tasks: Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day's business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast.
  • {8-noon}
    • Task: Work
  • {Noon}
    • Tasks: Read, or overlook my accounts, and dine
  • {2-6}
    • Work
  • Evening {6-10}
    • Question: What good have I done today?
      • Tasks: Put things in their places, Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day.
  • Night {10-5}
    • Task: Sleep
Why exactly is a daily regular routine significant when it comes to the overall well-being of our lives? If anyone has observed the stability routines provide for children, students, pets and colleagues, one will acknowledge, so long as the routines are healthy, restorative, invigorating and based on sound reasons to benefit the individuals to reach their best potential, that routines are a simple solution to much of what we wish our lives to become: fulfilling, enjoyable, tranquil, and a foundation for moments of spontaneity from which we can springboard from occasionally, all the while knowing we can and will eventually come back to the routine that enabled us to be someone who can think outside the box, who can and feels comfortable taking a risk. From the routine I keep with my blog writing, to the routine I adhere to in my classroom, as well as with my dogs when I at home, the purpose is to gain more energy, to not deplete it in myself and in others unnecessarily, to cultivate an environment in which the unexpected wonderful ideas, experiences and conversations can blossom. Because when we need not worry about our fundamental survival needs, food, shelter, social connectedness, etc., we can then make our why to self-actualization (which I talk in great depth about in episode #25). While some dislike the idea of sticking to a routine, I will admit freely, there have been routines I loathed, either they didn't work with an approach to good health for my body and mind or I was being expected to do tasks, etc., that I didn't find meaning or purpose in. We will all have times in our lives, especially when we are younger or the newbie on the job in which the routine we are given is not the routine we want. The task we are given, or that we must give to ourselves is to ask the question and do the homework, what will work best for me to reach my full potential? Areas of your life to consider aligning into a daily routine: 1. Eating schedule Dr. John D. Day's new book The Longevity Plan describes in detail a diet (not a temporary, but long-term, forever approach to eating well) that will enable you to thrive into your 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond and obliterate the Western assumption that old age is a deterioration. Especially what we eat, but as well when we eat has a powerful effect on our overall health. In fact, he shares, "Erratic eating schedules have been shown to result in decreased metabolism, which can lead to long-term weight gain." 2. Sleep time

"Nobody in Bapan had an alarm clock. When we're hitting at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, and a regular schedule, something quite amazing happens: We get the exact amount of sleep our bodies need without having to be jarred awake by a buzzer before we're really ready." —Dr. John D. Day, The Longevity Plan

3. Create a life of motion Instead of punishing your body with the workout you think is intense enough you only need to do 3-4 times a week, Dr. Day recommends, based on observing the centenarians in The Longevity Village in Bapan, China, simply live a life of movement. Granted, many of our lives don't easily support this. If we work at a desk or behind the wheel, but even by adding a standing desk to your office or a walking treadmill, the job you have to do doesn't have to keep you sedentary. Again he reminds, our bodies were meant to move, not stay in one place five days a week. Consistency is key and doing what you love is the best way to make it a habit. So if you dread the spin class or the run you are determined to take each morning before work, don't do it. Do something you love, raise your heartbeat enough, but then keep your body in motion throughout the day: park further from the front door, take a stroll after dinner (something those in Bapan do nearly daily), or get outside for lunch. Create a routine of movement that keeps your body awake and entices you to stay active. 4. Productivity As witnessed in Franklin's schedule, having a clear objective is imperative to reaching the desired goal. After all, if we don't know what we want to achieve, how can we ever feel productive at the end of the day? I have found one of the few must-have ingredients in a day that I would need to experience in order to call it a good day would be a sense of achievement, progress, accomplishment or productivity. By no means do any one of these things need to be grand or even known or understood by outsiders, but if I put the task of write the introduction to chapter four as my objective, it not only gives me something to focus on, but when I do complete the task, I feel as though progress has been made. An essential component to being productive is to know what enables each of us to be our most productive selves, and create a routine that fosters productivity rather than making it difficult to find our rhythm. 5. Social lives Social lives are less likely to fall into a daily routine only because you are engaging with others who must adhere to a schedule that works best for them and there will be times, sometimes many, when it will shift. However, the key is to focus on your engagement, how you stay in touch, how much you stay in touch, how you keep your boundaries so you can continue to be productive and how you can support those you love to accommodate their needs (and they hopefully are doing the same for your needs) without sacrificing a quality way of living. 6. Our mind-set

"The way in which we choose to perceive and deal with stress is, after all, a tremendous market of biologic age. Studies show that those who embrace stress actually live 17 percent longer. In contrast, as measured by telomere length, it appears that people who don't effectively manage high levels of stress age their bodies by nine to seventeen  years." —Dr. Day

Shifting from feeling as though we are lacking and rather appreciating all that is going well is a simple way to shift your mind-set for the better. The American mind-set especially, but we are certainly not alone, tends to work more hours in order to earn more money to buy more or bigger things. But in so doing, we are racheting up our stress. As well, finding work you enjoy can reduce your stress level, and paradoxically, Dr. Day points out, enable you to be more productive as you are not depleting your energy but rather are enlivened by what you have the opportunity to do. Such an approach is helpful in both our professional and personal environments.

"At least 70 percent of all visits to the doctor are for stress-related ailments."

Another way to reduce stress is to play. Play not only outside of work, but at work as well. Have fun, lighten up, keep in perspective what is important. "When we treat work as play, we change the very nature of work. We rob it of its power to stress us and deplete us of our energy." Think about someone who turned what they loved doing on the side or out of pure enjoyment into their job. It's possible to do that yourself; the key is to be able to return to that feeling of pure play because it is through play that we learn more as we are fully engaged and not worried about outcomes but rather enjoying what we are doing. Perhaps you are dismissing the concept of playing in your life, let alone at work. Here's another tidbit of information to keep in mind regarding the importance of play. National Geographic has reported that there is a "direct correlation between playfulness and intelligence, since the most intelligent animals engage in the greatest amount of playful activities. The reason is simple: Intelligence is the capacity for learning, and to play is to learn." Hmmm. Make room to play; how wonderful of a directive for living well is that? 7. Environment One of the seven lessons Dr. Day advises we all pay close attention to when it comes to cultivating a life of longevity is to place ourselves in a positive environment from the people, to the homes, to the communities that support healthy living. Where we wake up, the air we breathe, the words we hear, how much technology we consume, the support we receive, the products and furniture we live amongst, the information we consume, each of these items are details that effect our daily lives and to live in a positive environment, a supportive, healthy environment and to wake up in such a place every day is to continue to improve the quality of our lives, as the opposite would be to gradually deplete the quality of our lives.

"Yes, our electronic influencers have a powerful impact on the rhythms of our lives, but our bodies want to be in sync with the natural world." —Dr. Day

With each of these areas in which to create a routine, simply do your best. Even Ben Franklin shares in his autobiography about the creation of his daily schedule, "I enter'd upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and continued it with occasional intermission for some time. I was surprise'd to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish." Even he did not stick to his routine fully each day, and took breaks ("occasional intermission"), but he stuck to it the majority of the time, and in so doing, saw the quality of his life improve. His routine may not appeal to you, but as he arose each morning with a question, and assessed at the end of the day how the day had unfolded, this simple habit is a grand way to determine what is working, what is not and how to do better tomorrow. Small corrections can be made and a pat on the back can be given as well each day. Find your rhythm. Create a daily routine that hums your tune, makes you tap your toes in excitement to start the day. Rhythm, your rhythm, a rhythm that enables you to reach your full potential will be a song you want to sing again and again and again.

"the reason [the village people of Bapan - Longevity Village]'s hearts are in rhythm is because their lives are in rhythm." —Dr. Day, The Longevity Plan

It will take time, or maybe for some, not much time at all because you've already been stepping into a routine and observing what is and isn't working. Now, consciously, sit down, and ask yourself, what works? How can I do more of that? And give it a shot. Each spring and each fall before my summer schedule begins and before school begins, I sit down and look at the daily schedule that will work best for me incorporating routines that will enable me to reach my goals. I love this bi-annual ritual. To help me make the best schedule, I will reflect back on past year's schedules to see what worked and if it didn't, why not. Just this year I have added something new to my routine, a weekly check-in on my progress along with my nightly journaling. This weekly check-in usually takes place on Sunday evenings after the week has wrapped up and a new week is about to begin. I find myself able to quickly rectify anything that didn't go as planned or get back on track before it goes too off the rails without much of a fuss. I also am reminded and motivated by observing what I have done well, what daily routines are producing the outcomes I have desired and this is motivation to keep adhering to my daily routines in the new week. Again, this is what works for me. I have always been someone who loves to plan, write it all out, not excessively, but in a manner that is clear for me to visualize. Today, consider for a moment the benefits of establishing a daily routine that works for you. Perhaps Dr. Day's list of benefits will provide even more motivation:

"The overwhelming majority of cases [cardiac arrest], perhaps up to 80 percent, can be prevented, and half of the people with arterial fibrillation can reverse their condition through lifestyle changes aimed at eating better food, maintaining a healthy mind-set, building supportive communities, staying in motion, and learning to connect with their own rhythms."

And as we create a rhythm in our life that works well for us, we discover more energy to do what we most enjoy, we experience more mental clarity to make sound and successful decisions for the life journey we are on and as all of these benefits are felt, our overall well-being begins to soar. There is nothing boring about that. I am continued to be reminded that is us, humans, who make life difficult. Real luxury. The luxury of living a life of quality and true contentment is actually quite simple: create a daily routine that enables you to live well and experience your life begin to improve.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~The Benefits of Daily Rituals

~My Daily Breakfast: Steel Cut Oats

~Why Not . . . Celebrate the Ordinary?

~Art & Happiness: Discover Art's Ubiquity and Power to Improve Your Everyday Life

Petit Plaisir:

~Farro Salad with tomatoes, sweet onions, avocado, herbs, a poached egg, chicken and garlic vinaigrette. Find the recipe here.     SaveSave
Direct download: 164DailyRoutine.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #161
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
  In the first annual "Ask Shannon" episode of the podcast, listeners and readers have sent in their questions. With an episode full of the answers, this extra full episode (75 minutes) will address the topics of eating well, traveling to Paris: where to say and what to do, adhering and refreshing your signature style, my personal strength training routine, how to get your "mojo" back after life has thrown you an unexpected twist and this is just a taste. Readers and listeners from around the globe asked away, and upon tuning in you will hear my detailed and personal answers. Below you will find all of the show notes and details mentioned in the episode, as well as this week's Petit Plaisir.

SHOW NOTES:

Food & Wine: Skincare Routine: Style/Clothing: Fitness/Strength:   Paris Recommendations:
  • Ma Vie À Paris by Astier de Villatte, as a Petit Plaisir in episode #134 of the podcast (see below)
    • Order online here
    • Order from Nicole Michelle Decor (based here in Bend) who will ship to your U.S. address
      • phone:541.306.3000
  . . . More Paris recommendations:   Blog/Writing: ~TSLL Planner Pages (three different sizes and the planner you see below) ~TSLL Notepads for all of the lists I make ~the image below as discussed regarding the second book's arrival (click to read the post)   Happiness: ~The Difference Between Pleasure and Joy ~38 Invaluable Lessons About Attaining Happiness, episode #131 ~The How of Happiness   Thank you for everyone who emailed me with questions. I wish I could have answered them all. Until the next Ask Shannon, be sure to keep emailing me your questions and perhaps your question will be answered in an upcoming episode. Stay tuned!  

Petit Plaisir:

~Ariel Pocock, second album Living in Twilight (released June 9, 2017) ~Song clips heard on the episode of the podcast: https://youtu.be/4ikop85KJ00   ~View more episodes of The Simple Sophisticate podcast here ~If you enjoyed the podcast, leave a review here, and your comments may be shared in an upcoming episode. Download the Episode
Direct download: 161AskShannon.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PST

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