Mon, 11 September 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #174
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadioAt 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. WashingtonThe 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 tactAs 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 savedCase 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 avoidedWhen 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 experiencedWhen 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 deeplyWhen 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 potentialWe 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 mankindIt 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 favorSimilarly 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 healthFrom 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 youRelated 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 inTaking 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 EamesInstead 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:
Mon, 17 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #164
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | 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 ChinaIn 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:
"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 Plan3. 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. DayShifting 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. DayWith 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 PlanIt 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:
Petit Plaisir:~Farro Salad with tomatoes, sweet onions, avocado, herbs, a poached egg, chicken and garlic vinaigrette. Find the recipe here. SaveSave
Mon, 26 June 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #161
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadioIn 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:
Petit Plaisir:~Ariel Pocock, second album Living in Twilight (released June 9, 2017) ~Song clips heard on the episode of the podcast: here ~If you enjoyed the podcast, leave a review here, and your comments may be shared in an upcoming episode. Download the Episode
Mon, 29 May 2017
157: Passion Projects, Jazz, Being French at Heart & Living in the Moment: Elizabeth Bougerol of The Hot Sardines
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #157
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
Jazz and France is a coupling that instantaneously grabs my attention. Add a woman who has followed her passion, appreciates the moment and lives life to the fullest all the while staying grounded in this ever-changing thing called life, and I want to get to know her further. Elizabeth Bougerol is not only the front woman of The Hot Sardines vintage jazz band that is making "the old sound new" again, but she is also the co-founder with the bandleader and man at the piano, Evan Palazzo (above with Elizabeth, bottom right). The band's music has been described by The Times (London) as "simply phenomenal" and their music has reached the No. 1 slot on the iTunes Jazz chart in the U.S. and internationally. With songs in both English and French, their first two albums are a must-have on your jazz playlist. Elizabeth joins me on today's episode to talk about jazz and the journey she has been on as The Hot Sardines have begun to catch many an ear of fans and critics alike over just a few short years. As well we discuss passion projects, knowing when to leap, redefining the term "stability" and of course we talk about France, where she was born and raised and regularly visits. The discussion continues into the differences between the French and American cultures and the different approaches regarding daily living, and the importance of living in the moment. From food to listening to the voice inside that wants to give something a try that may not align with your perceived self-image to taking advantage of opportunities even if you do not feel entirely ready, today's conversation is one to take 45 minutes out of your day and enjoy. I have a feeling, if you're like me, you'll walk away with at least one (if not many) thought to ponder and apply to your life. See one below, as well as the song (one of two) that is played and discussed during the episode. ~The Hot Sardines' website ~Elizabeth Bougerol's website ~The Hot Sardines: Instagram | YouTube |Facebook | Twitter ~Tour Schedule Albums:
~The title song of The Hot Sardines' most recent album: "French Fries + Champagne" ~The litmus test which sparked the partnership between Elizabeth and Evan: "Your Feet's Too Big" ~Elizabeth's recommended destination to visit in France: Cancale
~@hotsardines - Instagram pics: Elizabeth with Alan Cummings singing "When I Get Low I Get High"; with Alan Cumming who is featured on French Fries + Champagne; Elizabeth enjoying French Fries + Champagne; The Hot Sardines~
~The song I have been playing on repeat. "Wake Up In Paris".
In our conversation on the podcast, Elizabeth shares her inspiration for the song, as well as how long it took her to write it. Be sure to tune and discover where exactly the inspiration came from for the first two notes of the song.
Elizabeth shared with listeners, not one, but two of her favorite Petit Plaisirs. Have a look below:
~On the road:
~At Home (see below):
An enormous thank you to Elizabeth and her team for taking the time to join me on The Simple Sophisticate. ~View more episodes of The Simple Sophisticate here.
Mon, 22 May 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #156
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
Each time NYC stylist Tiffani Rogers stops by The Simple Sophisticate podcast we begin with a conversation about the most recent trends and fashion events, but then it leads to a life discussion as we both, women in our 30s who are striving to enjoy the everyday, making it our own as well as reach our full potential while learning from the many lessons life abundantly shares with us. And this interview was no different. As mentioned in the title of today's episode, relationships and how to meet new friends and potential romantic partners are both discussed, as well as inching toward 40 and loving it. Tiffani also shares a couple of life lessons she has learned thus far, and we discover there is one approach we both use to remind us that we are doing just fine in this thing called life. Be sure to tune in. Below are all the links, photos and videos discussed on the blog. Style by Tiffani
~Past interview with Tiffani Rogers on The Simple Sophisticate:
~2017 Met Gala, honoring Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo. Red Carpet style discussed on the episode:
~Gisele Bündchen in Stella McCartney~
~Katy Perry in Comme des Garçon~
~Blake Lively in Burberry~
~Blueberry & Rhubarb Crostata, find the recipe here.
Mon, 8 May 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #154
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." —Nelson Mandela
Amelia Earhart, at the age of 23, had a dream awoken within her that she could not explain. Filled with both fear and pleasure, she "knew she had to fly". Julia Child was determined to change the dining, cooking and eating experience of Americans, also known as the "servantless cook". At the time, no one had written, nor demonstrated how to successfully engage with real food, delicious, satiating cuisine as she had (and as I know, many of you are quite aware being Francophiles ;)). And so it was hope, not fear that she, as well as Amelia Earhart pursued their vision with dogged perseverance. It was the nebulous vision held within, unknowingly willing their dreams to materialize, how and when they could not know. I am reminded of Nelson Mandela's quote often with the many different new experiences and people I have had the opportunity to encounter in my now nearly two years living in Bend. A multitude of unknowns dance about untamed in my life that have tested my confidence, faith and desire. From the desire to become once again a home-owner, to producing a second book of quality and inspiration for devoted long-time and newly introduced readers of living simply luxuriously to finding and cultivating real love and friendships based on trust, curiosity and similar passions shared authentically, just to name a few. And it is at times of doubt and unknown situations, that self-preservation can be the default my mind wants to revert to. After all, it is a rare individual to travel unscathed by pain, loss, hurt and disappointment through life; and therefore, it is only natural to allow the mind, when it recognizes seemingly similar behavior equivalent to a pain-inflicting person from our past to put up its defenses, assume the worst and no longer step forward. But such behavior is to ignore Mandela's directive, such behavior is to make a choice that reflects our fears. And when we continue to make decisions that reflect our fears, we are no longer building a life in which we can thrive striving toward our fullest potential; no, instead, we are merely surviving and watching pass by beautiful opportunity after beautiful opportunity, of the life we have not yet experienced, but could if only we would make choices that reflect our hopes. Last week, I began to make firm plans for a summer holiday in 2018. Money has been invested, dates have been confirmed, rentals have been secured. While I am not sure how all of the details will come together or even exactly how long I will be away, I at least know a dream I set in 2011 will be taking place. I chose to build a life based on hope. I chose to believe that the pieces would gradually fall together if I set out the invitation enabling them to materialize. I chose what I am excited about, rather than what I am fearful of. To have hope may not seem to be enough, and I would argue, while it isn't enough, it is a significant part of the foundation of the beautiful life we wish to build for ourselves and those we love. Think of it as building a sanctuary in the country, complete with koi ponds, long, tree-lined lanes and thoughtfully planted perennials that awake in their designated seasons in order for a full year of natural beauty. Such a creation, while yes, taking time, also requires of the dreamer to plan, design and educate themselves, but then act in a manner that involves decisions that open the door to the possibility of ample and abundant beauty. Conversely, a life built on our fears resembles a fortress of stone, iron walls, gates, anything to protect the individual(s) inside from being penetrated by the unknown. No engagement with the outside world unless deemed fit and suitable. No plan except to build higher walls that are no more natural and healthy, let alone beautiful, when it comes to a well-lived life than forced solitary confinement.
"Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible." —Amelia Earhart
Yes, the former example leaves us open, leaves us more vulnerable, but it also invites the natural world to thrive. The seasons to work their magic, relationships to grow and mature, life to move through its cycle and for the residents to appreciate each step. Whereas the fortress controls everything, or creates a way of living that presents a façade of having everything under control. When in actuality, the beauty that could flourish is killed due to lack of sunlight. In other words, hope is driven asunder. No, we will never know how everything will work out. We will never know precisely when the economy will ebb and rise or why prior to the event that sparks the change. We will never know when we might run into that person that captivates our attention more than anyone we have ever met before. We will never know when we will hear yes, or when we will hear no. We will never know when our time will be up or for those around us. We will never know anything except how we choose to respond to any situation. Having hope doesn't mean we are being fool-hearty. Having hope doesn't mean we cannot do our homework. But when we are left with unknowns, choose the hopeful outcome rather than the fearful one, and your behavior and words as you interact and engage with the world will reflect this choice and thus the energy that is reflected back to you. A funny, and aha moment awareness I had recently is that not all of my negative defaults have been a result of personal experience. Some of my negative, self-protecting defaults have come from the media, from plots and tales that are told as entertainment and some as cautionary tales. Now most, I have recognized were experienced unconsciously as a younger child and adult, and so the lesson for myself is to feed my life experience well. Not only with the entertainment, literary journeys and news I consume, but also with the people I spend time with. What conversations, what lives, what tales are shared? No, we must not sanitize our lives; we must know what is going on in the world; we must be aware of suffering to an extent so that if nothing more we can be a part of the effort to alleviate it; we must be conscious citizens. But then we need to get in our lane. A lane that is based on self-awareness, clarity of direction and a mind that is constantly being fed and nourished and live our lives well. But how do we that, especially when at times it will feel as though living in fear is far smarter? First, vent or express your frustration in a healthy manner: understand that you are not seeking a solution, but rather a means to express and release the frustration. And then do not dwell. Move forward. You are human to feel frustration, maybe even anger, but in recognizing that we cannot control everything, we recognize what we can control how we respond in such moments. Second, and most powerful, let go of the outcome. We can only control our behavior, our thoughts, and our preparation. Focus on these three things and let the others go so that you can enjoy the life you have cultivated for yourself, no matter what life may bring, toss or surprise you with. And as we go about our lives, having invested in hope rather than fear, we are more likely to awake unexpectedly to a ladybug on our shoulder.
"When I was a little girl, I used to run around in the fields all day, trying unsuccessfully to catch ladybugs. Finally I would get tired and lay down for a nap. When I awoke, I’d find ladybugs walking all over me.” —Under the Tuscan Sun
"...decide...whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying...." —Amelia Earhart
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Make Your Own Life Rules: How & Why, podcast
—Sweet Palmiers, click here for the recipe (savory is an option as well)
Sun, 16 April 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #150
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
The blossoms of spring have begun to bloom; the scents, vibrant green grass and and brilliant pastel hues offer their natural talents of awing us mere humans. And after a winter that didn't seem it would in, the blossoms all along knew they would bloom; they just needed time.
As many around the globe yesterday celebrated Easter which manifest from the pagan holiday coinciding with the spring equinox and the earth's reawakening, I found myself reflecting on all around us that requires time in order to flourish. From the dogwood and magnolia blooms to the delicate baking of a soufflé, extraordinary seemingly unimaginable occurrences and revelations require time to incubate, to evolve and realize the possibilities which are harbored within.
Below is a list of simple as well as significant life events that require the exercise of patience and trust that in time, beautiful outcomes will materialize.
1. A transcontinental flight to a destination on your bucket list
2. Learning how to truly listen
3. Accrued compound interest on savings
4. The zit-from-hell that sprang up out of nowhere
5. Attainment of an academic diploma or skill certificate
7. The pesky debt you are working to pay off
8. Becoming a better communicator
9. Loving well
~responsive vs. reactionary - episode #145
10. Mastering cooking techniques that appear impossible: slicing an onion, flipping an omelette, building a sauce without it separating
12. Discovering what ignites your soul, stirs your curiosities and what, if pursued, will lead to your fullest potential and true contentment
13. Respect from others
14. Trust from others
15. Personal growth: developing these 22 skills
"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." Leo Tolstoy
Part of the reason I savor the arrival of the spring season, as I mentioned earlier this year, is because the world around us reminds us that evolving into our better selves is possible. And the most important lesson that the arrival of spring teaches us to wait. We must not rush what needs time to develop, to breathe, to heal, to gain its footing and establish its strong foundation so that when it does arrive, it will last as long as it is most capable of doing.
Often I reflect on this life lesson of giving what we seek, what we desire, what we are hopeful for, as a litmus test for what Charles Stanley reminds,"Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we're waiting for." So the next time you find yourself frustrated that something isn't arriving quickly enough, ask yourself "How deeply do you truly want it?" And perhaps if you still choose to be impatient and rush it, you were simply looking for a placeholder because you hadn't found what you truly desired. And on the other hand, if you reflect, step back and recognize the need and willingness to be patient, you have discovered what for you is worth seeking. Perhaps for you, you have found your path, the journey you truly wish to be on.
~As my way of saying thank you to listeners of the podcast, I have produced two new episodes for this week due to my loss of voice last week and inability to have a new episode as each Monday for over two years (except in one other instance) there has always been one. I appreciate your understanding, your well wishes and your interest in living simply luxuriously. Here is the link to episode #151. Have a lovely week.
~Soft Boiled Œufs et Mouillettes Pour Deux (eggs and soldiers for two)
~View and print the recipe here
~All images captured by TSLL Instagram.
Mon, 27 March 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #148
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die; and then dies having never really lived." —Dalai Lama
Most Sunday mornings at around nine or 10 o'clock you will find me in my living room having just returned from walking my boys, Norman and Oscar, settling in with a pot of black tea, a warm croissant from a local bakery and the Sunday newspapers. Such simple pleasures bring me a priceless amount of happiness, and I look forward to this weekly ritual as I tuck into bed each Saturday night.
The recent trending term hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) in the lifestyle publishing industry springs from the happiest country in the world as found by extensive research compiled by the United Nations World Happiness Report. Simply defined, incorporating hygge into your way of living is a choice to encourage the enjoyment of life's simple pleasures.
There are a multitude of books focused exactly on how to welcome a hygge lifestyle into your life out on the market at the moment (and these are just a sampling released in the past 12 months). Just take a look below:
Needless to say, the attention to a way of life that welcomes in the simplicity and everyday savoring of pleasures and reminds of the gifts a welcoming sanctuary can bring into our everyday lives is something that tickles me immensely. Many TSLL readers have pointed out the similarities between hygge and living simply luxuriously, and after reading two books on the subject, I certainly have to agree.
So how exactly do they overlap? How are they similar? Let's take a look:
1. Savoring quality in each arena of life:
2. Cultivating a sanctuary to relax, unwind and rejuvenate 3. Light a candle or two or three 4. Cultivating trust in those you love, in the communities you live and work in 5. Building a life that enables you to feel free, thus realizing you have more control over your level of happiness than you may have once assumed. In other words, you truly can become the CEO of your own life while building and being a partner in your community, home and work place. 6. A strong, respectful support system "meaningful, positive social relationships" 7. Practice gratitude, let go of want 8. Build and cultivate strong, healthy, loving relationships The quality of one's happiness increases with improved relationships, not surprisingly when we make more money.
"America has gotten richer, a lot richer, over the past fifty years, but we've not gotten happier." —Jeffrey Saks author of the United Nations World Happiness Report
9. Become a lover of books
Discover the pleasure reading can bring when a wide open afternoon, evening or 30 minutes anywhere in your day arises. Pick up a book, snuggle up and dive in to discover something new. Keep the television off, put your cell phone away and get lost, letting go of time.
10. Become a regular visitor of nature
"Whether you are sitting by a river in Sweden or in a vineyard in France, or just in your garden or nearby park, being surrounded by nature enables you to bring your guard down and adds a certain simplicity." Meik Wiking
11. Choose to be fully present
Put away the technology, allow your mind to be in the here and now and look around you. Savor the sun, savor the company, savor the flavor of the food. Savor the amazing life you have the fortune to be living.
12. Cultivate calm
13. Savor simple rituals
The mindset of a market economy versus a social-democratic economy is at once significant and worth contemplating. Often, based on where we live and the culture we are raised in when we see our success based on how others fare as well: in a market economy, it is more likely to be an independent mindset, and in a social-democratic economy, it is more of a collective success one seeks. Ultimately, we only have control over ourselves, but to ignore how our behavior and decisions effect others is to ignore the power of emotional intelligence in our lives. When we consider others in our decision making, it is a means of paying it forward, of cultivating more wellness, kindness and positive behavior that builds each other up rather than tears one another down.
15. Seek internal approval rather than external
Refrain from needing to wear labels or purchase more or larger homes, cars, shoes, clothing, etc. A mindset set on fine-tuning one's outer appearance is a person who has not found peace within. When you do have peace within, the external becomes far less important and the once temporary highs are substituted with permanent peace.
The primary, underlying similarity that is at the core of living well, living simply luxuriously and thereby incorporating a hygge approach to life is to truly appreciate and savor the life we've each been given now. To drink the marrow from life so to speak every single day. It need not be excessive, expensive or grand. The true pleasures are actually quite simple.
It is the moments of sitting next to those you love, letting go of time and letting go of worry knowing you are living well, you're living wisely and you haven't been pulled off track by the marketing masses that merely want your money when superficially they promise you more happiness. They are wrong, you are right when you choose to live in such a way that focuses on your well-being. And well-being cannot be purchased, it must be consciously cultivated, tended to and patiently fine-tuned.
~My Master Recipes; 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence int eh Kitchen by Patricia Wells
Mon, 6 March 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #145
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"The act of responding requires one to look at the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, hear what is happening and reflect . . . What matters is that you stopped and put an effort to think and suspended judgment. It is a conscious act and shows that you are willing to listen or observe. This ‘gap’ between the circumstance and your behavior is what contributes to gaining a sense of control in your life." —author Debbie Hampton
Responding thoughtfully to an interviewer's questions versus reacting spontaneously to an inflicted, unexpected pain whether a paper cut or something more severe. The physical examples shared reveal the human responses: the former - responsive, and the latter - reactive.
Responding is a conscious decision whereas reacting is instinctive and done without forethought. And while reacting in emergency situations involving life and death, to scream, run and protect one's self is primarily and understandably about survival, it is when we react rather than respond in everyday situations that we inhibit the potential outcome.
Let's look at it more closely. When we choose to simply react to what occurs in our lives, we behave defensively. Sometimes defensive behaviors take the form of blame, scapegoating or taking revenge. Stephen Covey describes the difference between reactive and responsive individuals quite well.
“Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.”
In essence, choosing to be responsive versus reactive is to take charge of your life, to be the hero/heroine, to be the person who recognizes everything will never be in our control, but our response to circumstances is. Choosing to be responsive is taking responsibility of our lives. Recognizing the power of our words, our behavior, our tone, our delivery, our volume, our timing, make a difference to those in our presence. On the other head, when we react we actually aren't choosing. Rather we are allowing our reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brain, to take control. The reptilian brain is all about the individual and survival: movement, breathing, circulation, hunger and reproduction, territory, and social dominance. But the gift that humans have as well as other highly evolved mammals, is we have two additional brains: the mammalian brain or limbic system, which is highly reactive as it is subconsciously responding to temperatures and hormones thus involves our emotions and feelings, and the neocortex, the thinking part of the brain, in other words where our capability to respond rather than react derives itself. The third brain, as was just mentioned, the neocortex, is the key to gathering information from what we are seeing and feeling, and putting it into context. The neocortex digests the necessary information, understands the world and the fact that there is a future beyond this moment and is capable of making sound decisions. Humans's neocortex is the most highly developed of all primates, and therefore, when we recognize what we have the potential to do, we must utilize this amazing strength of mind. Let's take a look at what responsive vs. reactive looks like in our everyday lives: ~Event: you sleep through your alarm - responsive: edit out timely morning rituals, access what the necessities are to be your best at work (eat well, dress appropriately, look presentable); reactive: scurry furiously around the house setting a mood for anyone in the household to become more frazzled and storm out the door with nothing complete or having prepared you efficiently for the day. ~Event: a colleague or boss states something unexpected that takes you aback or hurts your feelings - responsive: choosing to pause and take a breath you think about the best response, if one is needed at all, and do so calmly; reactive - fall back on your default response to critical, hurtful comments and either don't stand up for yourself and continue to agree or become snarky and sharp in your retort. ~Event: your significant other forgets an important date or occasion - responsive: collect your thoughts, come to understand why or if you feel hurt and determine how to calmly express how you feel during a time when both can talk; reactive - as soon as you see or hear from them you either give them the cold shoulder or speak with a hurtful tone and words. ~Event: a friend texts or emails to invite you do something - responsive: read the text, assess your interest and then consult your calendar or other people's calendar if it involves or effects them, then return the text/email either way; reactive: either respond immediately or not at all ~Event: the line at the grocery market is long and the person at the counter doesn't appear to know how to work the machine - responsive: assess your situation - do you have a time constraint? If so, can you move to another line. If time isn't an issue, observe the wait in line as an opportunity to take a few deep breaths, relax or check your email recognizing that either eventually the line will move or the management will open another line. The paradox of choosing to be responsive is that it requires of us to be both present and aware of the future. We need to both be cognizant of the effect of our actions, whichever we choose to take and we need to know what actions are best in the situation. Fittingly, when we react, we are reacting out of fear based on what we have been genetically disposed to do to protect ourselves. But as we know, we live in a civilized world. It is a civilized, thoughtful approach that will yield us the best results. It is not easy to know how to respond best in every situation. However, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent help tremendously. As these two traits are skills, so too is knowing how to respond well. It will take practice, it will require of us to be able to pause in nearly any situation before speaking or acting, and in its own small way, meditation plays a helpful role as well. When we respond to life:
No doubt all of us, and I know I can include myself in this category, have reacted at times in our lives when we should have responded. And upon reflection, we can probably pinpoint those events quite well usually based primarily on how we felt after we reacted rather than responded. We may have wished we wouldn't have said something, chosen a different tone, or taken a deep breath and simply removed ourselves from the situation until we knew how to respond well. It is just these moments of experience that will actually make it that much easier to respond rather than react as you move forward. Because when we know first-hand the negative experience that can result from reacting, we are far more motivated to make sure we respond in the next similar situation. Our lives provide guidance even through the moments we wished we didn't have to endure. As a student, all we have to do is vow to learn the lessons we are given. We cannot know how to do something until we are shown how. Now we know how to respond rather than react. Now we know the difference and the benefit of embracing responsiveness versus defensiveness.
~The Magnolia Journal: Inspiration for life and home
Mon, 28 November 2016
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #132
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” —Douglas H. Everett
The arrival of a new year always fills me with giddy exuberance. No matter what occurred during the current year, I am very much like a child eagerly determined to will even more amazing, fulfilling and growth-opportunities into my world and into the world around me. 2016 has brought many of the latter on the list, growth-opportunities, and while I won't be sad to see it go, I am still very grateful for all that it opened my eyes to, all that it taught me, all that it pushed me to do so that I could begin to step outside of, in many ways, an unconscious self-imposed shell. So for that reason alone, I am thankful, indebted actually, to 2016. Isn't that way it works? Some years we savor, some years we sweat, some years are a mixture of both, but all offer the opportunity to be a different person come the year's end. Speaking of year's end, it isn't quite here yet. In fact, we still have one month to make our resolutions a reality, and I don't know about you, but I am excited to finish strong. Let's talk about how to do just that no matter where you might find yourself at the end of the eleventh month of 2016.
1. Balance the monthly budget
Let's talk money straight-away. Nothing boosts our confidence, settles our nerves and brightens our hopes for the future when we know where we stand with our money. As is the case, businesses want to finish strong as well, but we shouldn't help them at the expense of us not doing the same. Holiday gift giving and travel and entertaining can be a roadblock, but with careful planning and a clear awareness of what you are capable of, by the time the end of the year arrives, you will be feeling at ease when it comes to your financial situation.
2. Assess the goals/resolutions you pursued during 2016
Now to the task at hand. How have you been doing on the resolutions you set at the beginning of 2016? Perhaps you set some mid-year goals. How are those going? Be honest, which goes both ways. Notice how much further you have to go, but also recognize what you have done. Sometimes we stop ourselves from attaining what we seek because we are fearful we will fail. Ironically, we fail if we don't try. Trying, no matter how small the progress, is always reason to celebrate. And as Marilyn Ferguson reminds, “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” So let your fear lead you to keep trying and keep striving forward. The other side is indeed worth seeing and experiencing.
3. What habits have served you well and visa versa
After taking an honest assessment of how you are doing with your goals, what habits are helping you maintaining your progress? Write these down. Do the same exercise for habits that are impeding your progress. Don't worry, I am not about to tell you to break 10 bad habits in 31 days. The first thing to do is recognize what is and isn't working, and then, baby steps. Vow to break one bad habit. Then once that bad habit is broken and you don't even think about it, break the next bad habit. Maybe the chance to begin the second will begin the next week or maybe next month, but have a priority list of habits you want to break and slowly make your way through them.
4. Let go of passivity
Ask for what you want. Remove the possibility of regret.
If events or progress toward your goals aren't moving as you had hoped they would, observe your behavior these past eleven months. Have you been sitting on the sidelines hoping others will notice what you've been working so hard on? Have you been hoping they could read your mind? Speak up. Ask for what you want. Make decisions without asking for approval from others. If it is indeed what you want, what you've been working for, step forward and make what is in your control a reality.
5. Tie up loose ends
Look around your house, look at your planner. Do you see any projects, large or small, that aren't complete yet? Perhaps you are either putting them off or maybe you began but something occurred and zapped your time availability. Reexamine each and do your best to wrap them up so you can move forward without unnecessary expectations and demands when the new year begins. A fresh start is great motivation.
6. Get busy with small steps
There is still one month left in 2016, and a lot can happen in 31 days. A lot can happen in a mere moment, so get moving. Keep Isaac Newton's words in the back of your mind as you start your engine, and no matter how gradual you roll forward always remember, “An object at rest tends to stay at rest, an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”
Perhaps you have some extra time toward the end of the year or maybe at some point during the month. Even if you don't have an immense amount of time, find a way to target the spots in your home, office, life that could you some decluttering. Again, the goal is a fresh of start when 2017 arrives and the visual component of less stuff to look at, take care of, etc. holds incredible power over our state of mind and thus our stress levels. So get busy: go through your closet, your entire home and more specifically your kitchen. Set yourself free and you open the door for more applicable and authentic opportunities and gifts.
8. Bulk up your retirement savings for maximum tax benefit
The list began with finances, but I wanted to focus specifically on retirement savings as well. The more you can invest now, the more powerful compound interest will be and the lower your taxable income will be. So take a close look at your 401(k) or IRA contributions, which have limits of $18,000 and $5,500 this year, respectively. Can you add some more? (Good news: You can actually make 2016 contributions to your IRA through mid-April 2017 which means thereis still time after the New Year.)
9. Decide on a planning system that functions and is something you love
Just prior to each month's beginning I sit down with my planner and add the new month's pages. I then take time to plan out the month with previously schedule events, my weekly and daily routines, etc. I love this monthly rituals, and I especially love the yearly ritual of looking ahead and putting in the pages for 2o17. In fact, I just ordered a new binder and am shifting from Franklin to the six-ring A6 personal binder. And because of this, TSLL readers who have ask for TSLL Planning Pages to fit the A5 and the Personal Planner are in luck. The Personal Planning page (along with the all-inclusive planning package) is now available. Coming in a few weeks, just in time for 2017, you will be able to purchase exclusively sized planning pages for these two new sizes (on top of the Classic and Compact pages already available). It is important to have a system that works for you. Not every one, like myself and many of you, want an all digital planning system, but some do. You know what works well with your lifestyle and routine. Tweak what you have to make it work even better and enjoy setting clear goals, breaking them down and managing each day to help you find the balance of rest and success. ~Shop TSLL Planning Pages for Classic and Compact planners here (and for today only, save 20% with TSLLHOLIDAY20)
~My new planner and binder is seen below. It is an A6 six-ring Ancicraft leather binder (other sizes are available here).
10. What makes you smile spontaneously?
Take a moment and try to recall the moments in which you found yourself smiling without a forethought, smiling due to something tickling your mental funny bone or observing something joyful and pleasure filled. Take a mental note of these events or better yet, write them down. Now, try to cultivate opportunities for these moments to happen in balance with the success you are trying to achieve.
11. Answer this question honestly:
Where and how do you want to wake up on Sunday January 1st, 2017? Now plan accordingly. You will be glad you did and the new year will be assured to be off to a wonderful start. Wishing you a wonderful final month in 2016. May the struggles, if you encounter a few this year, begin to wind down and reveal their fruit and polish, and may the final few days give you a time to celebrate and appreciate all that has gone well and recognize how much you've grown. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Till Brönner, The Good Life