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
Mon, 14 November 2016
"Comfort is the root of confidence and not the other way around." —Haley Mlotek in The New York Times Style Magazine
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #130
Confidence is attractive. Confidence can be deceiving. Confidence is however hard to fake. But the hard truth about confidence is that it is rooted in feeling comfortable with that which you project to be confident about. Depending upon the arena, the one who exudes confidence draws the attention from the masses due to either curiosity to figure out how they too can emulate such confidence on a particular subject or way of life that they desire or out of appreciation from others who have confidence as well. Because when one projects an air of confidence there is a sense of security, self-worth, and peace of mind knowing that they are able to think and live independently. Confidence is valuable in a variety of aspects throughout our lives. But it must be understood that confidence is a dynamic entity as it depends on understanding something that is as well quite fluid: life, the world, other people, etc. Because of this reality, it requires of each of us to be always pursuing knowledge, asking questions and remaining a participant in the world in which we live. I first came across the quote above as it was pertaining to beauty and the recent trend to no longer wear makeup as inspired by Alicia Keyes who shared openly this past May in a letter (it's well worth the time to read) that she longed to just be herself and stop the constant work of being a chameleon and being what she thought she had to be, rather than be who she truly was. The article gave me pause because it is difficult to put down the masks that we present to the world as they are in many ways our armor, and it is far easier to just do what is expected, project an image or idea that is expected or easy for all to see and hear. So where do we find the comfort that is needed to have the confidence we seek? ~Take the time to get to know yourself and continue this ongoing process ~Build a healthy social network ~Stretch yourself - try things you have never done before but want to do and someday do well ~Read and learn voraciously and endlessly I can think of more than a few instances when I did not have confidence. Most recently, I have become frustrated when I attempt to converse in French at our local conversation group or with friends or instructors who know how to speak the language. I feel as though I am presenting an entirely different person, as though the person they are hearing and seeing is not the real Shannon. And as I gave this some thought, I realized why I wasn't enjoying myself: I wasn't comfortable and therefore I couldn't be confident and relax. It is a vicious cycle. So, I will admit, for a time, I stopped going to the weekly group conversations. Okay, for quite a lengthy time. I chose to study on my own, but I realized that in order to increase my comfort, I needed to stretch myself. That is the most perplexing paradox of this entire conversation. Yes, we need comfort to be and reflect confidence, but confidence can only be gained if we choose to grow, learn and step outside of our comfort zone. Below are just a few examples of arenas that require each of us to experiment, stretch ourselves and try new things in order to gain the confidence we seek:
However, it requires balance. Don't put yourself entirely in uncomfortable scenarios all of the time. Stretch yourself just enough so that you are always able to be growing rather than regressing. For me, on top of trying to develop new friendships as well as learning a new language, I found that I needed to separate the two so that I could be my confident, authentic self with those who were just beginning to know me. So I struck a balance, communicated with them that I wanted dearly to build our friendship, but felt learning a language simultaneously wasn't going to work for me. And they completely understood. When we can come home to a place that allows us to feel comfort, we can then be recharged to go back out and try something new, but we must have a sanctuary of comfort always available to us to retreat to get that fix. The sanctuary of comfort may be your actual house or apartment or it may be a person, an activity or a particular place. The key begins with knowing yourself. Not only knowing what you like and dislike, what makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable, but why you feel and prefer what you do. Knowledge is truly power, not only as an approach to life, but as well when it comes to understanding ourselves and living our best lives. ~Similar posts from the Archives you might enjoy:
~Why Not . . . Read? (three part series)
~Blind Date (Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément)
~Starring Mélanie Bernier and Clovis Cornillac (2015)
~Find Blind Date on Netflix here
Image: Paris Vogue, 1974
Mon, 24 October 2016
Inspired by Sarah Lavoine's new book Chez Moi: Decorating Your Home and Living Like a Parisienne, discover 20 of my favorite tips and ideas for living well in your sanctuary as we talk about decor, dining, style and lifestyle ideas inspired by a Parisienne who lives and decorates with effortless style.
This week's Petit Plaisir introduces the newest addition to TSLL brand: the "Live Simply, Live Well" notepads which have in full-color the newest illustration by Inslee on the layout.
Mon, 17 October 2016
One of the most important skills we can learn and implement into our lives on a regular basis is understanding that in order to have healthy relationships, a content life and a sense of freedom is to learn how to set clear boundaries in order to be able to open ourselves up so that others can truly know who we are and what we can offer to the world.
In today's episode discover the benefits of establishing boundaries, come to understand if you need to re-enforce the boundaries you have attempted and learn where in your life you may want to incorporate boundaries.
This week's Petit Plaisir is a Francophile book that will offer inspiration for your home, your style and your everyday life. The recently released book by Sarah Lavoine, Chez Moi: Decorating Your Home and Living like a Parisienne.
Mon, 10 October 2016
Letting go of what is no longer serving us is something we have to be consciously reminded of, and one of the most detrimental ways we don't serve ourselves well is the stories we accept as truth that limit our potential. In today's episode discover the importance of letting go of bad service and the benefits that will abound in your life when you do.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, mini apple pies that offer the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavor.
Mon, 3 October 2016
Inspired by Julia Child and her determination to publish what we all now know as a masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in today's episode discover a clear path to making the goal you desire come to fruition, and it all begins with having a plan.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, a new favorite magazine for anyone who loves to beautiful decor, traveling, cooking and identifies as being either an Anglophile or a Francophile.
Mon, 26 September 2016
Fall is as Lauren DeStefano states, the grand finale, when the world shares the most beautiful and bountiful produce, experiences and offerings. In today's episode discover routines and items to incorporate each year into the much anticipated fall season.
This week's Petit Plaisir is a fun romantic comedy that was just released and Shannon thoroughly enjoyed: Bridget Jones's Baby. Tune in to find out why.
Mon, 19 September 2016
Having self-compassion can have a powerfully positive effect on our overall quality of life. When we consider how we treat ourselves and recognize that the self-criticism we thought was beneficial is actually detrimental, the change is most certainly welcome. Discover 7 benefits as well as ideas for being self-compassionate in today's episode.
This week's Petit Plaisir is a favorite dessert of Shannon's: Tarte au Citron. Simple, sweet, and delicious.