The Simple Sophisticate - Intelligent Living Paired with Signature Style

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ― Confucius

Having never experienced a particular event, feeling or sensation, it can be hard to trust that attaining what we have marked as our goal as something other than difficult to achieve. After all, if it were easy, we would have experienced it by now. But what has lacked in the past is the proper recipe. What I mean by the proper recipe is if we are trying to make mayonnaise (which requires few, but specific simple ingredients: 1 large egg yolk, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cold water, and ¾ cup neutral oil such as safflower or canola), but if we pulled out a recipe for a vinaigrette (extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and black pepper), no matter how hard or long we whisked the ingredients, we will never make mayonnaise.  This seems obvious, but often in life we are using ingredients (whether it be particular people, misunderstood facts regarding science, neuroscience and biology or confusion when it comes to math) that cannot add up to what we desire no matter how hopeful we are. But when we do finally have the proper ingredients, in other words quality ingredients and stop trying to force an apple to become an orange, the results we desire materialize without involving much effort. And in that moment it seems almost miraculous as we've been thwarted for so long so often in our previous attempts. Today I've made a list of eleven life skills I have found to be far easier than I had once thought. Perhaps you have a few others you would like to add. And if so, please do share in the comments. 1. Boiling the perfect egg  On Sunday I made my first Niçoise salad, and of course, boiled eggs are a quintessential ingredient. Wanting a boiled egg in which the white was solid, but moist and the yolk was runny, I looked to Julia Child. On page 118 in her iconic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the recipe for an alternative to poached eggs (as I wanter to cook the eggs with the shell on) can be found. Put simply: bring water to boil, place eggs in the boiling water for six minutes, pour out the hot water and run cold water over the eggs for one minute. The perfect boiled egg for salads, breakfast or a mid-day snack. View my recipe for soft boiled eggs and soldiers here. 2. Meditating For years I thought something was wrong with me for not being able to mediate. I assumed, errantly, I had to be able to sit without thinking for endless amounts of minutes (20-30). I was wrong on two points: It's not about stopping your thoughts, but recognizing when they wander and bringing your mind back to the present and longer doesn't mean better. Five minutes is fine, simply observing and knowing your mind is wandering is a significant and successful mediation experience. Learn more about who to incorporate mediation into your daily routine (even if daily is a hope and the reality is a few days a week - the difference is quite positive on your overall quality of life.) 3. Asking clarifying questions Just ask why. Most likely you are not the only person in the room who did not understand the allusion the speaker or teacher made. Ask for clarification. Don't apologize for not knowing, simply ask what they were referring to. Confidence of a student and their sincerity to learn is revealed in asking for further understanding. Be a student of life and regularly ask questions, especially of people who are experts in their fields. Even if they do not know the answer, they would be the best persons to point you in the right direction. Often an expert takes for granted what the listener knows. It's not a negative thing, it's a reality when someone has been working with a particular idea or content for some time. Their perspective has shifted. So simply ask, and no doubt others in the room will appreciate your courage. 4. Letting go of what no longer supports the life you are building Looking at the possibility of letting go of a way of life, a person, a job or anything that you have become accustomed to is a thorny prospect. But the actual letting go and moving forward is easy. It's the decision of what to let go that takes time and careful examination. For when you finally let go, it cannot weigh you down and you begin to feel a lightness that you could never have known prior to letting go. 5. Welcoming love into your life When we have been mistreated, taken advantage of or been around insecure individuals and errant assumptions about what love is (co-dependent, needy, clingy, formulaic, etc.), we can understandably be cautious about believing genuine love exists. Genuine or real love is something we discussed here and here in-depth, but the good news is that it does indeed exist, and when you're ready and able to recognize it, even if you don't believe it when you see it or experience it,  welcoming it into your life is easy. Put down the armor, put down the cynical protections you've been using, stop the mishegas thinking and let yourself be loved. Just be you. Stop assuming the worst, stop thinking about anything that may thwart love's growth, and when you do that, love walks in. 6. Broadening your vocabulary Read. Read often. Read a little every day from any source that piques your interest. Look up one word a week that you run across and do not know. Listen to the diction being used in academic, political, historical films, newscasts and productions. Be curious and read and watch and look up what you do not understand. The more precise your vocabulary, the better able you are to effectively communicate and the more heightened your ability for emotional intelligence. 7. Backgammon My favorite board game to play is backgammon. While I have always wanted to learn chess, I have yet to do so (of this feat I will accomplish at some point in my life, I am nothing but determined). But since I was a young girl, backgammon was the game my father and I would play, and we still do when I return home for holidays. It's simple: move all of your checkers to your home base and remove them before the other player. Yes, there are other strategies and details to consider, but for a board game that looks fancy when it is displayed, it truly is quite simple. Discover the rules here. 8. Saving money for retirement Set it and forget it. Set up an automatic pay reduction each month to be withdrawn from your paycheck. The sooner you do this is your career, the less you will pay no mind to the money that is not going into your checking account for the present moment. 9. Practicing self-compassion The patient is you. And the attending is you as well. Treat yourself the way you already treat those you care about. The love you are able to give outwardly becomes strengthened when you have been giving the same compassion to yourself regularly. Learn more about self-compassion here in episode #122 of the podcast. 10. Improving your health and your skin Yes, using particular moisturizers, sunscreen and oils do indeed make a difference, but the cheapest and simplest way to improve your health (ridding your body of toxins) and enable your skin to look radiant is to drink a glass of water before you go to bed and when you wake up. In between, make water your drink of choice. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. 11. Staying healthy and trim It's less about your activity and more about the fuel you feed your body. However, physical exercise reduces stress and keeps the mind balanced. Back to the eating component: Eat a well balanced diet (knowledge of what you eat and what it does for your body is key), don't deprive yourself, moderation. And as far as exercise,  simply walk 5 times a week 20-40 minutes, add some weight bearing exercises two times a week (strength, pilates or yoga). The take away I have discovered is often it is our approach that is thwarting the success, happiness and contentment we seek from materializing. And the problem is that we are not better informed on how to actually attain what we seek. Make sure that anything that is not working at the moment doesn't actually have an easier solution. Are you using the proper ingredients? Do you have the right recipe or did the pages stick together and you, like Rachel in FRIENDS accidentally make a dessert truffle with ground beef? The right recipe can make all of the difference. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Easy Is Never Appreciated

~Simple Rules for a Good Life

~Small & Simple = A Grand & Full Life

Petit Plaisir

~Victoria on PBS, Season 1
~Queen Victoria's diaries made available to the public   https://youtu.be/rKONm_Cy39s  

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Category:inspiration -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #145

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | 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:
  • we become the directors, rather than the followers
  • we will establish stronger relationships with anyone we come into contact with
  • we will reduce unnecessary interactions and confrontations
  • we will find more peace
  • we will reduce regret
  • we will build a confidence that we can handle any situation we come up against
  • we will thrive
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.

Petit Plaisir:

~The Magnolia Journal: Inspiration for life and home
  • $20/yr subscription (four issues each year)
  • Each issue has a theme (Note: Issue 2 | Simplicity) - on stands now
~Joanna & Chip Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper ~The bed & breakfast in Walla Walla, Washington, mentioned in today's episode: Green Gables Inn   Download the Episode
Direct download: 145ReactionResponse_.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #144

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
Recently a good friend of mine who is learning French as well, and inspires me with her advanced abilities, asked how my learning was progressing. Disappointed even to say it out loud, I stated I haven't been studying regularly. And while that is entirely true, I find myself playing with the little bit of the language I do know unconsciously throughout my days and in conversations and activities spent with those who know the language. I continue to share and be enticed by French-themed posts, articles and books, and have shared much of what I find on my Twitter feed, but it became glaringly apparent that I haven't written a Francophile post/episode in quite some time. However, as my recent daily schedule has shifted ever-so-slightly to make time for a special individual in my life, I am even more appreciative of the simply luxurious approach to living. In fact, it is the approach I write about here on TSLL and share on the podcast that enable me to let go, appreciate, and savor the everyday moments and unexpected extraordinary moments in the ordinary routine. The realization of the approach of letting go of the unnecessary and focusing on the necessary being the key to easily flexing with life has inspired me to ardently protect and cultivate further these aspects, many of which are inspired by what I appreciate about the French, and some would argue western-European culture. 1. Depend on flavors from herbs, spices and ordinary cooking staples to enhance the flavor of food After a recent conversation with an acquaintance from Belgium, I was reminded of the flavorful approach the French and other European countries take to cooking. First of all, they cook, they play with the food and the flavors and they don't bury their food in thick, sugar-laden sauces. The simple sautéing of garlic and shallots in olive oil to provide a flavorful aromatic base or finishing with lemon to maximize the flavor. How about adding some thyme or rosemary and don't forget the salt and pepper while you are cooking. 2. Discover the pleasure of thoughtful conversation; let go of small talk Part of being a good conversationalist is caring about what your fellow-converser is saying. Secondly, it requires of both to let go of where the conversation might lead. This is not easy for goal-driven, busy Americans. We want to accomplish something, complete it and move on. However, deeper, more intimate relationships cannot be built on demand. Slow down, relax and let the conversation flow naturally. Forget looking at the clock and just enjoy the moment. 3. Cook at home unless a restaurant can do it better Stock and prepare a kitchen that lends itself well to cooking whatever may be in the refrigerator on any given night. Make sure your Épicerie is properly stocked and the necessary cooking utensils are at the ready. Then, begin to experiment. Initially, this can be intimating, but with advice from those who know how, observation and practice, you will be whipping up delicious, simple, satiating meals Monday through Sunday if you so desire. (Learn more about how to become a cook in your kitchen here and here.) 4. Reexamine your diet. Eat flavorful, satiating food rather than empty calories. Eating well involves an appreciation of the food your are eating as well as respecting your body. We shouldn't have to swear off the delicious in order to tend to our cholesterol, etc. Moderation is the key and that requires of each of us knowledge about how the foods we eat affect our bodies. While eating is necessary, doing so mindlessly shouldn't be part of our approach. For example, reduce the soda intake and increase the fruit and vegetable consumption. 5. Savor a glass of wine with a home cooked meal, any day of the week To complement, not to cloud. Wine with dinner, a beautifully thoughtful dinner carefully prepared and presented deserves a savory partner in the form of a glass of wine. Sip, nibble, slow down and savor the culinary moment in front of you. 6. Reduce refined sugar White sugar, white flour, packaged, processed foods with additives. In other words, know what you are putting into your body and what those ingredients do to you body. (Read more here about my January - one month resolution to reduce or eliminate refined sugar.) 7. Think for yourself Have an opinion grounded in fact. Take the time to be aware of the world around you and refrain from rash assumptions. Being tactful in your approach and being aware of your audience reduces the need to be politically correct. Rather be honest, thoughtful and open to discussion. 8. Fall in love with daily rituals From my morning ritual breakfast of steel oats to my Friday evening unwind that begins with a long walk with the boys, cultivating daily, even weekly and monthly rituals gives us something to look forward to regularly. As someone who loves to step into the kitchen and prepare a meal, this daily ritual is something I enjoy beyond measure. Maybe for you it is your weekly yoga class or sitting down with the newspaper or a new magazine. Whatever your rituals are, protect them and cherish them. 9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate In #11 below, skincare will be discussed and part of an effective skincare routine is drinking water. Keep the consumption of alcohol and sugar drinks low and making water your drink of choice. 10. Treasure the dining experience Sit down for meals, set the table, turn off the television, converse, slow down. Add some flowers to the table to make it inviting even when not in use. Create a space that beckons to guests, asking them to sit down and enjoy a memorable moment. 11. Master a skincare routine Last month I shared with you eight of my favorite skincare products. Some items are inexpensive and some are an investment. However, the attention we pay to our skin is not a vain task. It is a task modeling respect for ourselves and the visage and therefore, the woman we present to the world. Figuring out the skincare routine that will work best for your skin and age will take time and will in some aspects be an ever evolving process, but most items you discover that work for you, will work for you throughout your lifetime. Go, explore and then, pamper yourself each day. 12. Embrace the capsule approach to style Less is more and simple, well curated style speaks volumes, beautiful, powerful volumes, about the woman wearing the clothes. Learn more about the capsule wardrobe approach here. 13. Reserve social media for what inspires you The reason I follow the Instagram accounts I do is to tap into inspiration, beauty and a reminder of all that is full of goodness, diversity and unexpected magnificence in simplicity that surrounds us each day. Rarely do the accounts I follow include selfies, but rather city and nature scapes, a creative fashion combination, books, museum exhibits and vignettes of my favorite places around the world. Why not share with the world what inspires you and never know who will be moved. 14. Let go of trying too hard and begin to trust yourself Last Monday morning I woke up to sunshine and blue skies in Bend, Oregon. The birds were beginning to chirp and the snow was gradually melting. I looked outside and I just smiled. Sometimes, we get in our own way of savoring the gift that is life. In all of its simplicity, for some reason we think it has to be hard, and if it's not, we make it so by over-analyzing, doubting, sabotaging and over-extending ourselves. Life and how we exist in it is simple, and it begins with being present, savoring the everyday, listening to yourself and adjusting to let go of what doesn't serve you and seek out what does and how you can contribute positively to the world. The everydays are the best part. And while it is a grand and necessary task to set goals, set them and then focus on what can be done today, allowing the unexpected to occur and dance with the days as they unfold. 15. Savor a piece of dark chocolate regularly Whenever I share my daily ritual of eating a dark chocolate truffle with a cup of hot tea each evening I do not partake in dessert, some nod their head and contemplate adding it to their routine and others chuckle at its either decadence or simplicity. Either way, I love this daily ritual and have been incorporating into my life since near the blog's commencement. The powers of dark chocolate are subtle, yet powerful and the flavor is magnificent. 16. Keep your Sundays sacred Speaking of rituals, one of my favorite rituals takes place on Sunday (last week it took place on Monday due to my schedule, but I made sure to savor it all the same - see below). The Sunday newspapers arrive (three in total), the hot tea is poured after a long walk with the boys and a croissant is often part of the moment as well. Hours can pass before I've made it through all of the intriguing articles. No matter how you prefer to spend your Sunday, protect, guard it and remember that doing so is an investment in the quality of your life and specifically in the kicking off of the week to come, ensuring it has its best chance possible to be a week to enjoy. ~The New Essentials of French Cooking via The New York Times~ 17. Think critically A few years ago I shared a post inspired by a book titled The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction . And in sharing and in teaching rhetoric in my second job that isn't blogging, I continue to be more convinced that the thinking life is the best way to live. Taking in all that we are exposed to can be overwhelming, but knowing how to do so effectively will enable us to live well. By applying the tools of rhetoric established by Aristotle to examine any piece of information that we come across, we can make sure we are not being led around by the nose and are indeed thinking for ourselves. 18. Revel and appreciate your uniqueness America is a self-help culture, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to grow (see #19), not believing we are enough or not accepting ourselves for who we are in this moment, right now, is not easy for many of us. After all, if we could just lose those last few pounds, if we could just earn a slightly larger paycheck, if we could just fix our relationship status, focusing entirely, constantly on these "small" changes robs us of the now. And who you are right now, however flawed, is a beautiful thing. 19. Invest in Intellectual Wealth Make learning one of your favorite pastimes. Whether it is learning how to skate ski (as I did this winter season for the first time), learning how the three branches of the U.S. government work regarding checks and balances, or learning how to cook Sole Meunière. Tickle your mind and follow your curiosity and you will always find youth to be alive within you. 20. Quality over Quantity in all things The following 19 ways to incorporate the French culture into your everyday life, at their core, involve appreciating the experience and allowing what works well to exist without the excess. Quality, quality, quality. Above all else quality. And what works well for you may not be what works well for someone else, so what each of us chooses to invest in will indeed be different. But if your goal is to build a life that enables you to enjoy the everyday, and not constantly be dreaming about tomorrow, then your tomorrows need not to be worried about for you are ensuring now, today, in this moment, that they will be magnificent as well. ~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY FROM THE ARCHIVES:

~Why Not . . . Be Fascinated by the French Culture?

~8 Ways to Master the French Mystique

~The French Way: How to Create a Luxurious Everyday Life (podcast #23)

 

~Petit Plaisir

~The Good Fight on CBS All Access
https://youtu.be/JsZ2kejlHF8    

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Direct download: 144ContentmentFrench.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #143

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"People need to know that they have all the tools within themselves. Self-awareness, which means awareness of their body, awareness of their mental space, awareness of their relationships - not only with each other, but with life and the ecosystem." —Deepak Chopra

Feeling happy is one thing. Knowing why you feel happy is another. In fact, understanding precisely why and what caused you to reach a state of happiness is the sign of a person who is self-aware. And when we become self-aware, we become better able to cultivate more of what enlivens us and eliminate or effectively navigate what does not. Let me share an example of both. During the Snowmagedeon of 2017 here in Bend, Oregon, tending to removal of the snow on your roof whether a homeowner or a tenant became a regular activity for a couple of weeks. It was not rare to see more than a few people on their roofs at the same time as you drove through your neighborhood. However, I was only able to eliminate the edges of my home from snow which kept me in a more than regular state of uncertainty. It not only effected my sleep, but my days as well, as I was regularly gazing at my ceiling, something I hadn't done in earnest to note changes until now. I felt anxiety because I didn't know. I didn't know the house (I am a renter), and felt I didn't have control. On the flip side, I recently spent the holidays at the Oregon coast, and it was the not owning and not having to tend to the cabin I had rented that provided much relaxation, peace and comfort. The lack of have-tos, should-dos and must-dos allowed my mind to relax and my body to find calm. Knowing why you are feeling the way you are in any given situation requires each of us to pay attention. While we are most certainly aware and probably by default pay attention to all the external events in our lives, sometimes we neglect to observe ourselves. And not only observe, but then inquire as to why we see what we see, why we feel what we feel. To be more precise, having self-awareness is: Being able to observe ourselves, accept and recognize what we discover and be honest about how we feel, why we act certain ways in particular situations, and the change that we may need to take. It is being able to pay attention and be honest about our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions. When we choose this approach, we choose to welcome a life of quality, a life of fulfillment, a life of contentment. Earlier this year, Emotional Intelligence was discussed in depth on the blog and podcast. And one of the four components of cultivating EQ was  having self-awareness. But what exactly is self-awareness? Sounds simple, but upon closer examinations it is a skill that will take our undivided attention, time and then patience as we put what we learn into practice.
But first, let's look at what it isn't:
  • Being passive aggressive
  • Being controlling
  • Being defensive
  • Unconscious behavior changes
In other words, not being self-aware involves not noticing how our behavior adversely effects those around us and how our unhelpful behavior sabotages the relationships we are trying to build. The benefits of being self-aware are plentiful, and overlapping of many of the tools we discuss here on TSLL and podcast (see a sampling herehere and here).
Benefits of having self-awareness

"Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. 'Know thyself' is not a narcissistic pursuit." —Marianne Williamson

1. Become more at peace with yourself When you take the time to listen to how you are feeling and investigate why you are feeling what you are, you become more in tune with your most authentic self. You begin the journey of searching out what piques your curiosity and thus gravitate toward moments that will cultivate more peace and harmony in your life. 2. Become better able to communicate with clarity By understanding yourself, especially the "why", you can clearly communicate with others your joy, your sadness, your frustration, your hopes. And when you speak clearly, others who truly are listening will come to know who you truly are. 3. Decision making is simplified Knowing what you want is the most significant part to making the best decision. And when we finally discover what we want, we can say no quickly to the rest. 4. Clear purpose and direction While we can always appreciate different paths that others take, when we know the direction we need to take and why we are on it, it is easier to stay focused and not stray. 5. An enriched life experience The crucial crux to reaching self-awareness is understanding the why. Magnificent power is given to each of us when we answer with clarity the "why". Upon knowing what enlivens us, what makes us shrink in fear or what tickles our curiosity, we can then seek out what will enrich us, what will heighten our experience and thus what will enrich our lives. 6. Find true fulfillment and contentment Living an enriched life is discovering what fulfillment and contentment are. Being fully present in the moment, in the lives we have created for ourselves and wanting to be there, and then having the chance to experience this similar moment everyday in varying degrees is to attain fulfillment. And we can only do that if we are honest with ourselves about what we feel and why in any given situation. 7. Optimism rises Optimism will rise as we begin to see evidence that applying what we learn about ourselves to life truly does lead us down a path that enlivens our lives. And when we see a fulfilling life is possible, we begin to believe again that life can be a truly amazing gift. 8. Reduction of guilt and regrets Due to the ability to make better decisions, the guilt and the regrets are diminished. When we confidently make decisions, being aware of how we feel and how our decision will effect others, we know the outcome, by and large, before we leap. And once we leap we accept that not everyone will applaud, but we won't regret it and we will be able to let go of judgment from others as we own our decision. 9. Improve relationships Self-awareness is a key component of having emotional intelligence, and as was discussed here, developing our EQ improves our relationships because we are cognizant of our actions and how they effect those around us, and we know how to handle ourselves effectively as we can observe accurately what we feel and why.
How to develop self-awareness:

"Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change." —Stephen Covey

  • Accept the responsibility of changing responses and behaviors to external stimuli: people, situations, life
  • Reflect on the outcome in each situation and contemplate your role
  • Self-care (brain, body, brand)
  • Develop high emotional intelligence
  • Master your mind
The development of soft skills, personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people, are entirely in each of our control. We can choose to recognize their power and find the patience to cultivate them as they will take time, or we can ignore an opportunity to enhance the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us. If we seek the development we are choosing to be more present in ourselves, we are choosing to be active participants and come to a better understanding of our role in the world and how we can best be a part of it. At times the process to become more self-aware may be uncomfortable, but the unease and discomfort is only temporary as it is alerting you to something that needs to be tended to before you can move forward. Tend to it and discover an increased quality of life.  

~Petit Plaisir

~L'art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less by Dominique Loreau  

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #142

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
 

"Individuals can take hold of [style] and make it their own. Style is about an individual and fashion is about an industry and [fashion] runs on insecurity." —Stacy London 

New York Fashion Week motors on as I tape this week's podcast, and for me, it is holiday and a celebration of sorts. While many trends will be on display, there will also be items that will speak to me as I continually hone my signature style. The priceless gift that style offers is being available to anyone. Each of us has a signature style should we choose to understand what it is. For each of us, this signature style will evolve as we too evolve as individuals. Therefore, the good news that Stacy London shared in a recent interview on Refinery29's Unstyled podcast is true, "Style is possible for everyone." Fashion, on the other hand, asks of us, and sometimes it feels as though it is demanding, to buy, to spend and spend again each season, attempting to keep up with the industry. But by simply understanding the difference between style and fashion, we can better appreciate and carefully select beautiful additions to our wardrobes that will enhance our style and not hinder unnecessarily our budget.

"In place of style we have honored Merchandise. Clothes. Style, on the other hand, doesn't demand a credit card. It prospers on courage and creativity." —Hara Estroff Marano

Courage and creativity. While it may be easier to pull on a ratty tee shirt and slip on loose, battered denim, choosing to craft your signature style offers a variety of benefits. And no, it doesn't require a gloriously flush bank account, but yes, it will require time, patience, thoughtful contemplation about who you are and what truths about your identity you want to reveal to the world. Owning your style is not for the faint of heart. No doubt it would be easier to revert to our youth when we were children, so young we couldn't dress ourselves and allow our mother's to make the decision, but then it wouldn't be our voice we were expressing. Often that is what fashion does, it tells us what to be; it tells us how we should look and by mindlessly following trends, we lose our identity. While clothing is reflective of the current culture, simply look back on your middle school and high school photographs. What did the clothes you were wearing reveal about you? Each of us will see someone different. Some of us will want the courage and confidence we exuded in high school while others will see a clone of the peers that surround them. As I have been pouring over each collection as it is revealed in New York these past few days, I am reminded of my vast ignorance in interpreting what I saw years ago and acknowledge how much more I need to learn; however, as I rest somewhere closer to the latter than the former, I enjoy each new collection like a short film. What is the designer's message, what was their inspiration, what am I drawn to, why am I drawn to it? Victoria Beckham's fall 2017 collection walked the runway on Sunday (today, just hours ago as I type), and it spoke to me. The hues, the lengths, the proportions. Nearly everything echoed the style that is me at this moment in my life: comfortable, yet elegant, feminine while ambiguous, modern inspired by classic and simple while being utterly luxurious. Can I afford Victoria Beckham when the line becomes available? No. Maybe, if the items go on drastic reduction next winter, but even then, most likely no. However, I wasn't considering buying her clothing, I was drawing inspiration. What do I have in my closet now (I do have a few) that fit her template? What items do I need to complete the look? The key understanding to differentiate between style and fashion is that style speaks your language to the world, fashion is in a tongue that is someone else's asking you to learn and be the follower. Style never follows, but is rather inspired by what excites them, speaks to them and then interprets it for themselves. Let's take a look at nine ways understanding how this difference and embracing and acknowledging your own style will change your life in magnificent ways.
1. Make a statement, reveal your identity

"Our wardrobe is our visual vocabulary. Style is our distinctive pattern of speech, our individual poetry." - Hara Estroff Marano

As Marano reminds, style is our own unique language, a dialect of fashion that we make our own so to speak. When we first learn how to speak it, we may feel intimidated to show it to the world, especially if it is vastly different, but the more we communicate confidently, the easier it becomes to step out in our own style each and every day.

2. Exudes security in one's self
An individual who is not afraid to take the time to pull a thoughtful wardrobe together understand the power of clothing. An individual who dresses in such a way that allows the person, themselves to shine, exhibits self-awareness and self-knowledge; two traits that take time to cultivate. And when an individual exudes these qualities it becomes clear that they are more secure than not in themselves. Sure, we all have insecurities, but part of embodying self-awareness and self-knowledge requires valuing yourself and in order to value yourself you must have at least a modicum of comfort in who you are without the external world telling you. That is security, not insecurity, that is being strengthened, and that is attractive.
3. Reveals discipline
Having style requires discipline. Discipline to say no to the trends no matter how much fun they may first appear all the while knowing our individual body, lifestyle, etc. wouldn't allow the woman to shine her brightest. Discipline is also revealed as to how we shop, being patient but determined. Knowing what we need in our wardrobe and taking the time to find it, perhaps tailor it in some instances and care for it properly. Discipline in how we invest, knowing the power of quality over quantity as well as cost per wear.
4. Presumed to be a person of interest
When we dress well, we suggest, however subtly, that we matter. And while the clothes we wear and the clothes others wear do not determine our placement or worth, human beings are visual people. We make quick, subconscious judgments about people, and yes, first impressions matter. Dress well and cultivate assumptions that work in your favor.
5. Separates you from the crowd
Dressing to stand out should never be the goal as it may push you to deviate from your true self, but if you dress well in a manner that aligns with who you are and you do so consistently, it will separate your from the crowd. Dressing well, no matter how casually or formally, involves not necessarily the label that is donned, but knowing how to pull together an outfit that looks good on your body, with your skin tone, hair color, expectations of tasks, etc. And as mentioned in #2 reveals your quiet confidence which brings ease to those around you.
6. Memorable
Wearing a uniform, a signature uniform, provides a simple decision when stepping into your closet. Maybe it is the color palette you choose from, maybe it is the skirt lengths and styles or maybe it is combinations you always gravitate toward. Once you find a style that works for you, stick to it until it no longer does. (I share a few of these examples for myself on the podcast). In doing so, people will remember you. Maybe it is something as small as an individual accessory that you always wear with your clothing, but own it. And when you do, with regularly wearing of this uniform, accessory, etc. you become memorable. Think Carrie Bradshaw and her flower broach or The Good Wife's Alicia Florick in Oscar de la Renta suits. Memorable. The shows are long gone, but the signature styles are remembered. They were worn well, they were worn with confidence and we saw them regularly.
7. Each of us can create a unique identity

"[style is] something recognizable and yet at an unexpected angle, with a surprising twist that both reflects someone's personality and expresses that personality to the outside world." -Joan DeJean, a professor of French language and culture at the University of Pennsylvania

The signature item discussed in #6 begins to establish our identity in others' minds. And while we are not directly dressing for others, we are creating an identity that is memorable. Interestingly enough, our identity will evolve as we evolve. That is the beauty of style. When we grow, our style grows, when our lives change due to decisions we make, different life stages we go through, our style must come with us and reflect who we are now becoming.

8. Alters your behavior
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology revealed that by simply wearing a white lab coat to complete a particular challenging task, similar to that of a doctor, compared to participants who did not wear a white lab coat, those wearing the lab coat performed better. Now it may sound overly simplified, but adjusting and norming all other variables, they discovered that what we wear does effect our psychology, our minds and how we go through life.

"Your interest in fashion is not supposed to minimize your intellect. The same way your disinterest in fashion doesn't mean you're not invited to participate in fashion." -Leandra Medine, Man Repeller

I share Leandra Medine's quote to address the irony of clothing. The irony is caring about what we wear can reveal our intellect, as those who truly understand the power of clothing embrace it and utilize its powers. Yes, if all we focus on is what we're wearing and nothing else, that defeats the purpose. But in truth, someone who understands and respects the power of clothing would not toss its powers aside so blithely.

9. Visually reveals change is possible

"The reason [style] is such a great tool is a great anecdote. Because you do see it. It is visible. But when you see a very fast change and visceral change in yourself. Once you see that that's possible you begin to wonder what else is possible." -Stacy London

We want change in our lives: a better job, improved relationships, fewer pounds, etc. And deciding we want change is easy; the process that must be adhered to for it to materialize takes time. However, updating one's style: pulling on the right sized pants, paired with a flattering top, can take minutes to reveal that change is indeed possible when done thoughtfully.

"By changing what you see is the first step in changing what you believe." - Stacy London

And as Stacy London reminds, as we are visual beings: When we see it, we begin to believe it. If we are seeking change, no matter in what arena in our lives, how we present ourselves to the world can serve as a very powerful step in the right direction as we begin to make the change we seek possible. Wearing the right outfit will not magically and immediately lead to winning an Oscar or improving your bank account or [insert your dream here]. But it is the vehicle in which you begin your journey in the right direction. What you wear reveals who you are. And people want to know the who they are dealing with. They want to know if they can trust you (strong sense of self and confidence - see #2). They want to know you are worth investing in (see #3). They want to know that you are authentic (see #5). Let the world see the magnificent person that you are. Find her, dress her and let her shine without apology.

"Fashion is about clothes and their relationship to the moment. Style is about you and your relationship to yourself. Fashion is in the clothes. Style is in the wearer. The distinction could not be more revealing." -Hara Estroff Marano

  ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Utilize Fashion as a Medium of Communication?

~Why Not . . . Discover the Power of Style?

~Why Not . . . Master the Art of Dressing?

~View all Signature Style posts in the archives here.  

Petit Plaisir:

~La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life by Elaine Sciolino
*author of the New York Times best-seller The Only Street in Paris   ~Sponsor of today’s episode is Plum Deluxe teas. Based in Portland, Oregon, and offering handcrafted, fresh, organic fair trade teas. Join the monthly tea club and receive an exclusive seasonal tea, free shipping and more for only $10/month. Learn more here. Download the Episode
Direct download: 142StyleOwnIt.mp3
Category:style -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #141

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
Montreal author Isabelle LaFlèche has been an inspiration to me for many reasons. One of which is her tenacity to let go of what she knew and leap into what she loved. All it took was a nudge from an unexpected stranger to remind her of the creative talent patiently waiting to be released. J'adore New York was first published in 2011 to great success and was immediately followed by her second novel following the journey of her protagonist with a conscious when it came to fashion and ample intelligence in J'adore Paris.  Two more J'adore journeys have followed taking her readers to Rome and Montreal. Tune into the interview where Isabelle shared the fateful meeting that changed her life in a matter of months, what it means to have it all, the gift and discovery of taking a risk and much more.   Quotes, books and other ideas discussed during the interview:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”-Anaïs Nin

The Great Gatsby

Under the Tuscan Sun

Learn more about author Isabelle LaFleche::

~Discover more interviews with inspiring women on The Simple Sophisticate podcast:

Petit Plaisir:

~Hidden Figures
Book: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly Film: see trailer below https://youtu.be/5wfrDhgUMGI ~Sponsor of today's episode is Plum Deluxe teas. Based in Portland, Oregon, and offering handcrafted, fresh, organic fair trade teas. Join the monthly tea club and receive an exclusive seasonal tea, free shipping and more for only $10/month. Learn more here. Download the Episode
Direct download: 141IsabelleLaFLECHE_.mp3
Category:inspiration -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #140

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"Life circumstances have little to do with happiness because much happiness is under your control — the product of your habits and your outlook on life. Happiness is synthetic — you either create it, or you don’t." —Life Altering Awareness

The uncertainties in life are vast. But to errantly ignore the ability to master the certainties is a mistake. Each of us is capable of cultivating a life that is fulfilling and attains true contentment no matter what changes life may bring by honing the tool of Emotional Intelligence. A term created by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer and brought into the mainstream culture by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional IntelligenceEQ is often the detail forgotten about that upon tending to makes a significant difference in the quality of our lives no matter what the circumstances may be. And the beauty is each of us has the ability to improve our EQ. What is Emotional Intelligence you may be asking? Often broken down into three components and skills: Definition of EQ: 1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others; 2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving; 3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person. Let's look at it another way: EQ is divided into two components the Personal and Social. There are four abilities one will exhibit if they have a high emotional intelligence:
  • PERSONAL: Self-Awareness
  • PERSONAL: Self-Management
  • SOCIAL: Social Awareness
  • SOCIAL: Relationship Management
At the foundation of developing a strong EQ is the awareness of a balance that is often discussed here on TSLL. Exploring and understanding ourselves whilst respectfully and thoughtfully navigating the world around us whether in work or play is, when we look at what our lives are all about, what living well should be all about. Striking a healthy balance between ourselves and the relationships we built, and ensuring the relationships we build with ourselves and others are healthy, respectful, thoughtful, loving and kind. EQ is simple in theory, and eventually does become simple in practice, but initially, it will take time, attention and patience to build a muscle that may not have been worked in quite some time or ever. Now, as you will see below, there are many different characteristics. I suggest taking an EQ test (short or long) to determine where your strengths and weaknesses are as most of us may be quite proficient in some areas, but consciously or unconsciously weak in others. And with any eventual success, the first step toward improving is knowing where you need to improve and pat yourself on the back for what you are already doing well. But first, let's look at the carrot. What can be gained by improving our EQ?

Benefits & Characteristics:

  • be the curator of your own happiness regardless of outside forces, events or people
  • solve a variety of emotion-related problems accurately and quickly
  • can accurately perceive emotions in faces
  • manage emotions effectively – both our own and others – especially when we are under pressure
    • regulate emotions such as anger or jealously and keep them at a healthy level.
  • calmly find solutions to problems
  • exude confidence due to trusting intuition and not allowing emotions get out of control
  • self-aware: can look honestly at yourself - observing strengths and weaknesses - being able to work on areas you can improve
  • comfortable with change
  • strength to say no
  • exemplify sincere thoughtfulness
  • disciplined and therefore can discern between immediate and long-term effects
    • thereby experience much success, effectiveness and productivity
  • strong listening skills
  • less likely to judge and stereotype
  • manage relationships well
  • able to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you
  • manage disputes effectively, become an excellent communicator, and become adept at building and maintaining relationships
The benefit at the top of the list alone is the reason I have been actively researching and continuing to remain curious about the concept of EQ. As I continue to improve and apply the practices of being emotionally intelligent to my personal and professional relationships, I have begun to see remarkable improvements, which is why I want to share with you some tools I have found to work for me, have been suggested by my counselor and shared online via a handful of sources (all are listed at the bottom of the post).

Tools to Enhance EQ:

  • Reduce negative personalization 
    • If the tendency is to assume the worst when an individual does something that upsets or confuses you, instead take a step back. Refrain from jumping to conclusions (usually negative assumptions). And instead, examine the situation from multiple perspectives. By taking the step back you are enabling a more objective perspective, giving yourself room to breathe and collect your emotions and quite often recognizing that what others do more often than not has nothing to do with us (the personalizing) and most often everything to do with them and what they are dealing with, experiencing and feeling at that time.
  • Reduce an all or nothing vantage point
    • Whether in relationships (friendships or romantic partnerships) or at work, provide yourself with a banquet of options. In other words, don't put all your socializing into a relationship with one friend. Instead build a handful of strong, healthy friendships. As we've discussed in the past, often having friends in different arenas in our lives for different interests, etc. is a way to not burden any one friendship and also tend to each of our needs. When it comes to our romantic lives, while we may have a romantic partner, be sure to build a life you love living whether or not that individual is with you. The individual should add to, not be the sole reason for your contentment, so when you aren't together you are enthralled with the everyday routines, activities, and work you are engaged in. Professionally, give yourself options. Applying for a handful of jobs if you are considering a career move rather than just one. Taking an interview at prospective business if nothing else to build your networking and confidence in the interviewing process.
  • Learn to manage stress effectively
    • First we must be able to recognize that we are stress, and identify the triggers. Then, when we do recognize that we are stressed, to manage it in a way that is effective. Perhaps physical exercise or simply going outside and getting fresh air and convening with Mother Nature. For others it may be journaling their thoughts out.
  • Finding the courage to discuss difficult emotions when necessary with the right person
    • Knowing your boundaries and your priorities and values will help first determine when 'necessary' takes place. Not all negative emotions and anger need to be shared with the individual who angered you. Often it is a reaction that is due to our expectations and lack of understanding. But there are other times when you must speak up. Knowing the difference is imperative.
    • When we do decide that we must discuss how we feel to help those we either work with or are in relationships understand our boundaries and better understand us, knowing how to effectively communicate with "I feel . . . " statements is a simple conversation starter. Rather than blaming the other person for which we can never fully knowing why or what prompted their actions, share what you do know for certain: how you felt and why.
  • Become adept at rebounding from adversity
    • Running up against unexpected challenges, obstacles and enduring setbacks is inevitable if we are choosing to forever evolve, learn and be curious about the world and improving our position and potential. It is how we respond to each of these that will determine our success moving forward. So how can we best respond? Asking the right questions: What can I learn from this experience? What are other perspectives and solutions beyond the limited box I have put myself? What is important? What can I be thankful for?
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable in personal, intimate relationships
    • It is not easy to be vulnerable, opening ourselves up to hurt and potential pain, but on the flip-side, we cannot experience true intimacy, deep fulfilling relationships if we do not reveal who we truly are to other people. So how do we know when to be vulnerable and what does being vulnerable look like?
      • Involved in a healthy relationship with an individual that has the potential to be trusted (we will not know this absolutely initially, but as we get to know them gradually, we gradually allow ourselves to be vulnerable)
      • share honest feelings that are supportive, loving, nourishing and constructive
      • affirming what the individual you are with shares with you by acknowledging what you heard and expressing gratitude for their ability to share.
      • Body language and physical touch that is open, respectful, loving: eye contact, hugging, supportive (touching the arm or arm around the back).
      • Make requests for connection, aka as "bidding" and respond to bidding initiated by those you are in an intimate relationship with: As revealed in an article in The Atlantic in 2014, researchers discovered that "masters in love", marriages that continue to thrive exhibiting and expressing respect and love for their partners, responded or "turned-towards bids" 87% of the time versus those in 'disaster' relationships (33% of the time). What does bidding looking like? as grand as engaging in a shared activity and as simple as pointing out something beautiful and the response is your partner acknowledging and commenting positively or supportively to your observation. It can also involve a personalized note, a thoughtful gift, a gesture demonstrating having listened to a previous conversation, a needed favor. The list goes on, but the key is you are extending a desire to engage and the bid is returned with attention or appreciation.
  • Improve your emotional vocabulary
    • Knowing how you feel and how to accurately pinpoint the emotion through words verbally (and written as well) is a powerful way to improve connection with others, building understanding and enhancing relationships.
  • Pause before you speak
    • The primary component of exercising emotional intelligence is acting consciously, and that includes speaking. Pausing to find the proper and most accurate, as well as supportive and constructive words begins to build and strengthen the bond between two individuals.
Emotional Intelligence has been proven to be more vital and a more accurate determinate than IQ when it comes to long-term success in one's quality of life. And the good news is unlike one's IQ, EQ is a learned skill. It is something we can practice and improve upon no matter what our age. However, because it is a skill, as The Atlantic pointed out in 2014, it might also be used for nefarious purposes. In other words, once one becomes extremely proficient at observing and recognizing emotions both in themselves and others they can use the tools to manipulate for self-serving outcomes. However, to counter, as a friend pointed out recently as I was discussion the topic of today's post/episode, if indeed someone is abusing this skill, then are they truly Emotionally Intelligent? Because to return to the original definition of EQ, it involves a vast amount of empathy; the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  Life continues to reveal to me that quality is something that doesn't just occur, it is cultivated, it is conscious, it is requires consistency. Yes, it might be helpful if the improvements in our lives could occur by simply buying a particular product, a certain type of home or outfit, but the reality is no matter what clothes you wear, what size your home or what type of degree you have, knowing how to understand your emotions and observe them accurately in others followed by healthy action that respects who you are as well as those around you is the yeast of life. If you want to rise, if you want what you value to rise, invest in your emotional intelligence. Because when we do, beautiful moments in the everyday whether we are with others or in our own company will regularly manifest. ~Post Sources: Psychology Today, Mindtools & The Atlantic ~The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~A Powerful Couple: Boundaries & Vulnerability

~Why Not . . . Master the Art of Conversation?

~Why Not . . . Have That Difficult Conversation?

~Why Not . . . Avoid Unnecessary Stress?

 

~Petit Plaisir:

~"The Power of a Dose of Nature", via The Wall Street Journal ~image from TSLL IG feed (below)   Download the Episode    

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Direct download: 140EQ.mp3
Category:self-improvement -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #139

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"When we take the right to rest, when we make rest fulfilling, and when we practice rest through our days and years, we also make our lives richer and more fulfilling." —Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done when You Work Less

Charles Darwin partook in regular 10 miles walks, Alice Munro walked three miles each day, Winston Churchill engaged in painting, Lin-Manual Miranda took his dog each Sunday for walks through the parks in New York City, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ray Bradbury took daily afternoon naps, workers at Bletchley Park during WWII chose chess as a favorite pastime and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court Elena Kagan boxes regularly with her personal trainer.

Initially when the word 'rest' is mentioned, we may think of sitting on the sofa, flipping through channels, but the difference between mindless rest and deliberate rest is that it "enables productivity". When we truly rest, our minds are not actually stagnant. In actuality, we are enabling them to do what they need to do, work through, dispose of, find and reach understandings and connections that when we are active at work, it is unable to do completely.

The difference between mindless and deliberate rest is what you are feeding your brain. Sitting down and watching a thoughtful, engaging film can absolutely be deliberate rest. It may offer ideas and insights that eventually help us make connections we didn't see prior to viewing of the film; the key is to feed our minds well. Give it quality fuel and quality results have the possibility of being produced, even while we sleep.

Recently, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang's new book Rest was released, and contained inside the covers is a wealth of research, seemingly infinite anecdotes from historical and current individuals that reveal the power of deliberate rest being incorporated into our daily lives. Throughout today's post, I will be sharing many different quotes, and unless otherwise attributed, they are pulled from the pages of Rest.

As we begin 2017 and we look to the future we wish to build for ourselves, it may appear as though we have much to do in order to accomplish what we have placed on our list of resolutions or goals. But in order to be successful in whichever destination we pursue, the concept of quality over quantity guides the way. How is that possible? How can we do less and actually attain more? By tossing what the zeitgeist portrays as the "right way" to achieve success out with 2016.

"Today, we treat being stressed and overworked as a badge of honor, a sign of seriousness and commitment; but this is a recent phenomenon, and it inverts traditional ideas of how leaders and professions should behave under pressure. For most of history, leaders were supposed to appear calm and unhurried; success began with self-mastery and self-control."

~For more in-depth discussion on each of the points discussed below, be sure to tune in to the podcast. 

Benefits:

1. Helps to organize your life

2. Cultivates calm in your life

3. Strengthens your will-power and self-control

4. Increases your confidence

5. Increases emotional intelligence and engagement

6. More time is given as boundaries are made firm and clear

7. Increases success and accomplishment, aiding you in reaching your full potential

8. Live a long, healthy, invigorating life

9. Helps you live a simply luxurious life

"It creates a life that's rewarding while it's lived, a life that has purpose and pleasure, work and reward, in equal measure. And that life feels complete and well-spent at the end."

How to welcome deliberate rest into your life:

1. Make rest a priority

"Taking rest seriously also helps bring more of your life into clearer focus."

2. Spend only 4-5 hours each day doing strenuous work

3. Establish a consist morning routine

"My morning is all about stilling the outside world so my mind can soar." —Scott Adams, the illustrator and creator of the comic strip Dilbert

4. Set clear boundaries between work and rest

"A day that starts with work creates rest that can be enjoyed without guilt. When you start early, the rest you take is the rest you've earned."

5. Take regular walks

6. Nap regularly and nap well

"The most obvious benefits of napping is that it increases alertness and decreases fatigue . . . but regular naps have other benefits . . . improve memory . . . [and] consolidate things you've just learned."

7. Enjoy a regular, deep night's sleep

8. Detach and take that vacation

9. Exercise regularly

"At first, researchers mainly investigated the benefits of exercise for healthy aging, but studies now show that for people of any age, gender, or athletic ability, exercise can increase brain power, boost intelligence, and provide the stamina and psychological resilience necessary to do creative work."

10. Cultivate a hobby you love and that challenges you

Perhaps when you read #2 on the list above, you said to yourself, nope, that will never happen, not in my world, not in the job I have to do every day to earn my paycheck. And on the surface, you are absolutely correct. But what if you could look at the job you go to each day and redesign your day? What if you could schedule your day so that you did tend to the most strenuous demands at the beginning and then schedule meetings, projects and activities toward the tail-end that allowed you to not tax your mind directly as much?

Understandably, what job you do and for whom you work and the expectations will play a significant role. What I appreciated upon reading Rest is that it validated what I already felt regarding the productivity of my work. When I worked at my best, when I felt my most exhausted, it gave me a reason as to why. It helped me understand my mind, my body and the benefits of what I am doing and what I need to make sure I continue to do and what I can begin to let go of as it no longer serves me or the quality of life I am trying to cultivate.

Saying no to what no longer serves the simply luxurious life you are building becomes easier when we have science to explain what works best, but we also have to understand what type of life we want to build, and when we know that and believe it to our core, the saying of "no" and the incorporation of deliberate rest into our lives becomes far easier. And that is when our lives begin to truly blossom.

We don't have to look busy to gain approval. The gift of living well is that our lives often will look paradoxical: How can she/they/he live such a life and not be exhausted/stressed and have time to enjoy, play and partake in the pleasures as well? But the reality is, it is indeed possible when we choose to live consciously and thoughtfully.

"A life that focuses on what matters most, makes time for rest, and declines unnecessary distractions may look simple on the outside, but from the inside it is rich and fulfilling."

Deliberate rest paired with deliberate work is a partnership: "One provides the means to live, the other gives meaning to life".

"When we treat rest as work's equal and partner, recognize it as a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas, and it as an activity that we can practice and improve, we elevate rest into something that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time and help us achieve more while working less."

  ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~15 Everyday Habits to Live a Life of Contentment

~10 Things People Who Have Found Contentment Understand About Uncertainty

~Relax: 21 Ways to Know You're Doing Just Fine in This Thing Called Life

Petit Plaisir:

~Equipment silk pajamas, Lillian striped washed-silk pajamas - 50% off at Netaporter ~use promo code EXTRA40, at Equipmentfr.com SHOP Equipment Pajamas: [show_shopthepost_widget id="2336799"]

Image: Vogue UK

Download the Episode
Direct download: 139Rest_-_12217_11.19_AM.mp3
Category:health -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #138
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"Enough is the quality of having everything you need and want but nothing in excess, nothing that burdens you." —Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life

While numerically, there isn't a magic number equated to having enough money due to a myriad of variables, it may seem at first impossible to answer the question at all. However, there are fundamental questions to ask yourself and habits to bring into your daily living that will help you inch ever closer to the number that is right for you.
1. Let go of comparisons

"Comparing ourselves to others is essentially a coping mechanism for our own insecurities." —Rachel Cruze of Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want

Now more than ever as we live in a world where lives of anyone from anywhere are displayed on social media, refraining from comparing our lives to others' is a mental exercise in willpower. And as we know willpower is finite. A dependable way to combat comparison is to become clear about your own life's path. Become clear about what excites you, what you want to improve upon and create a vision for your life. And then become courageous. Read more about how you can live courageously and the benefits, including eliminating the need for comparison, doing so will invite into your life.

2. Debt is eliminated (within reason)

Debt is a broad term. Many of us, if we own a house, will have a mortgage, and business debt is necessary at different periods of a venture. However, personal credit card debt should be at zero. If you can look at your balances and know you can pay them off in full each month without denting your monthly living budget, your finances are in great order.

~Why Not . . . Get and Stay Out of Debt?

~How to Successfully Have a Credit Card

3. Live within your means

A quote that upon first reading has ever since been part of my vocabulary and approach to money was shared by Suze Orman, "I think the nicest thing you can say about a woman is that she lives well, and she lives below her means." And as we know our means will shift, change and hopefully grow from year to year. As was discussed in last week's Why Not . . . ? post, conducting a financial check-in each year is a great way to determine if you are spending too much or not enough in certain parts of your budget in order to live the life you want.

4. Monthly savings goal exceeds expectations

Currently I am saving for a down payment, and with this goal in mind, I have designated that a certain amount will be put into my money market account each month. When I am able to exceed my target amount, I cannot help but do a little dance. According to financial experts, this is a good sign that you are on your way to having enough money.

5. Spending wisely

Take a moment and check your current spending habits with habits from five years ago. Are you spending more? Spending less? Spending more wisely? Staying within your budget? The key reason to reflect regularly is to spend consciously. If you see that your spending has increased, ask yourself why. Then ask yourself, is it necessary? Am I able to spend more? Living well is not a bad thing to do. The key is to make sure you can afford to do so.

6. Proper attention is being paid to retirement savings

While there is no magic formula for retirement savings, the one thing that won't work is doing nothing. The first thing to do is begin saving yesterday. I know that may be unnecessary to say, but begin now if you haven't already. Then sit down and examine how much you will indeed need to retire so that you can have a goal and then create a plan to make it happen. I have shared many money and specifically retirement savings related posts here in TSLL "Money" archives, be sure to have a look here.

7. Adherence to a monthly budget that supports the life you want to build and live

Massachusetts senator and former Harvard bankruptcy law professor Elizabeth Warren suggested organizing one's monthly budget around these percentages: "Spend 50 percent on needs, 30 percent on wants and 20 percent on savings" (NYTimes). Now you may have to dip into your wants for your needs from time to time depending upon where you live and during different periods of your life, but saving 15-20 percent for retirement, emergency, dreams & vacations is a must for peace of mind and the ability to respond to life's unexpected hurdles and adventures. Similarly, diligently keeping your housing payment (rent or mortgage) to 33% is quite savvy. (Click here to view a simple budget spreadsheet to organize both mandatory and discretionary spending.)

It has been debated that we, as humans have a tendency to move away unconsciously from achieving "enough" rather than towards it (Tim Maurer  Simple Money). However, I would argue that it is a choice, it is an appreciation for what moving towards having enough cultivate in our lives which will then make it all the more attractive once we arrive at our destination. The essential premise to making the shift is understanding the essential questions and the necessary answers to those questions, as well as the habits we need to incorporate into our lives, and it really is quite simple as shared above. Thank you for stopping by and may 2017 be your most financially secure year yet.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Money: Being vs Acting Rich

~6 Steps for Mastering Your Money

Petit Plaisir:

~La La Land 
~winner of the record setting seven Golden Globes this year: Best Musical/Comedy, Best Actor, Best Actress, Original Song, Score, Director and Screenplay ~View and listen to the award winning original song, City of Stars here I will profess honestly, I am not someone who gravitates towards musicals, and as Refinery29 frankly reminds that's because La La Land isn't a true musical, which might be why I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down for two hours to absorb the colorful sets, simple and thoughtful love story and a reminder to never cease the journey to reach your dreams. However, respectfully, it is a musical. It is a modern musical. Some have compared it to a long list of musicals from the mid-twentieth century, and while particular aspects and scenes were undoubtedly inspired by revered musicals in the past, La La Land is a 21st century musical. It harkens back to the past with coupled song and dance numbers, but it grabs the future with technology's magic and whimsy. The argument from some is that Emma Stone did not know how to dance, but we must keep in mind neither did Debbie Reynolds when she was cast for Singing in the Rain; however, Reynolds worked her tail off to keep up with an impossibly high talent - Gene Kelly - and executed her role exquisitely. Similar to Stone, it was Reynolds' star power, her authentic joie de vivre and spark that grabbed the audience. Had any dancer been paired with Kelly simply because they could dance, the movie would not have been balanced or as engaging. The woman, who she is, what she exudes, matters as much as her dance steps.  Stone holds her own with the dancing, but much like Reynolds, it is her charisma, her youthfulness and her tenacity that bring her character Mia to life. Ryan Gosling is Ryan Gosling. Movie producers what to sell tickets, and in order to sell tickets there must be chemistry on the screen. Stone and Gosling, paired together for the third time, have undeniable chemistry, and it worked to tell the tale of two passionate individuals enamored with each other but also their dreams to realize what they were ardently passionate about. I recommend highly that you watch this film in the theater for the reasons New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane suggests: the full effect of the scenery, colors and sets as well as the sound system. Let yourself escape. ~Note: In the taped episode, I incorrectly misspoke and called Gene Kelly Fred Astaire. https://youtu.be/je0aAf2f8XQ

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Direct download: 138MoneyEnough_-_11117_9.02_AM.mp3
Category:money -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #137
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
A work of art gazed upon and appreciated by millions, created by the hands of a talented often ahead-of-their-time individual dedicated hours, perhaps months to their creation. A full and luscious garden, cultivated over years of planning, tending and careful editing and replenishing. A relationship built on admiration, truth and kindness, strengthening with time, patience and careful attention. The foundation for living simply luxuriously begins with the concept of a life of quality over quantity in all arenas of our lives. It is an understanding that to build our lives on superficial expectations that appease the outside world whether for appearances or applause is to leave us living in a shell which provides a lack of intimate comfort and joy. And so, as I have been observing ever more reassuringly and mentioned in the last episode of 2016, it is a conscious decision to live a life of quality that will in time, gradually, deepen the life you have the opportunity to experience. Whether it's choosing to live in a town or community that may be more expensive and therefore take more time to save up to live in, as well as forcing you to downsize, but ultimately brings you more peace of mind, an ease to be yourself and those you love to blossom, or choosing to enjoy food that your body needs and rise to the abilities it is capable of rather than reach for what is expedient and temporarily satiating, a life of quality is enriching. But as you may have noticed in both of these examples, it takes a conscious awareness of what you need and why you're doing what you're doing. Clarity, focus and preparation are key, but these investments pay off. How do we then, as we step into 2017, welcome in more quality reduce the quantity that tempers what is possible? As I mentioned here, it requires of each of us to take a simple, but significant approach, to not take on too much at once, but rather one item at a time. So why not take it month by month? Inspired by a few of my resolutions for the year, I contemplated how I could be most successful, and this is what I've come up with. Each month one idea, task or concept will be the focus and I will check in regularly to share how I am doing, and you too can share your journey. The first month of January, since so many of our resolutions tend to reflect on how well or poorly we ate during the holiday season and we want to feel better, not merely look better, we'll be tasked with the following:

~Reduce or eliminate entirely one food or food type that does not serve you well

  • UPDATE: Click here to see how the month progressed at the mid-way point
I've chosen to leave this month quite broad because we all have our triggers. We all know what is helping and what is hurting, what is a weakness and what is easy to walk away from. I have chosen sugar. For one month I am going to eat in such a way that eliminates refined sugars (not natural sugars such as fruit). Recognizing that not all situations that involve food will be under my control (dining at others' homes, work events, etc.), the goal is to eliminate, but there may be lapses. However, I want to observe how I feel as I refrain from eating refined sugars. After reading about a recently released book, The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes, my challenge was solidified. For one month, let's see what happens. Having done this in the past, but not as publicly, I remember the experience being very positive in a variety of ways (better mood, a fierce ability to discern sugar in unexpected items - ketchup, cheap chocolate, etc.), and I look forward to seeing if I can observe the same and perhaps more observations that cultivate more quality regarding my health and overall everyday routine. Over the holiday I gradually began the reduction, as if to wean myself off of the refined carbohydrates, and in just one week, I felt better in my body. So we'll see how it goes. I will check in on Wednesday January 18th to share my progress, successes and oopses. I look forward to hearing what you have chosen to reduce or eliminate as well and learning how the journey is going on the 18th. Each month we'll tackle one item to reduce or eliminate in our lives, as a way to reduce the quantity and enhance the quality. Below is a look at year.

February:

~Letting go of a social media app that isn't serving you as you strive to build relationships

March

~Letting go of busy mentality

April

~Reducing mindless eating

May

~Mastering the use of credit June ~Understanding and reducing self-doubt

July

~Curtailing the negative commentary (internal and external)

August

~How to approach staying informed but not overwhelmed by the news of the world

September

~Designated no work zones

October

~Smart shopping for clothing

November

~Recognizing, understanding and eradicating self-imposed limitations

December

~TBA   With so much that is worth attaining and welcoming into our lives, time and attention is needed to be successful. Patience is required. And while sometimes we just want to pounce, so long as we are assured that the path we are on is the right one, we can allow events, our health, our relationships to progress at their natural pace. After all, we first need to know what we want to plant in our garden, then we must plant it followed by much patience, but confidence knowing that we have invested wisely, and in its own time, it will bloom and then we will be able to savor all the goodness. I look forward to stepping into this journey and sharing my experience with you and hearing about yours. Thank you for stopping by and have a wonderful week. ~The Simply Luxurious Life Mission Statement

Petit Plaisir

~Claridge & King Boyfriend Shirt Download the Episode
Direct download: 137JanuarySugar.mp3
Category:beauty -- posted at: 12:00am PDT