The Simple Sophisticate - Intelligent Living Paired with Signature Style

~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    

Image: source

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

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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

We are not born knowing how to love well. We learn by observing those who raise us, observing the world we are born into and by what we read, view and absorb. The catch is not all of us are watching how to love well. Some of us will have a distorted view, some of us will be limited by what we see while others will observe healthy, kind, thoughtful ways of loving. While there are many wonderful ways to express love, there are essential components, and that is what we'll be discussing today. And if as an adult you have come to discover the models you observed were not healthy, you can absolutely change and become a student again learning how to love well, and thereby enriching your life moving forward.

 

In this week's Petit Plaisir, a wonderful newly released book by best-selling author Will Schwalbe Books for Living

Direct download: 13626WaysToLove2_-_1217_9.45_AM.mp3
Category:relationships -- posted at: 10:02am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #136

~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"It's never too late to learn anything for which you have a potential . . . and the limitless potential of love within each person [is] eager to be recognized, waiting to be developed, yearning to grow . . . If you want to learn to love, then you must start the process of finding out what it is, what qualities make up a loving person and how these are developed. Each person has the potential for love. But potential is never realized without work. This does not mean pain. Love, especially, is learned best in wonder, in joy, in peace, in living." —Leo Buscaglia, in Love: What Life is All About

Nurture or nature. Acquired or known. A natural or skilled. There are some capabilities we each have that come more naturally to us: the ability to sing like a songbird or swim like a fish. This is not to say that practice and expert coaching won't help, but in each of these instances, there is an innate ability that advances the individuals that apply themselves to such great lengths others may not reach. On the flip-side, there are skills that anyone can learn if they choose to, and here is the good news. One of these skills is how to love. We are not born knowing how to love well. We learn by observing those who raise us, observing the world we are born into and by what we read, view and absorb. The catch is not all of us are watching how to love well. Some of us will have a distorted view, some of us will be limited by what we see while others will observe healthy, kind, thoughtful ways of loving. While there are many wonderful ways to express love, there are essential components, and that is what we'll be discussing today. And if as an adult you have come to discover the models you observed were not healthy, you can absolutely change and become a student again learning how to love well, and thereby enriching your life moving forward. Life, a well-lived and savored life, is a life asking of each of us to acquire skills to be successful. As I mentioned yesterday in the first post of 2017, often those of us who make mistakes along the way as we travel through life are not trying to make mistakes or incapable of improving. Instead, we are doing what we were taught, what we know. We are less skilled. But we can absolutely improve. Take a look at 26 ways you can learn to love well: ~A more detailed discussion is shared on today's episode of the podcast, so be sure to download and take a listen for further explanation on each point. 
1.Experiment with your own life

"Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life." —Herbert Otto

2. Forever be a student
One cannot give what they do not possess. To give love you must possess love. One cannot know what they do not study. To study love you must live in love. One cannot appreciate what they do not recognize. To recognize love you must be receptive to love. One cannot have doubt about that which they wish to trust. To trust love you must be convinced of love. One cannot admit what they do not yield to. To yield to love you must be vulnerable to love. One cannot live what they do not dedicate themselves to. To dedicate yourself to love you must be forever growing in love. —Leo F. Bascaglia
3. Cultivate your own contentment

"When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love."

4. Find, unearth, your true self

"Be able to love, heal and accept yourself, so you can then offer these gifts to others."

Many times we seek out love in order to alleviate our own suffering, and the suffering is due to a conscious or unconscious refusal to take the time to get to know ourselves.
5. Be mindful
Coming to understand how to create moments of joy for yourself enables you to give that joy, thus the love, to others.
6. Be kind
7. Practice love
One must live love. Take action.
8. Stop objectifying love
Love is not a thing to possess. You already have it, love, within you, now you just need to tap into it, foster it, practice it and then live in love.
9. Build within yourself trust, self-respect and confidence
10. Become a good listener
Learn your partner's "love language".

"To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them" and that begins with listening well. —Thich Nhat Hanh

11. Stop labeling
Stop making assumptions, stop jumping to conclusions. Let go of stereotypes about cultures, groups, etc.
12. Let go of being perfect, and just be human

"A base for love and the potential for growth in love is also present in each man. Love is then a process of 'building upon' what is already there. Love is never complete in any person. There is always room for growth."

"If you know, accept and appreciate yourself and your uniqueness, you will permit others to do so. If you value and appreciate the discovery of yourself, you will encourage others to engage in self-discovery."

13. Be vulnerable

"Man may know that only by being vulnerable can he truly offer and accept love." —Leo Buscaglia

14. Open your palm

"And then, the lover, to learn and to change and to become, also needs freedom. Thoreau said a wonderful thing: 'Birds never sing in caves.' And neither do people. You've got to be free in order to learn." —Leo Buscaglia

15. Let go of expectations, but have clear boundaries
16. Cease placing conditions

"Others can and will only give what they are able, not what you desire they give. When you cease placing conditions on your love you have taken a giant step toward learning to love."

17. Be patient
"The human seeking love will find that love is patient. The lover knows that each person can enhance [their] knowledge of love and bring them closer to themselves . . . each person will grow at their own rate, in their own manner, at their own time, by way of their unique self. Therefore, it's helpless to berate, judge, predict, demand or assume. Love must be patient. Love waits. This doesn't mean that love sits passively forever, if necessary, for the person to grow. Love is active, not passive. It is continually engaged in the process of opening new doors and windows so that fresh ideas and questions can be admitted."
18. Learn how to communicate well
19. Become an expert of understanding your own emotions
20. Meet your emotional as well as your physical needs
"A human's basic psychological needs are these. She requires to be seen, recognized, appreciated, heard, fondled, sexually satisfied. She must be allowed the freedom to choose her own way, to grow at her own rate and to make her own mistakes, to learn. She needs to accept himself and other human beings and be accepted by them. She desires to e an 'I' as well as a 'we.' She strives to grow into the unique individual that she is."
21. Be present 

"Love lives in the moment."

22. Believe the world is good because it is 
23. Help others reach their full potential

"As soon as the love relationship does not lead me to me, As soon as I, in a love relationship, do not lead the other person to themselves, this love, even if it seems to be the most secure and ecstatic attachment I have ever experienced, it is not true love."

24. Create an everyday life to savor

"Another responsibility of love is to create joy. Joy is always an integral part of loving. There is joy in every act of live, no matter how menial or repetitive . . . you can make the day a chore; dull, nerve-wracking, frustrating, a waste of time. Or the same day can be taken on with energy, enthusiasm and a determination to make it one of the best days of your life, for yourself and those about you."

25. Stand in your strength

"It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong." —Leo Rosten

26. Become love

"For to be a lover will require that you continually have the subtlety of the very wise, the flexibility of the child, the sensitivity of the artist, the understanding of the philosopher, the acceptance of the saint, the tolerance of the dedicated, the knowledge of the scholar, and the fortitude of the certain."

  Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, the allegory of true love" https://youtu.be/MCmZ2jrQooE ~Books mentioned in the episode: ~Love: What Life Is All About by Leo F. Buscaglia ~How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Petit Plaisir

~Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
 

Download the Episode
Direct download: 136HowtoLove_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:29pm PDT

“It is within the boundaries of reflection we are able to become aware of insights that can lead us to understanding.”  ― Kat Lahr

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #135
On the first of January with each new year, twelve months stretch before us full of potential to progress and evolve and to observe the magic that we could never predict. The year 2016 has offered life lessons in abundance. Having filled three journals over its duration, as I was trying to decide what today's topic would be, I had a long list of ideas I wanted to share, but seeing that it is the end of the year, I thought let's take a look at the year that was and the aha moments it provided, all of which are life lessons that could help provide the magic for 2017 should they be applied. 1. Sometimes what we need is the one thing we think we cannot possibly do In previous years I have shared the benefits of meditating, and most recently, written a handful of posts which included meditation as a practice worth incorporating into our daily routines. I know some, even my previous self, dismiss meditation, each for our own reasons. Mine in my twenties was that I couldn't possibly be still with my thoughts - it was, to be frank, frightening. But as I contemplated this real fear as to why I wasn't investing in the practice of meditation, I realized it was the most important reason to begin meditating so that I no longer had to be fearful of my mind, or frightened to experience emotions or ideas that I wasn't comfortable with. While I am by no means a guru or even a semi-proficient meditator, I do find I look forward to meditating (of which I try to do each day, but sometimes a few days each week are unable to find the time - something I am still working on). I also find that rogue thoughts (that still pop up from time to time) no longer scare me. I have come to understand how to use the tools of observing and then letting go all thoughts, as well as being more present rather than arrested by worries about the future or anguish about the past. I had initially begun using Headspace a couple of years ago and then abandoned it citing no need for someone to tell me how to sit still with my thoughts. However, after I stopped using the app, I also stopped meditating regularly. So with the inspiration from a friend who uses it regularly, I re-downloaded it onto my phone (the first series is free and you can just loop the series again and again if you don't want to upgrade), and have been meditating with the app for the past two months (this summer I meditated each day for 5 minutes, and now with the app I am up to 10 minutes - small, but significant growth). There are other helpful meditation apps based on what you want, and one of my go-to podcasts, The Positive Psychology podcast shares three of them in episode #72 with a detailed explanation of what each offer (one is Headspace). 2. Practice physical exercise that you love and that loves your body and mind Stepping back into a former method of exercise this past summer was one of the best decisions I made. For me it was yoga, and while I stepped away for about a year and tried Pilates as a replacement, I soon realized it was yoga that had not only helped my physical body, but my mind as well. Most important was having instructors that were inspiring, encouraging and warm. Since August, I have been taking a vinyasa yoga class one day a week from one of two different instructors depending upon my schedule. Not only have I seen a return of flexibility, but of calm and a quiet confidence that while not entirely due to the return of yoga, certainly was encouraged with my weekly practice. 3. True friendship is a slow blossoming fruit As someone in her thirties having relocated to an entirely different town, the establishment of friends has been quite intriguing. On one hand, I find people are quite clear about what they can and cannot do as they have priorities, responsibilities, some have families, others busy careers as they hold top positions as they rise in the ranks, but due to these same reasons, finding the time to build deep friendships is hard. Some people already have their tried and true relationships, not necessarily wanting to exclude you, but not having the time to dedicate to an unknown entity as their time is limited as is their energy. In other instances, due to people as they reach their thirties and forties coming to understand what they want, who they are and how they enjoy spending their time, connections with others who do not share a similar interest dash the potential of a friendship almost immediately. In 2012, The New York Times shared an article on just this topic, forging friendship after turning 30. However, what I have also discovered about friendships in our adult years is that it is a lesson in quality over quantity and patience over expediency. Let me explain. Initially meeting people can begin by attending events of genuine interest and striking up conversations with those who have a similar passion. But even if you do have a similar interest, or a common connection, the determination of someone as a friend (and there are a variety of different types of friends that enhance our lives, and not all will be a person you reveal your most intimate self to) takes time. Spending time with others whom you have just met in many ways is like dating in that you need to give yourself time for the qualifying process. I don't mean you are judging or comparing, but in many ways you are determining what you can share (remember the ping pong analogy?), observing how the neophyte relationship makes you feel while you're with them and after you've spent time with them. It has been my experience that it is not the initial meet-and-greet that will reveal if someone should be welcomed into your life, but rather a duration of experiences and in time, any masks or façades that were presented will be worn down, if they even existed, and you will be better able to determine where or if that new friendship will play a role in your life moving forward. 4. Embrace a healthy tension when it comes to your life fulfillment A regular Youtube series I watch for inspiration and boosts of confidence and direction with the ever-changing tech entrepreneur path I feel fortunate to be on is Marie Forleo. And it was this episode that provided a significant aha moment after more than a year of contemplating a few big questions in my life. The topic was lasting fulfillment and she reveals that while we need to feel accomplished and successful in some of what we seek along the journey of fulfillment, we need not have accomplished everything. In fact, it is the tension that helps provide the fulfillment as we come to understand that we have the power within ourselves to cultivate the fulfillment we seek. It doesn't need to be external, in fact, it cannot be. Everything we need and are seeking already resides within each of us, we just need to discover how to tap into it. And with the help of experts in the fields we are passionate about, we can do just that. 5. It's okay to feel uncomfortable My first experience with the French meet-up group here in Bend required of me to overcome great trepidation. My first real date after truly being open to the idea of a relationship again was nerve-shakingly absurd beyond what even I thought I was capable of. But guess what, all went well. Not well in the fairy tale sense: I still do not speak fluent French or even hold a conversation beyond the basic hello, how are you, nor am I madly in love with another, but in the sense that I was reminded that my nerves were for naught. I had worked myself up for nothing, but because I was unsure of how it would go, the events that would unfold were out of my hands, it threw me. Maybe it was partially because I had undergone so much change in the previous year with the new move, the new job, selling my house after having dedicated so much of myself into it, but it was also because it was out of my comfort zone. And as I wrote about a handful of years ago, we are all just one small adjustment away from contentment. Jennifer Aniston's quote regularly dancing in my mind when I contemplate the idea of allowing myself to feel uncomfortable during the pursuit of something I desire, “Everything you want in the world is just outside your comfort zone.  Everything you could possibly want.”  6. The mind is malleable One valuable lesson I have discovered is that my mind, unbeknownst to me until now, was not being utilized in a manner that was conducive to the life I have been seeking. Not entirely, at least. And the beautiful reminder, after seeking out experts to help me understand more fully and completely was that I had the power to change the mental stories I had allowed to run on repeat for years and years and years due to conditioning, modeling and an unhelpful perspective. The mind can either be our most valuable tool or our most destructive adversary. And if we don't understand why our mind falls into ruts that are not helpful, choosing to investigate and then heal and redirect them is one of the best life investments we can make. 7. Old bad habits can be overcome Speaking of falling into ruts. The ruts will always be there, but we can overcome them. Perhaps bad eating habits, maybe negative default comments or thoughts that pop up or are uttered without even thinking about it, whatever your unhelpful ruts are, we can reroute our behavior, but it must be conscious, and we must repeat the new habits again and again until they become engrained. In repeated posts, habits (how to cultivate, which ones are worth our time and investment for a better everyday life, etc.) have been discussed in-depth on the blog. Part of being successful with the shift in your habits is understanding that it is possible to overcome bad habits, but because those bad habits have such deep ruts, we need to be conscious that we don't fall back into them when trigger-events take place. Simply being cognizant of this truth will help you avoid them. 8. There is a limit to planning our lives As someone who is a planner and actually loves to spend an evening, morning or afternoon planning the next month, week or year, this life lesson had to repeatedly reveal itself before I accepted it as a truth. Now, not to worry, I am not going to encourage you to let go of planning. Absolutely not. In fact,when it comes to our financial stability, our careers, and our health, planning is an asset and the foundation of living well. However, when it comes to our personal lives, and even the journey our careers take us on, we have to learn to do our best and then let go of the result. And due to a handful of experiences that took place this past year, I have come to realize that we may read books about how things should work out if we do this or that, but in the end all we can do is be ourselves, do our best and then step forward when opportunities present themselves. I have found the key is to have a life, an everyday life of our own cultivation dependent upon no one else but ourselves, that we truly love living. Because if we love the life we have built for ourselves, we are better able to simply let go of the result when it involves other people. (Discover a handful of posts have been written about letting go.) 9. Bigger isn't always better Over the past 18 months I have lived in a significantly smaller house that I had prior to my move, and I honestly have never missed one square foot that I no longer have. I haven't truly thought about it except to contemplate the goal of owning again instead of renting, but even then I am dogged in my pursuit of a small house (which is actually hard to find in Bend). The life I now have the opportunity to live is more alive, engaging and fulfilling than any other time in my life in part due to the fewer responsibilities I have to tend to if I lived in a larger space. Again, what I find to be revealed as true again and again is that it is the quality of life that resides within the home and within the life of the individual, not the size of the house, that determines one's true contentment. A clean home? Yes. A home that is curated to the comforts and needs of the residents? Absolutely. But just as important as a roof over one's head that is warm, clean and inviting is understanding how to live fully and letting go of the unnecessary, the burdens, the false "have-to" beliefs and "must-have"s. Quality over quantity again and again and again. 10. Contentment resides within each of us Each morning, I wake up and I pinch myself. No, everything in my life is not perfect. I still have doubts, fears and wonderings about the future, as we all do, but I don't let them percolate and muddle the truth that the life we can each create, the life I am creating and doing my best to share with you as I make the journey, is something worth savoring each day. As was mentioned in #8, it is far easier to let go when we enjoy the life we've curated for ourselves. When we've tended to all that we do have control over. When we've realized that much of the angst we have about life is self-created and we are causing more problems and worry than is warranted. When we understand the true power we have within ourselves, we open a world of opportunity to live a more fulfilling and contented life. It does take courage to apply some, if not all in some capacity, the life lessons shared today. And as we need to remember, courage is not eliminating fear, it is simply overcoming it. Fear will always want to step in and pull us back into the world of worry, doubt and anxiety, but we have the choice to not give it its power. We have the choice to step up to the plate, put in the hard work and dance with life, because as we also know, some years we learn a weighty amount, other years we have the opportunity to put it into practice and still other years are gifts to simply savor. It turns out 2016 involved a little bit of all three. So is life, unfolding its magic so long as we participate. ~The Simple Sophisticate is taking its yearly one week vacation beginning the week of 26th. The next new episode will be available on Monday January 2nd. In the meantime, peruse the previous 134 episodes or stop by the blog next week for a year in review where I will share the top five episodes of 2016. ~Stop by next Monday to discover the TOP 5 Episodes from 2016.  ~Peruse all of the past 134 episodes here. EXTRA, EXTRA!

~Discover my list of the Top 10 Podcasts I listened to in 2016 here.

 

Petit Plaisir:

~love in lowercase: a novel by Francesc Miralles An international best-seller translated from its original language of Spanish, Love in Lowercase tells the story of 37-year-old Samuel, a professor of linguistics living in Barcelona who while certain the new year will be more of the same hum-drum quickly sees the start of January begin with an array of opportunities all beginning with the arrival of a cat who makes himself right at home in Samuel's apartment. In less than a week, this delightful novel was read and enjoyed, and with its short, topical chapters, readers who appreciate the liberal arts will find an appreciation of the thoughtful character who is more open to grasping onto opportunities when they present themselves than he ever was in the past, and that makes all of the difference. Download the Episode
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
Direct download: 13510LifeLessons_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #134

"A startling paradox that bespeaks how we, as a culture, cripple ourselves in the journey to love — if one wanted to learn about cars, one would 'without question study about automobiles'; if one wanted to become a gourmet cook, one would 'certainly study the art of cooking, perhaps even attend a cooking class.' But when it comes to love, Buscaglia points out, we expect the skill of it will magically bestow itself upon us. 'No mechanic or cook,' he writes, 'would ever believe that by ‘willing’ the knowledge in his field, he’d ever become an expert in it.'” -on Leo Buscaglia's Why Love is a Learned Language

Successful business mogul Warren Buffett has famously advised to write down 25 things we want to do in life and then promptly focus solely on the top five and forget about the other 20. Why? The time we have to dedicate to anything is finite, therefore if we want to achieve something of quality: a skill, a reputation, an invention, a business, anything at all, we have to give it our full attention. And if we have a laundry list of things we want to achieve, we are often distracted by what we are not able to do and not fully giving ourselves to what we should be focused on. Along the same argument, in Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling book Outliers, he shares research that finds that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to develop the level of proficiency of most professionals (Gladwell further clarifies that this holds true primarily in cognitively demanding fields, but assists tremendously in others such as sports). Taking into consideration these two components, I couldn't help but ascertain that the combination of focus and practice, deliberate practice, while helpful in our professional pursuits and pursuit of realizing our dreams would be quite beneficial within our everyday lives as well. For example, perhaps we too should deliberately practice as well as pay close attention to learning how to cultivate stronger relationships, a deeper, more fulfilling everyday experience and overall contentment as we proceed through life. Two books (here and here) I have read in the past six months shared a common message about one's success in love. Not to equate love as a competition, but rather to be successful in making healthy, deep, sincere connections with others, choosing to learn how to love is crucial. Considering that expectations, mores and gender roles have been in constant flux for centuries, we don't enter the world knowing how to love and love well. It is a learned behavior. As Dr. Leo Buscaglia reveals in Love: What Life is All About, "One cannot give what he does not possess. To give love you must possess love." And in order to possess love and then know how to give it, we must become a student of love. Imagine for a moment as far back as you are able of what love looked like to you. Maybe it was your parents, maybe it was revealed in the fairy tales read to you, maybe it was the television shows or your older sibling talking about their adventures in relationships. While all of these may have contained aspects of love, some far more than others, love is an action that we only learn how to exercise in our own lives if we practice it. And we can only become successful if we practice it properly. Much like watching a cook demonstrate how to slice an onion, we don't become proficient by observing, we become proficient by doing. We cannot buy love, we cannot hire love. No. Instead, we have to become a student of love, and live it every day. Which leads me to the most magnificent and hopeful news I want to share with you today. Each one of us can cultivate the love we want in our lives. Each one of us has the potential, and it all begins with us and then what we begin to put out into the world.

"It’s simply this — the limitless potential of love within each person eager to be recognized, waiting to be developed, learning to grow." —Leo Buscaglia

With that understanding, let the journey begin. Or should I say let the course on love begin. I, perhaps like you, have always loved the idea of love. But now I have to ask myself, was I errantly and ignorantly getting in my own way? As the new year begins and the first episode of the podcast goes live on Monday January 2, tune and discover what I have found out and am looking forward to sharing. ~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Stop the Pursuit?

~The Most Important Ingredient for a Healthy Romance

~17 Ways to be a Good Partner

Petit Plaisir:

Ma Vie à Paris (English & French versions) - deliverable to EU countries
—created by French Home Goods company Astier de Villatte, owners Ivan Pericoli and Benoît Astier de Villatte —Pick up a copy in Bend, Oregon, at Nicole Michelle Decor —Special order at your local bookstore. ~Learn more about the SAIG Linotype printing press machine here and the process of printing this one of a kind Parisian guide book here.

~hand drawn maps and black and white photos on nearly every page~

  Download the Episode Download the Episode
Direct download: 134LoveMaVieaParis_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:05am PDT

thesimplyluxuriouslife.com The Simply luxurious Life
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #133
Maybe you've had a few or many past failed relationships. Perhaps you are currently single or married or in a relationship at the moment, but maybe it just doesn't feel as though you know how to make it stronger, healthier, but there is some part of you that knows it is possible. Even if you aren't in a relationship, you understand that it is a healthy relationship you seek because at the moment, life is grand on your own and far better than being in a dysfunctional partnership. As you reflect on the past, remember this: You gave love, you were hopeful, you did your best with what you knew at the time. Let go. And forgive yourself.

"Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it."

As I look back on my own past that contains a handful of relationships, all of which were unique and different, and began and ended for different reasons, I know I am a different person now, I know that I have learned much more to be a far better partner, but also to be a far better, and more content individual whether I am in a relationship or not. I know now, but I didn't then because I didn't know either what I needed or where to find the knowledge I sought. I either had models that were dysfunctional and I didn't recognize it or I didn't have a deeper understanding of what I was modeling my life after. Most importantly, I was still growing and discovering myself, and thankfully, that journey has never ceased.

Why am I thankful that the journey has continued? Because it has finally lead me to resources, valuable and worthwhile resources to understand what I was lacking when it came to being someone who was indeed ready to be in a healthy relationship. And this is what I have discovered.

1. Explore what interests you In episode #131, the philosopher Bertrand Russell's approach to happiness was discussed in detail and at the top of the list of 38 ways to attain happiness was the idea of exploring what interests you. The key is sincerity of interest and the other component is to have more than just a few interests. For if one falls through or wanes, you have other interests which can fill the gaps and ease the loss in your daily routine of doing what you love and enjoy. To put all of our time and interest into one basket of interest is to put a tremendous amount of pressure on that focus in our lives. Often that focus is a relationship, and while tending to and investing in a relationship that brings us much joy is a worthwhile interest, it shouldn't be the only interest we have. Pursue your love of the French language, pursue your love of cooking, your itch to travel, working in the yard, caring for a pet, time in your art studio, anything that you are naturally drawn to and build a wealthy life of interests that fill your schedule without weighing you down. 2. Investigate and explore your barriers to healthy relationships

“The good news is that every morning we have the choice; not to be controlled by circumstances nor our past but by purposely designing our day, hence our lives better. Not to react to life but to respond with love.” ― Bernard Kelvin Clive

The work behind the scenes that nobody sees, the internal work, is the work that will reap awesome, lasting benefits enabling you to see and experience lasting growth from which you can continue to build on to build the strong and healthy relationships you want but perhaps didn't know how to attain because you kept getting in your own way unconsciously due to either buried fears, insecurities, a past history that played a negative thought track that prevented you from seeing the amazing possibilities you were presented with. Investing in ourselves by scheduling time with a counselor or an expert in the field in which we know we need to grow is an investment in a quality way of life that will not only equip you to attain true contentment but you will be demonstrating that to the world around you and providing an environment and a model of how to live well. 3. Learn how to communicate effectively Some of us as children were able to observe healthy and effective communication habits. The most powerful communication that is often hard to see modeled is when two individuals disagree. How do they express how they are feeling, feel respected without attacking and move forward? If we haven't seen this modeled in our own lives, it is up to each of us to learn, and thankfully, the information on this topic is abundant. Ultimately, in order to communicate well, we must know what we want to say and why we want to say it. And in order to understand the "why", which is actually a difficult truth to unearth, we must get to know ourselves. It sounds odd perhaps, but we need to understand why we are angry in particular moments; we need to understand why we are fearful; why we get defensive; why we get jealous, and look within ourselves to understand our unconscious reactions before we speak and do damage unnecessarily. On the flip-side, we must not cower into ourselves and become passive. There will never be a healthy relationship that involves a passive individual if the relationship wants to grow stronger. We must communicate without attacking, express how we feel, be able to objectively observe our emotions, and listen with intent to learn and understand more deeply. Click here for a more in-depth post on each of these and more tips to effective communication. 4. Cultivate a healthy, strong social life Our social worlds are often tied to our interests as well as our work, and as discussed in episode #36, while they take time to build, the gift is you feel free to be yourself and thus your social life becomes a place of enjoyment, pleasure, respite and an integral  piece to your contented life. With a clear list of people to let go of (of which there on nine) and six people to welcome into your life, the episode reveals that it is who is in your life that will help alleviate your stress and you theirs as well as allowing them and you to be truly free to be yourself that will enhance all arenas of your life. 5. Actively pursue your dreams

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Let go of the have-tos and must-dos of the lives we see modeled around us whether by family members, the media or community and/or national institutions and instead dive into your dream. Perhaps your dream requires you to work on the weekends or each night after work a few hours. Maybe your dream prevents you from celebrating when Friday evening arrives, but enables you to come alive when you immerse yourself in the pursuit. Trust your dreams, not the fears that are thrown at you by the outside world that you are not doing what you should be doing. People are intrigued and appreciative of those who have the courage to tap into something and pursue it doggedly. Not everyone will understand, but those who respect it and admire it will be people with whom you will connect with. And you, in pursuing your dreams will find a contentment that at first will be hard to describe to anyone who is simply following a path that everyone else is one, but then you will learn it is the only way to be truly alive and authentically you. 6. Cultivate self-compassion When we look within ourselves for compassion, we give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We begin to recognize that we must first be kind to ourselves in order for others to know that is how we deserve to be treated. Yes, some will be kind anyway, as it is their way, and a very good way indeed, but for those who may attempt to push our boundaries, we recognize the attempt and can keep them out of our lives unable to do harm. Often we are the harshest critics in our lives, as discussed in episode #122, but the belief that doing so is the best path to success is false. In fact, it is quite detrimental. Rather, being self-compassionate reveals a higher emotional intelligence as we are able to have a broad perspective on our circumstances and move on rather than get bogged down in self-criticism. And when we are the cheerleaders of our own lives, when we are not the bully in our own heads, we look less to the outside world to build us up and are able to build healthier relationships as we can take care of our own emotional needs. 7. Become comfortable with validating yourself If we do not first validate ourselves, approve of the life and the decisions we make within our lives, we will be constantly running around seeking approval from others, dependent upon it, desperate for acceptance, and we will only be harming ourselves, never able to find true contentment. As shared in a post in 2011“You can succeed if nobody else believes it, but you will never succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.”  But why do many of us fall into the trap of first asking if we should do something and instead simply trusting what we know will fulfill us, what we know will bring pure joy, what we know will make us happy? We want to bond with others, we want love, we want to feel love. This is human. But what it does is bonds us with people who we may not want to bond with. Wouldn't you rather bond with someone who was fascinated with your decision after the fact? After you had made the big decision to pursue that dream which may have appeared ridiculous to some, but made complete sense to you? Wouldn't you want an authentic connection? Yes, it is scary to refrain from seeking validation from others, especially from our parents, peers and those we may have been (or currently are) in relationships with, but when we forget about the power of our own self-approval, we limit the quality of life we could be living. 8. Build a life you love living on your own

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” ― Emily Dickinson

Cultivating a simply luxurious life centers around the premise of building something that is congruent with your authentic and most true self, letting go of building the life you think you should and upon incorporating the former rather than the latter approach, the quality way of living you seek will materialize. A funny thing happened over the weekend. As I mentioned in a previous This & That post, I have been contemplating picking out a significantly smaller tree for my house this holiday season. Well, I in fact did just that, and as I look around my smaller house (nearly 1000 sq feet smaller than what I had lived in previously) after having decorated the tree, having added a few decorations to the tabletops (I found mistletoe!) and having hung the stockings for the boys (my dogs - Norman and Oscar) and myself, I still had energy and more money than previous seasons in my checking account for holiday expenditures. When we begin to truly listen to what works for us, rather than gravitate toward what we've done, what has been done, what we've seen, what we know, we begin to curate a life that is in alignment with our values. We begin to curate a life that enables us to live and pursuit what we love and thus become enlivened from within. We are the gardeners of a rich and more fulfilling life, if only we will listen to ourselves. When it comes to relationships, we will undoubtedly be involved in many different types, all having the gift of teaching us something about ourselves and the world. But when it comes to lasting relationships, relationships that will endure, however, keeping in mind that nothing is infinite, we multiply the happiness quotient for not only ourselves no matter what we may be doing but also for those we love. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~The Myth Hindering an Amazing Love Life 

~Make Your Own Life Rules: How & Why

~What Does a Simply Luxurious Life Look and Feel Like?

~A Powerful Couple: Boundaries & Vulnerability

~Romantic Love: What It Is & How to Maintain It

Petit Plaisir:

~Under the Tuscan Sun: 20th Anniversary Edition by Frances Mayes, (paperback copy) (e-book edition)
~Visit Frances Mayes blog and website here. ~tour the house that was seen in the movie (which was remodeled in 2006) here. Frances Mayes house was not the set for the movie. thesimplyluxuriouslife.com The Simply Luxurious Life Download the Episode  
Direct download: 133BeforeRelationship_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:03pm PDT