Mon, 21 December 2020
In the spirit of nurturing ourselves, healing ourselves and opening a door to a better year in 2021, today's episode/post is shared with the intention of providing inspiration for you to do just that as you tailor the final week of the year - the Between the Years as my readers taught me last year (read this post from last year which was inspired by this aha of the term) - to nurture you, heal you, open your eyes to a better, more deeply contented 2021.
Sun, 13 December 2020
“Privacy - like eating and breathing - is one of life's basic requirements.”
The sanctuaries we call home, no matter how large or small, provide the comfort and necessary gift of privacy. We hold the key to whom will enter, who lives, who dines, who sleeps, within the four walls we pay each month a large portion of our hard earned money.
Similar to our sanctuaries, we are given choices in our lives, many which take time to materialize, but with clear-eyed effort, the beauty, the serenity, can be achieved. Much like the cleanliness and tidiness of a home, we provide self-care, tend to our physical and mental well-being so we can think clearly, decide well and experience true contentment each day. The ideas, the people, the conversations, the energy we open our doors to in our physical house affect the quality of our home-life. And the good news is, we hold the key to the door.
Immediately, when I think of a home and privacy, the voice of Diane Lane's character Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun dances through my mind, "What are four walls, anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer." And we all need to dream, to give ourselves time and the space to explore our wildest hopes and desires, to become fully acquainted with what sparks joy in our own hearts and minds void of society's influence.
A crucial component to living a life of sincerity, to tapping into and discovering our unique potential which the world wants us to share is having the privacy to do so, to finding a steady contentment in each of our days no matter what is swirling around us. So much of our lives is out of our control, but there is much that can be within our control when we become aware of these aspects of our lives (explore these posts and episodes on this exact topic of control).
"Maintaining some degree of control over interactions with other people is crucial to our psychological well-being." —Dr. Frank T. McAndrew
The key to a home of tranquility and the key to a tranquil life is to establish a personal privacy approach determining who and what can have access to various aspects of your life. Professor of Psychology Dr. Frank T. McAndrew explains how we have four types of privacy in our lives - solitude, intimacy, anonymity, and reserve. Understanding what each type of privacy is as well as how much we need of each (and we do need some level of each in our lives - although, the amount will differ from person to person) helps us to better understand how to find deeper contentment in our everyday lives.
Today we'll explore how to find the balance of healthy personal privacy which can elevate the quality of our lives. Recently, as many TSLL readers and podcast listeners know, I reformed my own privacy boundaries here on the blog this past October and while there were some who pushed back as I was changing what they had become accustomed, the personal peace I gave myself has been priceless.
1.Do the homework for the course on You
In many ways our entire life is the Course on Ourselves 101 (if we choose to enroll and pay attention), but as I shared in 2011 and further in my first book, sharing more than what is consciously or unconsciously comfortable is often a reflection of our own insecurity and our need to be approved externally regarding how we are living our lives.
By exploring our true needs, being honest with ourselves about the skills we need to learn and/or improve, we grow as a human being who can be clear-eyed about the true level of privacy versus openness which harmonizes best with the life we want to live.
~In my second book, two chapters are entirely dedicated building our Toolbox to live well. One chapter explores the helpful skills we can all cultivate in our own lives and the second chapter explores how to unearth and strengthen our unique skills which are innate to us if only we knew how to find them.
~Read the three-part series, Why Not . . . Get to Know Yourself?
2. The importance of solitude
“Solitude sometimes is best society.”
As shared in episode #90 focusing on the Power of Solitude, it is when we gift ourselves with solitude - time alone in our own company - we are as Frédéric Lenoir (author of Happiness: A Philosopher’s Guide) then able to to make sense of our “deeper nature” - a vital component to discovering true happiness or as I describe it - true contentment.
Essentially, in order to do the homework suggested in #1, we must find time for regular alone time. Each of us will need our custom amount, but even extroverts, like introverts, need regular solitude.
3. The dangerous cement wall of self-protection
A healthy personal privacy approach evolves as we grow and become better students of ourselves and aware of our strengths and the truths of the world. When we have been hurt after having bravely chosen to be vulnerable, the natural human response is to pull back, self-protect and heal. And heal we must. Sometimes healing comes in the form of simply finding your true foundation of self - time with yourself without the poking of the world. In time, we feel rested and resolved that we can move forward healthily without projecting our pain or assumptions onto others who were not part of our past, but sometimes, we are unaware that we have created a permanent cement wall which disconnects us unhealthily from the world and making healthy connections. In the latter example, reaching out for an expert's help - a counselor perhaps - is a healthy investment in understanding the delicate dance of finding the best personal privacy approach.
From my own experience, I too have walled myself off at times after a relationship comes to a painful, albeit necessary end. And in the short-term, it was a healthy choice, but the pain, the hurt can radiate out into other aspects of our lives blocking us off from moving forward and establishing new, better connections with others.
4. Know when it is okay to open up more with others
Described in Psychology Today as "bids of trust", when we gradually explore whether to welcome someone further into our private life, take it slow, be present and engage gradually. As shared in episode #140 when talking about Emotional Intelligence, this action is known as bidding, and a reciprocal bidding engagement is one of the keys to healthy, intimate relationships. In other words, don't keep opening up if the person you are trying to engage with doesn't respond to your bids.
5. Healthy maintainence of privacy requires we be present in our lives each day, each interaction
When it comes to any means by which you are sharing your life with the public - a conversation with a neighbor, a posting on social media, the clothes you are wearing, what you share at work with staff, clients or students, first, be sure you are responding rather than reacting to the situation (or a situation), and fully explore why you feel you need to share with the particular person information you are sharing? Have you dealt with your feelings around the event or situation or is this your way of working through it? If the latter is the case, check why you are sharing your emotional journey with a complete stranger or acquaintance. What are you seeking to gain?
Knowledge of our intentions when we share will help us better understand if we should share. Meaning, will we in hindsight wish we had not revealed so much. Let me take an example from my high school students: if you are choosing to wear a particular top or dress or outfit because it epitomizes you - wear it with absolute aplomb, but, if after being honest with yourself, you are wearing it to see who will react, who will applaud, who will be interested in you "now", then you may be wearing it due to your own insecurities and lack of self-acceptance.
The same example is true for social media - why are you posting what you are posting - (1) to communicate a true personal value OR to follow? (2) to contribute a positive solution to a problem OR to vent?; (3) to confirm what you know to be true about yourself and your life OR to not be left behind or left out?
"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others." — Brené Brown
When it comes to the healthy alternative if you find yourself in the latter examples shared above, let's take a look at all three: (1) Rather than acting or posting in order to follow the crowd, why not first (reverting back to #1) take the time to get to know yourself and in so doing, you will be strengthening your inner-self which is where the only source of reassurance resides (listen to episode #273). (2) Instead of venting, journal it out, engage in physical exercise, give yourself 24-hours, talk to one person who you have an intimate relationship but frame the conversation so that it is constructive, not reactionary. (3) Lastly, if you are posting or sharing in order to not be left out, first seek self-approval and then explore the need you are seeking from others - love? reduction of stress? connection? community? The best way to cultivate the latter starts with patience, self-awareness, generosity and lack of expectation.
Admittedly, when we are in the throws of insecurity, we may not be able to consciously identify our actions as coming from a place of insecurity rather than truth. Sometimes the most powerful teacher is reflection. However, if we are reflecting, we can learn and apply that knowledge forward.
We are each fallible human beings, and we will make mistakes. The good news about making mistakes is that we are choosing to grow, learn and follow our curiosity. Culture is powerful, but as we become self-aware, we have the opportunity to recognize ahead of time what is trying to speak for us and when we are speaking or acting for ourselves (hint: the goal is the latter :)).
6. Free yourself to be your true self in public
The beautiful paradox of establishing healthy personal privacy is that you can be more fully yourself in public. Share what you want to share, how you want to share it because you have a stable and secure center which can only be found within. When you know you are not making decisions, sharing or reacting to gain something you don't feel you can give yourself, you are revealing inner clarity and strength. You are not sharing anything you have not already dealt with or worked through, and by sharing it you may be either directly or indirectly trying to help others.
The best key to knowing when your personal privacy practice is out of sync with your true self is when you feel at the very least discontent and at the worst, deep pain and heartache. Explore the items listed above, have an honest conversation with yourself. Be patient with yourself as you come to understand more fully your actions.
Personally, my own journey of maintaining my own personal privacy is one of mistakes, corrections, tough decisions which have lead to far easier decisions (although, to the outside world they may appear difficult) and an exercise in the growth mindset. When we acknowledge mistakes and refrain from "oversharing", we are empowered not only to live a more fulfilling life for ourselves but to be better able to engage with others, understand others and cultivate healthy relationships with others.
Interestingly enough, another privacy paradox which is helpful to understand along our journey toward fulfillment: Putting up a boundary can be just as necessary as taking down the boundary. Knowing which should happen comes with self-knowledge and security with oneself. Each are skills, and we all can learn and strengthen them in our own lives at any time.
"I don't know why people are so keen to put the details of their private life in public; they forget that invisibility is a superpower." —Banksy
Whether in our professional lives or our personal lives, keeping something for ourselves reminds us how priceless the relationship with ourselves is. Invest in yourself, take the time to get to know yourself, and in so doing, finding the healthy personal privacy appraoch tailored to you and where you find yourself in your life today will be all the more easier to establish.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
Yep, it ships the print copy each month to you, here in the states (if you are located in the states as I am :)).
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #296
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Sun, 6 December 2020
“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” - Thomas Edison
True contentment runs like a river feeding our everyday lives with constant inner peace.
Whether the weather for the day is a turbulent snow storm or a sunny Blue Bird day as we call them in Bend, the river of True Contentment continues to run so long as we feed it with conscious awareness and staying fully present much like a healthy snowpack which keeps the river flowing throughout the entire year.
To reach the river of True Contentment we have to create the map for ourselves, not find the map which already exists because it doesn't. It doesn't exist in a bookstore, a welcome vestibule at the beginning of your journey, no. And it is even more interesting to note, the map to true contentment is not an entire life-long journey. Rather, it is a map which materializes as we each navigate forward, choosing to learn and hone skills along the way, asking the scary questions our lives present and trust ourselves walk forward alone.
Undoubtedly, you will travel with people at times, meet people and moments along the way who will point you in the right direction, but your journey is your own and you are your best company should you choose to understand and get to know who you fully are.
In the striding forward, discontentment is often the North Star if you will. How so? What we don't know is what we need to explore, to understand about ourselves, the world, the moment, and the knowledge we acquire will open the doors our life wants us to travel through to discover a life of true contentment.
"My flaws are my doorway to self-understanding and my way of understanding the flaws and fears of others." —David Whyte
As I was listening to a recent audio episode by Marie Forleo, she shared Edison's quote at the top of today's post/episode, and such a simple statement clarified immediately a truth in my own life journey - so much of where and how I find myself in my life today is largely if not soley due to my discontent followed by my exploration to better understand, to improve, to change, or to make sense of something which presented itself as an obstacle to self-growth, inner peace and ultimately true contentment.
It is easier to see in hindsight what was happening for example when I started blogging in 2009 with no idea what blogging really was - I was searching because the current path (teaching alone) brought discontent. When I chose not to pursue a college athletic scholarship and instead move away from organized sports - I was searching because the current way of traveling (known largely, if not only as being an athlete) brought discontent. The list goes on.
However, the key to acquiring the gift of true contentment is a choice you make. A choice to be courageous.
"What is the courageous conversation I am not having? Out of the conversation will come as much action as I want, but the action will be simpler, clearer, more central to what I want than a stressed reaction that exhausts me for the real encounters I desire." —David Whyte
Such a choice to be courageous means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Stepping away from the mind-numbing busy mentality that blinded you and exhausted you from having the ability to truly understand or see what is missing, what you are longing for.
Clarity can only be fully acquired when we calm our mind, calm our days, calm our lives. The progression as Andy Puddicombe shares begins with Calm ----(moving next to . . . ) Clarity ----(moving next to . . . ) Contentment ----- which then enables us to be readily Compassionate to both ourselves as well as others and the entire world as we move through and with it and them each day. But it is in this order we must travel. We cannot wish to be content if we do not fully know the life that is ours to live. A life that is waiting for us to be courageous enough to step forward with Commitment as Marie Forleo teaches. Commitment reveals itself through the consistent actions we take, not the thoughts we have or the promises we make.
But let's get back to courage for a moment. Consider this quote from David Whyte from his book The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship (2009) . . .
"Everything in the world is constantly coming to our door with clues as to how we belong. We only have to follow those clues and we will find our way home . . . in our search for the self, life will provide all the opportunity in good time to temper and make wise our original fire." —David Whyte
In other words, wherever you find yourself, whether it is a wanted or unwanted situation, whether it makes sense immediately or takes time to explore to understand the deeper meaning, our lives are leading us and welcoming us, asking us to pay attention. One more quote from David Whyte . . .
The key to our true contentment, our calling, our purpose, whatever you want to call it "is always right under our noses. It is so much under our noses, in fact, that in the end we are always told we are the key, we each of us, as a foundational dynamic of life, have to find all the ways to fit in the lock. We are the ones who turn in the door and open it. We have to look for the key by looking at the way we are made to open the great conversations of life. What am I naturally drawn to? How am I made for the world? What is my essential nature?"
Now you might be saying - I cannot see it. I cannot see what is supposedly right under my nose. I have so much discontent in my life that it aches and feels immobilizing. First, take a deep breath.
Congratulate yourself for your awareness. Your journey toward reaching true contentment has already begun. You have already put one foot in front of the other. Celebrate this commencement of curiosity because that it was it is. Your curiosity becomes your guide. Essentially, you are your own guide which means you will never be abandoned. You will always have yourself, and yourself wants to explore further the life it has the opportunity to live and the gifts it uniquely has to offer the world.
~Explore more about the benefits of self-awareness here in episode #143.
Let's take a look at more wisdom from David Whyte. This time about not knowing . . .
"Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention. Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff face or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity that they would not have if they thought they knew where they were. Why? Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking."
I think it is important to differentiate between searching & learning and constant self-improvement. We provide no more peace to ourselves if we are constantly living in the future, imagining ourselves as better and never appreciating where we are.
The hamster wheel of self-improvement ironically takes us away from ourselves by taking us nowhere because it doesn't require that we find peace within. I am guilty of stepping on this wheel as well, so I speak from my own experience of constantly not allowing myself to find peace in who I am today, savoring the moment and enjoying my everydays.
I am grateful that I am no longer on that hamster wheel, and TSLL blog over the past ten years since its inception holds at its core the truth that it is our everydays, when viewing and observing and savoring the goodness and beauty that is all around us, we elevate our days and thereby deepen our contentment. The deepening occurs because we are present.
If you are a long-time reader/listener of the blog/podcast, you know being present, elevating our everydays does not mean we can't grow. In fact, it is because we are more present in our daily lives that we know growth is possible. Both ideas can share the same space but it must be intentional and consciously done.
The fault of the hamster wheel approach, of endlessly pulling off the shelves the next self-improvement book is that we are unconsciously not acknowledging the good that already exists. When we actively and regularly in our everyday lives live in acknowledgement that goodness already exists within us and the world, that is when calm can find us. This takes us back to the progression shared earlier. We must first find calm before we can gain clarity, and it is with these two arrivals that contentment, true contentment, can be experienced.
However if you are still not convinced in this paradox that discontent is the path to true contentment, consider this simple, yet true axiom, “If you fight for your limitations you get to keep them …”. Yes, from a movie (The Internship), and from the character played by Vince Vaughn, but think about it for a moment: What we focus on receives our energy. If we focus all of our determined thought (which is energy, which is finite), we narrow our focus to proving ourselves right, unconsciously or consciously. We cannot expend energy we do not have, so why not focus on the life you want, rather than the life you feel stuck in?
The truth is, you're not stuck. I don't want to ignore that the world is full of strife, loss, pain, injustice, inequality, because we know that it is, but a wound, a pain, discontent reveals itself seeking to be healed, not ignored. Not accepted as how it has to be.
The journey to and experiencing fully each day true contentment asks each of us to be open-minded, fully present and willing to trust our curiosity. One more time to David Whyte . . .
"Being smitten by a path, a direction, an intuited possibility, no matter the territory it crosses, we can feel in youth at any threshold, as if life has found us at last. Beginning a courtship with a work, like beginning a courtship with a love, demands a fierce attention to understand what it is we belong to in the world. But to start the difficult path to what we want, we also have to be serious about what we want."
Pursuing our curiosity is a practice is faith. Not necessarily faith in the religious sense (although whether you believe in a particular religion, the universe, or whatever you might call the higher, wiser power in your life, each can certainly play a helpful role), but an understanding that tomorrow is unknown, and the outcome of your pursuit toward true contentment is not something you can predict, and especially not in detail. However, it is the trusting in your curiosity that will bring you the peace you seek, the calm you need to acquire the clarity and lead you to true contentment. Because rather than needing a certain outcome to find true contentment, what we each need is fulfillment, a feeling of contributing positively to the larger world in a way only we can, and when we find this truth, our everydays are flooded in the best sense with true contentment.
Let me leave you with this final thought . . .
—The Queen's Gambit, Netflix (limited series, 7 episodes)
~based on the novel published in 1983 by Walter Tevis, The Queen's Gambit
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #295
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
~Note: Some links shared today are affiliates in which upon purchase TSLL receives a small commission. Everything shared on TSLL blog is shared because I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Sun, 15 November 2020
"You shouldn't dream your film, you should make it!" —Steven Spielberg
To live actively requires we take action.
Seems simple enough, but if teaching my students as well as myself to refrain from using passive verbs versus active verbs in writing indicates anything, defaulting to the passive
What if we are defaulting in the same way in our everyday life and, even more largely, in our vision of how our journey will unfold?
A new-to-me podcast, Solo: The Single Person's Guide to a Remarkable Life, shared an insightful approach to living life which caught my attention immediately. What if we, instead of being the hero of our own lives, choose to be the director?
Think about it for a moment. When we look at a film from the point-of-view from the real world, the hero in the film/movie/novel/play merely follows the directions of the person behind the camera - the Greta Gerwigs (Oscar nominated director for Little Women), the Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar winning director for The Hurt Locker), the Steven Spielbergs (Oscar winning director for Lincoln), the Amma Asantes (Mrs. America), the Jennifer Getzingers (Orange is the New Black and Mad Men), the Julie Delpys (2 Days in Paris), and the Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman).
“Humble perseverance and the ability to observe and grow, in pursuit of making what you love and believe in. Really. THAT is the secret”. —Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman
To be the director of our lives assumes the responsibility of having a larger vision for the purpose of each scene, each chapter; however, within each moment, each interaction and revelation, the director knows fully how to craft a scene so as to bring forth a dedication to being present, fully engaged and intentionally clear and knowing about living fully.
Being a hero, in theory, is not a bad directive, but it neglects the reality of being a hero - whether saving themselves or another or an entire vast swath of others - the climatic drama of adversity is assumed. And then there is the tragic hero. No thank you.
This is not to say that we can direct ourselves to avoid all conflict and adversity. No. From such unwanted and unplanned pains, we grow, we learn, and we gain wisdom, clarity, and strength; however, if we only relegate ourselves to being the hero, we follow a script written by another and directed by someone else as well. While there have been directors who directed themselves, there is a reason why only one has done so and been able to capture an Oscar for both roles - Roberto Benigini in Life is Beautiful (1999), which also one for best Foreign Film as well. It's hard to see yourself clearly - your actions, facial expressions, energy on screen with another, etc..
But wait, if you direct your life, aren't you also the hero? Valid point, and an important one to make. Yes. You are in all actuality both the director and the hero, but again, the director decides who leaves a scene when, how the interactions with others will play out, which details must be included in a shot to further understanding for the audience, what remains out of the shot, the colors of the attire, where the scene is set, the background, the music, all of the details as well as the over-arching storyline (and while often the director is also the playwright or at the very least has some say in how the screenplay is depicted and can mold and tweak it to what would be best for the film, the director has the full reins of the production). What I am saying is we must not forget our primary job - to be the director of our one and only life.
Let's take a look at everyday and large over-arching choices and actions imperative for directing our lives well.
1.Who are you?
Taking the time to know yourself, unearth your talents, becoming honest about your weaknesses but refusing to let them halt the direction you wish to travel sits at the foundation of a well-lived life.
~Read this three-part series on How to Get To Know Yourself
2. Learn how to love well
Loving well is a skill. We do not know innately how to love another human being as doing so involves emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Models of love or what is purported as love surround us, but many are faulty and derive from a genesis rooted in control, insecurity and many other unhealthy constructs. To follow leads to pain. Knowing leads to peace. Know how to love, and life will blossom.
~One of my favorite books on love and being loving in a relationship inspired episode #128 - The Quest for a Soulmate: The Myth Hindering an Amazing Love Life
3. Understand the value of boundaries and understand they will evolve
Boundaries define us, as Henry Cloud reminds. Literally, the lines we put in our lives define what we will step forward and try and what we will not. Boundaries can limit us. Boundaries can protect us. Boundaries paradoxically can set us free.
Knowing how to set boundaries after we have discovered what our boundaries need to be for the chapter in our life we find ourselves gifts us with a powerful foundation. Without boundaries, the wind can take us where it will because we don't know what where we want to go and we certainly don't know how to head in the right direction.
On the flipside, rigidity when it comes to boundaries can be harmful if it prevents us from exploring what we are capable of sharing with the world. Ah, a tenuous dance which requires of each of us to do our own homework, not follow, because it is our heart, our life that will be set free when we find the sweet spot between the right boundaries and vulnerability. (Listen to episode #126 to discover the Powerful Couple that is Boundaries & Vulnerability.)
4. Learn the skill of effective nonviolent communication
For every director who wins praise from their cast and crew, there is a director who bullies, rants and whines. Effective communication, nonviolent communication, is a skill we must choose to learn if we want to have a fulfilling life and strong and healthy relationships with others.
To model said communication, observe someone who understands the components of nonviolent communication certainly helps us to acquire the skill, but we must take it one step further to understand why they are communicating as they are. We must again be the student for our lives to reach their fullest potential.
As I shared in episode #293, I highly recommend reading Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. I have read and will reread this book for understanding how to understand anger, understanding the four basic steps of clear, effective, empathetic communication, and how to honor my own journey, letting go of guilt, shame, anything the outside world wishes me to feel in order to stop me from traveling a path that brings joy.
Effective communication with ourselves and others is the way toward directing an award-winning life to continue with the analogy. To clearly convey and know what you wish to materialize, you need to be able to work with others being empathetic and aware along the way, not only of those who will walk with you or cross your path, but with yourself.
5. Understand and practice the fundamental physical components of you
To delve a bit deeper into the physical aspect of #1, knowing how your body, your mind, your temperament function and how they can function well will give you a roadmap of how to design the set of your life. It will also help you clearly understand what your boundaries need to be.
6. Be Brave
Living an active life, being the director of your own life demands of you to take action.
You cannot wait to see what someone else thinks, whether someone else approves, whether the prices will be this or that or another, at some point, you simply need to act.
Wait a second, you may be saying, didn't I say each of us is the director not the actor? Okay, perhaps a poor choice of words, but not really. Remember, you are the director of those actions. You decide when to take the first steps, when to set out and try something for the first time, when to let go, when to say yes, when to determine a certain chapter of your life has now concluded and you will be stepping into the next.
Being brave. A choice made by the director, and it is no act. Being brave takes raw courage after months, perhaps years of deliberating about when or if you should indeed do just that - be brave. Let me reassure you, being brave will set you free. In the meantime, you will quake, but you will not crumble if what you seek aligns with what you know to be true about yourself (remember #1).
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” —Helen Keller
The analogy of the director does not perfectly align with living our one and only life. After all, we are talking about a fictitious story capable of being enjoyed for generations. Our lives are anything but fictitious. No, we know our lives are all too real, but do we?
I ask this question because what if poet David Whyte correctly nailed it when he wrote "What if the world is holding its breath - waiting for you to take the place only you can fill?" Why aren't we filling it? Perhaps because we have chosen to follow someone else's script, and not direct our own. Perhaps because we have forgotten to write our own script and direct it as well. We can have chapters in our own lives, the one prior being necessary for the next, not less relevant or bad, simply vital to live the journey we are on, trusting the steps we need to take in a new direction.
Today, tap yourself, hire yourself, assign yourself purposely and intentionally as the director of your life, and I am confident, you will begin to see the positive and desired change which may have only been a dream previously.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~8 Ways to Become the CEO of Your Own Life, episode #40
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #294
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Sun, 8 November 2020
"When we speak a language that denies us choice, we forget the life in ourselves for a robotlike mentality that disconnects us from our own core." —Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Two lives may look like one another, but one may indeed be fulfilling, while the other a life of disdain and pain.
Choosing to live as we do versus living a life out of an expectation, obligation, avoidance of guilt, approval, to avoid shame, or to gain money is to choose a life of integrity according to Marshall Rosenberg. When we choose a life of integrity, we discover the ability to tap into our essential and most sincere self, and enable ourselves to share with the world the gift and talent only we can give.
While sharing a list of actions to refrain from taking as to avoid the latter of the two options mentioned above would certainly simplify how to choose to live, there is no such universal list. Rather, the list of what we choose to do versus what we do out of a feeling of "have-to" will be unique to each of us.
How can we discern the difference? Rosenberg's determinating factor is if the sole motivating force for our actions comes from a place to "simply make life wonderful for others and ourselves" then we are choosing the life we are living. And the latter - making life wonderful for ourselves - is perhaps the most important. We must pay attention to our needs. Rosenberg writes "we cultivate self-compassion by consciously choosing in daily life to act only in service to our own needs and values rather than out of duty, for extrinsic rewards or to avoid guilt, shame and punishment".
Understanding fully and completely what our needs are is the homework we each must tend to in order to live a life everyday that we enjoy living. I highly recommend reading Rosenberg's book as he delineates clearly and in great detail the common societal pushback to his assertion about choosing how you live versus adhering to a life out of anything but choosing it.
The result of any action made void of choice is a deprivation of joy at the very least and resentment, detestation, misery, anger, and a loss of self and a denial to the world of the uniquenesss only we can share at the very worst.
We have been taught falsely and ironically selfishly by outside institutions of many sorts to believe choosing and valuing our needs is hedonistic, wrong and, self-absorbed. Primarily we have accepted such a purported claim because their "marketing department" is skilled in the ways of psychology as they tap into our perceived need to be accepted - approved. However, the needs Rosenberg writes about are fundamental to valuing ourselves, and thus living a life of integrity.
"In fact, when we do things solely in the spirit of enhancing life [for others AND ourselves], we will find others appreciating us. Their appreciation, however, is only a feedback mechanism confirming that our efforts had the intended effect. The recognition that we have chosen to use our power to serve life and have done so successfully brings us the genuine joy of celebrating ourselves in a way that approval from others can never offer."
When we seek to live a life of choice, we contribute positively to the world, and that means contributing positively to others' lives, and the cycle continues forward as others choose to tap into their unique gifts and talents that contribute positively without expectations, simply out of joy of living the life we have the opportunity to live each day.
At the core, we are seeking joy, thus contentment, and both can only be found within.
To live a life out of obligation, guilt, to avoid pain, to avoid shame, may be seen as a survival mechanism, but don't we want to thrive? When we permit ourselves the freedom to fully seek joy in living - to fulfill our unique needs, it becomes far easier to stop the judgment, comparison, blame, criticism, insults, put-down, and labels. Why? Because we recognize each of these negative and unhelpful behaviors are reactions to living a life void of choice.
When we take responsibility for our lives, we take on a weighty task of exploration of our feelings and needs. For so long and in so many cultures, current and past, American and endless others, feelings have been equated to weakness. But human beings have feelings and when we acknowledge them in ourselves, it is far easier to observe them and communicate healthily and helpfully with others to deepen understanding and to discover empathy.
Rosenberg shares it is empathy that is often the missing ingredient in frayed relationships - not only an empathy to acknowledge fully and entirely what others are feeling, but to refrain from being empathetic to ourselves. What do we each need? Why do we feel pained after a conversation with a loved one we are "supposed" to have a relationship with? Why do we feel hurt and disconnected when we go about tasks we thought we chose of our own free-will? Everyone around us applauded when we made said decision, but why doesn't it feel right within ourselves? Each of these and many more feelings are what each of us needs to explore to determine how to live a life we love living. Choice is at the heart of living with true contentment, not obligation, not duty, not to avoid guilt, not to avoid punishment. Choose you and let others choose for themselves as well. The journey forward of both individuals will be unknown, but when lived by choosing the path will be fulfilling and full of respect and true love for ourselves and for those we have set free to be who they truly have always been.
~Read Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
—New episode of The Hookup Plan (Plan Coeur), Season 2 - The Lockdown Plan, episode #7
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #293
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~Note: Some links shared today are affiliates in which upon purchase TSLL receives a small commission. Everything shared on TSLL blog is shared because I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Sun, 1 November 2020
Books about happiness ubiquitously fill the publishing world, but the fundamentals of happiness quite simply are just that, simple. We become overwhelmed, and then it becomes easier to fixate, and often superficially so, which expends our finite energy rather than focusing our attention on the core fundamentals and choices of what happiness requires to be deeply and sincerely felt.
When the directions are wrong you will never see materialize what you desire.
Stop the pursuit. This is something I’ve discussed on the blog before, but I think it is worth exploring again. This time, I am going to explore more concretely the fundamental components of experiences real happiness, and much more of it in our everydays. Let's get to the seven truths below.
1.Discover a tune that is melodic for you
If you enjoy living your life, your everyday life, happiness is the result. Continually, here on TSLL, I have shared that contentment is the feeling we can have at all times. Happiness cannot be infinite 24-hours a day. Happiness is an outcome. Contentment is a state or way of traveling. I had it entirely wrong when I was younger, doodling “Be Happy” on my high school peechee folder while daydreaming in class. You cannot be happy constantly, but you can be content along the way to happy.
2. Spend time doing tasks that enable you to lose track of time
Getting lost in a project, exploring a new [enter a place/area of curiosity], resting your mind and being in a healthy way, these will divert your attention naturally away from checking the clock. And when you are thinking about what’s next, you are present. And when you are engaged fully in the present moment, you have more chances of being happy.
3. Sharing time with loved ones to simply be in each others’ company.
Giving your life space to be together, even if in silence, can be incredibly peaceful, supportive and loving. A contentment shared is happiness reached.
4. Not having existential worries because consciously you know your health, finances and basic needs are tended to
Through the choices we make, we can build the sound and stable foundation that will enable us to feel content in our everydays. Everyone will make choices which align uniquely with their journey which is why outsiders may define the choices we make to usher in more happiness for ourselves as sacrifices. However, a choice is not a sacrifice if it brings you closer and eventually to a way of living that brings you peace and contentment. It is when we achieve contentment that more happy moments can be experienced and savored.
5. Refraining from thinking at any time “when I achieve [enter goal]” or when [enter aupposed life milestone], then I can be happy.
Focusing only on the outcome and forgetting about how we travel to arrive at the destination is a recipe for unhappiness. However, if the travel does not involve contentment, the outcome you seek is not as likely. Why? It is when you enjoy the journey, when you can be yourself along the way, that the outcome is relinquished, thereby not putting so much pressure on the outcome to hold all the goodness. It is when we expect or assume that we step out of being present along the way, hurting ourselves and others along the way, and thus tainting the outcome so it can never be a source of real happiness if ever it is reached.
6. Find peace in how you travel through life
How you speak and think of yourself, how you engage with others - communication with words, body language, etc. - contentment is felt in our mode of travel, and no matter life’s circumstances, it can be constant. Sleeping well and deep and long is a mode of travel as it allows you to wake up with a clear mind, acting from a place of calm, clarity and full awareness. Taking breaks when our mind needs it, ending the ‘work’ part of our day when we can no longer be productive, eating well and slowing down to savor it, slowing down and refraining from default patterns of speech, being fully aware and listening, then thinking well about what we have heard before responding - each of these ideas and practices of day-to-day living are modes/ways of traveling that cultivate contentment as we move through our days.
~Book to explore: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg
7. Letting go of others’ maps for our lives
Certainly a courageous decision. A decision which is exceedingly difficult during the first and second chapter of our journey, but with time and support, the journey becomes easier and far more rewarding than any other direction would or could have offered.
All of this is to say that the key to happiness is to discover and cultivate contentment in our everydays so that the happiness deepens and more frequently can be fully observed, savored and appreciated.
~Please do tune to the audio version as each point above is discussed in much more depth.
Check out TSLL's first two books which discover the idea of cultivating a life of contentment that is uniquely your own.
~Book #1 (2014): Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide
~Sunset in the Blue by Melody Gardot (October 2020)
Sponsors for Today's Episode:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #292
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Sun, 18 October 2020
“Your inner purpose is to awaken.” —Eckhart Tolle, from A New Earth
To observe the seamless fluidity of a dancing pair with years of professional dancing experience float across the floor no matter what type of dance is asked of them is to observe a deep awareness and skill of their craft. Foxtrot. No problem. Viennese Waltz. Got it. Tango. Oh my, yes. Swing. Yep!
In 2017, in episode #143, the skill of self-awareness was explored in-depth here on the podcast/blog. For a quick refresher, to be self-aware is to be 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 are fully self-aware, we gain the instructions of how to live well even though we do not know what the next minute will reveal, the next week, month, year, and so on, will reveal.
When we become self-aware, we are awake and capable of noticing when we need to grow and in what way will help us navigate through whatever life may present.
I chose today's topic because no matter where you find yourself in the mix of stress, loss, pain, and confusion regarding our current situation, many readers have shared with me they are presented with new situations of questions, confusion, doubt, [fill-in-the-blank of an unwanted and somewhat or significantly new emotion] from time to time in a manner that perhaps was not present pre-pandemic.
"Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment." —Eckhart Tolle, from A New Earth
Borrowing Tolle's advice from the quote above, seize these unanticipated and initially unwanted moments and feelings and let them be your guide to deeper self-awareness and an improved everyday life. Assuage any grief, quandary, angst, by reassuring yourself that you have been presented with this moment for a reason. Don't toss it. Don't avoid it. Explore it.
Today I would like to look at six unwanted examples that may be happening in your life and how to step forward and do the latter to each in order to improve the quality of your life moving forward and through our current situation
1.You wake up in the middle of the night, your mind reeling, doubt swirling, fear temporarily winning
Course of action: As a matter of fact, take a pre-action prior to going to bed or whenever you feel most confident - write yourself a note and remind yourself of the truth of how capable you are, words of truth and strength. Place this note by your bed. Okay, back to the moment you wake up.
Take a drink of water, hydrate and wake your mind up so that it is in your control and not the other way around. Read your pre-written note. Read it again. Journal if you need to - what is causing you worry, what are you fearful about. Don't necessarily answer anything. Save the answering and analyzing for a time during the day when you are fully awake so that you can be a good judge of whether or not what you wrote is valid as well as to accurately determine if what you are worried about is within your control. Hint, if it is not, let it go. Turn the lights off, count your breath in a steady beat - in and out. Let yourself fall back to sleep. Whatever you do, do not pick up your technology.
2. You are exhausted from work stress and trying to balance all that you think you have to do
Martyrs die. On the other hand, workers with awareness of the larger picture of why they work, live well. While putting and acknowledging work as important, the latter do not make work the top priority. I have worked with both types of people in the handful of school districts I have worked in over my 19 years. Martyrs tend to be different people in the classroom than they are away from their students or staff (if they are administrators). People who live to live well are the same in the moment of teaching as they are in their everyday life. People who live well are more content, more enjoyable to be around and know how to put work in its place and do so with clarity and a love for not only their own life but for the people who look up to them - in this case their students.
Course of action: Be honest with yourself. What are you aching for? Nobody needs to know your honest answer but you, but be honest with yourself. Do you crave at the most fundamental, sleep? Do you crave a social life? Do you crave to be more comfortable in your body but do not have the time to exercise consistently nor prepare and enjoy healthy, satiating meals? Write it down. This is when your life begins to change for the better.
Whether when given the opportunity or simply taking it, try out living the life you want to live - the schedule you'd like to have - even if temporarily. Stick to it long enough to experience potential benefits - one month, a quarter, etc.. Don't ask for approval from anyone else as to whether what you crave is valid. Honor your own feelings, and give the new temporary schedule a try. You will come back with some answers, maybe not all of the answers, but enough, if you are being honest with yourself, to know whether what you thought what you needed was actually indeed what was lacking.
Upon choosing to make permanent changes to your schedule, if the changes involve others or require others to be involved, communicate clearly and refrain from complaining. While it is okay to vent to a friend or your partner or your journal, doing so is a means to release stress, iradicating faulty thinking if it exists due to past grievances being triggered and to ensure you move forward with a rational mind. Sometimes what we are venting about has more to do with built up stress from a variety of sectors in our lives and not just the one thing we are "cursing" at the moment.
Let me end by saying, be honest with yourself. If you are overwhelmed and exhausted, how could you have prevented the situation if at all possible? Could you have raised your voice when decisions were being made? Could you have made the smarter decision, not the easier decision? Be honest and improvement can be made.
3. Tension in relationships - personal or professional
Course of action: Answer this question for yourself (not for the people in the relationship that is in a state of tension) - what behaviors and feelings are unwanted or undesired, but seem to be a default or at the very least, unhelpful? Use your answers as a guide to what skills you need to explore and better understand. Seek out an expert (i.g. a counselor) or a book from a respected source on the subject.
4. Financial Stress not related to job loss
Course of action: Turn off the advertisements, stop or significantly reduce your scrolling on social media and start living in the present with the world, the real-world, not the virtual world, that surrounds you. If the influences for buying more, or "keeping up" are not coming unconsciously from media (and I know, you might be saying - if they are unconscious, how will you know where they are coming from? But take this moment to take a closer examination of what you feel you 'need' and where that idea is being presented or shown), look to your social circle - chosen or not - and start to tailor who you spend time with and if you can't eradicate entirely unhelpful influences, reduce or limit your time with them.
5. State of the world
Course of action: Choose to educate yourself on topics that are grabbing your attention. Choose to look to experts, credible in the field you are exploring, that you may not have looked to before to deepen your clarity on an issue before you jump to conclusion. However, do not overwhelm your mind. Seek out bits of information and then go about your life, adjusting your choices, actions in which you do have control that will make a difference, no matter how seemingly small. The words you choose, letting go of assumptions and fixations, keeping an open-mind and refraining from group-think, but rather practicing critical thinking regularly so that eventually it becomes your default.
6. A feeling of agitation or lack of purpose
Course of action: find something, no matter how seemingly small which allows you to see an immediate finished, improved, completed outcome. The act of productivity need not be anything to do with your job or career, but simply needs to be something in which you can see a "finished" outcome.
For me, my garden has provided many moments of productivity - weeding, pruning, dead-heading - as soon as I tend to it, I see results. Ahhhh. It sounds silly but as Sue Stuart-Smith shares in The Well-Gardened Mind, "Two essential sources of grounding and balance . . . proximity to nature and fulfilling work" (the author is referring to the lack of nourishment to the psyche prompted by the industrialization in the 19th and early 20th century).
Each one of these life moments of challenge offers an opportunity to course correct, to grow, to evolve as Eckhart Tolle expresses in his quote above. It has been my experience that if I choose to not acknowledge that something within me needs to change - to communicate better, to ground myself in self-confidence, to be brave, the same stress, the same worry, the same event perhaps in a different form, keeps rearing its head.
The pandemic is presenting each one of us with unique opportunities to evolve forward and live a better life. Choose to find the growth opportunity that exists inside of you, and your life will change for the better.
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—Borgen, on Netflix
Tune into the audio version of today's episode to find out more about this Danish Government television drama series, what Borgen means in English and why I am thoroughly enjoying it and highly recommend it.
Sun, 11 October 2020
"Creating an environment in which you can have a greater sense of clarity and calm . . . The result is a mind that feels much calmer and clear." —Andy Puddicomb
Having an abundance of choices is a valuable asset and an extraordinary opportunity. However, unconsciously, when we don't filter our seemingly unlimited choices, we welcome more unnecessary stress into our daily lives.
As someone who wholeheartedly embraces and celebrates choice, understanding the right balance of how much choice is helpful until it tips over into distraction, confusion and paralyzation, upon obtaining, significantly increases the level of contentment in everyday life.
Andy Puddicomb's seemingly simple advice is too often overlooked or forgotten, however is insightful and sage advice if we are seeking tranquility in our everydays.
The clarity we may need to welcome into our lives could be ushered in seemingly anywhere and everywhere. The variable is each of us. Where do we need calm in our lives? Where are we feeling harried, run-down and over-extended? Often we don't realize it is the over-abundance of options that is standing in the way of a sea of calm that carries us more gently and enjoyably through our days.
It has been argued that a large portion of our life experience is determined by a few key decisions. Coined the 80/20 rule, or more officially, the Pareto Principle named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1906 to describe the wealth inequality at the time, the concept has expanded to apply to a variety of aspects of life beyond business.
And while, the formula isn't exact, it is a concept worth pondering. When we think about our choices as investments in our lives, what choices will reap the most benefit, the best and longest lasting outcomes? Whether regarding our health or contentment or financial stability, quality choices, purchases and pursuits are wise investments which eliminate excessive, repetitive and time-consuming choices that may fill up our days and minds unnecessarily.
Today, discover 10 areas of life to consider paring down your choices and thereby, scaling up the overall quality of your everyday life and peace of mind.
10. Wardrobe color palette
On the surface, the choices of what clothes we wear may seem frivolous and inconsequential; however, while our clothing can be unnecessarily attended to and take too much of our time and worry, tending to it just enough so as to lift our spirits and engage in a social world which involves visual communication is to be aware of how to use the tools made available to live well.
From knowing what complements your skin tone, your lifestyle, your silhouette, when you know this information, your decisions become more simplified, but more importantly, more helpful and easier to make.
~Explore this topic further by reading Why Not . . . Build a Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget?
9. Outside information
From what the information is about, to where or from whom the information arrives, be consciously selective and deliberate. I know very clearly which news sources I trust, even if they offer up headlines that challenge my way of thinking, I will still take time to read their articles or listen to their news reports. Not all of the time, but regularly. As well, I practice critically thinking (a soft skill) even with headlines I agree with and writers I trust. No only does this ensure I don't slide into unconscious bias, but it also ensures I am not accepting blindly news that could effect my life or decisions that without more time, more answers, more research, should not be jumped upon as fully formed enough to act upon.
8. The food purchased for your home cupboards and refrigerator
Give yourself better options to choose from when you walk through the door upon arriving home from work or travel or life famished, and you will help your body, your mind and end your day well, and extend the good health you wish to maintain.
~Explore this topic further by reading Why Not . . . Feed Your Body Well?
7. The focus of your business or work - content/skills/outcomes
Each of our careers will present different options that we will need to tailor based on the purpose of the job, but let me share with you some examples. Education for example, especially this year, but leading up to this unique year of teaching as well, I have been examining closely what the most necessary skills are for my students when it comes to clearly communicating. Recently, I have had to eliminate teaching daily current events, but I continue to teach the skill of critical thinking as well as offer a library of credible news resources so when my students choose to seek out news, they can navigate through each headline effectively.
Another example began this summer here on TSLL. Paring down my regular posting schedule, by focusing on 3-4 posts a week rather than 5-6, my goal was provide myself with more time to write detailed, specific posts designed for the regular and returning Simply Luxurious Life reader rather than the sensational post that procures more clicks from outside random passersby. Again, by reducing the breadth, we deepen the depth and thereby the quality of our lives, and in this case our professional lives. And when we make this shift, we increase the liklihood of improved satisfaction both of ourselves and from those we work with and for.
~Explore this topic further by reading Two Secrets of Living a Life of Quality
6. Where you spend your money
From the simple everyday decisions of whether or not to go out for lunch or make your lunch to what your rent/mortgage payment will be in relationship to your monthly income, you are revealing what is of value in your life. When you prioritize, the line-items that appear closer to the bottom are easier to say "no" to.
For example, the paycheck arrives at the first of the month, the first bill that is paid - what is it? For me, it's my mortgage. Period. No question. Arguably, that is likely the first for most of us, so start from there, what is the order of priority, and be clear about why you have placed each expenditure where you have. Doing so will help wh new items or purchases of interest introduce themselves.
~Explore this topic further by reading TSLL's many posts on money - choose one that speaks to what you'd like to strengthen in your financial life here in TSLL's Archived Money posts.
5. What risks you take
Notice I didn't write - whether or not to take risks. A life lived to our fullest potential, a life of true contentment, will involve risks. Some might say simply living is taking a risk as each next moment is unknown, but we certainly know there is a "safe" way to live for each of us in any given situation, and a "full" way to live for each of us. Marie Forleo suggests examining your choices that may seem risky by asking the question - Will this expand my life or contract it? More specifically, she advises, if it makes you physically in the moment you are simply thinking about taking this risk feel heavy and filled with dread vs. lighter, brighter, perhaps even literally move your body forward and sit more upright, then this is a response to take note of. Keep in mind, that often, our initial response to a risk is trepidatious often because we deeply hope it will work out, but worry it will not.
~Explore this topic further by reading TSLL's 2nd book - Living The Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Becoming Your Best Self
4. The soft skills you wish to improve
Well honed soft skills are the foundation of a healthy, fulfilling, tranquil social life both with others and ourselves. The key word is "skills", as I shared in my second book in Chapters 8 & 9, the primary difference between skills and strengths is the former we learn, the latter we are gifted with at birth.
Each of us will have grown up with and been surrounded by others with certain skills which we learn seemingly unconsciously, and it may seem as those these skills are innate, and for those skills we don't possess well, we may think we cannot welcome them into our lives, but the good news is, we can. As well, we can strengthen the beneficial soft skills that we have been fortunate to have been around, observe and imitate which will lead to more conscious living and intentional modeling for those around us.
Soft skills include effective communication, listening, critical thinking, body language, mental agility and attitude, how we work with others - any skill that involves emotional intelligence and intuitiveness.
~Explore this topic further by reading Emotional Intelligence: A Crucial Tool for Enhanced Quality of Life and Work, episode #140 and 34 Ways to Attain Emotional Freedom and Cultivate More Joy of Living, episode #275
3. How you spend your free time
Similar to #5, we need to have regular unstructured time in our days. To not allow our days oxygen to breathe, move, adjust and rest, is part of the reason the stress is surmounting and may feel unsurmountable. Whether you spend your time immersed in your favorite hobbies and pastimes, or choosing to not look at the clock and let your days, thoughts and emotions lead you through this regular "unstructured" time, be sure to choose to do so with delight and enthusiasm.
My free time has been to regularly tinker in my garden, read a book, cook in the kitchen, write or yep, nap. Of course, these pastimes and interests may change as our lives and the world change, but either way, keep the window open and soak up the awesome fresh air that it offers every day.
~Explore this topic further by reading/listening to An Everyday Necessity: Deliberate Rest, episode # 139
2. The companions you spend your time with - humans and pets
While this area of choice could be divided up in many ways from our romantic life to our friends to our work contacts, the key is awareness and clarity of what elevates and what depletes us and how we play a role in encouraging behaviors that are either helpful or detrimental. [I speak more about our furry companions on the audio portion.]
~Explore this topic further by listening/ reading The Elements of a Strong Social Well-Being, episode #92
1. What living well looks like to you
Perhaps this last item for today's list is too vague, but at the core of the previous nine items, having clarity about yourself, having clarity about the need to let go of perfection, having clarity about society's influence on your life, having clarity about society, the culture, the past, the present, and so much more is incredibly helpful to being more gentle with yourself and with others. Choose self-kindness. Choose less judgment towards yourself and toward others.
When you make these choices, you will feel lighter, you will eliminate more stress than perhaps you need you were carrying unintentionally. Let go of expectations and learn to dance with life and its rhythm, understanding that when you begin to dance - to really share your true self with the world - you contribute to the symphony which wants you to join. And while you will not know what each line of music will be as the song is not given to us before hand to practice, we can come to the music and become part of the music, thus living fully, living well and enjoy the journey.
~Explore this topic further in TSLL's Archived Lifestyle posts (there are 21 pages, of posts, so find a topic that speaks to what you are curious about).
~Note that Amazon links and some other shopping links are affiliate, which means I may get a small fee if you buy. However, I only recommend books and items I myself use, recommend or am curious about.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #290
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Sun, 4 October 2020
"The thread of all good cooking: the right ingredients, fresh and the way they should be - not fancy or expensive." —Anne Willan, author of Women in the Kitchen and founder of La Varenne Cooking School in Paris
One of the world's preeminent authors on French cooking, a James Beard Award-winning author and the founder of La Varenne Cooking School in Paris, Anne Willan joins me on the podcast today to talk about her new book Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today.
In today's episode we will talk about seven of the women featured in the book, as well as talk about Anne's time managing and founding La Varenne and much more.
Sun, 20 September 2020
The Atlantic recently posted an article asserting there won't be a clear end to the pandemic. Rather, the end for each of us will be as unique and differentiated as each one of us and occur on a different timeline.
Frequently, the yearning for "returning to normal" may be voiced by those around us, strangers or intimate relations, or we may be simply thinking such thoughts, constantly, as we grieve the parts of our lives we enjoyed that are no longer readily available or available at all.
However, even before the pandemic introduced itself and in what seemed for many to change our lives much like a light-switch, the psychological experts have been talking about this word that seems to roll off our tongues more often than ever before in recent times - normal. Writing in 2009 on Pyschology Today, "The fate of normality is very much in the balance," wrote Peter Kramer.
While speaking about individuals as to their neurosis or so-called normal behaviors and the perameters of what constitutes "normal", he shared a final thought which may help reframe how we strive forward in our current times as we are more broadly looking at an entire world, culture, etc. and what "normal", the new normal, may be:
Sun, 13 September 2020
As soon as I read the first line in chapter one shown above, the analogy made crystal clear sense of my ignorance about relationships and how to navigate past it: I needed to learn HOW to love, not just want to love and want to be loved.
Love, as the oft mentioned quote reminds is a verb, but even if we accept this truth, we have to learn how to exercise this action, and we have to be willing to let go of so much incorrect and unhelpful advice in order to find the peace and contentment we seek.
Today's episode can help in all relationships you are engaged in. Fundamentally, the book was written in 2002 for readers trying to improve their romantic relationships, but indirectly, the skills and concepts shared will foster healthy relationships platonically from close friends and family members to acquaintances, neighbors and strangers we bump into along our travels and life journey.
Recommended by my counselor, my copy of David Richo's book is annotated in detail, and I have referred back and reread different sections since my first reading. I have chosen to work with a counselor since nearly four years ago, but it did take time to find the right one. Meeting regularly, primarily for preventative and skill strengthening purposes in areas I wish to improve, the opportunity to meet with a professional, trained in the area of expertise we do not have is helpful to make sense of what we learn not only about ourselves but how our minds and emotions work.
With all of that said, as soon as I read the book, lightbulbs went off repeatedly in my mind. Ahas occurred frequently and I found an ease I had never felt before regarding my approach to interacting with others in a variety of different relationship scenarios.
While I highly recommend you pick up your own copy and read it closely, I wanted to share with you the primary component that underlies everything about being an adult in life and love.
The world we live in would rather have us feel insecure and lacking, even though it blatantly argues the contrary (when you purchase their product, create [enter lifestyle and accoutrements] for all to see and witness, or behave in a certain way), so it is no wonder we are confused about what we should or shouldn't be doing when it comes to relationships. And even if we eventually do figure it out, trying to understand what it is that worked if we don't know ourselves leaves us struggling to explain to others why it works if they inquire, don't understand or have not been introduced to the fundamentals shared below.
The good news is, this intangible unknown need not be unknown any more. Knowledge is key, and this practice is essential to cultivate habits that will heal you and then strengthen your ability to connect as an adult with adults to build a life of social harmony and contentment.
First, we need to let go of some unhelpful and often destructive habits.
Let Go of F.A.C.E.
The ego when neither understood and left to its own devices will become inflated and hinder any chance for a healthy relationship of two adults. Let's take a look at the acronym Richo came up with that clearly delineates what we need to step away from if we wish to become an adult in relationships.
Fear will always be present in our lives. It is the awareness of fear and what fear provokes us to do that must occur so that as Richo says, "it never has to lead me". So while fear may be a natural emotion, it is our job to understand what the fear signifies within us so that we can then understand ourselves better and move forward in a healthy manner, not a fear-led manner.
Richo speaks about learning from our fears, "fear usually rears its ugly head exactly when we are ripe for a change". As well, when we feel we do not have the power to direct our lives, fear enters and we make decisions, if we let fear direct, from a place of avoiding losing any power we thought we had.
Jealously is a result of fear as well. If we allow jealousy to grab hold, we are not abiding by the ability to let go of the actions of another, and instead becoming engulfed by others, rather than being present and open. What is our life trying to tell us? What strengths, what decision-making skills are we lacking? Jealousy arises when we are not secure with our ability to trust that we can be content and full all on our own, and so we cling, we grasp. Richo shares, "Jealousy is a combination of three feelings: hurt, anger and fear." And any or all of these three feelings may not be directly related to your partner at the moment, but inspired by past pain. Knowing where and why your fear arises is the map that will set you free should you follow it.
When we attach ourselves to a particular outcome, behavior, etc., we are clinging out of fear. Attachment in the mind, as Richo explains is a belief in polarities - a belief that there are only two outcomes - "I have to be in charge, or everything will fall apart". Such thinking is faulty, and when we recognize that the polarities are unhelpful in cultivating a strong relationship not only with others but with ourselves, we come to realize what we have control over only ourselves - how we communicate, how we prepare, how we engage, how we take care of ourselves in order to do our best, so that we can be at peace with the outcome knowing we did our best. So instead, the healthy ego shifts the above belief to "I let the chips fall where they may", knowing we will tend to our responsibilities and do what we can in that moment to the best of our ability - truly and fully.
The peace that comes when we practice letting go of attachment is uncomfortable initially, but freeing continually, thereby allowing us to expend our energy on better pursuits and passions.
Similar to attachment, yet unique on its own, letting go of control is to take responsibility of ourselves. How do we take responsibility in order to let go of control? Set and maintain personal boundaries, build a strong foundation of self-respect (which will lead us into letting go of entitlement), come to understand that growth comes from struggle and yes, pain. This is a natural cycle, so when something unwanted occurs, the adult who has let go of control will be able to find the opportunity to grow and apply it forward for a more content and fulfilling life.
Entitlement rears its head when we have expectations of how we should be treated, what we should feel, what should happen when, etc., etc., etc.. I know I am guilty of feeling entitled when it comes to relationships, and if you have ever caught yourself in your head or outloud saying, "[they] should have . . . [insert behavior]," you too have unconsciously felt entitled. Based on how (through modeling by our parents or elders or media) and what we were taught about the trajectory of relationships, we establish a map of behavior and events that should happen, and thus the entitlement gene is given to us and we accept it. But we do not have to keep it any longer.
When we feel entitled, Richo states, we are kept from giving anyone our attention and appreciation - two skills we must engage in if we want a healthy, loving adult relationship. Also, we cannot give someone our acceptance and allowing to be themselves because we are too attached to our own version of how everything should be. Again, two more skills that must be practiced in order to be part of a healthy adult relationship.
Entitlement does not allow us to connect fully and completely with another person, and from the start, we are hindered in our ability to discover a loving relationship.
Now that we have let go four unhelpful habits, we now have room and energy to practice the five habits that will strengthen our relationships in all areas of our lives, especially our romantic relationships. Let's take a look at what the Five A's are, as delineated and discussed in How to be An Adult in Relationships.
Practice and Strengthen regularly
Each of the five A's are feelings and actions to both give and receive in order to be in a healthy relationship. Each definition is shared directly from the aforementioned book by David Richo
—Attention from others leads to self-respect.
—Acceptance engenders a sense of being inherently a good person.
—Appreciation generates a sense of self-worth.
—Affection makes us feel lovable.
—Allowing gives us the freedom to pursue our own deepest needs, values and wishes.
Richo explains that when any one of the five A's are not forthcoming from others, specifically others we seek it directly from, we may feel we are to blame, and while we need to find others who mirror back to us these five A's, if we are to build and maintain healthy adult relationships, we also need to find them within ourselves.
However, while we need to find strength and awareness and understand we have self-worth, we also need to not expect to be fulfilled in each of these areas from one person. Beginning with our parents and then to any one adult we may in a relationship with, Richo asserts, they cannot be everything and fulfilling in all ways. Thus, "it is necessary and healthy to receive need fulfillment from other sources all through life . . . an adult sensibility releases us from expecting any person to fulfill [us] totally."
There is freedom in knowing the truths of healthy bonding and contented living, and to better understand what each of the five A's is and looks like in practice both for ourselves and from others, I encourage you to pick up the book as his examples are specific and anecdotal which provide clarity and a deeper understanding.
We all have the capacity to love and love well, we simply need to be willing to be a student, do the homework regularly and have the courage to change and be open as we go along our journey.
For shipping outside of the UK, shop the following online retailers:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #287
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Sun, 6 September 2020
“Comparison is the death of joy.” ― Mark Twain
The thief of joy, if Mark Twain is right, is of our own making.
The good news in this revelation reveals each of us can take back our joy.
Comparing ourselves to others occurs consciously and unconsciously. Consciously, we may be acutely aware that we follow certain people on social media to see how we are doing in relation; unconsciously, when we choose not to speak up to set a boundary, when we set a checklist for our life delineating what should happen by what age.
Each of these three are examples of many more of unhelpful comparison, and while comparison is a primal instinct for survival, the good news evolution and civil society have provided the opportunity and arguably the necessity for each of us of to offer the world our unique talents rather than limiting ourselves to remain part of the herd or tribe.
The habit of comparison is a learned skill, and therefore, it can be unlearned; however, it must be a conscious choice to do so. Fundamentally, when we compare ourselves with others, some part of us believes we are not enough or needs to be reassured that we are enough just as we are.
Today, I will be examining five areas of our lives in which comparison can creep in and become destructive to contentment and living a fulfilling life, and then share how to let go of such comparing with the outside world.
Life Goals, Your Journey
Brené Brown's quote above speaks beautifully to the need for us to let go of the timeline checklist we may have put in place for our lives. This is not to persuade you to let go of setting goals, but rather to examine who such goals are actually for. Who benefits? If the outcome enables you to be accepted by a particular group in your personal life or society, then this item is a checklist item that is being attended to out of comparison; however, if the outcome fulfills something within you that enables you to exercise your talents more fully and share them with the world, then such a checklist item is a keeper.
Social Environment — Who Surrounds You?
A significant reason it can be extremely difficult to be ourselves with and around others has to do with who the "others" are.
From my own experience, one reason I thoroughly enjoy living on my own and my own company has to do with only needing permission from myself to be and do what comes naturally or piques my curioisity without worrying what others think. However, that "worry" sprung out of life experience when I was myself around others.
As young children, we did not know that doing something that was naturally part of who we were or innately drew our interest that prompted dismissal, scorn or laughing to tease and suppress was a reflection of an unhealthy relationship, not a reflection of doing something "wrong". And so we shifted. We edited. We adapted.
Now we are adults. Now we know more and we can return to embracing who we are and have always been, even though we may have kept it under wraps or hidden away for fear of laughter, teasing or dismissal (again, all conditioned fears based on our past experience). Where do we begin? Setting boundaries.
In episode #126, boundaries are discussed in detail. The reason to establish your personal boundaries is because when we don't, "we give away our time, effort, the potential for fun and creativity" as Lucy Sheridan reminds in her book The Comparison Cure. When thought about through that lens, motivation to set boundaries becomes easier.
If you too are someone who finds comfort in your own company, however, wants to welcome people into your life yet fears being unable to be yourself if you do so, be patient with yourself, build the skill of setting boundaries, and when you do, you will begin to meet and then know with confidence who you can welcome into your life so that you can continue to be fully yourself.
Setting boundaries will reveal underlying truths of all of your relationships - who respects and understands, who pushes back, why they were friends or built a relationship with you in the first place. In other words, your social community may shift, but it will shift for the better, opening up room for the right people to enter.
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” – Ru Paul
On the other side of comparing yourself with others is accepting and appreciating where you are in the present moment as well as appreciating and accepting where others are in the same present moment.
When we look outside of ourselves for validation - how should I be dressing (trends, etc.), what should my home look like?, when should I be getting married?, what day of the week is it okay to go to bed early?(this one may sound silly, but when we apologize to others or tease ourselves for habits we love - i.e. going to bed early - we are invalidating our choices) - we have not found contentment with ourselves from within ourselves. We are instead asking the outside world to tell us we are "okay". Such seeking is not loving and is not an acceptance of ourselves.
This habit of seeking outside validation makes it extremely difficult to accept others as they are if they don't "fit in" to our expectations of what they "should be" and "should do", which makes it difficult to build loving, respectful and secure relationships.
I cannot recommend more highly this book for improving our ability to be more loving to ourselves and thereby be able to be a healthy partner in a relationship - How to Be An Adult in Relationships. I will be exploring more of the topics shared in this book in upcoming episodes.
Everyday Life - Contentment
In 2012 I shared this post about competing with others which reiterates the quote above. Comparison with others is a form of competition with others, and it drains, it exhausts, it depletes, it is never a positive effect on our lives.
Even in sports, you can only do your best, even though technically you are on the field/court/stage "competing" with others. However, it doesn't matter what they do. It is your engagement to present your full capabilities that will determine the outcome. Be motivated to improve upon yourself, but do not denigrate yourself for areas you wish to strengthen.
The component that must be present in order to compare only with ourselves and not the outside world is a strong self-confidence. In episode #5 of the podcast, confidence and the strength it brings into our lives is explored. Just as comparison is a learned skill, acquiring and attaining self-confidence is a skill as well - a skill worth acquiring for a contented life.
However, once we have acquired self-confidence, we must not stop exercising it as it will atrophy. Our lives change, new experiences arise and therefore, we are challenged to navigate well through each of the events and engagements with others. Our self-confidence will be challenged and questioned within our own minds, thus why we must exercise it as though it were a muscle, because in many ways it is.
First of all, as Lucy Sheridan points out, "self-confidence is a key step in ridding your life of comparison as it gives you agency over your actions and ownership of your thoughts and behavior".
What happens when we don't have self-confidence?
How to exercise self-confidence, as shared in The Comparison Cure:
Strengthening Your Self-Worth
Each of us is born with self-worth and possesses it our entire lives; however, we often lose track of this truth along our life journey at some point. Let this be your reminder, you innately possess self-worth. Nobody can take that away from you.
Simply put, "Having self-worth is knowing who you are and being okay with it. It's the result of deep inner work, increased self-care, self-love and self-acceptance." Lucy Sheridan goes on to say, "Note that possessing self-worth does not necessarily mean having to reach and retain a constant sense of joyful ecstasy, but it is at least a gentle, palpable appreciation." As I describe it, knowing you have self-worth, consciously knowing this truth, is to bring the ability to be content in your everyday life. It is a grounding, and it enables your self-confidence to come forth in all that you do and in each interaction that you have in a calmly powerful way.
For a detailed post on how to strengthen your self-worth, read this post which shares 10 ways to do just that.
Living a life free of comparison with the outside world becomes a habit after a conscious decision to make it so. A few simple ways to consciously start letting go of comparison in your personal and work life:
The work of letting go of comparison is a practice in making space for a life of deep contentment and fulfillment. It is a life that will resonate most strongly with you and may not make sense to others, but those who love you, with whom you have communicated powerfully, yet respectfully with along the way, will be there to share it with you and their lives with you. Free of comparison and full of celebration and appreciation.
~The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (book #1, 2017)
~The Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (book #2, 2020)
~Seven Kinds of People You Find in a Book Store by Shaun Bythell (November 10, 2020)
~Check out Shaun Bythell's YouTube channel (I've included one video below)
~Follow Shaun on Instagram after reading the books to continue enjoying the daily pondering from a Bookseller.
Download and Listen to the full episode here or listen on the following podcast platforms:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #286
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Sun, 16 August 2020
In three weeks the seventh season of The Simple Sophisticate will begin. With 285 episodes already shared, I am excited to explore new books, welcome guests that speak to what living simply luxuriously is all about and sharing motivating and inspiring ways to continue to live a life of quality over quantity.
I have shared the full calendar for Season 7 which spans the next 12 months. You will notice that 2021 has a handful fewer episodes than last season. The reason for this is to give me time to hopefully bring a second season of the cooking show during the spring season.
Keep in mind that every Monday that a new episode does not go live, a brand new Motivational Monday post will be available to read here on the blog, just as there is today.
I want to thank listeners again for sharing the show with their friends and family either by word-of-mouth or on their social media feeds, and for leaving positive reviews that share specifically what they enjoy about the show so that new potential listeners know exactly what they will discover when they tune in.
This September look for topics on building healthy relationships, listen to my conversation with a guest from the cooking world who has worked with the most well-known people in the industry, tips on how to make the most of this incredibly challenging time, and many more topics that are relevant and relatable as well as offering concrete ideas to apply to your own life journey.
Join me on Monday September 7th for a brand new episode wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe below in order to always have the latest episode ready to download and enjoy.
Catch up on all of episodes here, and below I have gathered up episodes from the previous six Septembers to help you kick-off the next season for however your life schedule will be changing as well as possible.
10 Simple, Significant Decor Ideas to Add Luxurious Touches to the Home, Part Une, episode #260 (season 6)
Trust the Transition: How to Step Through and Embrace the Change You Seek, episode #225 (season 5)
The Benefits of Having a Mission Statement & How to Create Your Own, episode #173 (season 4)
14 Ways to Get Back to Calm, episode #121 (season 3)
25 Must-Haves for the Efficient Office Desk, episode #60 (Season 2)
8 Pillars of Building a Simply Luxurious Life, episode #1
~Sponsors of this episode include:
~Beginning on October 1, 2020, a significant change and much anticipated improvements in engagement will be coming to TSLL blog. Only subscribers will be able to view more than five posts a month along with other exclusive content (Shannon's Home & Garden Tours, Giveaways, Saturday Ponderings, etc.). Learn all about TSLL’s Soft Paywall here.
Sun, 9 August 2020
Author and blogger and American living in Paris Lindsey Tramuta joins me on podcast today to talk about her new book The New Parisienne: The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris (purchase on Bookshop.org). Having called Paris home for nearly 15 years, Tramuta explores the true Parisienne woman, looking past the myth and confining superficial stereotype that has been perpetuated for centuries through introducing readers to 40 Parisiennes in all of their diverse life journeys and talents and passions.
Joining me from Paris, our conversation covers where the myth of the Parisienne woman began, who benefitted from it and how we can shift the narrative to reflect the truth. We also talk about her happy place in Paris, the difference between universal feminism vs. intersectional feminism and with diverse individual profiled, what they all have in common. I do hope you will tune in and have a listen.
Lindsey's first book The New Paris (2017) is another wonderful Francophile resource to keep on hand as an introduction to new people, places and ideas in the City of Light.
Download and Listen to the full episode here or listen on the following podcast platforms:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #285
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
~The TEDTalk mentioned during our conversation, The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Lindsey's Petit Plaisir links:
Images: (1) author pic courtesy of author, taken by Joann Pai
PREVIOUS POSTS from TSLL’s 5th Annual French Week
Sun, 19 July 2020
224: How to Welcome Simplicity Into Your Life: Live Differently for One Month (top episode from season 5)
Desired change in our lives can be seemingly elusive when so much of what needs to happen requires more energy, more time, more focus. With already full lives, the desired change remains just that - desired.
However, what if you set aside just one month. Why not for only one month institute the change you seek, and then should if it does not work out, you can return to your old ways? Part of this approach is a bit of a trick of the mind, but the other part is to reduce the stress on your schedule as you can shift your priorities temporarily and only permanently if you choose to at the month's end.
In today's episode, the top episode which kicked off Season #5 of the podcast, discover specific ideas for welcoming simplicity into your everyday life. You can view the full Show Notes for episode #224 here.
Mon, 13 July 2020
Today's episode is a top episode from Season 3 discussing how understanding what our signature style is and then owning it with confidence permeates all arenas of our lives.
Ultimately, what we wear matters. Without saying a word we communicate our values, our confidence, our expertise, where we've been, where we are and where we want to go (or stay).
I do hope you enjoy this full episode, and if you are looking for a new book to whisk you away to France, be sure to stay tuned until the end of the episode when the Petit Plaisir is shared.
View the full original Show Notes here.
View more episodes of The Simple Sophisticate podcast.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #142
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Mon, 22 June 2020
Building our signature style takes time. As well, it evolves. While some components - the best color tone for our skin, hair and eye color - may remain the same, the fit, the lengths, the necklines, as well as styles we discover and wish to welcome into our wardrobe will change.
Over the years, as you can see above, my dress length has gone from just above the knee to midi length being now my favorite go-to. While I do love wearing dresses, you are just as likely to see me in denim jeans and a button-up shirt, or a camisole and blazer with either heels or flats. Having options is wonderful, and cultivating our closets to offer these options takes time.
Thankfully, as we learn more about ourselves, the lifestyle we enjoy living (something that changes as well as the chapters of our lives continue to unfold) the decision-making becomes easier. All of this is to say, that while we may be shopping less often as what we have in our wardrobe is made well and lasts for many years, we also know when we come across something that will fit perfectly for our way of living and can snatch it up (if it is in our budget at the moment) without giving it much thought. The clarity of time and knowledge about ourselves is exceptionally helpful which is one component that will be discussed in today's episode.
Today's podcast episode is a top episode from Season One of The Simple Sophisticate which shares in detail the seven components to building your own signature style. My first book dives into this far more and my second book focuses with great detail on cultivating effortless style, so be sure to check those out if this topic piques your interest.
As promised, below are the linen dresses Ralph Lauren currently has available.
SHOP THE ITEMS HERE:
Images: (1) Danielle Fichera resort collection 2019; (2) & (3) DVF.
Sun, 14 June 2020
"Being in touch with [the essence] of ourselves as we make financial decisions is as good as it gets. Money is a store of life energy, and when we can channel that life energy into an expression of what is most dear to our soul, an exciting alignment takes place between our financial and spiritual lives . . . more than just having enough, our essence is deeply loving, contented, and grateful, not from any effort but as its most natural expression . . . In fact, when we are identified with that part of us that already has enough, that has arrived, that feels efficiency rather than scarcity, impulses of love and generosity arise naturally and without effort." —Brent Kessel, author of It's Not About the Money
Money can seem to be the fix for everything or the curse, but it need not be either, and can be in our control, largely when we shift how we approach our view and role of money in our life.
Today I would like to share with you key insights I discovered after reading Brent Kessel's book It's Not About the Money in which he dives into the unconscious emotional psychological nature money plays in our lives and how and why we make the decisions we make - for better or worse.
1.Understand how your emotions are related to your relationship with money
What is your Core Story when it comes to your relationship with money? When you understand this inner dialogue that is unconsciously being told and accepted, thus guiding your decisions when it comes to what you believe will make you happy, you begin to take control of your relationship with money and improve the quality of your life. Why? Because you are now living consciously, and your decision making improves as it aligns with your true essence as Brent Kessel describes - your true self, what will make you feel truly content, outside of what society has impressed upon you. Below are a couple of the questions to begin asking yourself to get to the truth of what your Core Story actually is:
While we need to live in the present to live well, understanding the past events of our lives and how they have scripted our thinking about money is vital. The Core Story is accepted Kessel writes because "whatever the content, with the unconscious hope that if we follow it, we'll be protected from feeling difficult or painful emotions."
Simply understanding what your Core Story is not going to improve your relationship with money. Rather, it is an ongoing job that begins with awareness, but then is followed up with "skill, intention, and perseverance to lessen the hold of our unconscious condition . . . we must keep working to identify and retain the healthiest parts of our story's message - [for example, the good saving habits, the on-time bill paying, etc.] - while at the same time letting go of the extreme and unhealthy behaviors and attitudes it has engendered in us."
2. Do the necessary work within to achieve the outer results you seek
"Though outer wealth rarely leads to inner wealth, inner wealth often does lead to outer wealth."
Kessel speaks of the Middle Way being the chosen path to take in order to have a healthy relationship with money and our understanding of wealth. In other words, "true freedom lies neither in self-indulgence nor in austere asceticism". When we choose to do the inner work that is necessary, it requires of each of us to use our mind, and think critically, which means that we must think well and not rely on defaults and habits that are unproductive to our goal of cultivating "healthy wealth".
I especially appreciated the author's sharing of his conversation with the Dalai Lama when he [the Dalai Lama] responded to the question about a method for happiness for Americans. "When there's too much stress or too much worry, look inward! Read more. Think. Trying to find the answer from outside yourself is nonsense! Think more." What thinking exactly though, are we talking about? Start with #1, understand your Core Story, deepen your awareness, and begin asking the "why"s - Why do you feel this decision would reduce your stress or increase your happiness? Why do you feel owning [fill in the blank what you are considering purchasing/paying for] will be a smart decision for you life? Why do you feel [insert negative emotion] when certain things in your life are happening? Why do you feel [insert positive emotion] when certain things are happening in your life? And continue asking and exploring - the four "W" questions are part of thinking well - Who, What, When, Where, Why.
"When we are caught in extreme thoughts, beliefs, and conditioning, we sow the seeds of financial discontent."
3. Become fluent in the language of the Wanting Mind
"The Wanting Mind continually takes us out of the present moment in its attempts to make us happy in some better tomorrow." —Brent Kessel
True contentment requires that we remain present in our daily lives. The Wanting Minds requires that we live in the future.
A clear conflict. If we are content, we are not wanting, and if we are wanting we cannot be content.
True freedom from "want" is knowledge of how it works. Whenever an impulse to buy anything arises, a croissant, a clothing item online, anything large or small, "look sincerely at the root of the behaviors your mind has always told you would make you happy". Social conditioning has been happening our entire lives and will not end, but when we are aware of the attempt to social condition, and become clear about whether it is helpful or hindering, we can respond rather than react to the impulses of wanting when they arrive, thus making the best decision in that moment to cultivate a healthy approach to wealth and our financial situation.
4. Trust your innate financial wisdom: financial planning and great investment advice is not enough
"When you are listening to your innate wisdom, you can feel a very deep part of you relax and let go. It will feel pleasing, calming and wholehearted. There will be an absence of pressure."
Kessel has readers in his book return to their 4-year-old self, such a young age that we don't have a clue what investing in the stock market is, what a pension is, compound interest, debt, etc. The reason he encourages readers to return to our young self is to try to discover or be reminded of our most true self. What is it that sincerely brings us joy? What delights us? Sparks our curiosity? Prompts us to lose all track of time?
Each of us will have our own answers, and even if, like me, you cannot fully remember what you thought at that age, you can remember where you were in your life - where you lived, with whom, etc. - and at least for me, I know how I felt. Whether I was secure or fearful? Was I completely oblivious to the world and didn't have a care in the world or was I full of anxiety? Thankfully, my memories are all positive and I am drawing from this insight to guide my money decisions and investment and savings moving forward more consciously.
To address the idea of seeking out a financial advisor. It is absolutely a worthwhile idea to find a financial advisor you trust as they are the experts in the business of the financial business sector. They can be our teacher to better understand how investing works and what our options are, but once you have that information and can ask more questions when they arise, you need to return to your innate voice. What would make you feel truly content? For myself, when I purchased my home, I didn't seek permission from my financial advisor at the time as to whether I should take certain funds and use them for my down payment. I just knew I could and did it. I knew what would bring me contentment. I knew what investments were worth it to me and the life I wanted to live, but I am grateful for her expertise so that I knew the financial rules/laws, etc..
5. Be still and just be
A common piece of advice when it comes to making a purchase that we are not sure about, or that is significant enough that it will change our lives in some way, is to wait or sleep on it for 24-hours. This is good advice, but Kessel suggests doing something additionally and possibly most importantly - examine why you are really wanting to make the purchase. Do you feel it will bring you freedom, more peace, less headaches? What are the overarching beliefs derived from your Core Story and/or societal conditioning that have taught you these beliefs? Do you fully accept them or does something within not feel settled?
In other words, again, respond rather than react. Think and be still, rather than blindly doing.
Money is a fundamental component of our lives whether we want it to be or not. It moves the world, lack of it can halt the world, but understanding our relationship to it and with it is what will elevate our personal world and thus improve the quality of our lives. Our minds need and can achieve peace of mind when it comes to money. After all, when our minds are relaxed and unstressed, they make better decisions, see things more clearly and think well. It is understanding the psychology and the emotional mentality that money provokes within us that will give us the driver's seat so that we can make the best decisions for the life we want to live.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
Money: How to Know If You Have Enough, episode #138
~Starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson
~Listen to the title track of the soundtrack - Love Myself, sung by Tracee Ellis Ross (purchase it here)
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #284
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Sun, 7 June 2020
"To embrace leisure, we don't have to let go of progress. [Our] constant pushing is now impeding our progress. We work best when we allow for flexibility in our habits . . . [w]e can and must stop treating ourselves like machines that can be driven and pumped and amped and hacked. Instead of limiting and constraining our essential natures, we can celebrate our humanness at work and in idleness. We can better understand our own natures and abilities. We can lean in not to our work but to our inherent gifts." —Celeste Headlee Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing , and Underliving
For the past 10 weeks I have had the good fortune to go to work with both of my dogs. Why? Because I have been working from home.
I am able to take them for a short walk about the neighborhood before I step into my office and remote classroom, then take a break around 10:30 am as we sit on the garden porch, soaking in some sunshine and thinking about what I might want to enjoy for lunch in a few hours time. Lunch is leisurely because I can cook it, savor it, not be rushed to eat it or interrupted and our afternoon outing after about 70-90 minutes of work after lunch is to the mailbox and about the neighborhood. Returning to the office if need be to tie up loose ends, check my work email one more time (I only check my school email three times a day), when the day concludes, I am not exhausted, but I do feel productive.
Admittedly, the scenario I shared above is due to an unwanted global occurrence, and I miss my in-person connections with my students and colleagues, but what I do not miss is the excessive expectation to always be checking my email, regularly being interrupted so that I lose my focus/students' focus and requirement for a long inflexible work day (meaning not healthy breaks, a constant expectation of being "on"), and being rewarded for giving more beyond the work day even if it reduces the quality of my home life and personal relationships.
I am not complaining directly about a system that surrounds so many of us, but trying to be honest about the reality of why I was quietly thankful to have the time at home these past 10 weeks to catch my breath. I did my best to examine why, and while the emotional toll for those of us fortunate enough not to have our health and livelihoods taken away was unhealthy and exhausting, overall, I found great refuge and restoration this spring whilst staying at home, finding a schedule that worked for me as I continued to remotely teach and blog and just be home.
I also found much more time to read books that have been patiently sitting in my shopping cart, and two books furthered my exploration into how exactly improve the working environment when we begin to step back into the workplace. I have a few ideas. Take a look below.
1.Understand the history of the current work culture
"We are investing our time and energy and hard-earned money in things we think will make us more efficient, but those things end up wasting our time, exhausting us, and stressing us out without bringing us closer to or our goals." —Celeste Headlee
Journalist and bestselling author Celeste Headlee reminds readers in her recent book Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing , and Underliving (Amazon; Bookshop) that "[o]ur working habits changed dramatically a little more than two centuries ago" (aka as the Industrial Revolution), and not largely for the better. In fact, humans came to be seen as being capable of producing regularly and steadfastly with minimal breaks much like a machine. Humans are not machines. Our ability to be productive and creative and resilient comes from adequate and regular and in equal measure amounts rest to that of the amount of time we work. No wonder we're exhausted.
2. Enable the mind to think well so you can respond compassionately
Often we are reacting instead of responding to situations in life that arise unexpectedly or unwantingly. At the time, we are not aware because either we have always behaved in such a way or because we do not know or have not been taught a better way. Dr. Sylvia Boorstein speaks about equanimity, and as it pertains to the mind, equanimity "is the capacity of the mind to hold a clear view of whatever is happening, both externally and internally, as well as the ability of the mind to accommodate passion without losing its balance. It's the mind that sees clearly, that meets experience with cordial intent. Becuase it remains steady, and thus unconfused, it is able to correctly asses the situations it meets."
How to become clear thinkers? We acknowledge we do not know everything, and we take a step back and ask helpful questions with a calm tone. We choose to educate ourselves seeking out experts in the field we wish to learn more about - whether in book, audio, video or conversation form. We become comfortable with not having a concrete and absolute response immediately or at all and acknowledging the gray in nearly every situation that presents itself. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, we rest the mind regularly and well. This includes good nights of sleep, regularly a slower pace in our schedules, days and weeks and a cultivation of environments that enable us to lower our stress levels and feel safe.
"And because we are humans and have empathy built into our brain structure, when we are touched by what we encounter — and when our minds are balanced — we respond with benevolence." —Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D., author of Happiness is an Inside Job (Amazon; Bookshop)
~Responding vs. Reacting: The Difference, episode #145
3. Let go of the busy mentality
When we reduce the constant go-go-go mentality, we give our lives breath, and figuratively speaking, we give our lives oxygen to live better and thus to improve the quality of our lives. Letting go of busy feeds a cycle of life improvement because as you are letting go of busy, you are improving your decision making skills, reducing the unnecessary stress and constantly cultivating the life you want to live rather than creating more problems, more headaches and less time to adequately address and handle them.
Interestingly enough, studies have shown that we may actually think we are busier than we actually are, but it is the delusion of busyness that is the cause for our mind to feel harried and thus our decision-making abilities to suffer. For example, if you feel pressed for time, this perception can lead you to making bad choices about how you spend your time. Conversely, if you feel you have time to spare, the study revealed people feel healthier and happier. So much of the quality of our lives rest in our minds. Harness the awesome tool of your mind, and you will improve your approach to living.
~Listen/Read episode/post #115 - The 8 Benefits of Banishing Busy
4. Quality productivity is not a result of excessive time given.
"If you silence your phone, close your inbox, and really focus on getting a report done, research shows you'll finish 40 percent faster, have fewer errors, and have plenty of time to take a short walk around the building and let your brain relax." — Celeste Headlee
Studies that were done decades ago have proven that more time does not equate to more output and certainly not a quality output. In 1951, researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology discovered that people who put in excessive hours were the least productive of all. The most productive were the workers who worked 2-5 hours a day, so 10-20 hours a week. Recently, in Sweden, a hospital attempted to improve the working conditions for the workers, reducing their hours to six hours a day, and no more than 30 hours a week. The hospital was prepared to hire extra workers to make up for the loss of productivity, but do you know what happened? As reported in The New York Times, "The unit [performed] 20 percent more operations, generating additional business from treatments . . . that would have gone to other hospitals." Quality over quantity and in this case it surpassed even that of the hopeful that it would simply be equitable in output.
5. Allow yourself to focus on a single task entirely and without disruption
Simply, turn off the notifications. If you work at a job that expects you to be constantly responding to emails broach the topic of productivity as studies have demonstrated if we cannot give ourselves fully to a task, we cannot do our best work. What this means for me at home is that I have been checking my school emails three times a day during the school day - when the school day begins, at noon and at the end of the day. If this will be a shift for those expecting to hear from you, perhaps send an automated response for the first month or two (or leave it in your footer) when people can expect to hear from you, how frequently you check your email, etc. so that they are not expecting an immediate response and should not worry when they do not receive one.
6. Invest in leisure
"Research shows employees who feel more detached from their jobs during their time at home are emotionally healthier and more satisfied with their lives. They're less likely to feel emotionally exhausted, and they report getting better sleep." —Celeste Headlee
Leisure time is separate from "free time" or "spare time" as Headlee defines it. Spare time is the time we find in between the work we do for our income. Leisure time is entirely separate from work. As she describes it, leisure time is "unpolluted" by work - no emails, no work calls, nor worrying about how your activity might impact your work life. Speaking for myself, while I and many other educators have been at home these past 10 weeks, it has not been leisure time during the work week. I am still, if I am not teaching online, checking my emails, responding to expectations, grading papers and aware of my actions during the school day, etc. My leisure time begins on the weekend, after the school day has ended each work day and will fully begin when our summer holiday starts later this week.
The mind behaves differently when we are on leisure time, and it is imperative that we regularly welcome it into our daily schedule. Each of us will do it differently during the work week and weekend, and perhaps even our holidays, but do make sure you have leisure time in your life to savor and enjoy. It will make a tremendous difference in the quality of your life.
7. Give your mind space to become clear
"Just take one breath and another and another, with as much attention in every way as you can. The confusion will sort itself out. Inclined in the right direction, the mind takes care of itself." —Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D.
The untrained mind can be a weapon of destruction to ourselves and others. A trained mind, one that is understood, that is strengthened to think well, critically examine and refrain from rash assumptions due to lack of emotional intelligent understanding is an artist's prized possession. However, it is a choice to become a student of our mind. Boorstein writes, "I do not think the mind needs lots of instruction, but I do think it needs to be encouraged and continually inspired." Feed your mind well. Be conscious of what is presented to it (limit social media, be aware of the news and how much you intake, observe how you feel around certain people, the books you read, the videos, shows and television you watch). Choose to feed it with what you are curious about. Delight in learning something new and do not feel guilty for not knowing what the zeitgeist believes is most popular or most noteworthy of the moment. Give your mind space to have clarity, and when it has clarity regularly, it will be your best friend.
~How to be the Master of Your Mind, episode #20
So how can we institute these needed changes if research has repeatedly demonstrated the need to observe that we are human beings, not machines? We need leaders who are well-educated with the resources that demonstrates convincingly that the quality of work will not diminish and likely will increase when we see our employees as human beings. Yes, it is a culture shift, and it will take time, but it takes courage and strong, patient leadership to clearly communicate the benefit to the worker first, knowing that the company, the department, the school, our futures, will be all the better. And even if you are not in a position of leadership at the moment, communication with your leadership body, build a consensus amongst your co-workers. Schedules and approaches change with data, trusted experts and informing the public as well as those it will directly effect, as well as indirectly.
If nothing else, you can start at home and setting boundaries on your work and home life. Cultivate leisure time, practice the strengthening of your mind and begin to see your being settle, relax and enjoy your daily life far more.
~purchase in the states from Chelsea Market Baskets, NY
~purchase in the UK directly from Shortbread House of Edinburgh
Learn more about the history of shortbread below in a short video about the Shortbread House of Edinburgh company.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #283
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Sun, 31 May 2020
Today on the podcast, fellow podcaster Oliver Gee of The Earful Tower joins me to talk about his newly released memoir Paris On Air (shop here on Bookshop.org) as well as living in Paris during France's 59 days of confinement. I had the opportunity to speak with him the day after the lockdown regulations were loosened, and he shared what his and his wife Lina's experience had been and what the first thing they did was on May 11th.
The primary focus of our discussion is his new book. Tune in to our conversation to discover the behind-the-scenes of how his acclaimed podcast (recently recommended in The New York Times for the top 13 podcasts to listen to for traveling abroad while staying at home) came about, evolved and, in a short amount of time, became his full-time and one and only job in the City of Light. As well, if you enjoy listening to your books, Oliver explains how his book is a unique Audio Experience that welcomes the people he writes about in his book into the studio to share their voice for their part.
Follow Oliver on Instagram (@theearfultower), and visit his blog here (learn more about his virtual book tour as well).
~Listen to my first interview with Oliver, episode #222 in August 2018.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #282
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Mon, 25 May 2020
Today's episode is a favorite from Season 1 of The Simple Sophisticate.
Episode #45 was the sixth top episode of the first season and continues to be a favorite with listeners as it shares 10 Ways to Set Up Your Home Like A Luxury Travel Accommodation.
In the times we find ourselves, I thought this might be just the episode to return to as we are still spending more time at home that we had anticipated especially as summer nears. Cultivating a sanctuary that beckons us to linger and we long to return to and spend ample time in has much to do with the details. And the details, the luxurious details, need not be all that difficult to acquire and welcome into our home.
I do hope you enjoy today's episode, and look for a new episode next Monday and for the month of June.
Click here for the detailed Show Notes of the original episode and listen to the audio version above.
~The above image is Chateau de la Barre located in the Loire Valley where I had the opportunity to stay three nights in the summer of 2018. Read this post—A Traveler or Tourist? The Difference —to see many more pictures of the interiors and the grounds, as well, have a look below at more images I shared on Instagram.
Sun, 17 May 2020
British country homes evoke an image of comfort, cosyness and warmth. Partly, yes, because such warmth is mandatory living in a rainy environment, but also because they look and feel like such a welcome inside hug which is given immediately when the quintessential details are tended to.
Granted the above image is not an actual cottage as it was the set designed for Nancy Meyers' film The Holiday, filmed in part in Surrey. However, I chose the above image because when we design our homes to evoke the English country charm, Meyers achieved so much of it spot-on right. From the tufted ottoman, to the ottoman itself as the coffee table of choice, mixed prints, oodles of books and exposed beams, these details, as you will see in the list below resounding remind onlookers of English country style, and in this case a cottage.
In my own home I have been perusing frequently through The English Home magazines I have saved over the years, saving images that speak to me, images that offer a similar size or design of space and offer ideas for how to create an English cottage aesthetic.
I have begun to embrace wholeheartedly #1 on today's list in both my mudroom and foyer, and I look forward to welcoming even more wallpaper into my home. Hopefully if you too are wanting to welcome decor touches of the English countryside into you home, today's list will offer plenty of ideas to choose from.
~For each of the images shared below, simply click on the image to tour the entire home from which it was included.
William Morris is the founder of the Arts & Crafts decor movement, and with his well-known wallpaper company which began in the 1860s in England, a love for nature as well as symmetry and subtly as well as vibrant natural color are an example of beloved English wallpaper designs. There are many more of course, but wallpaper creates a cosy space, a welcoming, more personalized space.
~Want to wallpaper in your home? Read this post for detailed how-tos to a successful decorating session.~Tour the entire Oxfordshire Arts & Crafts Townhouse: A Way with Wallpaper here.~
2. Wood accents
As a way to welcome nature into the formal living space, wood furniture, wood legs on upholstered furniture and regal cabinetry and shelves offer the balance of hard and soft surfaces.~An Englishman's Brooklyn Townhouse, decorated by interior designer Benjamin Vandiver. View the entire home here. ~
3. A penchant for garden and animal details
While English country homes will undoubtedly have a garden outside their doors, bringing an appreciation for nature inside will be more than common as well. Whether seen in the wallpaper with floral or animal prints, vases full of blooms, potted plants inside or a demonstrated affection for dogs in figurines or any other decor detail, the love of the outdoors is certainly a common presence.~British interior designer Imogen Taylor's Burgundy home to which she retired. Tour the entire home here.~
4. The classic pudding sofa
Soft, plush, deep-seated and begging you to sit and stay a while. While the name may or may not have been coined by British furniture designer Loaf, the concept is iconically British - cosy, cosy, cosy.
5. Pleat, folded, rolled, padded upholstered arms
As you can see above, rolled arms on either an upholstered sofa or armchair that have gradual pleats pulled neatly over the rounded design intonate British furniture. Almost as if to signify a warm hug, such furniture provides literal warmth when you snuggle in as many days of the year are damp and cold, stepping inside a home that is cosy is all the more desireable.~Tour the entire home in Cozying into Country Durham, English Style Abounds!~
6. Fabric covered lamp shades
Again, adding fabric to any space creates warmth, and especially in intimate spaces - bedrooms, reading nooks - the subtle, yet significant detail of fabric shades is an idea worth trying. Prints or solids, especially if the fabric is of high quality, purchasing such fabric is far more affordable for a lampshade than an entire sofa or chair.~Tour the entire home above in Tightly Tailored and Filled with ANtiques in Hampshire here.
7. Seagrass floors
British designer Ben Pentreath swears by seagrass, and if you have the opportunity to tour any of his projects, you will see they look quite nice. Adding a touch of nature, high functionality and wearability, they also, as he states, offer a lovely subtle scent. Layer with a a wool rug and you have created a warm space without excessive expense.~View the entire home shown above in Signature Statement of Varying Chairs~
8. Ottomans as coffee tables
While there are exceptions, in the country, an ottoman is more often than not likely to be at the center of a living room or sitting room rather than a wooden table. Use as a coffee table and place trays and books, as well as always have an additional extra seat if ever necessary.~Tour an Oxfordshire Farmhouse Regally Remodeled, with Comfort Made a Priority here.~
9. Traditional period details
While the items may or may not be old, they are a decision to pay homage to a particular period in history. Vintage chandeliers, exposed beams in the ceiling, wainscoting and wood floors are savored. Traditional lamps and the welcome of candles are chosen over canned or recessed lighting.
~tour the entire Cornish Country Getaway with Touches of the Sea here.~
10. An Aga stove
Used as much to heat up the home as to cook, the Aga stove is very much a luxury item now (and yes, it is available in the states), but in nearly every interview in The English Home magazine, when they share spotlight interviews, the one detail each guests shares a English Home mustn' be without is an Aga. Just Aga. :)~Tour this entire home, titled Let the Lighting Do the Talking here. ~
11. A mudroom is a must
Having grown up with a mudroom as we lived out in the country, the need for such a room is a must. Whether you are gardener, have pups, ride horses or generally find yourself outside often, having a space that is designated to taking off the "gear" and not bringing the dirt into the rest of the home is a typical space found in an English country home.~Tour TSLL's newly decorated mudroom here.
12. A cabinet or designated shelf for teapots and cups and saucers~Tour the entire home in Country Durham here. ~
13. Color abounds (and it works)
It is indeed a skill, but with time and experience and an understanding of hues and the size of patterns, it is a skill each of us can acquire.~Tour A Cozy, Signature Bloomsbury Flat here~
14. Mixing small and large prints in the same space
The Spruce shares, "Large prints will be paired with smaller prints, such as gingham. Using similar color palettes in the patterns keep this from becoming overwhelming. "~tour the entire home in A Small Yet Elegant London Flat~
15. An abundance of reading material
Bibliophiles may just have a predilection for English country decor if not solely for their love, display and admiration of books. In so many of the photos of today's post/episode you will see books, and that is not by mistake or exception.
~Tour this entire Bibliophile's Dream House here.~
16. Built-in bookshelves
And since we are talking about books, the English country homes are designed with storing books in mind. Built-ins are part of the decor and not only in the library or living room. Notice in bedrooms and even in kitchens, there are spaces for books.~tour the entire home here in Finding Balance with Colors & Natural Textures in North Kensington~
For warmth, to cover old floors or stone floors, layers of rugs on seagrass, rugs are a mainstay and frequently seen in English country homes.~Tour the entire home in A Welcoming Home in Wiltshire, England~
18. Climbing roses or vines on the exterior of the home.
While this final decor detail is outside of the home, it is still attached to the home, so I thought I would include it. Stepping into an English garden is an entire new post/episode, but yes, a vine of some sort whether it be a rambling rose or wisteria or clematis, is a must for English country homes.
Personally, I am smitten and have been smitten for some time with the English country decor approach. Creating a cosy, welcoming home for the inhabitants and any guest who is invited inside rests in paying attention to the details shared above - texture, layers, welcoming in touches of nature, not being afraid to mix up and discover what actually can match and creating spaces for everyday pastimes you love.
Enjoy the journey of adding English country touches to your own home wherever around the globe you call home.
~View all of TSLL's British-Inspired Decor posts here.
~The English Game, Netflix
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #281
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
2020 TSLL British Week Posts
Sun, 10 May 2020
Today's episode of the podcast is the top downloaded and viewed episode from Season 5 of The Simple Sophisticate podcast, and it's one I think you will enjoy whether you are hearing/reading it for the first time or the second or third time.
Full of oodles of life and style tips from Parisian women inspired by a book read in 2018, it also melds my experiences and observances from my travels and conversations and engagements with women in France.
Have a look at the detailed Show Notes from the original airing of the episode in November 2018.
As shared in today's episode, TSLL's 2nd Annual British Week will begin in six short days - Sunday May 17th. I cannot wait to share with you what I have come up with for the postings (two each day) and the giveaways (four in total).
During the intro of today's episode of the podcast, I shared how the giveaways will work. Two giveaways will be open to EVERYBODY and Two giveaways will be exclusive: One to Ad-Free Subscribers and One to TSLL's Weekly Newsletter Subscribers (those who have subscribed prior to British Week commencing this year).
If you are wondering what TSLL's Annual British Week is all about, I encourage you to check out last year's inaugural event. (click on the image below, or just click here.)
SUBSCRIBE to The Simple Sophisticate podcast:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #232
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Sun, 19 April 2020
Today's episode is a favorite of listeners from the third season of the show. As we all spending more time inside, I thought listeners may enjoy some inspiration for making their time in our slower schedule more enjoyable and comforting.
SUBSCRIBE to the Podcast on your favorite podcast listening platform:
Sun, 5 April 2020
Today's episode is a favorite from the archives to help you jump well into the new spring season.
The next episode will be a new episode of the podcast, and it will air on Monday May 18th as we kick off TSLL's 2nd Annual British Week.
In the meantime, each Monday in which there is no new episode of the podcast, there will be a new Monday Motivational post. Click here to read today's new Monday Motivational Post - 20 Ideas for Making Working and Staying at Home a Pleasure
Check out the schedule for Season 6 below. The date of each new episode and when it will air is circled in red.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #29
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Sun, 15 March 2020
"You would think weightlessness is a good thing, but it's not. Because people weren't meant to float. Without gravity, we lose blood volume, bone density, muscle. Without it, we're untethered. So when you feel yourself being pulled toward something, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It may keep you centered. It may keep you safe." —Grey's Anatomy, season 16, episode #17, Shonda Rhimes
Thoughts, thoughts, all sorts of thoughts. With an abundance of time on our hands as we stay home, if we have not exercised our brains in this way, it may feel uncomfortable, and in these times we find ourselves collectively, understandably unsettling.
The above quote caught my attention this past week as it feels our attentions are being being pulled toward the necessities of life, what we sincerely need to simply live. Don't get me wrong, the past eleven years, economically, have been much needed and appreciated, and while each of our journey's is unique, perhaps we've forgotten what we truly need, what others truly need, to live well. At the moment, we are all being pulled to our homes, to our sanctuaries, to our immediate families with whom we reside with but perhaps never see often because of our busy schedules. Admittedly, some of our loved ones may be far away due to age, relationships, work, etc., but we at least have the phone, video chat and other technological ways of communicating.
Becoming grounded in what roots us, is what reminds us of what truly is a priority in our life, helps us to make better decisions to remain true to those values when the choices are vast. And sometimes when the choices are so vast and so ubiquitous for such a long time, we would only be being human to lose sight of our roots. I am not suggesting that we need to have a pandemic to root us, but that is where we find ourselves, so I am determined to see some good in this perilous situation.
There will be good that will come out of it when we come out of it on the other side, but as well, there is good we can partake in during this time of staying home.
Today, while I had originally planned a different topic for the episode to be shared, I have decided to focus on something that will hopefully be helpful to direct our attention to, to elevate the time we have indoors, wanted or unwanted. The gift and mood lifting power of daily and weekly rituals.
Under the umbrella of daily and weekly rituals lies our daily and weekly routines. Consciously creating routines in which we know boost the quality of our lives from our health, to our rest and rejuvenation to our productivity are ways to rest more easily which benefits our mind and well-being and decreases our stress. Each of these efforts strengths our immune system and ultimately strengthens our overall health, both physically and mentally.
Today I would like to share with you rituals you can incorporate into your daily and weekly routine even while you stay home.
1.Wake up well
Design a morning routine in which regardless of whether you are heading out the door (when our routines get back to normal) or staying home, you want to get out of bed and partake in. In episode #243 I share 12 Ways to Make Your Mornings Magical, Mindful and the Foundation of a Great Day.
2. Create a daily routine you love
As I shared with my students what would be expected of them while we stepped into our extended break (Oregon has announced they will be closing all schools through the entire month of March.), one student immediately decided she would find a favorite place she enjoyed being, give herself this window during her day to complete her schoolwork and then be done. I was so tickled to hear such thoughtful and conscientious attention to both her academics, but also her well-being by compartmentalizing and stepping away from work so she could relax and just be.
All of us, whether at home, and especially now that we are home, would benefit from creating a schedule in our day for productivity, but also meals, rest and exercise. Knowing we have accomplished something will let us rest more easily and make it easier to sleep at night. As well, we will be giving our bodies and mind a healthy balance to remain strong.
3. An afternoon brain break
Whether you enjoy an afternoon tea or an afternoon nap or an afternoon outside exercising, create a ritual that will be something you look forward to as you make your way through your day. If you are like me, and live alone, this may be a good time to call loved ones to check in. If you live with others, it may be a great time to be together if you are busy doing your own thing throughout the day. Either way, make a point of intentionally not doing work, but rather something relaxing and enjoyable. Something that elevates the everyday even more so that each day you look forward to such moments.
4. Welcome the flowers
I shared on Instagram yesterday (see below) how one of the items on my grocery list this weekend (I went early and wore gloves as well as washed my hands before and after) was to welcome a few bouquets of flowers into my home. Recent researched has shared that having fresh flowers can "lower blood pressure and heart rate, lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue, and more positive feelings and higher satisfaction [about one's home]". So while, we need to stay home as much as possible, if possible keeping in my sanitation requirements, welcome some flowers into your home and perhaps bring a bouquet for your neighbor and leave them on their doorstep with a note. You may help their health more than you realize.
5. What to listen to? What brings you joy.
Create a listening ritual that carries you through your day. From the classical music I wake up to on WRTI with host Gregg Whiteside and Breakfast with Bach at 5am to the jazz in the evenings from my Spotify playlist, as well as podcasts about food and France enjoyed while I walk the dogs along the river, around the neighborhood or through the trees, what we turn on melodically has a tremendously powerful effect over our well-being. Choose what you love and let it elevate your days.
Music I listen to:
Podcasts I have been loving recently:
6. Fitness Habits That Energize
The key to sustainable exercise routines is to keep them seemingly small, yet consistent and intentional. As I shared in the first episode of 2020 on the podcast, #272, 8 Ways Tiny Habits Will Welcome the Great Changes You Seek, tiny habits have a powerful way of instituting the change we desire. Why? Because they are more likely to stick, and truly become habituated into our daily routine.
From waking up and doing one set of sit-ups (by the end of the week you will have done five sets!), to meditating for one minute each morning, to sipping a glass of water upon waking up in the morning, when you choose thoughtfully the habits you want in your life, reduce them down to seemingly so small, there is no reason not do the task, and before you know it, as you see the positive change, you won't want to reduce your effort and may even want to increase it.
So as we find ourselves with more time at home and being unlikely to attend our favorite fitness class or gym, find exercise habits at home that will fulfill the exercise routine you need, but in a way that you enjoy. I am shifting my weekly yoga classes to a YouTube yoga instructor for the time being (but I cannot wait to return to the yoga studio), and my walks will be where I can keep my social distance at a healthy length from others, for their sake as well as mine.
7. Create an evening ritual for winding down before going to bed
Something I look forward to every day, weekday or weekend, is my evening routine. After the work on the blog has been completed, after dinner has been made and savored, it is this hour or two before I drift off to sleep that is priceless. My dogs as well have become accustomed to our routine and even though they do not know the time of day we humans live by, they know when bedtime is near.
From calming down the house, dishes washed, kitchen cleaned, work put away, to lighting a candle in the living room, turning on a pre-taped show or picking up a book or magazine I want to slip away to for a while, these simple activities tell my mind it is safe to rest, to relax, to be done for the day. All the while sipping some tea and nibbling on a piece of chocolate truffle, the ultimate signal to my body and brain that the day is done.
8. Be Conscientious About Your Daily News Intake
Going along with #5, what media we choose to be part of our daily routines has a profound effect on our mental health. I shared and encouraged my students to limit their news intake as it can easily overwhelm us. I did not suggest sticking their head in the sand and ignoring the news, but rather choose one or two times a day in which you check in with a credible news source, and then go about your day.
9. Work space set-up
Cultivate a welcoming work space whether it is temporary or where you work on a normal workday. Provide a clean work desk (check out this post - 10 Ways to Make Your Desk Space Efficient and Inspiring), welcome the natural light, reduce unhelpful distractions and decorate or rearrange in such a way to beckon you to work well.
10. Befriend water
Choose to bring and drink water with you throughout the day. Staying hydrated has oodles of benefits, but on the immunity side of things, it will help rid your body of toxins. Even if I am enjoying my regular cup of tea in the morning, afternoon or evening, I regularly will have a glass of water as well or have my Hydroflask full of water if I am out walking (it is in my car for when I return). Cultivating this habit will satiate your appetite, refresh your body and elevate many arenas of your life that we take for granted.
11. Turn your ideas into gold
Yes, William Shakespeare may have written King Lear during his quarantine tenure in the 16th century, and while we may not produce such masterpieces, we can use this time let our creative ideas run free so that we have time to see what they want to reveal. Keep a notebook or small journal handy and write down what pops into your mind. You may be able to tend to the idea now or it may be an idea you can implement later, but either way, it will be a positive exercise to focus on positive, hopeful, inspired things. Our mind is a muscle, and it finds the tracks we repeat again and again. So practice thinking in such a way that lifts you up, gets you excited and who knows where your creative thoughts will take you.
As for me, I am planning TSLL's upcoming British Week (the third full week in May), pulling together April 1st's TSLL's Spring Shopping Guide and whatever else wishes to reveal itself to me. :) Excited to see what I will discover. Have fun!
12. Incorporate regular self-care and model it for others in your life
That hot bath you used to take infrequently, but love and look forward to deeply . . . take it regularly, every week, every other day, but make it a ritual you look forward as well as savor when you slip into the hot bubble bath of comfort. Last year, I shared 31 Ways to Practice Self-Care, episode #242, and as I shared in this episode, while the bubble baths and other pleasures are certainly part of this regular self-care routine, self-care needs to go deeper. When self-care goes deeper, it has even more powerful and long-lasting positive effects on our life. Be sure to check out the show notes and/or episode for much more information on this topic.
The current situation in which we find ourselves is unprecedented in our times, but it has the potential to reveal a tremendous amount about our strengths, compassion and ability to rise in ways we may not have known we were capable. I am confident that while the unknown has the potential to paralyze, it can also teach us an abundance about ourselves, those around us, the world and then reveal to us what we should truly be focused on for a better world moving forward.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
34 Inspiring Daily Rituals to Ignite Your Creativity, episode #255
~Begin to cultivate a candle cupboard/closet.
I first learned of this idea from Queer Eye's Tan France when during his tour of his home for Architectural Digest he opened up a small closet (I would call it a cupboard) and shared his stocked candles. Now, mind you, my current Candle Cupboard has two candles in it waiting to be enjoyed, but as I come across candles that I love, if they are on sale, I purchase one or two more than I normally would. I don't expect my Candle Cupboard to ever be as full as Tan's, but I love this idea as a Petit Plaisir.
My Candle Cupboard is only barely stocked, but I love this idea and will continue to add to it as my budget and sales and treasures are found. Thank you Tan for sharing this wonderful idea!
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #280
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Sun, 8 March 2020
True contentedness is unremarkable to the outside world, or passerby.
Typing away in my cozy chair in the living room in my line of sight Norman eats his breakfast and Oscar acknowledging he will not be able to sneak a bite, takes a long cool drink of water. The croissant for my Sunday morning ritual is proofing in the oven and Sunday Baroque's weekly program fills my home.
Even having lost an hour of the day, I have decided to wake up with the sunset and use the dawn-filled hour to work early before we are able to go for our morning stroll in the woods. All is well, and so much surrounds me for which to be grateful.
I began the morning reading Maria Shriver's weekly email newsletter, and in particular this morning's letter resonated with me, and most likely would you as well as a reader of TSLL. I've included an excerpt below as she describes a moment in which she felt, albeit unexpectedly, truly and sincerely content.
"Over the last few years, I’ve settled into myself. I’ve focused more on my blessings and what I’m doing well rather than my shortcomings and what needs to be adjusted (something I highly recommend). As a result, everything in my mind has calmed down, and therefore my body has calmed down, too. Today, my life finally feels centered, grounded, and solid. I feel like I’ve found my space and my place.
It was one of those profoundly simple, yet headshaking, moments of self-realization that no one ever really talks about. Sure, there are still things in life that give me anxiety (the coronavirus, the election, and Mother Nature as our neighbors in Nashville know all too well). But, through it all, I’ve been able to find my inner fortitude and soothe myself, something I’ve struggled with my entire life.
The truth is I never expected that the peace, joy or success that I chased my whole life would come to me when I was sitting alone, drinking coffee on my porch. I thought I was supposed to find that while giving speeches, accepting awards, and galvanizing change. That’s what our culture teaches us. It’s what infused into our beings at a very young age."
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that on this International Women’s Day, I’m a woman on my own path. I’m living my one wild, precious, joyful and meaningful life. In the end, my friends, that’s what galvanizes true change. Watching, witnessing and being in community with people who are following their authentic paths is what changes the world one breath at a time. I thought of that every time I washed my hands this week and it made me smile.
So, follow your heart personally, professionally, and politically. Because, when you do, you will discover the feeling I felt the other morning. You will find yourself saying to no one in particular, “Wow, I’m good just the way I am.” —Maria Shriver in her 3/8/2020 letter from the editor of The Sunday Paper newsletter
I realize the excerpt above was long, but hopefully, as it did me, it reassured as to what living well truly is. It's simple and intentional. It's internal and individual. It is purpose driven and intangible. It is also experiential and tactile. It requires of us to be present to be engaged with our world acknowledging much needs us to let go, but so too must we stay involved and aware. It is the daily practice of elevating our daily life by how we walk and open our eyes and minds to all that is around us and that is possible.
Each year when my birthday rolls around, here on the blog, I share a reflection of some sort of life lessons, aha moments and discoveries about the world found along my journey. To share, as well, admittedly, as a way to preserve my own growth, my hope is to prompt introspection amongst readers as sometimes, maybe even often, we do not realize all ways in which we have grown as it can sometimes be hard to see when we are the ones walking through the world each day.
I have yet to share my life lessons for my 41st birthday which fell during the final week of February, so I wanted to take today's episode/post to reflect.
1.Dreams, hopes, wishes can indeed materialize so long as we never let them go, we keep making small, yet steady progress, and keep refusing to not believe it can happen.
2. Clear, respectful, honest communication is to be treasured and a necessary ingredient for healthy relationship of all types.
4. Giving yourself closure on the past is healthy and necessary for being able to fully move forward. Your closure need not make sense to anyone else but yourself, but give yourself this gift of freedom.
5. Some friends, family and/or colleagues may not be able to travel with you into your next life chapter as you choose to grow and evolve or your life simply asks of you to travel a different way or in a different way. Letting go need not be dramatic or radical or even known, but rather a natural going about life's path perhaps to meet again at some other time or maybe not. And that is okay and healthy as it shows awareness of the social support that you need to be well.
6. Give yourself permission to be excited about your life journey, your everyday moments and just be giddy. Let your endorphins soar naturally and see your daily life experience improve as well.
7. Say yes to opportunities that cross your path but out of schedule with when you had hoped they might arrive. My trip to Paris and Normandy was not expected nor planned. In fact, I had told myself I would take at least a year off before returning to Paris since my trip in 2018; however, when an invitation arrived to return in 2019, I had to say yes, and all that I learned, experienced, savored and learned some more was more than evidence that I made the right decision.
8. Less truly can bring more into your life. The unexpected discovery of my now home and sanctuary which is half the size of the home I owned previously is precisely what I instinctively knew I needed to live well. Less to decorate, but what I choose can be investments that will last. Less to clean, so I have more time to explore and create on the weekends, a perfectly medium size yard and petite garden, but exactly what I enjoy to have Mother Nature at my fingertips without a requirement of more time than I can give.
9. Mother Nature, moving my feet in Mother Nature, is my creative muse and her gifts are priceless. While I walk nearly everyday outside on the trails in Bend or near the river that runs through Bend, even walking in San Francisco when I needed to get outside, I did so and saw the famed parrots of the Telescope Hill, and oh what a delight. Inspiration is everywhere when we step out into the fresh air.
10. My dogs have been for the past 15 years and are my companions in this journey of my life as they let me be "Shannon", provide company as well as freedom, yet keep me grounded as well. Savoring every moment with my two elder gentlemen.
11. Cooking, creating in the kitchen, is to play and forever be learning and savoring everyday moments.
12. Love really does live on inside you even after someone dearly loved passes away.
13. Host that dinner party you've been wanting to have. You may just bring beautiful moments and new connections to your guests that they will appreciate more than you will ever know. (read: 10 Ideas Gleaned & Confirmed from my Last Dinner Party, and be sure to check out my first book for details and a menus for hosting a successful gathering.)
14. Traveling with my mom created memories of getting to know each other as where we are now in our lives and wonderful shared experiences that I will never forget. Check out our trip to San Francisco. We also had the opportunity to go to Oregon's Garden which exceeded my expectations and opened my eyes even further to my mom's love and knowledge of "green-thumb" life.
15. Continue to follow your heart, its inklings, its tugs, its curiosities, and you will never be led astray. Even when it doesn't make sense to you, even when you do not have a model to forge the path before you traverse it, your insurance is that it is your heart leading the way. I am reminded of Julia Child's quote which she expressed on the penultimate and onto the final page of her memoir My Life in France.
"In Paris in the 1950s, I had the supreme good fortune to study with a remarkably able group of chefs. From them I learned why good French food is an art, and why it makes such sublime eating: nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should. Good results require that one take time and care. If one doesn't use the freshest ingredients or read the whole recipe before starting, and if one rushes through the cooking, the result will be an inferior taste and texture . . . But a careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life-changing experience." —Julia Child
While Julia is directly speaking of her experience in the culinary world of Paris, she indirectly and perhaps most significantly speaks to how to live life well. Invest, have patience, do your homework, and trust the co-mingling of those who know more than you about topics which you love as well as your own passions and curiosities. Beautiful art, the art of life, your life, can materialize in its own time and in its own unique way.
May this birthday year offer insightful and inspired life lessons that elevate the quality of your everyday life even more and bring you all the more contentment, true contentment that you desire.
~A Year in Flowers: Designing Gorgeous Arrangements for Every Season by Erin Benzakein
Sun, 1 March 2020
At the core of a happy home is a home that works for those individuals the four walls surround and keep sheltered and safe. Once the essentials are in place - a roof over our heads, walls to keep us warm/cool, then it is the inhabitants' responsibility to cultivate a sanctuary in which each person feels they belong and loved for being their true selves or having the space to understand who they are as they grow and evolve. Whether you share your home or not, both require clarity and willingness to be honest about the needs to live your best life and if you live with others to enable them to do the same without short-changing yourself or compromising too much.
If these steps sound familiar, you are right. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs builds on top of each of the necessities shared above. First we must have our phyiological needs met, then a feeling of safety before we can find belonging and feel and recognize love. Following the third step, once we have a home to feel free to just be, our stress levels drop, our health improves and strengthens and we find we think more clearly and thus make better decisions which leads to the opportunity to strive and try new things giving a boost to our confidence along our journey which builds the fourth tier - our self-esteem opening the pathway for us to have the choice to become self-actualized, the fifth and final tier.
Interior designer and author Rebecca West's new book Happy Starts at Home, which was just released in the states last month, takes the approach to decor that it is far more than the aesthetics, but rather thoughtful decor decisions that marry function with and supporting each person reach their goals which includes feeling welcomed and at peace in the present.
"The truth is your home can directly improve your well-being and contentment. It can help decreease your stress level and increase your happiness." —Rebecca West
What I was drawn to with West's book is her underlying definition of happiness is contentment which is something we talk about often here on TSLL. Contentment is something that has the capability of being steady day-in and day-out regardless of the events of our days - good, bad or just blah. In fact, when you are content, you rarely have blah days at all and when you do have bad days, you can confidently move through them and the good days are elevated even higher. How awesome is that!
While we must build contentment within ourselves, our homes play a critical part in supporting this contented state of going about our lives. And in even better news, our home decor need not break our budget. Just as it takes time to get to know ourselves, depending upon where we are in our life journey when we begin to cultivate our sanctuary, it will take time to understand how we live well, and what is needed to enable our best life to be enjoyed everyday.
Today I'd like to share with you the takeaways from Rebecca West's book that caught my attention as I am in the middle of customizing my home and making sure it works for me.
1.Understand "who" your home is and who it can be for you
As I mentioned in this post (#3), I have named my home, and I highly recommend you do as well. I think of how Paul and Julia Child named their home in Provence Le Pitchoune (translated The Little One), aka La Peetch. Naming our homes gives them a character, reminds of what our home means to us and signifies our appreciation and perhaps our vow to care for it as we are aware of how it cares for us.
If your home is not reflecting its full potential, not living up to its name so-to-speak, then let such a realization be motivation to give the home the care it needs to be the "who" you know it can be and need it to be as well.
2. Be clear about how your home needs to support your lifestyle
Begin with the more abstract concept such as supportive, strengthening, joyful and then examine how your home can enable you to feel these feelings. If your home is not supporting those feelings, examine closely why it isn't and go about creating the change you need.
3. Understand the priorities of your home
In other words, what lifestyle do you not only sincerely have to live, but also want to live? How can your home facilitate your needs and support you on your journey toward your goals? Do you need your own office space and right now only write on the kitchen table? Do you need more light, less light, lighter fabrics in hue and/or weight? Do you need furniture that is comfortable that asks you to relax and unwind? Is your kitchen organized and functional so you can easily step into it and make what you need easily?
Let's back step just a bit first because our answers to the above questions come after we know who we are and where we want to go and what are priorities are. Once we know the answers to these essential questions, the questions regarding our home, are far easier.
4. Make a habit of editing what comes into your home
As I have shared in previous posts, having a mood board is helpful to clarify and direct your purchases and decor aesthetic decisions. A mood board will also help when it comes to know what you need and what would work best in your home and being able to say no to otherwise beautiful items that would have found their way into your home, but they just are not needed or fit well.
Once you have decorated your home to support your contented life, become ardent about your shopping excursions, gifts that are received and get into a regular habit of letting go, consigning, selling for resale at used books/furniture shops what no longer serves you. You "have a say in what surrounds you", and when you feel as though you are the director of your home and decor, you can feel more confident in your life decisions as well because your home doesn't become overwhelmed and remains true to its purpose.
5. Examine the fear you have when it comes to letting stuff go
West examines the emotional attachment we have with material items well, as it often is a fear that we will not be able to fill the hole it may feel it is leaving. However, she argues that in fact, it is opening up space for something more in alignment with who we are and are becoming.
"When you take a leap and start letting things go from your home, you'll open the door to trust and opportunity."
6. Keep what brings you joy
However, make sure you are not keeping what brings you joy in a box tucked away in the garage. In other words, if you are not honoring it, if you are not letting it bring you joy in your daily life, does it really bring you joy, or are you just afraid to let it go? A self-examination, an honest self-examination, will help you answer this question.
7. Extend gratitude to your home
Whether you rent or own, your house is your dream house or not, extend gratitude to it for the good that it provides - at the very least, shelter and safety. One of the joys and things I am extremely grateful for in my home is that my key turns in the front door without snagging. As well, with an attached garage, my dogs are safer as we can move from the car to the house without having to worry about them seeing something to chase or say hello to. These simple changes are things I am grateful for each day I turn the lock in my door and cross the threshold.
It may sound silly to say thank you to our homes, but the expression of gratitude is a destressor and a good habit of looking for all that is going well in our lives no matter what the day might have brought us.
8. Understand that a well-decorated home that works for you will help you change your life
West cautions that if you have the determination to change your life, but you are not changing your home to support you, that may be an obstacle you are ignoring and should address. Why? From the simple reorganization and editing of your kitchen and pantry to support your new eating habit, your home can sabotage or support the new habits you are trying to welcome into your daily routine. More generally speaking if you get rid of the reminders of the bad habits you do not want, your home will most certainly better support you as it is with you each day.
9. Address the simple daily stressors
From a handle that is loose to a dishwasher that does not run properly or is not large enough for your needs, from small to large, tend to them immediately or as swiftly as your budget allows as you will be amazed how your stress levels will drop when you are not tripping over these items you know you need to tend to but continue to put off again and again.
An example from my own life, the dishwasher that came with my house had two racks and was too small for all of the cooking I do. Often I would have to run it twice to wash all of my dishes (yes, I know I could have hand-washed them, and sometimes I did, which is my point also - I wanted to save time!). So when my dishwasher unexpected broke down on my late last year, I took advantage of the first of the year sales in January to purchase a dishwasher that had the racks I needed and boy, what a significiant difference to my time allotted for washing dishes and daily stress.
10. Edit your bedroom to included nothing that isn't related to sleep or intimacy
Keep only reading materials that help you relax and fall asleep (no work items). Add elements such as softer lighting, candles, and a vase for your weekly flowers. Focus on what calms you down and eliminate anything that rachets you up.
11. Create a home you are proud to call your home
When you wake up in the morning, you should feel a sense of calm as you are expected to be nobody but exactly who you are. When you leave your home, it should give you a confident boost to enjoy the day to the best of the events' abilities. Upon feeling such ease in your home, you will become more confident to invite people over and build the social life you would like to have.
12. Be thoughtful with lighting
Consider where you need lighting and where you want people to relax and feel their best. In other words, nobody wants an overhead light shining down on them in the living room as they conversation casually. Nobody looks great under these lights and it is just too shocking. Keep the kitchen well lit, but use table and floor lamps instead in more relaxed settings. Welcoming in as much natural light as possible as this too will elevate your mood.
13. Find ease with your relationship status, whatever it is
A home that reflects where you are in your life right now is a home that allows you to feel settled and thus more calm.
"Once your home reflects you, you'll start to feel a lot more settled about being on your own."
I share the quote above because I think sometimes we decorate for the life we want, not for the life we have. When we choose to honor where we are, we are being present and enjoying all that life is giving us even if we cannot see all of the awesomeness. As someone who has lived alone most of my life, when I first began doing so, it took time to become comfortable with my own company; however, now, you could not convince me to live any other way. When we embrace we learn what we truly need to live well outside of another person or society's expectations. When we let others who we are living with express what they need and we then express what we need, we get to know each other better on a far more intimate level. But the key is to set aside expectations of something either beyond our control or that we think should be happening next.
14. Let your home customization be the medicine to finding your ease of living
If you have ever felt your life is not where you want it - your job, your relationships, the country, etc., start at home and change what you can to make yourself happier. Take the weekend and paint that room you've been meaning to paint. Vow that you will wallpaper the office so that your work space reflects who you are and you enjoy stepping across that threshold each day even if you do have a home office and do not have to travel that far.
West suggests if you are having trouble changing your thoughts and perhaps feel overwhelmed and not settled with life, start at home and change something aesthetically that makes your home work better for you.
There are times when my mind races and sometimes not in the direction I want it to and one thing I had not been doing four years ago was tending to my decorating as it was a rental. However, after living in my rental for two years, I realized, why aren't you doing something? So I did. I updated the blinds in the office and kitchen, two places I found myself frequently and wanted a beautiful frame to look out and see Mother Nature, I purchased a secondhand pedestal dining table, one I had been putting off until I bought my next house, and I framed photographs I had taken on my travels to France and England and enlarged them to be the artwork in the living room. Once I began making my home reflect who I was, the quality gradually lifted as well and I reveled in being at my home even more. In two short years of doing this, I did eventually find the home I wanted to buy, but even though the blinds cannot come with me, I felt as though I gave that rental some love, and don't regret it for a moment.
I could go on and one about the takeaways in Happy Starts at Home. It is a decor resource but also so much more as readers will come to understand the psychological power of our homes when we recognize it for what it can do to improve the quality of our life.
Currently as I type, it has begun to snow in droves after just an hour ago being a bright sunshine of a day. And I am smiling and saying thank you because I have a home that enables me to see outside far more easily and savor the changing of the weather while relaxing in my armchair while Norman snores away on the ottoman. These are the moments that I wanted to cultivate more of, and you can too. Whatever it is that makes your life sing, examine how you can bring it into your home so that it is part of your everyday. Your contentment will rise as a result.
The changes can be grand, but they need not be, they just need to be intentional and in alignment with what you need to work best for you and the life you want to live.
Enjoy examining your life and how your home is supporting the life you want to live. If it isn't exactly where you'd like it to be, enjoy the journey of figuring out what you need. Because although it will take time, when the right items cross your path or the right ideas cross your path or you all of a sudden discover what would work the best, you will be all the more grateful they made it into your life.
~If you live in Bend, Studio Vero sells this line of detergent and the laundry sachets as well.
Ginger and Almond Bars (gluten-free)
~as first enjoyed in Provence at Patricia Wells' cooking school~
Sun, 16 February 2020
Last fall two episodes were shared delineating ideas for a timeless capsule wardrobe for traveling about in Paris as well as in London and the English countryside. As promised, the series continues into winter, and while we are nearing the end of winter, with the Paris fall/winter collections about ready to take the runway sharing their 2020 trends and inspirations, I thought this would be the perfect time to share how Parisians dress in the chillest months of the year.
Of course the uber style stars who will share their street style at the end of February as they make their way to and from the shows, and while I highly recommend taking a look at what they are wearing as even though they may be out of reach budget-wise and offer strong signature style that is hard or less likely to be imulated and simply admired, the color combinations, layers, and fabric choices are worth noting most certainly.
Today, let's return to Paris and take a look at the necessities for a timeless winter wardrobe whether you are making a trip for business or pleasure.
First of all, what is the weather likely to be during winter in Paris? Paris Perfect explains that the average temperature during the months of December, January and February is 42 degrees Fahrenheit, so about 6 degrees Celsius. With a 50% chance of cloudy and/or rainy weather on any given day, be prepared for moisture, and likely not snow (although on occasion snow does fall, but it doesn't last for more than a day or two - typically).
Depending upon where you call home when you aren't visiting Paris, 42 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter may feel chilly, not-so-bad or perhaps even warm for winter months. Whilst keeping all of that in mind, let's take a look at the list of essentials for your capsule wardrobe.
1.Classic, well-constructed cashmere or wool sweaters
Since you are in Paris, you will likely be inside most of the time, but walking from place to place. Keeping this in mind, fine cashmere sweaters would be the best as you can layer them for more warmth, but also not become over-heated while inside at your desired destination.
2. Dark denim
Dark colors in general will never be a bad idea in Paris during the winter. From dark denim jeans to dark pants, dark shoes and dark outerwear, the benefit of knowing this and having such items on hand is that you can easily mix and match and then add the pop of color as you feel necessary.
3. Black jeans
4. Waterproof leather booties (ankle boot)
5. Leather sneakers
Ecco soft 7 sneaker, leather (many colors)
6. A Warm Winter Coat - Puff, Pea Coat or something similar - long preferred
The air is damp, so when the wind blows or the temperatures drop, it feels colder than it may actually be. A long coat will keep your entire body warm while you wait in line to go to a museum or venture outside to stroll from one destination to another.
~Be sure to check out Mango for beautiful coats at great price points.
7. A Wool Blazer
For days in which it is not as chilly, but still the air has a nip, wear an oversized wool blazer with a scarf.
~photo credit: Style du Monde
8. Lovely warm, scarves
From classic oblong scarves to large stoles which can be used as a blanket on the plane while traveling, pack one or two favorite scarves that will work with what you have and provide the warmth you seek.
9. A Warm Wool Hat
Leave the beret at home and pack a warm wool or cashmere hat that covers your head and ears. Black, navy, ivory or anything neutral so you can wear it with anything you have packed.
Madeline Thompson cashmere navy beanie (black also avilable)
10. Leather, yet cashmere lined, gloves
Nordstrom's cashmere lined leather gloves (black also available)
Yes, an additional sweater, but turtlenecks are lovely in their retro chic silhouettes. Whether fitted or oversized, choose a luxurious fabric that feels good on your skin, a high neck that hugs your chin and a color that works well with your wardrobe, all while perhaps adding a touch of pop or a subtle unique shade of something fabulous.
Granted a cardigan is a sweater as shared in #1 being a must-have while traveling around Paris, but a cardigan is a casual choice to have for the flight, for snuggling in either in the morning or evening upon returning from being out and about, and well, just a lovely winter staple to have on hand (and a necessary one in Paris during the winter).
13. A travel umbrella
Likely, your accommodations will have an umbrella for you to use, but having a packable umbrella with you wherever in the world you might travel is never a bad idea. As shared at the top of the post/episode, the liklihood that it will rain in Paris is 50/50, so it's best to be prepared as you won't want to wear a coat with a hood unless you want to stick out as a tourist, unless the coat looks something like this.
14. Shop for what you need while in Paris - pourquoi pas?!
In January, the semi-annual French Les Soldes takes place in which every shop will be having sales on everything, not just the items they cannot sell. Take advantage of this opportunity and shop for what you need while you are there, but also what will live and be loved for many years to come wherever you call home.
15. Totes and handbags
This recommendation will be the same as it was for Autumn - a crossbody bag for going about the city and a tote for travel days. Poléne's full and mini crossbody bags are ones I recently learned about and now have and absolutely would recommend.
Whether your favorite time to visit Paris is the spring, summer or fall or winter, whenever the opportunity arises to escape to the City of Light, it will be hard to say no. Knowing you will be well-packed will ensure you feel confident and comfortable as you walk and explore and savor along with the Parisians themselves with no one being the wiser that you are a tourist unless you let it be known. Most certainly, your sartorial choices will not give you away.
Stay tuned as I will continue this series for the spring and summer months as the year unfolds and Anglophiles, rest assured, a winter shopping list will be shared soon.
View All Other Seasons & Their Timeless Wardrobe Essentials for Visiting France
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES from the Archives You Might Enjoy:
28 Life & Style Tips from a Parisian Woman, episode #232
Traveling Alone Well, episode #220
Top 10 Style & Beauty Lessons Learned from the French, episode #196
~My French Country Home magazine
~created and edited by Sharon Santoni of My French Country Home blog and travels
Images: Click through on each image to be taken to the direct source
Sun, 9 February 2020
Mise en place in translation means is "set in place", often translated to "everything in its place".
Perhaps part of the reason cooking and baking can feel rewarding as well as relaxing is that there is a science to, and the unofficial science is something even the most novice cook in the kitchen can quickly learn - mise en place. But what exactly is it and what is the art of a truly effective mise en place? That is what today's post/episode is all about.
When I attended both Patricia Wells and Susan Hermann Loomis' cooking classes in France, mise en place was de rigeur. Each day upon arrival into their respective kitchens and to our assigned cooking stations, the food was already either prepared and arranged in the necessary bowls, or at the very least the ingredients were waiting to be prepared along with the necessary bowls. As well, the recipe was clearly typed and propped up and ready to go to ensure ease of preparation.
~fresh ingredients from the market for a Niçoise Salad made in Susan Hermann Loomis' kitchen in Louviers, Normandy~
~Patricia Wells at her stove in Provence, Vaison-la-Romaine~
~Patricia Wells' stove in Provence; notice the collection of small dishes on the shelves, along with her cookbooks~
~Patricia Wells' stove, knives and measuring spoons on the right in multiple quantities; on the lift, cooking tools to be used at the stove~
~Susan Hermann Loomis in her kitchen in Louviers preparing food for the day of cooking. Notice the recipes situated at each station, along with the necessary ingredients.~
~Susan Hermann's stovetop~
As you will see in some of the images included in today's post, I was in awe and absolutely inspired by the organization in both kitchens. From Patricia Wells having multiple ceramic canisters complete with a label for multiple spatulas, peelers, and any other tool she would need to have her students use, to Susan Hermann's knives neatly and safely stored in the middle of her wooden kitchen island, every kitchen tool had a home, and all of the items we would need or that were regularly used were easy to find and thoughtfully placed where they would be the most handy to grab while cooking.
While mise en place often brings our attention to the recipe or meal we are cooking at the moment and the ingredients that are needed, in a larger context, mise en place is your kitchen, how you arrange it, how you work within it well, and the tools you welcome into your artistic space - your batterie de cuisine.
I have found my kitchen, especially my kitchen in my rental in which I lived for four years, to be indeed an artist's sanctuary of sorts because you are creating, you are exploring. Part of why I loved that kitchen so much (the kitchen you see in Seasons 1 & 2 of my cooking show) is due to how I felt completely at ease moving about it in, having enough space for everything I needed and everything being easy to locate and quickly so.
I am currently in the process of curating my new kitchen into a similar space so that I feel absolutely comfortable moving from here to there and finding exactly what I need. I look forward to making progress on it this spring if all goes well, and fingers crossed, hopefully have it ready to go for Season 3. But in the meantime, I am keeping in mind how a kitchen must be organized, how it needs to function for the cook that calls it home, that is the foundation of mise en place, and now let's talk about the benefits and how to create your very own successful mise en place each time you step into your own kitchen.
1.Ensures you are prepared for the recipe you wish to enjoy
2. Saves time
3. Saves the food
4. Deepens enjoyment of the cooking experience
~The creative stand of hooks for mixing paddles, Susan Hermann's kitchen~
How to "Mise en Place"
1.Determine what type of mise en place you need
In theory, you will eventually come to a point where you tend to mise en place each time, but each recipe or meal or dish will be approached in its unique way. If it is a dish you enjoy frequently, such as a go-to breakfast, your mise en place will be a default you don't even think about any more.
In such a case, my steel oats is in a cannister by the stove with the 1/4 cup measuring spoon that I use inside, the chia seeds are in a cannister that I simply pour out of, also by the stovetop, the salt and butter on the other side of the stove, and voila, aside from the cream, when I include it, it remains in the fridge until it is needed.
Mise en place can be as simple as having your go-to items at the ready at all times, but it can also be for the detailed recipe in which case all of the ingredients are pre-measured and placed in their own separate dishes and bowls.
2. Read the entire recipe, twice.
Not only do you want to read the ingredients list, but be sure to read the instructions as well, and why I recommend twice is often I will read too quickly the first time and accidentially skip over something.
But even if you are a close reader on the first read-through, reading twice confirms the order you will need the ingredients as well as how they should be prepared - sliced, diced, left whole, etc..
Back to the ingredients: do you have what you need? enough of what you need? Double check.
If preparing your mise en place ahead of time, either the morning of or the day or two before, begin making a list of what you need to pick up at the market (and how much).
~fresh artichokes from Louviers' market and eggs as well~
3. Find the necessary dishes, bowls, containers.
As you become fluent in your kitchen, knowing which dishes you enjoy preparing and eating and sharing, you will with time begin to have the necessary dishes, bowls and containers you need. Along the way to building your batterie de cuisine (literally: kitchen artillery; otherwise known as kitchenware), use dishes that work well for what you need. They may not all look neat and properly sized, but they will work.
~Susan Hermann's collection of copper pans~
4. Find the necessary kitchen tools you will need and have them at-the-ready
Along with having the ingredients you need, locating and having at-the-ready the necessary tools will speed up the process and increase your enjoyment of the cooking process. Beginning with a sharpened knife, and the proper knife for what you are doing, having each of these tools ready to work for you is an often unstated, but vital part of an effective mise en place.
In Patricia Wells' kitchen in Provence, each utensil is given its own cannister and labeled.
5. Prepare the food as needed
From peeling, slicing, de-veining and cleaning the seafood or meat, tend to the food, so that as the recipe calls for each ingredient, all you have to do is quickly add it to the pan or bowl or grill or, you get the idea. :)
~mise en place at Patricia Wells' cooking class~
6. Place the food/ingredients in order of use in the recipe.
Depending upon whether you are left or right-handed, place the ingredients on the preferred side and in the order they will be added to the recipe. If items will not be used for some time, you can place them further away so they won't be knocked over or accidentially added, etc. .
7. Have a large bowl for discards and items to be taken to the compost or garbage.
Rachael Ray creatively called hers the "thanks for coming" bowl, and having such an item as part of your mise en place is a simple way of keeping your kitchen clean, or at least cleaner, as you make your way through your meal preparation. A large bowl enables there to be more workable space so you can swiftly move from one task to another without having to constantly clean up along the way.
8. Refrain from multi-tasking
As tempting as it may be, doing more than the task of cooking while you are preparing a meal increases the chances of overcooking, burning and therefore ruining the ingredients you have thoughtfully welcomed into your kitchen. Speaking from experience, even when I just cook my breakfast in the morning, when I go off to my office while the steel oats are cooking, there have been time when I have become so engrossed in what I was doing for work that I lost track of time. Respect the food, and give it your full attention until the cooking is complete.
Ideas to Improve Mise en Place
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunities I had in attending both of the cooking classes with Patricia Wells and Susan Hermann Loomis over the past two summers in France. I continue to welcome their ideas and incorporate them into my daily cooking practice.
The primary purpose for mise en place is to make your time in the kitchen successful. Impressively, the number of dishes and the multi-course meals each class would enjoy every single time we sat down to dine for a couple of hours at first glance would have seen impossible, but when it is broken down into clear steps, ingredients and amounts prepped and ready, it seems all but impossible.
Hopefully you too will find even more pleasure when you step into your kitchen. I certainly have an even deeper appreciation as well as fondness for the time I spend cooking and preparing and of course, enjoying the meals that are created.
Have a look at videos from both of my cooking class experiences as well as the detailed posts that accompany each one below.
~cups and saucers in Susan Hermann's kitchen found over the years throughout France at Brocantes~
~ingredients for a fresh strawberry dessert at Susan Hermann's first day of cooking~
Check out The Simply Luxurious Kitchen and see Mise en Place at work in my very own kitchen!
~Agatha Raisin, Acorn TV
Sun, 2 February 2020
"Emotional freedom is a homecoming to your own heart and fullest power. It salutes authenticity, not conforming to someone else's notion of what to feel or how to be." —Dr. Judith Orloff, author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Freedom: Liberate yourself from negative emotions and transform your life (2009)
The middle of the night, before you can fall asleep or early morning thoughts that swirl and fuel agitation, worry and fear preventing you from falling asleep.
The feeling of being lonely and falling prey to the purport by society that the simple solution is to find someone to be romantically involved with.
Ratcheted chronic anxiety that cements you from pursuing something new or chasing your dreams or simply enjoying your everyday life.
An assumed negative default in perspective when it comes to the world, the future, especially your future and what is actually possible no matter what your age.
In sharing each of these scenarios, maybe you most strongly identified with one, or maybe none of them spoke to you, but moments of one or two rear their heads in your life when your energy is depleted or life temporarily becomes exhausting. And hopefully, maybe you recognize your former self in one or more of these and now are able to celebrate having broken free of the counterproductive emotional patterns that were learned and accepted as "how life will be".
Wherever you find yourself on the continuum of learning the skills of attaining emotional freedom, after reading/listening to today's post/episode you will have a clear path forward for identifying with the latter description in the previous paragraph.
I picked up Dr. Judith Orloff's book because I needed to read it. I knew the skills I needed to improve the quality of my emotional life were lacking, but I did not know what they were or, if I had a sense of them, how to strengthen them.
Dr. Judith Orloff defines emotional freedom as increasing your ability to love by cultivating positive emotions and being able to compassionately witness and transform negative ones, whether they're yours or another's.
Choosing to become emotionally free is entirely the choice of the individual. Whether healthy emotional patterns were modeled by your parents or not, you can learn them, apply them and shift how you engage with the world, how you experience the world and thus how you move forward and elevate the quality of your life experience.
Have a look at the benefits of setting yourself free emotionally:
BENEFITS of acquiring the the skill of EMOTIONAL FREEDOM
Now to do the homework, the steady and consistent exercises to welcoming the emotional freedom you seek into your everyday life. Today I would like to share with you 34 tips, practices, ideas and insights that spoke to me and what I thought would speak to TSLL readers/podcast listeners. However, there is far more detail in Dr. Orloff's book, Emotional Freedom, which I highly recommend reading and keeping as a resource to return to as you incorporate and habituate the new practices that can improve the quality of your everyday life and cultivate more joy.
1.Discover your emotional patterns: Know thyself
What emotional type do you most define yourself as? The Intellectual, the Empath, the Rock, the Gusher (chapter 4 details each of these emotional patterns, shares the tendencies, strengths, drawbacks AND most importantly, how to strike a balance to welcome the good and let go of the unhelpful emotional patterns)
2. Take charge of who you want to be
Begin by understanding how you were nurtured as a child and as you grew into an adult and even into your adult years regarding how you were raised by your parents and continue to interact with them. There were most likely strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Orloff suggests observing each with an objective perspective for the purpose of gaining self-knowledge of what have become positive and as well as unproductive ways of emotionally engaging with the world. Once you have done this (this is for you and has no need to be shared with your parents), move forward consciously. "Consciousness [is] the path to freedom". Acquiring self-knowledge will lift the fog as she describes it and show you the way to clear blue skies of clearly, concretely knowing what you want to change and why.
3. Seek calm and eliminate stress
One enhances your overall health, (yes, your physical health too) and the other depletes and destructs it. No doubt you know immediately which does what. Here are a few simple ways to welcome more calm practices into your everyday routine: experience and partake in laughter, exercise, meditate (breathing is powerful), "anything that makes you feel loved".
4. Resist negativity and turn toward and amplify the positive
Becoming emotional free is a choice made by each of us, so it requires that we act and thereby think differently. Actions include what and how we speak. The words we utter and the tone in which we utter those words matter immensely and absolutely. We have control over these two qualities of speech. Orloff explains how words contain energy, and we are transferring that energy when we speak, and how when we say something sincerely positive or kind, the good energy given is accepted and received with love or, if spoken without sincerity, disbelieved and hurt is felt. Again, the reception is determined by the tone in which the words are delivered.
"Words impart energy that can be enlivening or malignant. This is true whether you direct words to yourself or others."
5. Pay attention to your physical reaction around others.
To determine if the people you either choose to be around or have to be around, or are newly introduced to will bring positive energy into your life, observe your physical response to them. Having to do with how someone speaks to you, when they do, observe, Dr. Orloff's suggests, your physical reaction with your body instead of how your brain processes the actual words. Let your physical responses guide you to help you determine who to continue to spend time around and who to walk away from. E.g. The charmer who says the sweetest compliments with a smile but causes your body to physically cringe, yep, that may be a sign that negative energy is coming your way. Walking away may just be the best idea.
6. Use breathing practices to calm/quiet a hyperactive mind.
If you discover you identify your emotional pattern to be the Intellect, your mind is busy. It is busy planning, learning, inquiring, planning some more and trying to figure out how to get it all done. However, when this happens before we can figure out how to fall asleep or need to fall back asleep, it is defined as a hyperactive mind and it is not emotionally helpful. Simply breathe. Get out of your head.
Regularly, aerobically, but also with strengthening and flexibility activities. Exercising requires you to be present; it helps you get out of your head and focus on what you are doing.
8. Engage with others first with empathy and secondly with your head.
9. How to handle an unwanted situation: Think first.
Think all of the details through first, once, and well. In so doing, you are making sure you do not react which would be your emotions taking over and potentially throwing you into a "fizzy" state. How do you think first?
10. Allow regular quiet time for emotional decompression (for the Empaths especially) throughout the day.
11. Honor your empathetic needs.
12. Engage with life
If you have been hurt or if you see yourself as the Rock on the emotional type list, engaging with life will intially be uncomfortable or foreign. However, keep in mind what Brené Brown teaches, vulnerability is needed in order to sincerely connect, but as shared in episode #126, do not forget to partner it with setting healthy boundaries (which plays into #11 - honoring your needs).
13. Simple daily task: express one feeling a day in your journal
Why? To acknowledge honestly how you are feeling and when you are ready, to examine the why. Triggers or prompts. When we partake in this daily practice, we become more knowledgeable of ourselves, but also improve how to better communicate how we feel and why. Even better, we begin to see that emotions are temporary, and that is helpful to keep in mind as well.
14. Are you a gusher? Before seeking advice or support, follow these steps to gain more emotional freedom.
15. Extricate emotional vampires from your life
Sharing a list of the different types of emotional vampires, it was helpful to see their characteristics, and I will admit, I saw my older self in some of the descriptors. Just as important as it is to sweep out the emotional vampires from our lives, we also do not want to be one to others. Evaluating each of the lists is a good practice.
Back to the extrication of E.V.s. It entails clear and calm communication as well as setting boundaries. Once you recognize how they make you physically feel (returning to #5), find your voice, set your boundaries and walk away to seek other nurturing individuals to spend time with.
16. Set limits.
It is important to repeat what has already been mentioned twice thus far - set boundaries. Episode #126 shares in detail how to do this and why it is imperative to your emotional well-being.
17. Be solution-oriented.
Previously here on TSLL and on the podcast it has been shared that complaining about something you dislike or someone you dislike is only a positive contribution to our lives and the lives of others if we are also accompanying the 'complaint' with a sincere solution. Otherwise, let it go and move forward.
18. Understand that fear is a form of stress, and then move beyond your fears
Dr. Orloff explains in biological detail the body's physical response to fear, and it is not good for our health (page 149-152). If you are someone who catastrophizing the future, expects the worst in situations, has fearful thoughts that keep you up at night, are afraid to speak up or go for what you want, then you are letting fear play a significant and consequently harmful role in your overall life. In other words, you are welcoming more stress into your life that need not be present.
Move beyond your fears not by avoiding them but rather by "facing them in a proactive way".
"Courage requires the presence of adversity. In fact, no fear, no courage. WIthout something to overcome, there's no biological push to be brave or conquer negativity, true evolutionary milestones."
19. Seek out and remain close to "emotional nurturers"
20. Identify the fears you'd like to be free from and identify their triggers.
To return to #1, self-knowledge is the fundamental component. We gain clarity when we investigate ourselves and our reasons for feeling the emotions that arise, seemingly out of our control. When we can identify the trigger, we can then successfully change it or eliminate it altogether.
21. "We attract what we are"
"A basic law of emotional energy is that we attract who we are. Fear attracts fear. Courage attracts courage. If you want positivity coming at you, you've got to generate it . . . This influences which people and events keep appearing in your life."
22. Stay optimistic despite fear
Regardless of what goes on in your life, wanted or unwanted, be mindful of your response. In other words, do not react. Take a breathe or take a beat before speaking or taking action. When a fear arises that you won't be able to accomplish what you have set before you to achieve, focus on even the smallest victories - you are still trying, you still care. When you make a habit of positive mindful response, eventually it becomes a track in the mind and when it becomes a track, it then has become your default to not be thwarted by fear but to courageously face fear in a proactive way.
23. Continue to grow into self-awareness
Each of us is continuing to change, as we are dynamic creatures whether we want to be or not. In actuality, it is a good characteristic to be dynamic because it means you have an opportunity to grow. As we are continually growing, should we choose to, that means we have to continue to be aware of ourselves - our needs, emotional responses, etc. and not become complacent. In other words, as the book shares, our life truly is our career. It takes effort, but such effort pays many positive dividends.
24. Overcome frustration with patience
One of the biggest roadblocks to emotional freedom is frustration.
"Making a more deliberate choice to delay instant gratification and cultivate patience will help you achieve emotional freedom, have faith in yourself and your destiny."
25. Let friendships and romances develop slowly
Why? In order to cultivate trust or determine if someone is trustworthy.
26. Find and welcome nurturing sources into your daily life
Nurturing sources need not only be people. Nurturing sources exist within and outside of ourselves. Anything that provides a sense of home is a nurturing source.
27. Foster positive human contact or community
When you engage with others whether at work, your personal life, in your neighborhood, online, choose to make it a positive exchange.
28. Learn the power and skill of meditating.
~I break it all down for you here in a 2014 post Why Not . . . Meditate?
29. Practice gratitude
Something that I have enjoyed sharing each month is my "What Made Me Smile" post, and I look forward to adding to this list as the month unfolds, then sharing a handful here on TSLL. However you practice gratitude, maybe in a daily journal, through prayer, by sending thank you notes, any action that asks of you to reflect and see all that is going well, make this a regular practice, and it will begin to shift your focus (remember #21). We attract what we are, and if we are grateful, we will begin to see even more for which to be grateful.
30. Listen to your intuition.
But first understand what intuition is and what it is not (read this post). Once you can accurately define what your intuition is, then you have a powerful skill in your arsenal to enable you to elevate your everyday life due to the choices you will make.
31. Redefine the traditional paradigm for coupling.
Communicate what energetic preferences and boundaries you need in a relationship so that you are not emotionally engulfed. From how you live together, to how much time you spend together, to sleeping arrangements, if you are an Empath as described in the Emotional Types list, you may deeply want a relationship but fear, based on past experience, that you will not be safe due to all of the energy and emotion of others you absorb. Due to this you have either acquiesced and let yourself become engulfed or spoken up ineffectively (or with a partner that was not right for you) and been berated for being difficult or cold. Neither are true, and effectively communicating and more importantly being with a person who is open to understanding you, is the key to being part of a healthy, nurturing relationship.
32. Take time for solitude regularly
"Solving lonliness involves connecting to yourself as well as others. That's why it's vital to find your own right rhythm of worldly involvement and solitude."
33. Acknolwedge and celebrate current healthy connections
As mentioned in #26, not all healthy connections will involve other humans. From Mother Nature - hiking, gardening, simply being outside; to spending time with animals; to luxuriating in your thoughtfully curated home, these and many more are healthy connections. Invest in them, savor them and do not let others dismiss the value they hold in your life to feel connected and whole.
34. Strengthen the relationship you have with yourself - it's the most important one you will ever have
In other words, invest in understanding how to welcome emotional freedom into your life. It will take time, it will make you uncomfortable for a short duration, but that is the way with change, it is uncomfortable because it is stretching us.
In our personal life toolbox, as shared in detail in Living The Simply Luxurious Life: Making your everydays extraordinary and becoming your best self, it is filled with both strengths and skills. Strengths are innate and when we choose to strengthen these talents, we share with the world a unique gift only we can offer. Skills are tools any one of us can learn and apply to our lives to elevate the overall quality. Emotional Intelligence is discussed in detail in my book, which is why today I wanted to talk even more in-depth about why Emotional Freedom is a skill of great benefit.
Personally, upon reading Dr. Judith Orloff's book I had many aha moments, validation moments and clarity-of-how-to-proceed moments, and as it happens on many occasions here on the blog and the podcast, I wanted to share what I learned in hopes that you too will find great value for this skill in your life as you continue to grow and create an everyday that truly delights you.
~Monty Don's American Gardens, BBC2
Sun, 19 January 2020
"By comparison with relationships forged in blood and love, science has historically given friendship short shrift . . . biologists ignored friendships because unlike romantic or mating relationships they were thought not to affect reproductive success . . . most of us are as guilty as scientists of failing to take friendship as seriously as it deserves. We pay lip service to it but prioritize family and romance, ditching our friends when we fall in love, or letting time with them be the first thing to go when we get busy . . . eacg of us is contrainted by time. But we may want to rethink how we apportion the time we have . . . It turns out that friendship does have survival value in the most literal sense—more socially integrated people live longer than those who are less well connected." —Lydia Denworth, author of Friendship: The Evolution, Biology and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond
Perhaps due to the media I consumed in the 80s and 90s, there was an unconscious understanding that romantic relationships were paramount to platonic. Don't misunderstand me, friendships were clearly portrayed in sitcoms such as FRIENDS, Blossom, Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, Will & Grace, Felicity, The Wonder Years just to name a few, but it was clear that the writers were directed to have their leads be in constant pursuit of the desired romantic relationship predominantly and perhaps more importantly.
Subsequently, not aware of the subtle influence of media, in my youth, I made the assumption that friendship was nice, but romance was best. It does appear today, and admittedly maybe due more to my own awareness, that such media portrayals are shifting and broadening to bring to the screen and the pages as well as other media mediums an array of life paths and journeys to find contentment and social connectedness.
The value of quality friendships is arguably one of the most important social components of our lives. For each of us, our quilt of friendships will be unique and include amongst it our acquaintances and community (work and personal) connections as well. It seems to me good, healthy relationships of all types - romantic or platonic - benefit when we have a healthy social well-being which fundamentally rests on our social connections. Of course, a social well-being requires first and continually that we include ourselves as part of the social circle; in other words, we need to honor and respect our true selves and not try to cultivate relationships that are contrary to our true temperament, but rather complement and strengthen.
When we remember to default to regularly checking in with ourselves, we will know when it it best to repair and invest in certain relationships and when it is best to move on. We will respect ourselves enough to know what boundaries to put in place and how to place them.
The great loves of our lives, even the moderately good and life-changing-for-a-period-before-we-both-must-go-our-separate-ways relationships that will hold a special place in our life's journey don't cross our paths frequently. We are fortunate to experience these relationships when we have the courage to step forward and say yes without knowing what the future will hold, but throughout the duration of our lives, it is the friendships, even with those we may fall in love with along the way as we come to know each other intimately, yet honestly, that offer so much more than "filler". They offer love, support, encouragement to step into our best selves and step away from limiting habits. They offer kindness and the reminder when we may doubt it that we are lovely and loved.
Author, Brooklyn-based science journalist and a writer who has contributed to Atlantic and the New York Times, Lydia Denworth has just released a book on Friendship that I was eager to receive as I find it helpful to explore the context of the research we have accepted as absolute truth and that which has thus gone on to influence how we choose to live and construct our lives. Denworth dives deep into the historical and established science and then examines what has been misunderstood or dismissed or ignored. Moving forward she explores the brain and how it learns to be social and then the majority of the book explores how friendship, the desire for it, our ability to connect or not connect plays a role in the quality of our lives and ultimately, how to live a healthy social life full of sound friendships.
Today I would like to share a taste of what I learned as I read Lydia Denworth's new book Friendship: The Evolution, Biology and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond
~Listening Note: Each of the items shared below are discussed in more detail in the audio version of the episode.
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
1. Our overall health reveals the quality of relationships we have in our lives
"As we age, the effects of the life we have lived—including our relationships—inevitably show up in the body. Some are cumulative, some are short term."
"The strength of your friendships at 50 predicts your health at 80."
2. More education and income leads to having more friends
"Education, physical health, years living in the same place, and the number of daily contacts with friends all predicted friendship style. More education, for example, often leads to better social skills, and higher education makes it easier to socialize more widely (at restaurants and concerts, say)."
3. Friendships help buffer life stress
"After puberty, parents no longer buffer stress for children; friends can take their place."
4. A good friendship can be a template for all other relationships
"At its simplest, as in animals, friendship is positive, long-lasting, and reciprocal. Bonds with these traits have the strongest effect on our health and longevity."
5. Welcome a diversity of types of friendships
"There are three main styles of friendship: discerning, independent, and acquisitive."
6. Friendship circles will evolve, grow, change — and that's okay.
7. Social media isn't as bad for relationships as people believe; in fact it's a net positive
8. Ambivalent relationships ("frenemies") are bad for our health
9. It takes about 50 hours of togetherness to make a friend, 200 to make a best friend.
10. Retirement is something to be savored when we invest in friendships
In a study shared in Robert Waldinger's TEDx Talk about friendship and good relationship that has since garned nearly 30 million views he shared "the people who were happiest in retirement had worked at it. They valued and tended to their relationships. They activiely worked to replace coworkers with new playmates. They put in the time."
Similar to so much of our lives that enrich the quality, it is the conscious choices we make that make a difference in our overall contentment and joy as we go about our everyday lives. Friendship is an undercurrent that when tended to can elevate and bring tranquility or cause unsteadiness and make for a rough journey when neglected or ill-tended.
Knowing more, understanding how, is one of the first components to a strong cultivation of what we wish to grow. Certainly, it is not the only step or the final step, but it is important, and then we must be patient with ourselves and those we are building relationships with. In time, good things and a good life will grow.
"Social bonds have the power to shape the trajectories of our lives. And that means friendship is not a choice or a luxury; it's a necessity that is critical to our ability to succeed and thrive. It can even be a model against which other relationships should be measured."
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Lentil and Kielbasa Salad, adapted from Barefoot Contessa's recipe
Sun, 12 January 2020
"Vitality means moving through life with energy and vigor, making deliberate choices and putting to good use the time and energy that we have been granted." —Twyla Tharp, author of Keep Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life
Knowing how to care for our body which we must not forget includes the mind is a lifelong course of learning. Beginning with the basics of how food is fuel and energy expends said fuel to understanding which fuel is best and how our body repairs itself and ultimately what the body and mind truly are capable of regardless of our age, understanding and then apply this knowledge will have a powerfully positive effect on the overall longevity as well as quality of our life.
Highly decorated and revered American dance choreographer, Twyla Tharp released a new book this past fall, and as I appreciated her insights in her previously published book The Creative Habit, I was especially curious to read her new book Keep Moving as she herself is in her mid-seventies and more fit than most adults in their prime. However, what I quickly discovered is that Keep Moving is not only about the physical movement we must continue throughout the duration of our lives, but the continual movement of our thoughts, ideas and way of living and thinking about the world that is as well ever-changing and evolving. Below are 12 key factors for living and enjoying a physical and mental well-being for the entire length of your life.
"Age is not the enemy. Stagnation is the enemy."
Both physically and mentally, choose to perpetually be a dynamic individual. Instead of becoming complacent or resigned that certain capabilities are no longer possible once we hit a certain age, vow to always keep your body moving, as well, and perhaps most importantly, your mind. Rather than reminiscing about the past, make sure it is celebrated and/or learned from and then put your focus on moving forward well, learning something new in your next venture into something that provokes your curiosity. Let go of past hurts and anger that may be lingering to liberate yourself to create a better present and then a greater future will unfold. Assess your daily routines: Are they working for you? If not, whip them into shape (listen to episode #272 for help on how to accomplish this change).
"Attempting to maintain the status quo, smoothing our skin, and keeping our tummies trim become distractions that obscure a larger truth. Attempting to freeze your life in time at any point is totally destructive to the prospect of a life lived well and fully. All animate creatures are destroyed when frozen . . . This is not a worthy goal."
2. Choose and then Cultivate the Life You Want to Live
"I chose my life, it did not choose me."
Inevitably, life will throw onto your journey's path trauma, loss and pain, but how you choose to work with these life events will determine the overall quality of your life. You can choose to wallow and seek out sympathizers that allow you to remain in your pain or frustration or anger, or you can acknowledge the pain, let yourself work through it in a healthy manner and continue to strive forward.
"The life we choose pays dividends. The life that we let choose us will bankrupt us."
Contrarily, you will need to find the courage within yourself to choose to step away from the group when it feels limiting or confining or not aligned with the life you wish to live or dare to create. Nothing need happen that is negative, just a instinctive feeling that something does not work for you. Heed your instincts, explore them gradually, and when you have some footing (it need not be a perfect stance), step away from the group. I am confident you will be grateful you did, more and more so with each passing day.
You may be wondering, how does #2 correlate with our physical health? Any time we choose a life that we want to live, we energize ourselves; oppositionally, when we follow, when we go along to appease or to not create conflict, our energy lessens, so much so that we find it hard to motivate ourselves to care for our overall health. It may not occur, and most likely will not occur initially as we follow, but with time, our excitement about living life is dulled, and when we no longer see the joy in living life (because we haven't chosen this life, it has chosen us and we feel 'stuck' within it) we do not, consciously or unconsciously, invest in it. And tending to our health is a fundamental investment.
3. See Your Body's Good Health as a Full-Time Job for a Lifetime
Much of society may appear to be modeling that as we age, we become less physical, but the reality and what needs to be realized, Tharp argues, is that "the older we get, the more we should commit to physical activity". Ironically, we could have moved less in our youth as our body was helping us out far more naturally than it is able to do on its own as we age. But the benefit of being an active child and young adult is that we can take these good habits and let them be the foundation of our physical activity throughout our lifetime.
The benefits of physical activity have been researched and proven time and time again, from sharpening our mind to "expanding our social, emotional and intellectual well-being". A shift in how we view physical activity can help tremendously to finding infinite wells of motivation to move our bodies on a regular basis. First, make it enjoyable. Find something you love doing. I used to be one of those gym rats who would visit my neighborhood gym (at this point in my life I was in NW Portland) nearly every day, hop on the treadmill and walk or run for 20-30 minutes. Granted, any physical activity is absolutely applaudable, but I will admit, I felt as though I was in a cage. My lifestyle has certainly changed over the past 14 years as my physical exercise is outdoors nearly every time, and the only indoor physical practice I do, and thoroughly enjoy, is the weekly yoga class I attend. Most importantly, I have found a way of staying physical that I enjoy. Find what works for you and how you can incorporate your physical and natural environment into your playground. And then just do that, play!
Tharp reminds readers of the importance of why we choose to exercise, "Let's not burn calories. Let's use our calories . . . You're burning calories to acquire skills". When we make this shift of why we are exercising, the motivation is more likely to remain and become habituated.
"Here's what I know: a life that gives the body its due is a happy life."
4. Pull up the Anchor of the Past and Sail
"Unless we embrace the condition of change, the past will act as an anchor, preventing growth. I've always been an advocate of habit—but with time, unchecked or unnoticed habits will hold you back."
Life has many chapters, and not one will be exactly like another. Living consciously gives us the daily practice of assessing what is working and what is not. As Tharp suggest above, habits are helpful . . . when they are helpful to living the life we wish to live. However, habits that go unassessed are the anchors we need to pull up so that we can sail toward and eventually fulfill our true potential.
There are many examples in our lives in which a habit worked exceptionally well for a period, but too continue would harm our progress and need to grow. If you are a parent whose children have left the nest, there will be new habits to add and other established habits that will need to be "pulled up". If you are an individual who needed to work with great dedication to complete a degree or complete a project or establish themselves in their career requiring long hours as there were deadlines to meet, etc., the habits that enabled you to be focused and strong in dedication will need to be relaxed so that you can find the balance to enjoy the life you have worked hard to secure.
5. Choose Optimism
Tharp acknowledges that "aging can promote a condition identified by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania as learned helplesslness . . . believing we cannot change our outcome leads to lethargy. Negativity and stagnation go hand in hand". The remedy is actually quite simple, but it does require us to become clear about the life we wish to live, to do the homework of living, living well and being conscious of our instrinstic motivators as well as the external motivators and determining which truly align with our most sincere self.
Tharp suggests, and I concur, what we need to do is align our actions with our values. Often we say we wish to live one way, but our actions speak differently. Sometimes it will take grand courage as we will have to speak up to those in our lives who will be affected if we change our routine, our way of engaging, etc., but often it is how we speak to ourselves, how we allocate our time and where we spend our money. When you begin to see how to better align your actions with your values, it becomes easier to be optimistic because you are now fully supporting the life you wish to live and not unconsciously fighting against it. Momentum happens more freely without resistance.
The primary point is we have more control over the quality of our lives. We are not helpless. And we need not accept that things cannot be different. They can be, and will be when you choose to shift how you live your daily life. A simple way to begin being more optimistic is to see the simple beauty and awesomeness in the everyday. When you focus on the good, on the positive, on the beauty, you begin to see more of it, inspire those around you to see more of it and ultimately begin to create more of what you wish to see than what you do not. Check out my IG account and the hashtag #tsllelevatetheeveryday for simple visual reminders of everyday beauty.
6. Plan - Put Your Hopes into Action
Currently, I find myself moving into the planning part of customizing my home, but admittedly, it is easier to dream and hope that it will all come together. But hoping and dreaming won't bring it to fruition. While certainly, the first part of the journey may be a hope or a dream, it cannot be where we remain.
Referring back to the premise of Tharp's book and #1 on this list, growth needs to be perpetually occurring in our lives, and so, we must step forward and put our hopes into action. How? By planning, and tending to each step listed in the plan. Sometimes it is hard to actually make the step toward our desired goal, but the momentum provided with each step, makes the next step easier. Seeing your money being spent on whatever detail, item or necessary piece of the journey needs to be spent can be initially hard to do, but if your plan is clear and your goal is in alignment with your values, you will reflect upon the money spent as an investment and be thankful for your courage to step forward and put your hopes into action.
7. Strengthen and Maintain Your Stamina
"While many of our physical tools diminish noticeable as we age—speed, flexibility, and power—we don't have to lose stamina."
Moving your body, keeping your muscles strong, on a regular basis will fundamentally keep your stamina strong. And what helps build and strengthen and maintain your muscles? Repetitions done regularly. It may not be fun initially, but in reference to #3, find an approach that engages you, and cultivate it into a habit that is part of your daily/weekly routine. Tharp has a handful of suggestions on pages 96-7. Eventually, the stamina turns into endurance which is "a combination of willpower, focus, intention and grit—essentially a matter of character and mental toughness".
"The wonderful thing about stamina: it doesn't deplete through a long period of grinding work; with sustained commitment, it builds and builds, up to the moment when you need it most".
8. Small changes can make a big difference
"When I can't build a cathedral, I build a bridge to get there."
Whether you are trying to welcome new habits into your life as the new year begins, trying to build a dream that will take time to materialize, the small steps, the small actions and small everyday dedicated efforts will eventually lead to the grand change and actualization you seek.
9. Build a foundation for your future
Compound interest plays a role in our physical and future physical lives as well as in our financial lives. When we "work hard now to reap greater rewards in the future instead of finding [ourselves] in a panic at your dwindling account", we are building a future of a wealthy good healthy life well into our later years. The working hard is doing what you can now as early as you can in your life physically to maintain the three pillars of a healthy body: strength, flexibility, aerobic (view more Health & Fitness posts in TSLL's Archives). Start where you are, but push through the necessary discomfort, aka as challenging pain (but be aware of the difference between that and warning or chronic pain).
Each time I have taken a week off from yoga or the first time I hop on my skis in the new winter season, 48 hours later my muscles are talking to me. It is not a bad pain, in fact, I applaud myself for pushing myself further, but I also am reminded to get back on the regular schedule so that I do not have to feel it everytime for the same reasons.
Tharp introduced the term 'kludge' to me in Keep Moving which is any short-term inelegant solution. In other words, it is using a convenient 'fix' for a hiccup or problem, but not the best fix.
To dekludge is to check our ego at the door, and this is not easy for most of us, and especially hard for some of us. As the pages of our book are turned and new chapters arise, "you have to be willing to find other ways of being in the world beyond those that have served you well throughout your life". In other words, we have to self-assess (which is a good skill to hone no matter where we are in life's journey and to practice it regularly). We have to become aware and then challenge unproductive behaviors in order to live our most fulfilling and best life.
Tharp suggests our kludges are "all trade-offs and allowances [we] make to deal with deflating circumstances—by ignorning, tolerating, or avoiding the situation. Sometimes we're aware that we're settling for less than optimal. Sometimes we believe we don't have any other choice. We treat them as systematic, the way things are. These kludges shackle and slow us down." Any time you adhere to "the way you've always done it" as your sole reason for doing something, most likely, you've found a kludge that needs to be let go.
The good news is that with maturity, dekludging has the ability to be far easier.
"[With maturity], we've learned that no one else is responsible for our success or survival. It's up to us to erect a stable scaffolding that's not stressed by temporary fixes and what is left can be pretty amazing."
11. Adjust to Improve Your Life
"All master adjusters learn to push their strengths and drop everything else—resentment, insecurity, doubt, physical handicaps."
With life, we have the opportunity to gain experience, and with that experience we can handle new life experiences far better than without the earned experience. And perhaps life's difficulties never become easier, only different, but because we have the past experiences, we are able to better and more easily navigate through them without working ourselves up into a frenzy or racheting up our stress-levels unnecessarily. In other words, we become better able to soar through life and not be knocked down by the gulls and gusts that will inevitably happen because we know how to foresee their coming further from a distance and either avoid them altogether or when caught by surprise, dance with them rather than fight them so as to preserve our energy to better enjoy the many good moments that await on the other side of the storm.
12. Become Keepers of the Quotidian
"Finding absolute beauty in the humble, the everyday, the living, the growing, the becoming is a skill that can be practiced with more than just the eye."
Using all of our senses as we go about our day is a skill to master for living well. Sometimes being so acutely aware can be heartbreaking which means we need to live consciously and choose how we engage with the world and who we engage with. However, once we are aware of the power of engaging all of our senses, our everyday (quotidian) lives magically appear to be in brilliant Monet-esque color. From the scent of the rain that falls on the dry ground, to the feel of the fresh, seasonal produce picked up at the market to the sound of chirping birds enjoying their morning meal in your yard's bird feeder, when we pay attention to these details with our whole being, our appreciation and love of life rises.
Good health asks of us to invest each day, but the investments need not be expensive or back-breakingly painful. How wonderful to understand that simply by instituting enjoying daily habits we can improve our overall well-being to further ease our mind that not only is our present more enjoyable to experience but so too will be our future.
I highly recommend Twyla Tharp's new book, Keep Moving. I whizzed through it during my two week holiday this past month as she offers her own experience as a renowned dancer and choreographer who is now in her 70s as evidence of what indeed does work, as well as introduces readers to many others who have inspired her journey of good health and wellness of mind and body.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
4 Healthy Habits for Continual Self-Growth, episode #17
—Simple Bouquets combining two different textured, but similar hued floral varietals - one more formal, one more whimsical. Not only will this save money, but it will add a depth of intrigue and beauty beyond a single varietal bouquet.
~See a couple of examples below from my own home.
Sun, 5 January 2020
The new year rolls around and there is much talk about resolutions and cultivation of a life we wish to live. It is old news to share that many resolutions are unfulfilled; however, BJ Fogg argues that perhaps we have had a faulty instruction manual to be successful in our pursue of lasting change.
Released just this past Tuesday, December 31st, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything asserts in fact that it is the small, seemingly easy changes of habit we make in our lives that will lead to grand transformation of ourselves and therefore our overall lives, even our relationships and especially our health and overall contentment.
After devouring the book in two days during my getaway to the coast, I wanted to share with you eight takeaways that will introduce you to this shift in approach. I have already begun to implement two new tiny habits into my daily routine and look to add a third when my teaching schedule resumes this week.
The good news, if you have already written your 2020 resolutions, is that upon reading the book, you will be able to look at them more closely and construct and approach them in such a way, according to Tiny Habits to ensure their success. And if you have not created resolutions, maybe you have decided due to previous frustration that doing so is just a waste of time, taking a look at the list of takeaways below may shed some light on why past years were less fruitful than you would like and even encourage you to try again and see better results.
1.All behaviors happen due to the occurrence of a prompt
"The Fogg Maxim #1: Help yourself do what you already want to do by designing a good prompt"
Fogg shares many different examples of how prompts permeate all areas of our lives. The example that resonated with me was his example regarding taking a shower, "After a shower, I always dry off. After I dry off, I always walk into the bedroom", etc. etc. etc. There are three different types of prompts that we can choose from and that we are guided by in our behaviorial routines: person, action and context prompts. Action prompts, such as the one shared above are the most useful because they serve as an anchor. Attach the behavior you want to happen to a behavior/action that is already happening and will happen habitually. One I have incorporated over the years and have continued to do without fail (which surprised me at first how quickly it took hold) whether I am in my house or traveling is upon going to bed (which will happen every evening), I take a glass full of water with me and place it by my bed. Upon waking in the morning, the only way it is returned to the kitchen is if it is empty. A hydration habit that encourages me to drink more water.
Fogg also discusses what he titles "Pearl Habits" which are habits that are prompted by an irritant outside of our control. As I shared in the first post of the year, we can only create the change we seek when it involves ourselves and internal responses or behaviors; in other words, to set a goal that involves the behavior of someone else is a futile goal as we have no control over the other person without manipulation. When it comes to Pearl Habits, use the irritant as a prompt to do something that is positive or helpful for your everyday life. The example shared in the book is an ex-wife who coparents with a husband who is quite negative and her response each time his unwanted behavior or comments arise is a prompt to her to practice a mini moment of self-care in her daily routine. Each of our irritants and habits will be unique to our situations and lives, but even the unwanted events beyond our control can be helpful in pursuit of the change we seek in the new year.
2. Remove unwanted prompts
"You can disrupt a behavior you don't want by removing the prompt."
From removing unhealthy food and drink from your cupboards or refrigerator to moving the television into another room to inspire more conversation and gathering in the main living area, removing the prompt that tempts us to return to behaviors and habits that are not helpful is one of the simplest solutions to instituting the permanent change we seek.
3. Understand this truth: You change best by feeling good — not by feeling bad
"What happens in your brain when you experience positive reinforcement isn't magic —it's neuro-chemical."
Fogg refers to Instagram in his example of how positive emotions help to quickly create a habit. We snap a photo, we easily filter the image, we share. The feeling of sharing a "unique artistic creation" bolsters your sense of capability and thus inspires you to continue to use the app. Not only was the Ability part taken care of as it was very simple to do, it was also positively rewarding - the must-have ingredient of emotion. "Emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions."
4. Celebrate to permanently integrate the habits you want into your life
"Celebration is the best way to create a positive feeling that wires in your new habits . . . in addition, celebration teaches us how to be nice to ourselves — a skill that pays out the biggest dividends of all."
In episode #163, the show shared how improving happiness in your life is a rewiring of the brain, a creating of new neurological tracks. We truly can change how we see the world and go about our days and thus experience more happiness and contentment if we consciously choose to do so. This is where celebrating comes in, and I LOVE this component. :)
Quickly, celebrating is not equivalent to rewards (Fogg explains this in detail), but after reading his explanation: celebration need not be a giving of something to yourself (that is a reward), but celebration must come immediately after you have completed the new behavior you wish to become a habit - that is when the rewiring in your brain begins to take place. It is possible for a reward to simultaneously be a celebration, but not easy to do as it must come immediately afterward. The good news about this distinction is that it will cost you nothing. Celebration is just as it sounds - a burst of exultation, a happy dance, a humming of a happy tune that just makes you happy each time you sing it, a jump into the air with a grand grin on your face.
It may sound silly at first, but think about instances with young children who are learning any skill, even when I think about my pups and training them, when we give immediate praise to those who are under our care, we demonstrate what is wanted and thus makes them feel good due to the praise. This is nurture at its most basic, and we've been nurtured by others our entire lives whether we knew it or not - applauded for certain choices and behaviors, etc. Once we realize we can do this for ourselves to incorporate positive habits into our daily lives, we can be the cheerleader for ourselves, and we need to be. The simple act of celebration begins to gradually and then significantly rewire our brains to seek out the space for the behavior to happen as it actually will prompt the release of dopamine, the feel good hormone.
5. Improve relationships by understanding Fogg's Behavior Model
What is Fogg's Behavior Model (the book provides many helpful visuals), simply it follows this equation: Behavior = Motivation & Ability & Prompt. When these three components converge at the same time, the habit takes root, and Fogg disputes the claims that have been made endlessly, (even here on TSLL, so I am correcting myself now) that there need to be a particular amount of repetitions of a new habit for it to become habituated. Not so, he states because if it feels good to engage in the new behavior (#3), the habit will form very quickly (he brings the readers attention to a teenager receiving a new smart phone and their habit of checking it incessantly if given the freedom to do so without practice).
When we understand the model, and how it works in our lives, we can better observe and therefore, understand the behavior in others. We may not be able to change the behavior as other people need to make their own choices, but if we are providing the prompt, or if we are making the ability easier or if we are providing the motivation, that is what is in our control, and we can change each of these if we do not like the behavior that is the result. Similarly, as a parent or a partner or a loved one, we can have conversations that are based on logic and reasoning allowing the emotion that may have caused electricity in prior conversations (and not the good kind of electricity) for potentially a more productive dialogue.
6. Cultivate an environment that prompts the change you seek
"The skill of redesigning your environment makes your habits easier to do."
Earlier I shared how removing the negative prompts is helpful, but so to is cultivating an environment that encourages the change you seek. If you are working on improving your eating habits, create as Fogg and his partner have done - a SuperFridge - glass containers filled with food ready to eat - food that is healthy, delicious and beckons them to enjoy it. Not only is the food supportive of the healthy habits they seek, but it is also aesthetically pleasing to look at, inviting to the eye. The Motivation component of Fogg's Behavior Model is tended to which then adds to the Ability component and the Prompt is as simple as being hungry and opening the door of the fridge. Boom! A new positive behavior begins.
7. Master your mind, and step into the identity you wish to embody
"When you can let go of old identities and embrace new ones, you will soar in your ability to go from tiny to transformative."
Fogg explains how psychologically "all humans have a strongly rooted drive to act in a way that is consistent with their identity . . . there is a good evolutionary reason for this —when food, shelter, and other resources depend on group unity and collaboration, it is critical to reliably predict what a person is going to do." Simply by understanding why our current identity is something that may be hard to step away from, but also knowing that when we "successfully embrace an identity shift in one area [we] often prompt change in other areas", we increase the skill of mastering our mind.
Fogg suggests going to events or learning the language or spending time or reading books by experts in what you are trying to learn, understand or improve. Simply by shifting your environment, you begin to shift your identity. For example, if you are want to improve your skills in a particular sport or physical activity, attend events or read books or attend lectures by experts in the field. If you wish to improve your ability to cook with ease in the kitchen without recipes, seek out those chefs or cookbooks or even watch Chopped which shares people doing exactly what you hope to do so that you can with ease step into your kitchen each day and cook a delicious, yet far-less-time-consuming meal.
8. Tiny successes, when cultivated consistently, will lead to transformative change
"Start where you want to on your path to change. Allow yourself to feel successful. Then trust the process."
Chapter 6 focuses on the transformative change that can take place when you grow your habits through the Tiny Habits process (a confluence of Motivation+Ability+Prompt). But more importantly, we must begin with a clear idea of the change we wish to make. Fogg uses the analogy of designing a garden we wish to grow into a beautiful and abundant space of Mother Earth in our own backyard. Once we know what want to grow, we can then begin cultivating the behaviors that will enable what we plant to successfully reach their fullest potential. Where to begin? Start small (refer back to the quote above). Start so small, it is almost too easy to think, you are creating new habits. Fogg began his flossing habit, but simply flossing one tooth at a time. Yep, one tooth. This allowed him to feel successful from the first attempt. And as he reminds, "Success leads to success". The reason for the first attempt to be successful is that you want to create momentum, so remove the "demotivators. This allows the natural motivator (often it's hope) to blossom, which in turn can sustain the new behavior over time". Once your motivation begins to rise, you begin to see your confidence in your own ability to make the necessary change rise, and you begin to understand you can do harder behaviors as well.
The more I read Fogg's book and came to better understand his Behavior Model, the more I realized what he claimed to be true in the introduction: Many of us have had the wrong instruction manual all along, and while some of us may have been successful in spite of the misdirection, none of us should blame ourselves for not being successful in our pursuit to welcome positive change into our lives. I am of the understanding that as Marie Forleo shared and titled her new book Everything is Figureoutable, and as Tiny Habits reveals, we just need to understand more fully how the mind works when it comes to habit creation. Thankfully, it truly can be more simple than we may have thought. We can feel good throughout the process of improving our health, relationships, daily routines, etc. We do not have to punish ourselves and we do not have to have an expensive reward to motivate us to try to do something that seems difficult. We need only to increase the motivation, remove the unhelpful prompts, chose an easier task so we believe we can do it from the beginning and then celebrate immediately when we complete the new behavior each time.
I am confident we can each apply this method.
I shared at the top of the post that I have already begun to implement two new tiny habits into my daily routine after reading the book, so I wanted to share:
If you are determined, as I am to institute changes into your life that will fundamentally support the quality life you wish to live, I highly recommend BJ Fogg's new book Tiny Habits. Hopefully today's episode gave you insight into what the book entails. I appreciated his detailed explanations and visuals, and his ability to share a multitude of examples helped tremendously.
~Learn more about the book: —BJ Fogg, PhD., author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything (Dec. 31, 2019)
~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Road to Success is Paved with Happiness, episode #194
~Attaining the Change You Seek in the New Year, episode #241
~15 Everyday Habits to Live a Life of Contentment, episode #93
~Little Women, the film, Greta Gerwig's adaptation
95% - Rotten Tomatoes; Roger & Ebert 4/4 stars
~Listen to Audible's new version of Little Women, read by Lauren Dern (I highly recommend after listening during a 7 hour car ride over the holidays - multiple character voices and sound effects). Remember to go to audible.com/simplesophisticate to earn a 30-free trial AND one free audio book.
Opening weekend and Christmas Day release earnings: $16.5-million weekend and a five-day total of $29 million since its Christmas opening, a major performance for a smaller-audience film with a budget dwarfed by the top two films. —U.S. News, source
Thu, 2 January 2020
“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” —J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #263
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
Style and comfort. Knowing how to achieve this combination while we travel enables each of us to relax and fully enjoy our excursions wherever our wanderlust might take us.
As would not surprise TSLL readers, many of you, including myself, love to journey to Europe, in particular France and Britain, and while I have primarily traveled to France in the summer, and London during the summer months as well, it was during the fall of 2017 that I had the good fortune to travel back to Britain. Expectedly, the suitcase's contents were far different than for the warmest months of the year.
So when a TSLL reader recently reached out and asked for style ideas for her upcoming trip to London this October, I came up with the idea to share a seasonal style episode/post for Anglophiles.
In the coming months and seasons look for the remaining three seasons for both Anglophiles and Francophiles as having a resource to help simplify the packing process so that we travelers can focus on creating an itinerary that surpasses our dreams.
Admittedly, and unsurprisingly, I enjoy selecting the perfect outfit for whatever the occasion might be, but equally as desiresome is to not have to worry about my clothes while I am traveling. Just trusting that what I have packed is exactly what I need frees my mind to absorb the many new sightss, sounds, tastes and interactions which enrich the trip all the more.
So with that introduction, I'd like to share with you Style Essentials for Traveling to Britain in Autumn, the city and the country.
GOAL: Layers of style that provide warmth when necessary from the rain and chill, but walkability as you make your way about the city on foot, the tube, bus or taxi.
1.Ankle boots (flat or with a slight heel) to wear with jeans or pants (my Eileen Fisher suede pair seen on the chevron floors of Burberry - here is a similar pair)
2. A short trench, works well with jeans (more casual outfits) and over midi dresses if the quality is top-notch (use promo code RLFAMILY to save 30% site-wide through October 15, 2019). For a full trench, or how to find the perfect trench for you, read my post after visiting the Burberry flagship store in London - The Perfect Trench is Personal.
3. Light-weight high-quality sweater (for layering)
5. Scarves - light-weight, yet autumnal hues (these scarves offer many color options and are well-priced)
7. Midi dress, wear with #8~The Royal Albert Hall~
8. Knee-high boots with a slight heel (pack your toiletries and beauty styling utensils inside your boots to save space in your suitcase)
9. A sturdy pocket umbrella (James Smith & Sons are one of the longest running British umbrella businesses and used by the Royal household). You can order online (5-6 color options), or visit their shop in London for even more colors and patterns.
10. Short or long sleeve blouses (silk or light-weight material for layering)
11. Worn in, yet stylish walking shoes for those days when you will be visiting many places and be on your feet most of the day.~the Dale Chihuly scultipure see in the entrance in the Victoria and Albert Museum~
GOAL: Layers for warmth when the rain fall in misty waves never-ending and days and evening strolling about the many towns and shops you come across as well as hikes about the hills and along the coastline.~the rolling hills in Northern Devon~
1.Wellies, choose a size and shaft height you feel most comfortable wearing
2. A light-to-medium weight coat that is rain-resistant. I brought my Patagonia coat, and it was perfect.
3. A stocking cap. Primarily it misted often, but when it rained heavily, I stayed inside. If you will be outside when it rains heavily, bring a raincoat with a hood, such as these from Columbia available in many different colors and figure flattering.~a quiet country road in northern Devon~
4. Jeans, comfortable for walking, but also capable of transitioning for a nice, casual outing. These J Brand jeans are a classic style - straight-leg - in a timeless color (darker blue is available).
6. Gloves, water repellant, yet warm also
7. Flat or low-heel ankle boots
The lists shared above were based on my own travel experiences in the city and the countryside during my trip in November 2017. If you will be traveling in early autumn, bring a few lighter and shorter layers (sleeves, even shorts perhaps), but no matter when you travel during this season, if you pack items that layer well, you should be prepared for any occasion.
Of course, your go-to handbag for day and one for evening is a good idea to pack as well, and I have even purchased a blow-dryer, rather than worry about adapters as blow-dryers often have more wattage than my adapter can handle. This was a choice I made, and it just made it simpler as the blow-dryer was not all that expensive and I just stow it away in my closet for my next trip to Britain.
May you have the opportunity to visit Britain soon, and when you do, feel free to stop back by and share what worked for you!
SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~10 News Items & Inspirational Ideas for Anglophiles (September 2019)
~episode #185, Give Yourself Permission to be Awkward
~TSLL's Latest British Week Round-Up of Posts (May 2019)
~Floret's Flowers, purchasing bulbs in the fall for spring!
~Starting today (and they go fast, so shop soon), Floret's Flowers is selling their bulbs (daffodils, tulips, ranunculus and more) until they are sold out. Last year I purchased two packages of daffodils (40 total) that I fell in love with this past spring and have since brought with me to my new home. I am looking to pick up some tulips this time, and cannot recommend the quality of her bulbs more highly. Unfortunately, she does not ship internationally, but wherever you purchase bulbs, the fall season is the time to plant them so that in the spring you will be greeted from the long winter with their beautiful fresh colors.