The simple sophisticate is someone who prefers quality over quantity, sensible living over mindless consumption, personal style instead of trendy fashions, has an insatiable curiosity for life’s endless questions and a desire to live a truly fulfilling life rather than being led around by the nose. Inspired by her lifestyle blog The Simply Luxurious Life, Shannon Ables (the original Simple Sophisticate) shares with listeners tips on how to live a refined life on an everyday income. From achieving your goals, preparing a memorable meal, creating a capsule wardrobe, traveling the world (Francophiles tune in as Paris is a favorite destination), and living life to the fullest without breaking the bank, living well is really quite simple.
294: How to be the Director of Your Life: 6 Key Components
"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 is happens to be a hard habit to break.
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 weaknes
293: Choose a Life You Love Living Each Day (yes, it is possible)
"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 becom
292: 7 Truths About Experiencing Happiness
Books about happiness ubiquitously fill the publishing world, but the fundamentals of happiness quite simply are just that, simple. We become overwhelmed, and the it becomes easier to fixate, and often on a veritable rather than a fundamental element 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 comments 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 of curiosity], resting your mind and being in a healthy way.
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 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.
And yes, those are results as shared above, but 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 - all 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
291: 6 Ways To Dance with Life (and Have An Amazing Experience)
“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
290: 10 Life Choices to Simplify & Welcome a Calm & Contented Everyday Life
"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 fa
289: Anne Willan Talks About Women in the Kitchen
"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.
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I love the podcast! I had been picking and choosing episodes for several months before I decided to jump in and listen from Season 1 and work my way to the end. I was fascinated with France as a young girl and, using my sister’s French-English dictionary, tried to teach myself French at the young age of 9. Life moved on, priorities shifted into raising kids, and I have now been brought back to that dream. I am a reader, planner, list maker, and try to keep a growth mindset. I love the book and movie suggestions, as well as the introductions to French customs and ideas that have been off my radar. The podcast is refreshing, and I take notes frequently! Thanks, Shannon!
Shannon's insightful episodes and unapologetically tasteful recommendations make every topic discussed in this show a journey through the everything chic, yet realistic. Listening to the show makes me feel as if I were talking to a friend while shopping for a fabulous designer bag.