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.
299: How to Live a Life with Less Stress & Why It's Vital for Good Health
"The lack of meaning in our lives stresses us out, but too much stress makes it harder to find meaning." —Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, author of The Stress Solution
Yesterday, for the entire day, aside from letting my pups outside from time to time and feeding them, I wallpapered. I turned on old British cosy mysteries (Poirot with David Suchet), and went to town (hopefully) transforming my primary bedroom from a gray space to a French/English Countryside cottage space.
After such focused projects, I sleep deeply. Stress? Nonexistent.
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee explains in The Stress Solution how when you've found something you love "time, and even you sense of self, will seem to vanish when you're busy with it." Yep, this is the 'flow state' we've heard so much about. Your emotional brain finds it difficult to grab your attention as your rational brain is being fully encouraged to grow he further teaches. All of this is to say, any negative thoughts, cannot grab hold because you are intently engrossed in something your full attention needs to be engaged with.
Dr. Chatterjee shares more specifically as psycholoist Mihaly Csikszemtimihalyi (who coined the phrase - flow state) found, flow is only fully reached when we are challenged. Which makes it all the more important to find something to give your attention to regularly you not only love doing but also steadily gives you the opportunity to grow.
All of this is to say, we can alleviate and solve the problem of unnecessary stress in our lives. And when we do so, not only will our overall health improve - in the short and long term, but we will deepen the daily contentment we experience and improve our everyday lives.
Part of struggle in America with eradicating stress is whether the culture will admit it or not, it (and I am choosing a non-human pronoun intentionally as we unhelpfully give the culture control over our lives as though we cannot change it - as though it is concrete) thrives when we are stressed. Economically, when people need something, or feel they need something (remember 'false needs' from episode #298), they feel inadequate or lacking, so they do or buy or change which requires 'something else' which keeps us out of the present moment.
Back to the pronoun of it to describe the culture which we think we don't have control over. We do.
Morrie Schwartz, the man of insightful wisdom about living and dying well introduced to readers through Mitch Albom's book Tuesdays with Morrie, expressed and beautifully exemplified the need to cultivate your own culture if the one presented by the world does not work for you.
"Morrie, true to these words, had developed his own culture—long before he got sick. Discussion groups, walks with friends, dancing to his music in the Harvard Square church. He started a project called Greenhouse, where poor people could receive mental health services. He read books to find new ideas for his classes, visited with his colleagues, kept up with old students, wrote letters to distant friends. he took more time eating and looking at nature and wasted no time in front of TV sitcoms . . . he had created a cocoon of human activities—conversations, interations, affection—and it filled his life like an overflowing soup bowl." —Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
Alleviating our lives of stress will take courage - in grand, but many seemingly small ways, practiced every day until they become a healthy habit of being present.
So how can we resolve the stress problem? Dr. Chatterjee has created an acronym L.I.V.E.
L —Do Something You Love, find your flow state and engage in it regularly (often)
I — Do Something With Intent, be present fully in each day and revel in the pleasures of the little details of life which are everywhere if only we'd look. Being present enables
298: 28 Ways to Simplify Your Entire Life
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." —Hans Hofmann
Far different from minimizing, simplifying requires that we consciously explore what is of value in our lives and then thoughtfully edit in order for what we deem most important to shine as fully as possible.
Take for example sight. Eyesight that is. As someone who wears contacts in order to see clearly objects in far distances, when I put on a dirty lens or my lens happens to have an eyelash or spot of makeup on it, not only does it hurt, but frustratingly my eyesight is impaired. My #1 priority is to clean the lens properly in order to see. Why? Understandably, so that I can clearly, safely, peacefully, go about my day without having to actually think about the gift that is 20/20 eyesight.
Such a truth comes into play with our everyday routines, homes, and overall lifestyles. If we don't clear the clutter - literal and figurative - the quality of our lives decreases. What we love, what we value cannot grow, shine, fully blossom. Whatever the analogy is, the full growth, the full maturation, can't possibly be experienced.
Multitasking our lives not only when it comes to the tasks we do each day, has become an approach to living in the 21st century (and was as well in the late 20th century) which was applauded. In many ways 2020 has forced us to recognize how much we missed in doing so - we missed our relationships, we missed simple pleasures, we missed the gift of appreciating well-made, seasonal food, we missed the gift of truly connecting. Now that so much of what we thought we valued but did not prioritized has been forcibly taken out of our lives, are we questioning whether we lived in accordance to what we swore was true to living well.
Let's talk about clutter. What is defined as clutter for you may be different from what someone else may define or label as clutter. My kitchen for example has many tools handy, surrounding my stovetop - canisters, pots hanging, salt and spices within arms-length. For someone else, such a sight may be exhausting to the eye and look terribly cluttered when viewing my kitchen. Organizing my kitchen in such a way makes my cooking fluid, more enjoyable and simple, but that may not be the case for someone else.
More figuratively speaking, how much time with our own and only company we need will depend upon not only our temperaments but as well where we are along our life's journey. There are times in my life where I have needed far more time alone than others, and I am thankful I finally was able to find it as I needed to figure certain things out, things that I didn't even know I needed to sort through. However, once we learn the direction we want to travel, the skills we want to improve or learn, we may reduce the time alone, but I would argue, as you will see in the list today, we will always need regular alone time or as it is often described - solitude.
Since the inception of TSLL blog, simplicity has been a fundamental component of living simply luxuriously. In order to choose well, in order to invest wisely, we first need to know what is of value to each of us, and the only way to do that is to simplify our lives. (View a list of posts focused on simplifying here and here and be sure to check out TSLL's 1st and 2nd book which have specific sections focused on simplifying in a variety of areas of your life.)
Upon recently rereading Carl Phillips' book 22 Ways to Simpler Living and a couple of other books which help me to assess how simplified I have kept my life or where I need to check-in and adjust or make improvements, I was inspired to make a list to serve as a refresher. I have a feeling each reader/listener stopping by today's post has simplified their lives in some way at some point if not multiple
297: 10 Ideas for Making the Most of "Between the Years"
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.
296: The Necessity of Personal Privacy: A Delicate & Important Dance
“Privacy - like eating and breathing - is one of life's basic requirements.”
― Katherine Neville, author
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
295: The Gift of Discontentment (yep, that's no typo)
“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 tha
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
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