A Beautiful Life Starts With a Beautiful Day

A lot of times we catch ourselves thinking about how our lives could be different and about all of the ways we are trying to improve it to reflect our own self-expression. We can sometimes get carried away with all of the potentiality that we may cause ourselves to be unhappy with our current lives. It can be easy to fall into the mindset of asking ourselves, “When will it be my turn?” or “Am I there yet?”.

I’ll tell you a secret: You’re never there. There will always be something to yearn for, to keep you reaching. There’s no end point, until it all ends. It’s human nature.

To prevent this reality from burning me out, it’s crucial to take experience your beautiful life day by day. It’s certainly exciting to see your beautiful life unfold before you in big, dramatic ways, but most days aren’t filled with highly compelling events (despite what social media may depict). But this doesn’t mean that each day doesn’t bring its own little opportunities for joy and excitement.

For example, I can’t wait for the day when I can finally work from home without commuting to work for three hours a day. But until that day comes I use this time to listen to my favorite podcasts and audio books and boost my mood by singing in the car. I would also love to go back to living in France one day so I find ways to bring France to me. I listen to French songs, read French books, watch French movies, drink my morning café just like how I remember it was and enjoy French treats from a local shop that imports them. Doing these actions makes me feel as if I am living the life I truly want which puts me in a mindset of gratitude and positivity.

The life you envision for yourself will certainly be different, but it’s all about moving closer to the sensations that we wish to experience by finding ways to experience the same delight within the lives we have now. Doing so not only makes our lives shift faster in the direction we want, but makes the process feel easy and fun.

If you find that thinking about your dream life is making you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, then try to incorporate one new action into your day that will make you feel as if you’re already there. Like I said, there’s no destination so you may as well find a way to enjoy the ride one day at a time.

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Motivational Monday: Have Low Expectations

You might have heard that one key to finding happiness is to keep your expectations low. But on the other hand you are also told to keep goals and grind, hustle and work towards the life of your dreams.. How can these two attitudes exist at the same time in our heads and why is it important to do so?

Let’s start with the more obvious one which is the purpose of having goals and a vision for your life. If you don’t have a plan, you are almost certainly planing to fail. Goals allow us to focus our energy in a certain direction and know when we are progressing so that we can appreciate all that we have accomplished. A vision motivates us to continue trying when it is tempting to stop, which builds character and resilience.

With all of the benefits that are gained from keeping a lofty vision, what is meant when we are told to have low expectations or to let go of resistance? Isn’t this contradictory to the “never give up”, “keep on hustling” mindset? No. This attitude is not talking about lowering our standards for our life, it’s talking about not becoming emotionally attached to an outcome that is beyond our control. Visions are a combination of controllable efforts on our part and trust and faith that the other parts will fall into place. For example, if your goal is to get promoted to a certain position there are many controllable aspects that you will put effort into such as: discussing a career plan with your immediate manager, networking with people in that department, developing skills that will be pertinent in that position, and beefing up your resume with applicable experience and achievements.  However, there are so many pieces of this goal that are uncontrollable such as: the merits of the other candidates, whether or not the position actually comes available, or even if your interviewer actually likes you or not. Both the controllable and uncontrollable aspects combined bring you an outcome but the only expectations you should have about the process is what is within your control. It is a meaningless expense of emotional energy to attach yourself to an outcome that is ultimately not up to you. Another reason to keep yourself unattached to a result is because you never know what other, better opportunities may be given to you in the future as a result of something not going the way you envisioned. Life is unpredictable, and that includes being unpredictable in a good way!

Aiming high but having low expectations should be rephrased as aiming high but leaving options open because that’s really what it is. This sort of attitude keeps your motivation focused and attracts better opportunities even in the face of less than ideal outcomes. A healthy attitude toward life is to remain open and optimistic because you never know what’s waiting around the corner. Release yourself from unreasonable expectations and focus on your efforts and before you know it, life will be running towards you instead of you chasing after it.

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Book Review: Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster

I’m sorry to say that after reading this eye-opening book that I won’t be able to look at the luxury and fashion industry the same ever again.

Ever since I’ve been taken with purses, I’ve had a suspicion that certain high-end brands with their liberal annual price increases and tasteless limited edition releases were not necessarily in the business of luxury, but rather in the business of making a profit. I know that I am not alone in this perspective; a brief conversation about the topic with any aficionado will bring a similar line of thought.

These suspicions were what drew to me reading this book and with facts, figures, and interviews with owners and designers themselves, Dana Thomas has proven those suspicions to be true.

In an informative and engaging manner, Thomas takes us from Hong Kong to France to South America, into replica sweatshops in Guangzhou to Miuccia Prada’s concrete office in Milan to the vibrant Daslu, a rare and true luxury shopping experience in Brazil. She brings us into the intimate details of the series ruthless and shrewd power moves taken by Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, that changed the direction of luxury forever and through this, narrates the demise of the made-to-order, old world luxury companies and the rise of the democratization of luxury.

But all is not lost even in today’s money-driven and fast fashion environment. Thomas shows how luxury still persists in a few brands such as Hermes, Chanel and Louboutin. Most of the book was horrifyingly candid for such a lover of designer goods like me, but I did enjoy the latter parts of the book that allow these wonderful brands to shine and stand against the dizzying avarice of others.

Christian Louboutin explains that “luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers…about subtlety and details. It’s about service…Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality.”

Cristiane Saddi, a marketing director in Sao Paolo says that clients who frequent Daslu, a luxury fashion emporium, “don’t need the logo entry-level handbag or to wear labels or logos. We buy from luxury brands, but not ordinary products. You can see what is mass and what is special. Luxury is not how much you can buy. Luxury is the knowledge of how to do it right, how to take the time to understand and choose well. Luxury is buying the right thing.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to truly grasp what luxury means and stop being fooled into throwing money away on mass glamour. It’s not about how much money you have or how much or what you buy. One can be more luxurious than the richest socialite in all the world by understanding quality, selecting timeless pieces, and above all an unpretentious naturalness in one’s surroundings.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Karl Lagerfeld that sums it up quite candidly,

Luxury is the ease of a t-shirt in a very expensive dress. If you don’t have it, you are not a person used to luxury. You are just a rich person who can buy stuff.

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Getting Rid of FOMO

Fear of missing out. We’ve all experienced it. Probably while scrolling through our instagram feed. Ha! I used to experience it when I would use social media and see beautiful pictures of people living it up in foreign countries or drool-worthy walk-in closets filled with luxury purses (purses are my weakness). But now, instead of letting those images fester into jealousy or discontent, I use them as a source of inspiration and celebration and here’s how you can too without avoiding social media.

Reconfigure the purpose of social media

Its up to you to define what purpose social media has in your life. For some people, unfortunately, it can be a source of competition and constant one-up-manship. They spend so much precious time looking at pictures and videos that they create a very negative narrative in their head and it goes something like this: “My life sucks, I don’t have as much stuff as so-and-so, I don’t get to go or do all the cool things that so-and-so does, if I want to live the good life then I need to do/have/be what so-and-so does/has/is”.

The funny thing is even if you were to have the same things or do the same things as that other person, there will always be someone else doing and having “more”. There is a hadith that says,

If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6075, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1048

Instead of letting all those photos let you grow so utterly dissatisfied with your own, see them as a source of inspiration and a celebration of beauty that propel you to find your own beauty in your life. Or, even better just as what it is — a picture on the internet. After all you don’t really know that person or what their life is like in reality. A beautiful life is made in the small moments and details, not by owning all of the things.

 Imagine yourself in that picture

This is a good one. Whenever you see something that is starting to give you FOMO, fully and completely start imagining yourself in the reality of that situation to see if that’s something that will actually bring you joy. If it does, then see the paragraph above and find a way to bring that into your life, but I bet that most of the time it won’t bring you true joy.

For example, luxury cars a big hit on instagram. Girls and guys pose next to their(?) Masertis and Lambourghinis with all sorts of custom work done. It’s looks pretty cool but let’s think of the reality of owning that sort of vehicle.

  1. Insurance costs: A cursory search online shows that a Lambourghini insurance quote ranges anywhere from $5000 to $20000 a year.
  2. Maintenance costs: Again, looking online in 2014 it cost around $30000 annually for maintain a Lambourghini. This includes a $400 oil change. And I thought my $80 oil change was expensive!
  3. The daily realities of driving this vehicle: If I were driving this car, I would be worried about getting in an accident and getting ripped off by the other person. Also, there’s the constant anxiety I would get when parking or leaving it unattended. Some kid could accidentally (or purposely) nick or scratch it while taking a picture of themselves with it to put on Instagram, ha!

This method always works pretty well for me. By the time I’m done thinking about the whole situation I’m content with letting so-and-so have their picture online for me to enjoy and having them deal with the daily reality of that picture.

Know yourself and make a plan

Using the two methods above will allow you to know what truly makes you feel happy and alive. Just because something is popular online (see above: Lambourghini example) doesn’t mean that its what would make you feel like you’re living life to the fullest. In fact, I believe if we allowed ourselves to let go of what we “should” think is cool and fun, but instead explored our own tastes and interests, we would experience so much more than what may be “trending”. So, if you find yourself lusting over someone else’s life, I mean, truly and deeply wanting to share similar experiences, then simply make a plan and allow yourself to have that. Nothing is impossible, most people just aren’t patient enough!

Log off and connect with yourself

This one is self-explanatory. If you find yourself getting worked up and obsessive about some pictures on the internet, simply log off. Do something that you like such as exercise, read, cook some food — just change the scenery. There’s no need to get stressed out about some silly pictures of someone else’s life because your life is too short to be anything but happy and beautiful as often as possible. Bring your emotions back in check and reconnect with your balance. You are what you think about and if you keep approaching life from an angle of lack and resistance, that’s what you will get. Instead, find something that expands and lifts your spirit and you’ll be back to yourself in no time.

This is my advice for ridding yourself of FOMO. Its such a silly emotion that is unfortunately so common these days, but I hope that this will help you or someone else you know start living their own beautiful life instead of observing someone else’s.

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Book Review: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This book discusses the science behind what make us content and feel that living life is worthwhile. What drew me to this book was its genuine, no-frills approach to achieving true happiness regardless of your material conditions. Anyone who knows anything about contentment knows that material conditions are secondary to our quality of life and in this book Csikszentmihalyi describes how we can enjoy more of our life, more often regardless of our current material advantages or disadvantages.

Throughout the book he shares that the key to our enjoyment is in increasing the amount of “optimal experience” or “flow” we cultivate in our lives. We’ve all experienced it in those moments when we are fully engrossed in an activity that demands our full attention to completing the task at hand. During these situations we remove ourselves from the any worrying, boredom, anxiety or any other “entropy that brings disorder to consciousness” and we enter into the world of flow where we experience psychological growth and the feeling that perfection is attainable.

He deduces that the “autotelic personality”, the person who can enjoy themselves in a multitude of situations by blocking out distractions and focusing their energies on what is relevant for the moment will describe their lives on the whole as enriching, meaningful and challenging. This experience is the polar opposite of what many people feel their lives are which is a life that “passes in a sequence of boring and anxious experiences over which a person has little control”. This is most striking in our era where we are surrounded by a staggering amount of entertainment choices that despite their novelty and cleverness, leave us unsatisfied and intangibly frustrated. The reason for this boredom and emptiness despite the explosion of leisure activities that have been invented is that when they are only engaged in vicariously and for external reasons, they absorb our psychic energy instead of strengthening it, leaving us emotionally spent and more jaded than before.

Csikszentmihalyi goes into much more detail that what I have written here about how to experience “flow” in all aspects of life from work, to relationships, to simply thinking, and the science behind it. But if this subject has intrigued you at all, I recommend that you read this work. Its made me reevaluate what I see has truly enhancing my enjoyment and utilizing my psychic energy and what is inducing psychic entropy and disorder.

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Why You Can’t Keep Resolutions

My plans for New Year’s Eve evening include a chilled bottle of Martinelli’s Apple Cider, deliciously warm and buttery popcorn and some much needed relaxation and pampering in the form of watching one of my favorite movies, “French Kiss” with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. It’s an oldie, but it never fails to get me in a good mood.
To be perfectly honest, this evening has never held any special appeal to me. I’m not one for crowds or loud cheering, so partying it up is out of the question, I need my beauty sleep so staying up late is a no, and I never wait until a new year to invite change into my life. All of this talk about New Year resolutions bore me to tears as well. Who actually gets excited about losing weight?
And yet, I admit that there is some special reflecting that happens this time of the year. I love the feel and experience of a new planner and a new year asks us to intentionally and deeply think about what we’ve done and what’s to come. But too often I see people create and rush into goals that aren’t truly exciting and enlivening to their souls and inevitably by the time we get to mid-January those goals are abandoned.
This year I challenge you to breathe some love and elegance into your resolutions…
Instead of saving more money and paying off debt, why don’t you commit to finding ways to savor quality and implement a higher standard of allowing only what you truly value into your life?
Instead of finally losing those pesky 10 pounds, why don’t you fall deeply in love with yourself by enjoying only the best foods that would be fit for a queen?
Instead of quitting drinking and smoking, let’s learn to appreciate the amazing things that our body does for us everyday and show our gratitude by making healthful choices everyday.
It’s clear which version of these goals will give you the energy to be inspired to make a lasting change in your life. As long as you approach your resolutions from a space of love and belief you’ll be led — not pushed or dragged — into whatever person you want to be.
I wish you health and happiness in this new year!
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Minimalist Challenge: Finale

I love my closet.

I’ve organized my clothes from light to dark, my purses are very prettily arranged along the wall and my jewelry is placed at eye level where I can easily see all of it.

To be honest, I don’t have many articles of clothing. I’ve found a good number of different outfits that I rotate and subtly change with accessories. I found a couple of dresses that I choose to donate because I didn’t absolutely love how they looked on me and so I barely wore them. I also don’t own a lot of jewelry. I choose simple pieces that I can wear with almost anything so I was happy with everything in my collection.

But my purses are a different story. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my most favorite things in the world is a fabulous handbag. So, my collection has more than just a few! This was where I knew I had an opportunity to sell down my collection.

There were models that I loved and had two colors of and I really couldn’t justify having two different colors of the same bag. For example, I had 2 Jerome Dreyfuss Billy bags (one in black and one in cognac), 2 Goyard St. Louis totes (black and blue), and 2 Gerard Darel 24 hr purses (beige and dark chocolate). I had to make a decision to get rid of both or at least one. I ended up selling the black Jerome Dreyfuss, the blue Goyard, and the beige Gerard Darel, along with a crochet Gerard Darel, a grey Gerard Darel Besace purse, a black Ralph Lauren purse I just never used, and my YSL muse bag. Selling all of these put a tidy sum back into my pocket and while I still have more purses than the average lady, I truly love each and every one of them.

With my closet cleaned out, that concludes the “Minimalism Challenge” for my house. I made a goal to finish this before the end of the year so that I can start off 2017 already streamlined and I feel so good that I did it. Now that I’ve got all of my material things under control I can focus on improving other areas of my life.

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