62: Why Not . . . Simplify Your Choices?

“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” -J. K. Rowling ~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #62 Just as our muscles can become fatigued, so too can our minds. And when we bombard it with endless choices each day, much like using our smart phones excessively, the battery becomes drained […] Listen now or continue reading below.


“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” -J. K. Rowling

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #62


Just as our muscles can become fatigued, so too can our minds. And when we bombard it with endless choices each day, much like using our smart phones excessively, the battery becomes drained and is unable to function as we need it to by the time the day begins to wind down and sometimes much sooner.

Barry Schwartz in his best-selling book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, gives the simplest advice of all, “choose less and feel better.” In other words, often our lack of planning, preparation and truly knowing what we want can be the obstacle that is standing in the way of a more content and fulfilling life. Hmmm.

So today I’d like to share a list of daily decisions that can be “one and done” choices that don’t tax our minds all the while ensure we are living our best and most healthy life. Because the most important choice, as Schwartz points out is knowing what is worth hemming and hawing about and what isn’t.

Today’s post was prompted by a request from a reader after reading a Petit Plaisir a few weeks ago about monochromatic bouquets. A simple choice that doesn’t involve contemplation once we know what colors would look best in our homes, but most importantly make us happy. And the good news is there are many other simple decisions we can default to which will make our lives smoother and allow our minds to be primed for those difficult questions when they arise.

1.A Simple Wardrobe

President Barack Obama has been quoted endlessly since his interview in Vanity Fair three years ago about his decision to wear a navy suit nearly every day. As we all would imagine, the President of the United States has more significant decisions to make than what to wear, and while none of us are the President, we too have decisions that are far more pressing and influential on our overall happiness than what we wear.

Now, don’t get me wrong, what I wear is one of my most beloved hobbies. It is a form of self-expression and an art that takes time to craft. It is also something that is constantly changing, keeping us on our toes as our bodies and lives change with each passing year, but this is precisely why I love having a capsule wardrobe: Adhere to a particular color palette (mine is navy, black, white and gray with touches of pink or green), and purchase quality items and fewer of them because they will last.

2. Return to Trusted Brands/Designers

Trends and labels are a waste of time and money because you will regularly spending money each season to keep up with everyone else. Instead, wear what works well with your body, your lifestyle and your budget. Once you find a brand that cuts clothing that was made for your body, become a loyal customer. The decision-making is left out, you can shop on-line, saving you time and driving a distance (if the store isn’t in your town), and you can rest-assured you will always look your best. This is the case with me when it comes to the jeans I wear, now the tee shirts I wear (as I shared last week), DVF wrap dresses and so much more. It took some time to figure this out, but boy, has it been a life changer.

3. Eat the Same Breakfast

It is imperative to simplify our morning routines. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do a handful of different things, it just means we need to adhere to the same things so such simple, yet powerful decisions that will set the tone for the day don’t drain our minds for the work that lies ahead. Design a breakfast that is delicious, healthy and something that will maintain your energy well past 10 am or longer. When an item such as eggs is about to run out, you know exactly what to buy when you come home from work that day. Keep it simple.

4. Establish Default Choices

In episode #50 of the podcast, Why Not . . . Design a Happy Life?, I included a point about defaults. Defaults are there for a reason. Whether on our computer determining which home screen pops up when we turn on the machine, default passwords, etc. They make life simpler, but only if they aid in creating the life that we desire.

Look over defaults that you have.  Are they helping or hurting the culture you are trying to create as you begin to live simply luxuriously? Are you keeping the fridge stocked with healthy options or junk? Is your phone by your bed at night or charging in another room so you can have a restful night’s sleep? You have more control over the decisions you have to make and the actual decisions you are making. Choose wisely and your life will reward you.

5. Weekday Dinners

There is something I’ve been wanting to do here on the blog, and hopefully in the future I will get to it, but each Sunday (sometimes Saturday), I jaunt off to complete my weekly grocery shopping. I love this errand. My weekly grocery list is pretty much the same each week, which means I eat (you guessed it) pretty much the same thing each week. To many this may sound dull, but when I’m busy, knowing I have the ingredients at home to cook a delicious, yet fulfilling meal that will leave me feeling good about my health is a lifesaver.

What I’ve always wanted to do is share with you simple weekday recipes that mix & match like a capsule wardrobe. A fail-safe and delicious modern woman’s home cook menu. And while I don’t have the detailed version created yet, here is a general overview:

  • Eat night
    • a vegetable: spinach (steamed with garlic, lemon and olive oil OR tossed with homemade vinaigrette), roasted broccoli, green beans a la Julia Child
    • a protein: grilled chicken, grilled salmon, shrimp scampi, parmesan chicken, Sole Meunière,
    • sometimes a slice of artisan bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar
    • water

Again, this is just a basic idea of how simple your grocery shopping can be, yet how satisfied and simple your meal can be as well.

~View all TSLL Recipes, organized by meal here.

6. Lunch

Depending upon what your day requires you to do, whether you work at home or at an office or are on the road, the key again is to have a designated meal or meals you always default to during the week. The weekends or special occasions or evenings out are when we can allow the decision-making to be complicated and oh so rewarding and delicious, but for the everyday routine, keep it simple.

7. Have a Drink of Choice

Now I am not saying, only drink one thing, but keep it simple and know your preferred tea or coffee, know what you typically will choose when dining casually (water with lemon for me) and what you prefer when alcohol is what you’d prefer (I stick to wine). This will not only help your mind, but help your budget as well.

8. Have a Workout You Love

Pretend you are being interviewed by a magazine, you know the profile interviews where they share a person’s exercise routine, etc. What would you say? I can remember reading interviews of Princess Diana way back when I was in high school and thinking, how does she know what works for her? But after a while you do know what works for you and what you enjoy doing that is effective. For me, it’s walking, Pilates, strength exercises at home and paddle boarding. I have my favorite walking trails and paths, and while I do mix them up based on how much time I have and how hard I want to push myself, my workout routine is written in ink in my planner. Make the decision simple, make it something you enjoy and that shows results, and then get moving!

9. Hair Style & Products

Once you have a cut that works with your face and lifestyle, take the time to learn how to style it at home and then stick to it. The same is true for hair products. It may take time to find products that work the best with your hair, and if that is the case keep trying something new until you do, but once you do, use them, replace them when they run out and don’t think twice.

10. Emotional Reactions

I’ve realized recently that we can become conditioned to react emotionally a certain way to things regardless of who we are with. It wasn’t until I moved to Bend, not knowing anyone and saw something I wanted to change. I found myself, after having been protect and defensive with my responses in certain situations due to past hurts, responding the same way here with people who had given me no reason to be protective. I realized I can either project trust, warmth, optimism and kindness or I can put out into the world what I don’t want, but am fearful will happen.

So my challenge to you and to myself is to shift our emotional reactions to a default that projects what we want to see more of in our lives. Quickly, and truly I have seen an immediate positive response, people will respond in kind or leave you alone because they know they cannot get the negative or snarky response from you they had expected. You don’t want to be around those people anyway. A simple decision that can make a big difference.

11. Schedule the Buffer

When scheduling appointments, always provide at least a 15 minute or 30 minute buffer (not including travel time). Why? As much as we want meetings to end on time and traffic to run smoothly, it doesn’t always follow our wishes. By implementing a buffer, you will reduce stress, chaos and rushed decisions as when you run late, you are often having to apologize and not focus on why you’re there.

12. Nail Polish, Make-up

Now if you’re a beauty product lover, you may not want this, but as someone who wants her toes to look nice, but wishes they would magically trim and polish themselves, I stick to the same color year round. A soft blush-tone nude shade from OPI and I then forget about it. Same goes with my make-up: Bobbi Brown and Nars. I’m sure there are many other fabulous brands that offer the same quality, but these work for what I need.

13. From Whom You  Seek Advice 

The clichéd saying goes that “Advice is what we seek when we already know the answer, but wish we didn’t”, but I also find it true that we seek out the people we think will give us the advice we want to hear. Such is not always the best idea. In other words, don’t be asking for medical advice from someone who has no experience in medicine. Likewise, don’t seek relationship advice from someone who has never been in your situation. While we might want comfort from certain people, advice, sound advice is an entirely different ballgame. Knowing who to talk to whether it’s a real estate question, a romantic dilemma or a career question will save you much frustration when you are left alone to make the actual decision about how to proceed.

14. Savings

Defaults will also be a game-changer when it comes to finances. Set your checking to automatically deduct a certain amount for your savings and retirement so you don’t have to remember to do so.

15. How to Handle Debt

Depending on the financial situation you are in, set a default decision and payment plan that works for your budget and you no longer have to wonder about. Whether you have no debt at all and pay in full each month or are currently paying down debt, create a schedule and a response that works when purchasing new items pop up. Should you or shouldn’t you? Can you pay it off in full?

16. Waking Up & Turning In

Not only is a regular sleep schedule best for your body, it will do wonders for your mind. Setting your body clock takes time, but once you remain consistent, even for a week, you will see your body wants to wake up at a certain time and turn in at a certain as well. Anyone who has ever traveled a crossed multiple time zones and felt jet-lag knows that the body’s sleep cycle is a powerful internal clock.

17. The Flowers You Buy

As I mentioned in the recent Petit Plaisir, choosing a monochromatic bouquet is a simple way to make a bold and stylish statement. And when it comes to purchasing flowers in general, I have learned that I tend to only buy specific types of flowers either for their beauty and color or their ability to last. Such purchases always make me happy and pleased when I walk through my front door, and I don’t tend to buy unless certain flowers are available which saves my budget in the long run.

Just like your go-to drinks, have a go-to flower or flowers that you will fork over cold hard cash for. If your favorites aren’t available, save your pennies.

In many ways today’s post/episode is the second part in designing a happy life. Hopefully, what you will discover as you put these simple decisions into play is that your decision-making is clearer on the items that need your full attention and contemplation of all of the options. In so doing, you will cultivate, design in other words, a very lovely simply luxurious life indeed.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Why Not . . . Keep It Simple In The Kitchen?

~6 Ways to Life Fully Each Day

~14 Ideas for Ending Your Day Well

Petit Plaisir:

~Fresh Heirloom Tomato Soup with Cream

adapted from The Splendid Table

tomatosoup
Ingredients
  • Extra virgin olive oil (select what you would want to taste)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • large cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken broth
  • A big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 15 medium or 10 large delicious ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped (keep the juices)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (for serving)
Instructions
1. Generously drizzle the bottom of a 12-quart pot with olive oil. Set over medium high heat. When warm, add onions and about 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to color.
2. Stir in the garlic, red pepper, and tomato paste. Cook 1 minute. Add broth, basil, and tomatoes. Bring to a lively simmer, cover the pot, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are softened and soup tastes fresh, but mellow. Adjust seasonings to taste.
3. Allow soup to cool. Using an immersion blender, a traditional blender or a food processor, blend 2/3 of the soup. Blend slightly leaving a more chunky soup (like mine above) or to a fine puree. Rewarm or serve close to room temperature.
4. Then, just as you are serving, drizzle a full tablespoon of cream into each bowl you serve. Pair with a slice of crusty, artisan bread for dipping into the soup to act as a soup if you’d prefer.

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4 thoughts on “62: Why Not . . . Simplify Your Choices?

  1. Number 10 certainly struck a chord with me yesterday, particularly given the timing. I’d just had a very unpleasant meeting at work, and an even less pleasant emotional response to it. Most of the time I feel like I’ve made great strides in improving all areas of my life–particularly in the last year + (35 seemed to be the magic age when I stopped being so hard on myself and just started enjoying/improving things in my life). Then something as simple as a bad meeting can unearth all kinds of hidden baggage.

    In this case, a colleague was using aggressive/manipulative techniques to try to get something from me that would not benefit me or my team in any way–it would only create a nightmare workload for me for the next 6 months, and threaten my team’s entire business practice that I’ve worked so, so, so hard to improve. I did my best to keep cool in the meeting, but I know it showed that I was perturbed. Afterward I felt exhausted and victimized–that feeling stuck with me all through today, even.

    I can think of many reasons I have issues with people “taking” from me, but I know the biggest factor is how I was raised (single mother, very poor economic circumstances, and our house was broken into with some regularity–left us all feeling very vulnerable and victimized).Now that I’ve built a good, stable home for myself with a good career and achievements I’m proud of, I suppose I feel like I have more to lose. I imagine that makes these unwitting emotional responses that much stronger, when someone unexpectedly strikes with a “take” attack (like the woman in the meeting).

    If you have any thoughts (or suggested reading!) on how to shake the those deeply buried “victim” mentalities, I’d love to hear them. I did a quick search on your site, and couldn’t find any posts directly related–but if you have one, would you mind directing me toward it?

    Thanks, Shannon!

  2. Please please PLEASE put together your detailed “capsule menu” and share it on the podcast! I’d also love any helpful tips or guidelines in making lots of recipes with fewer ingredients. I’ve been meal planning for years and, while it has saved me money, planning takes me way too long each week and it often leaves me with jars of barely-used ingredients. Thanks!

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