Have to vs. want to

Sometimes I think life is a constant struggle between what we have to do and what we want to do. Or is it just me?

I have to go to work (this used to be one of the biggest ones until recently), I have to tidy up, I have to do the dishes, I have to see that friend of mine who I said no to twice and now I have to even if there is no time in my schedule.

Recently, I have committed to doing more of what I want in my life by taking responsibility for it and committing to experiencing it every day. It all comes down to making conscious choices. Having gone through some small and big changes (leaving my day job and deciding to move into a new home), I began to feel happy and free. But the oh so familiar voice telling me “you have to…” managed to find its way back into my head and took over, erasing all the good work I have done. I told myself: I am moving home, this is different, it’s ok to feel a lot of pressure and do what I don’t want to do, be stressed, overwhelmed and unhappy. But that didn’t feel right.

I don’t know how about you, but whenever I tell myself I have to do something I don’t feel excited about, my first response is procrastination. I usually procrastinate with tasks I dread until there is enough time pressure to send me into an adrenalin rush doing mode. Then I stress, get things done and feel exhausted after. And the cycle continues…

Procrastination can take many forms: from finding something else (equally important to do),  to getting unwell (our bodies’ natural response to pressure), to simply doing nothing. I experienced all three last week when instead of packing, selling furniture and arranging my move, I was in bed with fever, taking care of other less time sensitive issues and feeling so overwhelmed that doing nothing seemed like the only way forward. Have you been there?

This time, however, I caught myself just in time before going into a stress-fuelled adrenalin rush, which endangers our health and well-being, and allowed myself to take a break and then deal with my tasks in a way that is enjoyable to me. I cannot take credit for this entirely though. A weekend in magical Venice (where I went last weekend) has the power to transform anyone from struggle mode to pleasure mode.

In full pleasure mode in Venice
In full pleasure mode in Venice

How to stop procrastinating and enjoy doing what you want to do:

1. Recognise that in most cases you don’t have to do that thing you dread, you actually choose to do it

Let’s take my example. At a first glance it looks like I have to pack all my belonging in less than two weeks and move them into the new flat. I don’t actually have to do this. I could ask all my friends to come and help or hire a moving company to pack for me or pay my cleaner a day rate and get her to do it for me. The truth is I actually want to pack my clothes and books and other personal belongings by myself. I enjoy going through my clothes, trying them on while listening to music or flicking though my books before deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. For things I don’t feel as excited about when it comes to packing, I will bring in help.

What do you feel you have to do that you don’t like? Maybe it’s going to the gym. There are other ways to feel good and stay fit. Maybe it’s going to work every morning instead of having the day to yourself. Well, you could quit, start your own company, find a job where you can work from home, find an alternative way to make a living. Allow yourself to see other solutions. Then make a choice. In some cases you will notice that what you felt you have to do is your choice. This change of perception will empower you.

2.  Set daily intentions

To have, do, experience what you want, it is important to know what it is first. Decide what you want to experience each day by setting daily intentions. It’s not only about goals and what you want to accomplish. We get so focused on goals and achievements in our culture that we forget to experience life daily. This is in fact one of the main reasons why people procrastinate even with what they like doing – too much pressure coming from achieving vs. failing. Think about what you want to enjoy and how you want to feel. You can set intentions about specific tasks, but remember to focus on what you want to experience. Tara Marino, a well-known coach, a fashion designer and a very inspiring woman, has an excellent video about how to set intentions and focus on the experience.

Writing my daily intentions is part of my routine
Writing intentions is part of my daily routine

3. Delegate

We are so used to relying on ourselves that we forget it is possible to delegate some of our activities. Is there something you dread doing that you could delegate? 

4. Be creative and find new fun ways to deal with tasks

If you don’t like doing something but there isn’t anyone to delegate it to or it simply needs to get done, think if there is a way of doing it that would be enjoyable. It is easy to get bored and begin to procrastinate with routine tasks. For example, I travel a lot, but I really don’t like packing. Looking stylish is a must so I dread the process. Last time I travelled, instead of just picking up random clothes and putting them into a suitcase around midnight (time pressure is key here), I wrote a vision for my trip where I imagine what I will be doing, how I will be feeling and what I will be wearing. I got so inspired that I managed to pack in 30 minutes (my personal record).

Going back to my move, one of the things I wanted to do was de-cluttert my wardrobe and get rid of other belongings to feel lighter in my new home and sell what I don’t wear (or have never worn). I was procrastinating listing on eBay because this did not excite me. Last week I realised that the most exciting way for me to do this would be to organise a stylish wardrobe sale party. If you are in London and are interested in attending, contact me for details.

Excited about our wardrobe sale party
Excited about our wardrobe sale party

What can you change in your routine tasks that will make them more fun? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Pratique mais feminine: 7 style lessons from Paris

Just over 10 days ago I took myself on a weekend trip to Paris to celebrate the fact that I have joined the exciting world of entrepreneurs. I couldn’t pick a better destination to celebrate my new lifestyle and career, get my creative juices flowing and treat myself to delicious food, gorgeous views and of course get a much needed dose of style inspiration.

This trip was everything I had imagined and so much more. Traveling solo, I was able to only do, see, experience, enjoy what I desired without having to compromise even for a minute. And what I desired was to discover the secret formula behind Parisian women’s style. I have long admired Parisian chic and even bought books and magazines to better understand how to create that allure, that magnetism, that je ne sais quoi (excuse the cliche) that many Parisian women have. To say I was excited to finally dedicate an entire weekend to this subject would be an understatement.

In Paris I engaged in conversations with stylish French women, went shopping and spent hours people watching in cafés in trendy neighbourhoods, determined to learn about the art of style and allure that appears to come from within. Here is what I now know about the key elements of Parisian style.

1. Looking good starts with a mindset

At the beginning of my research I was met with some obstacles. Even French women themselves struggle to define their style, claiming they are not doing anything special to look the way they do. Yet, those women looked very elegant.  It is something so instilled in their mindset, in their daily life that they struggle to define it. The majority of women I came across were well dressed, stylish in their own way, one thing they all had in common is how effortless their style looked. Looking good is not something they only do when they have a date or a meeting. Effortlessness in style begins with a mindset.

Effortless style in the streets of Paris
Effortless style in the streets of Paris

2. Style can be practical

Many women, especially on weekends, are wearing very casual clothes, yet they still look stylish. Even when I went out in the evenings I didn’t see a lot of examples of full-blown glamour. It seems that understated is an essential element of Parisian chic. “Your outfit can be practical but there are ways to stay feminine”, explains Maryvonne, a friendly and stylish shop assistant at a shoe boutique I visited. She explained that most Parisian women choose low heels (up to 5cm) because they are always on the go. There is even a name for this type of shoe – “Parisienne” – feminine and comfortable. Style has to be practical for a busy modern woman, according to my new Parisian connection. A Parisienne adds a scarf, an elegant pair of shoes or a stylish jacket to transform her outfit from day to evening. This does not require a lot of time and effort (which, let’s be honest, is what puts many women off style).

Parisienne style shoes
Parisienne style shoes

3. Embrace who you are

One thing Parisian women appear to do very well is dress in the most flattering way for their body type. They know what suits them and what doesn’t and they stay with what works, not being lured by fashion trends every 6 months. My friend Laure, a beautiful young French woman, who always looks chic, tells me over a glass of wine: “I don’t wear short skirts because I know they don’t suit me, I always go for pencil skirts, they work well for me”. This is an amazing level of self-awareness from someone who hasn’t even turned 30 yet. Instead of feeling bad about what you don’t have, be it bigger curves (I am talking to myself here), thinner hips or longer legs, and hiding behind baggy clothes, embrace you shape and show off what you love about your body.

4. Make pleasure part of your daily life

“A perfect macaroon is ‘croquant’ on the outside and melting on the inside when you bite into it, it has to be absolutely fresh”, says Cordelia, my charming shopping guide, a true Parisienne, as we pass by a beautiful patisserie. She is petite and slender and a self-confessed dessert addict. In France they eat desserts, chocolate, drink wine and have cheese. And then there is the bread. I saw very stylish women eating bread in very trendy cafés where bread shouldn’t even be on the menu! There is no guilt involved. How do they do it? Well, firstly no guilt means having a healthy relationship with food. Secondly, accepting pleasure as part of daily life means we stop actively depriving ourselves and this alone decreases the risk of overindulgence. They simply know when to stop. The proof is everywhere: I have not seen anyone who is overweight.

Delicious macaroons. Who could resist?
Delicious macaroons. Who could resist?
My style and shopping guide Cordelia
My style and shopping guide Cordelia

5. Inner confidence is key

As I walk around the vibrant Le Marais with Cordelia discovering new boutiques, we talk about the fact that not many women wear bright colours or attention grabbing outfits. She tells me demure is essential for a typical Parisian: a top with sheer back but not sheer front, clean lines, simple t-shirt with jeans and a good quality jacket. Parisians do demure so well. They don’t look too “polished”, they wear mainly neutrals or darks, very few women wear tons of make up, not much skin is displayed. Yet they are not hiding, they are strangely visible and project so much confidence. This natural confidence comes from being comfortable with who you are, I think.

Stylish Saturday brunch outfit
Stylish Saturday brunch outfit
Demure Parisian chic
Demure Parisian chic

6. Accessories are essential

During the three days that I spent in Paris I do not remember seeing a single person without a scarf! Even small children had stylish scarves on. To be stylish a woman needs to learn to accessorise – there is no way around it. Accessorising is the simplest (and it can be a very cost effective) way to update an outfit, take you from day to evening or add a personal touch and make a plain outfit your own.

Blending in with Parisian crowds... I got many compliments on my statement necklace which completely transformed my simple outfit
Blending in with Parisian crowds… I got many compliments on my statement necklace which completely transformed my simple outfit

7. Elegance and style does not end when you get home

There are numerous boutiques and shops selling beautiful lounge and home wear in Paris. It is elegant and feminine: silky dresses, soft trousers, cotton and wool cover ups (not old pijama bottoms). I learn that French women stay elegant in their homes too. As a newly self-employed working from home, I am determined to embrace this particular style element from now on. Believe me, it changes everything – from the way you feel and relate to yourself to the way you show up with others.

Ready to embrace style as a mindset, become comfortable with who you are and feel confident? Apply for a complimentary discovery session here.

 

6 tips for styling yourself for a glamorous evening event

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
― Coco Chanel

This weekend I am going to the Secret Cinema special screening of Wes Andreson’s latest film the Grand Budapest Hotel. The dress code is strictly fine evening attire” and women in particular are invited to come dressed in their most glamorous haute couture (my favourite). As exciting as the idea of dressing up in haute couture style may be, looking truly glamorous requires a lot of effort. Some of us may even be a little intimidated by this idea, especially if we are busy, not feeling too stylish or lack confidence to wear glamorous evening wear. Most of us have been there, including myself.

I have discovered over the years that looking stylish and dressing up for events (or any occasion) does not have to be stressful. I invite you to have fun with the process and to help you, here are my 6 style tips on how to make sure you look your most glamorous and confident at any social event.

1. Get in the mood for style

(I know this is an obvious one, but do make sure you know what the dress code on your invitation means.) Once you know what the requirements are, start preparing for the event by getting in the mood for it. Put together a mood board online from images that inspire you – I love using Pinterest - or cut out pictures from magazines of dresses you love, red carpet celebrities and accessories. I, for example, have visited several vintage shops, purely for inspiration. I know how hard it is to find time in our busy schedules for something like this, but it needn’t take long – have a 15 minute tea or coffee break and flick through a couple of magazines. Get in creative mood. Creating a stylish look is a creative process.

My mood board for 1930s haute couture style
My mood board for 1930s haute couture style

2. Know yourself and celebrate what you love about your body

On my recent trip to Paris, I discovered one of the main secrets behind French women’s elegance: they appreciate their natural body shape and know what to wear to flatter their shape (and what not to wear). I am not talking about being critical of your body here. Look at yourself in the mirror and admire parts of your body that you love most. Make sure you know how to show them off. Maybe you love your feminine curves, so accentuate your waist and bust. Maybe you always get compliments about your long legs, show them off with a shorter dress or a slit. Maybe your small feminine shoulders and arms deserve attention, then wear a strapless dress. Similarly, there is a way to balance what you feel is out of proportion.

Cameron Diaz wears asymmetric neckline and full skirt, a perfect way to create balance for a woman with athletic (wide shoulders) shape
Cameron Diaz wears asymmetric neckline and full skirt, a perfect way to create balance for a woman with athletic (wide shoulders) shape

If you are not sure what work for your body shape, consider hiring a personal style consultant.

3. It’s not only about the dress. Think about your entire look

Have you ever been in a situation where you bought a perfect dress but after couldn’t find any accessories or shoes to go with it? I have…

Today, I decide on the style of my entire outfit before going shopping, so I know exactly what to look for. Here are a couple of questions to help you decide what look you want to create.

Decide where you want to make an accent: bold colour of the dress, statement earrings or necklace, bright shoes and handbag?

What mood inspires you: romantic (think lace or flowy silk silhouette)? Classic? Minimalist with clean lines and neutral colours? Bold and daring with bright colours or trendy shapes?

And most importantly, what outfit expresses who you are and your uniqueness in the best way?

4. Make sure you have the right underwear

One of the things I learned when training to be a personal style consultant is that having the right underwear can change the entire outfit. Final preparatory step before going shopping for an evening outfit is buying the right underwear. Go for a fitting with a shop assistant if you are not sure what size you are and what shape suits you best. Consider buying Spanx, especially if you are going for a bodycon dress or very light silk.

5. Remember comfortable=confident

Now that you feel inspired, know what you are looking for and have the right shapewear with you, you can go shopping (or look in the back of your wardrobe if you are a lucky owner of numerous evening gowns). Make sure you can enjoy yourself in your chosen outfit. You are going to the event to have fun. Can you sit comfortably in that dress? Can you have food without feeling self-conscious in a bodycon dress? Can you stand all night and dance in those shoes?

6. Pamper yourself before the event

Book a pampering session for the day of the event to feel like a star on the red carpet. Have your hair and make up done. It’s fun and is a great confidence booster. Last time I went to an event, I had my hair done in Old Hollywood style with side-swept waves, a look I had long desired to try. It made my evening. Has there been a look that you have always wanted to try but couldn’t do at home? This is the perfect time to try it.

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How do you get ready for glamorous social events? I would love to hear from you in the comments area below.

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Ready to become more visible in your career and life and to present yourself confidently and stylishly at any event? Join me on this complimentary discovery session.

A day without a plan in London

Living in London is living a dream for me. It is fun, stimulating and exciting. Culture, aesthetics, architecture, people are only a few reasons why London is such an amazing city. But I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that living here is 100% perfect. Like any big city, London living comes with stress, constant speed, which nobody seems to control, and constant pressure to do something, see someone or be somewhere. While I love experiencing all that London has to offer, I won’t pretend it is not tiring. London more than any other European city seems to embrace the “doing” approach of living and “result-orientedness” that defines modern western culture. 

Most recently, having spent two weeks in a non-stop doing mode – work, networking, workshops, business travel – I woke up after a 9 hour sleep still feeling exhausted. Doing my morning pages, a very effective journaling tool I learned from the creativity guru Julia Cameron, I realised that deep inside I am tired of always having a fully booked diary and pressure of “doing” that comes with it. I knew that no amount of sleep would fix that. So I decided to do something radical by my standards: ignore my to do list, reschedule/cancel all appointments, put work on hold and go about my day without a plan (those who know me will know this does not mean watching TV while lying on my sofa all day). I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I new I wanted to enjoy myself and be completely spontaneous.

While doing my morning ritual of thinking about my day and sipping on hot water with lemon, I began to get ideas about what I desired to do and get really excited. I dressed up for the occasion – light greys and pastels to celebrate the arrival of spring – and walked out of the door without the usual rush.

My first stop was Ottolenghi in Islington, one of London’s most exciting residential areas, where I am very lucky to live. They do great breakfast and I simply love their style – I highly recommend it (but do book in advance if coming on weekends). My shakshuka was delicious and my yellow chair was a perfect reflection of my mood.

Next, I remembered that I received an email about a birthday gift waiting for me at Space.NK and decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a beautiful facial rosewater mist. What a lovely treat!

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On my way to Space.NK I decided to stop by a lovely local boutique called Diverse. It stocks on stylish brands, such as Acne, Marlene Birger, Isabel Marant and Maison Scotch. I simply love shopping at independent boutiques without the stress of being on a busy high street. In fact, I love popping into boutiques just to see what they have without always needing to buy something. This time, I could not resist the opportunity to update my spring wardrobe.

After satisfying my food, style and beauty requirements, I felt like going for a walk. Another advantage of living in Islington is being close to the Regent’s Canal, one of London’s best kept secrets. It is my favourite place for walks.

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Walking by the canal and spending time in nature can seem like such a luxury in London. And yet it is one of the simplest ways to instantly add some calm and pleasure to our day.

I suddenly felt called to visit an art gallery for some creative stimulation. I have to confess it had been a while since I visited a gallery. Parasol Unit in Wharf road had a very interesting exhibition of works by Turkish artist Canan Tolon. Her style, using a variety of media, and unusual, at times seemingly random technique really drew me in.

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A painting by Canan Tolon

Next door to Parasol unit is the Victoria Miro gallery, one of the top commercial galleries in London. Here, I saw another stimulating exhibition – a video installation by London-based artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. It runs until 1 March and I highly recommend stopping by if you have time.

Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro
Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro

On my way back home I noticed a book that caught my attention in a shop. It was about Paris. I saw it as a sign that it’s time to visit the city of lights and went in to get it in preparation for my trip.

Impulse purchase that revealed  my true desire
Impulse purchase – so revealing of my true desire

I decided to end my afternoon with a beautiful cup of tea and a snack at my local cafe and allow all the ideas, positive emotions and inspiration from this beautiful day to sink in.

Even though all these activities are very simple, I was surprised how much fun I had. The interesting thing is: I enjoyed all these activities because they were not on my to-do list, there was no obligation to do anything, I was treating myself out of inspiration rather than because I thought I had to. This subtle difference creates a very different experience.

The most surprising part, however, was how energised and invigorated I felt all day. Often when we are overwhelmed by too many things on our to-do list, work and personal commitments, leaving it all and simply having some fun seems like the least sensible thing to do. But this is precisely what works. Try it for yourself and see how much energy, motivation and inspiration you will have as a result. Sorry to mention result again, this is my Londoner speaking. Forget the result, take a break and do whatever you feel like with only one purpose – to enjoy.

What do you think of this approach? Please share your own suggestions.

Thoughts on the power of style

As London Fashion Week is approaching, style and fashion is the topic of the moment. Many people are excited to celebrate the time of creative expression through design. But many simply ignore it, claim they have no interest in it or use it as an opportunity to judge fashion as pure vanity. Regardless of what each of us thinks of the fashion industry or even LFW itself, I believe something needs to be said in defense of style and individual desire to look beautiful. Here is a note on the power of style in my life…

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On a grey and wet Monday morning a couple of days ago, I was feeling equally grim. As I was rushing out of the door to make my dentist appointment before going to work, I felt overwhelmed by all I needed to do even before properly starting the day. My promise to myself to stay calm, grounded and slow down this week went out of the window when I couldn’t find my travel card as I was already running late.

At that moment I became very aware of how tired I feel of this long winter, wearing the same clothes for the past three month and wearing multiple layers to keep warm, yet still feeling cold. At the beginning of the season I enjoyed winter fashion. I had fun mixing patterns, colours and textures – soft cashmere in different shades, silk with thick wool – to create new sweater-skirt combos, my favourite look this season. But after nearly three months of winter I have worn every possible combination and I am bored. Last week, noticing that I was slipping into a style rut, I promised myself to be better at honouring my desire for style in my life every single day (even when I am tired or uninspired). I finally found some creative solutions working around my busy schedule to have my dresses ironed and high-heeled boots re-heeled – so I could no longer use excuses that being stylish is too time consuming when I have to rush out in the morning.

On that Monday morning I had a choice: to wear flat boots I am so tired of wearing so I walk faster to make it to my appointment on time or to wear my recently re-heeled stylish suede black wedge heeled boots. I was stressed and late but something inside me spoke in favour of a more stylish choice. As I put on the boots admiring myself for a quick second in a mirror, I noticed a coat I hadn’t worn in months and decided to put it on. It went perfectly with my new burgundy hat. I no longer felt bored of my look. This may seem irrelevant: I was running late and there were more urgent and important things to do than throwing together a stylish outfit. But bear with me…

As I walked into my dentist’s office (she ended up being more late than I was), I was immediately showered with compliments: “Look at how stylish she is!”
“Let me see your handbag!”
“What a hat!”
“You look like a model”

The morning wasn’t so grim any more. I gracefully accepted the compliments and walked out without a hint of rush. Walking at a normal pace (as opposed to my typical speed walking) I saw that  several people in the street were noticing me. It didn’t feel inappropriate. I was surprised at how peaceful and empowered I felt, even though I was still running late for work, where a long to-do list was awaiting me, the weather was still wet and cold and my travel card was still missing. But none of this mattered because I felt beautiful both on the inside and the outside, and there was an incredible sense of empowerment from expressing who I am through style. I kept this awareness throughout the day. Choosing to honour my need, my desire for style in my daily life even when there appeared to be no time for it (regardless of how other may judge it) made my day.

What are your thoughts on style? Does it empower you?