I just returned from a spectacular 9 days in Paris for the Celebration retreat of the 2013 French Kiss the World Society. One of the women said, “I came home a changed woman.” What is it about France, particularly, Paris, that does this to a woman? Well, I think it’s because she is able to step outside of our culture of the American Dream, and taste (quite literally) something very different: the French Dream.
I grew up believing in the American Dream – one of ambition, competition and constant striving and grinding. This dream promised me if I could just be better, work harder and push myself long enough, I could be, do and have anything. So, I tried to model the so-called successful people who rode around in their fancy cars and lived in their McMansions, because I had been conditioned to believe that if I could just get there, my life would be better. I was blazing that trail on the road to happiness, or so I thought.
I did get there. And, guess what? That road didn’t lead to happiness. It led to more pushing, grinding and comparing. I learned that the way you create success will be the way you experience it. All the country clubs or fine hotels in the world couldn’t offer me what I deeply desired: peace and joy.
Like many woman, I lived my life by a measuring stick, constantly seeing how I measured up to others, and I always seemed to miss the mark.
My life was one big self-evaluation with me trying to make sense of my purpose in life. Instead of the being the vibrant girl that loved to twirl around in fancy dresses or play in the dirt when she was little, I felt like a hot mess who never was good enough. Suddenly, I was broken, or at least that’s what I told myself.
The truth is that I wasn’t broken, and neither are you. It’s our society that is somewhat broken. We are bombarded with “find your purpose” and “make 6-figures a year” messages that has many of us feeling like we don’t measure up. Our purpose seems to be this elusive ball that keeps rolling away and 6-figures a year seems to be as likely as winning the Power ball. So, we obsess, take classes, read books and try to control every little thing around us to stay on that road of the American dream, but where is it leading us?
Don’t get me wrong. I love making money. I love beautiful things. I love travel and luxurious hotels. But, let me tell you what I love more: living joyfully day in and day out. I’ll happily give up my Louis for serenity and a night at the Ritz for calm. If I must push, grind, control, stress and obsess, I bow out gracefully. Non, merci!
France taught me the art of ease and joie de vivre. I call it the French dream. While many Americans sit around trying to find out out they rank in comparison to others, their purpose in life, and an even grander feat, its meaning, the French take a radically different approach. They simply add meaning to their every day. Instead of analyzing their place in life or comparing themselves to others, the French will analyze other things, such as philosophy and politics. Instead of comparing themselves to others, they focus on their own individuality. Instead of racing to the finish line, they sit down and savor a cafe creme.
The paradox of all of this is that once you begin to focus on creating simple pleasures every day, you’re often led to your purpose in life, which really is simple: joy. And, how that looks in your life could be a plethora of things, people and events. There is no one purpose or one way. Had someone asked me to define my life purpose eight years ago, I’d still be buried in self-help books trying to figure it out. No class, book or guru could have given me that information. Why? Because your purpose isn’t out there somewhere. Your life purpose is something that you create everyday by how you live your life. (Tweet This!>
I added purpose to my life by getting out of my head and living life. Really living it, not just reading about living it. Big difference. I went to sommelier school, which led to creating wine programs, which led to food and wine writing, which led to France, which led to making peace with my body and food, which led to my deep desire to help other women discover this new path to pleasure, which led to a company. See how that works?
I followed my desires on a daily basis and appreciated the simple pleasures of life. I had no idea where the road was leading, but it really didn’t matter because I was enjoying the journey.
The French dream has a carefree whimsical feel. It’s not about the outcome, but the process. It’s not about spreadsheets, but the sheets on your bed. It’s not about certainty, but falling into the arms of mystery. It’s not about a denial, but about creating pleasure day in and day out. It’s not about trying to be more beautiful, but feeling good in your own skin. It’s not about trying to fit in, but about individuality and acceptance. There are no corporate ladders to be climbed or races to be won. There’s only one things that matters: living a life of pleasure.
And, as a mentor to women, I see how this approach freaks them out. Slow down? I might get behind! Relax? My world will fall apart. Pleasure? Oh no! I’ll feel guilty!.
I offer them permission and help calm the fears of not achieving enough. The moment they really get that it’s not about where you’re going but how you’re getting there that matters, I can literally see their minds and bodies relax. It’s the a-ha moment they’ve waited for: permission to slow down and enjoy life, as it is today!
And, do you know what happens? Well, one of the women in the Society said it best: “This year, I learned to let go and choose ease, and now my business is growing without all the pressure.” The woman you become on that journey will attract more into your life than you ever thought possible sans the pressure, stress and competition. The weight will melt off, your confidence will rise, abundance will flow and every day life will become a luxurious affair.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very thankful for the opportunities that are afforded within the American Dream. I’m also grateful that the French Dream has showed me how to approach my ambition and desires – with ease, grace and elegance. It’s a constant balancing act. I still love my spreadsheets and goals. I love planning and envisioning. I love major brainstorming sessions with clients. I love ideas and birthing those darlings. The big difference is that I’ve learned to focus on how I feel during the journey, instead of constantly worrying about the outcome.
Just a little side note: I realize that France has a very different political and social structure that affords them a more relaxed mindset around letting go. I also know that France has many issues that I’ve not discussed. The point of this article is to encourage you to truly assess what you’ve given up in the name of the American Dream. Also what has it afforded you? There’s immense benefits of both cultures. My question is: how do we fuse the two cultures to create a most luxurious life?
The Self-Image Manifesto
You’re Invited To Live An Extraordinary Life!
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