Frenchie Friday:
The French vs. American Dream

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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?

To Dreams,

Signature

Tonya

(P.S.  Stay tuned, because next week, I’m announcing a very special Immersion experience that will teach you how to eat with pleasure, feel fabulous and have savoir-faire! This program has changed the lives and bodies of hundreds of women a la francaise. If you want to be the first-to-know, make sure you’re on the waiting list. And, if you’re one of the hundreds of women who have been anxiously awaiting this announcement, thank you for your patience! It’s coming.  Promise!).

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23 Responses to Frenchie Friday:
The French vs. American Dream

  1. Tonya,
    I love your Blog and your beautiful Photos and have received alot of insight from everything you share. I am so glad you addressed the Political and Social differences and am wondering:”how does the average Woman earn a living in Paris and how do they afford even the “simple pleasures” being that everything is so expensive? Also, do you think most Americans would be willing to pay 50,60, even 70% of their Income in Taxes? I see the Women I know who are Business Owners and they are one a never ending Treadmill of “things to do”and really not experiencing much joy or calm. Your voice is definitely needed. Thank you

  2. Holly:: great questions. French women hold many of the same jobs that we do. The difference is that their government offers them a security system that we don’t have – health care, education and lots of paid vacation, not to mention the 16-week paid maternity leave. But, they pay highly for these services in taxes. France is the highest taxed country in the EU. However, the French defend a way of life full of social benefits. Economically, I’m not sure how long this will work. And, as an entrepreneur, I’m not sure I’d want to pay 75% of my wages to the government. Yet, I do understand that this is their culture and tradition, and some (not all) justify the high tax structure based on this premise.

    As for the simple pleasures, they often cost very little, if nothing at all – reading a book in a park, wine and cheese picnic, etc. They also focus on quality, not quantity. One great pair of shoes is better than 5 mediocre ones. They live simple, yet elegant lives, on a budget.

    As for the business owners, my heart goes out to them, because I am one. I know that feeling of being afraid to slow down or getting behind. I’ve just committed to living a life based on how I feel. I continue to learn how to streamline my life and biz to allow for space for joy and calm. This takes knowing what’s truly important, where your priorities are and not getting caught up in the race. I’ve grown my business very slowly, and I’ve enjoyed almost every step.

  3. Thanks for the post but what do you do if you just CAN’T relax and slow down. I have been running the treadmill of life since high school when I was balancing good grades with sports and clubs. I’m in my late 20s now and I just want to slow down without feeling guilty but it seems impossible! I’m up early on weekends with my never ending to-do lists and if I do sleep in or spend a day reading a book I feel like I’ve failed.

    • Hi Rachel,
      I want to send out a ringing endorsement for Tonya as an answer to your question about “how do we slow down if we’ve always been on the treadmill?” My answer is stick close to Tonya and invest in a program with her!
      I am working with her right now and my biggest challenge has been how to unwire my brain from the idea that my “success” is dependant on pushing, striving, and driving. That is pretty much the theme of each call with Tonya and slowly, ever so slowly I’m learning to let go. To step into ease – or elegance as Tonya clarifies!
      This is exactly the work I needed to do in my life and I’m very clear that its the key to everywhere I want to go from here!
      Maybe see you in the next program, I for one am loving this and will be a FKL groupie for quite some time!
      Janine

      • Janine:: thanks for your compliments. It’s been a joy to watch you slow down and still create from a sense of ease. It’s a process!
        Rachel:: What I can offer you is that when you take an inventory of “why” you’re afraid to slow down, you’ll begin to see the fear behind your daily actions, and if you create out of fear, you’ll continue to experience it. I encourage my clients to create out of love, joy and excitement, and the energy of their entire world shifts, and they often find themselves more productive in less time. I’m so happy you stopped by and I look forward to reading you again!

  4. I love the line “You experience success the way you capture it”. So true!! And so much better to learn to ease towards enjoying success rather then becoming tremendously afraid you will loose it!

  5. On a sidenote: it really isn’t a dream, it’s simply French life. It is the way you life your life, not what you dream about while struggling through your everyday, not something you realize, but rather something you are. Calling it the French dream is in my feel quite an American way of looking at it, as it were a transient illusion at the rainbow’s end; while in fact it is very here, and very now. It is not a dream. It is stop dreaming and start living. What you are describing need not even be French – it is simply life. The thing we forgot about while racing for the stars.
    Apart from the – spot on!:)

    • Jouis:: You are right. It’s about living, tasting, feeling every day life. However, for many, it seems like a dream they are chasing, when in fact, it’s available in this very moment. However, I’ll admit that I am a dreamer, and it’s how I’ve created the reality that I live. It’s a balance of visualizing what you desire for your life then jumping with your whole heart into the present moment. Thanks so much for stopping by and your spot-on comment!

  6. Wow! I love this post. I often struggle with the feeling that I am not ‘enough’ or my life and what I am doing is not enough. This article made me think, enough for who? It made me realise I am enough for me. I enjoy my life and I need to continue to enjoy it. Even if it is just small moments of each day. Thank you 🙂

  7. Tonya, I so love this message and am loving your blog! I too have been guilty of the things you have spoken of in pursuit of the ‘American Dream’. As a fellow solo-preneur, I also know all too well how challenging it is to maintain a sense of balance when you feel like it is all riding on you. Yet, when I trust myself and the grace of the universe, I’m able to make the conscious decision to do LESS. And I find that when I allow myself to exhale into doing less, I do MORE of what really matters to feel fulfilled. When I follow the rhythm of my body and my energy level, it creates space for the simple pleasures in my life to get noticed and for me to be more present. I haven’t totally mastered this skill, but I am getting much better at it! 🙂 We as Americans have been so conditioned to do more, be more, have more – we’re trying to squeeze so much in that we forget to enjoy the moment and simply live. Thank you for the eloquent perspective and gentle reminders that we girls in the States would do well to live by!

    • Hey Sara:: I’m still in the process of mastery myself, so I get it girl! However, I always think about what Ekhart Tolle said: you can worry while paying the bills or just pay the bills. It’s all about the energy behind the “doing.” I prefer to relax and just be. Again . . . I’m in process!

  8. My favorite quote from this post is: “I added purpose to my life by getting out of my head and living life.”

    I spend so much time and energy planning, preparing, and analyzing that by the time I get to the doing – I am so caught up in the how to do things that I don’t get to really experience them.

  9. I very RARELY repost any living person’s words (usually go for the words of the dead poets) but I reposted this line from today’s blog on my Facebook. (I don’t tweet)

    “It’s not about certainty, but falling into the arms of mystery.”

    This line all by itself says everything I needed to hear today. Thanks Tonya.

  10. Needed to hear that message this morning! Was debating on whether I should go to the beach with my husband and kids or work in solitude at home (get more done). Work at home was my choice until I read your post. It’s OK to play..nothing has to be achieved.

    • Hope you had a great weekend playing Melissa. I disconnected for four days. HEAVEN! And, I believe that through fun and play, everything you want is so much easier to achieve. I always feel more inspired and am more productive when I focus on living a beautiful life. xoxo

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