Monday, January 26, 2015

New Year's Resolutions: Challenge Your Mind

As busy professionals, we use our minds every day at the work place, but what about engaging our brains in other intellectual ways outside the office? A new year is the perfect time to resolve to read those books sitting on your night stand or finally learn a new language. Resolve to challenge your mind in new ways in 2015. Here are some tips for how to fit this into a busy schedule, and some of my favorite ways to engage the mind. 

Read New Books 

I love to read and every year I make a list of books I want to finish in the next year. If you have a busy schedule, consider buying audio books you can listen to in the car on your commute to work. You could also listen while working out at the gym, or on your lunch break. Audio books are the perfect way to fit reading into an already busy lifestyle. 

Amazon has a company called Audible that allows you to pay a monthly subscription and then download a new audiobook every month. The monthly rate is $14.95 and with that you can download any audiobook on their site. With some audiobooks costing upwards of $30-$40 dollars this membership can be a great way to save money while working through your new year's resolution booklist. 

Below are some of my favorite books in a variety of genres to give you some ideas for your reading list!
Persuasion by Jane Austen

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen 

For everyone who loved Pride and Prejudice, but is pushing 30 and Mr. Darcy still hasn't shown up. Jane Austen's last completed novel features a heroine who is almost 30 - the Regency period equivalent of being 50 - and is still unmarried. Her story is for all of us who are still waiting for our Mr. Right, even when all of our friends have gotten married.

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

2. Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

The hottest finance book from last year, if you didn't read it then, you should definitely read it now. Michael Lewis explains high frequency trading in language clear enough to understand, even if the closest you get to the financial industry is balancing your personal checkbook.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

If you missed reading this in high school or college, definitely read it now! Atwood's tale of the Harvard campus (not identified as such in the book) turned into a male-dominated society where women are valued only for their ability to have children hits closer to home than you would prefer.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Hurston

4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston

Written during the height of the Great Depression, the book explores a black woman's life in the South during the 1930s. A beautiful, moving book about finding love across a lifetime of experiences.

Hijacking The Runway by Teri Agins

5. Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities Are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers" by Teri Agins

Since this is a fashion blog, we need to have at least one fashion book!! Teri Agins spent 25 years covering fashion for the Wall Street Journal, so she definitely knows what she's talking about. In this book, she details how the spotlight has moved from the designer of the clothing to the celebrity, and how celebrities today transcend whoever they wear.

Learn a New Language 

Sacre Coeur - Paris, France
Another way to challenge the mind this year is to learn a new language. If you took French all through college but have not spoken a word of it since graduation, maybe it is time to dig out those notebooks and take a refresher course. Most communities have evening language classes you can sign up for, and larger cities may have cultural clubs that offer courses. Some places also have groups that get together where you can practice your rusty Italian or German in a "coffee hour" setting. Another option is to consider an audio course, such as Rosetta Stone, that you can listen to on the way to work and do a little at home every night. 

Give yourself an extra incentive by planning a trip to a city where that language is used, such as Paris, Munich, St. Petersburg or Bejing, and make it a goal to be conversational in the language of your choice by that time. This can be a wonderful goal to set with a friend or significant other. Plan the trip together and then practice speaking to each other to prepare in the months leading up. 

Shopping with friends in Paris
Learning a language you have always dreamed of speaking, or getting through a book you have been longing to finish, means making time for yourself. This can be a challenge for many of us with overwhelming careers, family lives and responsibilities, but part of being healthy and happy is taking care of yourself and making time for YOU. What a great New Year's Resolution! 

Let me know in the comments below - what books are you dying to read? What is the one language you would most love to learn?

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