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01.05.23 | Sage Advice

Goal-Making: How to Set Yourself Up for the New Year


Say this affirmation out loud:

 

“I will live within my purpose and make smarter decisions that lead to my own vibrant living!

 


Setting goals doesn’t have to be rocket science, just well thought out. They should be designed to be SMART. Here are 5 ways toward smarter goal making that will set you up for the rest of the year:

 

Specific

 

Measurable

 

Attainable

 

Relevant

 

Timed

 


Specific Goal Making

First, any goal you have should be clear and defined. You need them to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can by defining precisely where you want to end up.

 

Measurable Goal Making

In addition to your specific goal, try using precise statements that measure your success. Instead of saying, “Maybe I’ll go to the gym sometime this month,” say to yourself, “I will go to the gym starting today!”  Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with having achieved something.

 

Attainable Goal Making

Above all, it is crucial that you set goals that are attainable with reasonable resistance. By setting realistic yet challenging ones, you hit the balance needed for your own personal development.

 

Relevant Goal Making

Now for a little perspective, where do you want to be 3 months, 5 months from now? Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. Keeping this in mind, you develop the focus needed to get ahead of the curve and stay motivated!

 

Timed Goal Making

One word, deadline. Despite whether you love them or hate them, deadlines work to increase sense of urgency and achievement will only come that much quicker when you set one in stone. 

 

In the end, by de-mystifying goal setting it no longer feels like rocket science. And you begin to make smarter and more informed decisions about your life and wellbeing.

 

Meditating on New Years Resolutions
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12.22.22 | Sage Advice

The Benefits Of Reading A Book

There’s no better time to snuggle up next to a fireplace and pick up a favorite book or one that’s been on your radar for a while than winter. For many, reading a book is one of life’s greatest comforts, but it can also be an escape from the turbulence of everyday life. From loneliness and stress to relationship issues, today we’re exploring how reading impacts our mental health and well-being. 

A 2013 study conducted by the Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy journal found that patients with mild depression saw improvements in mood, behavior and other depressive symptoms after reading. Another study published by The New School for Social Research discovered that those who read a fiction book experienced an improved Theory of Mind, which is our ability to empathize and understand others’ views and beliefs. 

Because of the wealth of benefits that comes with reading, bibliotherapy – a therapeutic approach using books and other forms of literature – is becoming progressively utilized. Dr. Paula Byrne, an author and founder of ReLit, is one of many running workshops in schools, prisons and halfway houses. 

Byrne states that bibliotherapy isn’t meant to replace medicine; instead, it’s used to complement it. Literature has the power to transport the reader to different places. It can relax, calm, excite or humor them. And while self-help books, relatable non-fiction and mood-boosting fiction books all make for amazing options, Byrnes finds that poetry does wonders for entering a different headspace. 

The bottom line is that reading contributes to a vibrant life. And the best part about it is that there’s a book for everyone. Explore our book recommendations and essential Chicago book list, or visit your local library or bookstore to discover something new today!

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11.23.22 | Sage Advice

The Marvelous Benefits of Joining a Book Club

Whether you like spending your evenings escaping into your favorite novel or you only get to read a book a few times a year, there’s no question that reading is good for you. Regardless if you’re a devotee of reading or not, one of the best ways to elevate your experience – and keep yourself accountable – is by joining a book club. That’s why today, we’re exploring the benefits that come with book clubs and how you can join your own. 

There are plenty of reasons you should join a book club, but one of the most alluring is the opportunity to make new friends or engage with old ones. If you’re looking to meet others throughout your community, joining a book club is a great way to do so. Beyond engaging with a new crowd, book clubs provide safe spaces to observe and understand new perspectives from the books you read and those around you. 

Not only are you able to engage with others, but book clubs promote brain health! If you’re the type who rushes through books, this will help challenge you to engage deeper with the content and digest what you’re reading better. And by doing so, you and your group will encourage each other to practice critical thinking skills in the discussion!

As we stated early, book clubs can be great for anyone who loves reading but isn’t the best at making time for it. By joining a book club, you’re automatically committing to reading a book within a specific time limit, and you’ll have a whole team of people to keep you accountable. And hopefully, throughout the process, you’ll be able to foster a continuing love of literature. 

If you’re interested in joining a book club but not sure where to find one, ask friends, search local Facebook Groups, head to your local library or bookshop, or start one yourself! 

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10.06.22 | Sage Advice

Storytelling: Chicago’s Essential Book List

Similar to armchair travel, one of the best ways to understand unfamiliar cultures and experiences is simply by opening a book. Numerous authors and poets have been inspired by Chicago’s neighborhoods and residents and a rich array of literature has been created detailing the Chicago experience. And, since Sage Collective’s roots lay in the Windy City, we’re no stranger to the endless amount of rich stories we believe should be shared. From soul-nourishing poetry to unforgettable thrillers, here are a few of the classics that have endured for generations and continue to illuminate the city in new ways to all readers.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Erik Larson’s best-selling work of non-fiction set at the cusp of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair follows the lives of famed architect and city planner Daniel Burnham and one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Dr. H. H. Holmes. Throughout his notorious time in Chicago, Holmes lived in multiple residences, one of which was at 1220 W. Wrightwood Ave in Lincoln Park, which has been demolished and reconstructed as a single-family home. Larson creates a portrait of two men making names for themselves in a city that, at the time, was set to be the largest metropolis in America. Devil in the White City is gripping, gives a vivid glimpse into Chicago’s boom age, and shares a historic perspective of its inhabitants and how the city came to be known as the “white city.”

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street follows 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic quarter. The novel is considered one of the modern classics of Chicano literature. Written by Sandra Cisneros, this coming-of-age masterpiece depicts the trials of being young and poor in Chicago and what it means to belong in the city as a young Chicana girl.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Considered the “greatest of all American urban novels,” Sister Carrie is the story of fame and aspiration in Chicago. Follow 18-year-old, dissatisfied Caroline Meeber from small-town Wisconsin as she rises to fame during the turn of the century in the big city of Chicago but continues to grapple with the loneliness and unhappiness she felt at home. Dreiser is considered one of the masters of realism, focusing on the instincts of his characters to drive the plot and presenting his characters to the reader without judgment.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

One of the greatest American novels of all time, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is perhaps one of the first books that come to mind when considering Chicago literature. Not for the faint of heart, The Jungle reveals harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants working in the industrial centers of cities. The Jungle does not shy away from gruesome details depicting the realities of Chicago’s stockyards in the early 1900s and caused a public uproar. 

A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks writes about Chicago’s south side like nobody else. A Street in Bronzeville, Brooks’ first book of poetry, is a display of her poetic genius and an ode to the beauty and hardships of the city’s south side. The sensational work of poetry touches on her own living conditions in Chicago as a Black tenant. And, many of the poems were created at Bronzeville’s South Side Art Center.

The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek

Stuart Dybek is a local legend, and The Coast of Chicago, one of Dybek’s earlier short story collections, is a testament to his genius. Dybek depicts the city in an honest, but poetic light true to his experiences growing up in Pilsen. The Coast of Chicago is an intimate portrait of the city through Dybek’s eyes, and each story in the collection is a little gem of Chicago-centric storytelling.

The main branch of the Chicago Public Library system, the Loop's Harold Washington Library
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09.15.22 | Sage Advice

The Season for Slowing Down

With fall ending and autumn right around the corner, it’s time to wave warm weather and long days goodbye and welcome the vibrant colors and brisk breezes that come with the new season. You might also be experiencing shifts in your own life too, which is why it’s critical to continue filling your days with activities that enrich both your body and your soul. Today, we’re sharing how you can ensure vibrant living this fall: 

Get Outside

There’s no better place to be than outside in the fall. Encourage yourself to embrace the outdoors this season by utilizing community paths and trails or taking a trip to an apple orchard or park. Another great way to get outdoors is by planning a hiking trip or a road trip to witness the colors that come with the autumn season. While you’re outdoors, indulge in an awe-walk or a podcast.

Choose In-Season Cuisine 

With fall comes some of the tastiest seasonal produce with fruits like apples, pears and pumpkins and vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. Visit your local farmers market or store to pick up the fresh produce and cook away! Some of our favorite fall recipes include pumpkin oatmeal, chicken and white bean soup and adobe chicken and kale enchiladas

Slow Down

If summer left you scattered or feeling like you had no time to yourself, fall is the perfect time to slow down and do more for your wellbeing. Incorporate more mindful moments throughout your day and make it a point to spend more time on yourself. Yoga and meditation are both great activities for grounding and reflection, and in the fall, you can do both outsides!

Fall is the season for slowing down. Embrace the cool weather, make the most of the season by cooking up season recipes and ground your mind, body and soul. 

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04.14.22 | Sage Advice

Literary Art: Our Favorite Picks This Spring

With a new season comes an endless list of exciting refreshing reads. As we continue to spotlight the importance of family connection, identity and storytelling through our Vibrant Living Program, we’re thrilled to spotlight some of the latest works of literacy art that celebrate each of those themes. Here are our picks: 

The Trayvon Generation, Elizabeth Alexander

Author Elizabeth Alexander reflects on the traumas of racism and racial violence in this passionate literature mix. Pulling soulful works from Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks and a blend of expressive visual art, Alexander spotlights both the tragedies and hopes for what she refers to as the Trayvon Generation. Named one of New York Times’ and TIME Magazine’s most anticipated works of the year, The Trayvon Generation is an essential pick filled with eye-opening short stories and powerful lyricism. 

Because Our Fathers Lied, Craig McNamara

Families often consist of complicated relationships built from years of conflict and confusion. In his latest book, Craig McNamara shares the roots of his estranged relationship with his father, Robert S. McNamara, one of the architects of the Vietnam War. Through this courageous telling of love and neglect, McNamara captures a tale of multigenerational friction, sure to make any reader reflect on their own kindred connections.

12 Notes: On Life and Creativity, Quincy Jones

Known for his legendary music, Chicago native Quincy Jones explores literacy art with his latest project, 12 Notes: On Life and Creativity. The self-reflective novel features Jones sharing his wisdom on discovering a creative muse and using it to uplift yourself and those around you. Jones unveils his intimate creative process and shares a personal guide filled with lessons intended to embolden readers.

Finding Me: A Memoir, Viola Davis

Acclaimed actress Viola Davis finds a refreshing way to share her heartening life story in her first memoir, Finding Me. Davis, who believes that sharing stories “is the most powerful empathetic tool we have,” courageously documents her journey from living in poverty and turmoil to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world. Finding Me is more than just a deep reflection of life; it’s also an empowering story of expressing oneself and discovering identity.  

Whether you prefer reading alone, with a companion or in a book club, don’t hesitate to pick one or two of these books up for yourself this spring. And as with all good reads, spread the word to friends and family when you finish a book you really love!

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09.09.21 | Sage Advice

5 Books You Have to Pick Up This Fall

Autumn is a perfect time to revisit books you may have forgotten about while enjoying the warm summer months — or to pick up a few new books that may be on your radar. Reading is an excellent opportunity to escape the world around us, discover a new interest, de-stress and find enjoyment in others’ stories. Whether you’re a fan of poetry, memoirs, mysteries or romance, we have some picks that you might enjoy.

Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo

Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo 

As the first Native American to hold the U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo returns to her roots with Poet Warrior, sharing her relationship with poetry and music. Her new memoir is a mix between eloquently written poetry and intimately written prose. Harjo explores the music and stories that she grew up hearing and reflects on the connections poetry, her ancestry and her community share with each other. For lovers of poetry, introspection and culture, this book is a great read for you.

Unbound by Tarana Burke

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, Tarana Burke

Burke dissects her childhood, from growing up as a Black girl in the Bronx to becoming one of the most influential people in America as the founder of the Me Too movement. The personal memoir exposes parts of the trauma Burke experienced after being sexually assaulted. However, her story is largely positive as she shares how she used this experience to create positive change. Anyone looking for motivation and inspiration will find it in this book.

Smile: The Story of A Face by Sarah Ruhl

Smile: The Story of a Face, Sarah Ruhl

After giving birth to her twins, author, and playwright Sarah Ruhl realized that she couldn’t move half of her face. Ruhl later discovered she had developed Bell’s palsy. Smile is Ruhl’s intimate story of learning to live with a disability later in life. Ruhl’s emotional essays offer insights into what it feels like to learn to maneuver through the difficulties of life. Smile is a fabulous read for anyone wanting to learn more about the deeply personal relationships humans have with their bodies.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The Sentence, Louise Erdrich

The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author’s new darkly humorous story takes place in Minneapolis in 2020. The Sentence follows a previously-incarcerated Indigenous woman working at a bookstore haunted by one of their most annoying customers. The worker tries to solve the haunting mystery while exploring the difficulties of racism and corruption that infests the city. The Sentence is a fantastic choice for those looking to smile at a story reflecting on the year of racial injustice in a dark, comical style. 

Five Tuesdays In Winter by Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter: Stories, Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter examines the good and bad of human connection. Lily writes about meaningful relationships that can form from the most minute of bonds. The book of stories — formulated with previously published and new work — finds characters grappling with change, all yearning to be loved. Five Tuesdays in Winter is a terrific choice for those interested in learning more about the power and importance of human connection. 

Whether you prefer reading alone, with a companion or in a book club, don’t hesitate to pick one or two of these books up for yourself this fall. You can find them at your neighborhood libraries, local bookstore or online. And as with all good reads, spread the word to friends and family when you finish a book you really love!

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01.21.21 | Sage Advice

Why You (And Everyone Else) Should Read More Poetry

Many of us discovered poetry during mandatory school courses and our relationship with the genre ended swiftly after, never to be revisited again over the years. There’s this common misconception that poetry is in inaccessible art form, that it has to be understood to be enjoyed. But poetry is like singing — you don’t have to be good at it to do it or to enjoy it. Put simply: it’s good for the soul. That’s why today, we’re making an argument for why you (and everyone else) should read more poetry.

Why Read Poetry?

First of all, poetry is easy to incorporate into your daily schedule. A single poem doesn’t ask much of your time or attention. One Huffington post article describes how easy it is to consume poetry by saying, “You can flip through a book of poetry and eat the poems like popcorn.” In fact, you can even have the delectable treat of poetry delivered to your email daily by the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day or Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day

Rather than being intimidated by the idea of interpreting poetry, let’s consider how many possibilities are offered in the act of interpretation. Poetry, as an abstract language, stretches our imagination and the boundaries of what words can do. It appeals to heart logic over brain logic. Poetry shakes off literal interpretations or concreteness… the idea that there is just one way of seeing. Mirroring this logic (or lack thereof), in most arguments on why you should read poetry, instead of choosing just one reason why, the arguments simply end on the open-ended question: “well, why not?”

The Impact of a Poem

Though, of course, poems can teach us new things and offer us a new perspective, much of the beauty lies in how a person uniquely relates to the poem. In the TEDTalk “What Happens When We Read Poetry” they purport that it is this reacting-to that makes poetry so meaningful: “Though a poem doesn’t make things happen, it happens — every time someone reads it. Rather than a static item printed on a page, a poem is an event that occurs with each new reader and with each new reading.”

Further exploring the idea of what happens when we read poetry, The Cut describes a study conducted in Germany where the bodily response to poetry was measured using a “goosecam” (which shows the movement of skin and arm hairs as people listen to poetry). Participants in the study were also told to press a button each time they got chills during the reading of a poem. 40% of participants physically showed goosebumps.

But even more, the neurological impacts (those not tracked by the goosecam, but by brain scans throughout the process) showed the impacts of the slow-building pleasure of listening to poetry. The study dubbed this phenomenon, the “pre-chill,” a sensation synonymous with the buildup and anticipation of unwrapping a chocolate candy bar. Before study participants ever pressed the button indicating they had been given chills by the poem, the pre-chill had already been occurring within them.

Poetry contributes to vibrant living. And the best part about poetry: there’s something for everyone. If one poem doesn’t stir pre-chills in your heart and goosebumps on your arms, the next one most likely will.

A hand writes the word poetry on a vibrant wall of graffiti
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11.19.20 | Sage Advice

An Argument for the Antilibrary

Whether you’re an avid reader or the one-novel-a-year type, being surrounded by more books than you can read is good for you and leads to a more vibrant life. The desire to stockpile a library far beyond the limits of your reading speed is in fact so universal that there’s a word for it: tsundoku

The Japanese term is defined as the “stockpiling of books that will never be consumed.” Breaking the word down into its separate components: tsunde means to stack things, oku means to leave for a while and doku means to read. Those that “suffer” from tsundoku can’t help but pick up a few extra titles at a garage sale, or to browse the bookstore if they happen to stroll past. Having a specific word for it celebrates these tendencies and points out that hoarding books is not only fun, but good for the soul.

In fact, author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb takes the idea of tsundoku one step further. He advocates for building your own antilibrary, a term coined in his bestselling book The Black Swan. Before introducing the concept of antilibrary, Taleb reflects on the library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a staggering 30,000 tomes. It wasn’t Eco’s intention to ever read his entire library — in fact, he purported that the library served as a reminder of everything he didn’t (and wouldn’t ever) know. That constant reminder is what kept Eco not only humble, but also intellectually hungry and perpetually curious.

Inspired by Eco, Taleb introduces the antilibrary in The Black Swan by saying:

“A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

Practicing a little tsundoku and building your own antilibrary serves to set a goal for yourself: to never stop seeking knowledge and growth. Like Eco, it can keep you humble, hungry and curious. So the next time you wonder whether you should buy another book that will end up just sitting on your bookshelf, the answer is yes, you should. 

A bookstore with cluttered stacks of books
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