10 Ways to Live with Effortless Ease: How to Learn the French Art of Not Trying Too Hard

Feb 22, 2021

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Effortless. Nonchalant.

Often, when an outsider observing the Parisian, or more largely the French citizen, the descriptor of effortlessness seems to aptly convey the mannerism, approach and presentation. All of this is to say, we are intrigued at such a seemingly unattainable way of living because, well, there must be a secret only the French have, n’est pas?

Contemporary philosopher, writer and novelist who calls Paris home, Ollivier Pourriol wrote Facile: L’art français de réussir sans forcer in 2018, and finally, in September 2020, the English translation became available (seen above). Sharing in his introduction the idea for the book being birthed while enjoying an apéritif followed by dîner with his friend, the book’s genesis exemplifies how great things can come to be without directly trying, but rather out of sincere curiosity and being present.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and swiftly read through it a couple of weeks ago, there are many gems of insight and ideas worth contemplating when it comes to living with ease as the French appear to do incredibly well. The truth is, it comes back to being present, refraining from living in the future and tapping into what you deeply love doing and sharing with the world. I have pulled out ten ideas for living effortlessly and seemingly without trying too hard, accompanying each with a quote from the book.

Perhaps one or more will speak to you, and you too will be inspired to live right now, in this one precious moment and not wait for tomorrow.

1.”Allow life in all its variety, to show you the way.”

“Allowing life to take the orders, trusting in disorder and not being frightened of chaos, is perhaps the best definiton of ‘French flair’.”

Inspired by the French rugby team’s unexpected success late in a match, this French flair while inspired from those moments when you have nothing to lose, is also a worthwhile approach to everyday life. In other words, live in the present, live fully, don’t be afraid of being vulnerable and don’t wait for tomorrow.

2. Intuition is not to be ignored

“Stopping thinking in order to act doesn’t mean despising reason; you’re simply putting it in its place.”

Life, the life we’ve lived up until this point, has given us oodles of experiences. If we were present in those moments, if we learned from them, if we savored them, our intuition is strengthened not only with regards to others’ behaviors and reactions, but with regards to our skills. Muscle memory is powerful, and we can get in the way by applying too much logic to scenarios when what we really need to do is trust that we already know what to do and how to do it.

3. Commitment eliminates doubt

“What makes for a good decision is making it and sticking to it, as if it were the best one possible.”

We’ll never know how it will all work out until we take action to see how it begins to play out. In other words, stop worrying and dithering and get on with living and taking the action the said opportunity has presented.

4. Being at ease with oneself is key to true beauty, to love and amorous connection

“We always think we have to make a huge effort in order to get good results, that we have to suffer to be beautiful and must work hard for everything, whether it’s seducing someone, or learning to play the piano . . . to speak a foreign language . . . but I am convinced that the opposite is true. In certain cases, making an effort is not just useless, it’s actually counterproductive . . . beauty rests rather on serenity, on tranquility, on being at peace with oneself . . . seduction is the art of succeeding without trying, without taking aim.”

5. The more you force, the more you fail

“Insisting, whether with the body or in thought, is always counterproductive . . . worse still: you might hurt yourself . . . [i.e.] relaxation doesn’t comes directly; if someone tells you to relax you are going to tense up . . . you reach the goal indirectly by concentrating your attention on your breathing. If you breathe well, slowly and deeply, you cannot fail to relax. It happens by itself.”

6. Elegance aims at understatement, simplicity

“Elegance is linked to the idea of economy and rationality. Whether in fashion, in science, or in everyday life, the most elegant solution is always the most economical one. Descartes and Coco Chanel would agree on that. A little black dress, like a mathetical proof, aims at understatement, simplicity. Nothing chichi, no useless ornaments—that’s the way to go. That’s what beauty is.”

7. Devote yourself to what you love doing and the need for outside approval subsides

“When you devote yourslef entirely to what you love doing, your love overwhelms any awareness of outside approval, or of your ultimate goal, and you’re bound to do it better. And oddly, it’s when you’re completely caught up in something that you’re at your most lovable.”

~Listen to podcast episode #301 to learn more about how to let go of seeking outside approval.

8. Rumination stands in the way of action

“Self-analysis is pernicious; you end up looking at yourself instead of living.”

“If you want to feel at ease in your life, you need to start by getting comfortable in your chair.” That is to say, you need to just be present where you find yourself at the moment, take it all in, let yourself be who you are and just engage with life.

9. Rest regularly for more energy

“The greater the relaxation, the more concentrated and intense will be the action. Relaxation, in fact, allows energy to build up and circulate . . . a relaxed body has more energy than a tense one.”

Ahhh! We cannot be fully awake unless we deeply sleep. We cannot live well unless we take care of my being, our mind, our overall health. Regular rest, knowing what we need mentally and physically and setting the boundaries so that we can think clearly, living fully and be present, rest is where we find the fuel to do all of the things we love doing.

10. Fear subsides when we take action

[Driving in Paris on the Place de L’Étoile (the large round-about circulating around the Arc de Triomphe)] “It can be terrifying. In this, as in many things, we feel the fear in advance, when we think about it. Whereas once we’re out there, we just do the best we can. We are delivered from fear by action.”

One of the final thoughts to ponder in Pourriol’s book is take action. Live. Stop hesitating and dance with this one and only life you’ve been given before it is gone.

~Pick up your own copy of The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard by Ollivier Pourriol

~Read more French-Inspired posts here.




8 thoughts on “10 Ways to Live with Effortless Ease: How to Learn the French Art of Not Trying Too Hard

  1. Love this post ! I think I answered your cuppa moments question about how I plan to “revolve” this year, that I would like to work on being more present and living in the moment.. so I think this book is definitely one to dive into!
    Thank you

    1. Thank you for stopping by Sarah. So happy to hear you enjoyed this week’s Monday Motivational post. 🙂 I think you will find this book will give you much to contemplate, and it certainly asks us to take a deep breath and just live. His final chapter reiterates a more laissez-faire approach with can be antithetical to British and American culture. Certainly any shift for us will have to be thoughtfully conscientious as we’ve learned for so long another way of living that tends to leave us more stressed and full of worry and doubt. I do hope you enjoy. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I read it halfway through my working day, at a moment when I am feeling demotivated, fed up, and with low energies. Thank you for the little sparkle of joy and moment of positivity to help me through the day.

  3. Thank you!! I so needed to see this, and will order it. Living in Europe for the past 7 months, in spite of the pandemic, has shown me how they work to live, rather than living to work. For example in NL, the Dutch government allows all FATHERS Wednesday afternoon OFF, to spend it with their CHILDREN.

    You see the dads bicycling with them on the backs of their bicycles, in the parks, showing them how to play ball, ride a bike at age 3 or so…this takes place rain or shine…

    They’re not “babysitting” but rather enjoying and bonding with these future citizens, one of the reasons perhaps that the Dutch children are said to be the most happy! They are certainly present in their lives from an early age.

  4. Wish this was available when I started visiting France. This is the very reason we all love France. Taking the time to live. The ease with which they do things from the simple like enjoying un petit cafe , faire les bises or the way a scarf is worn. It doesn’t matter how busy one is if someone stops by the house we always make time for un cafe or an apero whichever is appropriate When we have guests to dinner or vice versa we could spend at least 20 minutes with faire les bises and welcome before we even sit down to start the apero! Now this can sometimes skew up menu timings! But you will factor in this. It’s simply l’art de vivre.

  5. Thank you for picking out the gems in this book. I have it, but am finding it a bit meandering, so I appreciate your succinct thoughts.

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