Since Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Tri-state area, New Yorkers have paused to evaluate our priorities. As we take personal stock of ourselves, we must consider how we want to move forward in private and business relationships and understand what matters most to us. I find myself more selective in the personal activities that I choose and am appreciating the simpler things that life has to offer. Walks through the park seem more refreshing and a laugh at the movies is always welcomed. I have re-evaluated my stylistic approach to everything.
We all know that style is not an expensive quality to acquire, but it is an invaluable asset. Your professional image and personal style define you and have a definite impact on the way people respond to you. Developing your individual philosophy and understanding what makes you happy will help you arrive at a distinctive way to express your personal style - and yourself.
The first stop on your journey is your personal history. We are all products of our life experiences. Were you raised in a rural or urban environment? In a small or large family? Were you the oldest or youngest child? Your education and cultural background can influence your thinking as well. I remember reading Greek mythology in school and being impressed with the goddess Athena. Her no-nonsense style made her seem larger than life, in paintings and sculpture as well. Maybe my own Greek-American heritage influenced my impression of how brave and daring she was; descriptions of her strength have always influenced the head-on way I like to approach a challenge.
As you move into refining your style, consider who has made the greatest impact on your life. Who do you most admire, and why? Take a moment to analyze the qualities and behavioral characteristics in a person that you would like to emulate. Consider their communication skills, overall fashion look, and body language - all qualities that define style.
You can take this a step further by reading biographies. Like many, I admired the late Katherine Graham and was in awe of her accomplishments. Having read her biography and then meeting her, I was impressed with her attentive manner and sharp wit and asked her for advice. Without hesitation, she encouraged me to roll up my sleeves, focus on my goals within a specific time frame, and take on new challenges.
Noticing the subtle indications of other people's style is also a good way to develop subtleties of your own. At a seminar I gave for entrepreneurial women in Scottsdale, AZ, I suggested that each person take out her business card and see if it represented her well. Altering the color of the ink, adding an unusual typeface, logo or quote - could help distinguish their business style.
Of course, one of the most obvious style issues relates to fashion. The colors you wear, how you accessorize, and how you decide what is most appropriate in each situation are all distinguishing factors. Sometimes, before special events, I take the client shopping to borrow a unique outfit from a designer. These shopping excursions help create a new look without making a major image change. You may not have access to a designer showroom, but you can always call a friend and visit her closet for a new (borrowed) look. As you experiment with your look, your style will evolve.
Start your journey now. Soon, people will start to recognize your style - and it will only become more distinctive as you mature.