Two Little Known Ways To Manage Stress

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For those stressful days when you cannot think of anything that could possibly make you feel grateful

I have recently applied to become a writer for a Medium publication called A Few Words. The publication is called A Few Words because each post is limited to 500 words or less. Most of my posts are more than a 1000 words long, sometimes more than 2000. Below you’ll find my first attempt – it is currently 568 words – I shall have to make it shorter before I submit it for publication.

Some days, it is more challenging to feel grateful than others. Some stressful days, trying to find something to be thankful for seems like an exercise in futility. At times like this, I do one of two exercises.

5-minutes Mindfulness Gratitude Exercise

You can do this exercise anywhere and at any time. All you have to do is to take 5 minutes out of your busy day, look up from whatever you are doing and notice what you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste in your immediate vicinity that makes you feel grateful:

  • My laptop, my connection with the world
  • My favourite coffee mug
  • The alarm clock that my cousin gave me
  • The little antique table that I got for a song
  • The great book I am reading at the moment
  • The perfume of a bunch of my roses
  • My grandfather’s paintings on the wall
  • My mother and grandmother’s Bible
  • The gorgeous skirt that my friend shortened for me
  • The first rays of sunrise falling into the room
  • A cat purring in my lap
  • The taste of a home-made rusk dipped in coffee
  • The quietness of the early morning

The five minutes fly past and soon I start to feel less stressed. I also remember that I have to send a text to my friend who adjusted my skirt to thank her, and that I should let another friend know how much I am enjoying the book she lent me, and that I wanted to bake another batch of rusks and share them with someone I know who loves them as much a I do…

Small Suff Gratitude List

The other exercise I sometimes do, when I run out of obvious things to be grateful for was inspired by the “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”- concept. I call it my “Small Stuff Gratitude List.”

Once again, I take five minutes out and I try to focus on the small things that I am grateful for.  Not the rusk that I am eating, but the sunflower seeds in the rusk, that took me ages to find. Not the glorious sunrise, but the particular salmon pink colour that I love and that is part of every sunrise. Not the apparent beauty of my horse, but the adorable way the hair curls in whorls on her forehead.

The idea is to notice and list the small stuff, the fine detail, the little things, sounds, events and actions that we miss when we are trying to cope with a stressful situation:

  • The first sip of coffee of the day
  • An unexpected “thank you”
  • The refrain of a song from my childhood
  • A friend’s voice on the phone
  • A well-crafted sentence in an article I read
  • A recently-emptied dustbin
  • My cats devouring their breakfast with relish
  • Home-made cherry jam
  • Looking forward to an upcoming holiday
  • The dawn chorus
  • A smile in someone I care about‘s eyes
  • A sigh of contentment

Taking a few moments to do one of these exercises, at the beginning or the end or at any time during the day not only makes me happier, but it also makes me feel calmer. Both exercises are great stress-dissolvers. Both activities very effectively remind me of what is really important in life.

Not sure how I can shorten it, what I should leave in or cut out. Any ideas? Any insights?

To help you handle stress, I have created a “Coping with Change Checklist and Cheatsheet” and a “10 Steps to Instant Self-Confidence” Guide that I share with the subscribers to my mailing list. Claim your copies here.

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I spend many, many hours every week researching, writing, editing and distributing my articles, and in the process, I drink many, many cups of coffee. If you were empowered, educated, enlightened or entertained by this article, please buy me a cup of coffee! (you choose how much you want to donate) and help me transform more people’s lives. After all, giving is not just about making a donation, it is about making a difference.

3 Stress Management Strategies To Help You Weather Any Storm

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Facing a Major Life Transition

We sold our house and bought another.

Impossible to put the ever-escalating anxiety, nerve-wracking worry, overwhelming panic and threatening despair associated with the seven words above into words and onto paper.

Why does it have to be so complicated to sell a house and buy another?

Here in France, it is a confusing and cumbersome process. First, you have to make up your mind to sell. Since every time you buy a house, you have to pay 10% on top of the asking price in fees and taxes; it is not a decision to make lightly. Let’s assume you have thought things over carefully and have made up your mind to sell. Now you have to find a buyer. Easier said than done. Here in the south of France, it can take months, even years to sell your house. Some of our friends have had their houses on the market for 2, 3, 4 and even five years.

Oh, happy days! You manage to find a buyer, and he makes an offer of less than 10-15% of the asking price. You do not start to stress yet, because this is not the first time you sell a house in France and you have added 10-15% to the asking price to cater for this eventuality. Now the diagnostics immobiliers have to be done. Take out your cheque book, because this is going to cost you a lot of money. Now you can start feeling anxious because if the expert finds termites in your 200-year-old beams, you will either have to have your beams treated (at great expense) or you will have to lower the asking price.

So you worry about this for a few days. Finally, the expert shows up, does all the tests, and after you have paid the exorbitant fee, he releases his report. You have termites, but they are not active. Probably haven’t been for decades/centuries. You advise the buyer and bite your nails for a few days until it becomes clear that since he has already gotten you to lower the price of the house by 10-15%, he is not going to insist that you termite-proof your house.

Next, you and your buyer have to sign a compromis de vente (provisional sales agreement) in the presence of a notaire (notary,) but all the notaires nearby are fully booked for weeks. The first appointment you can get is a month away, a month during which the buyer can change his mind about buying at any time. You ring every notaire you have ever had dealings with until you eventually manage to get an appointment two weeks away.

In the meantime, you have been househunting. You would think that it would be easy to find a house to buy in a buyer’s market. You would be wrong. There are lots of houses for sale, but since you are the much-maligned owner of 5 opinionated horses, you need a house with a bit of land. Not just any land either. It needs to be pasture, not wood, and it needs to be attached to the house, not 5 km away. It also needs to be reasonably flat. In addition, it would be nice to find a house with some character that has not been renovated to death or a house that is not falling to pieces because of the diligent attention of said termites. French farmers covetously hold on to their land and will not be parted from it unless offered a small fortune in compensation. In France, houses are not routinely assessed by surveyors before purchase, so it’s caveat emptor (buyer beware) and good luck to you. Also in France, artisans (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, etc.) have to guarantee their work for ten years, so any renovation you will need to do is going to be costly.

Let’s assume that you do find a house. Once again, you need to find a notaire, and you need to get a buying appointment to sign a compromis de vente as close to your selling appointment as possible so that you do not find yourself, with your five displeased horses, on the street in three month’s time. Three months, because that is how long it takes for the notaire to process the sale, before you can sign the final acte de vente (final contract.) In these three months, your buyer applies for a mortgage. If he doesn’t get his mortgage, the sale falls through, and you cannot buy the house you wanted to buy.

I have bought four houses in France so far, I know precisely how hair-raising an experience buying and selling property in this country can be. The last time was four years ago. We were “homeless” for 15 months. 15 months of having the horses at livery, at great expense. 15 months of renting and living in temporary accommodation, the shortest period we stayed in one place were two weeks, the longest, three months.

So you might wonder why we decided, yet again, to step onto the buying-and-selling emotional rollercoaster.

 

Dealing with a Major Life Transition

Let me assure you, if we could, we would never have moved again. I am, however, much less stressed this time around, because of the valuable lessons I learned four years ago. During those 15 seemingly-endless months of insecurity, I developed a couple of coping strategies that kept me from losing my marbles. One of these was a stress management strategy that I had already been using for several years. The unrelenting stress of those 15 months forced me to fine-tune my approach to such a degree that it became more-or-less failproof. I am so convinced of the effectiveness of this strategy that I wrote a book about it called Embracing Change – in 10 Minutes a Day, just in time to help me cope with the strain of going through the selling-and-buying mill again.

It is a very simple strategy, as the most effective strategies often are.

I discovered, a long time ago, how efficient daily expressing how grateful you are for what you have can be to counteract stress. It is challenging to remain stressed out of your mind when you are focusing said mind on a breathtakingly beautiful sunset (some of the very best ones materialise unfailingly every summer’s evening here in the south of France.) Or on the pure exhilarating pleasure of a walk through a fragrant, thousand-year-old oak forest. Or on the mindblowing, entirely addictive aroma of freshly baked French bread, cordially being pumped onto the pavement by your favourite patisserie. Or on the mind-shattering taste of that first spoonful of decadently delicious dark chocolate mousse, that melts in your mouth so profoundly satisfyingly that your taste buds promptly start trumpeting Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.

 

3 Stress Management Strategies

Strategy no 1: Enriching Gratitude with Generosity

During those 15 months, I discovered that expressing my gratitude daily, in a gratitude journal, is not enough. Gratitude should not only be about passively listing the people/places/events/experiences that you are grateful for, it is much more effective in helping you cope with stress if it also has an active component.

You will deal much better with stress if you do not only count your blessings but if you also share them.

When we are forced to handle a stressful situation, we tend to zoom in on our own difficulties, and we become blind to the problems people around us are facing. I discovered that not only does helping others with their problems take my mind off my troubles, no matter how overwhelming, but it helps me feel less stressed and more able to cope with whatever disaster comes my way next.

Strategy no 2: Concentrate on the Here-and-Now

Forget about what might go wrong tomorrow. Stick around in this never-to-be-lived-again moment in time. I have also discovered that worrying about everything that might go wrong in the immediate, intermediate and distant future is not only an undeserved indulgence but a complete waste of time. While I am worrying if our buyer will get his mortgage or if the owner of the house we want to buy will accept our offer, life in all its glorious abundance is happening right here, right now. Do you remember “Hakuna Matata?” I chose these two words to be my motto during this possibly-sanity threatening transition. So far, so good, as far as I can gather. I am holding onto the remnants of the sanity I have left after buying and selling four times before. As soon as I realise that I have started worrying again, usually about some totally trivial thing, I sing my motto softly to myself. I focus my mind on the delicious sensations I am experiencing right now. Luckily it is summer in the south of France, was it winter, I might have found it a bit harder to be serenely mindful.

Strategy no 3: Nurture Friendships

Whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation, for whatever reason, you need your friends. To help you navigate a stress-induced storm, you will need friends who you can depend on. Friends who will be there for you at 03h00, who will drop everything and rush to your side when you need them, who will listen to you attentively for hours without interrupting but who will give excellent advice when asked, who know you through and through and have your best interest at heart: loyal, compassionate, understanding, trustworthy and dependable friends.

Where would you get friends like these? You make these sort of friends by being this sort of friend. By putting your friends first, by making time to help them with their problems when you barely have time to handle your own, by supporting them through the best of times and celebrating with them during the best of times. It takes time, energy and devotion to cultivate friendships like this, so now would be a great time to start.

So this time around, the fifth time I am buying a house in France, I am much better equipped to handle the trials and tribulations that have come my way. The process has not been entirely stressfree, so far, but mindfully reminding myself every day of what I am grateful for and paying attention to how I can help those around me, has helped me cope with the worsts of the trials and tribulations that have come my way, without losing my will to live.

My book about coping with change, as in major and minor life transitions, with gratitude and generosity, is available on Amazon.

I have also created a “Coping with Change Checklist and Cheatsheet” and a “10 Steps to Instant Self-Confidence” Guide that I share with the subscribers to my mailing list. Claim your copy here.

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I spend many, many hours every week researching, writing, editing and distributing my articles, and in the process, I drink many, many cups of coffee. If you were empowered, educated, enlightened or entertained by this article, please buy me a cup of coffee! (you choose how much you want to donate) and help me transform more people’s lives. After all, giving is not just about making a donation, it is about making a difference.

Get real Value from Gratitude Journaling

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Forget about “the rules of journaling.” Journaling rules can never be more than mere suggestions.

I’m not good at keeping rules. I get bored if I always have to do the same thing, at the same time. I get frustrated if I force myself to keep to a strict schedule. The only thing that I have been able to do consistently to a strict(ish) schedule is Intermittent Fasting. I do benefit from committing to keep a gratitude journal, but I also need flexibility, variety and the regular recharging of my motivation batteries. From many years of gratitude journaling, I have learned that:

You don’t HAVE to list 5 things that you are grateful for each day. If times are difficult and the only thing that you are grateful for is the fact that you are still alive, that’s fine. List that and that only. If you want to list more than 5 things, do so! List 10, 20, 50 or a 100 things…there are no limits to how many items you can list.

You don’t HAVE to write in your journal every morning, or every evening or at any specific time of the day every day. One day you can write while commuting, another day you can write while standing in a cue (on your phone) or while waiting for a meeting. Or you can make up your mind to journal every morning, while you have your first cup of coffee, or last thing at night when all is quiet around you. Same time every day or different time every day. It’s up to you.

You don’t HAVE to keep your journal on paper. You can journal on your phone, your tablet or your computer. There are loads of apps available online to make it easier for you:  DayOne, Your Private Gratitude Journal, Mojo and The Gratitude 365 Journal, to name but a few.  Or you can create a document on your computer and add to it every day. Or use a simple online agenda like Google Calendar. Or you can subscribe to an e-course like the Stress to Serenity with Gratitude and Generosity e-Course and complete each day’s suggestions on paper or on your computer.

You don’t have to bother with spelling, grammar or punctuation. If you are a perfectionist, this is going to be a difficult concept to take on board. Write whatever comes into your head. Go with the flow. Don’t censor, don’t judge and don’t doubt your writing. If you absolutely HAVE to, do a spelling/grammar check once you have finished writing, with an app like Grammarly or WritingAid.

You don’t HAVE to write to keep a gratitude journal. You can take pictures of what you are grateful for, every day. Or you can keep a scrapbook with bits and pieces that remind you of happenings that make you feel grateful, like the till slip of that romantic meal in your favourite restaurant, or the tickets to that mindboggling opera performance you went to or a pressed wildflower from that unforgettable walk through the park. If you love drawing or painting, you can draw or paint in your gratitude journal. You can create a Pinterest “What I am Grateful for in 2019” board (here’s mine.) Or you can write one day, draw the next or take pictures the day after. Or everything on the same day, whatever works for you, on that day.

You don’t HAVE to invest a significant amount of time into expressing your gratitude. You can keep it simple. List whatever you are grateful for and get on with your day. Or you can take 10 minutes out of your day and get 10 times more benefit from your gratitude practice by enriching it with motivating and inspiring quotes or empowering affirmations, as I advise in my book “Embracing Change – in 10 Minutes a Day – Simple Strategies, Smart Suggestions and Insight-giving Stories (Fabriqué en France Book 3)” You can make these 10 minutes the highlight of your day: time you set apart to invest in your future, your well-being and the well-being of those you care about. Some days, you might have time for a bullet-point list only, other days you may have more time to yourself. It doesn’t matter. Do only as much as you can on any given day. It is still a million times better than doing nothing at all.

You don’t HAVE to exclude all distractions. Some journaling experts advise that you remove all distractions while you are journaling. This might well be necessary for some people, depending on their circumstances. It might be necessary some days for you too, and not others. I don’t always exclude all distractions. Sometimes distractions remind me of what I have to be grateful for: a beautiful piece of music playing in the background, my horses cavorting around in their paddock, happy to be alive, a text coming in from a well-loved and much-appreciated friend, the smell of freshly made coffee…admittedly, even though it makes my “I am grateful for”-time more rewarding, it sometimes also makes it longer, so when I have little time, I tend to narrow my focus and exclude distractions.

You don’t HAVE to look back through your gratitude journal. Take a couple of minutes out of your day, write down what you are grateful for and forget about it. You will still benefit enormously. Or you can make time each month to look back and discover how keeping a gratitude diary has improved your life. Or not. If not, you might want to tweak the way you go about it for better results. You never have to look at what you were grateful for in the past, but in stressful times, this is a very effective way of reminding yourself that difficult times don’t last forever and that you have much to be grateful for, even if things are getting on top of you at this moment in time. Makes you more resilient, also.

Journalling is one of the oldest self-help tools known to man, and in my opinion, as a self-development tool, gratitude journalling is second to none.

You are doing this for YOU. You can make your own rules and break each one as often as you like…or you can journal without any rules whatsoever. The idea is to keep a gratitude journal, daily, for the rest of your life. Be flexible. Be rigid. Be creative. Be whatever you like. Be YOU.

You will get the most value from gratitude journaling, and you are more likely to continue with it for the rest of your life, if you adjust jour journal keeping to whatever is going on in your life, whatever works for you and whatever style of journaling you enjoy most.

“Gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions. Once expressed, it changes attitude, brightens outlook, and broadens our perspective.” – Germany Kent

Gratitude Journalling can dramatically increase your self-esteem and empower you to make the changes you want to make in your life. I have created a “Coping with Change Checklist and Cheatsheet” and a “10 Steps to Instant Self-Confidence” Guide that I share with the subscribers to my mailing list. Claim your copy here.

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I spend many, many hours every week researching, writing, editing and distributing my articles, and in the process, I drink many, many cups of coffee. If you were empowered, educated, enlightened or entertained by this article, please buy me a cup of coffee! (you choose how much you want to donate) and help me transform more people’s lives. After all, giving is not just about making a donation, it is about making a difference.

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How to keep a Gratitude Journal consistently, even if you gave up many times before

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Three days ago, I decided to create an e-Course. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands, despite rushing around with a virtual hosepipe, desperately trying to put out the pre-publication fires springing up left right and centre as I prepare for the publication of my latest book “Embrace Change in 10 minutes a day – Simple Strategies, Smart Suggestion and Insight-giving Stories about Stress Management during Life Transitions,” on the 8th of June (TOMORROW!)

My mother-in-law asked yesterday me what I talk about in this book. I couldn’t manage to string two meaningful sentences together. Haven’t had time to come up with an elevator pitch. I managed to explain that my book is about dealing with the stress generated by life transitions by keeping a gratitude and generosity journal.  Still not quite right. Never mind, the perfect elevator pitch will come to me at 02h30 one morning. Soon, I hope.

What I want to do is to inspire my readers to get into the habit of counting their blessings and to list these blessings in a gratitude journal, every day so that they can claim the physical, psychological and social benefits that gratitude journaling can afford them.

The problem is, people often start keeping journals with the best of intentions, but give up within days, or at most weeks. I did a simple survey to find out why people stopped journaling. Below you’ll find a list of reasons as well as suggestions for keeping this from happening to you.

Time Constraints

A good number of would-be journal keepers said that they did not have enough time to keep a diary. I asked how much time they thought they should spend writing in their diary, and most said they thought they would have to spend about 30 minutes every day.  We know now that even 10 minutes of gratitude journalling a day can be beneficial. To make it easier, I suggested using the bullet-point method of keeping a journal, journaling while commuting, standing in a cue, waiting for someone to arrive at a meeting etc. or if it is impossible to find time during the week, journaling only at the weekend.

As John C. Maxwell said, “Give more of what you want. Although it may sound counterintuitive, one of the best ways to increase your abundance is to give. Don’t feel like you have enough time? Slip away from your obligations, even if just for an hour, to help someone in need. Don’t feel like you have enough money? Give to someone less fortunate. In other words, be a river, not a reservoir. Giving is sure to put you in a more abundant and appreciative frame of mind.”

Boredom

Some people said that they have started keeping journals in the past, but after a few days, a week or a month, got bored and gave up. Perfectly understandable. The way to get around this is by varying your gratitude practice. In “Embracing Change – in 10 minutes a day,” I list a variety of different ways to express your gratefulness, like going for a gratitude walk, writing a gratitude letter or joining a gratitude circle. Alternating between various methods will keep your gratitude practice fresh.

Low Self-esteem

Some people’s inner critics tell them that they will never be any good at journaling, that they will never be able to keep it up, that they have nothing to be grateful for anyway…If your inner critic tells you that you are no good at anything, in a misguided attempt to keep you from doing something that might upset you, turn the volume down. First, identify the culprit, thank it for its concern and then reassure it that you have got this. Don’t allow your inner critic to keep you imprisoned in your comfort zone.

Perfectionism

Other people said they eventually gave up on journalling because they couldn’t get it right; in other words, they are perfectionists. These are the people who have to find the perfect journal to write in before they can even start, who have to spend 10 minutes journaling every day and never miss a day, who spell-check and grammar-adjust every journal entry a million times and who beat themselves up mercilessly if they should fail to reach their own impossibly high standards. Sigh. Life’s too short, honestly. You will not get more benefit from gratitude journaling if you keep a perfect journal, or less if you do not.

Confidentiality

These days, confidentiality is a serious issue. If you are worried your journal might fall into the wrong hands, lock it up when you are not using it. Or set a password for the computer file you are using for your diary. You probably already have a different password for your phone, computer, tablet etc. Secure your journal as you would any other confidential document.

Procrastination

And then there is procrastinatiooooooooooon. You make up your mind to start journaling tomorrow. Tomorrow, you never get round to it. Nor the next day, other the day after or the day after that. You do get life-and-death chores done, so maybe journaling is just not a priority for you. Make it a priority. Decide never to go to sleep again until you have spent 10 minutes listing your blessings. Considering the various benefits of gratitude journaling, it is well worth it.

Motivation Failure

Yet other people start journaling, bursting with enthusiasm, but find that they quickly lose their motivation to continue when the benefits are not immediately apparent. Not all the benefits of gratitude journaling are evident from the first day that you start journaling. Some of the benefits, especially the health benefits, take longer to manifest. If you get easily discouraged, bookmark an article that discusses the scientific proof that gratitude is good for you and reread it from time to time.

Crisis Management

Sometimes, life happens. Everything that can go wrong, does. At the same time. You may feel you are too stressed to journal. Journaling reduces stress, so now is the most critical time to journal. Ever! Even if you think that you have absolutely nothing to be grateful for; do not neglect your gratitude journaling. There is always something to be thankful for, even it is only that you are still alive. Ponder your gratitude and generosity quotes, review your empowering affirmation and use your daily gratitude prompt to help you find something to be grateful for (subscribe to my “From Stress to Serenity with Gratitude and Generosity” e-Course)

Unsuitable Journaling Method

Writing in a gratitude journal every day is not for everyone. Luckily there are many other ways to keep a gratitude journal. You could keep a photographic gratitude journal and add one or more pictures of what you are grateful for every day. You can create a Pinterest Gratitude board, and add pins of what you appreciate daily. You could keep a gratitude scrapbook, and add the ticket to that movie that you are so grateful that you were able to see, or the cashier slip of the dress you were finally able to buy after saving weeks for it, etc. If you prefer drawing or painting, you could make a gratitude diary by drawing or painting.

Forgetfulness

Other people constantly complain that they keep forgetting to write in their journals. Assuming that this is not a procrastination problem, the solution is obvious. All you have to do is to connect your new habit to one that is already firmly entrenched, like drinking your first cup of coffee/tea every morning, or just before or after you brush your teeth, or just after you have taken the dog for his walk. It also helps to make yourself accountable – to sign a statement committing to journaling for at least 6 weeks (I have included a simple Commitment Statement in my e-Course) or commit to tweeting/posting on your Facebook profile or in a Facebook group every day. This way, you will inspire others to do the same.

Atrocious Writing

A good number of people say that they do not want to journal because they cannot write. Their spelling is terrible; their grammar leaves a lot to be desired; their sentences make no sense to anyone but themselves. So what? No law says your gratitude journal must be entirely devoid of spelling/grammar mistakes! If you really want to, you can do spell-check, just don’t become obsessive about it. You are writing your gratitude journal for you, so that you can look back through it during difficult times and remind yourself of all you still have that you appreciate. It only needs to make sense to you.

If I am going to help anyone, I need to find a way to motivate them to keep on journaling, every day, for the rest of their lives. That is why I created first the free 7-day e-course; a series of 7 simple e-mails with a daily gratitude prompt, motivating and inspiring gratitude and generosity quotes, an empowering affirmation and a call to action. If there is enough interest in this course, I would like to create an all-singing-all-dancing ”Grounded in Gratitude and Generosity” e-course, lasting 21 days, to help readers of “Embracing Change” to put the principles I discuss in the book into practice.

How about subscribing to my e-course and telling me if it is any good?

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A Writer’s Immobilising Insecurity #IWSG

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“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss”

Is there anything more nerve-wracking for an author than publishing a book?

After hours and hours of writing, re-writing, reviewing, proof-reading and editing (according to Word I have spent more than 3000 hours on my latest, Embracing Change – in 10 minutes a Day) comes the moment you present your book to your beta-readers.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeWith your heart beating in your throat, you draft an e-mail to these valuable but critical allies, explaining what the book is about and what you have tried to achieve by writing it. You carefully format an Advance Readers’ Copy and attach it to the e-mail. Your finger hovers over the send button: is the e-mail too long, too short, too much detail, not enough detail…will it grab their attention immediately or will they put it on their to-do list where it will languish for days before they get round to it?

You press “send” and send a prayer upwards.

Now the wait starts. Your beta readers, ideally, are people who do not know you personally. They may know quite a bit about you because they have read your previous books, but they do not have a personal relationship with you. If the book is a flop, they do not have to feel that they have to spare your feelings. If they find spelling or grammar mistakes, they can point them out without fear of destroying your friendship. They can criticise to their heart’s content, point out weaknesses, suggest improvements, disagree with the content, even pull the book to bits, should they feel the need.

This book, Embracing Change, (available now on pre-order) I wrote with the help of my faithful patrons on Patreon, so some constructive criticism has already come my way, that I made good use of as I wrote the book. I am deeply indebted to my patrons, each and every one of them, and I am hoping that their contribution will have made my book easier and more enjoyable to read. Time will tell.

A week goes by. You think of little else: why is it taking so long? Is the book too long or too boring? 50 000+ words – it that too much for a self-help book? Maybe you have put in too many suggestions, or maybe not enough suggestions, or maybe the suggestions aren’t clear enough. Perhaps the recommendations are – and here you bow your head in shame – not practical enough, too difficult to implement or not motivating enough. After all, you wrote this book to try and help people, to make their lives easier, to inspire them to make changes that will enable them to realise their dreams…

Maybe your book is a complete and utter failure, a total flop. All those hours wasted, all those 4h00 starts when you could have slept for another three hours at least. All that research, hours of surfing the web to find useful information, quotes and resources. All for nothing, all a waste of time.

10 days after you sent your ARC’s to your beta readers, early one morning – you still wake up at 4h00 because you are now used to it and/or you suffer from insomnia because you worry about what your beta readers think of your blasted book, which you are now sure you should NEVER have started writing!!! – an email pops up in your inbox.

You sit there staring at it for a long time. Procrastinating, you get up, and you go and make yourself a cup of coffee. You can’t face this on an empty stomach. Thus fortified, you sit back down in front of your computer. You take a deep, slow, shuddering breath, and you press “open.”

The first word you see is “masterpiece.” You close your eyes, Please God, let it not say “a masterpiece this surely is not…” You open your eyes and concentrate on the words in front of you. You remind yourself to stay in the moment, however uncomfortable it may become. Just then, Gmail helpfully notifies you than another e-mail has landed in your inbox. You quickly check, yes, another email from a beta reader. Nothing for ten days and now it is raining reviews. Back to the first email. With growing bewilderment, you read:

“First, let me apologise for taking so long to get back to you.

Secondly, let me say I think your book is a masterpiece.

I really mean it.”

You warn yourself to stay calm. This is the opinion of only one beta reader. You read on, while your jaw is slowly dropping onto your chest:

“There are so many things I like about this book, it’s hard to know where to start…

The content is marvellous, well researched and presented in a thoughtful manner. There are great stories, pictures and lists of suggestions which are a truly valuable resource in themselves. Then there are the quotes …. such wisdom you have collected over time and gifted to your readers.

I love that this book encourages and engenders a sense of possibility.

I love that it is written in your voice and has throughout it, parts of your story. What I think I liked best is that it is written in a voice that speaks to the reader as an equal.  This book is written to a person going through change – which is all of us – not ‘someone in need’ or ‘someone lacking something’ …… “

You let out the breath you have been desperately holding, and you read it all again. And again. And again.

You open the second email, now unsure what to expect, hoping with everything you have and are that this second email will echo the first.

“I enjoyed your inspiring book very much, many, many words of wisdom within it.  Your method of quoting your own life and experiences make the whole concepts especially telling and easy to relate to.  For myself I related most to the Gratitude section, I thank God every day for our wonderful life in all this beauty that God has given us, but have never thought about making that gratefulness ‘active’.”

Both emails mention a few spelling and grammatical errors, but you barely see these, you’ll correct it all later.

Your first two objective reviews, both positive! You think back about what those closest to you had said about your book, how good it was, and how you felt unable to take them seriously as you know these people care for you and might not be entirely objective. You allow yourself to contemplate the possibility that, as you hoped, this book may be the best book you have ever written.

And then your overactive inner writer’s critic reminds you that you only have two positive reviews so far, several more are outstanding and that this may be too early to start celebrating…

Insecurity is an integral part this writer’s life.

“If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”

Timothy Ferriss

Embracing Change – in 10 minutes a Day is already available on pre-order at Amazon. This is the provisional cover – what do you think?

Copy of Mindfulness and Meditation

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