I am a big reader.
I love to read. I always have done.
I can read a book in an hour, I can devour 5 books in a day…I rarely get the chance to read for a whole day these days, but I am a fast reader so have been known to on many occasions.
I have had periods of my life though where I haven’t read at all, these have tended to coincide with quiet unhappy times on reflection. Because when I am reading I know I am prioritising myself, taking my own learning and growth seriously…taking time out for me.
When I was off on maternity leave for example I had a huge period of time to read, I was unemployed and unsure of what I would do next so I read books on all sorts of topics. I would go to the library most days with Rose in her pram and get 10 books out at a time…and whenever I travel I read heaps of books too, it’s how I unwind.
Even though I am busier these days running a business and training for marathons I still read a lot. I listen to audiobooks when I run, and I normally have 2 or 3 nonfiction books on the go either hardcopies or on my ipad…I haven’t done much fiction reading this year, something I would like to change for 2018…so any recommendations of a must read novel please do send them my way.
Anyway, I estimate I have read around 100 books this year…so the 10 I am going to highlight are a bit of a mixture really, and I am choosing them because they changed me somehow, and maybe not because they were the best book of all times, if that makes sense…oh and they are in no particular order….so here goes…
The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle
So I read this book during a time this year where I was quite anxious and overwhelmed with work. It really helped me to realise how rarely I lived in the present. I have often been one to think about the past or focus on the future and forget that the here and now is what is important. I think when you are running a business, or building a life where the hard work is now and the benefits are likely to come in the future it is easy to miss out on all of the wonderful things which you have available to you now. Having small children around is a great reminder of that too…they are not very small for very long so being present and in the moment is essential.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
Now this is a real cracker and such a good buy for this time of the year. IT’S ABSOLUTELY LIFE CHANGING. Before reading this book I didn’t realise I had a problem…or perhaps I did but I din’t want to admit to it and I definitely was not ready to start addressing it. This book on the surface is about tidying up, getting organised and getting rid of stuff you don’t want…and even stuff you do want, but shouldn’t really. It opened up a tin of worms for me around what actually brought me joy in my life and what just made my life more challenging…it helped me clear out a wardrobe full of clothes that didn’t fit me, bookshelves full of books that I will never read again, and most importantly it helped me to upgrade my purchases…so rather than 5 quite shitty bags from Primark, one decent one which I will get real use out of. I don’t think you can understand the real value of this book without reading it…the concepts can be applied to so many areas of our life. Decluttering is a major pastime of mine now…and I’ve stopped buying so much crap in the first place.
Every Body Yoga, by Jessamyn Stanley
Now I love everything about Jessamyn Stanley….I mean just check out her instagram account to get an idea of her awesomeness. Anyhow, I met the lady herself a couple of years ago and she has helped me to realise that Yoga really is for EVERYBODY. This book is not just a series of instructions about how to do Yoga, but it also goes into Jessamyn’s journey with the practice. In a world where imagery is so powerful the sight of a larger body doing the poses I tell myself I can’t do is so important. When I met her she said that often the same things which stop us on the yoga mat are the things which hold us back in life too, fear, resistence, lack of patience. It is a brilliantly practical book, but is so much more than that too. One of my goals for 2018 is to get on my Yoga Mat everyday…what I do on the mat might not be as epic as Jessamyn, but I want to get into the habit of at least facing it.
You can be thin by Merisa Peer
I hate the title of this book. I hate what it stands for. I hate some of the content…but I love that I learned a lot about myself through reading this. A few years back I threw out all of my diet books. It was the declutter of all declutters…and I felt to much better once they were gone. The reason I bought this book was it was recommended by the Hypnotherapist who worked on my retreat. It talked about a type of hypnosis that I had found to be quite powerful in identifying some of the early memories around body image and my relationship with food. So I gave it a go. There were lots of really provocative suggestions around what to eat and what not to eat some of which I still can’t shake from my head…but also some really interesting sections around the types of eaters there are…helping me to understand my own behaviours. I have a lot of respect for the work of Marisa Peer as she has a wonderful track record of helping people overcome addictions. I do think you have to read this with a good sense of self esteem though, because areas of it felt quite shaming. It was most definitely a book which triggered the start of a new way of thinking for me.
Recovery by Russell Brand
I once saw Russell doing stand up comedy in the upstairs room of an Islington pub long before he was famous. He was neurotic, funny as hell, but he looked ill. I have never really had much of a view of him and his antics otherwise. I got one of his earlier books out of the library once and took it back unread as I just couldn’t get into it…into him I guess. But after watching on a TV show recently talking about this book I knew I had to read it. I am only half way through it as it keeps triggering new ways of thinking for me which are quite powerful. I had never really thought of myself as an addict really until reading this book, but I do have addictive ways of behaving when it comes to food. I know I will look back at this book in years to come as a massive turning point. I love how he weaves his own story through the book, and turns the well known 12 step programme for addicts on its head in quite a funny way. I have been avoiding reading the rest of this book the last few weeks because I know I am well on my way to facing some of my demons…and that in itself can be a bit scary.
Blackout by Sarah Hepola
I am about to embark on a “Year of no Beer” well not beer precisely but booze. I have long been wanting to give up and have been reducing my intake for a long time now. I used to be a big drinker…gosh the tales I could tell you…I was your typical binge drinker, drinking to get drunk. I never had a glass of wine with dinner, in fact I rarely had alcohol in the house…but my late twenties and thirties were pretty much weekends in a drunken blur and the rest of the time battling with poor mental health. In the past couple of years I have dramatically reduced my consumption, but I still find myself drinking too much on big nights out with friends, weddings and conferences…the difference now is I am questioning why I do it and what life would be like alcohol free. I don’t know how successful this year will be but either way I know I will learn a lot about myself. And this book? Well I think it is a must read for any woman who has ever forgotten what they got up to after too much drink or had friends of family question their drinking habits no matter how hard that is to hear. The book is actually very funny to read…like seriously funny, but towards the end you realise that it isn’t actually that funny after all. Very powerful stuff.
Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler
I listened to this as an audiobook back in July during my first ultra marathon. It kept me company for 42 miles and 24 hours. The book in a nutshell is about a block who has an army seal move in with him in an attempt to get into the best shape of his life. The guy was in pretty reasonable shape to begin with but the regime the seal puts him through is out of this world crazy. The book is funny, but also says a lot about human behaviour and the things which drive us. It shone a light on the behaviours that hold so many of us back from being the best version of ourselves and the excuses we use. It was exactly what I needed as I attempted to run the furthest I had ever run…lighthearted enough to keep my mind off the pain I experienced after the first 12 hours or so of running. The book run out at some point and I couldn’t bring myself to start something new…I was so satisfied with my original choice….then I was left with the innards of my brain!!! What was also interesting was that Jesse is the wife of millionaire Spanxs creator Sara Blackley.
Thank & Grow Rich by Pam Grout
Now I have long been a fan of Pam Grout. I have listened to 3 of her books as audiobooks, always while marathon training. She was the one to introduce me to the Law of Attraction. long before I read The Secret. I loved how some of her experiments could be done while out running, I love where her ideas took my brain on those long lonely runs. This one I listened to while I was running a half marathon…it was at the beginning of the year when I was really trying to work on my money mindset and avoid the feast and famine patterns that so many entrepreneurs face in their early years. I thought the book would be about money, but actually it was about wealth in a more general sense. It helped me to be more thankful for what I have, to see my business for what it actually is, to see the power I have to change the world, with or without a million pound in my bank. In fact I think I might listen to this again in the new year. I love how she sets mini experiments to help you make sense of the concepts. Check out her earlier books ESquared and ECubed which are equally brilliant.
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
Again a book I listened to while running earlier in the year. A very simple concept. Very much aligned to the way I do things. Facing your fears, taking action, closing your eyes and just jumping. I loved the storytelling aspect of this, and how Mel used these techniques to get herself out of a hole and living a truly inspired life. I think it is definitely a concept that I have been using more and more as the year had progressed. Sending the emails that are scary to send, picking up the phone and asking for help, signing up for things even when you worry it might all end in tears.
The Universe has your back by Gabrielle Bernstein
I remember clear as day ordering this book. I was having a bit of a rough time earlier in the year. I was exhausted. Overwhelmed and filled with so much fear. I seriously did not know where to turn and someone suggested I read this book. It arrived and I literally read it one sitting…and then took the afternoon off and went for a run. I came home to found an inbox full of exciting things and I had clarity like I hadn’t had in a long while. This book helped me look back at my life realising that even all of the crap stuff had led me to a good place in the end. It spoke about staying connected to the things which bring you joy, the things where you are being yourself completely…in flow. Since reading that book I often find myself saying “It’s OK Julie…the universe has got your back” and for all of you guys that don’t believe in the power of the universe or the law of attraction, it is still an interesting read…a book which helps you to find coping strategies and to take inspired action to help things along the way. I loved this book so much I bought a set of Gabrielles cards which sit on my desk for inspiration.
So there you have it the books which really sum up so much of the things which shifted in me this year.
I have a few ideas for books of my own up my sleeves this year…a book about half marathons I have been wanting to write for a while, one around fear and how we can harness it as women, and one about how to live a bigger life…I will wait until inspiration hits to get going on them.
If you want a good book quite fitting for this time of year and written by yours truly, check out New Year, Same You a book all about why new years resolutions don’t work and how you can achieve health and happiness in a more realistic way.
I am really looking forward to 2018…I have massive plans including a new website, a new coaching programme…and maybe even a UK wide tour….watch this space.
And if you wonder how I find the time to read so many books, write my own, run a business, train for marathons and be a mum to my 5 year old…join me on Instagram for my upcoming FREE 10 day “Find time to achieve your goals in 2018” challenge.
You can register here
Oh and remember I am looking for some good fiction recommendations, so drop me a line on social media about what you have read recently.
Last week Thursday I had a really important day scheduled, a day where I really needed the weather gods to be on my side.
I knew scheduling a photoshoot in December was a little risky, and I knew it would be cold…I bought a bright orange scarf for the occasion because of this fact, all I asked for was no rain or crazy wind…and what did I get?
Rain and Crazy Wind.
Well it seemed like that anyway.
I’d got my hair cut and highlighted the day before as you do in advance of these things…of course I wanted to look my best.
My photographer when we had gone over the shoot on the phone earlier in the week had said, “I will make you look like you, but on a good day” but this was never going to be me on a good day. Not with this bloody weather.
It was blowing a gale as I left my home with my nerves and wheelie case in tow, the forecast rain hadn’t even started yet but my eyes were already watering from the cold….there goes my pre school drop off makeup efforts (What the mums at the school gate that morning thought I will never know, most days they are lucky if I have brushed my hair)
It’s funny, because in many ways I wasn’t overly stressed about the weather or even about the results of the photos. I had told myself the night before, that it was out of my hands…what will be will be. I needed new photos this side of Xmas…and I just had to go through the motions and get them done.
The photographer was lovely anyway, a real blast she put me at ease right from the off. Vanessa Valentine is her name, a photographer known more for her actors headshots than photographing East End plus size marathon runners turned life coaches…but hey if she could make me look half as good as some of the folks she normally shoots I’d be happy. Plus, she had come highly recommended by the lady creating my new website.
New website you say?
Yes…I have a new website coming, because I am launching my signature programme in January…and for a change I didn’t want to do everything on a shoe string. I had decided to invest in myself a bit…to have more faith that my programme would sell out…not because of lovely new photos, snazzy new website or wonderful testimonials…but because the course and my ability to transform the lives of the women I work with is bloody brilliant.
I just had to keep reminding myself of that at 9am in the middle of Stratford that Thursday morning with my hair being blown in every which way.
The first half of the shoot took place in the warmth of my most favouritest (and yes that is a word) Stratford cafe in the whole world. The View Tube, or as my 4 and a half daughter likes to call it “The YouTube”.
It is where I retreat to with my laptop when I have had enough of my own four walls at home, it’s where Rose and I cycle to at the weekend to have brunch…and it is also where many moons ago I used to give talks on the development of the Olympic Park as it took shape all those years ago.
It felt great to be doing my shoot in a place that felt like home, rather than a venue to give some bullshit constructed idea of my lifestyle…this place is me through and through…hence why we stopped for lunch here too…which was when the heavens really opened. It absolutely tipped it down. The rain was hideous. I had a brolly and a coat with a hood…but it really was impossible.
We had all these wonderful locations in Hackney Wick planned…but I would have looked like a drowned rat if we had headed out in that…but then Vanessa had an idea…and we spent the next twenty minutes with me mucking around outside the cafe with a brolly, while she took some shots of me outside whilst trying not to get her camera wet.
My hair was a frizzy mess by this time but do you know what…I simply did not care.
What is a girl to do?
Who has perfect hair anyway?
Not me thats for sure.
I’ve always been the girl to jump head first into the pool on holiday rather than sit posing around a pool…I go to the gym with my hair scraped back 3 times a week, and I run marathons for fucks sake…and even when I do dress up for the occasional awards event on night out, I normally have to get ready with a small child in tow…so perfection is rarely the look I go for.
In fact now I think about it, I am slightly suspicious of women with good hair every day.
Looking back at the pictures of the day which came through this week I realise that the ones I love most are the ones after the point where I thought what the heck and started having some fun…anyone that knows me knows I’m a bit rough round the edges…my hair sure as hell isn’t perfect at 3am in a hotel bar as I sit there putting the world to right…nor at the finish line of the Tough Mudders I do.
Yes, I wanted some photos of me not in running kit…but they still needed to look like me.
For the final part of the shoot we headed to Hackney Wick, and as we got off the train the rain had almost stopped….and then…wait for it…the sun emerged, and I felt like a goddess…I shit you not.
There I was in my Primark jeans, my new orange scarf and my East End swagger…with my own personal photographer capturing my every move. the builders on the building sites around Hackney wick didn’t quite know what to make of this big sturdy bird strutting her stuff without a care in the world….and even Vanessa knew at this point we were getting some magical shots.
As we walked through the Olympic Park on the way back to the tube, fatigue hit me. I was exhausted. It’s hard work being yourself all day you know. Plus, I have a tendency to look stern in pictures…so my face ached from smiling so much. Don’t get me wrong I have a lot to be happy for these days, but old habits die hard.
I love my new photos and I think when I reveal them all properly to you with the new website and my upcoming marketing campaign I think you will love them too. They are sooooooo me. And who would have thought it would take some good old fashion British shitty weather to bring out the best in me.
I would like to say a massive thank you to Vanessa Valentine who was a dream to work with. She made everything so easy for me…other than being shorter than me and asking me to squat so that she could get a better angle…damn did this woman not know I am in the middle of marathon training.
But seriously she was an absolute angel.
Check out more of her work at www.vanessavalentinephotography.com/, please note these are the behind the scenes unedited versions of the photos, not quite the finished ones for the website…and they still look super hot right?
Look out in a few weeks for the launch of my new website all about my Living a Bigger Life Mastermind.
I have women already chomping at the bit to sign up, even before the new site has gone live…I sold 2 places today to women already on one of my other programmes…I reckon it was the new “she looks like she’s got her shit together” photos that did it.
Or maybe it was the ridiculous early bird price of just £359 (With a payment plan) and the new rates will go live on the 1st January. You can have a look at a brief overview of what the programme is about here….or you could wait until the new snazzy website is ready…although of course the course is the same.
Heres to living bigger in 2018, and to plenty more bad hair days.
Why is life so bloody annoying?
So often we know what we need to do to live the kind of life we want to live but yet, somehow we can’t quite motivate ourselves enough to go for them fully?
Or is it just me?
So here’s the thing.
2018 is fast approaching and I have spent the last 6 months working on a new area of work to launch in January.
It’s new. Its scary…but mostly it is exciting….because I know it is a game changer for me.
I’ve piloted it with 20 women over the past 12 weeks to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do. I’ve got feedback so that I can improve it, and this time round I’ve actually invested some time, money and effort in building the programme properly, rather than winging it like I have done in the past.
This programme is good, its bloody good…so good in fact that I am sitting here too scared to actually tell people about it.
What is that about?
It is not like I am having to jump into a tank of sharks, or worse still have to stand on a street corner attempting to sell timeshares to complete strangers…all I have to do is write about the programme, share it with women who already know and respect me and perhaps initiate some conversations with people who might be interested.
Because, guess what?
I have resistence…a whole heap of the stuff, to the point that I’d rather just forget the whole thing and go back a few steps in my life, back to where it’s comfortable and easy.
Recognise these feelings?
Resistence is not futile my friends, that is such a silly bloody phrase, especially when it is so hard to spot it in the first place, let along overcome it…it is why the sofa or an extra hour in bed is always so inviting. Pah, who really wants to do yoga at stupid o’clock anyway, and one missed gym class won’t make much difference anyhow.
I have come to realise that resistence is a hard cold fact of everyday life that many of us just have to face up to and then overcome if we really want anything in life to change in any meaningful way.
But what even is it? Come on hit me with the dictionary explanation I hear you say….
Resistance is the refusal to accept or comply with something.
I get it. I really do. All those years of never seeming to get any where with things, yet I could never quite put my finger on what it was…I was more inclined to say
Well, life is just fucking hard thats all
Well, clearly it’s not meant to be.
No Julie, you just resisted doing the work.
All the signs lead towards the action plan needed to get whatever it is we want in life, yet this invisible hard to comprehend force does everything within its power to prevent you from moving forward.
For me it shows up in a whole heap of different ways, pretty much on a daily basis
- Not answering that exciting game changer of an email that came in yesterday
- Going to bed super late (again) the day before an important event
- Not reaching out to the person who offered me help a few weeks back
- Watching Daytime TV instead of sitting at my computer doing the work
- Only half heartedly doing the training session I scheduled or not showing up at all
- Deciding to create another planning document rather than actually actioning the last one I made
And it’s not just women running businesses who have to deal with this resistence I’d found.
Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow
I’ll come back to that bit when I’ve got a bit more time on my hands
Lets wait until next year to ask him about the pay rise
Who leaves 3 biscuits in a pack anyway, might as well finish them off
Of course I’ll do that for you
Yes I would love to help…no I can cancel the thing I was supposed to do tonight, it wasn’t important
Let me just do the washing up first, then I’m on it
It seems to me that resistence is creating an exhausting fog of apathy with us women, which often comes across as sheer laziness or a lack of engagement, when what it actually is when you really think about it, is pure unadulterated and oh so common fear of success.
Because ladies, if we are successful we would have to admit we were wrong all these years about being totally worthless, and a fraud and I weirdly enjoy spotting the wealth of evidence around me that proves all that that OK, cos come on let’s face it we all need a get out clause for when things get challenging right?
Oh and then there is the other side of resistence I’ve been exploring on my journey recently, it is how we judge others actually doing the work. We see something we want, something that might help us grow, a programme or a book, or an offer of help and before we know it we are looking for excuses as to why that would never work for us.
It’s OK for her she’s pretty and slim and popular
That only works for rich people
I don’t buy into all that spiritual shit
Who does she think she is really?
It won’t work on me
Have you seen how shitty my life is?
This stuff is a minefield, it’s a bloody battle ground.
As humans we have thousands of years of evolution conditioning us to stay where we feel safe, not venturing from our tribe, or trying something new, yet so many of us are desperately seeking adventure or the opportunity to fulfil dreams and desires which we secretly long for in those moments of clarity where fear doesn’t get a look in.
The antidote to resistence though is relatively simple though ladies…you ready for this?
You just need to take inspired action and take it NOW.
Just like me writing this blog despite the enormous fear and procrastinating behaviours I have been displaying this week towards doing it.
You just have to do the bloody thing, even if the negative voices in your head are all consuming….screaming at you to not do it.
Don’t sign up for that marathon you fool, you will kill yourself
Single people don’t go on holiday by themselves, wait until you find someone
Why would you leave this job, they might not think you are any good at a new one
Learning a new skill now, thats stupid…you should have taken up yoga 30 years ago, not now.
If you tell him what you think he will think you are an idiot
It is not like we don’t know the actions we need to take. They pop into our heads at the least welcome of times. And even when we agree to do them, we often find an excuse not to have to think about them right now….convincing ourselves we will do it tomorrow, next week, when it’s less busy at work, when the kids have grown up a bit.
Do the bloody thing.
Take the action.
Send the email.
Write the book.
And when you sit down to make a start, know that resistence will be at it’s strongest.
Boy oh boy will it be out to get you.
But you got this.
Ignore the compelling as hell desire to check your emails, or that urge do something fun on social media, or rearrange your book collection like your life depended on it…because none of these are going to get the thing you actually want.
None of these things, are THE THING!!!
Do the thing.
It’s hard and requires courage.
But do the thing.
Ask yourself now…
Am I doing the thing? Or am I just fart arsing around?
And finally…so that it feels less scary, start convincing yourself that only good can ever come of that action, that it will be the start of a chain of events moving you closer to your goal and remind yourself that even if it doesn’t work out in the end (although it probably will) know that you are resilient enough to deal with any negative consequences of that inspired action anyway.
And just in case you didn’t hear me the first time.
Would love to know what you have resistence to in your life or business and how it plays out for you. Find me on social media and drop me a line, so many of us experience this, yet we often believe it is just us…or worst still we are in denial. Check me out on Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn
Details of my 2018 Living a Bigger Life Mastermind will be revealed in a few weeks time. If you would like to be sent information by email when it does drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org