Mindset

The measure of success

As I come to the final, crucial stages of my first indie-publishing adventure, I find myself struggling to switch off from thinking about work.

At the moment I am nervously awaiting my proof from the printer; hoping madly that I won’t spot any terrible errors; that the PDF settings were ok; the fonts were embedded properly; and all the images were bleeding correctly!

So far most choices and decisions have all been made from the safety of my desk

Then, once I have my proof, I will be taking it nervously to some lovely local book shops to see if one of them would be happy for me to do a book launch with them. Suddenly, this step feels the most scary to me. I think it is because so far, most choices and decisions have all been made from the safety of my desk – no one able to judge me or my work to my face. Now I have to go out into the world, with my book and see what actual, real people think.

Again, this is silly, and I know it is. I have been professionally designing books, magazines and educational content for children for nearly twelve years now. I wouldn’t be publishing Reynard the Fox if I didn’t believe it was any good. Feedback I have had from publishers and creative directors has always been positive – the ‘negative’ I have had received a couple of times is that isn’t very ‘mass market’. Even that comment in itself is nothing bad – it just means that it is an unusual, niche product.

So what am I worried about?

I am a little frightened that people will buy my book and be disappointed and not like it. Then I might feel that I had let them down somehow. But I am not going to force anyone to buy it, so that is not really a problem. Am I worried that no one will buy it? Weirdly no! That eventuality doesn’t really bother me at all.

My nervousness is more to do with the book’s success. My success. I have never actually sat down and thought how I might measure the success of this book that is so precious to me. With most of my work, I consider it successful not if I am pleased with the final product, but instead if my client wants to work with me again. If my client wants to work with me again, it means that they deemed the product a success, and the partnership a success, and they valued the work that I did.

Here, how will I measure my success? Will I be satisfied if I have a successful book launch and sell 30 copies? Will I feel successful if I sell the initial print-run of 150 copies in 6 months and have to order more? I believe the answer to both of these questions is no. As with how I view my client-work, I believe that I will view my beloved Reynard in the same way. If he leads me onto more books of my own, then I believe that I will consider him and me a successful team.

I know that my finally being able to invest in this story is a massive achievement on its own

I will admit that my standards are high. You may well be thinking that as you read this. But I will also say that if I don’t sell many copies, I at no stage will consider the book a failure. I know that my finally being able to invest in this story is a massive achievement on its own. I have been etching away at Reynard the Fox for so long, that to reach its conclusion is a great success, and for that I am truly proud.

Successfulness though, that is something different entirely. To feel successful. Do many people genuinely feel successful? My guess is probably not. Many of us are always looking to the next step, we have been trained to do this from very young ages. So here, I need to think about what success for Reynard and myself really look like. Success targets I can quantify. Publishing it is the first step. And the next step? Not sure yet, but whatever it is I will aim high and work hard.

As I read these words back I am mindful that many of us may operate in this way. We are often goal/target orientated, and so miss out on the feelings of success that we should feel, as we are too busy pushing for the next step. Perhaps then, let us think about it another way. The success is not in the quantifiable data we can measure, but in the effort and the passion that drives us forward. To be sure, that is a great success indeed.

 

Mindset

On a path to Happy.

I am reading a book called Happy by Derren Brown at the moment. I’ve actually been reading it for the past two years as I only read about two paragraphs a night before conking out … I do not find babies and small children are especially conducive to reading grown-up books.

Anyway, in Happy Derren Brown investigates the reasons why we can all feel a little overwhelmed by life. He does it in a gentle and intelligent way – looking at the theory of Stoicism as a method for improving the way in which we can all live our lives. I don’t want to try and squeeze his book into one or two paragraphs, because there’s no way I will get it right. But what I will say is that if you are a person who is interested in helping themselves, by understanding themselves and others better, it is a good one.

Indeed, Brown’s calm approach to educating the reader to a more settled and less-irritated life has certainly helped me engage with my mindset and think more carefully about the way in which I react to things. If you have ever tried CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) there are similar ideas here. And indeed, if you haven’t tried CBT, Happy is a good way to learn some of CBT’s building blocks.

Do we remain the same person our entire lives?

One idea that Brown looks at in one of the latter chapters has especially got me thinking. It is a question about whether or not we remain the same person that we are born as. Do we remain the same person our entire lives? Or, do we change? Well, essentially our DNA is the same. But what about how external influences; people, events, culture, how these things affect us? I guess we could think about Gwyneth Paltrow’s 90’s movie, Sliding Doors, or even Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. In Sliding Doors, we see Gwynnie’s character play out two alternate stories that were triggered by the seemingly mundane event of catching or missing her tube train. In Groundhog Day, Bill’s obnoxious, selfish character is forced to relive the same day over and over until he learns that he has been obnoxious and selfish.

I have started to think about how I may have evolved to become different people. A couple of ways definitely spring to mind.

For myself, I have started to think about how I may have evolved to become different people. A couple of ways definitely spring to mind. Becoming a mum – even though you want to be your same self – you fundamentally adapt to become a new, much less selfish, more efficient, version of yourself. You learn how to put others first, your wardrobe potentially changes… For me it went from dresses and skinny jeans, to baggy jeans and trainers!

Another instance where I can see that I have become a new version of myself, was in meeting Noel. In becoming part of a pair, you find new ways of doing things, new interests (one of mine was learning how to play darts!), eat new food, etc. I suppose the fundamental change here would be that you learn to think in terms of a two, not just a one, and your life is no-longer you at the centre.

How exciting that we can live our lives and evolve as we go, depending on the people and things around us.

I used to be very against the idea that my self could change. But actually, changing your self and evolving the person that you are is amazing. How exciting that we can live our lives and evolve as we go, depending on the people and things around us. Quite often I equate my daily identity by the clothes that I choose to wear. When I’m in mummy mode, I need to feel relaxed, hard-wearing and cool (ie. not too hot for when bodies are climbing on me!). I will probably also try and have a slightly messy, art-studio look about me – so that the mums at Toddler Group can see I’m not just a mum.

When I’m in work-mode, or going to a client meeting, I like to feel smart. I might wear a dress, some smart shoes or boots, then I know I’m in business mode and I’m a professional creative. I like to visualise the different people that I am.

I guess what I am saying is, I think its great that we can become different people throughout our lives as we learn and grow. And we can especially apply the same logic to our thought patterns and mindsets. In adapting our mindsets, evolving our inner selves, we can create new versions of our outer selves. For me, setting my mindset onto a path that creates a more fulfilled and happier life, instead of one constantly pestered by self-doubt and anxiety? Yes please, Derren Brown! I’ll just grab my walking boots …

Mindset

Remembering to breathe

What a thing to say! Who needs reminding that they need to breathe?
Well, I do. Yes, I know you’re inwardly thinking, ‘Weirdo!’ – but just bear with for a moment.

A really lovely nurse once told me that you need anxious people – they’re the people that usually get things done.

Remembering that I have to tell myself to breathe sometimes, well at the moment, that’s quite often actually, comes from observing a little mindfulness. I have always been an anxious person. A really lovely nurse once told me that you need anxious people – they’re the people that usually get things done. I think she’s right. However, an anxious person stops getting things done when the anxiousness gets too much.

Before I became a mum, cycling and yoga, and before that, wine, vodka and dancing, used to keep my anxieties as bay. But when that first 24/7 bundle of sleep-depriving snuggliness arrived, things changed, lets say, rather a lot. As any mum knows – or parent for that matter – once baby arrives your time is no-longer your own. Your needs suddenly sit at the bottom of the washing basket along with all the ironing and the bits of tissue that snuck into the washing machine and got all over the dark wash (never the white wash).

I found myself in mummy-land really struggling with anxiety, worrying all the time that something bad was going to happen, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope when it did.

Anyway. I found myself in mummy-land really struggling with anxiety, worrying all the time that something bad was going to happen, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope when it did. So much was my worrying, that after a couple of months of constant crying, citalopram helpfully sorted me out. This was ok, but I knew that it was only treating the condition, not actually helping me sort out the problem I have with anxiety. When we had bundle of sleep-deprivation no2, I had taken myself off the citalopram and been cycling and active as much as I could.

What then ensued was me always waiting for the next calamity/wee/breast-feed/etc/etc to happen – and so I was always holding my breath!

However, two small children meant double the craziness and double the constantly being needed! Eek!! We even potty-trained Sidney when Harriet was a few weeks old – just to add to the fun – he was totally ready and had it nailed in 5 days. On the flip side, what then ensued was me always waiting for the next calamity/wee/breast-feed/etc/etc to happen – and so I was always holding my breath!

I finally noticed that I was doing this and realised that this was probably making me feel anxious all the time. So, I had no choice, but to tell myself to breathe… Just breathe Sarah. Take a few long breaths. Breathe out slowly. And it worked. The anxious tummy cramps I give myself when I hold my breath all the time slowly stopped, and I felt in so much more control. And if the Harriet had to wait for her feed, or Sidney needed a wee while I was washing up – it’s fine. Its ok.

I feel proud of myself when I feel myself taking long, deep breaths

Recently the tummy cramps have been back, and I have caught myself holding my breath again, a lot. Even when I’m pouring a cup of tea. So I am literally telling myself to breathe. Anxiety is a thing that I manage. I have to manage it otherwise I will go bananas, and I don’t want that. I feel proud of myself when I feel myself taking long, deep breaths, telling myself that its ok if I’m writing this, and not working on a deadline that is due. This is important too. I can take a deep breath and its ok if both my children are wanting things but I am going to finish the washing-up anyway. Them waiting for me helps them learn that they can’t have what they want as soon as they want it.

Breathing. Thats the most important thing I can do right now.