Episode 41: Living a Happy Author Life with Julie Leonard

Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!

In this episode, I chat with Happiness Evangelist and author, Julie Leonard. Julie talks about how you can create an intentionally happy life, particularly as it pertains to writing. We discuss how much control you actually have over your happiness, how to overcome your inner-editor and negative self-talk, and Julie shares how using No Zero Days can propel you towards reaching your writing goals faster.

If you’re ready to bring a little more happiness into your life and your writing life, then this is the episode for you!

Connect with Julie on Instagram here

Join the Happiness Club on Facebook here

Visit Julie’s Website here: www.julieleonardcoaching.com

Purchase Julie’s book, Intentional Happiness: The Life-Changing Guide to Being Happy and Staying Happy here.

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Find the full transcript of this episode below.

Episode 41: Living a Happy Author Life with Julie Leonard

Jo: Hello, hello, my friends. Here we are in December. I just don’t even know where this year has gone. Before we get into today’s show, I wanted to remind you that if you have a sports lover in your circle, and you’re wondering what to buy them for Christmas, because we are in December, you need to go check out my friend, Kevin Bryant’s book, Spies on the Sidelines: The High Stakes World of NFL Espionage.

Now Kevin was a guest on the show back on episode 22, so if you want to check that out, he talks a lot about his book. Spies on the Sidelines, promises intrigue and humor, and you can purchase it as a hard cover, ebook, or audio book at all good retailers. And just like last week I have two copies of his audio book to give away. All you need to do is be one of the first people to email me at jo@jobuer.com, and tell me your favorite episode of Alchemy for Authors so far. And if you’re one of the first people to do this, I will send you a special code for the audio book that can be redeemed on the Authors Direct app available on the iOS and Google Play Store. It’s as easy as that.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this time of the year is when I start thinking ahead to planning for next year. And isn’t at the crux of all our goal setting to be happy? So this week’s episode, I talk with the Happiness Evangelist about creating an intentionally happy life, particularly as it pertains to writing. So we’ll cover how much control we really have over our happiness, how to overcome our inner editor and negative self talk, and how you can use No Zero Days to propel you faster towards your goals.

So, if you are ready to bring a little more happiness into your life and into your writing life, then it is time that you go grab yourself a drink, find a comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the show.

Hello my lovelies. Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. So today I’m chatting with the lovely Julie Leonard. Julie is a certified life coach and happiness evangelist with over 30 years of psychology, mental health, and coaching experience. Along with her coaching practice, she’s the founder of sunndach.com, providing workplace wellbeing in companies, the creator of The Intentional Happiness Circle and author of the number one bestseller, Intentional Happiness: The Life Changing Guide to Being Happy and Staying Happy. She is also the host of the weekly online International Women’s Happiness Club.

So hello Julie, and welcome to the show.

Julie: Hi, Jo. It’s fantastic to be here. So excited about our conversation.

Jo: Me too. I love that you have titled yourself The Happiness Evangelist. And so I want to hear more about this. Were you just born happy or was this something that you had to work towards?

Julie: Well, I think most of us are actually born happy and then life kicks that out of you . So I think we are all born like a blank canvas and very pure and innocent. And life influences us and our culture influences us, and society influences us. I think by nature I’m a very positive person, but that’s not to say that I haven’t had my struggles and things to deal with and, and gone through my fair share of difficult things. But by nature I’m, yeah, a positive and really resilient person. I think what really led me into the sort of the area of happiness is, is growing up with somebody, my father, who was, depressed his whole life. Just seeing how that affected him and how it affected me indirectly, it really impacted on how I felt. He often was in his own head or, um, would cut me off or not be listening, and I didn’t really understand that as a child and I really internalized that with a lot of negative thoughts about myself. Like, I don’t have anything worth saying. I don’t have an opinion. I’m not good enough. Great stuff when you want to write a book.

I think it’s quite natural that someone like myself then ended up going into psychology. Gotta figure all that stuff out. We’re drawn to that. And yeah, I think there a big part of it is that, I guess generation wise, it was a generation where you didn’t really get help, you didn’t really talk about it. And we never talked about emotions, never talked about what was going on. And um, I didn’t want to be like that. So my father was kinda stuck in the past and struggling with life. And I was very much like, I really want to deal with stuff. So I think it’s no accident that I’m a life coach that’s all about creating a positive and happy future and taking responsibility for that.

So, yeah, and it just kinda naturally evolved cause I ended up working in mental health services in Scotland, uh, for over 20 years and I had the absolute privilege of going into people’s homes to work with them, which is wonderful, and spending time with people. And yeah, I would always ask people, you know, what is it you want? What are you looking for? Like, we’re all about recovery based work. And they would always, 99% of the time people say, I want to be happy. That was the answer. I want to be happy. And I was just like, Hmm, what? What is this? What is happiness? And how do you get it? And how do you keep it or maintain it or build upon it? And that really started my journey on yeah, happiness and how to be happy despite perhaps what you have experienced in your life or what’s going on in your circumstances. I always felt that there was very much a lot of your life that’s in your control. That really sparked that journey. And then when I transitioned to be a coach, my focus really became on becoming very intentional about that. How can you really be proactive in your life and create the life that you want to lead?

And um, a few years ago I was at a big conference in Budapest with a friend of mine, and we were watching all these amazing speakers, you know, like Brene Brown and all these amazing, you know, amazing people. And of course we were daydreaming about one day when we walk out on that stage, you know, and we were doing our speech, we’re doing all that stuff. And there was Guy Kawasaki who was promoted as being the Brand Evangelist for Canva, I think it was at that point. And that name kind of stuck with me and I kept sort of going over that word evangelist and it sounded quite religious to me. And I’m very, yeah, I’m just really not someone who follows any kind of religion. I’m really, that’s just something that I don’t practice. And I was like, that’s a strange name. And then it kept going over and I was thinking like, what would I call myself? You know? There’s another person that I follow who’s a Kindness Czar and I was like, oh, what could you be called? And I just kept coming back to this happiness evangelist and I really, something about that just resonated.

And I thought, no, I feel like I have this mission to go out there and spread a message that there’s so much of your life that you can take control over. And that you don’t have to stay stuck the way you are, that there’s so much that can change in your life. And I mean, you think that that’s not really spoken about enough that people are just struggling along. I see so many people suffering. I know what it’s like to be in my own head and suffering and people don’t have to. I feel like there’s so much you can do that in some ways is actually quite straightforward if you know what to do. Yeah. And uh, and you have the right support. And so I thought, I’m claiming this title and I’m gonna be a happiness evangelist and I’m gonna get out there and spread the word that you too can create the life that you want to lead.

Jo: That is fantastic. That is so what we need too, because I think you’re absolutely right, everybody at the very core wants to be happy. That’s what we are looking for. And that might take, the guise of different goals or ambitions or things that we want or desires and things that we want in our life. But really we just wanna be happy. I think similar to your childhood, I had a father and a brother a little bit like that too, who would get lost in their own depression and sometimes would come across as being happy in their misery, if that makes sense? So, um, yeah. And so I love that idea that you promote that we are in charge of our happiness and we can change it. I was having a look through your book and everything, and I can’t remember who you attributed it to, but you were talking about the happiness set point. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Can you talk a little bit about that? You were talking about some of it was genetic and Yeah.

Julie: Yeah. So there’s kinda two parts that it’d be really good. Yeah. There’s, uh, the belief that we have a happiness set point, that there’s a level of happiness that we all have. And for a long time, the thinking was that we all had a sort of natural set point that, you know, you might do something amazing and then you come back down to that reset point, or things go really bad and then you come back up to that reset point. I really believe the thinking though is that, and I certainly believe is that you can also increase that happiness set point, you know, and um, I think you can really change that. I wasn’t always happy. I went through a lot of stuff and when I look back now, I realize how deeply unhappy I was for a long, long time.

And so I do believe that you can increase your happiness set point. And I think- there’s a lot of work by Sonya Lyubomirsky who wrote about the how of happiness, and she did a lot of research on happiness. And what her findings were that like 50% of your happiness is kind of genetic, so you kind of inherit something, you know, a predisposition or like an attitude towards it, and like 10% is like circumstances. So of course we are affected by where we live and who we live with, et cetera. And 40% was up for grabs. So hey, that 40% all of a sudden is like, that’s a huge chunk, isn’t it?

Jo: We want that. Yeah.

Julie: Yeah. Well, I’m taking that for starters, and I think we’re also challenging that point of view because in my experience with myself and also working with so many people over the years, I’ve been doing this for over 30 years now, a really long time, that sometimes we can’t always change certain situations or circumstances, but we can change how we respond to them.

Jo: Mm-hmm.

Julie: And so that 10% in effect could be up for grabs as well, because how you respond to stressors and situations can be quite different. So you control over changing that, your mindset and your approach. And also there’s a whole lot of work now in epigenetics, which is all about how we can actually change our genetics, that it doesn’t necessarily mean because, you know, because I was raised by someone who was extremely depressed that I will also be depressed, or I might have this physical condition or whatever. So there’s a lot, there’s a lot up for grabs, basically. And so I think that’s really, really, really positive.

And interestingly, I guess why I was thinking about, you know, that happiness set point, a lot of what we’ve been told, and we continue to be told, is that happiness is something that’s quite external. If you have a house, a relationship, a family, a job, you have the money, everything, you will be happy. And what I’ve heard over and over again is I should be happy. I have a nice house, I have a job, I have all these things and I should be happy. But generally, people are not always happy, even though they have lots of stuff. Otherwise, millionaires would be the happiest people in the world and it’s not always the case. Definitely there’s a correlation between money and happiness, and of course some level of money gives you opportunity and security and safety and everything you need. But the research says that after about $75,000, that starts to plateau off. But of course, we all need some kind of money.

But interestingly, you mentioned that I host this weekly Happiness Club, and I have a Facebook group called The Happiness Club. And when people join, we ask people, what does happiness mean to you? And we surveyed over thousand women and the results all came back pretty much the same. And the answers were a sense of peace, a sense of calm, and a sense of balance. And so really what that indicates, this is much more about an internal state rather than an external. Of course, that is important, but I think when we place emphasis on having external things, that’s where we fall short. And so that’s why I think it’s really important when we focus on that inner and outer balance in our lives. We can change that happiness set point and we can take much more control of our happiness.

Jo: That makes so much sense. It really does. And I was thinking about that as you were saying that- peace, calm, and balance representing happiness, and I think that’s true. I think that’s absolutely true. So you’ve worked with thousands of women and talked with lots of people and everything. So what do you think is maybe the number one thing that holds people back from happiness, from being happy in their lives?

Julie: Mindset, positive thinking, thoughts, my experiences, everything kind of boils down to not feeling good enough.

Jo: Yeah. Yeah. I totally get that. I totally get that.

Julie: To some degree, you know, lesser or more, but I meet time and time again, incredible people who don’t believe that they worthy of anything or of what they really want, and so are held back by their limiting beliefs. We all have an inner voice, an inner critic, we all have negative and limiting beliefs. We are shaped so greatly by our upbringing, reinforced by school and mm-hmm life and experiences we’re shaped by our cultures, we’re shaped by our parents and their parents. And the generational, you know, layers that come, like we are really. Influenced by so much and now we throw in like social media and and everything, gosh, into that mix. Yeah. It’s amazing how we come out the way we are. But there’s also good reason. But I think a lot of people feel like, well that’s just who I am and this is me and these are my thoughts. And often they’re so automatic that we’re not really aware of them. And I think that’s what really boils down to. Cuz at the end of the day, If you don’t believe in yourself, you will never have the dream job or the dream life or the dream relationship. You don’t believe deep down that you’re worthy of that or you can have it. And that’s what I think really holds people back. Yeah, from, from having the happiness. And if you think about peace, calm, and balance, that also comes an internal state of mind.

Think about when you do feel confident in something. You do feel that everything’s aligned, when everything’s kind of clicking to place, or you’re in an amazing relationship where it feels so good and supportive. Think how liberating that is, how light that feels. How. How much, how well, how little head space things take up.

So I think that’s what it really comes down to. And that’s how my work goes, where half my work is really working on mindset and changing mindset so that you go from not being good enough to like bring it on. I can do this, I’m amazing. And the other half is, well, let’s create that intentional life. And that’s my program of Intentional Happiness Circle, of creating that life you want to lead. So based on the book, or the books based on the course, whichever way it came.

Jo: Yeah. And so I want to talk about that cuz we were talking a little bit before recording this, and so you’ve written this book, Intentional Happiness: The Life Changing Guide to Being Happy and Staying Happy. But you had mentioned before recording, that even writing this book, you had to move through mindset issues and imposter syndrome and that yourself. Can you talk a little bit about your writing journey and what that looked like?

Julie: Oh, I’m an avid, avid reader of self-help books. Love them, have piles of them everywhere, and just absolutely love them. And it was also a dream to, to write one of those books, you know, and be on the shelf with other people and, yeah, to write something. And, um, I think for a long time it was just a kinda, wouldn’t it be lovely to do that? Wish I was one of those writers. And I carried until I wrote that book, probably, and even, even now, there’s still, I’m still working through some of it. I carried this very, very strong and limiting belief that I could not write. And so I think it was something I wanted to do, but I didn’t believe I could do it. Mm-hmm. I did spend some time examining that, being a coach, you know, you do all that stuff, and I think I had been working towards the book for a long time.

Well, I mean, at university I had to write assignments and essays and thesis. I did psychology, so you know, I had to write a lot and I did well, I could communicate well. And then when I started working, I wrote leaflets and courses and worksheets. And then when I became a coach I wrote courses and workshops and website content, and I started blogging and writing my own blog posts. And then I started writing for, uh, magazines and newspapers. And now I get features in big magazines, writing as an expert, you know. So there was a bit of me, like, I felt like I’ve been working my way towards this. Mm-hmm.

However, when I was at school in, in high school, I had an English teacher, and I don’t really know what that was about, but she took an absolute dislike to me, a real dislike to me. I was, hard to believe now, I was really, really shy, really quiet. Absolutely. I was so anxious at school. I was just, you know, I was just that quiet, shaking little thing in the corner. I never spoke up. I dreaded someone asking me a question. High school was just horrendous. I hated it. I hated every second. It was awful, you know. And I say that here, that that comes so far in my journey, and I only share that because if anyone’s listening to this and you’re struggling in any way with your anxiety, you’re thinking anything, you can change it. I’m proof that you can do it. You know, from that, really shy, and like I could be physically sick at school, to sitting here with you, chatting to you. I’ve come so far.

But she really took a dislike to me. And I remember really clearly. I mean, I loved books. I read my whole life since I was a kid. That was really instilled in me. I spent all my pocket money on books. I went to library all the time. I loved it. I could lose myself in a book. I’d one of these people walking around with a book, you know, walking into lamp posts and stuff cause I’m just in a book. You know, so I loved books. I loved escaping into them, and she really did her best to destroy my love of books and writing. And we got her an amazing poem to read: When I’m Older Wear Purple, if you know this one’s really famous, beautiful poem. I have that and, um, Yeah. And I mean, I love it cause it’s all about being your authentic self now. And I loved it. And she asked us to write a creative story, but when we are old, what we would be like. And I loved that I was writing all this stuff. I’m gonna be like, yeah, I let a jacket on and writing a motorcycle and all these things. And I’m like how cool I’m gonna be, and of course we’re going back, I mean, I’m in my fifties now, so we’re going back a long time. We wrote everything handwritten with pen. And I remember getting it back and you couldn’t see what I’d written for all the red all over it. And she basically just tore me to shreds and told me what a dreadful writer I was. My grammar was appalling. I could never write and I should not write. And you know, probably made even worse by the fact it wasn’t even a kind of, you know, a review of a book or anything. It was a real creative exercise. It was really, I poured, this is me. That was such a fun, a very personal thing. She just destroyed it.

And she followed me all the way through high school, even when I wasn’t in her class. And she marked all my exams for some reason. Just me, all my exams, marked me down. She just haunted me the whole time. And that’s a powerful message from someone of influence and power telling you that. And also thinking back as well in, in primary school, I can’t remember the name of the style, but when I was taught to read and write, it was a specific technique. And I remember a friend saying to us, yeah, the technique we got meant that you were really good at maths and reading, but not writing and spelling. So also that was in my mind that, oh, I, you know, we were not taught well. So I’m really good at speaking and I’m really good at reading, which I am, but I can’t write. So there was a lot of this really reinforced. You cannot write, you cannot write, you’re no good. So I really carried that.

So the reason I wrote the book was I really wanted to write something. I wanted to reach more people with my message. And I also, I wanted to create a bit more credibility as a life coach and as a happiness evangelist. A book gives you a lot of credibility and so I wanted that. And it’s also great for coming on podcasts and summits and talking and you know, it just gives you something more, so professionally I really wanted to do it. And so when I started doing it, that’s what I was working on. But gosh, all this stuff came up. I wanted to just, you know, quit so many times with this voice hunting me of like, yeah, but you can’t write, you’re not good at this. And it brought up a lot of those memories, and what it was like at school, and how isolating and lonely and horrible it was. And just as someone really, someone who should have been encouraging me and supporting me and seeing that passion in me, really destroying it for whatever their reasons were, you know, for her own unhappy reasons. So yeah, that was pretty major to get over.

Jo: It’s so heart-breaking to hear from my end. So I teach, that’s my day job. So I teach 12-year-olds at the moment. And we are doing, there’s National Novel Writing Month at the moment, and I’ve got my kids doing something similar where they’re writing for the month of November. And yeah. And of course I’ve got, you know, diversity of writers, but they’re all so passionate about writing, and it just breaks my heart that, um, anybody, and like you said, that power, that position of influence, could hurt somebody’s confidence in themselves that much.

We just did an exercise in class where I had my students- we talked about the inner editor, so that voice, that kind of yaps in the background and tells us how useless we are, and you’re no good at writing, and what are you doing? And you can’t do this cuz you can’t spell, and all that. And interestingly enough, I asked the class, Does anyone ever have that voice in their head? All but one student put their hand up and I’m completely envious of that student. And then I gave them the opportunity to draw what they thought their inner editor looked like. And seeing these kids, sometimes they would draw portraits of themselves. Sometimes um, some of the girls would draw a picture of this absolutely beautiful girl that they aspired to be that was saying all these horrible things. Sometimes there were just pictures of these monsters and, you know? And so they drew out their inner editor, and I’m like, okay, well ,now that we’ve got our inner editor out on paper, we’re going to put them in jail. So I’d done this little plastic Ziploc bag with, uh, you know, looked like a jail. And I’m like, right, we’re putting them in jail. They don’t come out for the month of November while we’re doing this writing. We don’t listen to them. They’re gonna try and yell at us from jail, but they’re going away. And the kids really took that on board. And whenever they were starting to get that voice again, they’d say, oh, I can hear my inner editor yelling like, we need to, he needs to shut up. But just, I love. Yeah. But just your story that, um, all through your high school years, it sounds like you were just pulled down by this teacher, with your writing ability and everything like that, and yet you have written a best-selling book or a book that’s hit the best-selling list, you know, multiple times. How did you go from all that negativity towards your writing to being able to do that? What was the process like that actually helped you get through that mindset and that negative self talk?

Julie: Taking a lot of my own advice, I think. All the work that I’ve done on myself over the years and that I continue to do, I think. I think, you know, when you’re faced with that, what I did, and I think that’s what we all have to do, is like when you’re, when you hit that blockade, when that inner voice becomes really loud, you know, when you feel like an imposter, we doubt ourselves and we’re not good enough. And when you’re writing, you’re putting, you’re so vulnerable, you’re putting yourself out there to be judged, aren’t you? I mean, it really is. And as much as we say, like doesn’t, I don’t care what anyone thinks. We’re human. Of course we do. We do. Yeah. You know, we just do. And putting yourself out there, whether it’s in publishing or on Amazon or whatever, for people to type things about you is a wonderful place to be.

But I think how I got through that one was I’ve learned not to shy away from my thoughts. I think often when you have negative thoughts or negative feelings, our instinct is to push them away and avoid them. And often we’re often trained or we learn to do that. Like in my, you know, growing up in Scotland, we don’t talk about emotions. So you don’t talk about those things. And what I know from my work and from a lot of research is that happy people process all their emotions. Happy people don’t just focus on the positive ones. You focus all of them. You need to process stuff. So, over the years what I’ve learned is that when stuff comes up and I feel something, like, I feel really nervous, or I really want to procrastinate, or I don’t want to do this, or I can’t think of something, then I go with curiosity. I say like, examine with curiosity. Be curious what, what’s going on here? So you hear me talking to myself, what’s all this about, Julie? You know what’s- what are you angry about today? You know? What’s making you stressed? Why are you not doing this? And really getting behind what the thought is behind it.

And of course then I would get into, oh, you’re not good enough. You can’t write, you’re not gonna be, you’re not, you’re not great at grammar, you’re not great at spelling. I’m not great at my grammar and I’m really a terrible speller. So I would look at that and then I would look at the evidence. Is that true? And like I’ve just said to you, well, I spent ages writing for, you know, my blog posts for businesses, writing in magazines. Like, I’m not the worst writer. I’m not, I’m definitely not the best, you know, uh, but I’m not the worst, I can write. So I’m like, well, you can write, you’ve done stuff. You’ve had great feedback on that. So I looked at the evidence.

And then the other part was, my friend said to me one day, sometimes a house is just a house. Sometimes it just is, yeah, I’m really nervous. Yeah, I’m really scared. This is something new. This is something out of my comfort zone. I feel very vulnerable. I don’t know if I am any good. I don’t know how this will be received. I’m really nervous about doing this and what will happen. And so it’s also okay to sit, yeah, I, this is what it is. This experience is making me feel nervous. This experience is stressful. This experience makes me feel quite uncomfortable. And I quite like to just go back into my little comfortable area because I’m outside that comfort zone.

So I always say like, talk to yourself with curiosity, but also with a compassionate voice. Because that inner voice, that one, that critical editor that you’re talking about, has a really horrible tone and really nasty words. They’re not, they’re not nice with it. And so we tend to adopt that with ourselves. Why can I not do this? I should be able to, and it’s really tough. It’s like, no, be compassionate. Like, well, and so for me it’s like, well, you know, you were told for a long time, you can’t do this. No wonder this is hard. But you know, you’ve worked really hard to build that up and you’re overcoming it and good for you. So I’ve been really compassionate with myself and not shying away from it. And the second part was really getting loads of support. I didn’t do it alone. I had lots of support. And so that is another thing just ask for help, ask for support, really have people there with you. I did manage it also because I had step by step help to get it done and to do it. So that’s how I overcame it. And I think I got to a point where I was like, I want to do it for me. I want to write something. I mean, now I go back and I look at the book and I say, oh, I would totally change so much, and I would do different things differently. But it’s like I really learned that, you know, getting something out you could keep improving on things.

 I’m sure many people’s first book is not their best book ever. It’s the same as anything like maybe your first podcast, you’ve improved from that one, or, you know, your first video or first piece of writing. Everything evolves. So I’ve kind of got to the point, like we put stuff out and it’s done and it’s out there and it’s a star, and I’ll be a massive learning curve and then, take it from there.

Jo: Yeah. And I love how you said that you didn’t do this alone, and I think that’s really important in that any creative endeavor that we don’t isolate ourselves. It’s easier when we have the support of others. So you were just saying you had lots of support in that, but also throughout the, not just the writing, but the publishing process and, uh, so you’ve got your book out there and it’s on Amazon and it looks like you’ve got lots of reviews and high ratings and all of that. How did the support and what support did you have that helped elevate you to get your book to that level?

Julie: So how it came about is I have a very close friend who’s a pet bereavement counselor. Wendy Andrew, I’m sure she’ll come on and chat about her amazing, amazing book. And she said to me, she’d been talking about that and she knew that was something that I wanted to do. And I’d been thinking about writing a book about happiness. That’s why I wanted to write. And I really had the idea of writing it about, based on my course that I had created, Intentional Happiness Circle, and she had come across someone called Emee Estacio, and she has a Self-publishing Made Simple course, and Wendy had completed like a, a little sort of master class and she said, this is really great, you should do it. And it, it just felt the right time. It was 2020, we were in the lockdown, you know, things were all a bit weird and I think it was the next kind of goal for me was to, you know, I’d been, I’ve always got goals and I had been working on like blogging and creating YouTube and then going on podcasts was a big one. And then, then it was a natural evolution.

I think we’d been talking, we both were talking about that and she said, you should do the course and we should do it together. And when I looked at it, I thought, this seems great. I really liked her. Before that I’d also been a podcast guest with Emee, just coincidentally. Um, and she’s also a psychologist, so we really clicked with a lot. And I liked that, that she was a psychologist. She would really get the kind of book, the nonfiction book that I wanted to write, and I really liked her course and it was from start to finish, how basically to write a book and self-publish. So, I mean, yeah, doing it yourself is a mind field. And I would not, I would’ve given up so many times, but her course really took us step by step from the getting that idea to finding your title, to creating your cover, writing your book. To how to self-publish and trigger all the algorithms and really get out there. And I learned so much. Her course is phenomenal and I highly recommend her greatly. However, her course was, uh, start to finish in 12 weeks. So I didn’t do 12 weeks. I didn’t do three months. I did four months.

But yeah, from, let’s come up with an idea to it went to number one bestseller on launch week, it was for four months. And so it was, the week by week by her and her step by step guidance and her generosity to share that information. And also Wendy and I being really great friends. We also were strong, strong accountability buddies, and I think that really came out as well. And something that I think is now more incorporated into the course was having this strong accountability buddy. And so we message each other. Many times a day. The days when we were giving up, we were fed up when we were just fiddling around with the contents page and stuff like that, you know, when you’re not creating anything. And we really, really pushed each other to keep going, into doing it. And I spent my summer holiday writing it, basically. I spent my summer just writing, writing, writing. I did allow myself a little bit of leeway and I made it in four months instead of three. But, uh, yeah, start to finish and out.

I mean to also say people can’t see it. My book isn’t a big book. That was slightly deliberate. I actually love self-help books and I know to get in the, the sort of mainstream traditional publishing world, you have to be a certain length. Personally, I find a lot of them are a bit waffly and they kinda repeat themselves. And I think how on Earth do you make a whole book out of one topic? I kind of like plain English and just getting out there. So I wanted to create a step by step guide that just told you, this is what you do, and so not have, not make it huge. So it isn’t a super long book. I mean, it’s not the shortest book. It’s not a mini book and it’s not a hundred pages, but it’s basically all you need to know without all the waffle in between.

Jo: I have gone through your book and that’s exactly it, it’s very easy language. It’s nice and succinct. But you’ve also got exercises all along the way too so that it’s not just something that you read and then don’t look at it again. It’s almost like a workshop in a book, which is really cool. Yeah, and I absolutely love Emee. She came on the podcast and put us in contact of course, but she was just phenomenal to talk with. I mean this is just evidence that obviously her courses work cuz Yeah, you’re doing amazing with that and I love that idea of having an accountability buddy as well. I think that’s really cool.

Julie: The research says that if you have a goal and you have an accountability buddy, you’re 65% likely to reach your goal. If you put a deadline on it, if you put specific dates, you’re 95% likely to make your goal. Pretty good odds, aren’t they?

Yeah. That’s cool. So that’s something to really think about. If you want to write a book or you’re writing your next one, is have some really clear deadlines. Yeah. And have someone really there proper accountability. That’s how you’ll do it. I really believe in that.

Jo: Yeah. I’m blown away by the fact that you did all of this in four months. But saying that then I’m also thinking, but this book has been a lifelong process for you as well. Even though in that four month block you kind of finalized your idea and everything, it sounds like your life really led you to this topic, and your life experience really helped guide you to be able to write this and the way that only you can write it. And so I think that’s really cool how sometimes we think, you know, a whole book comes together in just a short span of time, but it’s really not, it’s kind of like a work in progress, particularly if it’s in the self-help personal development genre, for a good portion of our life, which I find really fascinating.

Julie: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been focusing on happiness. I say I’m doing this kinda work for like over 30 years. You’re constantly pulling information together. I’ve been blogging and writing stuff, so there was stuff there, and then I created the Intentional Happiness circle. I ran a course, like a sort of a beta course for a year. It’s a year long program. So we basically take, you know, there’s 12 chapters and we take each chapter each month. And that’s the topic. And we work through it as in I group with a lot of accountability obviously, because that’s why we run it in a group coaching program. I tested it all out and therefore I could get feedback and I could get stuff. So there was, you know, the core was written and then there was like all the feedback and I could incorporate into it. And then, Yeah, started thinking about my story and then yeah, the research that we had. And so yeah, I always see it as sort of like jigsaw pieces floating and eventually they all kind of come together to form the picture. So yeah, of course. I’m still proud myself for doing it in that amount of time. It was a full on speed. Yeah. However, yeah. It wasn’t like, I had not, not a thing there, you know, or just like a blank page and no idea, of course. I had loads of stuff and it was, and I think, oh, there’s millions else I would’ve put in there, and I’ve got like another, like four books in my mind that I could write. But yeah, it was a, a long time coming and then just great to do that.

Like I said, you know, I admire so many writers. I love all those books. I wanted to be like them and thanks to Emee and all her like amazing information about how to launch a book, cuz that’s also a big part. It’s not just the writing, but it’s the launching and getting out there and doing all that work, putting it into place. Then you know, in my launch week when it went live and it was published, it went to number one in my categories. All my categories, I was number one and I have a screenshot of me and then Victor Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning, and I’m just like, and that was one of the first books I picked up at university, you know, and then he’s always number one because he’s just like sold millions. So he’s always number one, and then there’s like me, and then it’s like, it’s him and then Kirk Guard, and then me, and I’m like, I’ll take that. Even if it was for a few days, there I was on the same page as these phenomenal writers and books that have sold for so long. I’m happy with that. I can retire now. I’m quite happy with that.

Jo: So inspiring. So inspiring. You had said that you could probably have written like four other books with all the information and that, that you’re gathered, do you have plans to write another book?

Julie: Yeah, I really want to. There’s, yeah, I mean there’s quite a lot I’d like to write about happiness, and yeah, I’m really a lot of the work, it is about self-compassion, that I’m not good enough stuff. I’d love to write about that. And also I work as a decluttering coach and decluttering is an amazing topic. And a lot of decluttering is often about like the sort of more organizational stuff, you know, the home edit type things. And I, I love coaching people through that, the whole psychology of clutter and stuff. So I’d love to, to do something on that. So yeah, I’ve got loads of ideas and I’ve kind of mapped out a few and I now need to make space to be intentional about that. And I think it really ties in with my whole work and the title of the book. You know, I am extremely busy. I have a business and I have a seven year old and I’m an expat, so I don’t have any family here helping. Life is pretty full on, but if you really wanna make space for something, if you really want to prioritize something, you can do it. And that’s what my Intentional Happiness course is about, is like really reviewing how you spend your time. Focusing on what actually are the priorities in your life and really elevating what’s truly important.

So a great example being if you always say I’ve got a book in me, or I always wanted to write a book, and you never do it. You can make the space. You can if you really want to, you can make the space to to do that. And that’s a brilliant example of it. Rather than getting caught up and doing just daily stuff and the days and the weeks and the months and the years go by, is to consciously and deliberately say, this is an important goal and I want to elevate this and focus on it. And that’s the core of intentional happiness.

Jo: Yeah. I love it. That’s so cool. From the perspective of being an author and a psychologist and coach, what do you think is like one key ingredient for the authors and writers listening to this podcast that could help them build a happy author life for themselves or a happy writing life, or just be happy in what they do? What do you think is something that they could maybe take away from this episode and implement in their life?

Julie: I really feel that if that’s something that you’re passionate about, it’s something that you really want to do, then give yourself the permission to do it. Doesn’t matter what other people think, doesn’t matter what other people say to you. Make sure you surround yourself with people who go, yeah, that’s great. There’s gonna be lots of people go, you’re writing a book, writers don’t make any money, blah, blah, blah. If it’s something that you want to do and it brings you joy, make the space, own that and make the space to do it. Really do that and surround yourself by people who will cheer you on with that. Who will really be like, that sounds great. That’s brilliant. You can do it. Get your cheerleaders around you, ask for help. I did it because you know I got the help to do it. I didn’t spend years trying to figure it all out. You can really make it much easier for yourself. You can get lots of support and lots of help, but surround yourself with the people who will cheer you on. And choose to do it, really prioritize it for yourself.

And I would say one of the chapters in my book is called No Zero Days, and that’s one of the best ones. I love it. Everyone loves that one.

Jo: Mm, I do too.

Julie: If I can give that as a tip. Is you’re gonna have days where like nothing comes to mind or you’re thinking I can’t be bothered.Or you’re feeling like your inner critic is really loud and the No Zero Days chapter is all about basically, just do one thing no matter how small. So even if you write one word or one line, you know, or one number on the page, whatever it is, it’s something, cuz something is more than nothing. Even one thing is more than nothing, and even if you did one word every day for a week, you’d have seven words, which is better than zero and an empty page. And so I love No Zero Days. No matter what you do, even if you’re just doing your appendix or you’re, you know, you’re doing the copyright page or you’re doing the table of contents or whatever. As long as you’re doing something. And the thing is, you will not continue to do one word or one sentence. It builds momentum. It gives you encouragement as a snowball effect, and it’ll kick you off. If you’re getting stuck, just write something. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Just write one word, one line. Do something because something is better than nothing.

Jo: That was one of my favorite chapters too. In your book. No Zero Days. Love that. That is fantastic. Thank you so much, Julie. Now we do have to wrap up, but I’m hoping that you can just share how people can connect with you, where they can find your book, how they can work with you, and all that good stuff.

Julie: Yeah. Oh, please reach out. I’d love to chat to anybody. You’ll find me at julieleonardcoaching.com where you can see all the courses that I do and the Intentional Happiness Circle, if you want that accountability to work through it. I also have a Facebook group called The Happiness Club V I P. So you can come in there. We do lots of challenges and we have weekly live meetings talking about all things happiness. And you’ll find my book on Amazon, on Kindle and in paperback. So yeah, go check it out.

Jo: I’m gonna be putting all those links in the show notes for sure. Happiness is something that we’re all looking for, and so I think you’re really contributing something so amazing to this world, so I appreciate you sharing that with myself and my audience too. Thank you so much for coming on today, Julie.

Julie: It’s such a pleasure. I really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you so much.

Jo: I absolutely loved talking with Julie and hearing about her writing journey and tips for living a happy life. So here are some takeaways from today’s show.

1. We are in charge of our happiness and we can change our happiness set point.

2. 50% of our happiness is genetic. 10% is influenced by our circumstances. And 40% of our happiness is in our hands to mold as we please.

3. Happiness is only partially influenced by our incomes. After about $75,000 our happiness plateaus off. Happiness is not external, but largely internal.

4. Happiness for many women comes down to three things, having a sense of peace, a sense of calm and a sense of balance.

5. Happy people process all their emotions, even the negative ones. So get curious about what’s really behind those negative thoughts, that inner editor, and procrastination.

6. Whatever you’re having difficulty with, whether it’s processing emotions or writing a book, get support.

7. Research says that if you have a goal and an accountability buddy, you’re 65% more likely to reach your goal. Add a specific deadline and you’re 95% likely to make your goal.

And number 8. Use No Zero Days to give your writing goals momentum. Something is always better than nothing.

So I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. You’ll find all the links to follow Julie and connect with me in the show notes. And if you enjoyed this episode of Alchemy for Authors, please consider leaving me a review where ever you’re listening to this. Alternatively, you can support this podcast by buying me a coffee at www.buymeacoffee.com/jobuer.

And as always, I am wishing you a wonderful writing week, my friends. Happy writing!