It seems as though there is an overwhelming consensus that 2016 just wasn't a good year. If you browsed your timeline on facebook anytime between Halloween and New Years Day it felt like everyone was in a funk. Sad because another icon unexpectedly passed or because life was just making things less than ideal. I'll admit that 2016 was very trying. BUT, after being honest with myself about last year I realized that the year 2016 was a year of growth, change and what seemed like an endless supply of powerful lessons that left me poised to tackle 2017 in the most extraordinary way. I wanted to share a few of the lessons I learned and offer advice in hopes that you'll reflect on your year and realize that you probably gained much more than you realize.
**disclaimer** Yes! I am a wedding photographer but it was on my heart to share some of the positives I experienced this year. Enjoy.
LESSON 1: FIND THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Having the right people around you is invaluable. There are a myriad of phrases and slogans such as "If you're the smartest person in the group then you're in the wrong group" or "Your net worth is the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with." Well, it's all true! Lol. If you want to grow and learn and achieve, then you need to spend time with people who are growing, learning and achieving. You need to surround yourself with people who 'get it.' People who understand that if you want to do more, have more and live more that you need to think and act a certain way and that you can't do it alone.
Your energy and determination can only get you so far and once you align yourself with people headed in the same direction as you, it's amazing what can happen. January 1, 2016 I literally had no friends who were doing what I wanted to be doing. I felt alone and I felt a little lost. However, after making an effort to be active in my local photography community and then developing a relationship with a handful of individuals who were either doing what I wanted to do or were well on their way, my year started to get better. I had a support system I could call on, people I could ask for advice and most importantly I had people I could share my goals and dreams with. Get around people who you can gain momentum with. It's powerful!!
LESSON 2. MAKE A DECISION
This one simple lesson changed my life this year. My 2016 was filled with a series of self-evaluations, minor setbacks and then a firm decision to change or alter my course of action. At the beginning of the year I was all over the place and had no clear direction on what I wanted to do with photography. I was doing real estate, crossfit competitions, families, senior portraits, weddings, corporate headshots, kids, maternity, videos and more!! I took a small step back at what I was doing and decided that I wanted to focus my energy and effort primarily into shooting weddings. BAM! My first year in business as a wedding photographer I shot 11 weddings, met some of the most amazing people and even flew to California to shoot a wedding.
If you had a bad year, it might be because you haven't made a firm decision in one or more areas of your life. Maybe you want to lose weight, save money, pursue a secret passion you have or find love. It could be anything! Until you actually make a decision and become crystal clear on what it is that you want, you'll continue to float through life taking what comes your way. That's no way to live!!
LESSON 3. TAKE ACTION
Naturally this is the next step after you make a decision. TAKE ACTION! Do something! Move! Feeling stuck is something we all deal with. Should I post this Facebook ad? Should I market myself in another city? Should I try a new technique or stick to my old routine? Feeling the fear of the unknown or the fear of the uncomfortable can immobilize you. We've all been there. But it is imperative that you take action. Make a choice and execute, even if you end up being wrong. If you want more you have to DO more. That could mean reaching out to someone in your field who you admire or trying something new. But whatever it is you have to make a move. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. If you've made it this far and nothing's changed, you owe it to yourself to do something you've never done. Then you'll have what you've never had.
LESSON 4: SLOW DOWN
A byproduct of finally taking action is either doing too much and burning out or feeling as though you're not doing enough. When it comes to chasing your dreams, pursuing a lifelong passion or reaching for the stars in whatever capacity that means for you, it is the easiest thing in the world to feel as though you need to work double time to accomplish half as much. This just isn't true. Being busy doesn't necessarily equate to progress and achievement. I think about times in 2016 where I felt like I wasn't doing enough and would do things that I had tried before (knowing they wouldn't work) just to feel like I wasn't standing still. One of the most important things I have come to understand is that taking action is good, but slowing down first, taking inventory and THEN moving forward with confidence is the best course of action. Slow down, then speed up.
LESSON 5: READ MORE BOOKS
I once heard someone say that anything you want to know, any answer you're looking for and any problem you're facing, is somewhere in a book. 2016 taught me that the more I learn, the closer I'll get to my dreams. I'm not saying you have to be a bookworm but I have learned that knowledge is power and when you know better you do better. What I'm striving for is going to require that I be a better version of myself. The easiest way to do that is to just read. Find books written by people who do what you want to do. Books written by masters of the industry you're trying to break into. Find a book that you think will benefit you and dig in. I don't know about you but before this year I would rarely read. Maybe 1 or 2 books a year to be exact. It's no wonder I've been stuck in neutral for what seems like forever. I was never learning, never growing and never evolving. So naturally, I never made any progress. Simply put, if you want more, turn the tv off and read up.
LESSON 6: DO SOMETHING DAILY
I don't care who you are, if you commit to doing something daily it will change your life. Period. I read a book years ago called 'The Slight Edge.' When I read it I understood what it was saying but I never put any of the principles into action. I can only imagine what my life would look like today if I had taken the advice given in those pages and applied it. The premise is simple: Do something everyday that brings you closer to your goals. Something so small that it would be silly not to do it. The kicker is that it feels like nothing is happening so people fall short. The little things that would bring them closer to what they really want seem insignificant and therefore get put off.
I'm going to read 24 books in 2017. This number is hefty considering my track record for consistent reading. BUT, I broke it down and realized that if I read at least 1 chapter every single day that by the end of the year I'll hit my goal with ease. I can only imagine how absorbing 24 books worth of knowledge will benefit me this year. Now apply this concept to every area of your life that you want to improve and you WILL see change. Just don't be fooled into thinking that something so small can be skipped. Take it seriously, make a decision, take action and watch your life change. Guaranteed.
LESSSON 7: GOD IS REAL
Yes, God is out there. I can't really explain it but he's real. At the end of 2016 I decided to start taking daily action to better my life and one thing I committed to doing was daily prayer and meditation (something I've NEVER done) I think that most of us pray when we're in a church environment or we pray when things go wrong but I decided that I wanted something more consistent and chose to do something I've never done with the hope that I would experience things I never have. Long story short, prayer works. I'm not telling you to subscribe to any particular religion. What I am saying is that if you talk to God and ask God with a sincere heart regardless of who you are or where you're at then he will answer. It might take time and the answer might not be exactly what you want but he will answer.
If you feel stuck in any area of your life and you just don't know what to do anymore or if you have tried and tried but don't seem to have all the answers, I would suggest praying about it. Set aside some time right when you wake up or right before bed to find a quiet place, be still and talk to GOD. There are no right or wrong words to say and no set amount of time. Just talk until you're finished. He's listening.
2016 wasn't a bad year if you choose not to look at it that way. That doesn't mean it was perfect. What that means is that there is a lesson to be learned in every single thing that happens to you. All you have to do is look.
Reflect, think, grow, learn, live, laugh, love, dream. I hope 2017 treats you well.