2014 Goal Setting, Pt. 1


“You know that thing you’ve always wanted
to do? You should go do it.”

It’s that time of year again when we all sit down, reflect, and make lists; what did work, what didn’t work, our big dreams and must-dos. I love this time of year! A fresh slate before me, a year of lessons behind me. What can I do RIGHT this time around?

Be forewarned, this is a doozy of a blog post!

Throughout past month I’ve sat down with Lara Casey’s Powersheets a handful of times, breaking open my binder with my pretty black pen in hand. She actually tells us not to worry about finding a pretty pen but you know every single person using those sheets is pulling out their favorite pen to fill those pretty papers with their pretty thoughts. Come on, it’s true.

“Traditional goal setting doesn’t work for me.”

I’ve filled out a few things here and there… they aren’t easy sheets: “Write your life story in one sentence.” (Still blank.) "What didn't work for me in 2013..." (See below.) “I am afraid of…” (Also still blank.)

What gets me is every time I go to fill out the Big Dreams sheet… I find myself longing for simplicity. For less than. For white space. My dreams aren’t full of career achievements, blog features or 40+ wedding bookings. No.

Here’s my big, hairy audacious goal (otherwise known as B.H.A.G. - yeah LU!): I just want to be a good wife. A better mom. A good friend. I absolutely enjoy being able to do what I love so that I can help provide for my family (and in 2013 this was oh-so-necessary)… and even bless others with the gift of photography. I do love it. But, I want to have time to write birthday cards and and thank you notes this year. I want to have the time AND desire to spend 20+ minutes outside every day, walking, breathing and quietly reflecting on life. I want to have the time to learn to enjoy playing blocks (and house and doing puzzles) with Sunday. I want to not feel anxious as I join Tommy on the couch each evening, having a mind at peace instead of cluttered with my to-do list. I want LESS, please.


So how do you write that on your “Big Dreams” page? Those dreams seem so… little… easy… simple. They don’t require a ton of hard work or late-nights of computer time. Not a whole lot of reaching outside of your comfort zone (well, maybe they do...), long days on your feet, or the sacrifice of time away from family. But… they do require letting go (that's where it can get uncomfortable). And sometimes letting go is a lot more difficult than go-go-going all the time. At least for me it is. Sitting still… not reaching for my phone every 10 minutes out of boredom. Starting - and finishing - a long(er) book with Sunday. Sitting on the couch with Tommy without an ipad to peruse. Doing these things without feeling… dare I say it: bored. Or anxious. It always seems to be one or the other for me.

After much thought and prayer, I’ve decided to share my 2014 Goal Setting process with you. I’ll be getting real here… I know the more one puts out into the internet, the more there is for others to judge. But in 2014, I’m choosing to not allow my fears to get in the way. I'm sharing because I simply don’t want anyone to think I have it all together or that I “am doing it all.” I’m not. I mess up a lot… I say sorry more often than not. But I'm also sharing so I can have it all written down in a place I can return to from any device, no matter where I am. 2014 is just another clean slate for me to work on improving in the areas where I fail. Another year of desperately seeking God to make me whole in all areas of my life.


So... here we go:

What worked in 2013?

Working as a wedding photographer brings seasons into my life. Extremely busy seasons, less busy seasons, and then there’s intentional vacations. Once a new year begins, it feels like another chance to do things better. Confession time: 2013 was the first year of six where Tommy and I didn’t feel the strain of my busy season on our marriage. I hate to say six years, because really it is six seasons. But the truth is, only after six tries, did we finally seem to get something right. Sometimes lessons take a while to learn, but in the wedding industry you can’t stop mid-season and change your entire workflow. So my business lessons take time… about a year, unfortunately. Couple this with marriage in general… and “give it time” seems to be the only solution sometimes. So! Six years later… I think we got something right this time around!

What worked for us this time? Our major key was not just communication, but clear and specific communication. We had to talk ahead of time about what the sacrifice of my working really LOOKED like. For example "Okay honey, if I book this wedding, that means the week following the wedding on Tue, Wed, and Thu, I will not be able to participate in ______ like we have planned on the calendar. Are we both okay with that?" Tommy is NOT a planner... and my planning talents are minimal... so this is a major need for us. But we finally figured it out and it made a huge difference on this whole year! Score!

Here’s more of what worked for me in 2013:

  • Having a routine (with Sunday, office hours, and time with Tommy)
  • Listening to and respecting Sunday’s needs and capabilities (yeah for successful potty training!)
  • Making time to cook healthy meals (the first half of the year anyway)
  • Giving myself permission to do what I love
  • Recognizing that as life seasons change, so do interests, and that’s okay
  • Praying for my family (always works, of course)
  • Submitting weddings to blogs for publication
  • Keeping track of my client workflow in excel (yeah for the old-fashioned way!)
  • Using OmmWriter to write blog posts (my best writing always comes from using this app!)
  • Saving advertising money by not paying for print ads, instead investing in client gifts/relationships
  • Outsourcing! (Here's what I am currently outsourcing: color correction for wedding images, bookkeeping, house cleaning (1x/mo) and child care (2x/wk).)
  • Putting hard work and effort towards the upkeep of our home (kitchen renovation for the win!)
  • Planning intentional time off and vacations at the start of the year.

What I learned from what did work in 2013:

  • Having a regular routine brings self-discipline, security (for Sunday), and a smooth-running home life for our family.
  • Sunday is the only person in the entire world like Sunday and Tommy and I are the only experts on Sunday in the entire world. Following our hearts has proven to be the best for our family so far. We'll continue with that.
  • Cooking regular healthy meals is not only good for our bodies, but also helps me kick off our morning (thus daily) routine and keeps the rest of our day running smoothly. 
  • God has given me the desires of my heart for a reason and He wants me to pursue the things I love.
  • Time with God in the morning, before all other things, changes everything. In a good way. Even if it's just 10 minutes. 
  • Keeping things simple makes them easier to manage, more cost-effective, and helps me feel like I have a better grip on my to-do list.
  • I can't do it all. Passing things to other people allows me to feel less stress, more energized, and creates opportunities for other leaders to be born.
  • Investing time and energy into our home makes me love it more and want to spend more time in it and take better care of it. 
  • Deliberate time off and being completely AWAY from work is one of the most refreshing things I can do to nurture my creative spirit and feel refreshed in the office.

What didn’t work in 2013?

I feel like 2013 was the year I did some big things right, and a lot of little things wrong. Tommy and I sat down with our list of priorities in early 2013… we looked at what he wanted our priorities to be, what I wanted them to be, and what our calendar said they actually were. Somewhere along the line, I made the decision that between work, Sunday, Tommy, time for exercise, and time with our extended families, I just did not have time for playdates or coffee with friends anymore. Not for this season of my life, anyway. Then, like clockwork, in mid-2013 almost all of my closest “pajama” friends moved away. (I call them my pajama friends because they can come over in their comfy clothes and watch TV with me and it’s totally chill!) Some moved out of state, some just hours away. It didn’t take long for my lack of coffee dates, too many days of long desk hours and having friends far away to start making me feeling lonely and drained. Only then did I realize… I need one-on-one conversations with my friends. They energize me, encourage me, and fill up my heart. And Sunday needs playdates! Both of us are extroverts who gain energy by spending time with other people. It’s funny (and a little sad) now to think I had just tossed that off of my priority list. Oops. Another lesson learned in 2013.

Here’s more of what didn’t work in 2013:

  • Setting lofty goals without plans (or time) to reach them
  • Procrastination
  • Laziness
  • Not making quiet time with God a priority
  • Climbing out of bed after less than 6hrs of sleep to work at the crack of dawn
  • Mixing business and friendships
  • Not making time with friends a priority
  • Self-doubt
  • Dwelling on insecurities and failures
  • Distractions during "quality time" with Tommy & Sunday
  • Family winter photo sessions (kids do NOT love the cold)
  • Shooting 9 weddings in a row without a break
  • Assumption combined with lack of communication in relationships/friendships
  • Having my office in the dining room (um. talk about NO boundaries.)
  • Having interns (it was a great experience with 3 fantastic girls, but the time investment was just too much.)
  • Not being consistent with Sunday
  • Spilling water on my laptop. Yup... does NOT work out well.
  • Repetitive toxic conversations
  • Eating bad and not drinking enough water

What I learned from what did not work in 2013:

  • Small steps, Liz. SMALL steps. (Weight loss, making changes, creating new habits, etc.)
  • I am my own worse critic and what I'm wallowing about day in and day out probably hasn't been noticed by anyone except me. Oops.
  • I NEED my Jesus time. Every day.
  • Setting office hours and intentional days off is totally necessary for me to stop having those "I am going to be lazy today" days AND feeling guilty about them.
  • I need 7+hrs of sleep every night to function well (and to not snap at my husband the following evening).
  • Working too many weekends in a row exhausts me and leaves me beaten down and too tired to fulfill my responsibilities to my clients (and family) in a timely manner.
  • In the crux of wedding season, I cannot afford a whole lot of "play time." I need to communicate this better to my friends and extended family.
  • Love wins. Stop assuming and start loving, no matter what. (Give the benefit of the doubt.)
  • Consistency is KEY when teaching a child! (Or a dog, or myself for that matter! :))
  • If I want good, quality work done, I need to be ready and willing to pay for it or do it myself. 
  • When you hear yourself say the same thing over and over, it starts becoming law to you. Stop saying bad things. About yourself AND other people. Especially the people you love. (Sigh. Big one here.)
  • Poor nutrition and hydration sends me into a cycle of feeling LOW, thus not wanting to put forth the effort to make an energy-fueling meal, so I only get worse and yadda yadda. Bad.


So, LOTS of lessons in 2013. It's hard but GOOD to write these things down so I can reflect on them and not forget why I have made the decisions I've made for this year. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to learn the hard way that large family portraits in the middle of the winter are NOT a good idea for my business. (Let's just say I'm grateful those clients have come back for more sessions. :))

Tomorrow I'll be back with my 2014 goals!

“Goals should scare you a little and excite you a lot.”

Liz Cook

Liz Cook is a wedding, birth, and motherhood photographer based in Central Virginia. Her intuition and creative perspective allow her to connect both professionally and personally with her subjects, and thus, her portfolio is saturated with authentic emotion. Whether she's sharing her story with fellow entrepreneurs or enjoying quality time with her husband and two daughters, Liz is both present and passionate about capturing and celebrating life. Her work has been featured by O "Oprah" Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Glitter Guide, Essence Magazine, domino, Rue Magazine, among others.