2014 Year in Review - Personal

When I sat down to begin working through my 2015 goal setting process, the first thing I did was look back on my goal setting notes from a year ago. The beginning of 2014 marked, for me, a year of simplifying in many areas of my life. But reviewing my notes from back then was honestly OVERWHELMING. I immediately saw a mess of emotions and ideas all swirling around with one solid goal: LESS!

As I proceeded to tackle the reviewing process, I slowly started feeling relieved when I recognized that this year's goal planning was going to be a LOT less complicated. And not because I wanted it to be, but because my life actually feels less complicated. Finally.

So I must have done something right. :) Here's a quick (and honest) review of last year in terms of good things and bad things. (I'm stilling following loosely along with Lara Casey and her Powersheets!) Tomorrow, I'll be back to share my word for 2015 and a handful of the goals I have lined up. Spoiler alert: Let's just say I plan to continue my journey of keeping things simple. :)

(Except this blog post. It's not simple. It's wordy. And I promise I won't be offended if you don't read the whole thing. :))

Good Things in 2014:

  • LESS was my word for 2014 and it was totally perfect for my family and I this past year. While I didn't accomplish all I wanted to have less of, I was definitely more aware and present in a lot of new areas. Having a word to dwell on seemed to really be a solid ingredient in a more intentional year.
  • I was a lot more mindful of each and every purchase I made this year in an attempt to spend LESS. I tried to be as intentional as possible by not buying things just because they were on sale (or, let's be honest, because they were pretty), but rather analyzing: "Where will this be stored? What will its function be? Do I already own something with this same function?" This was a really great learning experience for me. I don't know how much less I actually spent, but being conscious of the habit has helped me make strides towards bettering my spending habits. :)
  • Saying "no" to more activities and commitments and feeling good about it instead of guilty was a huge GOOD thing this year. Truly, each time I said "no" to others, I was saying "yes" to my family. I felt confident in each choice and that's priceless.
  • I said "no" to my computer/office a lot more this year whenever I could. Learning boundaries and schedules has definitely been healthier for myself and my family as a whole. I am still figuring this out... there is definitely room for improvement in the "meeting deadlines" area, but I think I'm headed in the right direction.
  • Turning off all phone notifications in early 2014 was one of the best things I could have done for my year. While I still spent plenty of time on my phone, I was able to put it down and walk away and completely forget about it. Some may say this is a bad thing... but I'd debate them. :)
  • Homeschool preschool went really well this year. We only did it for a few weeks (six, I think), but Sunday loved it and it definitely made me a more intentional mama. For example, instead of going on walks with her and making her be quiet and observe (seriously, judge me all you want, mamas!), I would instead initiate conversation about the things we were learning instead. Obviously this was good for both her and our relationship. A lot of little benefits/changes like this one came from our intentional "school" time.
  • Sunday turned 3 this year and had a fun birthday party, got a big girl room, and has been waiting oh-so patiently for her new little brother or sister! I think at this point she is starting to believe the baby will never come. It's been a really fantastic year watching her grow into a beautiful little girl! This fall was our first semester of not having child care lined up for her during my busy work season and while things got a little crazy, it seemed to work out alright. And we saved some valuable money. :)
  • Putting time and money back into our home was super good for us this year. We outsourced a couple of big home improvement projects and we've really enjoyed reaping the benefits of them. It just feels NICE to take care of your belongings, you know? 
  • Doing a lot less weekend road tripping and instead planning bigger trips turned out to be a positive for us this year. We were able to stay focused during the different seasons we encountered in 2014 as a family. But then when we (I) did go on a big trip (Haiti, Nepal, the beach) for 7+ days, I was able to completely turn off my mind about responsibilities at home and work and enjoy being in the moment. This is not something I've been able to do a lot of during the lifetime of owning my own business.
  • Traveling to both Haiti and Nepal were incredible experiences. I can't believe they both actually happened, to be honest. (All God!) I know I am entering a season of minimal travel for the next few years as we settle in as a family of four, but I am looking forward to traveling again for short-term missions at the right time in the future!
  • Picking up second shooting jobs for other photographers was surprisingly beneficial for my business this year. If you remember, one of my 2014 goals was to find a way to bring in supplemental income and this solution really surprised me. I love to help others but also really appreciate being able to show up, work, and go home sometimes, too. This was a great way to supplement my income while not sacrificing even more mid-week time away from my family.
  • Pursuing birth photography was absolutely awesome this year. Just straight up wonderful. I learned a few lessons (of course) but it was mostly smooth sailing and just felt right
  • I started Virginia Birth Photographers this year as a first year soft-launch. The networking opportunities that have come from the group have been wonderful and I am excited for another year ahead with plans and ideas to grow the quality and quantity of our group! 
  • Planning our weeks at home using real pen and paper to regroup and refocus at the start of each week was HUGE. I started doing this when we began homeschool preschool in the fall and I credit it completely for my success in planning and executing an international trip with my whole family in the midst of my busy season. I can't believe I didn't lose my mind. (No, but for real.)
  • I attended another doula training in 2014 and learned so much! I treated it as more of a getaway weekend for myself, since truthfully, I have no desire to be a doula. But I love the education and getting away and soaking up the time to learn more about birth and talk with other women passionate about birth. It was a lovely little escape and I hope to plan another mama-getaway-weekend again sometime this year!
  • Outsourcing for the win - again! This year I added accounting/tax tasks to my list of outsourced to-do's. It took me a while to get things straightened out, but once it fell into place it gave me a HUGE peace. So, so worth it. 
  • The State Fair! A HUGE highlight of 2014! I honestly cannot recall the last time I had been to the state fair (if ever?) but I vow to make it an annual experience from here on out. The whole time we were walking around I kept thinking about the future and bringing my "homeschooled kids," to learn and experience. I had to be intentional about enjoying the moment we were in: exploring with a preschooler sitting in a stroller wanting to pet the rabbits. It was awesome, though. I can't wait to go back again this year!
  • Continuing my slow, but steady, journey to wellness. Obviously I wasn't dropping any pounds this year, but I did work consistently on creating new healthier habits. I am finally enjoying leisurely walks around the neighborhood (and now have a real Corner Market to walk to on a daily basis!) and getting out and being active just for some fresh air. I have spent the past few years moving from one end of the wellness scale to the other... each time thinking maybe I had found a good in-between. I lost 40+lbs after having Sunday, but I was obsessive about it. Then I quit... everything. And I gained a ton back. And now here I find myself reaching the end of my second pregnancy and simply looking to continue working towards a healthier balance of eating well, being active, and enjoying life. 2014 was a good reflective year for me in this area and I look forward to spending 2015 continuing on a healthier journey for myself and my family.
  • Expecting a BABY for what feels like a whole year was a wonderful part of our 2014! While pregnancy and planning for a growing family brings many challenges and anxieties, overall I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Challenging Things / What Didn't Work For Me

  • Balancing the busy season with trying to run a household seemed like another big Fail this year. I can't decide if I need to keep trying or just surrender to the fact that when work is insane, I don't cook or clean or do anything but "survive" in the house. Even outsourcing housekeeping tasks didn't keep me on top of things completely. This is frustrating for me... is there a solution to be had?
  • Trying to balance more than one or two businesses at a time through social media and client relations is ALWAYS a challenge. I'm still looking for a good solution to this.
  • Having a "shoot & share" business model was tough for me this year. I played with this idea a bit during my fundraising for Nepal. The idea was that perhaps I could compete better with other area photographers by offering more for less while trying to raise money for our mission trip. But I quickly got burnt out and have since had a nice wake up call about what I'd like to offer my clients in the coming months: a more personal experience, tangible products, and treasured images. Big changes coming this year!
  • Having a crazy cluttered workspace = FAIL. Currently, my office is located in the basement of our home which, at the time of starting this blog post, had been under construction for over a year. In addition, we've got a pseudo guest room down here, so I had folders and boxes laid out all over a massive air mattress taking up a ton of floor space. It was a disaster! And it kept me from feeling "free" and open to creativity. Thanks to my nesting instincts and Tommy's hard work, our basement actually looks put together for the first time... ever. But for all of 2014, I almost always felt a bit chaotic when I would come down to knock out a few hours of work here and there. No good. Let's hope I can keep things in better order now. 
  • Not having intentional activities in place for Sunday during my work hours. While we saved money by passing on extra childcare help this fall, I don't know how many of her brain cells I saved by plopping her in front of the iPad or TV for hours on end. Not my proudest parenting moments, that's for sure. I assured myself this was just "a season," but knowing that we are abut to enter another "season" where she won't be getting 100% of my focus only makes me feel worse about this bad habit. Need a better solution.
  • Pretending pregnancy was "no big deal." I thought I'd plow through my workload this year and simply "not dwell" on the headaches of pregnancy. But it knocked me off of my feet and kept me crawling through the year, instead. The struggle is real, friends. This year I learned to respect pregnancy for what it truly is (maybe I learned that lesson too late) - a woman's body growing another little body. It's intense and it's beautiful. It deserves respect.
  • Struggling with anxiety throughout this pregnancy was definitely challenging this year. It plagued me as I thought about the baby, my birth plan, and parenting TWO kiddos. But it also plagued me as we traveled, when I would take Sunday to indoor play places (when did I become such a germaphobe?!), and even when I would be headed home after weddings; "Get home. BACK UP THESE IMAGES!" It seemed to be every where and I really had to be mindful and intentional about how to handle it all. Whew.
  • Giving up blogging. This really could go either way. It felt great to give myself permission to just let it go... but it was also sad for me. I LOVE blogging, but I just did not have time for it consistently in 2014. And I think that's okay. But I missed it, so I hope to blog a lot more in 2015. 
  • Non-intentional business partnerships. This one also can go both ways. I had the honor of partnering up with some amazing vendors and other local businesses in 2014. Let me be clear and say that I am crazy grateful for these opportunities. I learned so much from them and even gained a little more exposure for my business. (Always a positive!) But I hope to go into 2015 with a more clear intention about the type of partnerships that would benefit myself, my business and the community a little better. What's that Bob Goff says? "The battle for our hearts are fought on the pages of our calendars." YES! I simply want to be more intentional about partnering with businesses that share a similar passion and mission as me.
  • As always, laziness, procrastination, self-doubt, high-expectations, and toxic relationships are always on the "What didn't work for me" list. And I'm always struggling with them. But that's life, right? :) 

So there's a quick and honest review of how 2014 went for me personally. I look back and see an absolutely incredible year full of amazing opportunities and beautiful memories. Which makes me really excited about what I've been brainstorming and planning for 2015. However, I am mostly just excited to see the journey God will be taking my family and I on in the coming months!

Tomorrow I'll be back with my word of the year and my list of practical goals for 2015! (Given I'm not totally in labor at the time.) This is seriously so much fun for me... thanks for joining me on the ride! 


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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.