The month of January has been a great time for me to look back and reflect on my life. When 2016 started, I was asked by a group of friends to join a goal-setting accountability group. Now, all you type-A overachievers out there are like I was, "Woohoo. Now that sounds like a blast: knocking things out and takin' names!" But the process has been way harder than I expected. Questions like,
When you are 80, what do you want to see when you look back on your life?
What is actually worth your time and energy this year?
Visualize what it would look like for you to live a life that really excites you.
Are there any areas of your life where you need to be pushed out of your comfort zone? To do something a little extreme or new?
The whole process of reflection, assessment and goal-writing have forced me to sit down and think--really think--on the good and bad of 2015. I've been thinking about my business, my relationship with God, my husband, my kids, my church and who I am as a person, creative and friend. Because I believe photography is a calling in my life, this business and the people I serve through my work as a photographer are extremely important to me.
Looking back at my client load and projects for 2015, I am astounded at everything I was able to accomplish. I shot more weddings, family sessions and seniors than I ever have before. It’s pure craziness what I packed in. But when I think about the quality of my life, my relationships and even my work, I’m sad. It wasn’t worth it. And I know I wasn’t able to treat every client with the care that I believe they deserve.
I’ve never spent so much time strategizing as I have this year, and what I’ve realized is that I need to make some big changes in the way I operate my photography business so that I can love my clients better. As I said in my last blog post, "There were two things that fueled [the creation of Ashley Wittmer Photography]: (1.) I love people and (2.) I love the challenge of getting people to let their guards down long enough for me to creatively photograph them." <--- That requires time and relationship.
So, after such a successful year of business, why would I want to make big changes? I need to make changes for a number of reasons:
1. I want to love God, my husband and my family first.
If these commitments in life are out of whack, what does anything else really matter?! As I eluded to, I’m an achiever, ENFJ, futurist, driven, perfectionist, type-A. And all of that has really helped me to stay motivated and moving with my photography business, but it also means that I can become so obsessive that I lose my first loves. When you are 80, what do you want to see when you look back on your life?
2. I want to stay true to my convictions as a photographer.
I couldn’t live my life without a creative outlet and I couldn’t live without people. Photography is more than just capturing beautiful images--anyone can do that, with enough training and practice. Portrait and wedding photography for me is about connection--the connection of my clients with each other and their connecting with me as I understand and capture them together.
3. I want to love people better.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you know they aren’t listening? Sure they’re bobbing their head in agreement, but you can tell they’re just not there. Loving people better is listening, not fixing, and looking for ways to serve and help them. It's being present. This also requires time. (Are we seeing a theme here?)
4. I want to have margin.
Time is the most important currency we have, and yet it seems like everyone is using theirs up. I keep trying to imagine what it would be like to have a margin of time for the un-expecteds in life. When I need to take a meal to a friend, be available for a few hours to just listen or sit down and read ALL the library books to my kids. I want to have enough margin in my life for when people need me.
So, why change a good thing?
To make it really great. To live intentionally. To not just visualize, but LIVE a life that really excites you.
When it comes to my photography business, 2016 is going to be different in a number of ways, all pointing back to the strong current of loving my clients better. Stay tuned! I'll be writing more VERY SOON about what exactly will be changing. Until then, here's to a new year of strategic and intentional living.