My world, you see, is very intentional, filled with immense depths.
Each day, a number or rituals are exchanged.
Some days, it's just one, maybe two and other days, it's all of the below mentioned!
That of affirmations, I AM statements, meditations, nature walks,
tarot/oracle card pulling, reading, writing, intention/ goal setting, reflecting.
Why am I sharing this?
Because these very universal exchanges, have brought so much clarity, so much vibrancy, so much beauty into my very existence! And my goodness, do I want to share it with all of you!
As we end another incredible year (or monumental time in our lives), I truly believe in not only setting intentions for the New Year (or what is to come), but honoring and reflecting on all that came this past year (or specific endeavor) as its so important celebrate all that has brought us to this very moment.
Before you dive into these very universal exercise, get a notebook and pack of pens that inspire you!
Then, take a moment to create a safe and sacred space.
Light a candle and/or incense.
Put on calming music.
Sit down with your pen and paper.
Before even beginning to write, close your eyes,
place your left hand over your heart, your right hand over your belly.
Take a deep inhalation as you fill up from the stomach, ribs, chest.
Pause. Then, slowly exhale, as you release from your chest, ribs, stomach.
Take a minimum of three breaths like this.
Pause for a few moments and when you're ready, open your eyes and begin!
Enjoy and discover your very depths!
: Reflections & Intentions
: Specific Goals & I Am Statements
: Vision Board
: Tarot Spread
I count this time, not from when I started learning the ins and outs of wedding photography in 2010, rather when I wholeheartedly jumped into entrepreneurship to bring this deepened purpose into a whole new light, Ashley Strong Photography. In its initiation, I had no formal training, just five years of non-profit experience, an African history and marketing degree, inspiration from my travels from around the world and all the love, determination and immense need to share my purpose with the world.
I came back to the country after being away with all but $700 to my name. I had an old car that I joyfully relied on, parents that didn’t mind me inhabiting my childhood room and a massive knowingness that I needed to do this and I needed to do it now.
How was I even going to manage this? I had been away for so long and before leaving, I had the whole 9-5, bi-weekly paycheck, healthcare, thing going on.
All of this happened in the first couple years.
From there, what I did intensified.
In the past three years I’ve:
Today, Ashley Strong Photography has tippled, and continues to grow on a daily basis!
Want more specifics, download this FREE guide today!
Don’t have one, please don’t freak out. That’s why i’m here. For the first almost two years of my photography business, Ashley Strong Photography, I operated without a business plan.
Although I didn’t have a business plan, I definitely had a few tools and systems in place.
But, my friend. This was it. Although at the time, it sounded like a lot, it was nowhere near what I needed.
What was my why?
What was my commitment to my clients?
What was my tagline?
What were my core values?
The questions kept coming and coming (and yes, coming). This, this was when I knew, I needed a document, a document that held it all together. The in’s and out’s of my business. Where to even begin? I stated first with a good ol’ internet search. Then, found a few rough outlines for business plans that resonates with where my business was at that time.
From there, I began filling in the blanks. Filling in the gaps.
Today, Ashley Strong Photography business plan is nearly 40 pages long. It contents are my heart and soul. The result of trial, error and a whole lot of intention.
I’d love to give you the basic outline of this very business plan.
The rain has lifted. The sun is brightly shining. The flowers are beginning to bloom. The greenery from the long winter rains is endless, vibrant, all around in-your-face-do-you-see-how-amazing-life-truly-is?!?
I light an incense, put on some meditation music, then pour my morning coffee, write my affirmations, pull my cards. From there, it all depends on the sensations at hand. Some moments, it's on the couch in silence. Others, it’s getting my running shoes on for a walk around the preserve behind my house. Mornings, like today, it’s opening up the windows, the patio doors, turning off my meditation music and listening to the melodies all around us.
Immediately, it is birds. Birds of all sorts. Singing. Squawking. Their wings flapping. The melodies grow, getting louder and more full. Then, they soften, creating space for a new set of melodies to be birthed. This, this is my inspiration. That of nature.
Nature, she is a goodness. She is so incredibly intelligent. She is filled with lessons. With wisdom. With knowledge. She, she is a healer. One card I pulled this morning, was that of grounding. Connecting back to the source, to mother nature, to find, my natural rhythm, my equilibrium. This, this doesn’t come as a surprise as these past few weeks have been jam packed. I mean jam packed. When this happens, I am sure to leave space after the jam packedness ends to reconnect, ground, find that very center.
But, how, how do I even do this?
After-all, how do I make the time for it, right?
Life is just so busy, so full, time just goes so quickly. I know, I know, I get it, I get it. I say these very unsupportive phrases all too often. The truth, that which is most important, we will make time for. Even in the fullness, the busyness, the feeling of time slipping away. You see, I’ve come to find, there is always time. Maybe it’s waiting a few hours before jumping on my email. Maybe it’s not turning on the TV for a couple days. Maybe it’s keeping my phone in the room, the room I’m not in. Ouch. That kinda hurts, right? It kinda heals, my friend. Heals the soul.
Inspiration, it is here, it is now, it is all around us.
Busyness, fullness, running out of time does not exist when inspiration is present.
Some ways to tap into that inspiration.
Be blessed dear soul!
Oh yes, you read the question correctly. The question is not what happens IF I get a compliant, the questions is "what happen WHEN I get a compliant.?" Gasp, right?
Reading this now, I giggle. Reading this back when I started my business, I would have been horrified, terrified, confused. You mean, I’ll get a complaint?!? There’s no way, I give my business everything.
Friend, I feel you, completely.
Over the years, I defined, re-defined, organized, re-organized every system imaginable for my photography company, Ashley Strong Photography. Many are back in systems, but many, many are in direct relation to the connections I created with my clients. The more time went on, the more thorough my systems became, the more personal the experience was shared, the more I did. I did this, simply because it’s what resonated. Yet, even with doing so. The first complaint came.
I opened my email. “Did you do ANY editing to ANY of these photos?” That was it. Ouch. Really? What do you think I’ve been doing with these time capsules since they’ve been captured? My heart broken, tears in my eyes. But, how? I spent so much time finding the perfect location, helping her with her outfits, encouraging supportive poses, even staying 30 minutes longer than what I was paid to shoot. I was so proud of the gallery I had delivered. My client, I thought she looked radiant, youthful, happy. Due to me being so upset, I wanted to call right away. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to explain myself. I knew, that was not the solution.
What did I do? I put on my running shoes (advantage of working from home), grabbed my headphones, put on my favorite playlist and ran. I ran and cried. Ran and cried. The tears came from feeling defeated, from feeling so confused, from feeling like this very soul had understood me and my craft.
After sometime I replied, replied again, and again. What I soon came to realize was that very question, that very question WAS NOT a reflection of my talent, my work, my dedication to the client experience. It was a reflection of the insecurities that resided within her soul. The time capsule I had documented enhanced her feelings. She had wanted one of those flawless instagram filter type images. The ones, I quite frankly don’t believe in as they’re not an accurate representation of you. They are a “perfected” reflection of you, but is that the real you?
What lessons did I learn from this?
My reply, their reply always differed depending on the situation at hand. The common thread? I was always able to answer, “Yes, I did the best I could in this situation.” Their reaction quite frankly has nothing to do with me as a person, it has everything to do with what resides within their internal reality.
Friend, please, please, I’ll say it one more time, please DO NOT let complaints discourage you. Use these situations as moments of growth. Although it may feel devastating in the moment ( I hear you there), it will soon be a feeling of the past. One in which, you and your business have grown from.
I’ll leave you with one last helpful exercise :
For example :
My morning ritual, well, it consists of brewing a fresh cup of coffee, lighting an incense, plugging in our all year round twinkle lights and sitting in a very specific spot on our couch the enables two views.
Left, outside the window are green rolling hills, a glow of the rising sun, an occasional bird passing by the window, expansiveness.
To the right, time capsules on a wall from living on Mafia Island, Tanzania, our two cats snuggling and fresh pink lilies that my sweet hubs surprised me with.
This very morning, I got mesmerized to that of the left of me. Before my eyes could make it to the windows, I watched the smoke of the incense dance in the morning light. Although coming from one place, the smoke was divided, a cream color dancing with a grey color.
Balance. Without the creme, the grey would not exist.
My friend, you cannot have the light without the dark, they need each other.
Where in life have you had both the light and the dark?
: Losing a client, while gaining three.
: Getting a compliment, while receiving your best wedding review.
: Ending a friendship, while developing a more supportive one.
: Feeling tired, while then having energy.
: Being inspired, while then feeling utterly defeated.
Do you see where I am going with this?
These, these opposites, they need each other.
As we experience the dark, it brings about a reality. A set of emotions, a response, a lot of times, reflection. Being in the dark, enables us to feel, feel fully. As we experience the light, it brings about a whole different reality. This time, a lighter, more vibrant set of emotions, subsequent response and natural reflections. Being in the light, it reminds us of the good, the inspirational, the sensational.
How can you break this down to better understand?
Take a moment to reflect on your left, where has there been moments of darkness followed by lightness or the contrary, where has there been moments of lightness followed by darkness?!?
Then, take a few moments for reflection, followed by supportive actions.
Friend, within each of these moments, is a lesson, a very specific lesson. All contributing to the wholeness, that is life. Because after all, we cannot have one without the other. It is interconnected, we are interconnected.
Just a few months after launching Ashley Strong Photography full time, I remember seeing this graph. It was a graph of the life of an entrepreneur. The reality, well that of excitement, then confusion, then I’ve got this, then a whole lot of who the hell am I kidding, what am I doing? The accuracy, well, I’d say 100%.
Over the years of being an entrepreneur, the accompanying emotions run the gamut. For this, it has been so incredibly important to both find a supportive daily ritual alongside check in points. Having a daily ritual, enables me to start the day, centering myself, filling my cup up so I can then spend the rest of the day helping fill up others. This, this in itself a whole separate, very in depth share.
The second aspect, are that of check-in moments.
What does a check in moment mean?
It simply means to check in!
Here’s how I do it…
1. Where am I right now, in my heart, mind and body?
Close your eyes for a few seconds to a few minutes. Begin focusing on your breathing, feeling your stomach expand as you inhale, feeling a full release as you exhale. I even like to put my right hand on my belly, my left hand on my check. After your moments or minutes, open your eyes. Begin in the circle that feels most intuitive. What do I feel right now in my heart? You can write words, phrases, draw pictures, whichever supports you in that very moment. Once you’ve completed, then move onto the follow two circles.
Once the circles are filled out, you then see that there are overlapping points.
Where are my heart and mind connected?
Where is my mind and body connected?
Where is my body and heart connected?
Then, the center point, where do you see commonalities between all three, your heart, mind and body?
Let this be a moment of check-in. Let this very realization bring you back to center. Maybe you notice you’re working too hard, too little. You need more time in nature, taking a yoga class or exercising. Maybe you’re so inspired and need to create space and time to put pen to paper. The answers, they will reveal themselves!
2. I ask myself, “Am I doing the best I can in this given moment?”
A question like this can go a number of ways. Keep it simple and let it just be and yes or no. Expand upon it. Break it down into prominent categories in your life.
Am I doing the best I can WITH MY BUSINESS at this given moment?
Am I doing the best I can WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE at this given moment?
Am I doing the best I can WITH HONORING MYSELF at this given moment?
Am I doing the best I can WITH A WORK/LIFE BALANCE at this given moment?
3. “Does it make me feel HEAVY or LIGHT?”
Oh, did I save the best for last? It really depends on the person and on the day! An old tool, of which I so sincerely wish I remember where this came from. Ask yourself, “Does it make me feel HEAVY or LIGHT?”
Take a deep breath. Again, ask yourself wither something evokes a heaviness or lightness. As a deeper check-in, I really like to expand upon this.
What does it look like?
I create two columns.
The other light.
Instead of just looking at one particular situation, I look at where my life is. What am I doing that makes my feel heavy? What am I doing that makes me feel light? This in turns gives me a more clear insight into where my time is being spent. Because afterall, don’t we want to be doing more of what brings us joy, versus depletes us?
My friend, use one, two, maybe all three of these resources to bring greater light into where you are at this very moment! You'll be surprised how quickly you find your center!