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Imagine for a moment that someone is coming over to photograph you. Decide for yourself why they would be coming – are they photographing your family together?  Are they doing a profile on you as an up-and-coming entrepreneur for a local magazine?  Whatever makes you feel excited. Pick a reason: ___________________________________ Banish any momentary panic […]

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  • Beth Herzhaft - I don’t shoot family portraits so I don’t blog with the same frequency as many of your readers, however I do shoot weddings etc.

    One thing I wonder when reading photo blogs is: do they seem so similar because everyone is trying to jam in the same content rich keywords and SEO rich phrases? Everyone knows what Google is looking for with regard to blog length etc and is trying to use that (understandably) to their advantage.

    The down side of this however, is that so many of the entries then begin to feel the same. It is more like I am looking at a math equation or a fill-in-the-blanks template rather than a highly personal or interesting story. (Often with a LOT of photos when a tighter edit would communicate far more effectively)

    My suggestion is to really try to look for anything that is a little bit different and doesn’t feel like blatant (or not so blatant) ego stroking. Whether it is a matter of “this person was so cool” versus “this person was so cool because of xyz” I would think people see through that if not authentic?

    In any case, I’d strive to fold something truly unique into the post, whether it is mentioning the history of the place where you shot, or how the session was particularly poignant because you talked about how difficult parenting can be etc. etc. etc. Anything more than “this person was just the cutest thing ever” in a predictable Google friendly number of words and trackbacks.

    I’m reasonably sure people can tell if a blog post feels more like trying to get eyeballs vs true communication. And even with specifics of how they were cool, pretty etc, to me there needs to be a little more depth.

    But again, although I have shot people and weddings for almost 20 years, I do not shoot families / newborns so my thinking on this might be completely off base.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - This is an interesting comment because it feels like you might be semi-responding to a point I was not trying to make. Which probably means I didn’t communicate it well? I agree that finding unique things is important. If it’s about the person, great. Or the setting, great – but even there it’s something of a comment about the person who chose it and their taste, isn’t it? I definitely agree that finding something like a conversation about the difficulties of parenthood is useful beyond just “they are so cute”.

      At any rate – authenticity is authenticity, and comes off as such. If you see something about a person and mention it honestly and kindly, I don’t think you can really go wrong. I also wouldn’t call that ego stroking because what I’m advocating is that people cultivate the art of finding true things. Truth is truth, and it exists whether you mention it or not.

      There is no one way to write a post but this is a good way to break out of the typical mold I personally see, which is less SEO oriented and more:

      “This person is so cool! I loved photographing them!” That tells us exactly nothing. Any good writing teacher will nudge you to learn to give examples instead of making claims, and that’s mostly what I’m advocating here. Maybe that’s what you were saying too. I do think speaking positively about unique client traits is a smart business move, and it doesn’t have to be fake, and it also doesn’t have to be the entirety of what you have to say.

      Personal, specific stories will spread farther because they are inherently more interesting. We like characters (and even successful writing about places usually turns the place into a character). When done truthfully these aren’t tabloid fodder to “get eyeballs” but the kind of thing that resonates naturally and thus tends to spread more. Obviously there’s a lot more than can be covered in my 1500 word blog post here. That’s why I wrote a course on how to do more than this, and why I linked to it at the end. That course goes into how to actually remove your commentary from stories but shape them to let a reader decide for themselves. It’s more advanced than I can cover here…. If people want to engage more deeply they can, this is just to provoke thought in that direction.

      Thanks for your thoughts!ReplyCancel

      • Beth Herzhaft - Great points. “Ego stroking” might not be the best word choice ? But it isn’t inherently bad: I feel that it is bad when it is not authentic. Appealing to that (ego) part of someone without it being genuine not so good. It works in the short-term but not in the long term. People do want to feel noticed and appreciated, it just is better when the observations are genuine.

        I might have been confusing your post topic with other things, so sorry about that if that was the case. I just see so many blog posts that seem to be designed for getting noticed by search engines more than having genuine feelings / content, so I was responding to that.


        • Filip Konecny - You’re right. Sometimes I feel like people are copying/pasting the content and just putting the proper names, locations etc. And sometimes I feel guilty for doing almost the same :)ReplyCancel

  • Jillane - I love this! I’ve always heard this and tried (it takes intentionality) to do this conversation. Listening and asking other questions about their life is always a sure fire way to a friend!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - Another amazing post, Jenika! You always have such a great perspective that I find myself nodding along to & saying “That makes sense! I never thought of it that way before!” (Is this my appreciation gesture for you? ;D) Thanks for sharing & will definitely keep this in mind the next few days. Have a great week!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - I appreciate your kind comments. Thanks for taking time out of your days to extend a kind hand to others.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - It is interesting how you put into words such basic elements of kindness. I try to find a more interesting way to state or question the obvious and you nailed it in such simple terms. Thank you. I do not have a blog, but when I do I would take your course. I do write short articles for different newsletters about catching someone doing something good. Thanks for the additional perspectives I will practice.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - People like stories about people. We automatically engage. Let me know how it works out for what you do! I would love to hear more.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica S - I absolutely love this! I’m getting ready to start my photography business blog and was just looking for a way to differentiate myself from the typical post. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Tavia - Brilliant! You did a wonderful job explaining this, thank you for your insight :)ReplyCancel

  • Leo - Blogging is by far the hardest thing for me. I’m naturally shy and not the best with words. So I hesitate posting. Often times I’ll write out an entire post and then delete or hide it because I feel it’s stupid. After reading this I finally feel I can write something that will come naturally. Even if it’s just a few brief sentences.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - The cool thing about blogging is that it provides infinite chances to try again. So what if a post is bad? You can try again tomorrow. I don’t know a single blogger who doesn’t look at their early posts and have a good laugh at their early efforts. But you get better by doing. Hope this nudges you to start again! You can do this!ReplyCancel

  • Wayfaring Wanderer - Great post! Irresistible Words is such an awesome tool to help find the right words that aren’t generic. I enjoying writing thoughtful posts for my clients and it’s easier with the approach that you outline in the ebook!

    Wayfaring WandererReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks, friend! I hope your life and travels and days are going beautifully. Sending a hug!ReplyCancel

  • Francesca Bliss - Thank you for another brilliant article, Jenika! Not flattery or ego stroking, but noticing true beautiful things that others do and telling them about it – how simple is that? But what a powerful impact it makes! I’m typically a lurker, devouring and studying every article on your blog, but I decided that it was time to come out and tell you how much I appreciate what you do, Jenika. Thank you!!!ReplyCancel

  • Marzia - You are so right with this. I should do so much more and better… but I feel quite ridiculous at writing. Oh well.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Well written! Amazing advice!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey - Hi Jennika! Thank you for this wonderful post. I think this is such a valuable take on blogging and fulfilling clients wants and needs, really simple and really helpful. I have had a site for a while but just started actively blogging (I will be posting my third blog post today!) so this post came at perfect timing.
    Loved your positive take on calling people out on their best traits – the world needs more of this!
    Thanks again!

Think of the best and worst boss you’ve ever had. What made them the best and the worst? I’ll give an example (and I’d love to hear yours):  Fresh on a high school pizza place job, I became acutely aware that I was holding up the line.  All the pizzas were finished differently – some were topped […]

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  • Nathan Tsukroff - What a wonderful article! And just when I am addressing my self-doubts! Thanks for this great guide to finding balance as my own boss.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thank you, Nathan! I hope that something here helps you moving forward. Keep clicking!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Begley - Jenika – You hit this one out of the park! LOVE everything about this!!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks Nicole! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it :-)ReplyCancel

  • Chrissy - What a great article. I enjoyed it greatly. and I love your content.ReplyCancel

  • Juan Martin - What a wonderful post, Jenika! It actually hit me hard and made my eyes wet. Most of the time it is so clear for us that we do not let anyone, specially our bosses, to mistreat us but not so often we reflect on how we treat ourselves. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Misty Bradley - Jenika, another great post! I shared it with the Being Boss podcast FB group (almost 10,000 members) and lots of photographers. I’m also going to share it with our “we are the REVELERS” podcast listeners. You will be helping lots of bosses today! You’re brilliant!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - Jenika, this is so good! When you asked us all those questions, never would have thought this was the angle you were going for. Saving this to reread. :)ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - Oh boy! This really helped me think about what I’m doing as my own boss and recognize areas of improvement and affirm areas of strength. Thank you for this enlightening article!ReplyCancel

  • moi du toi - VERY well said! I seem to be such a hard taskmaster to myself, all criticism and no appreciation for how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved. Thank you for the wake up call Jenika and those gorgeous daffodil images.ReplyCancel

Yesterday, I underlined the following lines in a book about war: “One cannot explain it.  A man is walking along without thought or heed; – suddenly he throws himself down on the ground and a storm of fragments flies harmlessly over him; – yet he cannot remember either to have heard the shell coming or to […]

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  • Allison - First! Just kidding, this post was so dense! I actually read half of it, got inspired to start immediately, wrote down a bunch of ideas, and then came back and read the other half, which inspired another big batch of ideas… What a great series!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Oh yay, Allison! I LOVE it when I read something that inspires ideas before I’m finish, so I’m so honored you told me this. Success!! Go get ’em!ReplyCancel

  • carolyn - This happens to me CONSTANTLY. But the problem is not of fear of success. It’s fear of having no help/guidance and having no clue of how to handle the details. Fear of wasting so much time/energy/expense and not getting the income from it that’s so desperately needed.ReplyCancel

  • Dee - This happens to me a lot. I have lots if ideas, but as Carolyn mentioned, no guidance,wasting time and energy with no return. There are times that I doubt myself. Reading this post has helped me realize I’m not alone. ThanksReplyCancel

  • Lia Edwards - YES!! This makes perfect sense. You explain it all in a way that makes all the fears disappear. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Bill Garcia Solis Photography - Excellent pearls of wisdom, lovely cherry blossoms. My favorite = Alan Alda quote. Yes, process + journey + personal growth are more important than audience praise, World Series rings, plus other external awards. — Namaste. OM shanti. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Jen Dean - I had a big smile at the very beginning of your post. I did exactly what you described. I had this great idea for a project (I want to make it a book even!) it kept me up at night several nights in a row. And then I found all these reasons/fears to stall out. In the last week I’ve picked it back up and I’m slowly working through how to do it. So I didn’t give up on it but that fear sure slowed me down. And it happens with lots of things, like my overall success, not just this project. The amount of bravery needed (ok, or just baby steps) to continue putting myself out there creatively is amazing to me. Often I feel like it’s repetitive. I know that I’m holding myself back. I know I must work through it, but it’s so hard. I’m going to print that list you made at the end and post it in my office. As a reminder. Thank you. – JenReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Food for thought. I am determined to push past my fear and just practice, practice, practice. Fear cannot block learning for me.ReplyCancel

  • Wayfaring Wanderer - Awesome post! I love the questions to help break down barriers that may be holding us back. I’m going to use this for the new projects I’m about to begin so I can thwart resistance ahead of time! :-)

    Thank you for sharing!

    Wayfaring WandererReplyCancel

  • Debby - I am trying to simplify my life. This is one of the few blogs I am keeping. Really helping me examine where I want to go in my life.
    I’m still confused but working on it.ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - You broke it down really well but the examples are what solidified it so we could really understand the process. What’s the worst that could happen is definitely a question worth answering honestly, especially as saying what our fears are often shows us how small they are in the scheme of things. That’s in my experience, anyway. Thanks for sharing, Jenika!ReplyCancel

  • Patti - Maybe this was a big moment. I just finished my taxes and I spent more than I made. This is my 4th year in business, working at least 30 hours per week! But I am very blessed to have my husband make a good living to pay the bills. Am I sabotaging myself because this business does not “need” to make money? I feel like a failure every year when I look at the numbers, so it needs to make money, but if I really think about how much money I NEED to run the business, that is what I’m earning. How do I break above that? does this make any sense?ReplyCancel

  • Sanna - I got rid of most of my email subscriptions about business and life as they just seemed to fill up my email every week and I felt overwhelmed by all the “you should do this” advice. Your newsletter is one of the few I kept because it’s one of the only ones I actually WANT to read and that I’m looking forward to. And again, this is no exeption. Amazing how you seem to be talking about the things I’m currently struggling with :)ReplyCancel

  • Karen Quist - How do you know me so well???
    Please keep it coming. I just love your posts and always take away something valuable from reading them.ReplyCancel

I saw the bright yellow headline: “Are you afraid of success?” It irritated me so much that I slapped the magazine back onto the waiting room table. Who is afraid of success!?  I thought.  I’m sick of people inventing anxieties and then foisting them upon the rest of us!  Well.  (:: scuffs shoes ::) Funny thing that I’ve […]

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  • Nancy - *crying* Wow. #truth A related fear for me…”I want my services to have a luxury price tag but what if I don’t enjoy working with those who will pay what I’m asking?” (Assuming they’ll all be high-maintenance, superficial, energy vampires, who are impossible to please just for the sake of being so.) My comfort zone is people I know or people who know people I know. Ugh. Thank you for spelling out some of my other ridiculous fears for me! Knowing is half the battle, right? Onward and upward…ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Onward Nancy! It’s an appropriate thing to think through – price tag and clientele style. I’d just encourage you to really think through the exact person you want to work with and tailor your voice just to them. The more you can narrow to that person, the more the ‘energy vampires’ will be pushed away. Good luck with the work of finding your people. Sending a high five!ReplyCancel

  • Rick - I have long suspected that I have a fear of success, but this post really confirmed it for me. I found #3,#5 and #6 really hit home. I think that the Imposter Syndrome fits me particularly well. I think I am afraid I won’t be able to handle additional work or higher level work, even though I get lots of praise from my current clients for my work. I operate in a narrow niche and would like to increase business in that niche but know that it would require a lot of extra work, some of it that I am not comfortable with. I started my photography business as a retirement hobby and turned it into a business. I loved your course on building an irresistible website and that is right in my wheelhouse as a former IT professional, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I find myself doing lower value tasks at the expense of the more important ones, possibly because I am not sure that I can handle more business even though that is my goal and there is no concrete evidence to suggest that. Sorry for the ramble, but this really spoke to me. Thanks for listening.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Rick! Thank you for sharing these thoughts, because this is exactly the kind of thinking I hope this post will inspire. I am familiar with doing “lower value tasks” at the expense of big ones, and all I can say is – once I start doing the big ones, I wonder why I didn’t engage sooner. I’m sure you’ve experienced that before, too. At any rate, the next post has some specific steps that might help, too. Cheering you on.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - Man, this is such a great post. Spot on. I can’t wait for the next one!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks Nancy! Glad you stopped by.ReplyCancel

  • Christina @ Martha, Martha - Oh man yes! I mean, yes!!! I’m doing all those things. Each new follower/subscriber filled me with fear, not joy! I have learned to lray thanks for the opportunity to reach someone and ability to do it well. Still scared! I can’t wait to see the next post.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Isn’t that funny how that works? Closer to what you want often means getting closer to fear. Your approach of being thanks for the opportunity to reach someone is beautiful. I love that!ReplyCancel

  • Carrie Lynn - Wow! Jenika, as usual, you nailed it. There are times when I read your posts that really hit home and this one does it for me once again. I am increasingly busy and seem to find ways to put off the most important to-do’s, including a major project that has been in the works for much too long! Thanks for the push and for the inspiration! I woul love to share this on my own blog for photographers to pass on the inspiration!

    Carrie Lynn
    Master Wedding Photography (TM)

    • Jenika - Hey Carrie! Thanks for your kind words. So glad something resondated, hope it helps!

      You’re always welcome to link to my blog; for copyright and SEO reasons I can’t allow content to be republished, but you’re welcome to excerpt a few lines and link if you want to share! I’d be honored. Take care!ReplyCancel

  • Lenora - Yep! Terrified of failing and/or embarrassing myself. This is something I have recognized and try my best to deal with. It does slow me down, but I’m working on it! I’ve been a CPA (accountant) for 20 years and just started my business a year ago on a part-time basis. This is a huge step for me as someone that NEVER wanted to own their own business. But, this is what makes me happy so I tackle one think at a time. Thank you so much for the article and the puppy! I look forward to the next one.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - You’re not alone! A huge number of my readers never wanted to own their own business, and I didn’t either. Good for you for moving forward toward what you want. I’ve got some other stuff planned for this year to address ‘fear of failing/embarrassing myself’ too – stay tuned. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Rina - You are amazing. I used to always think the fear of success did not apply to me… How could it, of course I want to be successful! But the way you simplified it made me realize that a couple of these symptoms really apply to me! I have some soul searching to do… Thank you for another amazing post!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Right? Join the club! No one thinks they are. Maybe fear of ‘success’ is not it but ‘the lifestyle that goes with success’ or ‘things that go along with success’ or something. But however you term it, glad that you accepted this nudge to think things through. Best of luck!ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - You hit the nail right on the head, Jen! I experienced this fear while I was launching my website last October. Rather, I kept putting it off until I finally sat down in January & asked myself what the heck was wrong with me. And this ended up as the surprising answer! Thanks for putting it into words that clarified it even more for me. Will be sharing this on my Twitter feed & mailing list!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hi Daisy! It’s neat that you had this experience of sitting down and realizing it on your own…it’s amazing how much time people can spend (myself included) putting things off because they don’t sit and ask themselves what is happening. I hope I/we can help inspire others to sit with their emotions a little more. People will endure months of discomfort to avoid one hour of intense self-examination, too…we are funny creatures. At any rate, good for you for being self-aware. And thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

      • Daisy - We’re definitely irrational creatures; I think it’s also because we build it up in our minds ’til the obstacle is way bigger than it actually is. It definitely takes practice to get over it, but you & I have learned that when we keep overcoming the fear, we start going places. Sometimes it blows up in our faces but sometimes it works out better than we thought it would. Keep writing, Jenika!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy Anderson - For a years I have known that I suffer greatly from a fear of success, it goes right back in my life. But no matter how much work I do ON MYSELF to get me over this, I have not come across anything that will truly help. I am trying to start my photography business, and even though i feel that I have something different and beautiful to give I just freeze up when I need to take another step forward and expose myself. Even writing this is giving me a racing heart!! I don’t even give out my business cards, scared that people will actually get on my site and look at my work. (tears), When I have pushed myself to accomplish other things like an interior design degree, I have received marks in the high 90% for my assignments. But while completing those, I had bad anxiety, always questioning myself, and even when submitted, I would talk myself down about my work. I know I can do this, but the difference is that I had someone pushing me, I had a deadline not made by me, and I was held accountable to someone else, my teachers. Same at work. I am 50, and I have always loved photography, it is my deepest desire to have it as my business and my way of life, I have no kids at home, and a partner that is truly wonderful, in short I have no excuse to not be moving forward. Except for ME. I am my biggest resistance. I find it extreamly difficult to ask for help. Cant do it! But now I am. HELP!! :) I can’t wait to read your next post Jenika, I know there will be something in there that will give me something to hold on to and help me on this most important part of my life. thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Marcelo Davera - Great post! I thought it wasn’t for me… Untill I read it. Thank you, Jenika.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - A few of these listed fears resonated with me. Imposter Syndrome most of all. I just graduated from the Art Institute with my AS in Digital Photography. Most of my images and series were for assignments & school projects. Everyone I know has praised my work and I’ve even gotten a couple of paying clients because of it. But now that I’m done with school, I’m afraid to reach for success because I’m afraid I won’t live up to expectations. On top of that, the lack of phone calls & emails asking about my services is depressing. I’ve been handing out business cards like crazy. I’ve posted a couple of promotions on social media, but no takers. I start wondering “Did I go to school for nothing?” If so many people have been praising my work for the past two years, how come they aren’t interested in hiring me? And then I’m worried that when I finally do get a client, I’ll fall flat on my face.ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - Jenika,

    How did you know I needed to read this? How did you know that I have been making marketing plans, budgeting expenses for ads, and daydreaming of what could be…until the next day, where I am ‘feeling sick’ and cannot motivate myself to even get out of bed and brush my teeth? Can I tell you that when I look at my plans I tell myself that this is useless/pointless/a waste of time and money and quietly cry over my supper.

    Am I afraid of success? Or am I simply just tired of trying to build myself a business? Maybe it’s a question I have to answer myself.


    P.S: When I was a toddler, I had a baby doll I had named ‘Jenica’ and everyone made fun of me! I’ve never met someone with that name until I started reading your blog!ReplyCancel

  • Natasha - I’m number three through and through. So much so that in 2008 when something happened that I thought confirmed my inability to succeed at anything, I shut my life down almost completely. Stopped all my hobbies. Didn’t believe anyone who said my photography was good. Created amazing marketing plans but didn’t actually use a single one of them. I’ve only just started living again but I’m still facing some of the same fear. I’m looking forward to the next post. Thanks for this.ReplyCancel

  • Joe - EVERY word here is what I’m dealing with. It’s at the point I never want to do what I feel I was put on earth to do. Sad but true. I’m freaked out at the thought of failing but being successful has sidelined me so, I CANNOT seem to break free.ReplyCancel

  • Daisy - Thank you for this, Jen! I’ve been following your blog since last April when I bought the Irresistible Words course, & it’s about time I stop lurking & mention how much I enjoy your posts. I struggled with this fear myself last December when I was launching my website. I was supposed to launch in September & dragged my feet all the way to 2016. When a friend sternly sat me down to help me figure out why, boy, was I surprised at the answer! (The puppy is a cutie too, by the way!)ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - OK, so are you teaming up with CreativeLive? If not, maybe you should. I just read this post since it had gotten past me in an email account that I don’t get to check very much. Well, the first thing I did after reading it was to make sure I signed up for your emails using my best, more frequently read email account. I SO relate to this. It made me want to start working on SOMETHING. Like, NOW. Unfortunately, I’m at my day job right now, so I can’t really do any of my personal work NOW. In the meantime, I happened to turn on CreativeLive to listen in and see what was going on. There happened to be a workshop called Make More Money and Discover Your Worth. The speaker started talking and one of the first things she talked about was avoidance. Specifically, avoidance of feelings of failure, avoidance of feelings of rejection, avoidance of new opportunities, etc. Again. Me. All the way. While I know this workshop has nothing to do with you (so I apologize if this in any way makes you feel hijacked), I just wanted to thank you for this post, which seems to have put me on a path toward something. Something that I’ve be avoiding. I’m now newly inspired. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Chris - YOU helped put a name and description to what I’ve experienced my entire life – Imposter Syndrome! Although I exhibit the other symptoms, to varying degrees, you helped me FINALLY recognize my main problem. A well-defined problem is a problem half solved! Countermeasures are in order after examining the root cause(s) of this existing paradigm. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!ReplyCancel

  • Regina - I love your blog, (and have for years now). I am no longer perusing photography as a business, as my life has veered away from that, but the value of your blog is still there! Thank you so much for this all! You rock, Jenika.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - I can’t believe how #3 is hitting me! I have been battling this unknown-to-me problem in some very important areas of my life! I am new to the photography business. And definitely realize that this is a major fear of mine and that it holds me back more than anything else. But, having read your post, I now realize this also holds me back in other things, such as becoming missionaries….My husband and I and our four daughters have been involved in mission work since 2003 and yet we still feel ask inwardly, “are we sure this is right for us? we don’t “feel” like missionaries.” When we discuss it, the feelings are so parallel to what you have described here about Impostor Syndrome! Thank you so much for shining a light for me in this area. I will be praying and making some serious changes to the way I negotiate my thought process from this moment on!! And will be training my girls to overcome this problem.ReplyCancel

I learned something interesting about change when I studied addiction. One heartbreaking thing about addiction is that people can – for example – do the work to decide not to do drugs anymore, actually stop using, detox, stay clean for awhile – And then an old friend calls unexpectedly, and they relapse back into using. Why? […]

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  • paulina (@helloitspaulina) - this is such a great post–thank you for sharing!! <3ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks for the kind note Paulina! Glad you enjoyed it!ReplyCancel

  • Marko - I absolutely adore your posts. Besides removing destructive building blocks of bad habits our goals also need to be measurable and doable. Most people I know set their goals too high at start and tend to think long-term only. Having a goal “I’ll loose 25kg by July” won’t take you far. But if you decide you’ll start buying sugar-free products, stop buying your favourite Pringles, start getting soda water instead of Coke and stop eating after 7pm and implement these things one per week will get you somewhere. People loose focus on long term goals. With short-term decisions you stay on path and see the goal more clearly with time. Thanks for a great input!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yes! Getting extremely specific about those changes helps so much. There’s a goal technique I might write about in the future – the SMART technique – that basically says a goal has been specific and measurable – you’ve probably heard of that, it’s exactly what you’re saying. “Lose 25 kg” is actually pretty vague when you think about it. “Stop buying Pringles” and “get soda water instead of Coke” is extremely specific and more likely to get done. Thanks for sharing this! And thanks for the kind words. Hope you have a great week.ReplyCancel

  • Clare Woolford - You could have written this for me!! (Not the drink and drugs bit). I have so many Creative Live classes waiting to be watched. I recently joined slimming world and can see how planning for success and shopping to support my weight loss goals has helped me lose 14lbs – now I need to plan my time to watch those photography classes :-)
    Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Yes! I sure wish someone had explained to me earlier in life that a change in eating is a change in recipe-hunting and shopping. I used to “eat more vegetables” by trying to make more salads or just taking an extra helping of green beans, and it never worked because I just don’t like bland vegetables, and how many green beans can a person really eat in one sitting. Finding amazing veggie-based recipes took some work, forethought, and failed experiments, but now I can make dinners I actually like and can have basically all I want of because it’s nourishing stuff. Anyway. Best of luck to you as you continue on that journey and plan your time to watch some courses!ReplyCancel

  • Allison - This makes me want to get started on reorganizing my goals right away, to fit this model of motivation. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks Allison! I hope you find some good ways to support what you want to do!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Clowe - Hi !
    Have set a couple of really motivational goals this year along the lines you suggest in your blogpost.
    1-lose 2stone to make me healthier and have more vitality to enjoy my life
    2-Get my pet photography business started.

    Yesterday, I got upset at work -main source of my stress-as management of business seem at odds with people’s needs -so came home sad, went out and bought a marzipan chocolate bar( have already lost half a stone and haven’t touched anything bad for 3 weeks!) the work incident has also sapped my creative spirit.
    Following your advice, obvious answer would be to give up working there which would solve issue -but not financially viable to do so. Any ideas in this instance of how I could remove that ‘structure’ around getting upset at work ? Any thoughts greatly received

    • Jenika - Hi Amanda! Thanks for sharing your experiences and I am happy to help generate ideas. Of course, quitting a job isn’t always an option (and who knows – even a new job might be just as stressful!). Here are some ideas for managing stress at work. It’s hard to say what will help without knowing more about the people there, but perhaps one of these will be useful –

      1) Identify some specific, recurring situations that you know stress you out at work. Like, every time Paula the Manager emails, you feel an explosion of irritation. Or every time there’s a staff meeting, people leave feeling angry and your coworkers spend the afternoon complaining. Look for patterns in what happens and how that makes you feel. That way, when one starts happening, you can prepare for it – “They called a staff meeting, and it will probably be frustrating – but instead of just feeling frustrated I will simply watch as it happens without getting emotionally involved. The purpose of this is to create an emotional scaffolding to cling to when everything around you is going badly. Rather than being buffeted by the events around you, seeing patterns and knowing how it will go can help you feel powerful and wise, and detach you from being victimized by others.
      2) See if you can create some allies at work by cultivating a little reciprocity. Identify a few colleagues you could strengthen relationships with, and spend one week doing some nice things. Ask someone about their weekend plans, remember that, and follow up later in the week with “Hope that concert is fun!” Bring cookies to the break room. Get someone’s back in a meeting. It’s not about being the person who extra work gets dumped on or is always cleaning up after others, but when you do something for others it creates a little sense of obligation. In a group scenario, doing a few extra things can really lift moods AND change how people treat you (not saying you don’t already do these things, but mindfully spending a week on it can work wonders).
      3) Identify a sympathetic supervisor, request a meeting, and bring to that meeting a couple specific issues WITH proposed solutions for them. Such as “I’ve noticed that every time X happens, management reacts by doing X. This seems to create an atmosphere of tension in the office. I have an alternative suggestion that might help, but I’m wondering if you can explain why X happens so I’m sure I understand what you’re trying to do. I just want to make sure everyone’s on the same page.” If you make sure you listen first, ask them to explain their perspective, and come prepared with a solution, it will make you seem like a problem-solver rather than a complainer.
      4) If all else fails, take a ‘problem’ person out to lunch, or ask if they’ll join you for lunch in the break room, or whatever is appropriate. It might sound totally bizarre but I swear, breaking bread with someone changes everything. Even if you don’t like them. I’ve seen it happen over and over. Reaching out personally with food makes magic. The point of #3 and #4 here is to try and shift the atmosphere, but working on #1 can help even if you can’t change the external situation.
      5) Even if none of the above works, you can recognize that you have a response of stress –> need comfort –> food. What else could be that third link in the chain? What else can nourish your spirit or bring pleasure? Make a list of things you really enjoy, then set that aside and make a list of things that absolutely light you up. Getting a massage, watching BBC films, brand new books. Find things that bring REAL pleasure to you. If you like hot baths, buy a set of five different bath oils and when you’re stressed, you get to select one and a book to relax into. If you can change the choice from “do I get chocolate or not” to “hmm, which bath oil and which book” then your mind is occupied with a different set of questions.
      Last note – and I know you were just leaving a comment so I don’t want to over analyze it, but I’ve found an awesome benefit from abandoning “good” food and “bad” food as terms to use. I’ve adopted instead “weekday food, weekend food, and special occasion food.” Weekday food is nourishing and healthy, weekend food might be a bit more elaborate and rich, and special occasion food is over-the-top holiday food. When I look at rich sweets I don’t think in terms of “this is bad” anymore, I think “yep, that’s a special occasion food. I’ll have some next _____.” This mental labeling shift has been huge for me. I got the idea from, of all places, the intro to Rick Bayless’s Everyday Mexican cookbook. Just something to consider! Hope one of these ideas helps, and good luck!ReplyCancel

  • mike - Not sure when I arrived at your site but I think what you’re doing is awesome. As a photographer the challenges are terrific, and as a Management Consultant specializing in the Psychology of Influence…you’re Bang ON!!!
    I have recently been asked by one of my Corporate clients to “revive” one of my past experiences (30 years ago) as the “quit smoking” director for the Ottawa Lung Association by setting up a smoking cessation program for their employees.
    Jenika, without sounding too dramatic your timely message today may actually serve to save many lives through the benefit of quitting smoking!!!
    Thank you, and continued success :)ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Wow Mike! Thanks for leaving me this inspiring and wonderful note! That’s awesome. By the way – If you’re working with psychology and smoking cessation, you may have heard of Motivational Interviewing, and if not you might want to check it out (there’s a book with that title). It’s probably the most useful technique in that area because it helps people use their own reasons for change, especially when they’re ambivalent about change and/or stubborn about sticking with a habit. I wish you all the best as you carry on this important work!!ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - I can think of several things I need to stop doing and even more to start doing in order to fulfill my goals (and dreams). Thank you for the insight!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Love it, Cheryl! I hope that you’re able to create the structures that support your success. Sending best wishes for the journey.ReplyCancel

  • Mary Lee Dereske - Thank you for adding the bit at the end on applying this technique to business and personal goals. I also appreciate the email you sent with the tidbit about being curious about our envies. These two ideas are helping me to adjust some of my behaviors and routines. And how appropriate that I’m reading this on Ash Wednesday, which has always been a day of reflection for me. Thanks again.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks for this note, Mary Lee. I hope you have a beautiful and contemplative Ash Wednesday, that the day fills your well with love and inspiration, and that you find what you need moving forward.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Shotts - I really want to dedicate time each day for fiction writing. But this seems like the. hardest. thing. ever. I’m not sure why, but I can come up with more excuses and reasons to skip my fiction writing than any other task. I’ve tried making it part of my morning routine, but haven’t had any luck so far. Maybe I should try writing on paper right after breakfast so I’m not tempted to start “working” on my computer.ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - First of all, let’s acknowledge what a COOL goal this is. YAY for you, Sarah. Let me ask you a couple of questions – first, I’m sure that you’re busy and it’s just plain hard to make space for a new thing, but is any part of it that you’re procrastinating because you don’t know how to start, you’re worried that it’ll be awful, or you’re waiting for a better idea to come along? I ask because a good 75% of the time, I put off writing because it seems like such a huge thing and starting seems so tiny, or I’m worried it will be hard and sound boring, and I’m waiting for inspiration. You might consider adopting something like Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” practice (from the book The Artist’s Way – get it from the library and just read the morning pages chapter to start). Basically every morning you have to write three pages freehand, no matter what. It’s transforming. You can write your fiction or about what’s frustrating you or whatever’s happening – but you just have to write three pages. Then you stop. You’re supposed to do it for a certain number of weeks but honestly within a couple of days I’ve usually generated ideas and am excited about whatever I’m doing. So perhaps instead of clearing space out for “writing fiction,” you clear a space for “morning pages” so there’s zero pressure to perform. And with that, you might just find that your whole story comes out.
      I’d also consider your night and morning routine to find any habits that might make you too tired/stressed to write. Do you stay up too late? Can you set out your clothes and breakfast the night before? Can you buy a special favorite kind of tea/food that sits next to your computer/notebook, so you’re motivated to seek out the food but you have to write to get it? (Yep, totally have done that.)
      Last note – you might work fiction reading into your fiction writing goal. Maybe you spend 20 mins reading a short story book and then 20 mins writing. Or maybe you shift your evening schedule to include reading. Stephen King insists you can’t be a good writer without being a prolific reader and I find reading usually gets me excited again.
      Whew! Hope I’m not overloading you with thoughts. I have similar dilemmas, so I’m right there with you. Sending good writing juices from afar!ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea - This is an awesome article!

    I’ve been struggling with blogging content for a rebrand I am working on. (Specializing in elopements and intimate weddings, with a travel blog inspired section for Vancouver Island tied into it all.. got inspired at Canada Photo Convention to do this.. (you were a great speaker) and yes it has taken me almost a year to be brave enough to tackle it…!)

    I do the easier things- edit, plan styled shoots for the months to come, go outside and garden instead… I always procrastinate with blogging and well schedule setting in general
    actually, and so my to-do list just keeps growing. I definitely lack structure in running my business. I spend way too much time on Facebook and checking email, and if my phone is near me, it just lures me in. I have deleted Facebook and mail off of my phone, but if I am relaxing.. it is so temping to add it all back on just to see what I have missed. It’s so hard to train the brain to utilize that time for things that would allow me to learn, or grow my business or make money. Thoughts?!ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Thanks for the note, Chelsea! Sounds like a great adventure you’re embarking on! It sounds to me like the issue here isn’t actually time management, it sounds like the issue is that you’re taking on a slew of stuff that doesn’t inspire you in order to do the 10% of it that does inspire you. And that wading through the mud of the non-inspiring stuff is bogging you down and driving you to distraction. Just a hunch here, but here are my thoughts:
      1) I’d bet money that some of the stuff you’re procrastinating is stuff that you could hire someone to do. I resisted hiring people forrreeeverrrr because “I can do it myself” and “it would cost too much.” But even though I can, doesn’t mean I should, and it costs less than you think. I can’t tell you what a difference it has made. Someone else can wrangle web stuff, someone else can answer non-critical emails, someone else can title and keyword images. Really. And you don’t have to pay a ton, and a lot of it wouldn’t take that long anyway. Hire a VA for a trial of 5 hours and see how much they can get done for you. You can train someone to set up a blog post and all you have to do is come in and write. You absolutely cannot work all the time or do all the things and do them all well – and seeing stuff get done is really motivating to do the parts you actually like.
      2) Okay getting back to the subject at hand – I feel you on the facebook checking and such, but have you ever gone on vacation where you didn’t check your phone all day, and maybe you had 20 notifications when you logged in at 11pm but you were kind of just “huh, okay, meh” about it because you had been out having FUN all day? When you’re engaged in good things, missing out on FB doesn’t even cross your mind. When you’re kinda bored, dreading what you’re doing, or wanting a distraction, that’s when FB suddenly becomes fascinating and “I have to see who just liked that photo from 2013!” So I would spend time reconnecting with why you want to do this rebrand – go out for at least three hours today and leave your phone at home, take in inspiration from a museum or frosty forest or whatever is near you, find new styling ideas. You’ll probably find that you don’t miss your phone at all. Then come back and make a list of things that need to be done, circle anything that YOU don’t personally need to oversee, and see if you can pay someone $X/hr to handle that. The combination of inspiration + handing off the boring-est bits will probably get you moving because you’ll be working on what you are excited to work on.
      3) I think the two tips above will give you a structure to combat overwhelm/burnout, which it sounds to me like is the biggest issue, but if for some reason those don’t work I’d suggest doing something similar to the example in the post: Rope off 2 hours, 2 nights a week, and start working through your list. You get to pick what you do with the other three nights and weekend nights. But those four hours a week is phone-free work time. At the beginning of the week, write down what single task from your list that you’re going to accomplish in that 2 hour chunk, so when you sit down there’s no question what you’re going to do. And take a 10min break in the middle of that chunk.

      You can examine this on your own, and look at your energy levels, the times of day you tend to use FB (check out Rescue Time to see if there are patterns) – but again, just going from a hunch here, it sounds like your support system could really use an external person or two to handle things so you can focus your brain space on what you’re good at. And once you do that, the FB usage will probably taper off on its own.ReplyCancel

  • Claire - Have you got a webcam on me or something!!! I just opened your post sitting here with my e-cig, contemplating having a vodka, looking online instead of finishing some client work because I’m tired after working all day. Aaargh! This is me down to a tee, it’s so good you’re making us take a good look at ourselves. It always makes me laugh at how you cut right to the point and show up all the little habits and mechanisms we put in place to avoid doing things we should be doing. Good ideas which are easy to apply too.

    I rather think your next post topic is going to apply to me too…..and I’m terrified! :o)ReplyCancel

    • Jenika - Hey Claire! Thanks for opening up and sending me this note. I just want you to feel rested, happy, and your life in sync with your real priorities. 😀 Take care of yourself, lady, no one can work all the time (this is a hard thing I’m constantly reminding myself of). Best of luck as you figure out how to build in more rest.ReplyCancel

  • Akane - I really loved this article, it struck a chord with me. Thank you for sharing your insight and knowledge. I’ve made plenty of goals in the past, only to partially fail or to fail completely. I’ve recently gotten over a long-term illness, but I seem to be doing all the things that I can to make myself feel like I did before. Bringing on low energy, anxiety and depression. It’s almost like I’m TRYING to make myself fail, and that I’m addicted to feeling like I did before, because I’m not used to feeling well all the time. My question is, how can I get out of this bad habit of trying to do myself in, and instead embrace the fact that I’m now feeling better, and really try to set goals to increase my vitality, not sabotage it? I know it’s a loaded question, but it’s something that I’ve been working on for a long time, and this article may be just what I need to tip the scales in my favor =) Thanks for listening, and thanks for sharing too. I love hearing about things from your psychology point of view, it’s very insightful!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Tank - Loved this post! Everything makes so much sense. Going back to look at my goals and add to them to make sure they are easy to achieve! Thank you for this! Sharing with friends and family!ReplyCancel

  • Erika Swafford - Oh my gosh, light bulb! I’d never thought of goal planning this way. What a major mind shift that seems so much easier than using willpower alone! Thank you so much for this insight! I’m going to tackle my business goals with this method. One thing I’m working on is sticking to my business hours. I’ll set them, use them for a while and then either work right through them or sit on the sofa and watch TV. I also like being near my husband but his presence is distracting – especially since he likes to have the TV on, so double distractions! I need to make my office more comfortable and the TV area less comfortable. Not sure what to do about the hubby, but sticking to my hours would give me more time to hang out with him when I’m “off.”ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - This is a great series! Thank you for getting real and gritty with us! I can’t wait for the next blog, fear of success is paralyzing me, and I’m determined to conquer it!ReplyCancel