No regrets….

I won’t ever regret the past 3 years I have spent starting and building my business.  For the first 2 years, it grew organically & really out of nowhere.  I didn’t have a clear direction about what I wanted to do, what I wanted to specialize in, no business plan, just my love of photography and design driving me.  Once I kind of figured things out and had a bit of direction, it grew exponentially.  My calendars were filling months in advanced and I felt like I had more business than I knew what to do with.  I was finally getting to a point where I could say “no”, where I was referring clients out, setting some terms & guidelines, AND was 100% happy to do it.  I feel blessed to have met so many wonderful families and to have also helped define looks and brands for so many photographers/businesses.  I was always taught it you work hard, good things will come… and they did.  It has been rewarding. I felt important.  I felt relevant.  I selfishly felt content.  I built something from nothing and am totally proud of everything I have learned and accomplished in this short amount of time.

Earlier this year, I heard something on the radio that stuck with me for many months.  I found the article online and its one worth taking a peek at: Top 5 regrets of the dying

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

For me… #2 and #4 are really the only ones I felt applied to me… everything else I think I have under control:) For some reason, I continued to think about this article and the words “I wish I didn’t work so hard” have plagued me .  Over and over again, it played it my head.  As so many people I knew were being diagnosed with this and that, some totally fighting for their lives’ for months, I really began to take a step back and think about how my life was being spent.  What I was doing day to day, what was important to me, how it was affecting my family, my kids, my relationships, and me.

Then last month, there was an article circulating that really grabbed my attention and set everything in motion.  You will definitely need to read it HERE to truly understand my words and feelings. The first time I read it I found myself in tears thinking to myself how guilty I was of SO many of those things, especially the past 2 years as my business flourished. That article was the catalyst for me to start changing things in my life.  I more or less decided right then and there that my business and I were ready to do things a little differently.  My first step was not scheduling sessions or design work over the weekends.  Weekends were strictly for my family and doing more fun things together, more active things, more quality time.  I have more or less stayed true to those changes over the past month except for some extraordinary things that did come up on 2 occasions, but there is always room for improvement like no answering emails at all, not taking phone calls, no Facebook-ing, etc.  One day I will 100% weekend work free and that time is quickly approaching, faster than I knew it.

Maybe a week after I saw that article, I was hit like a truck when THIS video and Jen’s story started circulating.  For at least a 1/2 hour I was crying uncontrollably.  2 hours later I shared it with my husband and I sobbed all over again.  Of course, I was moved by her story, her courage, her journey and after I made my donation, all I kept thinking to myself was “Holy shit, that could be ME!”.  In seconds, your life and the world you know could be completely turned upside down for any number of reasons.  Everything you once knew, were comfortable with, and you cherished could be taken away from you, JUST LIKE THAT…. and here I am working ALL hours of the day from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep.  Whether it be answering emails, rushing to send a proof, editing, doing marketing, posting on my business page.  Many times it would be at the expense of my kids and family.  I found myself continually telling them “Hold on a second while I finish this email!”  Or “Oh, I have to take this call… gimme a sec!”  Here was a good one… “Makena, I will get your lunch in 5 minutes okay?” (which ALWAYS ended up being anywhere from 10-30 minutes).  We all came to HATE the alerts on my phone for emails.  I was literally cringing when my phone would go off.  But what did I do?  Immediately grab it, regardless of where we were at and what we were doing, read it quickly (of course telling them “Hold on a second guys….”), and then feeling the need to take 5+ minutes to return an email.  I began to seriously reflect about Jen’s story and realized I was totally taking my truly precious moments here on Earth for granted.  And for what?  All in the name of good customer service?  Now granted, my situation is a bit different because my husband and I don’t necessarily rely on my income alone.  We more or less could survive on his salary, everything I brought in has been for the “perks” and extras we have been able to have like vacations, savings, shopping, etc.  If I was the main bread winner in the family, I obviously would need to work a lot… however, that is not the case for me.  I was doing all of that because I felt I needed & had to in order to have a successful business.

Now that was just a taste of my business life.  All the work aside, the time spent on my personal Facebook page and playing games on my phone were a whole different story.  I was feeling the need to update and post ridiculous things like a picture of me taking the kids to Starbuck’s.  I mean really?  In the grand scheme of life and staying “connected” to your “friends”, who really gives a crap about those types of things.  I was posting for my own selfish reasons, thinking my friends and family really needed or even wanted to see that.  I will say though, I definitely post on my personal page a LOT less than I did when I first started my account and substantially less than a lot of people I know.  I don’t really post any personal pictures anymore unless they are quick and easy from  the iphone.  Because I take all of our main pictures on my big camera, it was mainly out of laziness that I didn’t post pictures BUT I also fell into a trap feeling like I had to edit ANY photo I took in order to post it.  Obviously, that has a lot to do with me being a photographer and wanting beautiful pictures shown, but friends and family REALLY don’t care about that at all anyways.  All they want to see is that everyone is healthy and happy, maybe doing fun, special things here and there…. NOT 5 times a day (for the most part & for most people anyways).  That wasn’t good enough for me though.  Everything was newsworthy in my opinion and far too much time has been spent feeling like I needed to show the world how great my kids were and how wonderful I am because I do this or that.  I’m officially over it at my ripe old age of 34.  I’m ready to TRULY enjoy all that I have been given in life and live day to day 100% “present” in their lives’.  I no longer feel the need to justify my everyday life to my “friends” on Facebook.  When you look at the bigger picture… is it really quality time with your kids when the main motive behind the activity is feeling the need to take a picture and post it?  Will I stop posting status updates and pictures all together?  Most likely not, but I will definitely slow down even more than I already have and only post things that mean something a little bit more special than the new pair of shoes I may have bought, what new movie we are going to see, or even how great I think I am because we are having a special home cooked meal!

Now it’s time to make the changes and set the business & personal plans in motion!

Officially, as of today, I will only be working from the hours of 8am-1pm Monday through Friday, no working on the weekends at all.

This will include:

  • emails
  • phone calls
  • design work on the computer
  • editing
  • posting on anything on my business page
  • blogging
  • and everything else that comes along with the businesses
Because my husband has an odd schedule, once the kids do go to bed at night, I will most likely work a little bit then… possible editing, returning the more important emails I feel can’t wait until the morning, packaging orders, etc.  Other than that, my hours are now VERY strict for work. All of my clients (photography and design) will be given this notification in their “welcome emails” so everyone knows from the beginning that I am not available 24 hours a day, that they ARE important to me, BUT bottom line… my family is more important.

This obviously comes at a horrible time since the kids are now on Summer break but that brings me to the next change, definitely a more profound one and perhaps the one that will take the most adjustment for me…

I will also being going “hands & technology” free from the world after 1pm during the week & on the weekends unless my kiddos aren’t with me or they have already gone to sleep at night.  My phone is now off limits, free from any distractions, notifications, playing games, ridiculous Facebook posting’s, no emails, nothing.  I’m bringing it back to a simpler time when you just spent time with your family AND enjoyed every single second of it.  No more trips to the park while I pretend to feel like I’m being a good mom because I took them there BUT all the while I’m sitting on my phone either answering emails, stalking my Facebook feed, or just playing a game.  I will now be 100% engaged.  They have my full attention.  My family is completely stoked and after I told them on Friday after their last day of school, I swear the whole family dynamic changed.  It was the first weekend in a long time, where we were really & truly connected.  The kids didn’t argue.  They played together so great all weekend.  We all joked, laughed, and had a wonderful time.  I really believe that the main reason why we had such a great weekend was because I was not stressed out.  I wasn’t worrying about this client or that client or rushing to write an email.  I did sneak away while my daughter was at a birthday party to visit the baby from my birth session last week who ended up in the NICU, but aside from that… it was all about me, my husband, the kids, and OUR FAMILY!  This is the first weekend of many more to come…

No more living a life that I was bound to eventually regret!  You only get a small amount of time on this Earth and an even smaller amount of time with your young kiddos… make each one of them count!  I know I will be from now on!  I’m looking forward to sharing the additional changes my family has made in the coming weeks.  Until then, happy monday:)

Alicia - June 11, 2012 - 10:22 am

I applaud you!! I look forward to a day when we are finacially stable to do the same thing but really can get rid of the computer and phone far more than I do thanks for being an inspiration

Cathy - June 11, 2012 - 10:34 am

Really agree 100%……thinking the same here . I would hate to get to the end of my life and have regrets. Regrets of the time I spent at the computer rather then with the ones I love.
I have a hunch your business will even be able to proper when you cut back as you work smarter!
Off to consider what I can do to make this one life really count with the time I have been given.

Silvia - June 11, 2012 - 10:34 am

You’re amazing! I have been “following” you since your scrapbooking design days (I fell in love with your ‘arsenal’ kit when I first found digi scrapping) and have been inspired by your work since. Being on my phone was also something I realized was taking attention away from my family and decided to stop. It feels good. It’s great moms can inspire each other to do the right things for their families and themselves.

[...] then, while responding to emails/messages this a.m. I saw this: http://corinanielsen.com/blog/no-regrets/ And I felt like I had been reading somewhat of an autobiography. “…here I am working [...]

Victoria - June 11, 2012 - 11:24 am

I could (not to mention, should) write this email for myself, my business, and my family. Life balance with kids, a spouse, and a business is a juggling act and I can’t juggle. The only way to have life balance is to have boundries. Thank you for sharing and being a “kick in the pants.” Look forward to your updates. :)

brandi hurd - June 11, 2012 - 11:38 am

Thank you Corina! Thank you!

Hands Free Mama - June 11, 2012 - 11:43 am

I commend you for the difficult truths you share here, but also for the real commitment you have made to be present in the life of your family. I am inspired by the specific guidelines you have created for keeping work from taking over your precious time — your precious life. Thank you for mentioning my post. This is truly the greatest gift I could receive … to know my message touched a family’s life and helped them connect in a meaningful way is a blessing to me. Thank you!!!!

Tanja Kibogo - June 11, 2012 - 12:18 pm

Dear Corina, thank you so much for sharing this peronal thoughts with the world out here!
I think this is also important for couples without kids….
These media things can reall distract your attention and spoil r/ships….
You made the right step and I wish you good luck and a strong heart to succed:)
Be blessed!

Cathy Lewis - June 11, 2012 - 12:19 pm

“Standing O” for you Corina! I have found myself very guilty of these same things, although I clearly have my “work” hours posted as 10:30-1 weekdays and 10:30-2 on Saturdays, in my case the hours are due to my handicapped son’s schedule, I work when he’s at his program. But yet I always seem to be working in one way or the other. All day and most of the night. I have also come to the conclusion, because of my own health and the sadness in my grandson’s eyes when once again, Nana can’t do “fill in the blank” because she’s working, that it is going to stop. When he gets here at 3, that’s it for the day for me. My sons are older 22 and 28 but still live here (both have disabilities) and I am not going to brush them off anymore either.
Folks tell me I SHOULD work as long and as often as possible to grow my very young business if I want to succeed. But like you I have realized that my family comes first. I missed too much of my children’s lives when they were younger by working, now that I am 55 I want to spend as much time with them as I can.
Enjoy your family! They will love it and I know you will too!

Jill - June 11, 2012 - 1:00 pm

Thank you for posting this Corina. Your honesty and words of wisdom are an inspiration and a way I hope to approach life too in the future.

michele - June 11, 2012 - 1:35 pm

Yes! You are a very smart woman and an inspiration. I have recently cut back on work myself and can see a change in how I respond to my husband (not as stressed out). I think I’ll be making a change to my facebook habits as well. Thank you for the post! Enjoy your family!

Sarina - June 11, 2012 - 2:34 pm

Thank you for sharing this Corina. I too will be making changes in the future and focusing more on what’s important in life. It’s been 24/7 since I’ve started my photography business. It’s definitely time to set new boundaries. I say kudos to you!! Enjoy your family!

sally griswold - June 11, 2012 - 2:55 pm

I’m so happy for you Corina! And I’ve been processing the same issues lately as well. Would love to meet for coffee sometime and catch up ;-)

Renato - June 11, 2012 - 3:43 pm

Agree..

Julie Ferenzi - June 11, 2012 - 6:51 pm

I have been feeling the pressure to do it all the last few weeks… and customer service was robbing my kids of their loving mom. I don’t like who I’ve become at the expense of motherhood to build my business. Time to take a step back. For REAL.

Thank you for posting this… from the bottom of my heart!

Brittany - June 11, 2012 - 8:17 pm

Totally inspiring, Corina! I’m getting married at the end of the month and trying to make positive changes and set up our little “family” for nothing but positive growth prior to marriage. :)

Bobbie Heston - June 12, 2012 - 5:44 am

Cool this site seriously solved this problem I was dealing with. This blog is lovely, thanks alot to the info.

Trisha - June 12, 2012 - 10:36 am

beautifully written.. & so inspiring! Now time to focus on the important things in my house & in my life! Thanks so much

Andrea - June 12, 2012 - 12:34 pm

You know when I read this? Last night after spending an ENTIRE day behind the computer editing sessions. I barely got to see my husband or my babies and felt frazzled. Then I read this and it immediately spoke to my soul. Thank you so much for this! I’ve now decided to really hoan in and keep business hours tight and spend the rest of the day with those I love.

Crystal Nickel - June 12, 2012 - 2:11 pm

At first I thought…oh no she is giving it up…because you are soooo good at what you do. But you are not…and what you are doing makes perfect sense! Congrats to that!

christina bitar - June 14, 2012 - 7:37 am

I congratulate you and applaud your determination! this is too ambitious for me but I believe this is where I would like to head in few years!!!
I just stared my “passion photography business” this year and I can relate so much to your beginnings – thank you for being an inspiration with your words and with your pictures. Christina

Candi - June 15, 2012 - 11:06 pm

T H A N K Y O U S O M U C H!

Your words are amazing and I felt as if this was written specifically for me. I struggle with balance. But not anymore. I now feel confident that I can change things in my own life and still be successful! Thanks for your bold & inspiring words. I am a fan of your work (all of it), and now I look up to you as a person!
xo-Candi

Hope - June 17, 2012 - 3:18 pm

WOW this was a great read and one I will apply to my own life. Life is too short!!

Margarita Castañeda - June 29, 2012 - 2:26 pm

Hola Corina, tengo unos meses viendo tu trabajo, no todo el tiempo, pero me encanta, soy diseñadora al igual que tu, la diferencia es que soy mexicana, pero amo mi trabajo y pasarme horas en la computadora también.
Desde 3 meses tengo un negocio de fotografía, y me pasa lo mismo que a tí.. es increible, cuando estaba leyendo tu articulo, me imaginé a mi y a mi familia, tengo dos niñas y un esposo.

Admiro mucho tu trabajo! me encanta!
Un gusto, y me encantaría que me contestaras, y que pudieras ver mi página y darme una opinion PORFAVOR!!

A disfrutar este fin de semana largo con tu familia.!!!

[...] when you feel like God is talking directly to you? Yeah, definitely happened to me as I came across this post. I crawled into bed that night, pulled myself up to Jim and started crying. I hadn’t seen my [...]

Inge Greyling - August 29, 2012 - 4:25 am

Im your newest fan on facebook and everywhere else where there even is not a like button.

I started photography in January 2012. Loving every moment but recently felt the urge to specialise in newborns.

Your work is the best I have seen so far, and you are so positive and inspirational!

Will be coming back for lots more.

Lots of love from South Africa

Kami - January 31, 2013 - 11:29 am

Was referred to this post from a fellow photog and so glad I read it. Like you I do not depend on my business, so I definitely need to set the phone down and limit my time. I completely agree about the ridiculous amount of things people post to FB and want to take things back to a simpler time. Thank you for taking a stance against letting social media and business take over your day. I want to do this as well.

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