April 1, 2017

I stand before you with arms outstretched in gratitude.

It’s Saturday, April 1st. Well, that’s when I first began to write this article.

The first quarter of the new year has come to an end. I enjoy looking back over the last quarter to see what I’ve accomplished during this time frame. As a social worker the regulations which I must follow necessitate that a clients treatment plan be assessed every 90-days. I usually reassess a client’s progress at least once more during that time frame. This is also a practice I have adopted within my own life.

Goals are fairly simple things to identify if we allow ourselves that courtesy.  Whether it’s writing a treatment plan with a client or writing my own in my journal, I use the acronym SMART. SMART stands for Specific (simple, sensible & significant), Measurable (meaningful, motivating), Achievement (agreeable, attainable), & Relevant (reasonable, realistic, & results based). If goals aren’t written in a similar fashion, it’s questionable if they’re really goals. If they’re not goals, they’re probably dreams and if they’re dreams, it’s not likely we’ll achieve them. Dreams make us feel good and help us get through some difficult periods of time. Dreams are great things to have but if they stay dreams and re never converted to goals, they become useless. When this happens we can begin to feel that we have not been successful in our attempts to achieve whatever we have set out to achieve. Dreams can become goals, successful goals with the right planning.

In developing goals, we also need to have a clear understanding of the difference between needs and wants. Needs are the things we must have in order to live while wants are dreams. “I want a Ferrari” is a great goal but not a realistic one if I am employed as a social worker and have a mortgage and family to support. Goals such as these can spell disaster in other ways. I often hear people say how “depressed” they are because they cannot afford to make a purchase. That’s not depression. Sure there may be some small amount of sadness connected to this goal, this desire; but this is why it becomes so important to make sure the goals we define are in fact realistic goals.

Do you have the tools?

In developing goals, we also need to ask ourselves if we have the support and the tools we need to achieve our goals. Support comes in many forms such as financial and emotional. Emotional support can be found in the people in our lives with whom we have entrusted some support and within ourselves in the form of resilience. Support also comes in the form of financial. Do we have the financial means to achieve our goals?

It’s like this; I want to purchase a car. Is it a new car or a used car? What type of car? What is the cost of the car? What are the payments for the car? Do I have/make enough money to pay for the car, gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.? Through this assessment we go back to the drawing board and make the necessary adjustments so we have a better chance at success or sit back and complain about how bad your life is. How nothing ever works out for you. How the entire world is against you. Maintain this level of negativity and you are assured to continue to be unsuccessful in whatever you set out to achieve.

Goals are useless things if they’re not realistic if we don’t accept ownership for our part in their success. Conversely, we need to stop and assess our progress from time to time. If we don’t stop every once in a while to assess their completion, well then, we’re more than likely to fail. If you’re like most people you’ll blame others for your failure. This is a pretty common concept in society. I look at my schedule and my to-do list every morning. I ask a quick question. “Is this goal realistic to be completed today? Do I have the time and the resources necessary to complete the goal? If those answers are all “yes”, it remains in my schedule. At the end of the day, I assess what was completed. If a goal was not completed I ask the same set of questions plus “Was it a realistic goal? Is it still a relevant goal and if so when can I reschedule it for completion?” I look at my to-do list several other times throughout the day and do “mini-assessments” which include the above questions. On a larger note, I look at my week’s schedule every Sunday night and then assess my weekly to-do list. I ask the same set of questions and make the necessary adjustments. In my day-to-day journaling, I use Stephen Covey’s Decision Making Matrix which basically encompasses all of the above questions and provides a remarkably simple visual tool to help use ensure success in our goal setting. Remember, like any other tool, if we don’t use it regularly and make adjustments along the way, it won’t be successful.

Image result for covey decision making matrix

Lastly, you need to ask yourself what your investment is in any goals which you set. They’re your goals. Set them, monitor them and don’t allow other people to stand in your way of achieving them. There is a commitment to this process, to accepting we may not like certain things in our life and acceptance of the fact that we don’t like in which direction our life is going. Accept those things and make the necessary changes/adjustments and move on. You’ll find your life improving.

Namaste

 

 

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Entitlement is Optional

This has been reposted from Seth Godin’s blog published on 1/10/2017.

It’s not forced on us, it’s something we choose.

And we rarely benefit from that choice.

That emergency surgery, the one that saved your life, when the ruptured appendix was removed—the doctor left a scar.

We can choose to be grateful for our next breath.

Or we can find a way to be enraged, to point out that given how much it costs and how much training the doctor had, that scar really ought to be a lot smaller. And on top of that, he wasn’t very nice. We’re entitled to a nice doctor!

Or we can choose to be grateful.

Marketers have spent trillions of dollars persuading us that we can have it all, that we deserve it, and that right around the corner is something even better.

Politicians have told us that they’ll handle everything, that our pain is real and that an even better world is imminent.

And we believe it. We buy into our privilege as well as the expectation that our privilege entitles us to even more. It’s not based on status or reality. It’s a cultural choice.

And you’re entitled to your entitlement if you want it.

But why would you?

Entitlement gets us nothing but heartache. It blinds us to what’s possible. It insulates us from the magic of gratitude. And most of all, it lets us off the hook, pushing us away from taking responsibility (and action) and toward apportioning blame and anger instead.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is just as valid a choice. Except that gratitude makes us open to possibility. It brings us closer to others. And it makes us happier.

There’s a simple hack at work here: We’re not grateful because we’re happy. We’re happy because we’re grateful.

Everything could be better.

Not because we deserve it (we don’t, not really).

But because if we work at it, invest in it and connect with others around it, we can make it better. It’s on us.

It’s difficult work, counter-instinctual work that never ends.

But we keep trying. Because it’s worth it.

An open letter to my photography clients

This is an open letter to my photography clients. 

 

As I make a decision which has ironically been a rather easy decision, I wish to say “thank you” to everyone who supported me over the last several years. This past year has been one of tumultuous feelings. I have experienced great joy and great sadness. 

 
It is with great joy that I have made a decision to close Christopher Kijowski Photography.

 

I had an amazing time spending the day with many brides, grooms and their respective family’s. The family’s and children I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with and photograph reminded me of what was important in my life and central to my happiness. I enjoyed seeing the smiling faces and the happiness which resulted from many family’s having an opportunity to have their photo taken. 

 

Last August I made a business decision designed to enhance my marketing without the need to increase my rates. This decision backfired and cost me dearly both financially and emotionally. I underestimated the kindness of others. Just to be clear, the decision was to have a coupon accessible through LivingSocial. Initially it did it’s job as business flooded in. Unfortunately, as a result of my naiveté, the business stopped as quickly as it had begun. I underestimated the goodness, the kindness of individuals who saw nothing more than a really great opportunity for themselves. As a result my business lost over 10K in just several months. The emotional toll which this decision took on me was even worse. I found myself rationalizing and justifying the photo shoots just to complete them and even thought at one point of rescinding the coupon and returning the pittance I received from LivingSocial. My value system, as strong and as ethical as it is took the lead and I am in the process of fulfilling the last several photo-shoots. I am very thankful to the small handful of individuals who understood, without me saying anything about my financial dilemma and took care to go above and beyond to financially compensate me for my efforts. My deepest thanks and gratitude to you.

 

My heart hurts at the thought of no longer being able to follow a dream that has been mine for many many years. The ubiquitous nature of digital cameras and  the number of people who have purchased a digital camera and offered both low cost and low quality photography has, in my opinion harmed the art of photography. The desire of many people to take advantage of a small business trying in this economy to eek out a living simply became too much for me. It was resign from my photography business or continue to attempt to manage the feelings of anger and sadness which became genuinely overwhelming. I bristle when I hear others use the word cheap as they refer to wedding photography. Please learn and understand  the difference between “cheap” and “inexpensive”. You get what you pay for. More times than I care to think I spent time with couples who had refused my prices choosing instead to go with the “cheaper” option only to be frustrated with the poor quality of the completed photography.

 
I will be returning to my two great loves; social work and writing. Thoreau wrote, “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you.” I feel that in this way I contributed to the demise of my business. I think it is possible to chase a dream so hard that we can actually damage the dream or at the very least the process of pursuing that dream.

Again, I wish to thank everyone who supported me over the last several years. My camera will always remain with me, in my car, in my pack and with me on my runs. If you wish to contact me regarding a wedding or family portrait shoot I would be happy to discuss your needs. If your only concern is the price which you place on your photography, please don’t contact me.
 

Oh yeah, just one more thing…please don’t purchase a coupon through LivingSocial, Groupon, etc. I know the deep discounts are enticing but what you’ll end up with are small businesses like mine falling by the side of the road because we can no longer compete with the big retailers who can offer volume discounts. Also remind yourself of the difference between words like “cheap” and “inexpensive”. My work is not inexpensive nor is it “cheap”.