Tag Archives: military spouses

Meet the Best Military Spouse Photographers of 2016!

Last year, NMFA ran a promotion hoping to pair up fabulous military spouse photographers with families who deserved some family photos to cherish. These photographers volunteered to share their time and talents, and were eager to send us the best shots from their photo sessions.

Here at NMFA, we are proud to support military spouses as they chase their dreams. This contest gave us an opportunity to celebrate the talent found within our communities, and we hope next time you need a photographer, you check this list to hire a military spouse in your area!

Photo Contest Photographers

April Kroenke Portland, OR: April Kroenke Photography

Fort Hood Real Estate Photography

April Kroenke is an international award winning photographer who is recognized for the experience she creates for her portrait clients. She specializes in modern lifestyle portraits that tell the story of her clients through connection, expression, personality, and the surrounding environment. April’s passion is in creating beautiful works of art and a wonderful experiences for her clients. She looks forward to telling your story!

Find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Ashley Langtry Brunswick, ME: Ashley Langtry Photography

View More: http://ashleylangtry.pass.us/kellyfamily

Ashley Langtry specializes in baby and lifestyle photography. Her site says “I am painfully awkward, but equally awesome. I am an aspiring gypsy, lover of all things whimsical, and mama to two little crazies. I am hopelessly optimistic, believer in romance, hugger of trees, and lover of a US Navy Sailor. I try to design a photo, as well as document a moment. When people hire me to photograph for them, they are hiring me because someone they love is on the other side of my lens. For me, it is an honor to capture that love for them.”

Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.

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Athena Plichta Naples, Italy: Athena Plichta Photography

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Athena is a food, lifestyle, and travel photographer currently based in southern Italy.

Find her on Instagram.

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Cindy Corcoran Newport, RI: Ellie Lynn Photography

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Cindy is a lifestyle photographer, specializing in portraits for families, children, couples, military members, seniors, and special occasions. Memories are only but a moment captured in time and she loves to capture real people living their real lives.

Find her on Facebook.

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Danielle McCown Lakenheath, England: Danielle McCown Photography

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Danielle has a beautiful natural style, and is wonderful with children and families.

Find her on Facebook.

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Emily Grace Fort Rucker, AL: Emily Grace Photography

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Emily says it best: “What photographs are you passing on to your kids’ kids? Instagram selfies? (No way!) Stop thinking you have to look a certain way to be photographed! You are you, and that’s beautiful. Don’t believe me? Ask your kids. Ask your spouse. Ask your neighbor. Ask me.”

Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Judith Lovett Atlanta, GA: Judith Lovett, Photographer

Judith loves to take portraits that tell a story.

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Find her on Facebook.

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Julie Rivera El Paso, TX: Julie Rivera Photography

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Julie has a message for you: “Your life, at this very minute, is enough. I want to show you the majesty in between the highlights. The day-to-day that is the very essence of your child’s childhood. I want you to see that everything you do is more than enough: it is the life of your family. And it is tremendous!”

Julie is not currently taking new clients, but you can see her work on Facebook and Instagram

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Kathryn Bailey Hessen, Germany: LittleB Memories

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“A toothless grin. A newborn snuggle. Tiny arms around your neck. Moments like these happen far too fast. Portraits bring those memories back long after those little ones have left the house. LittleB Memories is a place where that magic is treasured; I capture the times you value the most, so you can relive your favorite moments again and again for years to come.”

Find her on Facebook.

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Meagan Drew Monterrey, CA: Momma Mea Photography

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Meagan strives to capture moments for you and your loved ones just as a Momma would see them!

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Michelle St.Clergy Fort Polk, LA: Chaque Bonne Memoire Photography

Chaque Bonne Memoire means “Every Good Memory.” And that is exactly Michelle’s mission: to ensure each moment, each facial expression, and each journey that you take us on with you is left with an everlasting good memory.

Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Nichole Glover Fort Gordon, Ga: Glover Images

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Nicole specializes in family photography.

Find her on Facebook.

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Robyn Mroszczyk Huntsville, AL: Vanderport Designs 

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Robyn Mroszczyk is a natural-light photographer who specializes in family, maternity, and children sessions. She is a military spouse to her high school sweetheart, and they have two boys who keep her busy. Robyn believes in affordable photography so that everyone can have special moments captured and displayed. When she is not doing photography, Robyn is an Accredited Financial Counselor, where she assists transitioning Service members preparing for a deployment, redeploying, retirement, and everything in between. Her sense of humor, patience, and ability to make a fool of herself have served the photography world for the last four years. Robyn looks forward to creating memories in the Huntsville area until the fall when her family will move to Washington D.C.

Find her on Facebook and Etsy.

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Rosie Suerdieck Colorado Springs, CO: Reflections by Rosie

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Rosie is a wife, mother of four, cuddler of her Lab and Jack Russell, and momma to 10 chickens. “Life is an adventure, and I take it on. I specialize in high school senior portraiture for the fashionable girl, and mentor fellow photographers on how to be better businesswomen.”

Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Sarah Case Washington, DC: Tiny Sparrow Photography

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Sarah’s intention as a photographer is simple: “When time has erased all the details — of the long stretches of sleepless nights, small meltdowns, first words and first steps — what I hope will remain are the beautifully captured moments and timeless photographs I have created for you — that we’ve collaborated on together.”

Find her on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

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Stefanie Adams-Figueroa Ramstein, Germany: Wunderkind Photography

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…because they’re only this little once…

Find Stephanie on Facebook.

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MilSpouse PhotographerWhy choose a military spouse photographer? These entrepreneurs have set up their businesses again and again at each new duty station. Many photographers build their business through word of mouth, and when you move every 2-3 years, it isn’t easy.

We are proud to be able to promote these photographers as a special “thank you” for the time and service they donated to their communities this year! Help us encourage these spouses  by hiring one in your area next time you need family photos taken. This is an investment you won’t regret!

Interested in being featured on NMFA as a military spouse photographer? Our family photo contest runs each spring, and pairs hardworking photographers with military families for a special photo session. If you’d like to hear more about the program and donate a photo session to a deserving family while building your business at your current duty station, fill out this form.

3 Year-Round At-Home Date Ideas for Military Couples!

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, but that doesn’t mean the romantic, heartfelt, jubilant love gets taken down a notch the rest of the year. In fact, many military spouses I’ve talked to say they do little things all year round to keep the magic alive in their relationships—even with kids running around.

But what if you’re not a two-income family with no kids and extra travel money to spend on that vacation to Bora Bora? What if you’re a caregiver to a brave injured service member? Dates don’t have to be expensive, and they certainly don’t need to leave the country (wouldn’t it be nice if that were a thing?). In fact, some of the best dates are the ones that take little money and planning.

In the spirit of Lovers Day, here are three awesome at-home date ideas for you to try soon:

Date Night At Home

Find your inner kid, again!
It’s time to bust out your no-holds-barred inner child; grab all the sheets in the house, maybe an air mattress, and lots of pillow, and build a living room fort! Pull the chairs out from the dining room, and maybe dig through those just-put-away Christmas decorations to find a string of lights. Bonus points for setting up your tent around the television so you can snuggle and binge watch some Netflix. Super bonus points if you make s’mores and sleep in the tent. Get some great ideas here:


Work up a sweat…if you know what I mean
Try a couple’s fitness routine together! Build trust and muscle at the same time. Let your honey take the lead and use their military skills to show you some heart-racing exercises and stretches. Or just enjoy the eye candy while you burn off those S’Mores! Bonus points if you do a workout in the living room fort! (What? Crunches in the fort while watching a movie don’t sound fun?!) Want fitness ideas to do together?


Get a little competitive
Maybe it’s only been a year since you got married? Maybe it’s been 25 years? However long you’ve been together, there’s nothing funnier than testing out your relationship knowledge with the Newlywed Game! See if you both remember your first kiss! Once you’ve taken a stroll down memory lane, why not play some other games suited for two? Get some ideas here:


Romance, dates, and little acts of love aren’t just for February 14th. Check out our Military Romance Pinterest board for more inspiration and ideas and try out some free, at-home dates with your spouse or significant other.

What are your go-to at-home date ideas? Share it with us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Bloom Where You’re Planted…With Little Commitment!

During my 10+ year journey as a military spouse, I have tried to keep the old adage, “bloom where you’re planted,” as my personal motto. And believe me, I have been planted in some places I never thought I would be. As a girl from the Pacific Northwest, it can be pretty crazy to try to set down roots in Central Texas, Southern Oklahoma, or most recently, Western Louisiana.

What has been the most surprising is how trying to bloom where we’re planted has provided experiences and opportunities I never would have dreamed about. I have learned the only way to really flourish in a place that is foreign to me is to put myself out there and get to know the area AND the people who are there with us.

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My journey as a military spouse truly began when I joined my husband in Ft. Hood when he redeployed from Iraq. We had been married for over a year and a half, but it was the first time we were going to be able to start our life together.

However, I had no experience with the military lifestyle, so I did what I knew how to do: I got a job and established a routine with my husband. I wasn’t involved with an FRG, any unit functions, or anything having to do with the Army at all. I was very isolated from the people and things that were part of my husband’s career.

After another deployment to Iraq, we found ourselves in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I left my job to move, we had a baby on the way, and I had NO IDEA what to do. I realized if we were really going to do this ‘military thing’ for the rest of our lives, I better learn more about it. I started taking classes at Army Community Services (ACS), and when the classes were over, I realized I liked the ladies who worked there so much, I started to volunteer. I joined the Spouses’ Club, because some of the spouses I met volunteering at ACS were members, too. I started attending fitness classes on Post, and once my son was born, I went to every playgroup I could find.

A lot of the same people were popping up in many of the groups I was involved with; people who were going through the same thing I was–trying to build a life on this crazy military journey. And sometimes we don’t have the time or opportunity to work outside the home, but we still crave the personal connection with other adults. During our almost four years at Fort Sill, I met some of the most wonderful people I have ever known and truly created life-long friendships.

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We left Fort Sill for Washington D.C., where my husband spent almost 4 years between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. We were not in a traditional unit and did not live on any of the Posts in the area. We found ourselves very separated from military life…again. After welcoming our daughter, it was time to find some connection with our military life. I decided to go to work at a non-profit supporting military families. That job gave me the personal relationships and friendships I had been missing. And luckily, I was able to work with a few other military wives who gave me the connection to military life I had been missing.

The time came for us to move on to new orders. We left Washington D.C., and I left my job and friends to move to Fort Polk, Louisiana; a new place, with new people. I will need to really push myself, put myself out there to meet some other moms, spouses, and friends to connect with. I am going to use what I learned during our time at Fort Sill to try to find the people who I mesh with.

I have met a few ladies from our unit and talk to the other moms at our daughter’s gymnastics class. I plan on joining the Spouses’ Club, too. With my husband preparing to join a unit already in Afghanistan, I know my ability to get involved with a lot of things will have to wait, but I am going to grab the little moments in daily life to try to bloom where I have been planted.

How do you get involved with military life without much commitment? Share it with us in the comments!

mandy-culverPosted by Mandy Culver, Army Spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

I Used My Spouse’s Post-9/11 GI Bill…and I Don’t Feel Guilty

I have a confession to make. I used my husband’s Post-9/11 GI bill for myself instead of saving it for our kids.

Gasp!

Do I feel guilty? No, I don’t.

First of all, the Post-9/11 GI bill is my husband’s benefit – not mine. When I decided to go to grad school, he offered to transfer it to me. I said, “Don’t you want to use it?” He knew he would have additional educational opportunities through the military and at that point in time he wasn’t interested in further education post-military service.

“What about our kids,” I asked? “Should we save it for them?”

“You want to go to school now. Our kids are in diapers.”

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So, I started to do some research on how I could financially support my family with an advanced degree. The Department of Labor reports “few things affect people’s earnings power more than their level of education. In general, more education means more dollars earned.” There are several reports with lots of data confirming that lifetime earnings increase as education levels increase. The Department of Labor also reports in 2014 the median weekly earnings for full-time workers were:

  • $488 with less than a high school diploma
  • $668 with a high school diploma and no college
  • $1,101 with a Bachelor’s degree
  • $1,386 with an Advanced degree

Wow – that is a $898 weekly difference!

What does all of this data mean for me? It means by using my husband’s Post-9/11 GI bill to obtain an advanced degree I have a better chance of supporting my family financially over the long term. It also means, with careful planning we’ll be able to set aside money to send our kids to college.

Another consideration for our family was to gauge whether the Post-9/11 GI bill would be available for our children. Recent proposals include reducing the Post-9/11 GI benefit for dependent children by removing the housing stipend for dependents receiving a transferred benefit. This proposal wasn’t approved by Congress last year; however no one can accurately predict what the future benefit will look like.

The idea that the Post-9/11 GI bill might not be available by the time my children are old enough to use it is scary. And knowing that I could provide more financial stability for my family sooner than my kids would be able to use the benefit made the choice easier for us to make.

So yes, I’m guilty as charged: I used my husband’s Post-9/11 GI bill benefit. And if it’s the right choice for your family, you should consider it, too.

If the Post-9/11 GI bill isn’t an option for your family, consider applying for one of NMFA’s many military spouse scholarships! There’s something for everyone, and even partner colleges and universities who have incentives on top of our scholarships! Apply by January 31, 2016!

If you’ve used your spouse’s Post-9/11 GI bill, how did you family decide on this? Tell us about it in the comments.

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Issues Strategist

Best Songs for Deployments: And the Award Goes to…

I’ve heard that music is both deeply healing and personal to some people. I’d agree with that, especially because I’m one of those people. I associate songs with memorable times in my life, and frequently use music to change my mood. My favorite songs come from the best times in my life. And I’m not embarrassed to say most of them are from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I’ll admit it: I probably peaked in high school.

I’ve had music playlists for just about everything; working out, road trips, driving to the beach, driving home from the beach, girls night out, breakups, being in love, getting hyped before a game. You name it, I’d make a playlist. Then I’d turn them into CD’s, which I still play in my car to this day. (Take that, technology!)

No surprise, the playlists continued into military life. A few years ago, I had a pretty fun little playlist to get me through my husband’s deployment. I still love most of those songs, but I’ve got a different perspective now, and a better song selection, I think. And I’ve put them into a few categories that might speak to your life as you face a deployment of your own.

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Best song to play during Week One of deployment: “Soldier,” by Gavin DeGraw
It’s ironic that Gavin DeGraw sings this song in the rain, because that’s basically what week one of deployment is like for many military spouses: lots of face rain (crying). Let this song remind you to be strong for your service member and your family. It’s okay to be sad, but know you’re going to get through it.

Keep this lyric handy: My aim is so true, I wanna show you, I’ll try forever. I’m never gonna say ‘surrender.’

Best song to sing while drinking wine with your deployment buddy: “Hold On,” by Wilson Phillips
Sometimes, we just need to take it back to the 90’s girl band awesomeness. Sing your little heart out with your deployment bestie and pat yourself on the back for being one more day closer to your spouse coming home. Just hold on for one more day (see what I did there?). And because I feel like it’s a crime not to mention these two, honorable mention goes to “Tell It To My Heart,” by Taylor Dayne, and “Say My Name,” by Destiny’s Child.

Keep this lyric handy: Yeah, I know that there is pain, but you hold on for one more day, and you break free, break from the chains.

Best song to send to your service member: “Bring It On Home,” by Little Big Town
Your loved one needs your unconditional encouragement and support during every moment of their deployment. Some days, they might be homesick. Other days, they’re mission-focused and distant. This song is the perfect way to say “I love you and support you. I’m keeping the home-fire burning.” Cue all the feels.

Keep this lyric handy: When your long day is over, and you can barely drag your feet. The weight of the world is on your shoulders, I know what you need. Bring it on home to me.

Best song to blast when you’re sick of this deployment: “Riot,” by Three Days Grace
I know we’ve all had those moments when we’d give anything to bring our spouse home RIGHT NOW. The kids are out of control, the dryer just broke, and we can’t clone ourselves. Channel that frustration and blast this in your minivan. Just don’t actually start a riot, and maybe cover your kids’ ears when you listen to this song.

Keep this lyric handy: If you feel so angry, so ripped up, so stepped on, you’re not the only one refusing to back down. You’re not the only one.

Best song when you’re missing your love: “Fall,” by Clay Walker
It’s bound to happen: your heart is aching and you just want to roll over in bed and put your arm around your bae. Nothing would make the day better than to be wrapped up in their arms, safe from the world. This song is the perfect reminder that marriage is a partnership, and even though deployment is tough, you can get through it by leaning on each other for strength.

Keep this lyric handy: Go on and fall apart, fall into these arms of mine. I’ll catch you every time you fall. Go on and lose it all, every doubt, every fear, every worry, every tear. I’m right here, baby fall.

Best song to remind you why you stand behind the uniform: “Star Spangled Banner,” sang by Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV, 1991
Some spouses may be decades into military life, others may not even be married yet, but it’s easy to forget why we support our significant others. Day-to-day schedules overwhelm us, and commissaries, base gate checks, and long waits at the pharmacies just don’t give you the warm and fuzzies of American pride. But let me tell you: when you need a gut check, Whitney Houston delivers. And this emotionally charged version of the National Anthem will renew your drive to be proud and supportive during the rest of this deployment.

What are some of your favorite songs to get you through a deployment? Share them with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Should I Renew My Nursing License?

My career path has been less than straight. About a million years ago, when I first started college, I was a political science major. I thought I would be a lawyer, and maybe end up in DC working in the field of foreign relations. Then I married a service member, and before long I was following him to Korea, changing all my plans in the name of love.

At our next duty station, I went back to school, and this time, found a distance social science program. It wasn’t quite what I had wanted to do, but any degree was better than no degree.

One thing lead to another, and we got divorced. I had two small children, with very little to my name. I was a year away from my bachelor’s degree, and I panicked. I needed steady income NOW.

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After some research, I decided to enter a nursing program. Nursing seemed like the best job for a single mom; my hours would be flexible and I could work swings or nights to make the most of my time with my kids. I would be able to find work just about anywhere, and for the time investment, the return in pay would be good.

For the next fourteen months, I kept my head down, and worked and worked. I was a nursing student during the day and waited tables on the nights and weekends. In any free time I had, I continued to work on my bachelors degree in the distance program (because I couldn’t stomach walking away from a degree when I only had a year to go).

It was, hands down, the hardest period of my life. Money was short, time was short. I was so sleep deprived. I took out a huge amount of money in student loans (regretting that instantly).

I pulled it off, and graduated from both programs in the spring of 2010. I studied for the NCLEX (the nursing licensing exam) and passed on the first try. I was hired into the first position I applied for. I married a wonderful man, and had another child.

Not long after, my family received orders to Germany, where I was unable to find work as an English speaking nurse. Our plans changed, and I started my own business, and began to do other things.

Fast forward six years later: here I am. We are back in the States and I am working in a field that has nothing to do with nursing. I am about to start a graduate program that also has nothing to do with nursing. Other than a short period of time when I first had my license, I have not worked as a nurse.

What’s a girl to do? Do I renew my California nursing license, even though I’m in the DC area and it won’t help me here? Do I renew it even though my educational and career choices are taking me farther and farther away from the field of nursing? Do I let the license go, despite still owing a considerable amount of money on my student loans? Do I commit to never nursing again even though I am well aware of how quickly plans can change?

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When I really stop to think about it, the one thing holding me back is the cost. I could renew my license, but there will be an additional fee every two years to keep it active. There will be more fees to start working in a new state. Then I will have to pay to keep THAT license up. There are continuing education requirements. It gets expensive quickly.

I’m not ready to let it go. I like knowing I have it there, sitting in my wallet, in case I ever need to fall back on it. I am employable in more than one field, and that’s okay. I earned the right to call myself a nurse, and even if I am not practicing, I don’t want to let all the time and money I spent on learning the trade to go completely to waste.

If you are struggling to make the decision to renew a professional license, and are worried about the costs of renewing or transferring it, don’t forget NMFA has professional funds you can use to help pay for continuing education, fees and other license related expenses.

Apply today!

Have you considered letting a professional license go because of expense or some other reason? How did you decide?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

4 Tips to Get Back on Track After New Year’s Resolution Failures

Studies show that by January 20th, most New Year’s Resolutions are busted. So, if we’re science-ing and being technical, my 2016 is ruined and my life is over because I ate rice crispy treats for dinner last night, instead of a salad. If we’re being honest, I also haven’t exercised every day, like I said I would in my New Year’s resolution Facebook post.

Let’s be real: who’s got time to eat all the salads and run all the marathons? Not me.

How can we get this resolutions train back on track without feeling like a complete rice-crispy-filled failure?

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I’ve got four tips:

Redefine your definition of success. And be okay with it. Expectations are the fastest way to kill your momentum when it comes to keeping those New Year’s resolutions. No matter what your focus is, you’re bound to find someone doing it better on social media. But that doesn’t have to kill your vibe. Instead, redefine success.

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and 27-year UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, coined his own definition of success as, “Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.”

Success = doing the best you can.

Pick new resolutions. I know, it seems like quitting. But it’s not. Did you do your best to keep your resolutions? If not, go back to tip #1. If you did give it your best, and couldn’t succeed, consider getting real with yourself; take a good look at the resolutions you made January 1st. Think about other goals you’re bound to achieve when you give it your best—maybe even something you can achieve multiple times, and maybe even by tomorrow. Pick attainable goals, keep your expectations in check, and you’ll be on the path to keeping your resolution longer.

Celebrate every single win. Once you redefine success, or maybe lighten your resolution load, you’ll find yourself meeting and exceeding your goals (#winning). Resist the urge to devalue yourself and your achievement for any reason—instead, stand in that awesomeness, own it, and celebrate that win. For extra self-satisfaction, write your successes on a Post-It and stick those bad boys some where you’ll see it all the time!

Appreciate each failure, and try again. Unless your resolution is to eat a rice crispy treat every day (and yay for leap years—366 rice crispy treats!), failure is bound to happen. Some may not face it, but many of us will. And the only way we keep from feeling like a lump of a human being with no ability to succeed, is to try again. Being able to appreciate a failure, no matter how unsettling, is hard. But getting up, dusting yourself off, and trying again is both necessary and powerful.

Consider this quote (one of my personal favorites) from President Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming… who at the best, knows…the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Success isn’t always winning, it’s found in the wanting, the trying, and the kick-butt ability to keep going, even when you fail.

So what if it’s only January 20th and your resolutions are shot? You get to start over and try again. You faced the arena, tried your best, and came up short…and that’s okay. The key is refusing to define yourself based on a stupid resolution or failure. You are not your failures.

You can get this train back on track! And if all else fails, the rice crispy treat thing is a great option.

How are you doing with your resolutions? Are you starting over? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager