Never Lose Intentionality

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Never Lose Intentionality by Sarah BradshawLast week I announced the next Intentional Photographer Workshop, and opened with sharing a bit about some changes ruminating in my heart and mind, in regards to this business of mine.

This morning I spent two and a half hours writing a long blog post, trying to explain some of the those changes, how they came about, and what they look like. I took a break and tried to sit down to finish the post, and had to start all over again. The first post had some great info, but it wasn’t what was on my heart to share. This is my heart…

Never Lose Intentionality by Sarah Bradshaw

Six weeks ago, while on vacation in Colorado, Buck and I had a long, hard, sweet conversation about me, my business, and our future together as a couple in this business. He shared things he has thought and felt for three years, but never wanted to voice. Wouldn’t you know, they were the same things that I thought and felt, but didn’t want to voice, either.

We told each other that we were fed up. We were done. We were tired.

We’re tired of my 60+ hour work weeks, being soooooo stressed every single day. Tired of my “I have to work tonight” texts to him in the afternoons, of the endless to-do list, and the treading water feeling that characterizes nine months out of my year. Tired of pouring my heart and soul into this business and seeing such a comparatively small financial return— not because of mismanagement or poor pricing, but because self-employment is expensive, and the time-cost ratio just isn’t high enough to satisfy us. Tired of the intense yearning for deep, real-life friendships that has to be set aside because of time and schedules, tired of the “maybe next month” accompanied by a sigh of resignation, tired of loneliness even when surrounded by friends.

If you were to read a transcript of that conversation— only the words, and not the tones, the tenderness in my husbands eyes, and the physical relief that immediately washed over me— you may think his words to me were a death blow, piercing the heart and crushing every dream. But for me, my husband’s honesty gave me permission to be open with him, as well. Because we feel the same way.

Dear reader, let me take a moment and be perfectly clear with you— I am not quitting my job or leaving the wedding industry. I love wedding photography, my husband supports me in it, and I plan to do it for as many years as I can make it work, which will be at least 10 years. Hopefully closer to 25.

What happened in that conversation is that we both realized that they way that I work just isn’t working. We both want this career to sustain us for the long haul— it’s an incredibly flexible job that I am good at and enjoy, so we’re not willing to give it up. But things have to change. We want more out of life than social media buzz, long work hours, and “the satisfaction of a job well done.” We want real, face-to-face relationships. We want community, we want to value time with family, and we want to make memories that have nothing to do with our jobs and the Internet. We want a quiet, simple, peaceful life.

Never Lose Intentionality by Sarah Bradshaw

I came home from Colorado both excited and confused. I’ve felt this way before, this frustration with myself, this “I’m Done” feeling about work culture. I’ve blogged about these moments of conflict, too— here, and here,  and especially here. Somehow, though, this time seemed different. The answer wasn’t as simple as looking at my Core Beliefs and giving myself a “remember who you are and why you do what you do” pep talk. No, things needed to radically change.

Over a year ago I wrote a post redefining success for myself. I quoted Mary Marantz, and the quote is worth reposting:

These goals that you listed… those aren’t really the dream. They only feel like the dream because that’s what success happens to look like right now… when you base success on a checklist of what it looks like for everyone else at that particular point in time, that success will always, always be just beyond your grasp. And there will always be just one more thing to add to the list. So you will spend your life in the pursuit of More. More, more, more just to barely keep up.

Instead, I’d rather see you as the one who invents a whole new version of success that no one has ever seen before. One for all of us to look up to. Step bravely out as a leader, the world needs more leaders. Don’t just do what has already been done.

Never Lose Intentionality by Sarah Bradshaw

I realized I can’t just make some minute changes that make me feel better about myself but don’t affect the way that I work. I need to strip this all down to skeletal framework, double-check my foundation, and rebuild. Here are a few of those changes that are happening in the rebuild:

1. No More Impossibly High Standards.

Creatives are people who are naturally their own worst critics. To quote a man who worked for years in the advertising industry, “We tend to set ourselves impossibly high standards, and are invariably our own toughest critics. Satisfying our own lofty demands is usually a lot harder than appeasing any client… Most artists and designers I know would rather work all night than turn in a sub-standard job. It is a universal truth that all artists think they are frauds and charlatans, and live in constant fear of being exposed. We believe by working harder than anyone else we can evaded detection… You don’t have to drive creative folk like most workers. They drive themselves. Just wind ’em up and let ’em go.” (This whole post was revolutionary for me. Well worth the read)

The Wedding Industry is populated almost entirely by creative people who “drive themselves,” and we’ve created a culture of unnecessarily (and sometimes impossibly) high standards to live up to. And now in the era of blogging and social media and sharing, we not only have our clients to please, and our own voices in our heads telling us that we’re not delivering the product that we should, we now have every other [photographer, florist, planner, calligrapher, etc] wedding professional in our field showing their work and exposing our own insecurities to ourselves.

I work very hard to ensure the images I deliver to my clients are the best possible quality. I bend over backwards to make my clients feel cared for at every point throughout the process, from initial booking to wedding day interactions to final product delivery. I also have a family. That means I have office hours, and limited weekend availability, and I am absolutely okay with that. I have to be okay with that. No more feeling guilty because my photographer friend over there has a faster turn-around time.

2. No More Glorifying the Hustle For the Sake of the Hustle.

Don’t get me wrong— I’m all about the hustle. I’m a #GirlBoss, and I LOVE hard work and to-do lists as much as the next Type-A entrepreneur out there. Deadlines? Fuel for my fire. Things look impossible? I’m a Leslie Knope optimist, folks (no seriously, she is the extroverted version of ME). Nothing gets me down. Sure, I get overwhelmed, but I always get it done.

The thing is, I like the stress that comes with trying to get things done. I read a post by Shauna Niequist this week that sounded like she wrote my own autobiography— I’ve been “busy” for nine years. I keep saying, “this is just a season,” but if I’m honest with myself, really truly honest with myself, this isn’t a season. This is a choice. Like Shauna, I like to be busy, so it doesn’t usually bother me. But what seemed fun in the beginning (and still sounds fun when I tell other people what I do), the day-to-day isn’t fun anymore. It hasn’t been for a really, really long time.

“You know what I’m talking about: when your mind has to work seven steps ahead instead of just being where you are, because this deadline’s coming, and the laundry has to get done before that trip, because you can’t forget to pack snowpants for school, and you need to beg for more time on this project. Again.” (Her entire post is worth reading. Short and sweet and powerful and YES).

I’m done with that. There is a time and a place for buckling down and working really hard to get over that last pile of work so you can start to see the horizon again, but that should be a short time with a defined end and with a fixed purpose in mind. Me? I keep adding to that pile. Because it feels good to say “Work is crazy right now.” It puffs my pride. But that’s a lousy excuse for not being present with the people that I love when I’m with them.

There are some parts of work that I’ve assumed I have to do because other people do them. I’m reevaluating all of those. If I’m going to spend time on this business, it better be on something that I believe adds value to my business, to my client experience, to my professional expertise, or to the quality of my family life. If it doesn’t fit those, then maybe I’m doing it just for the hustle.

3. Never Lose Intentionality.

I would rather be faithful than famous. I would rather have face-to-face relationships than a large following on Facebook and Instagram. I would rather be present in this moment than multitasking my way through this week and next. I want to live my life with my obituary in mind. What will be said of me when I have nothing left to give? What lasting value will I add, what legacy will I leave? (And is there a way to remove “busy” from my vocabulary??)

I want my children and grandchildren to remember love, mercy, compassion, humility, a servant’s heart, and a mom who always had time to listen. I want them to always know that their parents loved them, loved each other, loved Jesus, and loved other people well. I don’t want them to remember me as a workaholic, stress-obsessed woman without boundaries who never learned to say no.

And if I want that in 30 years, I have to start building that now.

Never Lose Intentionality by Sarah Bradshaw

Practically, what does this all look like?

  • Quieter on social media. I love Facebook and Instagram, but I’m balancing my time there with time spent on client care, so you may hear from me a bit less.
  • Fewer blog posts. Fewer images in my blog posts. Most of my blog readers are other photographers. That’s wonderful! I love sharing information with others in the industry. That’s why I teach workshops. But blogging is time-consuming, and most of my wedding clients don’t have the time to wade through 60+ images to see a wedding day. So my posts are going to be a short highlight reel (which, hopefully, will allow for more consistency).
  • Unfollowing other blogs. I love keeping up-to-date on friends’ work in the wedding industry, but if it tempts me to overwork or hustle-just-to-hustle, I shouldn’t follow them any longer.
  • I will be unashamed and firm on my boundaries. No more guilt for setting aside Thursday nights for date night. No more embarrassment for not blogging yesterday, because I worked on clients’ images all day, and clocked out at 6pm. No more taking my office with me in my head.
  • I will keep my priorities in order. God, then family, then work. It has to stay in that order. If any of them flip, it’s a major problem.

Obviously, this is all a journey for me, and I’m sure things will evolve over time. Thankfully, there is abundant grace for every new phase. (If you read this far— thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me. Please at least comment so I know I wasn’t speaking to thin air.)


PS— If you’re interested in learning more about building a business that supports a life, consider attending The Intentional Photographer. And if you are on the fence about whether or not it would be a good fit for you, read this blog from previous attendee Chelsea: “The Best Thing I Did For My Business.”  And just a reminder that the discount code is good for just two more weeks, so register soon! Use code “earlybird” to save $100 off your workshop seat!



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comments +

  1. Kimmie says:

    I read, I loved it all, and was encouraged – you have been at this for far longer than I, but I already know those feelings and it scares me. I’m thankful to you for voicing them and allowing me to know that it’s OK for me to feel that way, too!

  2. Kat says:

    “Never loose intentionally” I like that idea! Kudos to you for taking a step back and refocusing on what you need. Creatives must do this from time to time in order to continue being able to create.

  3. amen, amen, amen. I’m so proud of your courage and boldness my friend. Choosing life instead of working 24/7 is the counter-cultural movement in this season and I’m excited to follow someone who chooses that. Thanks for inspiring and encouraging us all.

  4. Maria says:

    You weren’t just speaking to thin air. This was beautiful and soul wrenching and something we all need to very carefully think through. Thank you for living for Jesus above all, and for being honest when you don’t. Thank you for writing this.

  5. Hannah Koehn says:

    Thank you for your honesty and sharing your heart, Sarah! This is something I needed to hear so badly!

  6. Ann Hoang says:

    I love your honesty and transparency. These same things have been resonating in my heart and I’m so, so glad you wrote this!! You’re an inspiration in this industry, Sarah. Thank you!

  7. Yes! This has been the cry of my heart this year as well. Making plans to restructure for 2016 that allow more space to breathe and live and create. Thanks for writing!

  8. Allison says:

    Yes & Amen!! Been thinking along very similar lines recently, and I echo that ‘work is crazy busy’ feels good to say sometimes. But it doesn’t actually feel good, because I don’t want to remember life as just ‘busy’ (even though lots of great things were accomplished, people served well, etc.) I, like you, want to be remembered as an actual human woman, depending on the Lord and having a life infused with His glorious presence.

    Don’t you just love being married and finding out how alike you and Buck are? Same thoughts, and concerns, same immense relief and delight in connecting on such a deep level? 🙂 🙂

  9. Amber Quann says:

    Thank you Sarah! As I am working on developing my business and in the “all this craziness is fun” stage, your post was a helpful reminder to remember the important things, to set boundaries, and to recognize that being busy is a choice even though it is how we, as Type-A entrepreneurs, often think it is necessary to live in order to be “successful”. Your words have given me great food for thought!

  10. Shaina Duryea says:

    Yes, yes yes yes yes yes yes. 🙂

  11. Megan Kelsey Marcus says:

    Ohhhhhh Sarah this is sooo, so good. This post is so full of godly wisdom. This is how we are meant to live our lives! I love you!!

  12. Sarah McLachlan says:

    This was a breath of fresh air that my overworked soul needed <3 There are a million things I could say about this but simply THANK YOU.

  13. Carolyn McRae says:

    Such beautiful honesty, Sarah. My heart feels full for you & your newfound mindset!

  14. Lindsey Huang says:

    Such a beautifully written and honest post! Love your heart!

  15. Kristen Browning says:

    Oh, Sarah. My heart feels the same. I fully and completely understand what you’re saying here. I also went through this over the summer. And I am doing better. But it’s a struggle. It’s so easy to let your heart crave for the things, the views, the likes, the pride boosters. But my motives are now filtered through my core values and my “why” behind my business. Thanks so much for sharing your heart today.

  16. Brittany Thomas says:

    I am in the same boat, although I don’t feel mine has tipped over just yet. This is my 4th year in business and, since I started, I’ve had two daughters and left my full-time job. When I say I “stay home” or “work from home,” it’s really both. It’s me and my computer and two kids under 3. I don’t have a babysitter or a studio somewhere, I am answering e-mails with the baby playing at my feet and my toddler running in circles around my desk chair. I have to be SO careful about how I’m spending my time because every minute of the day counts and I can’t afford to waste it.

    I have some better systems in place now than I did two years ago – editing is faster, client experience is more streamlined, etc. – but it’s getting harder and harder to have a balance between work and family. My husband is a police officer so his schedule is always changing and he’s gone 60+ hours a week – his schedule combined with the needs of our children makes having regular “office hours” a pipe dream.

    So…we’re thinking about things, how to make it better for our family while still allowing me to do work I enjoy. Thank you for writing about this so candidly and with practical ways to make changes. It’s hard for me to figure out what works best because our situation is so unique – I feel like most photographers I follow don’t have children or they are a husband and wife team or they have a studio somewhere that easily separates work from home. Thank you, Sarah!

  17. Lauren Payne says:

    Thank you for this much needed reminder.

  18. Lori Tran says:

    This post stopped me in my tracks today. I should be hustling out wedding flowers right now but this morning I took time to enjoy my coffee and read this lovely post. I just love your honest writing!

  19. Katrina Graham says:

    Absolutely perfect! Thank you so much for sharing. My people-pleasing-too-hard-on-myself-heart needed to hear it all!

  20. Renaud Boitouzet says:

    You weren’t speaking to thin air.
    One sentence hit me hard: “Because it feels good to say ‘Work is crazy right now.’ It puffs my pride. But that’s a lousy excuse for not being present with the people that I love when I’m with them.”

  21. Alexandra Mateo Schuh says:

    Sarah! I am so encouraged. Thank you for being so transparent and honest. I have felt the same exact way! I’m inspired by the changes you’re making and want to do the same! Grateful to God for you!!

  22. Tara Pattengale says:

    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!!!!! I have followed your work and your musings for a bit now and I’ve always loved your sincerity. I tell my boyfriend (long distance) about the things you say and geek out over how much I agree with you. Thanks for being honest. I just celebrated 1 year of business and all the pressures and finding the balance and worrying over not being seen if I’m not being consistent enough etc is HARD. I’ll stop rambling…..THANK YOU SARAH! And thank you for sharing about Buck so often. I love following along and it’s given me “permission” to include my guy a bit more too. Because, really, at the end of the day he matters more. Xoxox

  23. Haley says:

    You’re doing the right thing… you won’t be on your deathbed thinking about your work. You’ll be thinking about your journey in life and the people who made the journey worth while. I used to work in the wedding photography business and I left partially because I wanted to experience my own memories instead of capturing others. My lack of passion wasn’t worth the sacrifice. Don’t get yourself there. You’re too talented and intentional to burn yourself out prematurely.

  24. Ana Martínez Chamorro says:

    Sarah, thank you for speaking your heart out! I’m trying to get further into the industry and I already feel the pressures of having these unnatainable goals. I appreciate for really speaking out about what we need to remember: that our family and faith/values come before our work. Thank you so much for sharing your words!

  25. Alina Wall says:

    Lovely reading this from someones work I admire so much <3

  26. Karen Allen says:

    Yes, yes, a million times yes to everything you wrote!!! I have been going through the EXACTLY same thought process and struggle over the past year or so, primarily after my son was born. Watching him grow, being his mom, loving him and my husband well was the huge reminder I needed that THAT (after my relationship with Christ) is the thing that truly matters in this life. I am still learning to balance it all (and find the time and right words to blog about it), but thank you for sharing your heart!! I think you have touched many, many people through your post.

  27. Jennifer says:

    This is something we all struggle with. Thanks for the encouragement, the reminder and the links to the other postings on the matter!

  28. Paige Hallen Hanson says:

    Sarah, I so appreciate your leading us all with that example. You’re not speaking to thin air!

  29. Crystal says:

    I almost teared up while reading this. I am not self-employed, but I have a blog that is close to being monetized and I write fiction that I would love to have published one day. I also have a full-time job that I absolutely love but takes so much energy. One of the reasons I’d like to monetize my blog (I love my blog, but my true writing passion is fiction and I don’t feel like I’ve “written” until I’ve worked on a story) is to have a side income that will allow me to stay in my current job as long as possible. (I work for a small church/school.) Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about my schedule and how much time I spend working. I love everything that I do, but I’ve also come to realization that I can’t spend all my waking hours working and I have to have limits. I’m slowly starting to figure out what that looks like for me as I balance these three parts of my life that I love so much. 🙂

  30. Meghan Murphy says:

    I’ve been meaning to read this post, but just haven’t gotten around to it until now. Sarah, God is going to bless you in countless ways for your love of eternal beauties versus fading glimmers of glory. Your humble heart and goals have convicted me more than you will ever know… And I can tell you this, as your longings stay this, our Father WILL give you the desires of your heart. Thank you for being open, honest and vulnerable. Praying the Lord blesses you and your husband richly with continued faithfulness and joy.

  31. Michelle Kleitsch says:

    This is wonderful! Thanks for the reminder to not be guilty about establishing priorities in our life and sticking to them.

  32. Holly Smith says:

    I’ve been having pretty much the same thoughts for a long time. I’ve wanted to blog about it, but there has just been so much in my head that I have no idea how to put it all in to words right now! Thank you for the assurance that I’m not the only one feeling this way! 🙂

  33. […] THAT’S what this blog post was all about… Well, yes and no. Expecting our first baby has definitely changed the way […]

  34. Sarah Edwards says:

    Thank you for this, Sarah! It was the encouragement I needed this morning as I try to get my priority list back in line! And congratulations!!!

  35. Rici says:

    Dear Sarah! Thank you for putting the effort into those precious words!! You are so on spot! Well done! Go and rock your priorities! Be blessed! 🙂

  36. […] on their own. I have to plan for them. I talk about this all the time, right? The importance of having a plan in place, and a purpose behind that plan, and setting goals to help you succeed? Even I, “Miss […]

  37. Brittney says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your voice and your honesty about these aspects of this business and lifestyle speak so clearly to me. I find comfort in them and gained a new perspective on a lifestyle and business I’m currently starting to build for myself. I’m so happy I stumbled onto your site today, even though at first I was feeling guilty for reading your blog instead of replying to clients and getting through my to-do list. I plan to live more intentionally because it has to be that way. Like you said, “Because it feels good to say ‘Work is crazy right now.’ It puffs my pride. But that’s a lousy excuse for not being present with the people that I love when I’m with them.” I hope you’ve stuck to your resolutions. Cheers!

  38. […] dreaded what this newness would do to my business. I’m afraid of losing relevance, afraid of losing purpose, afraid that I’ll get lost in the thicket of business-and-motherhood and one day lift up my […]

  39. […] happen on their own, and if I want to do more than sit on my tush and watch Netflix all day, I need a plan in place, and a purpose behind that plan, to make things […]

  40. […] talk a lot about intentionality. Why it’s important. Why you shouldn’t lose it. How to keep it. I even wrote an entire workshop on it, for crying out loud. But when I look back […]

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