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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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My One Word For 2020: NOW

January 6, 2020

I have been choosing a word that will set the direction and intention of my year for a while, but only taking it seriously (aka actually remembering what word I chose) since 2017. It’s something I really look forward to. 

I’m always amazed throughout the year when things start to happen that point back to my word, and it’s such a beautiful reminder of how intentionality produces results AND how there is a much bigger plan than what I could ever dream up for myself.

Each year I find myself making short lists of possible words, usually being torn between two. I give a few weeks (or days, depending on how behind schedule I am, ha!) to let the “real” word be revealed to me. It literally NEVER fails –– one always wins. I know for a fact that it’s my word because it makes me uncomfortable, excited, and quite honestly, won’t leave me alone. It’s just a gut feeling.

As a quick recap –– mainly for me because I love to reflect and be able to say “heck yeah! It’s working!!!” –– here’s what my last few years have looked like:

2017: FOCUS

This was a huge year for me. I had just started at Huify, a digital marketing agency, and was surrounded by people with the most determination and passion for growth (and each other). I had just ended a relationship I knew wasn’t right for me. I had moved back to Wilmington and was getting to jump back into my business after traveling for a year. I was making a solid group of friends and I was trying to figure it all out. A little lost, but VERY excited!

I chose the word FOCUS to remind me to not get lost in having a plan not go the way I intended, to put my head down and invest in what I wanted for the future, and to not get distracted by things that didn’t really matter or benefit me.

2017 resulted in huge growth for me, dreaming really big, deciding I wanted to specialize in just weddings and seniors (first spokesmodel team!), and challenging myself immensely in my professional career (became Director of Sales Enablement, then COO of Huify).


(Here’s the blog post from when I chose it!)

I honestly chose this word without knowing what was going to happen in 2018. It was the best example of me having a plan and then it going in a direction I didn’t see coming at all. But my word isn’t chosen based on circumstances –– it’s brought to me because it’s the biggest area of opportunity and growth (and usually in ways I wasn’t expecting!). 

I knew I wanted 2018 to be a year of CULTIVATING –– growing in skills, relationships, and passions that would later be harvested for my benefit. HOLY COW, did that deliver.

2018 was my biggest year of investment in education for my business. I took all of Katelyn James’ courses, attended Hope Taylor’s senior experience filming and her alumni trip to Nashville, and finished the year by attending Katelyn James’ final in-person workshop. I made SO many new friends within the industry that I can use as a resource and encouragement. 

After leaving the agency, I had more time than ever to pour into my business –– I redesigned my website from scratch, built out my workflows in my CRM system, Dubsado, I dedicated myself to creating more content, and started the second year of my senior spokesmodel program.

I began a new position at a new agency and continued to further my career as a marketing specialist and consultant. I focused on making current connections stronger and building new ones.

All that to say…I was able to quit my agency career and GO FULL TIME! 

Talk about cultivating and reaping a harvest 🙂

2019: TRUST

(Here’s the blog post from when I chose it!)

Obviously taking the leap of faith to quit your job and take responsibility fully into your own hands is scary. One of the scariest things I’ve ever done…but I also had peace about it because I knew I had prepared for this. Now I really only needed to TRUST the process…and mostly myself.

I had a lot of things I was nervous about for this year. I mean, being responsible for your rent and living expenses off of being self-employed is tough!! There is no monthly salary. There isn’t anyone figuring out your health insurance options. And if it doesn’t work…then YOU have to figure it out! 

While I chose the word TRUST for the reasons above, I saw this word come out in so many more ways this past year. I learned that in all of the craziness of the past 3 years, I had lost a lot of my confidence and independence. I have always loved control, but I was going overboard with trying to make sure everything happened exactly the way I saw it. I lost my trust in the plan –– that there is always a bigger picture, even when I didn’t get to control or know the outcome. 

I’ve had to trust in a lot more than my business plan this year, and I’m so thankful for the results.

Here’s what the end of 2019 looked like:

  • Full time business owner and successful entrepreneur who not only finished my first year full time with still being able to pay rent (ha!) but also exceeding my income goals
  • Attracting and working with clients that I LOVE
  • Continuing to challenge myself and put myself out there through video and doing hard things
  • Have Quickbooks set up and I know my numbers!!!
  • Planned a huge spokesmodel shoot and it was beautiful
  • Shot 10 gorgeous weddings and am looking forward to spending this next year with (already!!!) 14 couples!!

Even more importantly, I feel like I’m in such a better place when it comes to understanding what makes me tick, prioritizing quality time with myself, and communicating with those around me. 

It’s going to all come together eventually, and I just have to continue to trust in that.

So that leads us to 2020…

2020: NOW

I had two words I was really stuck between this year, but…

NOW is my word for 2020.

Throughout starting therapy and exploring what makes me anxious and excited, I learned a lot about myself. First, I am a planner and I LOVE control (obvi). I have my Google Calendar memorized and I am constantly thinking about what’s next.

On the flip side, I’m also very rooted in the past. I have a very good memory, so I can have a habit of replaying events, going over every detail, and analyzing every move. Sometimes it’s great because I can almost always remember where you left something (lol) but sometimes it’s unhealthy because I get stuck there.

Remembering the past and planning for the future isn’t inherently bad. They have clearly helped me get to where I am now. But too much of either leaves me forgetting about what’s most important –– right NOW.

Because apparently I love a good timeline, I also have developed a pattern of waiting to do things. You know, the classic “I’ll do ____ when ____…”

“I’ll travel more when I have more money.”
“I’ll buy a house when I’m married.”
“I’ll learn to cook when I have people to feed.”
“I’ll go to the gym when I’m not tired.”
“I’ll take and print more photos when I have kids.”

20-somethings, I know ya really feel me. 

A question my therapist (who is the BEST, btw) has consistently asked me is “why not right now?” Which of course I always have a not-very-good excuse, which is then followed by homework to challenge myself to figure out how I could make it happen.

To not live my life waiting for the next chapter.

I honestly love my life right now, and the truth is I’ll never get this back. This is my chance to live in my dream rental house with two of my best friends. To have a space that’s mine to decorate and lay around in all day. To eat lunch with my brother in-between his college classes. To be able to focus solely on growing my business. To do the things I love and really, really want to do.

So, the time is NOW

I’m not putting too many expectations on how this will play out because we’ve seen how that’s worked out in the past (usually for the better!), but I will be being intentional about focusing on what’s happening today and not putting my life on hold for the chapter (not quite that dramatic, but you get my point). 

I’m excited for saying yes to:

  • Vacations (even if they’re just on the weekends!)
  • Learning to cook
  • Getting physically stronger and more toned
  • Being confident in my financial plan
  • Outsourcing the things I’m not good at so I can spend more time doing the things I love
  • Documenting my personal life as much as I document other people’s

Here’s to the past, the future, and most importantly, right NOW 🙂 

Setting direction and intention for your year is SO important to achieving the big picture. I would LOVE to hear what your word is for 2020 (obviously I’m super passionate about it!). Please, please comment below or share with me on Instagram!

HAPPY 2020 Y’ALL!!!!


I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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