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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 2024: ENERGY (Business And Personal Goals)

February 1, 2024

Coming off of the heels of a very fun 2023 recap, I am having similar hopeful feelings about my word for 2024.

This post feels harder than in years past because I have taken a bit of a break to rehabilitate my relationship with goals. As a very goal-oriented person, I have always had something I was working towards. Something to achieve.

What I’ve learned in the stillness of these past few years is the importance of CLARITY and DIRECTION (head over to More Than Creative to see how I apply this to business).

You have to have CLARITY first – you need to know who you are. Your values, your vision, your why. Who you want to spend your time around and how you want to spend it. 

Then you can focus on your DIRECTION – with a solid foundation you can start to build and run towards the next stage while keeping the bigger picture in mind, which can be tricky when you’re also told to live in the present.

This is a huge reason I love “words for the year” because they encompass every bit of that complexity. They can inspire specific and measurable goals of the present, but also, hold space for the unknown future and how the story will unfold. 

Here’s your yearly reminder of my journey and past words:

2017: FOCUS


2019: TRUST

2020: NOW


2022: NEW

2023: PUSH


If you’re been following along, I have been really open with how stuck I was at the beginning of 2023. The word PUSH came to me, and I was reluctant. I was exhausted and broken, and the thought of such a strong word just felt like more work. 

But like I said in last year’s post, a lot of getting unstuck is to PUSH yourself. To take control. To charge up the mountain and to know that you can do more than what you think you’re capable of.

I have been really hesitant to review these goals I set for myself a year ago because there was a moment in early 2023 where I really had to surrender…and with that came the release of some of my goals. 

But here we go…still pushing myself. Let’s dive in and see how I did! 


This was definitely a year of me healing my relationship with content. I am still working through some mindset obstacles, but overall, I am proud of challenging myself to just start creating again.

With the help of Weston, we started More Than Creative, The Podcast to share our musings of the newest business venture. I loved sitting down with him, talking through our thoughts in long form. I have put a pause on it after around 11 episodes, so I could re-evaluate the direction I want to take it, and that’s okay. There was a LOT learned in trying out a new medium!

Speaking of new mediums, 2023 was also my year of Tik Tok, less for business and more for fun. I loved sharing my running journey online. I learned that content for me needs to have as little obstacles as possible in the post-production or it will live on my phone forever. It’s easier for me to talk while I’m recording than to try to narrate later. It was a lesson in planning ahead, learning how to narrate in the moment, and working through roadblocks.

Both of these types of content helped remind me why I love creating in the first place – it allows me to reach people in a way I can’t always do in-person and to feel connected on a deeper level. There’s a relationship built when someone actively volunteers to listen to you for an hour or to follow along a journey. 

You will continue to see more from me this year!


I worked alongside multiple businesses this year to help create content – many of them repeat clients. I was able to collaborate with them beyond just photos, by digging into the messaging strategy, writing website copy, designing and building websites, mapping out sales processes, and really getting to the root of why they do what they do – and then how to communicate that.

I’m thankful for the time spent in 2023 to help me understand better how I want to partner with brands and businesses so I can really put some muscle and energy behind it in 2024.

PS. One of the ways I’ve evolved my process is the services I’m offering to brands!! This includes on-going shoots, short form video, and studio sessions. You can reach out here if you want to learn more!! 


He’s always been here as my partner on the wedding day, but now he’s taking on even more of a role with Dakota Hersey Photography…you know him, you love him – It’s WESTON! 

We have surely evolved from the original days of working together when he was just a senior in high school. Now our days are spent sitting across from each other, integrating him more into the business, and starting to hand things off, so everyone has a better experience.

If you work with me in the future, you will see Weston in your inbox and not just on your dancefloor!


I was able to attend the Creative Educators Conference in January and that was a huge inspiration for the coming year. I did think I would be going to at least one other event but I read the dates wrong and it’s actually happening in 2024 LOL. 

I did do a lot more offline in 2023, just more on the personal side and less on the business. That’s okay!


I have curated and found almost all of the pieces I wanted to have my vision for my house come to fruition – beautiful new leather couch, new fun green swivel chairs, a console table for a record player, new rugs with fun colors, things hanging on the wall, a coffee table to display books and vinyls, bookshelves for my desk, a patio set for sitting in the sun, a huge fancy mirror and a comfy chair for my bedroom.

Plus I was finally able to replace my fireplace with built-in cabinets and shelves and I cannot WAIT to finish with paint!!!


I celebrated first on my own with a photoshoot inspired by 90s Calvin Klein ads and the confidence I have with nothing other than myself (shoutout Aster Blooms Photography!!!), and then spent my actual birthday being celebrated by friends and family with a lunch on the water followed by a party bus and a surprise party with a hot dog bar, vintage cake, letter lights, balloons, and all custom merch!!! 

I cried, lol.


I did it!! I kept disposables on hand and even started using the film camera Weston thrifted for me. Now to just get them developed… I am so excited to sit down and review moments throughout my year that I haven’t seen yet. 

While I need to get more comfortable with the completion process, I am enjoying the freedom of film and will be keeping this up in the future!! 

2024: ENERGY

Typically when it comes to choosing my word for the year, I first wait for something to reveal itself (usually it feels very spiritual like my word is part of a much bigger picture), and then I dig into the actual definition to find and confirm the vision.

While the definition of ENERGY is “the capacity to do work,” I am relating more into the spiritual definition…you know, “vibes” haha – the idea of 4 different types of energy:

  • Physical (the quantity of our energy)
  • Emotional (the quality of our energy)
  • Mental (the focus of our energy)
  • Spiritual (the force of our energy)

With all of the work I have put into understanding myself, what I want, how I feel, and how to communicate that with clarity and kindness, now I feel passionate and protective.

I want to be surrounded by good ENERGY, in every sense of the word.

Physical – I want to continue challenging myself physically, by running, lifting, swimming, and staying active. I want to eat healthy food that fuels my body. I want to sleep well, with a nighttime routine that allows me to wake up early and spend my morning on the beach, setting myself up for success. 

Emotional – I don’t want to feel drained or anxious. I want to have relationships that feel honest and supportive. They don’t necessarily always have to be “happy,” but they do have to be real. I want depth and a safe space to explore emotions and thoughts. I also simply want them to be fun!!! 

Mental – I want to feel focused on what I’m doing and not to get distracted by wondering if something isn’t good enough or if it’s the right move. I want to have confidence that I can do this and to not slip into a place where I’m dissociating, so I can avoid something seemingly uncomfortable.

Spiritual – I want to live according to the values I know I hold true and release the expectation of trying to uphold values that aren’t mine (even if they are good!). I want to live in acceptance of what is reality and find peace as I move through life. I can be both intentional and driven and also at peace and fluid. 

Some of the specific things I want to accomplish this year are: 

  • Run a marathon (hehe, already did this!) and set a new PR for my half marathon on the anniversary of my first race
  • Paint my house with color (it’s time to add some character!)
  • Go to Europe (currently planning a trip for London, Paris, and the South of France!)
  • Build my savings accounts back up – prioritize where I’m spending my money
  • Hit and maintain 100 lbs of muscle 
  • Go snowboarding
  • Photograph 20 weddings
  • Get the tattoo I’ve been wanting
  • Take quarterly planning seriously
  • Write more (publish more blog posts)
  • Capitalize on my batched schedule this year (somehow all of the weddings are in the same months!)
  • Discover more of my personal style
  • Overcome Instagram grid anxiety
  • Transition More Than Creative into a sustainable monthly source of income

I really can’t say enough about how much growth this list reflects. I remember the days when you would have asked me my goals and they would have all been business and achievement related.

My life feels so full and well-rounded. 

I can’t wait to keep feeding that ENERGY (hehe, see what I did there?).


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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