happy-new-year2016 was easily one of the happiest for me in recent years, but the last three months were especially wonderful, where I hit my stride personally and professionally.  October is always a happy month for me, full of excitement as the holidays approach, but this particular October 1st was transformative in such a deep way that I can only describe it as an awakening. Things I had been working on for a very long time (relationships, fitness, diet, dreams, etc.) clicked for me and as a result I entered the last three months of the year with a vigor that I hadn’t experienced before. I am beginning 2017 with new clarity and there’s nothing better than that!

Over the past few years I have been doing this post, chronicling what worked and what didn’t in the previous year and assigning a word at the start of each year as a focal point for progress and growth. While it’s great to reflect and learn from what worked and what didn’t and set new goals for the upcoming year, the act of choosing a word to focus on is especially important to me because it becomes a sort of prophetic word over my life for the year. It never fails to transform me in some way. In 2014 my word was converge, which means to bring all things together.  In 2015 my word was surrender, and boy was THAT a year that really set the scene for 2016 where my words (because 2016 required two) were consistency and discipline.  Now that I think about it, the fact that I was working really hard to be consistent and disciplined throughout the year is probably part of the reason the last few months were so wonderful.

Read on as I share what worked in 2016, what didn’t, who inspired me, as well as my word and goals for 2017.

WHAT WORKED IN 2016:
Below is my list of accomplishments (professionally and personally) and things in general that worked for me in 2016. It’s so easy to play the comparison game, but please don’t.  This list is where I document progress and through it I share with you my triumphs as a testament to what can be accomplished when you work hard and surround yourself with great people.  It is by no means a brag sesh.  I hope this list serves as inspiration that you CAN make big strides in your life and business if you remain diligent, consistent, brave, and love what you do.  Here we go!

In 2016….

-I began seeing a therapist and it is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.  I simply came to an impasse with work and balance, relationships and growth and needed wise and unbiased guidance from a qualified person.  Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family are great and smart sources of encouragement but I wanted to dig deep and felt it selfish to do that with my closest people.  So to spare them the entangled mess that is my brain I brought on a professional and it has been amazing.  There is nothing like being able to openly discuss every thought and issue, whether professional or personal, with zero pretenses!  This could also be why I found my stride in October, as I had been seeing my therapist for 6 months by then.  My only regret is not doing it sooner – like when I was 20.
-I finally figured out how to balance my love of food with my lifestyle and have lost 23 pounds since July!  This was (is) huge for me!  Following a mostly ketogenic diet and limiting carbs worked (works) like magic for me.  When I was trying to slim down after baby #3 several years ago I was successful at losing the weight but hated my diet of bland, boring food consisting of ground turkey, brown rice, steamed broccoli, egg whites, 10 almonds, zero flavor or fun.  I was MISERABLE and felt deprived, so naturally had a hard time sticking with it and would binge once a week on my “cheat” day on Chinese food and Ranch Doritos.  A friend of mine who is a nutritionist suggested I had a fat deficiency and I laughed out loud because…I mean…have you seen these curves?!  Ha!  But now I get the whole eat-fat-to-lose-fat thing – and she was right.  Restricting good fats didn’t work for me and I’ve never felt better eating high fat, moderate protein, and low carb.  I am never hungry, I don’t miss refined carbs much at all, and when I really really want something carb-heavy, I have what I want and move on with life.  I plan to blog more about this in the future as it’s been so life-changing for me.
-I created The REFINE Course for wedding planners and had the pleasure of sharing what I learned after a decade as a wedding planner with amazing entrepreneurs.  This project took me a year to complete and was not easy at all.  In fact, it was so involved and difficult that I briefly quit (3 times)!  Thanks to my sister Megan, who practically forced me to keep going (thanks Meg!), I launched the course in April to great reviews and feedback, and have had a few additional launches since.  The next live launch of the REFINE Course is in February, and you can sign up for the alert for that launch here.
-The REFINE Community on Facebook, a group for Wedding Planners, grew from 800 wedding planners to over 1500 wedding planners in 2016!  The REFINE group is all about support, encouragement, and education and I truly adore my REFINERS.  We had our first REFINE Mixer in Las Vegas and it was so awesome meeting so many REFINERS in person!  The word on the block is that there will be an intimate REFINE Retreat in 2017, so stay tuned for that too!
-I followed my dream of enrolling in culinary school and began in November 2016 (which was actually mentioned on my 2015 ‘what worked’ list!).  I don’t have a plan with this.  It’s a dream I’ve had because I love food and nutrition and I love loving people through really great meals.  To my surprise, I’m really really good at this.
-I woke up at 5am for 20 weeks to work out.  BOOM.  That’s all.
Just kidding, that’s not all. :) Being consistent with fitness really pays off!  Who knew??  ;)  I LOVE the Sweat With Kayla app by Kayla Itsines and have been doing BBG since August (completed my first round end of November; round 2 starts 1/9). What I learned was that most things that require some measure of consistency are not fun (at first).  They are uncomfortable and painful and you want to quit daily.  But if you manage to push through those feelings each day, each week, it all adds up.  And a few months later you find yourself walking around the house in your undies (to your kids horror but your husbands delight) because you feel damn fine.  And it’s like this with pretty much everything.  Time and dedication daily adds up to big gains.  That’s the secret, my friends.  Consistency.  Even a half-assed yet consistent effort will result in gains.  Do it.
-Again, LESS social media worked for me so well!  I spent less time on my phone and more time being present.
-Mark and I went away alone several times this year and it was revitalizing!  I have to admit, much of our trips revolved around food (again – see previous years) as a goal of mine was to experience more Michelin-rated restaurants, which we did in Napa (Bouchon and La Toque – both one star) and Las Vegas (Wing Lei and L’Atelier De Joel Robouchon – both one star).  Amazing food experiences that we both loved and we grew closer over some great meals.
-I spoke at the Pursuit Conference in Georgia as well as Wedding MBA in Las Vegas for my third time (this time on the big stage in front of over 600 people), and also had the pleasure of speaking at Overture Wedding Summit in Utah.
-Our family Joy Jar was a hit again this year!  We’ve been doing this for two years and it’s always fun to write down joyful moments throughout the year and read them on NYE.
-Mark and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary in November and I’m more grateful than ever for him.  Marriage is such an amazing thing.  It takes someone special to know everything about you and yet still choose to love you.  I’m blessed more than I deserve.
-I coached several wedding planners from all over the world this year including Washington, Canada, Texas, Italy, San Diego, and Costa Rica! I love coaching and will continue to do it in 2017.
-As a family we took trips to San Luis Obispo, Yosemite, San Diego, Disneyland, and Universal Studios.  Our kids are 12, 8, and almost 7 years old and we love traveling and going on fun trips with them!
-Doing the hard stuff first worked so good.  Every night before bed I make my list of the next days to-do’s and start with the hardest or least exciting stuff first.  Once those things are out of the way I have the rest of the day to focus on what I really want to do without the nagging feeling of procrastination.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK IN 2016:
I shared with you some of what worked for me in 2016 but the following list is comprised of a few challenges I faced this past year.  I am FAR from perfect and frustrating struggles presented themselves often this past year.  Some are more personal than others and the very personal things I’ve excluded from this list (you’re welcome).

-Although I LOVE speaking at wonderful conferences, I will only consider and accept speaking engagements that are very purposeful and content-rich (ditto from last year).
-Saying ‘Yes’ when I should say ‘No’ never works for me!  I learned this lesson again this year.
-Slacking on my “diet”. Period.
-While I mostly got the consistent working out/diet thing down I struggled with being in the Word daily.  This is an on-going struggle and I’m done with it (the struggle, not the Word).
-Spending time hanging on to things that are pointless and fruitless.  I’m done with that too.
-Nagging does not work.  This year I learned the value in thinking before nagging and having more conversations with patience.  My family is grateful.
-Mark and I volunteered in our church’s high school ministry this year and as much as we enjoyed it and felt called to do it, I think God was teaching us a lesson in how biting off more than we can chew in a very busy season is not beneficial to our family.  We also learned that we’ll serve there again, but not while I’m in culinary school.
-Drama of any sort doesn’t have a place in my life.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and less tolerant or because of therapy, but life is short and precious and spending time on anything that lacks purpose isn’t worth it.
-Not spending time in the Word daily doesn’t work for me.  It’s unfortunate how despite our best intentions we gradually push the most important and life-giving things aside in favor of things that seem really important in the moment.  I’ll be working on this in 2017.

WHO & WHAT INSPIRED ME IN 2016:
-Julia Child: I became a big fan!  I always knew who she was and that she had a funny voice and huge personality, but I didn’t realize her contribution to American cooking until this year.  I think making the decision to start culinary school at 34 years old simply because I love food and find great food fascinating helped me to identify with Julia who began her own culinary journey for the same reasons at 37 years old.  She made me feel better about rolling up to school in my minivan. :)

-Chef’s Table on Netflix is an amazing series about extremely successful chefs and how they became who they are.  I’ve always loved documentaries and biographies so combine that with some element of food and you have my heart.  So so good.

-The BBG community on Instagram was a HUGE source of physical inspiration.  Seeing women reclaim their health and bodies is beyond inspiring and motivating.

-Visiting Napa and taking a short detour to Yountville to The French Laundry.  I tried for months to get a seat at the famed Thomas Keller restaurant with no avail – I even wrote him a message in hopes that my dreams of dining there would come true, but sadly it went unanswered.  That didn’t stop me from driving to TFL to trespass a little and peek in the windows.  I was amazed at their organic gardens across the street and secretly hoped Thomas would be on a walk and we’d strike up a conversation and he’d invite me to spend the day in the kitchen to observe him and his team before inviting me to stay for dinner where we’d start our journey as life-long friends.  Sigh.  A girl can dream.

-Professionally I was inspired by all my REFINERS who work hard daily to build a business they love.  Cheering them along as they overcome struggles and celebrate triumphs is such an honor.

-My kids Emma, Brody, and Kyndall were major inspirations this year.  They are more watchful than ever and their impression of and opinion about who I am matters very much to me.  I want them to be proud of their momma, so living with purpose daily is important.  They simply inspire me to do my best in hopes that they will do their best as well.

-And lastly, my husband Mark was a major source of inspiration for me this year.  He is just so solid.  Where I can be flighty, he is grounded.  When I’m tired and run down he picks up the slack.  When I’m confused and unsure he offers insight.  He is deeply committed and wildly patient and for that I’m so grateful.

MY WORD FOR 2017:
I believe assigning a word to the upcoming year that reflects what you intend/hope to happen/focus on can be energizing and prophetic.  My word for 2017: INTENTIONAL. Before I do anything I want to consciously pause and ask myself why.  What is my intention or purpose behind the action.  Whether it be something I eat, drink, watch, listen to, read, etc. I want to be intentional.

GOALS FOR 2017:
1) To be more disciplined in Bible study and prayer.
2) To take our kids to the snow.
3) To launch the REFINE Course at least twice.
4) To continue working out and eating well.
5) To go camping with my Dad.
6) To book our trip to the Azores in October (book it, not actually go until 2018).
7) To make Dean’s List at culinary school.
8) To write to my sponsored kids monthly.
9) To join a women’s group.
10) To regularly blog about life, business, culinary school, etc.

I wish you all many blessings in 2017 and the courage to let your lights shine!

Happy New Year! xo

Alison