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iPhone 7 Plus vs Full Frame DSLR

The iPhone 7 Plus: A Total Gamechanger

I have had butterflies in my stomach ever since the iPhone 7 Plus was announced. As a professional photographer and content creator, the new iPhone's camera specs had me drooling. I preordered the 128 GB Black Plus model shortly after they were released and it arrived in mid October. Shortly after that, iOS 10.1 was released which included the new Portrait Mode feature in the native Camera app. 

Since this release, I have entirely changed the way I document life. Instead of having a DSLR at my hip all the time to capture home memories or photos for my blog or Instagram, I now have a high quality camera in my pocket. After looking closely, there are some major differences between the photos taken with my iPhone and my Nikon D750. Apple still has a lot of work to do, but I am still extremely impressed with the results. 

Because I have been so blown away by the photos from my iPhone, I decided it would be fun to do a comparison shoot. With the help of my friend Courtney, we went to Old Town, Lansing and took some side by side comparisons!

Before showing the photos, first let me explain some of the updates to the camera and the details of what Portrait Mode is. 

The iPhone 7 Plus is the first iPhone to have two lenses built in. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Ummmm, why would I need two lenses?"

Great question.

One of the lenses is the standard 28mm focal length that has been in the previous iPhone models. However, now there is an additional 56mm lens next to it! This means you can take photos like you always used to, or you can hit a little "2X" button on the screen and you have double the zoom! The Camera app also has a 10X digital zoom. 

Not only did Apple add a new lens, they also improved the existing one! The 28mm lens also has an improved aperture. It used to be f/2.2, but it is now f/1.8! This allows your camera to focus more on the subject and blur out the background even more. The camera also has a more sensitive sensor which will allow for better low light photos and more overall sharpness.

Ok, I think that covers the hardware updates. Now let's move on to the software. When iOS 10.1 was released, it included a new feature called Portrait Mode. In the Camera app, if you swipe to the left, you will see this new mode listed on the bottom of the screen. When you point your camera at a subject, you will see instructions on screen. It will tell you to either move closer to your subject or move farther away. The camera works best if you are within 8 feet of your subject. Once you are in the right spot, you will see the background of your photo completely blur out. This is completely software based. The app analyzes your subject and automatically finds areas of the foreground or background and blurs them out like a DSLR camera would do. 

This feature is so incredible and you will be so hooked once you try it! It has a lot of limitations because it is software based, but I'm hoping updates in the future will continue making it even better. 

Now that you know what it is, check out some photos from our shoot. Here are three photos taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Photos

Pretty impressive, right? The software typically does a great job finding which parts of the image to blur out, especially if you are shooting in a bright area. These photos were taken about thirty minutes before sunset, so it was fairly low light, but it still did great!

Now let's compare these photos to my full frame beast, the Nikon D750.

When you look at them side by side, you can see there are some pretty significant benefits to shooting with a full frame DSLR, but the iPhone photos still look impressive. One thing to note is that the iPhone photos were taken as .jpeg files and the Nikon photos were shot as RAW, which is why the colors look a bit different. The same settings were applied to each in Lightroom.

From a distance, these photos look comparable, minus the color difference and the bokeh in the Nikon's photos being a lot creamier. But what happens when we take a closer look?

In this close up comparison, you can see the photo from the D750 is a lot clearer and more crisp than the photo from the iPhone. The iPhone photo has a lot of grain and pixelation when zoomed in this much.

Another huge issue I have seen with Portrait Mode is contrasting edges. When you look close at some hard edges in the image, you will see that the software doesn't quite blur enough of the background and leaves a strange looking line. Look at this close up as an example:

When you zoom in to the edges in the iPhone photos, you will see issues like this quite often. It's frustrating, but it's fairly minimal when you aren't zoomed in and I'm hoping that this can be fixed with software updates in the future. 

Summary

The iPhone 7 Plus is far from perfect. It's lacking in sharpness, low light capabilities and edge recognition. However, that's only when comparing it to a full frame DSLR, which isn't really a fair comparison. When you compare this camera to other smartphone cameras on the market, I would say it is definitely in the top three, if not the best. 

Portrait mode is a great tool for creatives and content creators. If you run a blog, have a large Instagram following, or just like taking photos, the iPhone 7 Plus is the best camera you will ever have in your pocket! Below you will find a few more photos I have taken with Portrait Mode. Enjoy and please share this article if it has helped you at all! And make sure to follow me on Instagram for more articles, tips, tricks and awesome photos posted daily! 

Stay Awesome!

 

Ethan

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links which, if used, help cover the cost of continuing this blog. Thank you for your support!

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Wanderlust

Last weekend I did something I have never done before. My wife and I were feeling rather adventurous. It had been a long time since we had a family vacation and it is always hard to find time to go somewhere simply for the purpose of relaxing. We decided we wanted to take a short weekend trip. 

While discussing where to go, a lot of options came up and we couldn’t decide what we wanted to do. It’s hard to plan a whole trip in just a weekend’s time. Finally, I had an idea. 

We packed our bags with only the essentials, buckled our two sons in the car and hit the road, without a destination in mind. My mind was screaming, “NOOOOO!!!” but I knew it would be a fun memory. See, I am a huge planner. My wife is too. You should have seen the notes we made while planning our wedding. I’ll just say there were a lot of cleverly formulated spreadsheets created, even for the simplest things. In my businesses, I have spreadsheets just to keep track of my spreadsheets… (Not really…) So with that being said, to just hop in the car for a weekend without a plan or a destination in mind was difficult! We hit the road and when we hit Lansing, we decided to head west. The radio was blaring and we were jamming while eating some dinner that we had just picked up. The sun was setting and we were dancing to the music, reminiscing about old memories and dreaming about the future. Our boys were great and even our seven month old Zion barely even cried! When we were nearing Grand Rapids we decided randomly to head South. After thirty more minutes, we got off of the freeway and started driving back roads. 

The reason I am writing about this is because of the feeling I had during this drive, and the entire trip. I felt so free. Like I had left all of my worries back in St. Johns and was free to dream. Free to love. Free to adventure. We ended up in the town of Saugatuck, on the coast of Lake Michigan. Neither of us had ever been here before. The town is built on both sides of the Kalamazoo river as it twists its way into the edge of the state. Sailboats floated slowly past us that evening as we sat on the pier.

Corban was eating some ice cream we had just bought him and Zion was wrapped snugly in his favorite blanket. We talked more as the sun finally peaked below the water and city lights came on. There was live music playing across the street in a bar and people of all ages were congregating to make memories. After a while of relaxing by the evening water we got back in the car and drove to a hotel that was close by. 

In the morning, we decided to keep driving. We headed north and realized we were very close to Grand Rapids. So we decided to meet up with my brother and his wife at their new apartment! They just got married in July, so it was a blast hanging out with them together in their new place. We spent the day with them in Grand Rapids, then drove with them to Holland to check out Tunnel Park. This was a beautiful park on Lake Michigan that you walk through a sand dune tunnel to get to. Afterwards we went to dinner with them at a local burger joint, then found another hotel for the evening.

When we got to the hotel Saturday evening, I already felt like we had a full vacation under our belts because of how many different people and places we had seen… But we still had our entire Sunday together! The sense of freedom I was experiencing almost seemed to make time freeze in its tracks. The next morning we visited a local church in Holland. It was called Engedi Church. We were blown away by their hospitality as they greeted us genuinely within seconds of walking through their doors. 

After the service, we spoke with some of their members for a while, grabbed lunch, and decided to hit the road and head back for home. 

My hope is that someday soon we can take another trip like this and I hope that you will as well. At the end of people's lives, no one says, “I wish I would have worked more…”

Dare to adventure and live your dreams.

Stay Awesome,

 

Ethan

 

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Why You Should Chase Your Dreams

You only live once...

We’ve all heard that line before. Most people use it in a comedic fashion right before doing something that they know is really stupid. I think we've all been there at one point or another... But what if we flipped the meaning of this overused saying? It’s true that you only live once. You only have one life. So why waste it? What if instead of using the expression to justify stupidity, we used it to ask how we are going to live the one life we have been given? 


We all have dreams. In our spare time we all think about things we wish we could spend more time doing and people we wish we could spend more time with. We all have a vision of what our lives would look like if there were no complications. We live in a world where nothing can be perfect. But why not strive towards perfection as much as we can? Life will have difficulties and things will go wrong regardless of whether or not you chase your dreams… So why not pursue something better? Why not provide a better life for yourself or your family? Why not unlock your potential? Why not take hold of greatness?


I decided to begin pursuing greatness in December, 2015 after watching a YouTube video of Jim Rohn teaching a conference. If you aren’t familiar with Jim, he was a great motivational speaker and author in the 80’s and 90’s who changed countless lives with his philosophies on time and money. Now, let me be clear. When I refer to greatness, I am in no way referring to anything related to money or finances. Financial gain is often a result of greatness, but it’s not what I’m talking about here. I am also not specifically referring to anything related to religion or faith. I am talking about being the best person you can be. Simply because I believe humans were created to be great. We were not created to be lazy and sit on the couch while watching Netflix every day. 


After hearing Jim speak, I began setting some goals for my life. I was not happy with the way I was living. I had a lot of bad habits that I couldn’t shake and it seemed like no matter what I did, I kept giving in to them.  After setting some goals and sticking with them, I am already seeing some huge results in my life and in my businesses. Let me tell you, it has not been easy. I work a full time job, run two businesses and try to spend a lot of time with my wife and our two boys. It takes discipline and sacrifice, but it can be done! All you have to do is set goals and then work towards them. That's it. Take action!


So if you’re feeling like your dreams are unachievable and you want to just give up… Don’t. Keep going! Stay the course. It will be worth it!

Stay Awesome,

 

Ethan

 

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The Next 68

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The Next 68

Today is my birthday. I’m 24 years old.

Writing that feels strange, because today feels just like any other day. I woke up at five o clock, showered, meditated, worked out and then read and journaled for a while like usual. It doesn’t feel like a birthday. After “the big two one,” birthdays aren’t something you look forward to as much, but there are a couple of things I still love about them.

I love that I usually get to spend extra time with my wife, children and the rest of my family on my birthday. I have recently learned that time with family and friends is something I value more than almost anything. I love listening to each other’s stories, playing games and just growing closer together. These are times that I took completely for granted growing up when I had so much free time and I truly miss them. So it feels extra special any time I am able to hang out with them.

The other thing I love about birthdays is that they force me to think about my life. They remind me that statistically, I am a certain percentage finished with my life on Earth. This is a sobering, yet exciting thought for me. The average male who lives in Michigan, USA lives to be seventy-five years, two hundred and fifty-one days, twenty hours and twenty four minutes old. 

I did the math and I am thirty-two percent finished with my life as of today. I try as hard as I can to be a glass-half-full sort of person whenever possible. So I decided that instead of thinking about the thirty-two percent that is over, I am going to focus on the sixty-eight percent that is yet to be passionately lived.

My first twenty-four years have been incredibly good. God has blessed me richly and I have learned to be so thankful for everything I have. I was able to grow up in a good, loving home, graduate High School with pretty good grades, get my photography certification, marry my dream girl, have two beautiful boys, start three successful businesses, advance in a full time job for the Michigan Treasury Department, purchase our dream home in the country on twenty acres, become involved in a local church that loves God and people with a passion and see my family grow through it all. 

I am reminded today of how good my life has been, but also that it could end any day. Life is not a guarantee. Every day we as humans drive sixty miles per hour in a vehicle only inches away from traffic that is traveling the opposite direction at the same speed. One small mistake could be the end. The way we eat in America causes most of us to be at a high risk of heart problems. People take a lot of different vitamins and medicine every day. One mistake at the factory where those pills are made could be how you go out. (Side note: medical errors is the third leading cause of death world wide.) There are so many ways that life could end unexpectedly. I don’t say these things to sound like a paranoid necrophobe; I am only saying that life is a fragile thing and it could end at any moment. I have made the commitment to live my life to the fullest. I wasted a lot of time in high school and in my early twenties. I am just now realizing how precious life is.

This is not dress rehearsal, people!
— Dale Partridge

Have you ever thought about that? We each get one shot at this! (Unless you believe in re-incarnation…. In which case, I wish you the best of luck in your next life as a dung beetle.) I hear so many people say that they aren’t sure what to do with their lives. They can’t find their passion. They go to school because that’s what our culture tells them to do. They get a job to pay off their hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. They buy a house and make payments on it for thirty years, paying more than double what the house is worth in interest. If they ever actually pay it off, they might squeak by with a small pension (if they’re lucky) or a 401k with a small monthly distribution for them to spend until they die. None of these things are inherently bad or wrong, but do you ever wonder if there is a bigger meaning and purpose for your life?

There are thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have in order to impress people they don’t even like.
— Nigel Marsh

I write all of this to say one thing: don’t waste your life. Find something that you are passionate about and that will help the world, and then do it. Do it every single day for the rest of your life. If you have entrepreneurial tenancies like me, you might have several things you want to do every day. That’s fine! Just find purpose in your life and live it out day by day.

You never know how many more birthdays you will have. Don’t waste your life.

Stay Awesome,


Ethan

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The Ponderless Society

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The Ponderless Society

I felt the subtle vibration on my left thigh and instinctively reached for my pocket, only to find it empty. 

This was how my 2016 Memorial Day weekend began, and the pattern continued repeatedly. For two days I made the commitment to enjoy the holiday weekend with friends and family by putting my phone away and making an effort to be present at all times. I held down my iPhone’s power button and slid my thumb to the right in order to shut it down, an action I usually only do once a month or so, when the device needs a reboot. I had had enough. 

I love Apple products in general, but especially my iPhone. My life basically exists on this device. Every day I have constant notifications reminding me to do things I would otherwise forget, calendar notifications keeping me on schedule, emails from clients that I need to respond to, plus the endless world of social media I try to stay current on in order to run a successful business. It is a great tool that keeps me on track, but it can also very easily consume me when I’m not careful. Between running multiple businesses, staying educated with podcasts and audiobooks, texting friends, emailing clients, keeping my tax records up to date, keeping track of business mileage, etc… I was burned out. I needed to recharge.

My wife, our two boys, our dog Hemi and I all headed up to Farwell, Michigan where Kim’s parents own a cottage within eyesight of Littlefield Lake. Normally on trips like this I pack clothes, my DSLR travel bag, my laptop bag, my iPhone, a charger and headphones (for audiobooks,) among other things. But this time pretty much all I took were the clothes on my back. I did take my iPhone in case of emergency, but I turned it off and placed it in my pocket. 

When we arrived at the lake on Saturday morning, we began relaxing immediately. I have a small travel sized hammock I keep in the trunk of my car, so I unpacked that, set it up between two trees and took a nap. I woke up off and on during my nap and each time I awoke, my hand reached for my pocket to grab my phone. My brain was subconsciously telling me to check my Snapchat feed for new stories and my Instagram feed for new posts. When I pulled my phone out of my pocket, I remembered I had turned it off and I would return it to my pocket. Even though it was turned off and of no use to me, I realized at this moment that I was receiving comfort by simply having this device in my pocket. I am so used to carrying that little powerful box of information that anytime I don’t feel that extra bit of weight in my left pocket, I become uncomfortable. At this time, I got out of my hammock and put my phone in the car. I walked away and returned to my hammock, feeling quite naked.

I feel silly admitting my struggle with separating from my phone, but this is the age we live in. Phones are beautiful and useful tools, but think about how much we rely on them. When you are bored and have nothing to do, what do you rely on? Your phone. When you are walking through the store and you see someone you don’t want to talk to, what do you do? You pull your phone out of your pocket and pretend you’re doing something important (even though in reality you leave your screen off and just tap on random areas of the glass to make the person think you are typing. Don’t worry, we all do it.)

We are so reliant on our phones that we as a society are forgetting how to be human.

I recently read a book by Kevin DeYoung labeled, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. In this book, Kevin (a Pastor from a church in Lansing, Michigan) calls our society the “ponderless society” and believes that we have made ourselves so busy that we no longer ponder anything. 

I feel that because I have allowed myself to be so consumed by the art of consuming, I have forgotten how to ponder things.

The dictionary defines the word ponder as follows: to think about or consider something carefully. I feel that because I have allowed myself to be so consumed by the art of consuming, I have forgotten how to ponder things. My brain has become A.D.D. and cannot focus on one thing for more than five seconds. 

By placing my iPhone in my car, I gave myself the opportunity to ponder again. I laid in my hammock for the majority of the weekend, read half of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, talked with family, relaxed around a bonfire, ate good food, drank good drinks and thought a lot about how blessed my life is. I think I am going to make this a habit in the future. 

When I arrived home, I navigated to the notifications setting and turned off the majority of them. I am no longer notified when someone comments on a photo. I am no longer notified when I receive an email (I check it twice per day.) My thigh no longer vibrates every five seconds and I am more able to think deeply and to muse more often. Friends, I know it’s hard, but we need to back away from our devices and begin reuniting our families. If this post has moved you in any way, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Stay Awesome,

 

Ethan

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Five Easy Ways to Network in Your Community

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Five Easy Ways to Network in Your Community

When you are a business owner, it is critical for you to get out in your community and network with other business owners and potential clients. When I first started my photography business in 2009, I thought I could just post a photo on my Facebook business page and watch the customers roll in. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. I won’t beat around the bush… Getting steady customers is hard work. In this blog post, I have listed the top five ways I have learned to network in my own community, and online in order to grow my business, my following and my client base. Some of these are specific to photographers, but could be tweaked to apply to any business! So let’s get to it!

Join Facebook Groups

This is an easy one. When I searched for “Lansing Photographers,” I found out that there was a group of photographers right in my area who have regular meetings and discussions, refer each other to clients, answer business questions, and encourage each other to continue improving their businesses. I was amazed! I requested to join the group and quickly typed in “Michigan Photographers” and whaddya know… Several other groups showed up! Several years later, I am involved in many great groups on Facebook and the members therein have helped me grow my business and improve my photography in a way that would not have been possible pre-internet! Don’t take Facebook for granted. It still has huge potential!

Find Industry Related Events and Attend Them

I am a photographer. So for this one, I googled “Lansing Photography Events.” I found several events in the near future in my area and attended some of them. There are so many good connections to be made at events like this. Show up with a smile on your face and business cards in your pocket, ready to meet new people!

Do Some Free Work

I know, I know… In the photography community, the words “Free work” are highly frowned upon. But if you are just starting your business, I think offering some free work is a great idea, as long as the client you offer your free work to understands that you are just starting out. Managing client expectations is extremely important, but if done right, you can make clients for life by offering free work!

Hang Your Photos in Local Businesses

Many businesses enjoy displaying artwork on their walls, especially if the artwork came from someone local. Make a few framed prints and take them to local businesses that are high traffic areas. You are bound to get some exposure by trying this method out!

Get Out and Talk to People

Are you shaking in fear yet? I know. I was too. In fact, I still am at times. Meeting new people can be difficult for me, even though I consider myself an extrovert. Sometimes when I meet people, I feel like I turn into an awkward turtle and just want to hide in my shell. But guess what? Once you get out there and start conversations with new people, these feelings of fear will go away and you will be well on your way to making the connections you need to successfully run your business! 

What do you think of these options for networking? Have you tried any alternative methods that have helped grow your business? I would love to hear about it in the comments below. 

Until next time…. Stay Awesome.

 

Ethan

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Keep Chasing, Friend.

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Keep Chasing, Friend.

Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like you can’t do anything right? Or you feel like a failure for messing something up? As I write this sitting in the corner of an East Lansing coffee shop, I am watching the snow fall outside while sensing feelings of doubt, worthlessness and fear on the inside. This happens to the best of us I suppose. 

"You can’t do that.
Stop dreaming.
You’re not good enough.
What will other people think?
You can’t afford that.
Get back in line with the status quo."

These are the things my mind is screaming at me right now. I begin thinking this way whenever I come up with new exciting ideas and try pursuing them. The logical part of me wants to run in the opposite direction of my dreams. To watch my life pass by as I sit in a cubicle, in a dimly lit room, drinking terrible coffee for ten hours a day with the hope that one day I can possibly retire and have enough money saved up to cover a small house payment. Because that is the "American Dream" we have been taught since we were kids. (More like the American Scheme.)  That’s what my brain wants, but there's so much more to life.

My heart... My heart has a different future in mind. 

A future where I am free. A future where I can spend time with my family and friends every single day without feeling anxious. A future where I can pursue my passion and still provide for my family financially. One day this will happen. But it takes one small step at a time. That is the hard part I guess. I am at the bottom of a huge mountain, climbing slowly, and wishing I could just jump to the top. Even if I could jump to the top, I have to remember that I would miss out on all the lessons I am learning during the climb. 

If you ever feel this way, keep going. Your dreams are worth chasing. Even if you never catch them, you will find even better ones along the way. Don’t give up. Keep chasing, friend.

Stay Awesome,

Ethan

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Why Goals are Better than New Year's Resolutions

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Why Goals are Better than New Year's Resolutions

We’ve all been there. We’ve all done it.

Every December, towards the end of the month, we start to feel it. We feel the guilt and the peer pressure. We feel unhappy with areas of our lives. Once Christmas passes we start to feel the pressure even more. And then we start to make lists. On these lists, we write down our New Year’s resolutions. A high and lofty list of things we want to change in order to create a perfect life for ourselves. New Year’s comes and passes and about two months later, we are all back to the same old bad habits we were so frustrated with recently. According to this article, only 8% of Americans successfully stick to their resolutions. And another article states that a whopping 86% of people break their resolutions in less than a year.

I get it. It’s hard. Like, really hard.

But what if there was a way to change your life without feeling the societal pressure to do so? No, I’m not offering a pie-in-the-sky/fix-all solution, but I have found something that has changed my own life dramatically.

Personal Goals

In the middle of 2015, I began studying the art of setting goals. There were several things in my life I wanted to change. I want to lose a little weight and gain some muscle. I wanted to stop biting my fingernails (a habit I have clung to my entire life.) I wanted to have more free time to spend with my family. I wanted to spend more time in prayer… There were several others as well.

“Don’t wish things were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills.” – Jim Rohn

In my wandering of the internet, trying to find ways to succeed at the things I wanted to change, I came across Jim Rohn. Jim was a motivational speaker who, sadly, passed away in 2009. But so many of his videos and articles still live on in the archives of the web. Here are some practical tips that I learned from him regarding setting goals.

Evaluate and Reflect

Think about and decide exactly what it is you want to accomplish. When things don’t go the way I want them to, it’s very easy for me to come home from work, sit on the couch and mentally pout my way through life. But that doesn’t fix anything. I realized by listening to Jim that I needed to decide exactly what I wanted to change, get to work and stick with it.

Write It Down

Things become much more real when you physically write them down. I bought a pocket-sized journal and wrote down my goals. I carry it everywhere I go as a reminder of my mission. I made a few different categories (long term, short term, family, health, financial, business…. etc.) and wrote everything down in the appropriate category.

Have Accountability

Seriously. Tell someone about your goals!

I don’t care how silly it may seem. Without telling someone about what you want to do, you are giving yourself the option to bail out at any moment.  I told my wife and some of my closest friends that I wanted to lose twenty pounds and stop biting my nails. (These were two of the highest on my list.) There were many times I wanted to give up and forget about my goals, but by telling others about them, I lost that option.

Re-evaluate

Once you start achieving some of your goals, look at your list again and decide if anything can be crossed off or if anything else needs added. I check mine at the beginning of every month and it is so fulfilling to be able to cross things off! It gives me the motivation to add more to it and get to work.

I can proudly say I have gone almost two months without biting my fingernails and have lost fourteen pounds. It wasn’t easy, but these steps are what helped me along the way. I hope these help you define your goals and lead you to a better lifestyle. How do you set and achieve your goals? Have you failed at your New Year’s resolutions in the past? I would love to hear about it in the comments section or on my Facebook page!

Until next time, stay awesome.

Ethan

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