you need to read this

My mind likes to race; it races around and around. It causes me unneeded stress. I then start to think about how much I think. You see how this can be a spiral toward some kind of mental breakdown?

The truth is, I’m a thorough person. I’m loyal. I put 100% into people, things, and projects. Being relational and passionate about work, dreams, etc. are admirable qualities, however it can lead to burnout if we don’t remember to pause.

Sometimes it’s too much to think about all at once; and therefore too hard to execute on. I’ve felt my fair share of failure for backing out of commitments that I feel are not serving me in a given moment. But instead of being hard on myself, I’ve learned to view quitting and failure from a different perspective.

“Taking time to honor the needs of your body is taking time to respect the needs of your soul.” – Journey to the Heart

We’re told from day 1, to never EVER quit. If you’ve ever played sports in high school, college, etc., you know exactly what I’m talking about. Great athletes don’t quit. Great athletes don’t give up. Great athletes don’t burnout. Successful people don’t burnout — but oh, they do… they just learn to manage it, or change their current situations.

Luckily for me, there are a TON of blogs and podcasts underneath the sun that address the general topic of burnout, quitting, and having the power to say ‘no’. We are humans in a world in which there are rarely any constants. Our financial successes, health, relationships, and career goals all rely on variables. They are all dependent on various life scenarios and interactions with people that are hardly repeatable for any two people. When I start to feel overwhelmed,  I do a couple of things:

  1. Remember to NOT compare my successes (or lack there of) to others’ successes. It does NOT make sense to compare myself to other people. All those variables I just talked about – they are different for everyone. The intensity of those variables are different for everyone. If you feel this way –  here’s a solution: do some soul-searching and figure out what drives you and makes you happy. Use your discoveries as a foundation to determine what success means to you. Although people can have compatible and similar personalities, it does not mean any two people function in the same capacity or use the same thought processes. The definition of success should stem from an intrinsic place, yet we are often using society’s definition of success as a measuring stick. Here’s a thought… does society care if you as an individual are fulfilled and happy?
  2. Find effective stress relievers. No, I don’t mean unwinding with a glass of wine (but yes, kind of). Okay, but seriously, find sustainable stress outlets to get you through the bumps in the road. I’ve found that exercise, stretching, reading, writing, meditating, dancing, napping, bingeing Gilmore Girls..etc. have all been effective stress relievers for me. Disclaimer: it might take a while to figure out what actually works for you, but the only way to know is to TRY.
  3. Start saying ‘no’. I struggled with saying ‘no’ to friends, family, and coworkers for quite some time. Fun fact: I recently took an Insights personality assessment which revealed at work I feel I need to be extroverted as hell, but at home I’m in the fast lane to introversion. This doesn’t surprise me because I am a project manager, and as a project manager I have the pleasure of working with many people. But at home, I’m not a project manager. I’m a person who likes peace and quiet. I’m someone who doesn’t need other people around to give me energy – I need to be alone to recharge. So friends, family — if you’re wondering why I’m saying ‘no’ to invites, don’t take it personally. I am putting my health first, and allowing myself to be selective about what I participate in. You can do it too – and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Imagine a life where everyone did what they wanted to without feeling obligated! A-m-a-z-i-n-g. 
  4. Re-evaluate activities in my planner and/or schedule. I am a total Type-A person. I love planning out my week, my meals, my workouts, you name it. It’s cool to feel in control; but if all of a sudden my mood is not aligned with my plans, or I’m feeling burnt out, you better believe I’m removing or pushing out some of my to-do’s. As a project manager, it’s intuitive for me to want to stick to schedules and follow through for my clients and peers. However, I have learned that I don’t need to project-manage my life outside of work. I can use my intuition to guide me; I can ebb and flow through the week depending on how I’m feeling. There isn’t anyone over my shoulder at home looking at my planner and saying, “Oh no, Karen! You did not go to yoga tonight, you’re fired!”. Think about it…planning is meant to make life simpler. The minute it becomes the enemy is the minute you should be taking a step back from the pressure you are putting on yourself. Go with your gut, you will feel much more relaxed. I know I have.

In closing, this month was full of “quitting”. I made intentional decisions to redirect my energy to other aspects of my life. I decided that the Whole30 was not serving me this round – and it’s not because I think the Whole30 is hard, it’s because the Whole30 meant something different to me in 2015 than it means to me now. I did a nice two-week detox from the holidays and found that was enough; it served me well. I now feel rejuvenated to take on the rest of the month and the new year. I also “quit” training for a 15k that I pressured myself into. It felt like a good idea at the time, but I started training about four weeks later than I would have liked and there’s no reason for me to put pressure on myself to run the longest distance I would run in my entire life with minimal training.

“We need to learn to adapt to change but we also need to learn to tell when a situation is wrong for us and not force ourselves to fit.” – Journey to The Heart

I leave you with a few resources that have grounded me recently. They’ve taught me to say ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do, and ‘fuck yes’ to things that are calling to me. They’ve taught me that quitting is not necessarily failure, it’s recognizing that something is not serving me. They’ve taught me that burnout is real, and that stress can be mitigated. If it can’t, I need to take control of my life and seek change.

 

xo Karen

“Sometimes it feels easier to doubt ourselves, to make the perceived safe decision, to make the excuse, to change our expectations, to follow ill-fitting societal norms, and uphold our false beliefs that only exceptional people can do the thing we want to do. But that’s bullshit.” – Minimal Wellness

justin key photography

Hi friends! I have the pleasure of knowing a power couple whose goals are to follow their dreams of running their own businesses. You may remember my feature post about Sarah Key, and her career with Rodan & Fields skincare. Well, her husband, Justin Key, has his own photography business: Justin Key Photography.
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Photography is an art I truly enjoy; photos can capture timeless memories, but what’s refreshing about Justin’s photos are that they expose you to organic, picturesque sites. He focuses on landscapes, structures, nature; they may seem like simple shots, but they leave room for the person viewing the photo to interpret what they’re seeing in any way they’d like. For example, what do YOU see when you look at Justin’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream”:
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Runnin'-Down-a-Dream
Runnin’ Down a Dream – Justin Key Photography
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Pretty cool huh? To me this photo represents a few different in-depth ideas. There are independent branches, but they are intimately intertwined. It represents us as people; we are individuals who need interaction, support, and inclusion. To me this photo represents a holistic and spiritual world — a humble reminder that you are part of something much larger than life itself.  It’s family, work, play, love.
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With that said, please join me in learning more about Justin, and how he got to where is today in his photography career!
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>>What inspired you to get into photography? And at what age did you decide to learn more about photography?<<
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I was always curious, as a kid, about the science behind photography. The first big purchase I ever made was this $70 Fujifilm film camera that I thought was the coolest thing ever. I brought it everywhere and looking back at my images, mostly of zoo animals, they weren’t great in any aspect but I remember the excitement of bringing my film in to get developed and the anticipation of seeing the prints. I wish I could remember how old I was, my guess is about 12 or 13, but for some reason photography drew me in really young and was the one phase of my childhood I never out grew. Photography was always a hobby of mine, I enjoyed doing it but never worked at the craft until I went to college. I shot for the yearbook in high school and started to understand the capabilities of my camera better, at this point I was shooting digital and the instant viewing allowed me to figure out what everything in the camera did and how to control the light better. It wasn’t until I started thinking about college that I even considered photo to be a path for me. In college, I entered an art program with primarily a photojournalism background so it led to a lot of learning and experimentation in different genres. That was when I think I truly fell in love with photography
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>>What are your favorite photos to take, and why?<<
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I have shot darn near everything when it comes to photography. I started out shooting sports primarily and loved it but my focus has shifted over the years. I would still love to shoot sports because being on the sidelines of big games is a feeling unlike any other. I’ve tried portrait and weddings but I have a hard time directing people so I have tried to distant myself from that genre. Landscape and travel photography is what I’m focused on now and see myself doing going forward. I like to look at my work as art, I don’t shoot a lot of the colorful sunsets or breathtaking panoramas, I try to find a sense of place in my photography. I like to think of my work as capturing the character of Earth. I’ve always been drawn to nature and travel and my eye tries to capture the moments and the details that make up the memories we take from places. I don’t know that I have crossed over into the fine art realm quite yet but that is the type of work I would like to be classified under some day.

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>>Where do you see Justin Key Photography being in the next 5-10 years? What kind of portfolio do you plan to build?<<
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My current goal is to become self sufficient through my photography and I’m hoping to do that in the next year or two so looking beyond that is tough. I see a lot of growth that can be made in my work. I continue to look at my images and think they could be so much better than they are so in 5-10 years I would like to see my portfolio improve to the level I believe I can achieve. I would love to have checked off a lot of places on my travel list and see my name grow larger in the photography community. I plan on sticking with my landscape work and am currently in the works of expanding my website to include a new segment of my work I’m calling the Long Shutter Project. Currently it will be a collection of abstract series with the goal to raise money for muscular dystrophy but I see it expanding beyond the single cause down the road and I hope in 5-10 years to have raised a good amount of money for those causes.
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>> What advice do you give aspiring photographers?<<
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If I had to give aspiring photographers advice or even thinking about what I would tell myself starting out would be not to be afraid. I spent a long time doubting myself and worrying about the potential of failure and it held me back for a number of years. Once I got over those fears and doubts, I’ve seen my work improve, I’ve seen more opportunities come my way and I believe more in myself and my future. You can’t be afraid to chase your dreams and the sooner you can believe in yourself and put the time in to make it happen the sooner that dream becomes a reality.
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>>Who are some of your favorite artists? Do you have any particular favorite art pieces that speak to you?<<
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As a landscape photographer obviously Ansel Adams has been a big inspiration to me. I did a study in college of Masumi Hayashi’s technique and her work gave me a different perspective of the way we view scenes. Art Wolfe has some incredible work, Martin Bailey has a style similar to mine, I have been listening to his podcast for a while because he has a lot of the same views as me and it wasn’t surprising to find our work is pretty similar. Mark Rothko is a painter I have been inspired by as well.

Cheers!
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Well, friends, thanks for reading! It’s so rare to find a passion and turn it into a supportive career and I envy  Justin for doing just that! I hope Justin’s post inspires you to stick with your passions, and even if you figure you need to do something else for ‘work’, make sure to leave a large space in your hearts and schedules for passion projects. Check out his Instagram: @JustinKeyPhotograhy and his gallery to see more of his portfolio.
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xo Karen
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You can’t be afraid to chase your dreams and the sooner you can believe in yourself and put the time in to make it happen the sooner that dream becomes a reality. – Justin Key
Jolene
Jolene – Justin Key Photography

the shop salon: feature post

Hi friends! I am very excited to share this spotlight post featuring my former hair stylist, Nikki Johnson. I started seeing Nikki at Aveda’s Kai Salon in the North Loop, Minneapolis, and it was very apparent each time I visited Nikki that she had some major ideas to pursue her dreams. We’d often talk about our work, what makes us happy, how we find balance (there’s a lot of time to talk with a full balayage, cut, brows), etc. After a couple of WONDERFUL years of seeing Nikki, she told me she would be leaving Minneapolis to move back home (a dream she was quite open about), and start her own salon. I was initially sad, because I’ve made a new friend in the city and as many women know – you get to know your hair stylist pretty damn well! Her excitement was contagious – she was grinning ear to hear and just glowing with determination. I immediately felt SO excited for her. So, now that some time has passed, I’ve asked her to put together a post on her journey to opening The Shop Salon in her hometown of Rushford, MN. Enjoy!

Grand Opening 2
My first official day working in the salon was July 27, 2017. This was my Great Grandma Clara’s birthday. The day I had my ribbon cutting ceremony was August 3, 2017. This is my Grandma and Grandpa Graham’s wedding anniversary.  I didn’t plan on these synchronized dates, they just happened.

>>Did you always know you wanted to start your own business?<<

I always have had an entrepreneurial spirit. In my first job out of college I received a she “Grabs the Bull by the Horns” award, and throughout my career previous to hair I was told . . . “You have fire in your belly.” I have always been self-motivated and excited about doing a job well done, but it wasn’t until I was 27 years old that the idea of owning my own hair salon found my mind.

>>At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to move back home and start your own salon? What was the ah-ha moment” that made it real for you?<<

I never really intended on leaving the bluffs, I’ve always loved this hidden gem tucked in the valley. I was never an, “uh. . . just get me out of here” kind of person, but it’s interesting how life just takes you where you need to go. My journey was different because it had to be. I had to get to where I was going in a round about way in order to shape me into who I am today, and I am forever grateful for each and every person that I’ve met and learned from along the way. We grow from those that surround us, and I know I wouldn’t be the me I am without ever having left and experiencing all that I did.

I worked in hospitality sales from the day I graduated college in 2007 to 2012. I initially loved it. It fit, and then it didn’t. I was burnt out and not passionate. I didn’t see it fitting me for the rest of my life. The day I realized I outgrew the hospitality industry was in December of 2011. It was a very clear moment for me. One that I feel very fortunate to have experienced. Here’s the story prior to my “ah-ha moment” . . .

After a long day at work my boss pulled me into his office and told me that the outfit I was wearing was not “professional enough.” It was. I’ve always been a bit more fashion conscious so maybe he didn’t like the trend . . . but I can assure you it was “professional enough.” In order to prove a point to myself I wore the exact same outfit a week later, only this time I curled my hair and wore heals (previously my hair was in a pony and I was wearing flats). Nothing was said a week later. I proved my point (to myself) but I was angry and annoyed. I was angry at the situation and annoyed at the idea of someone telling me how to dress every day of my life. Don’t get me wrong . . . I understand dress codes exist for a reason, however, to me, the way you dress is an expression of who you are, and I didn’t want people telling me how to express myself on a daily basis. I didn’t and still do not like the idea of creating expressive parameters such as this. The thought of someone or a company monitoring my attire felt trapping.

I also worked with some pretty miserable people. Miserable in the sense that they hated their jobs, not miserable in the sense of defining their character. They were good people. Good people who despised their work environment. Most of my work week was consumed with constant chatter collectively complaining about this and that . . . about our boss, about the work environment, about how there was never any time for family or friends, that they’d miss a baseball game or ballet recital because of work and the list went on and on. This talk wasn’t just on my coworkers, I 100% participated in this negative monkey noise. We were one big unhappy corporate family that fed off each other’s woes. I saw the weight. I felt the weight. My head spun. I was like “No, I can’t. I can’t be this.” I did not want to fall down the funnel as far as my coworkers had. They were all older than me and truthfully, I saw myself trudging in their muddy footsteps if I did not drastically change directions. The thought of staying in this career made me uneasy.

If any of you are reading this that were involved in this part of my journey please know that I am not trying to project negativity toward you . . . rather I am trying to be truthful to the situation, and without having faced this particular darkness I would not be where I am today.

I felt emotionally and physically drained, and I certainly wasn’t proud of the person I was becoming. Prior to these events and observations, I already knew that I had fallen out of love with hospitality. My passion and light for the industry in general was dim, and I knew I needed to change something or I would be stuck in the muddy muck.

Now back to my ah-ah moment. It was the end of the day when my boss pulled me into his office to talk about my attire . . . as he spoke to me I tried my hardest to not let him see that his critiques were affecting me. I quietly nodded my head and said, “Okay.” I walked out of his office, shut down my computer and took the elevator home (I had just moved back from Dallas, TX and was living in the hotel as I had not found a place to rent in Minneapolis yet). I decided to go work out and try to move my emotions in a more positive direction. It did not work. I was still upset. When I got back I walked into the bathroom and just stared at myself in the mirror. I said out loud . . . “What am I going to do with my life.” I really just thought I was having a moment asking myself a rhetorical question and would go on with my night but honestly, I just stood there looking at myself and thought quietly in my mind . . . “I should go to hair school. I would be good at it because of XYZ. I could move back home one day (which is something I’ve always wanted to do), and . . . and, I could open up my own salon! Be my own boss. Wear whatever I want.” Yep, my mind was set. I sat on one of the queen beds in my double room and I wrote down all the things I’d love to have in my shop someday. I still carry that piece of yellow paper in my purse and the coolest thing about it is . . . a lot of what I wrote a little over 6 yrs ago actually exists in The Shop today.

 

Letter
December 2011 | The dream, the vision, the letter that started it all.

>>What was the hardest part about starting your own business?
Logistically? Aesthetically? Financially?<<

Having patience, hands down. I am not a patient person in anything, and throughout this entire experience I had to learn patience.

I knew I could not afford a vehicle payment in school so I worked at the hotel for a year after my ah-ha moment paying double payments. Ironically, I smashed up that little Scion TC near the end of my time in hair school. Oof, it was quite the trying year.

The second hardest thing was the emotional stripping I didn’t know I was going to experience. I was 28, financially independent . . . independent in general, and all that freedom was taken from me. I didn’t realize what that was going to do to me emotionally until I was deep in it. 2013 was a hard year for me . . . to be completely honest I still feel a sting in my gut from the past as I write this. I was so emotionally lost and broken, but I have learned that sometimes life breaks you in order to build a stronger you. My foundation needed to be shattered in order for me to rebuild a stronger more emotionally in tune version of myself. Boy, it was a long process.

As far as logistically and aesthetically my vision was clear (thank you Pinterest). These two things were never really “hard” for me. I had a clear aesthetic vision and an unwavering trusted gut feeling that logistically it was just going to work out when the time was right.

Financially things freaked me out from time to time, but again . . . I just knew it was going to work out. I did save every penny and dime I could during this process knowing and trusting that “one day” I’d use it to open up a salon.

So to recap . . . the hardest pieces in this journey thus far have been patience and the emotional instability. I have learned to be better with patience and believe this was Gods way of teaching me this virtue. I also believe God knew that I needed an improvement to set a solid foundation of who I am. To this day, I am still sad that this part of my life was lead with my head down . . . however, I am extremely grateful for the struggles that shaped me and that my perspective on life is light.

Core Values
Core Values: Gratitude | Simplicity | Self Love


>>What advice do you
give aspiring business owners? What are some lessons learned from your experience?<<

I am a lover of quotes and during the toughest of times there were a few that held me together. Those being . . . “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams “Let passion devour laziness” and “Start Somewhere.” I would literally take a breath when I read those words and be like . . . “Yes, okay. I got this.” I love quotes so much that I have my color clients write me a quote during their processing time. A few of my favorites so far are . . . “Real queens fix each other’s crowns” and “You have to be odd to be number 1.” I post up the quotes in this mini porcelain pig I bought from Magnolia Market, and rotate a couple of them at a time.

  • Find quotes that inspire you. Ones that give you fuel.
  • Try your darndest to not let the crazy affect your personal relationships. Starting something completely unknown is uncomfortable, and uncomfortable feelings feed shadowed emotions. I was not the best version of myself during these trying times and that is still hard for me to accept.
  • Do not allow the unknowing emotions hinder the relationships closest to you. Trust.

Looking back I knew where I was going, I fully believed in my vision with my whole heart . . . I just wish I would have enjoyed the moments more. I was so forward focused I forgot to live, and like I mentioned above this too is still hard for me to accept. I honestly lost years, and you can’t set back the clock on the choices you make.

  • Keep your vision clear, but enjoy the ride (even the bumpy parts). It’s all temporary. 
  • I marked my savings account “DO NOT TOUCH.” This helped me. Save any amount you can. $1 is a $1. Even if it’s a small amount, in the end it makes a difference.

As you can see I struggled during this time, but I also believed in myself.

  • Believe in yourself, even if others don’t. Bulldoze naysayers (not literally, but in your mind), and shine your light in the darkness. You only need to see one step in front of you to get where you’re going.

I wrote down my ideas in the notes section of my iPhone, and would Pinterest ideas any chance I could get. Writing down my ideas and seeing photos of the things I sought made my dream real. I searched pictures of ‘open and closed’ signs, wallpaper, décor, décor, décor, marketing tips, you name it. I am so happy I did this because there are about 842 things happening at once when it is time to start moving, and come “go time” this helped me tremendously in reminding me what it was that I actually wanted.

  • Pinterest your ideas. Write down your unique ideas as soon as they pop in your mind. When it comes time to open your business you’ll be so thankful for all of this.
  • Breathe. Balance. Believe. Whatever that looks like for you . . . breathe, balance, believe.
MissionStatement
Mission Statement: My goal for clients to recognize their own individual beauty, one that is uniquely theirs. My vision is for beauty to be seen not only in hair, but in the simple gifts we are awarded each and every day.

 

>>What is your favorite part about your new journey as a small business owner?<<

Wearing whatever I want. LOL no, there are so many “favorites” being a small business owner (challenges too) but as they say . . . the rewards outweigh the risk / trying moments.

A few favorites that come to mind are . . .

  • I get to talk and learn from my wonderfully awesome clients all the while sprucing up their ‘do.
  • “The look— it is the look a person gives themselves in the mirror, like . . . “Heck yea, I like what I see.” Knowing that I helped someone gain confidence in who they already are has got to be one of the most rewarding gifts a hairstylist can have.
  • As a stylist and business owner I am allowed to express myself in so many creative outlets . . . from hair, to décor, attire, products, marketing, etc. and to me . . . that is freedom.

Karen Dahl, you shining soul . . . thank you for giving me a platform to tell my story.

Nikki Johnson
Owner / Hairstylist The Shop Salon
Instagram: @theshopsalon.mn
Website: theshopsalonmn.wixsite.com/theshop

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(Back to Karen, now!) — I truly loved Nikki’s expression of her journey and all of the hard obstacles and raw truth she shares with the rest of us. I leave this post with an amazing photo Nikki sent me – the Enso:

Enso
T H E  E N S O
The “broken circle” in The Shop Salon’s logo is an ensō circle. When I found out the meaning behind this expression of art I knew it was made for The Shop.
The ensō . . .
: :  Is created in a single brush stroke reminding us to appreciate the beauty in each moment.
: :  No two are the same.
: :  The break 1). Signifies how moments in life are imperfect, but perfect and 2). Illustrates that we are not closed off from the universe, but instead reminds us that we are part of something greater than ourselves.
So . . . just as no to ensō circles are the same, no two humans are the same. We are all imperfectly perfect human beings existing together in a universe greater than ourselves.
Live in the moment, experience the beauty, embrace what is #uniquelyyours and go on with your imperfectly perfect self!

 

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling . . . what if you fly?”

If I can do it, you can do it.

new year

Happy New Year, friends!

This post is going to be short and sweet; I apologize it’s been awhile since I’ve last posted but I have a pretty sweet lineup of material coming in 2018 so don’t give up on me just yet!

Many people (myself included) use the new year as motivation to ‘start fresh’. We want to ‘start fresh’ but we aren’t sure where to start most of the time, so I thought I’d give you some (hopefully) simple ideas to jump-start your clean slate in 2018:

Decluttering Burst:

  1. Dispose of old bills, receipts, medical/dental/doctor papers, prescription papers, etc.
    1. Recycle it (and shred it!) if…
      1. It’s out of date
      2. You have multiple copies (including electronic copies)
  2. Get rid of expired food in your:
    1. Fridge
    2. Cupboards
    3. Spice Rack
    4. Pantry
  3. Get rid of expired medications (look up how to do this if you’re unsure how to dispose of certain medications)
  4. Get rid of old beauty products (look up how to get rid of certain products to dispose of them correctly):
    1. Makeup
    2. Sunscreens
    3. Lotions
    4. Perfumes
    5. Loofah/razors/pumice stones
    6. Skin Regimens
    7. Lip Balms and Lipsticks

Decluttering and organizing can really lift weight off your shoulders and lead to feelings of accomplishment. Little accomplishments  truly make the biggest differences! Even minor decluttering gives  instantaneous satisfaction, so it doesn’t hurt to start small and make your way up to tackling larger projects… (cough*yourcloset*cough).

Yesterday evening I attended a yoga class and we were instructed to set an intention to release something that was no longer serving us. While I’ve accomplished a lot this year, I found myself being very lackadaisical in the later half of 2017. I’ve decided to commit to myself and my health, and to jump-start that I’m doing the following:

  • Use my Passion Planner to set intentions and goals for each day – and incorporate Melody Beattie’s Journey to the Heart.
  • Run a 15k – I’ve been toying around with this idea for over a YEAR and I’ve finally decided to commit to completing a 15k in February. That means sticking to a strict training schedule for the next 5 weeks — pray for me.
  • Learning to say ‘no’ to activities I do not want to do – how many times have you gone along with someone else’s plans and you end up spending too much time or money on something that didn’t serve you? 

Finally, the January Whole30 is here! Today is Day 1 of Whole30 and my intention is to share each week with reflections, tips and tricks with all of you. This is my fourth round of Whole30 and I am so proud of how far I’ve come with learning new recipes, identifying problematic (to me) foods, and learning to read food labels. Follow me on Instagram to see more frequent posts over the next 30 days (@kdahl.mpls). This morning I’m sitting on the couch with a hot cup of (black) coffee enjoying the first morning of the new year, excited for a year of intention, health, and balance.

What are you letting go of from 2017? What are you welcoming in 2018?

Xo Karen

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winter is coming

Hi all! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I’ve been so busy lately with work, social events, and spending time with family. It’s getting chilly outside and for those of you living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we’ve already witnessed our first sticky snowfall of the season.

I am the Lorelai Gilmore when it comes to snow. I live for the crisp air and that cold smell that means snow is on the way. When I was younger I jumped on the “I hate Winter” bandwagon but the truth is, Winter is beautiful. Winter is a season that defines holidays  like Christmas, The New Year, Valentine’s Day, etc.  Winter means HOT coffee, big comfy sweaters, peppermint flavored drinks and treats. Winter is time for warm boots, over-sized hats and mittens. It means heated blankets, movie nights, and let’s be honest… hibernation.

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If you’re like me, you’re really excited for some down time and Winter is the perfect time of year for down time. You might feel like Winter causes us to become lazy and boring. Perhaps it’s true on some level however it doesn’t have to be the case in most instances. Here are a few low-key, but exciting activities to do this Winter (some involve escaping hibernation, though!)

  1. Dust off those books on your shelf (or Kindle)! Winter is the perfect time to start reading your heart out. I mentioned heated blankets, hot coffee, big comfy sweaters – why not enjoy all of these things with a book in hand? There’s nothing I love more than snuggling in bed and reading for at least an hour before getting some shut eye. It’s such a relaxing way to end the night. Put yourself up to reading at least five books this Winter. If you’re looking for recommendations – try www.goodreads.com as a drawing board for your to-read list.
  2. Host movie nights – I use the word host very loosely (you can host a movie night for yourself too!) But instead of going out into the cold, invite everyone in! Movie nights with hot chocolate (or wine), popcorn, and snuggly pajamas is the perfect way to spend a Friday night after work or even a Sunday afternoon when you’re just needing time to wind down after a busy week or weekend.
  3. Make fun dinners at home – skip going out! One of my favorite dinners to make at home is homemade pizza. There are various crusts you can buy at the store for an easy assembly of the perfect pizza. My favorites pizza flavors are Hawaiin or Spinach/Goat Cheese/Mushrooms. The beauty about making your own pizza is that you have total control over the ingredients.
  4. Minimize your belongings – Winter is the perfect time to look at what’s inside your home to assess what’s taking up too much space and what’s causing clutter. We spend so much time outside during the warmer months that we often forget about de-cluttering and organizing inside the home. I’ve been working really hard to get rid of clothing, accessories, makeup, etc. that I don’t use so I am always able to choose my favorite products and outfits when I get ready in the morning. Order a clean-out bag from ThredUp for an easy way to sell clothing (and they’ll donate what doesn’t sell, too!). By the time Spring rolls around, you’ll have a clean closet that’s ready for new, fun items (can you say Spring shopping spree?).
  5. Try new home workouts – My least favorite part about working out or going to a class is physically getting into my car (probably scraping off ice and snow first) and enduring the morning cold just to get a workout in. If you’re feeling intimidated by the cold, try finding some home workouts to enjoy. Tone It Up is a free website with weekly workouts that are accommodating and accessible. There are also many YouTube videos (this can really suck you into a rabbit hole!) that are effective for home workouts. My favorite kettlebell workouts are by BodyFit by Amy. If you’re really wanting to ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable’, try Jillian Michael’s various videos – my favorites are Yoga Meltdown, Trouble Zones, and her 30 Day Shred series.
  6. Get outside and be active! Ski, snowboard, ice skate, take walks, snow shoe, ice fish – there are so many winter sports and recreational activities at the tips of our fingers. Many people forget the Midwest has some inexpensive yet entertaining parks and hills to explore during the winter. Bundle up and explore the outdoors with friends and family, whether it’s in an ice shack, a ski lodge, a state park, or simply around local trails, you’re bound to enjoy the sights and the company.
  7. Visit a local brewery or distillery with friends. Often times Winter forces us to stay inside, so why not do so with a drink in hand while playing board games or trivia with friends? Taste the new Winter taps and socialize with a flight or two.

I hope you’re a little inspired to keep busy during the Winter months. It’s okay and obviously normal to avoid the cold weather. If you’re loving the chilly temps, and you’re really in love with snow, start a weekend morning with a walk outside with some hot coffee. Winter is beautiful and we should embrace it (of course, depending on the wind chill…am I right). Perhaps I’ll be whistling a different tune in a few months, but right now I’m ready for some cozy nights and holiday cheer. 

xo Karen

foodfreedom30

Hey all! What a crazy fall it’s been so far! I don’t know about you but my brain has been going a million miles a minute trying to tackle all of my to-do’s across work and, well, life in general.

In my last post, I talked about planning to do a Whole30 in October. At first, I was psyched about this – my 4th Whole30! What an accomplishment! But then…

I started planning for the Whole30: I was picking out recipes in my Whole30 Cookbook, buying compliant dressings, creating a food prep log so I could prep and track my meals diligently. And then it hit me: I don’t actually want to do this.

As I was preparing, something in my gut was telling me, “You’ve done enough rounds of Whole30”; “You really need to focus on your Food Freedom”; “Why don’t you make your own rules for once instead of following the program?”..okay, okay.

Now, Melissa Hartwig, do not take this the wrong way – Whole30 is an awesome program. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a guide to mend their relationships with food, to break bad habits, and identify any problematic food groups. But I’m totally ready to graduate Whole30 University and put my skills to good use in the real world. 

At first I brushed off my reservations of doing another round and contributed it to FOMO and laziness. However, it’s dawned on me that I need something more, something different. I’ve had SO much success with my three rounds of Whole30. I’ve identified gluten as a sensitivity. I’ve identified baked goods and sugar as problems. I’ve used my food sensitivity test results as a guide to take my elimination diet. I have done my studying and my research. I’m ready to spread my food freedom wings and leave the Whole30 coop.

That is exactly what I need to focus on. How can I apply what I’ve learned and make my own rules?

So, I’m sorry for those who were looking forward to me documenting a standard round of Whole30 – but to me, this is much more exciting! I’m going to post about my Food Freedom. I’m going to share how the program has allowed me to make my own rules and live a life of health, intention, and balance. I’m going to do my FoodFreedom30 (that’s not a real thing to my knowledge but I feel that it completely defines what I’m trying to accomplish) and use what I learn to define my own life and health goals.

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Food Freedom Plan (30 days):

  1. Log my meals and snacks in a food journal. MyFitnessPal is a great app to do this, however, I’m not looking to count calories or track macros. I’m talking about mindfully tracking what I eat with pen and paper (I’m using Eat Pretty’s food journal). Is there a reason I ate that candy bar? Did I really need two servings of that mac and cheese? At the end of the day, how do I feel? Did I practice mindfulness and self-control?
  2. Learn how to portion my food. Portion sizes are a huge problem for me, and well, I know I’m not alone on this. We are tempted with massive portions wherever we go. America is all about being bigger and better and well, our portions are certainly bigger but that does not equate to better. I’ll be using Whole30’s Meal Planning Template to help me with this.
  3. Allow myself one “takeout” lunch per week. Okay, so I usually eat some variation of salad or grain bowl for lunch if I am eating out, however, my goal in this rule is to be diligent about meal prepping. Why do I buy lunch? Well, usually it’s because I did not take the time to prep my meals. Plus, my bank account will certainly thank me.
  4. Define special occasions. A special occasion is NOT a random Tuesday happy hour after work. A special occasion is an outlier in your normal routine that calls for celebration, and gathering with loved ones. Only I can define what special occasions mean to me. Here are a few special occasions that I can think of off the top of my head:
    1. Family visiting/seeing family
    2. Seeing a show or a concert
    3. Vacation/traveling
    4. Attending a sporting event
    5. Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
    6. Holiday gatherings

I can tell you, special occasions don’t happen often. Hence the word special. Nailing down what this truly means to me and following my own blueprint is still a work in progress, but I am determined to tackle this head on. Challenge Accepted. Follow my FoodFreedom30 on Instagram for some inspiring meal prep ideas. A special thanks to Melissa Hartwig for writing Food Freedom Forever ; a book that has inspired to take on this next chapter of my health journey.

Xo Karen

 

**Again, none of my posts are sponsored advertisements for products or programs. These are my own experiences and my intent is to share what’s worked for me, and inspire you all to do find what works for your health and wellness journies**

fall refresh

 Hey all!

It’s finally feeling like Fall! I live for this chilly weather and all of the beauty Fall brings to the trees this time of year. But speaking of chilly weather…

Remember wayyyy back in January 2017 when you may or may not have made some New Year’s resolutions? Maybe some resolutions were made to improve your health, like increasing your trips to the gym, eating less sugar, drinking less alcohol. Maybe some of you have lost sight of your initial goals for 2017 – but good news! The year is not over yet. You still have one more season to give it all you’ve got to work toward your goals.

Sometimes we lose sight of our goals and perhaps lack some discipline during the summer months. I’m here to tell you,  it’s OKAY! Humans are not robots. As much as I love routines, food prep, and schedules, they aren’t always prioritized when we’ve got so many fun activities to do and events to attend during the summer months.

Whether or not you’ve made New Year’s resolutions – ask yourself if you could use a little end-of-summer reset. For me, I’m always feeling a little sluggish and bloated at the end of summer because Minneapolis has too many fun patios and rooftops to frequent during the warmer months.

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My 2017 resolution is to attend 100 group fitness classes. I am almost to 80 classes with only a few months left of the year to finish strong!

If you’ve been nodding your head in agreement to the first part of this blog post, check out these ideas for a Fall refresh*:

  1. Whole30**: The Whole30 program has really changed my life and helped me understand my relationship with food. I’ve done three Whole30s and am about to start another in October (if you want to do this with me, let me know!). For those who aren’t aware of what Whole30 is – it’s a dietary reset and elimination diet that helps you understand which food groups are causing inflammation in your body (resulting in weight gain, brain fog, headaches, digestive distress, skin issues, poor immune system, etc.). It also helps you identify foods that you’re literally addicted to and helps you kick those addictions to the curb. The free program requires you to only eat whole foods (meat, fish, poultry, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, and good fats) for 30 days, which allows your body to reset from processed foods and added sugar. Take a look at the www.Whole30.com for more information about the framework and how to get started. The Whole30 online platform is booming with resources, shopping lists, forums, blog posts, etc. to guide you through your Food Freedom journey.
  2. Cut out the alcohol: Alcohol is a staple in the Standard American Diet. There are countless happy hours, holidays, birthday parties, and weddings that all have some sort of boozy fun involved (a glass of wine here, a pint of beer there). Now that summer is winding down, try eliminating alcohol for a couple of weeks just to see what happens. Does your skin clear up? Does your complexion get brighter? Do your pants fit looser? Is your digestion calmer? Are you sleeping more soundly? Is your bank account happier?
  3. Add in one more day of fitness to your weekly schedule: Is there an area of the body or muscle group you haven’t given much attention to lately, or a type of exercise you haven’t done in a while? Try mixing in some variety to your exercises and perhaps adding in another day of fitness to your weekly schedule. Start a new routine or a class you’ve been meaning to try. Groupon** has great class package deals if you’re looking to experiment with group fitness at local studios.
  4. Get one more hour of sleep per night: Now, this can be difficult for some people but if you can (and I really think you should consider trying), try to get an extra hour of sleep per night. One extra hour of sleep can be the cure for needing that second cup of coffee in the morning. Not to mention, cold and flu season and is right around the corner. Boost your immune system with more rest to keep your body and mind strong during the winter months. Take away the screen time before bed and you may find you have a few extra minutes to dedicate to your pillow.
  5. Colon cleansing: I’m new to colon cleansing, but I did one colon cleanse through Blessed Herbs** in August. I was intimidated by all of the colon cleansing kit options available for purchase, so I chose the “Revive-5 Day Cleanse Kit” since it’s labeled as a “starter cleanse”. This cleanse does not require any fasting and was extremely manageable for me. The cleanse helped me get rid of built up waste and toxins in the body, which in turn helped me de-bloat and feel more energized throughout the day. If you’re interested in trying a colon cleanse, do your research and CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR OR NUTRITIONIST. Colon cleanses are not for everybody.

I hope I’ve got you thinking about ways you can end 2017 strong. The beauty about health and wellness is that everyone is different; there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to health. Take this time to discover what works for you, and how to finish out 2017 stronger than ever.

 

*Each person has different goals and needs. If you’re interested in changing your diet/nutritional habits, or beginning a new fitness/health journey, make sure you’re working with a professional to guide you through the process.

**This blog post is not sponsored. All products, companies, and programs mentioned above are recommendations based on my own experiences.

entrepreneur spotlight: sarah key

Hey all! If you recall in my pilot blog post, I’m going to be posting bi-weekly Spotlights. Spotlights are blog posts about other people and their passions, experiences, successes, etc. that will hopefully motivate you to be your best self and chase after your dreams. Today’s post is an Entrepreneur Spotlight featuring one of my former college housemates, Sarah Key, as she talks about her business journey. Enjoy!

∗What were the turning points and/or motivators in your life that inspired you to start your own side business?
Honestly, the main thing that made me think about starting my own side business was the fact that I wasn’t able to do the thing that brings me the most joy in life as often as I liked: travel. Starting a business with flexibility and unlimited income potential was a huge motivator. Life is way too short, and I didn’t want to wait until retirement to live our dreams. 
 
My husband and I love to travel and he is a photographer, so traveling is our main priority. We didn’t want to have to sacrifice on visiting a new place on our list because of finances or time. 

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I chose Rodan and Fields because I know the insecurities that are a result of skin concerns. Insecurities take over and crushes any confidence you have, and that is not an exaggeration. I know from experience. No one should ever have to live with a skin insecurity when there is a solution out there. I wanted to be able to help others realize there is a solution and if I could also help others change their life with our business, even better. 
There are plenty of side business options out there. I would highly recommend if you’re not happy with where you are, your finances, or what your life looks like, be open to learning about these options and take the time to invest in yourself. 
∗What are the challenges you’ve faced so far? How are you overcoming them?
People not believing this side business will ever amount to anything. I have big goals for my Rodan and Fields business and it’s hard for some people to wrap their minds around it. I overcome that challenge by focusing on why I’m doing my business and believing in myself to truly make my dream life come true. Why not me? Why not you! Also, when people doubt my abilities to do something, that is motivation right there not to give up.
Another challenge is the big learning curve for entrepreneurship. I never thought I would be going down this path, but here I am, and I am forever grateful for my friend Ali Zieman who introduced this opportunity to me! I knew nothing about skincare before Rodan and Fields, I knew nothing about running my own business, I had no clue how I was going to make this work. But I’m learning while I help others. I’m learning while I earn. I’m learning while I get closer to my dream life. I love to learn and grow, and this opportunity has given me a chance to continually grow personally and intellectually, and in return has allowed me to help others do the same. 
 
∗Although it’s early in your journey, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Never quit. Ever. You started on this journey for a reason. Always go back to that reason when things get real tough. Because they will. It is a roller coster journey, but it is so worth it. Knowing you are working for your dream life (not someone else’s dream) and that you WILL make it happen is so rewarding and motivation enough to keep going! 
 
∗What resources help you succeed? 
A strong support system. Starting on a new path in life that is not considered the typical “right” path to follow is hard. Your friends and family may not understand why you’re doing this, which could make it hard for them to support you. That is ok. Join entrepreneur groups in your town, talk to friends who get it. You aren’t alone, you just have to find your tribe to help you through the struggles of entrepreneurship and to celebrate the best times that come with entrepreneurship. It may take your family or friends time to come around to what you are doing, but know you will be celebrating with them one day soon!
∗What are you favorite books, blogs, and podcasts that continue to inspire you through your journey? Do you have particular role models?

This list could go do FOREVER! I am a sucker for personal and business development in the form of books and podcasts.
 
Some of my favorite books are: “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero and “She Means Business” by Carrie Green.
 
My favorite podcasts are: Happier with Gretchen Rubin, From the Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl, Your Virtual Upline, and Creative Empire.
 
I also subscribe to pretty much every Travel magazine out there. I am always finding new places to travel to and explore. And when I can’t be traveling, it helps itch my travel bug a bit.
I wouldn’t say I have one particular role model. Any strong woman making a name for herself is my role model. I get so inspired by hearing how other women are out there making their dreams come true and overcoming every possible obstacle. I also really respect women that share their struggles in their journey. This isn’t an easy road and no one should think they are the only one struggling!
 
I am also lucky to have many, many successful women in my company to look up to as role models. One of my favorite parts about being with Rodan and Fields is that everyone is there to help everyone succeed. Whether you are at the tip top of the organization or just began today, we are all trying to help each other out.
Long story short, my role models are women who motivate other women to follow their dreams and make it happen. We have one life to live, mine as well make it awesome!
 
∗How can others join the R&F business?
It’s pretty simple to join our R+F team, just make the decision you want a change in your life and jump in! More specifically, let’s talk to see if this could be a right fit for you. If it is, we get you signed up and then the fun begins! Feel free to shoot me an email sarahvkey@gmail.com and we can set up a time to chat.

values

When I was 21, just graduating college, I wanted nothing more than to be the age I am today, in the position I am today, living the life I am today.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m incredibly lucky. I’m fortunate to have a stable income that allows me to spend time with people I love, to travel, to save money for the my future home and family.

The thing is, I have everything I need but only about six months ago I felt more lost than ever. The quarter life crisis is REAL, and I really had to take a step back and start evaluating what’s important to me and how I want to spend my time.

Introducing: discovering your Values. 

The Minimalism movement and lifestyle have introduced me to the concept of Values and has helped me define what my Values are. My Values should be the basis of how I spend my time and how I progress in life. Common values are the foundation of great friendships and relationships. They are guiding of all of my decisions I make on a daily basis.

*To learn more about values in the context of the Minimalism movement, take a look at Minimal Wellness: Values post and The Minimalists: Values podcast. I challenge you to dig deep and start constructing a list of your own values.

In The Minimalists’ podcast, Values (link above), Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus break down Values into the following hierarchy (the descriptions are my interpretation of the meaning of these different values):

Foundational Values: Highest order, overarching across many facets of life
Core Values: Principles that guide your decisions and behaviors
Minor Values: Things or experiences that make you happy on daily or weekly basis
Imaginary Values: Concepts or things that we perceive to have value but are actually obstacles that prevent us from aligning with our other values

Now, I could list out all of my Values, but I’m not here to necessarily talk about me.  I want you to take some time and become self-aware of what drives you to spend your time and money in specific ways.

I will tell you, I truly thought some of my Imaginary Values were my real Values. It wasn’t until I felt the internal imbalance that led me to discover the reality about myself: I am very much introverted. I value my alone time. I become exhausted and irritable when I am out forced to be around strangers and large groups for long periods of time (like holiday parties or packed night clubs). My whole adult life, I defined myself as a true extrovert, until I started realizing how happy I was to embrace my introvert personality. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders as I  spend the majority of my time in more relaxing, intimate settings that allow me to easily reflect and escape from the chaos that is life. 

Self-awareness is a beautiful thing. Understanding your Values is absolutely essential to living your best life. 

Happy soul searching!

xo Karen

 

pilot

blog1Hi, I’m Karen. Welcome to my blog! This is a safe space where I will share my experiences, thoughts, and inspirations. This is my blank canvas and I hope these thoughts serve you well (and maybe even inspire you). My end goal is to be happy and healthy, and to find balance and peace in an extremely terrifying world. I’m a millennial woman residing in the beautiful city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. You might ask me, “what do you do?”. I do a lot of things. I try to be as intentional as possible with my limited hours of the day. Why spend time doing things you don’t love? I go to coffee shops to enjoy hazelnut coffee and dirty chai tea lattes. I try new recipes. I sweat my ass off at yoga and barre classes. I run, slowly. I read books to unplug from the constantly rushed world we live in. I frequent happy hours and sushi bars with coworkers and friends. I binge watch Netflix series and spend many weekends viewing various documentaries (mostly about food). I travel as frequently as I can with my love (near and far!) and will share our adventures through this blog. I enjoy taking photos of visually appealing landscapes, skylines, and food. Professionally, I am an IT project manager. I’ll probably get into that in a different post, but that’s all you need to know about work right now.

Regular posts you’ll see:

  • Featured Recipes
  • Bi-Weekly Spot Lights
  • Book Reviews and Recommendations
  • Blog posts born from motivational experiences and inspirational people

Disclaimers:

I’m not perfect nor do I strive to be. This blog would be so boring if that were the case.

I’m not a professional writer; my grammar isn’t perfect anymore so please bear with me.

I’m not a nutritionist, but I like to experiment with foods and holistic lifestyle approaches to discover what works for my mind and body.

I’m not a personal trainer but I’ve experienced ‘falling off the wagon’ and have discovered my own motivators to get me back on track to being strong and healthy.

I’m not an expert. In anything. Literally. You’ll see.

I am, however, real. I’m emotional, motivated, and loyal. I’m inspired to be the best version of myself every single day. I’m a person with feelings, goals, and frustrations. Consider this my journal; an avenue to share real and raw experiences as I navigate through my 20’s and beyond.

If you’re a visual person like me, follow my Instagram account [@kdahl.mpls]. I’ve become good at capturing life through an iPhone lens.

the natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well ~ hippocrates

xo Karen