Moving Beyond Perfection

Meet Sandi.

She discovered her first Determined to Shine class in August 2016 – and has taken every single one of them since then!

Before finding Determined to Shine, Sandi didn’t like to draw and would criticize herself relentlessly if she made a mistake while creating art.

Now, everything is different. Here’s her story:

“I have always enjoyed art, and was often told that I was a good artist, but I never really believed it. I had a LOT of trauma and abuse in my youth, which trashed my self esteem. My high school art teacher told me I was not a good artist. I became a person who would constantly criticize and doubt myself, making it so I did not enjoy drawing.

Determined to Shine has helped me use my art to process what I have experienced in my life, both the good and the bad.

It helped me separate what happened TO me from who I AM, and it has brought more joy into my life. Allyson provided some artistic strategies that help me work through those times where I get stuck in my head or get overly critical or negative about myself or my art. I always know that I have things in place to pick up and use or create to help bring me back to my authentic, happy self.

I’ve learned to stop drawing for the approval of others. I started enjoying the process as much as the final product. I realized that by relaxing and enjoying the process, I usually liked the final product much more. I also realized that when I relax and enjoy the journey, I often learn something about myself or find solutions to problems or issues in my life. The 30 Days of Journaling class was such a beautiful artistic process. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I have repeated the class three times! Each time, I have been able to process different issues in my life, diving deeper into the core of who I really am. I love the transition my art has made with this class – and for the first time, I am actually proud of it!

I learned that I don’t need to change who I am or what I enjoy to please those around me. All that I HAVE to do is be my most authentic self! What others think of me is none of my business – I DO NOT have to spend my life trying to please others. I am not in charge of their feelings. I also learned that it is worth investing in myself, because in doing so, the return on my investment is priceless!!

It’s really hard to choose, but I think my Vision Book from the Envision class is my favorite Determined to Shine class project so far. I have found that having my dreams and goals in a book right at my fingertips has been amazing! I can easily add steps or ideas that come up along the way, and it also gives me a place to document my successes as for positive reinforcement. It covers so many aspects of my life, from health to work to art. I love that you can set up your Envision book to have any sections that you wish, that are relevant to you and your own needs and wants.


Signing up for personalized coaching with Allyson was a big investment for me. It was the first time I invested this much in myself, but I am so glad I did! Before Determined to Shine, I never would have invested money on myself in this way. It’s amazing – I will pay to go to the doctor, I will pay for the vitamins and medicines that I “need,” but I would never before have put money into making me a happier, freer person!! And I am SO glad I did!!

I find I am truly happier and more relaxed within my own skin. I know that probably sounds cliché, but I have always spent too much time worrying about how others felt about me and trying to please them.

Life is all about mistakes – about accepting, moving on, and adjusting! Before Determined to Shine, if things weren’t perfect, or I made a small mistake, I would trash it and start over. Now, I move on and look forward to seeing what I create!

Ready for YOUR transformation?
One spot remains in the Soul Investment Program – your golden ticket to EVERYTHING Determined to Shine offers in 2018. A 20% savings offer is available today only, so don’t miss your only chance to work one-on-one with Allyson in the coming year. Learn more here. Questions about the program? Email to set up a quick call with Allyson to discuss if the program is right for you.

Sandi’s story and artwork are used with her permission. Each week, Determined to Shine will be featuring a new student story. Interested in being featured? Email with the subject line “Featured Student.”

Living on a prayer.

In the words of August Rush, “I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales.”

For years, I lived with a guitar and a pen in my hand, writing a song to handle every emotion that came my way. As a high school student, I was assigned an essay about “home” – I wrote about an empty stage. And to this day, when I purchase a new album, I listen to it slowly, deliberately, paying attention lyrics and songwriters and instrumentalists.

Nothing heals me like music. And if a song on the radio can help when my heart is bruised, it’s live music that helps when I’m torn apart.

Sunday night, I headed to Des Moines with my friend Michelle to see Bon Jovi in concert. I expected an amazing show from a history-making band. Bon Jovi delivered.

What I didn’t expect – though I should have known better – was to be so wrapped up in the music that everything else seemed to disappear for a while. There’s just something about singing along to hits like “Bad Medicine” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” with thousands of other fans that can turn a bad day around pretty darn quickly.

What struck me most, however, were the songs from Bon Jovi’s new album What About Now – none of which I’d heard prior to the concert.

I have giant, big dreams. Dreams of writing. Dreams of making a difference. This brand new blog is really only a tiny spark in that plan. So when I heard the song “Because We Can,” in which Jon sings “I don’t want to be another wave in the ocean / I am a rock, not just another grain of
sand / I ain’t solider but I’m here to take a stand / Because we can,” it was fist-pumping time. YES. That. Exactly what I needed to hear. Because it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say.

There’s little I love more than that moment when you hear a song for the first time and it just explains everything you’re feeling. It’s like suddenly, you’re not so alone after all.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, there was this song:

“Army of One.” Welcome to my life. Every day, I wake up fighting. Sometimes at the end of the day, I’ve been victorious, and other days, the battle takes its toll. And while there have been so many people in my corner (more than I realized), when push comes to shove, this journey of grief and healing is mine alone to take.

“I’ve got a voice / That’s all I need / A beating heart / Inside of me / I’m an army of one / I’m a soldier”
“Never give up / Never let up / Ever / Never give in”
“I know that life’s a battlefield / When times get tough / I’m a soldier”

Songs like this drive me forward. Prove that there’s a reason to try today. Get me back on track when my 3 rules didn’t give me the push I needed. Because I am, indeed, an army of one. And I will never, ever stop fighting. I titled my blog “Determined to Shine” because I believe it’s determination that makes the difference. It will always, always, always be easier to stay down. But I will never stop getting back up.

And this is why I love music – especially live music. Because long after the show is over and all I have left are some blurry photos of the stage and an overpriced t-shirt, it is the memory of being wrapped up in a melody, lost in a lyric, that stays with me long after the final note is played.

The show ended, naturally, with “Living on a Prayer.” A song I’d heard hundreds of times. But on this Sunday night, when my heart had been so tired for so long, the song had new meaning.

“We’re halfway there / Living on a prayer / Take my hand / We’ll make it I swear”

I’ve come so, so far from that awful day last summer. But I still have so far to go. Dreams to chase and phrases to turn. Halfway there, indeed. Here’s to the journey. And somehow, yes, I know I’ll make it. Because every day of my life, I am living on a prayer.