Ironic, isn’t it, that 2020 means perfect vision and we often think of hindsight as being 2020.
Today, I’m taking a page from one of my mentors, and sharing what I learned or re-learned during this extraordinary year.
As so many people kept telling me, "just when you think things can't get worse..."
And it all depends on your perspective. The year offered many opportunities to adjust, to pivot, and shift priorities. Here are a few of my takeaways, not necessarily in any order. I’d love to hear yours.
- Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. And there's a lot of small stuff. During the year, many people struggled with great big challenges. Those difficult experiences help us to put things in their proper perspective and think about what's really important. Friends, family, good health, safety, food and shelter. For some, these things could not be taken for granted.
- More often than you think, reach out to those who matter. I lost two really good friends this year. Neither died of Covid, but both deaths were unexpected. These are losses that leave a big gaping hole in my heart. Both people knew how important they were to me, because I tend to tell people that. But the sadness is still overwhelming at times. And a reminder to reach out and let people know they matter.
- People can surprise and inspire you. The resilience of the human spirit always impresses and inspires me. People do rise to the occasion. I witnessed and experienced so many examples of creativity and innovation and making of lemonade out of lemons. So many people gave so much for the benefit of others. I have to ask myself how I can do more of this.
- “Judge less, feel better.” This is a direct quote from my mentor, and I couldn’t agree more. This was a year where it was easy to choose sides and to dig in. Political issues, racial inequity issues, social issues; even masks. Giving each other some respect and permission to have a different opinion is so much less stressful. I love this notion of pulling people up instead of pushing them down, and honoring our differences.
- Choose where to place your focus and attention. While disasters and challenges can bring out the best in people, it can also bring out the worst. There was a lot of expressed anger and frustration this year, in social media and on the streets. Deciding how, when and where you participate is up to you. Show up for those things that are most important to you. You get to choose.
- Building resilience is a skill that matters. I encountered many people who were totally defeated by the circumstances of the year. I know that mental health issues are on the rise. It is never too early or too late to build your level of resilience, because life will continue to throw stuff at us. It's part of the human condition. I spend a lot of time writing and talking about this, because I have personally experienced the difference it can make.
- Have your tools and support system ready. Who would have thought that one of the big challenges of the year was finding toilet paper? Having necessary supplies on hand, and knowing the systems you need to survive prevents a lot of scrambling. Who are the people you reach out to when things are at their most challenging? A few great friends that will be there for you - no matter what -- are indispensable, even if they are not nearby.
- We need to honor our heroes. There are people who are on the firing line of every major disaster. They jump in willingly to help; they don't even stop to consider their own personal safety - they are givers. We need to acknowledge the people in our lives and in our communities, who serve others without expectation. We need to actively appreciate them.
- Expand your interests. Being encouraged - or even forced - to stay at home for long periods of time was difficult for many, while others cherished more time with family and pets. Having worthy distractions, hobbies and activities to enjoy made life a bit easier. I love reading and read a lot of books this year. I also enjoyed my fair share of Netflix series. But, I also invested in my personal and professional development as well, with virtual conferences and educational programs. It was a nice mix and I need to continue.
- Know what matters. Your family, your friends, your community. Making a difference. Whatever it is, keep it front and center. Knowing your priorities and your core values provides grounding and stability, especially when things get rough. And, for sure, I experienced my own roller coaster of ups and downs all year. It is always knowing what’s important that brings me back.
For now, that’s my reflection on 2020. I would love to hear what you learned, through your comments and email replies. Wishing you the opportunity to apply what you learned into a happy, healthy and peaceful 2021.