When you reflect on 2020: 9 lessons I am carrying into 2021

So much has been written and reported about 2020 that I can hardly add any more to the breadth of writing that has been published, pushed and posted this past year.

Everyone embraced 2020 as a shiny new decade. I remember back around 2005, there were many business articles and white papers published about what society and business would look like in 2020. This seemed to be a magic year — a turning point to become a more efficient, integrated, global society and we spent the last 15 years preparing for “something” to happen in 2020. I am not sure anyone, but a few experts, predicted what we experienced in 2020.

I recently listened to a podcast from Marie Forleo talking with Rha Goddess, an author and coach. Rha mentioned that 2020 was a “time-out” year — meaning we were put in time-out like a child who misbehaved. This really struck a cord with me. I hadn’t really thought about it that way.

Like many of you, I have been wondering why our lives took such radical and extreme turns this past year — everything from the pandemic to politics, violence, division, social justice, and protests. Thinking about this idea that we were put in a time-out really resonates with me. Perhaps we were moving so fast into the future that we neglected the present.

Any mindfulness journal or book focuses on being present and being in the present. Eckhart Tolle wrote a book called, The Power of Now, which I highly recommend, about this topic. Maybe this past year was a giant, universal…Hey! Pay Attention to Now! Whether this is the reason or not, I believe we were forced to look at ourselves, how we work, how we parent, how we manage our lives, communities and businesses more than any other time.

I focused my time differently as did many of us. I tried to make the most of a new routine. While I didn’t realize it, I took advantage of the universal time-out to think about what I had done, which I never did when I was punished as a child, what I was spending my time on, how I was acting and thinking, where I put my energy and passion, and, what triggered my anxiety. The word that comes to mind is “intentional”. Maybe this is an over-used word by now but whenever we are granted a time-out, whether we do this ourselves or the universe hands us one, it is best to take advantage of it. We can spend some time on our intentions and determine if our actions align to them.

I know many of us have hope for 2021, and we have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. There are some lessons, a-has, ideas, positive ju-ju and other random items I found in 2020 that I don’t want to forget —that I want to carry forth with me always.

  1. Maximize time. My lifetime excuse for not doing what I wanted to do is that I didn’t have enough time. 2020 removed an extensive commute for me and, therefore, gave me more time. Once I converted that time into other actions, I found I had even more time. 2020 took away my biggest excuse and allowed me to plan and spend my time on what matters to me. This was my biggest gift from 2020. There was nowhere to go and no distractions gnawing at me from the fringe. I had no choice but to use my time effectively.
  2. Be thankful. I have read many times about keeping a gratitude journal as a way of getting into a positive frame of mind. I have done that but have stopped many times. While I don’t keep a gratitude journal, I have spent time recognizing all that I have and now spend less time on what I don’t have. I have enough. This is something that has taken me years to realize. Not that I don’t have goals and other achievements to come in my life, but I don’t stew on those things that are missing. I maximize that newfound time to go get them.
  3. Realize the value of pets and relationships. I love my dog. 2020 showed me that I really love my dog. He is 85 pounds and serves as a body pillow from time to time. He is one of my biggest stress relievers. His unconditional love gives me great comfort. My partner, family and close friends do the same. Nothing has tested live-in relationships as 2020. I figured when this all started we would see stronger relationships or perhaps more divorces. I am pleased to say that I have heard more about relationships becoming stronger in these times than the opposite. We may take for granted those closest to us; 2020 showed us how grateful we need to be for those people. I admit that I have lost touch with some of my acquaintances. One of my goals for 2021 is to connect to more people.
  4. Appreciate technology. Even though we are all Zoom’ed out, I realize that I have taken technology for granted. Because of technology, I can work from home. I can be my most productive self using technology. Technology has helped push me to exercise and be healthy. Technology has allowed me to see my parents when I cannot be there in person. Technology has allowed me to write and share my experiences and tips with anyone who wants to read them. I have my bouts of yelling at my PC when Webex freezes or my VPN gets clogged but we are blessed if we have computers, devices and Wi-Fi when others may not.
  5. Allow for flexibility. I have written about this before as a manager. We need to have more compassion for people and their situations. Now, even when we get to the place of minimizing or even eliminating the pandemic, we should remember this sense of compassion for what others maybe going through. We have proven we can work from home effectively. We have proven that deadlines can be met even when someone isn’t at their desk in full view 8-9 hours/day. Keeping this sense of trust, compassion and allowing others to be flexible will be returned to us in terms of loyalty and productivity.
  6. Recognize that we rock. Managing change is so big that it has evolved into a discipline with frameworks mixed of strategy, process, technology and psychology. If nothing else, 2020 has proved that we can be resilient and we can change….on a dime as it turns out! Oftentimes, an external force is the greatest motivator to change. That is certainly true here. The key is maintaining that ability to change and stay motivated even when there isn’t a great external force at play. I plan to keep this mindset and ability to shift top of mind as I think we will continually evolve coming out of what we experienced in 2020.
  7. Live in the present. I am a huge planner. I have many lists, visuals, goals and a forward-thinking mentality to get me where I want to go. 2020 taught me to keep that but to also be in the now. Breathe, look around, appreciate the now, and don’t be too many steps ahead. Around April, I caught myself waiting…waiting for the pandemic to pass, waiting for restrictions to be lifted, waiting to go back to “normal”. Waiting for something to change is a waste. Living in the present means taking advantage of every moment we have to focus on what matters. I stopped waiting and started doing.
  8. Balance mind-body-spirit. I have always believed in balance. The saying that the body fuels the mind has always been true. 2020 has proven that we must balance this three-legged stool to be our most productive, satisfied, fulfilled selves. The role that sleep, exercise, food, water plays with how I show up at the Webex meeting with senior leaders at 8 am is huge. Squeezing in the 10-minute recharging meditation first thing in the morning truly shapes how my day will go. I never thought there was such a relationship here until I focused on this and saw results.
  9. Think about legacy. While being in the now and planning for my goals, I have thought more about my legacy more than ever. Maybe it is because I am getting older, but this year has forced me to think big, to think about what I want to be known for, and how I want people to describe me when I am gone. This is definitely NOT living in the present but it motivates how I will feel and what I will do in my present. When I look back when I am 80, what will have mattered, what will not have mattered. Thinking about this has shifted what I spend my energy on — emotional and physical.

I am sure you have your list. If you don’t have one, don’t let 2020 go by without reflecting on your lessons and deciding what to carry with you, and, conversely, what to leave behind. While I don’t have a huge list of what I will be leaving behind, I do have one very big thing — wasting emotional energy on things I cannot control.

This is what I will work on in the present in 2021. Things outside of our control, like a pandemic, choices of others, how others react to us, how others manage, should be items we recognize, feel and then let go. Here’s to carrying forth the positive lessons and leaving the bad ju ju behind.

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