To say that 2020 has been quite the year would be an understatement! Who would have thought when we started the year that life as we know it would be completely flipped on its head, punched in the stomach, and kicked in the rear – all at the same time!
Yet, life has continued on for many of us – despite the work and life changes and new social norms, we’re adapting and persevering. Now that we’re at the tail-end of the year, most of us are heaving a sigh of relief and looking to 2021 and hoping we can go back to the way things used to be. Well, don’t be surprised if we don’t revert to the pre-pandemic days at the stroke of midnight.
In fact, after such a disruptive event, my advice is to reflect on the lessons learned in this historic year and carry them forward into the new year. Here’s a list of the valuable lessons that I’m taking into 2021 to keep me inspired and motivated:
#1 We are way more resilient than we think we are.
What this pandemic has shown us is we humans have a tremendous capacity for resilience. While life doesn’t come with a roadmap to navigate the twists and turns, we have the ability to adapt over time to life-changing or stressful situations and emerge stronger. Be it our frontline workers, enterprising restaurant owners, working parents juggling work with their kids’ virtual learning or families across the globe who celebrated milestones creatively, we’ve demonstrated our “can-do” spirit and ability to conquer any challenge.
#2 Don’t put things off until tomorrow when you can do them today.
One of my biggest regrets in 2020 is not being able to see my parents who live continents away. I had wanted to make the trip to see them last year and decided I would do it in April of this year instead. And while no one could’ve predicted that 2020 would make travel next to impossible, looking back, I wish I had grabbed the chance when I had it. What I’ve learned is life is unpredictable and while you have the ability to do something, just do it. There is no time like the present.
#3 Focus on what truly matters.
We have multiple priorities and struggle to figure out where we should put our time and energy. What this year has shown us is that few things truly matter. For me, my health and happiness, the health and well-being of family and friends, and the impact I make in my life are important. Yours may be similar or different. Whatever your priorities, take the time to build and nurture what’s important. If family matters, then make sure you’re spending quality time with them. When we look back, this time well spent will bring joy and contentment to us.
#4 You can always find a silver lining if you just look for it.
We’ve all received our share of lemons this year. So when the dark clouds took over early this year, we were hard-pressed to find glimmers of hope. Yet, as many of us were forced to work from home, we realized we now had more time to spend at home rather than on our commutes. Instead of shuttling from airplanes to hotels to conference rooms, we came the appreciate the comforts of home, a hearty home-cooked meal rather than takeout, and the joy of spending a more relaxed morning than scrambling to get ready to drive into traffic.
#5 We need one another to survive and thrive.
Human beings are social creatures. We’re meant to spend time with one another. Pre-pandemic, we took our social relationships for granted. Hanging out with people took an entirely new meaning in 2020, and thanks to Zoom happy hours and Google Hangouts, we were able to address our loneliness. And though now, we may be reeling from the virtual video fatigue, we’ve come to appreciate the value of social interactions. I know I’m never ever taking my social life for granted.
#6 It’s never too late to learn a new skill.
With most of us forced to work remotely, we’ve had to befriend technology in innovative ways. Older generations have had to become more proficient with online platforms to get caught up with younger colleagues and family members. It’s as if technology were fast-forwarded 10 years. Those who got sick of watching Netflix and Prime videos took to the Internet to learn new skills such as playing an instrument, cooking, and baking. Social media posts are flooded by wannabe “Master Chefs” and “America’s Next Top Bakers,” displaying their banana bread and casserole recipes. So you see, 2020 allowed us new opportunities to add or develop our skill set for which we previously didn’t have or make time.
#7 Self-care is more important now than ever/
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing stress levels for many people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen was overwhelming and caused strong emotions in adults and children, highlighting the need for greater care to preserve our physical and mental health. Even the corporate world took notice, and managers took the time to inquire about their teams’ mental health. Whatever your method of self-care, whether they’re self-calming practices, working out, practicing yoga or meditation, listening to music, or taking a quiet walk, it’s important to take the time to focus on caring for your well-being.
#8 Don’t sweat the small stuff.
In the wake of this global pandemic, many of us learned to put things into perspective. We learned to be a little bit more patient – with what’s happening around us and with one another. We learned not to focus on trivial things, but look at the big picture. We learned to not focus on the imperfections but to celebrate little wins and take each day as it comes. Maybe going into 2021, we can be kinder, more compassionate, and learn to empathize with each other.
#9 Keep calm and live in the moment.
What 2020 also taught us is that during a crisis, panic is not an effective strategy. Instead, tackling life’s challenges calmly by focusing on what needs to get done rather than worrying about the unknown became a daily mantra for us. What we can learn from this year of disruption is we need to practice mindfulness by becoming more aware of where we are and what we need to do without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
#10 There will be more challenges but know that we’ll get through it.
The best lesson that we can learn from 2020 is that no matter what happens, we should move forward with an unwavering belief is that while there will be more disruptions and many uncertainties, collectively, we shall overcome.
As the Buddhist philosopher and poet Daisaku Ikeda said, “The years pass. The times change. The only thing that survives and transcends this inevitable process, that shines brighter with each new era, is the record of a great human spirit that has endured struggle and remained true to its deepest convictions to the very end.”
I hope as you reflect back on this tumultuous year, you find many valuable lessons to take with you into what we all wish will be a year of good health, joy, and prosperity for all. Here’s wishing us all a happy, bright and shining 2021!