As 2020 closed, most people said “good riddance.” It was a year that few of us want to repeat. We had less control over many aspects of our lives, most of us faced paradigm shifts in how we worked, there were massive losses, and our social interactions were altered dramatically. It felt like we were riding in a bus without much control of where we were going and when we would arrive at our - or any - destination. While 2021 has had a rocky start, there is hope that we will turn the pandemic corner this year.
If 2020 wasn’t what you wanted, are you willing to drive the bus in 2021? The pandemic restrictions will remain in place for many months. It becomes a personal choice as how you will live in 2021. If 2020 drove you, then what can you do differently in 2021? Kids may still be in remote schooling, vaccines are being deployed slowly, and having your home also be your workspace may continue for several months. This isn’t about making a resolution. It is about deciding how you can thrive in the next year.
People frequently talked about the loss of control of their time, their physical space, and what brought them happiness. There is no understating that the pandemic had a massive impact. Start with small steps to create boundaries. Perhaps take 15 minutes where you go in a room and you’re not interrupted, take a short walk, put down your phone and other devices for a few minutes, call a friend. The action is doing something different that creates a boundary or a new activity. I talked to several people who started painting, and many were trying the adult paint-by-number kits, as a way to create a healthy boundary.
Others talked about how much their life was curtailed in 2020. An interesting activity was looking back at photos that I took, or received, during 2020. What was so surprising was that we had figured out how to do things differently and still have fun. Granted, they were different, but they still brought happiness. It was also little things that might have been ignored previously, but in 2020 were savored and enjoyed. The reflection of what brought happiness is a good foundation to create a different, and potentially better, 2021.
Let go of perfection, habits, and even some traditions. I had a lot of scripts around what holidays should look like because of tradition. I had a concept that holiday meals had to be served on china and use the “good dishes and linens”. It was incredibly freeing to use disposable tablecloths, dishes, and eat outdoors. Literally we rolled up the dishes in the tablecloths and tossed them out! It allowed much more time to connect in a deeper way. There was less focus on creating holiday perfection and more on building relationships. There were a lot of Zoom holiday meals, and while different, there was still laughter, connection, and in most cases - better leftovers!
Acceptance of how things are. We can complain, be angry or sad, and wish that things were different. Or we can accept that this is how we can be during the pandemic. Life will get back to more normal, but not tomorrow. The acceptance is freeing as that allows space to make changes. While your definition of risk may be permanently changed, either more or less risk tolerant, accept it and live as fully as you can. There are some people who may let fear color their world going forward. I hope that is not you.
Find your purpose. One of the most powerful books I have read is Man’s Search for Meaning. It was written by Victor Frankl. He was a psychiatrist and survivor of four concentration camps. In the book, he states that we cannot avoid suffering and we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. How he survived unimaginable horror and suffering was his purpose to see his family again. It is a very short book and may provide insight or a different outlook for you.
The bottom line is that if you disliked the way 2020 was, you will need to do something different in 2021. To drive the bus, means that you are willing to get into the driver’s seat. To get into that seat means doing something different.