If you read my blog post from last year, you know I was not a fan of 2020. Imagine my surprise when January 1, 2021 dawned and absolutely nothing magical or transformative happened to improve my circumstances. No Cinderella moment. Just me, my mice, and a pumpkin.
It took me all of 30 days into the New Year before I realized it—the problem wasn’t 2020 (or just 2020). As it turns out, a lot of the problem was me. By the end of the year, I had become so bitter, irritable, and opinionated, I couldn’t even stand myself.
The year 2021 brought with it the realization that very few of the things that made 2020 so tedious and dread-filled would actually change if I didn’t change, too. That the world will always shake, rattle, and roll, but if my character has its roots dug deeply enough into the good stuff, I won’t be emotionally leveled by another pandemic (GOD ACTUALLY FORBID), chronic anxiety, or depression again. Sure, I’ll bend to the wind of extreme circumstances, but never again do I want to be ruled by my fears and emotions as much as I was in 2020.
So, the first lesson of 2021?
1. Self-work is the best work.
Check out the remaining 20. I hope some of them resonate with you.
2. Being busy is a weak flex. Saying no and maintaining good boundaries makes me feel more powerful than “seeing and being seen” ever did.
3. Self-awareness is the key to the kingdom. Emotional intelligence is the single most attractive quality a person (and especially a leader) can possess. Plus, when you’re aware of your triggers, you’re less likely to overreact and self-destruct (or relationship-destruct).
4. Just about every emotion you experience is temporary. Outside of the love you have for your friends and family, just about every other emotion you experience in life will fade or even dissipate completely over time. That goes for the lowest lows and highest highs.
5. Embrace change. If the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us everything can change overnight. The sooner you learn to hang on loosely to your possessions, your status, your schedule, and even many of your relationships, the more likely you are to embrace the inevitable change life promises to bring.
6. Look before you leap. But sometimes, you gotta leap. Measured risks are the start of every good story. Don’t let the fear of the past steal the joy from your future.
7. Balance doesn’t exist. While we can’t camp out in the extremes of life, that’s often where the magic happens.
8. Doing the right things means you don’t do everything.
9. Perfectionism is so 2019. Choose what matters and mark the rest as, “Done is better than perfect.”
10. People-pleasing is a waste of valuable energy. Walking into a room and assuming people will like me is a far more genuine posture than walking into a room and hoping people will like me.
11. Quarantine babies are a little weird, but maybe they’re a reflection of how kids used to be. My youngest daughter was barely two years old when the pandemic hit. She was due to start preschool, but wasn’t able to attend regularly until she turned four. There were no playdates, no mommy-and-me gymnastics, no library reading hours, no nothing outside of her siblings, cats, and water table on the deck. She’s a little quieter, a little more serious, and a little more connected to her family than her two older sisters. She’s also more verbal, more inquisitive, and easily entertained. Maybe it’s her disposition … but also, maybe it’s Covid.
12. The only way to do the work is to do the work. Working from home opened the door to just about any distraction encountered by mankind. I spent so much time feeling stressed and anxious because I wasn’t as efficient as before. But then working from home became my permanent professional outlook. In hindsight, I see a Hansel-and-Gretel-level trail of excuses I’ve had to admit to myself. Sit down. Get mentally tough. And check the boxes.
13. It’s OK to agree with specific facets of opposing views. In fact, this means you can think for yourself.
14. Discipline is not glamorous. The work that goes on behind the scenes is rarely Insta-worthy. That’s OK. That’s human.
15. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re probably growing. Why can’t personal growth be a beautiful, ethereal process? If you feel pinched and stretched at the same time, it’s likely you’re evolving into a stronger, wiser, better version of you.
16. It’s OK for your kid to disconnect. Many of our kids are back to school, sports, and scheduling their social calendars. While it can be tough to let them leave the quarantine nest we gathered them back into, we have to demonstrate trust that we’ve given them what they need to survive life outside our four walls. Again.
17. Trust your gut. With warring voices, statistics, and verbal battles vying for your buy, there’s no source more credible than your own informed instincts.
18. Peace comes at a premium. Maybe you’re just now reclaiming your mental health, or maybe you’re still walking that journey post-pandemic. What we’ve learned is our personal peace is priceless. There’s no commitment, no person, and no purpose worth more than our peace.
19. Unfollowing people on social media is self-care. We spent so much time online in 2020, you might have found yourself scrolling your feed in 2021 thinking, “Who on Earth am I following?” It’s OK. Our “follow” fingers got REAL itchy when that was our only form of interaction. If someone or some outlet gives you anxiety or makes you feel less-than, unfollow. It’s free. And freeing.
20. Invest in people who invest in you. It’s very likely your social circle has changed since 2020. It’s even more likely that that circle has gotten smaller. Small circles are safe circles. Invest in relationships that bring you life and joy. Life’s too short for one-sided friendships.
21. The time is now. The world is waking up and it’s go-time. We had a year to spend in our own heads and now it’s time to get back in the game and find our irreplaceable role in the story of our lives.