This post was originally published in Forbes Magazine on December 22, 2020. You can read the post on Forbes website here. Laura Maloney is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.
2020 has been a challenging and unusual year for all of us, and for many of us, it’s incited some degree of post-traumatic stress resulting from cultural, health, political and economic uncertainty. December is one of my favorite months of the year as it’s a time to pause, reflect and collect what we’ve learned about ourselves this year, so that we can put our best foot forward in the year ahead.
I remember the start of January 2020 with friends exclaiming, “Bring on 2020!” – and 2020 certainly did bring it on. The way we’re ending this year is beyond what anyone could have predicted. How do we move into and meaningfully create goals for the new year, knowing that the universe may have different plans? Learning to dance with uncertainty while also staying focused on our vision is a skill developed over time. Knowing that the vision can remain clear even though the pathway may change and adapt can help us build internal resiliency that allows us to weather the unexpected.
Because this year presented such unprecedented circumstances, we may have uncovered new facets of ourselves or old vulnerabilities that we thought had been assuaged long ago. The year helped to shine a light on our lives, highlighting what we depend on, what makes us resilient and what is truly important to us. 2020 may have forced us to challenge long-standing assumptions for the first time.
This year also emphasized just how important it is to show ourselves and others compassion when we haven’t yet achieved our goals due to outside circumstances. We may have a new appreciation for what’s inside and outside our control and make peace with it.
My reflection process usually begins in November as I begin to mentally shift from one year to the next. I ask myself a series of questions and keep my goals front-and-center by creating a vision board and choosing a word that I hope to embody throughout the year. My 2020 word was “spaciousness,” which I wasn’t able to achieve given the pandemic, which necessitated shifts in how I work day-to-day. Nevertheless, I learned a few things that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
As I reflect on my personal goals, as well as my clients’, there are several questions that are top-of-mind, which I invite anyone to answer for themselves.
What are 10 things you’re grateful for?
2020 may require many of us to do more sifting through the gunk to find the glitter, but this only makes the glitter that much more precious and valuable.
What five things did you discover about yourself?
Over the past year, many of us discovered strengths and dependencies we didn’t know we had. While I always knew I love being in the physical presence of others, it was suddenly clear how much I crave in-person connection. Shifting from facilitating large 40-person retreats to a virtual environment was an interesting discovery and learning process for me. What are some things that you discovered about yourself as you faced life in a socially distanced world?
What strong attachments did you discover that you have?
Many of us found ourselves bumping up against challenges we hadn’t seen before or which we thought we had resolved. I personally realized how much I rely on baking to relieve stress. Confronting just how much I wanted to bake during 2020 led me to ask myself what is helpful about my coping mechanisms and where I tend to overdo it (those weeks when I’d bake five to seven decadent desserts in seven days!).
What have you learned about your team?
Those who lead or work with teams have undoubtedly learned a lot as people shifted to working from home with their lives unfolding in the background of video meetings. How might this knowledge shape more compassionate and effective work relationships? How did your team pull together? Where were the stressors and how did you work through them?
How are you going to think differently about work and family in 2021?
Many of us, including myself, will see a permanent shift to virtual work. Some people prefer this environment, but I’ve found that even the most introverted introverts realized how much they enjoy being in the presence of other people.
What helps you be resilient?
Recently, my team and I led a virtual happy hour where attendees created a live word cloud to reflect on the things that got them through such a difficult year. Exercise was big, followed by friends, wine, sleep, family, cats, nature, hiking and boundaries.
Usually, most people think about entering the new year with a clean slate. Our enthusiasm for a fresh start can often lead us to set unrealistic goals that aren’t grounded in reality and may not even be what we truly want to achieve. This year, when so much still hangs in the balance, we can consider what will meaningfully benefit us personally and professionally.
I believe that an awe-inspiring number of entrepreneurs will be born from the crises of 2020. So many leaders and organizations are now open to ideas and ways of working that they previously resisted. Since entire industries have been affected by the pandemic, organizations that were competitive with each other are now collaborating to pull through this time better than ever before.
2020 helped many of us uncover grit we didn’t know we had and build resiliency where it was lacking. I’m hopeful that we can take what we’ve learned and build an even brighter future than we could have imagined this time last year.