It’s fairly normal for me to spend some time at the end of each year reflecting on how it’s gone for me personally and professionally. I’m not one to set specific goals and I gave up the idea of new year’s resolutions long ago. But time for reflection on the past year and anticipation of what’s to come for the next year just sort of happens naturally.
This time last year I was putting the finishing touches on my blog article about how I embraced that feeling of failure and how excited I was about what was to come. I had a sense of peace about my life and was looking forward to launching my new business. I sure had no idea at the time what was in store for 2020. I'm sure none of us did.
2020 has really been the pits, hasn’t it? For everyone. A pandemic has changed the way we live our lives in ways beyond anything most of us could have imagined. In 2019, my family and I travelled to many places near and far. In 2020, we literally hardly ever left the tri-county area we live in…even when our county was ravaged with fires. I mean, we rarely left even our neighborhood.
Most of the time when we leave, it’s to run essential errands like getting groceries or going to medical appointments. I’ve accompanied my mother to 81 medical appointments this year, helped her get through multiple hospitalizations and gotten her moved into an assisted living facility. We did manage to venture out on some family hikes this past summer and explore some of the local outdoor areas, but life at home is what most of 2020 has been about. My teenage son has been doing his junior year of high school remotely from the kitchen table.
We’ve also sadly lost two family members this year. One of those was somewhat expected. He’d lived a long life and, although we miss him, we are grateful he’s no longer suffering. The other, a week before Christmas, was unexpected, accidental and far, far too young. We are still struggling to understand why life happens the way it happens sometimes.
And as I was taking a walk the other day, feeling pretty worn out from this year, I intentionally shifted my focus from that oppressive feeling of all that didn’t go according to plan this year and started reflecting on what I had managed to get done, in spite of all that went wrong this year.
I launched my business at the start of the year. It’s pretty darn hard to get a business going in the midst of a pandemic when all networking events get cancelled and you can’t interact with people in person. In spite of that, I managed to get some clients, two of which will continue with solid work into 2021. I also found a consulting partner that I really enjoy working with. I’ve learned the art of networking via Zoom. It’s not ideal, but it can be done. I’ve written nine blog articles this year and I got certified as a woman owned and emerging new business. In spite of significant obstacles, I feel pretty good about where my business is headed for its first year.
I used the pandemic time to continue my education. Not only did I get my certification as a Myers Briggs Type Indicator facilitator just prior to the start of the pandemic, but I also renewed two Human Resources certifications that I have, well ahead of the 3-year cycle.
I managed to read 28 books this year and all that reading has inspired me to get a Little Free Library started in our neighborhood. I’ve tested out a countless number of new recipes, some of which were great and some we won’t be repeating again.
I’ve spent a lot of time getting my teenager up to speed on many things he was behind on learning such as cleaning, cooking, knowing how to do laundry, how insurance and budgeting works, etc. (we called it his “adulting orientation checklist”) and we've started doing research on colleges. And he’s now in the process of getting all of those required practice hours of driving in so he can get his driver's license.
While the start of 2020 felt like an exciting time of starting something new, to see where my business was going to take me and what life would bring, it ended up feeling like a real waste of a year filled with such loss and sadness. But when I did my reflection, I realized I still managed to keep moving forward in spite of so much adversity. Reflecting on the good things that I accomplished, even though most of those things were not my intended focus when the year first started, was an important step in helping me change my attitude.
There are important lessons to be learned here. We can have the best laid plans and goals are good, but this year solidifies the importance of flexibility and being able to make adjustments and still thrive, in spite of ambiguity. If you keep trying, keep going, put one foot in front of the other, before you know it, you will have accomplished something…anything, even if it wasn’t what you initially set out to accomplish.
I have ended the year feeling good about what I was able to get done in spite of the challenges instead of feeling bad about what I didn’t get done because of all of the obstacles that the universe put in my way. But it took intentional focus and a shifting of my perspective to get there.
How often do we not allow ourselves to celebrate success because we look at how much we still need to do or that we didn’t achieve the full goal rather than considering how far we’ve come? The small wins matter. Especially in times as hard as these. Focus on the good and pat yourself on the back for what you were able to get done. And know that next year is going to be a little easier.
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Laurie is an experienced Human Resources executive who is passionate about organizational culture, creating great workplaces and employee engagement.