2020 was a great year!
2020 was a terrible year!
It was both, of course, depending on what I’m choosing to look at in the year.
For me it felt like a very challenging year as we went through it. Endless uncertainty, non-stop reports of human tragedy, and inconsistent, ever-changing restrictions combined to create a rich backdrop of fear and worry for day to day living. It was a relief to have it done.
After a long and restful break over the holidays, I started the year with a ‘bang!’ That sounds better than it was. Turns out the bang was my rested-up, ready-to-go motivation, face-planting into a new lockdown. Ooof!
With all of that in the equation, I wasn’t looking forward to my annual review of the year. Who wants to revisit that mess? “Let’s just get on to 2021”, I thought. “New year, new start. It’s all behind us, focus on the future!”
But old habits die hard, and these reviews have been a huge source of satisfaction and motivation for me over the course of the last few decades. So I blocked some time early in the year and got started. I went through my calendar, reviewed my completed projects, our sales performance, my Linkedin account, and scrolled through my pictures from last year.
I had thought it would be like digging for diamonds in dog s&!t, but it wasn’t like that at all. There were the first three months of the year, of course, when we wandered through our lives blissfully ignorant of the anvil that was about to drop on our collective heads. Lots of great stuff there. But even thereafter there were cool surprises:
- I started work on a book project, and found time to write every day
- I improvised a fabulous canoe adventure into the break between lockdowns
- Sales were down, year on year, yes. But they weren’t down by as much as it felt like they were during the year
- In a tough market, there were some accounts that had grown dramatically
- Lockdown got me out doing daily early morning walks through local parks
- There was plenty of swimming, but in particular I’ll never forget the magic of a swim on a foggy morning, with sunlight picking out swans as they swam around me in the mist
In the end, there were about 60 things I was able to list out relatively easily. Halfway through the process, I realised I wasn’t so down on the year anymore. I had the strange sensation of knowing it was a disaster of a year, but of being pretty okay with it. The review and writing had changed my relationship with it in a fundamental way. It was a challenging year, sure, but it wasn’t as ‘heavy’ as it had been.
I think there are a couple of things going on here:
- When I change what I’m looking for, I change what I see. Changing the focus revealed much more good stuff than I was expecting
- Pulling all of the positives together in one place simply overwhelmed the assumption that it was all bad. It wasn’t all bad, but my filters were colouring my experience of things
- As humans, we are affected by something called the ‘recency effect’. We remember the last thing in a sequence more than things that came in the middle. Pulling all the positives together has been the latest in my 2020 sequence, and it has helped dramatically shift my perception of the year
Entering 2021 with the normal sense of hope for a new start, only to find we are back in the latest lockdown took a bit of the wind out of my sails for the ‘new year, new start’ vibe I’ve known for most of my life.
It seems this is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, I’ll be doubling down on simple practices like the above, that help me navigate the fog of uncertainty that still hangs over the year ahead.
It took a few hours to transform the tenor of an entire year. An amazingly productive investment of time really. Have you got a few hours?