Optimism for 2021

It’s hard to feel optimistic about 2021 because many of us might feel like we kind of got tricked by 2020. We remember this time last year, when we looked with such anticipation to 2020. We had many plans, hopes and dreams. Places we wanted to visit, people we wanted to see.

Then it all went sideways so fast and the challenges 2020 brought have dragged on for months, and months and months. Certainly longer than most of us could have expected. Back in March when Ontario entered its first lockdown it was hard to imagine that we’d still be talking about lockdown restrictions at Christmas.

So what now?

How do we recover? How do we recapture the optimism and hope we felt a year ago and bring that kind of light with us in to 2021?

The most obvious part is that it’s going to look very different from before. We have the advantage of knowing that 2021 will continue to bring us new and previously-unimagined experiences. So we already know that 2021 will be different from any year before it, and therefore so will our thoughts, resolutions and plans going in to it. Our ideas about what a successful 2021 will be are going to be shaped by what we experienced in 2020. Even though that seems like a let-down, here’s why I think it’s similar to any other year, and can have some serious silver linings.

Other years the way our current year has shaped our resolutions might have been more subtle, and more individual. We might have moved and therefore created a resolution to finish perfecting our new home with paint and renovations. We might have gained a little weight and so created the resolution to lose it. We may have created resolutions that were specific to our job, or our relationship, or our finances. We looked back on our year and figured out exactly what we wanted to do differently in the coming year. It was a personal reflection process that was unique for each of us.

It’s all different, but also so familiar

We will do those things again but we’ll relate to each other more closely than before because so much of our hopes and resolutions will come from what we experienced in 2020. For example, we might be focused on diversifying our income or creating a more robust savings due to the struggles we experienced this year – and anyone in that boat has to know they’re not alone. It’s been a record year for professional and financial instability.

We might create resolutions about building home offices and home gyms. A vast majority of us have found ourselves significantly increasing how much time we spend at home – and the way we spend our time in our homes has changed. It’s now the office, the gym, the yoga studio, the video studio, the music studio, the content creation hub and the table at which we have tea with our friends (albeit in front of a laptop).

We might resolve to embark on a journey of self-improvement. Read more books, take some online courses, and reflect on how we can grow, change and improve our skillsets to respond to our changing goals and challenges.

Then again, it’s also worth resolving to be good at and commit to self care. With so much change and instability you’re giving a lot of energy to keeping up with what’s going on around you. It’s more important than ever to find moments of joy and moments of peace. Bump up your skincare routine for a little built-in self-love daily. Perhaps finish your day with a gratitude journal or take a part of your lunch break to do some yoga or a work out (especially if you work at home and stay seated and still throughout the day, like me).

It’s also possible we’ll collectively resolve to be less materialistic, to shop small business when we need things, to use more sustainable products. Bonus points if you buy your sustainable products from small local businesses! In this perhaps we’re resolving simply to help each other. To support our community members, friends and neighbours.

We’re Going to be Alright

So, as we have in other years, we’ll all look at how 2020 went and develop goals that reflect what we can and want to do better. Our goals are personal and individual to us but they’re also likely to have similarities to those around us. After all, as isolating as the pandemic has been, it’s also been a collective experience. That means that the resolutions we’re setting are similar to other years – simply more reflections of changes we feel empowered to make – but it’s also more communal than previous years. This year we also have the major advantage of knowing a lot more about what the year will ask of us and being better prepared.

Exactly what it is that will shape and define 2021 may be unknown but we are better prepared for surprises than we were going in to 2020. We’ve developed new coping skills and found opportunity in chaos. Let’s keep doing that, keep getting better at it, and make 2021 unique, collaborative, and better than ever.

Let’s Stay Connected

2020 Is a Year for Goals

This time of year you’ll see almost everyone talking about their resolutions. Some will advertise what their resolutions are while others will be intentionally vague about what their resolving to change in 2020. Even more so, you’ll see the advertising bonanza making good use of everyone’s good intentions.

Did you watch anything about New Years Eve in NYC? Planet Fitness literally sponsored it so a good portion of the broadcast was yellow and purple with Planet Fitness written all over it. You couldn’t even celebrate midnight without marketing from a gym.

From gyms and weight loss products to money management and career improvement programs to fashion changes, skin care and everything in between advertisers will be looking for your biggest insecurity and vowing that, in exchange for your hard earned cash, they’ll wipe all those insecurities away.

That’s why I find goal setting more practical. Goals aren’t a commercial venture. Goals don’t have to be about the things you don’t like about yourself or the things you want to change. They are more likely to be tied to new projects or about measuring progress and milestones without discrediting what you already accomplished in past years. And it’s a lot harder to sell to someone’s goals than it is a classic resolution. Goals are about our own commitments and actions, not about what products we buy.

Even the simple or common resolutions sound better translated from resolution language to goal language. Try weight loss, for one. Instead of “my resolution is to lose weight or get down to this certain number on the scale”, say “My goal is to cook at home 5 nights a week and be at the gym 3-4 times a week.”

We all know that if you’re eating at home, you’re likely eating healthier than if you ate out and if you are also going to the gym there’s a good chance you’ll be losing weight. If not losing, per se, you’re definitely getting on track to a genuinely healthy lifestyle. Health is a better pursuit than weight loss for the sake of weight loss, anyway.

It’s also easy to scale and personalize goals so that they make sense for you and where your current challenges are. If you’re really good at eating at home every night but you struggle with gym motivation then maybe you’d modify the above goal to read “My goal is to cook healthy meals 5 nights a week and go to the gym 2-3 times in the next 6 months and 3-5 times a week in the 2nd half of the year.”

And oh – that’s my favourite part.

Even though this time of year we talk about how fast 2019 went by, how the previous year seemed to go by before we could even process what was happening, how we don’t know where it all went and feel like we can’t even remember what we did…. it still feels like a year is a big, huge, impossible timeline for a goal.

Simultaneously we’re feeling that 2019 was fleeting and impossible to hold while 2020 is massive and the end of it, along with our goals or resolutions, is entirely too far away to think about.

Funny how time plays these tricks on us.

So break it up! Don’t focus on “the year” as an oncoming storm. Focus on the first 3 months, the first 6 months, first. Think about what a quarter of the way, or half way to your goal will look like and correlate those milestones to next month, to March and to June. This gives you the most important things of all, a place to start and a path to follow.

All this, really, to say that it’s a great idea to embrace the good intentions behind resolutions and reflect on what you want to do differently in 2020 but if you’re doing so it’s also time to figure out how those resolutions, goals and plans become reality.

Here’s to avoiding any further New Years Eve’s where we feel like all of a sudden a whole year escaped us.