2020 Hindsight: Reflecting on this year can offer some valuable perspectives.
In some parts of Latin America, people celebrate the new year by writing a list. The tradition invites revelers to write a list of the worst parts of the previous year, then toss that list in a fire. Burning the list is meant to symbolize removing negative energy before welcoming a new year.
For most of us, the list for 2020’s bad memories is longer than the line at a polling station. Natural disasters, political turmoil, COVID-19, and the economic consequences of the pandemic have ruined the optimism that usually accompanies the countdown to the new year.
But even for those looking to burn away memories of this year, there are still some valuable lessons we can take away from 2020. This trying year has tested our resilience, but with each challenge, we found new ways to adapt. Although many of us have experienced loss and sacrifice, we have also experienced personal growth.
Some of us are still recovering from the hits we took in 2020. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize how much we’ve persevered in the face of adversity. No matter what happens in 2021, hopefully these lessons can help us through whatever may end up on next year’s list.
BE FLEXIBLE . . .
Living through 2020 was like a flawed fire escape plan; your plan was to escape through the window, but during the actual emergency, the window was blocked.
This year forced us to be more adaptable than many of us are used to being — in fact, even people who already had a Plan B needed to develop a Plan C on the fly. At any rate, surviving this tumultuous year proved we can adjust our plans as necessary. It may not be the most familiar path, but it might still bring you to the same destination.
. . . BUT RESPECT YOUR ROUTINE
Spending nearly 24/7 at home disrupted our routines and introduced distractions that competed for our attention. Without the structure of a commute or appointments in our schedules, losing track of time on our phones would have been tempting.
Maintaining healthy morning rituals can help keep us focused, even if there are no pressing plans scheduled for the day. And when you are working from home, creating a schedule that separates work, family, and personal time may offer balance.
TRUST YOUR COMMUNITY
After the first few weeks of social distancing, even the most introverted homebodies found themselves craving human contact. When we were unable to have water cooler meetings and coffee dates, we felt lonely and disconnected.
Although we have had to limit our physical contact, quarantine taught us new ways to connect. This experience has reminded us how important it is to call our friends and family often, patiently listen when they admit they are struggling, and reach out when we need help, too. The ways in which our communities innovate solutions in a crisis can be inspiring.
DETERMINE WHAT IS ESSENTIAL
Visiting stores has been downright dangerous during the worst parts of the pandemic. Without the luxury of popping into a store on a whim, 2020 has helped us prioritize what we really need. Some items may be important, but others aren’t worth waiting for them to be delivered (or come back in stock on Amazon).
In addition to identifying what is essential, this year helped us realize who is essential. We may not have always appreciated how much we rely on essential workers, but this year helped us recognize how indispensable those people are.
RECOGNIZE YOUR FAMILY’S RESILIENCE
Could you imagine growing up during 2020? Teenagers are losing out on graduation ceremonies, children are adjusting to online school, and parents are canceling birthday parties.
Yet people are tougher than you may think. Those who have had to cancel prom nights, weddings, funerals, and family reunions have found other ways to make their own memories, whether they organize virtual get-togethers or more intimate celebrations. They may not be able to have the same experiences you had when you were younger, but they can still create memorable moments.
Instead of mourning these changes, the best we can do for our families is to be a model of optimism, encouragement, and strength. When our families remember this period a generation from now, they will remember our attitude during these trying times more than they would have remembered a school dance.
LEARN WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL . . .
Even when adversity challenged us this year, we found creative ways to adapt to the circumstances. Still, with more of our lives depending on digital connection instead of in-person conversations, the internet can feel like an echo chamber of political and social frustrations.
Add in the generation-defining movements of 2020, and many of us have felt more socially engaged than ever. With a record-breaking voter turnout, the elections reminded us how powerful our voices are.
. . . AND LET GO OF WHAT YOU CAN’T
On the other hand, no matter what your views are, everyone has had to deal with disappointments this year. Whether they are crushing losses, personal sacrifices, or a discouraging lack of progress, events outside of your control can feel devastating.
We may not be able to prevent misfortune, but we can choose how to react to it. Take time to grieve when you need it, but recognize the power of moving on.
Maybe this means taking time to meditate. Maybe this means writing in a journal. Or maybe this means using a written list of unhappy memories as kindling. However you disengage with 2020’s negativity, hopefully you will appreciate how much stronger you are by the end of it.
All the best,
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