As midnight approached on December 31st and the end of the year was in sight, there were all sorts of GIFs, memes and messages circulating, illustrating how anxious we were to finally close the door on 2020. The whole world was exhausted and eager to move on.
But I believe before we slam that door on 2020 and block it from our memories, we should take a moment to look back and reflect on the valuable lessons it taught us—both good and bad—and take them forward with us.
I, too, have pandemic fatigue and am beyond ready to move on. However, my exhaustion stems not just from COVID but also from the constant animosity, anger and vitriol on so many issues that only seemed to escalate to a boiling point in 2020. I am disappointed and disheartened by the numerous topics that have become divisive between families, friends, neighbors and coworkers. And I am disgusted that our children and grandchildren are watching adults behave in ways that we (should) teach them not to. We must do better.
So, what are some of the lessons of 2020 that I think are worth taking into the new year?
- Spend more time listening than speaking (or tweeting). Who knows, you may learn something new. You may understand someone else’s point of view. You may even gain a new perspective.
- Have more empathy for others. We don’t know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. But maybe if we do more of the first thing I mentioned (listening), we might just learn something about them and see things differently. We can’t judge someone else looking only through the lens of our own life experiences.
- We are better together. No matter what we are trying to accomplish—whether it be in sports, in battle, in our community, in our workplace—we are more successful when we work together, not separately. We saw that firsthand in our region post-Katrina when we finally decided to work collaboratively rather than parochially, and we are all much better for it.
- Treat others the way you wish to be treated. No matter what religion you may believe in, they all espouse some version of this basic humanistic value. How quickly and often we seem to forget this most fundamental teaching.
- Help others in need. During this challenging time, so many people and businesses are struggling, more so now than ever. Pay it forward and do something to proactively help someone else. My favorite quote (by John Wooden) says, “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
These all seem so simple and yet sometimes so elusive. So, as we turn the page to 2021, move on from an exhausting year, and set our New Year’s resolutions of healthier goals, business accomplishments and plans, I hope those resolutions include looking outward and aren’t solely focused inward. A new year presents a perfect opportunity to make changes—right wrongs, try a little harder, be more open-minded.
This year, let’s all resolve to learn from the past, take the important lessons to heart, and set a better example for those that follow.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year…and a better 2021!