There’s an old saying “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”
It’s a polite way of saying “Hey it’s time for you to go.”
I bet I’m not alone in thinking yup it is definitely time to hand 2020 it’s hat and move it along.
The end of any year is a great time to look back at what has happened so we can move forward with a little more wisdom.
But 2020 offers us a unique opportunity to pause and reflect on a year unlike any we have experienced before.
Because this was a year that brought uncertainty, anxiety and loss of all kinds.
This was the year of the great pause.
The only way to make sense of it, to take something positive out of it, is to think about the lessons we can tease out of it.
Here are 5 lessons from this pandemic year that invite you to take your 2020 experience and put it to good use:
Pandemic Lessons #1: Random stuff happens in life.
When 2020 began, no one – and I mean no one – thought they would end up feeling like an extra in a Netflix-like movie. And while the past year was definitely a doozy in the category of unexpectedness, random stuff happens all the time in life.
How many times does your day go exactly as planned?
From little things to life changing stuff, life is not a straight line.
And the truth is we don’t like it unless it’s something like winning the lottery.
Then random and unexpected is cool.
The rest of the time we grumble about it. We give lots of energy and attention to complaining about or railing against stuff that is out of our control.
A pandemic and all the yank-the-rug-out-from-under-us stuff that goes along with it – yup out of our control.
That doesn’t mean that we just throw up our hands in defeat.
What are we to do when life goes sideways?
Figure out what is in our control and focus on that.
This year brought an invitation to be more conscious and intentional in our daily choices – to put our energy into the things we can control and let go of the things we can’t.
Pandemic Lessons #2: Stressful times reveal our world view.
Nothing like a little stress to make people transparent. Maya Angelou said you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas lights.
I’ll add… and a pandemic.
Under pressure, people reveal their fundamental beliefs about the world.
This year they seemed to fall into one of two camps – either “we are all in this together” or “every person for themselves”.
This year showed us which people actually live with a spirit of kindness and not just post memes about it. It shone a light on people who were willing to sacrifice, lend a hand and keep the faith in unbelievably trying times.
I was surprised this year by a few people I know. Turns out they are far more about focused on “me, myself and I” than I had realized. Disappointing but good to know.
It also seemed that many in the me first group also aligned with ideas about coordinated efforts to control the masses and disenfranchise individuals in order to strip us of our rights.
Seems to me that would take a whole heck of a lot of coordination and cooperation. If it were possible, then I’m guessing we would have solved many of the world’s problems before now.
My take is that when we are confronted with extreme challenges, if we are not solid in our belief system, then we look for simple and often unrealistic explanations.
The bigger consequence in believing that things are being done to us, is that we give up our power. We see only obstacles and few opportunities.
Einstein said it best – our answer to whether we live in a friendly or hostile universe determines everything else that happens to us.
This year brought into sharp focus the gap between beliefs and words and actions.
That provides an invitation to see our own contradictions so we can create greater alignment between what we say is important and what we do.
#3 Stressful times reveal our skillsets.
It wasn’t just fundamental beliefs that were revealed this year. Under pressure our personal toolkits of stress management tactics were put on full display.
There were many people who, having robust and diverse strategies in their wheelhouse, managed reasonably well.
They didn’t like this year, but they coped.
Sadly, it seems that many people apparently have gaps in the skills needed to be resilient during tough times.
The truth is once you are in the pressure cooker, you are not going to build new skills.
Nope you are going to rely on the ones that you have.
That’s because when you are busy treading water you don’t have the time or energy to learn how to do the backstroke.
So it’s no wonder that people had meltdowns this year.
It’s no wonder that mental health issues increased.
Resilience is a daily habit not a magic potion we pull out when times get tough.Resilience is a daily habit not a magic potion we pull out when times get tough. Click To Tweet
When times are good, we don’t think about building the skills we will need when times are not so good.
We are all doing the best we can right now with the skills we have got.
Now is the time to take inventory of how well you managed this year.
When the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, there will be an opportunity to build new skills and practice them on minor stressors, so we can be more ready for whatever chaos comes next.
#4 Essential takes on new meaning.
Next on the list of pandemic lessons – essential took on a whole new meaning this year.
While essential is defined as “absolutely necessary or extremely important”, this year made us collectively and individually take a hard look at what that word means in a practical sense.
Seems to me for a long time, we have defined essential as something that we “really need” which actually meant “really want”.
It’s probably a natural outflow of an overabundance of consumer goods aligned with a tendency for instant gratification.
I want what I want when I want it.
This year shifted the conversation from “What do you want?” to “What do you need?”
And more importantly “Who is going to provide that to you?”
Nobody really needed to hoard toilet paper.
But we did need to have a much better understanding of the supply chain – something most of us never gave a moment’s thought to before.
In my mind one of the positive effects of the pandemic was to make us all stop and think about essential workers and services.
And how we routinely undervalue them.
While as a society we reward CEOs and athletes and celebrities with mega paychecks, we found out this year that it is the frontline workers who keep things moving.
Movie productions and sporting events can come to a halt and we will all survive just fine as long as the grocery clerks and health care workers and truck drivers are all still doing their thing.
We found out this year that we can quite comfortably do with a lot less stuff.
Going forward there are two questions that can guide you as you transition to a post-pandemic world:
What is essential in my life?
Although they seem like simple questions, the answers can provide you with a roadmap for your day-to-day choices in everything – from what you consume to how you interact with people.
#5 Human beings need connection
The last of our pandemic lessons is that human beings are hard wired for connection.
Back in the 1970’s there was a mediocre movie about a not so mediocre boy who lived in a germ-free plastic bubble because of a severe immune deficiency. What a strange existence he had!
Who would have thought that “living in a bubble” would become our way of life this year?
While technology became our best friend in an attempt to maintain social connections, it also became abundantly clear that we all need a hug.
Not a virtual emoji kind of hug.
An actual wrap-your-arms-around-someone-and-squeeze kind of hug.
Or to make real eye contact while having an in-person conversation.
Or to hang out with friends and family in the real world.
It’s true we have been fortunate that we live in a time when technology can bridge the gap to when we can actually meet face-to-face.
Seems to me we’ve missed this sense of connection in part because we can’t have it.
But maybe we’ve also missed it because we’ve realized that our pre-pandemic busy lifestyles gave us an excuse for not maintaining connections with others.
How many times have you said “We should get together” only to never do it because life was overscheduled?
We do need connection.
I might even go so far as to say it is on the essential list.
But it takes intention and effort.
In this year in which we craved connection, there is an invitation to make it a priority going forward outside the bubble.If you craved connection this year, then make it a priority going forward outside the bubble. Click To Tweet
Take the less important stuff off your to-do list and add human beings.
Meet a friend for coffee.
Invite people for dinner or games.
Call, text, email or write a letter.
Hug your loved ones.
The thing about lessons, pandemic or otherwise, is that you don’t actually learn them until you put them into practice.
Fingers crossed 2021 will put the virus behind us.
Then we have the choice to do some things differently or simply go back to the way it was before.
Ask yourself what lessons you learned from the pandemic.
Then do something about it.