Lessons from 2020

I’ve been taking some time during the holidays to reflect on this wild ride of a year and I wanted to share some lessons I’ve learned, that I will be carrying into the new year (and beyond!) with me. 

Lesson 1: You are the audience of every word you speak. Choose your words carefully. 

In a year like this, it’s easy to focus on the negative side of everything. Commiserating over global lockdowns, cancelled events and stolen opportunities is a common topic of conversation among all. It’s the preamble to every Zoom call, an easy topic for small talk – a shared appetizer that fits with everyone’s diet. The elevator weather chit-chat of 2020, if you will. I get it – people bond over antipathy.

What I didn’t realize was how much chatter and “bonding” with others over the negatives of the pandemic would affect my own mindset, even if this flavour of conversation was brief. We all know the way we speak to ourselves in our head greatly affects our mood. But I never realized how much the words we speak to others, aloud, can affect our mood as well. There was a negative correlation between the volume of negative chatter and my mood post-conversation. Now, at the beginning of a conversation, I’ll start with something positive. I’ve noticed a drastic change with both the tone and mood of the conversation following. 

Lesson 2: There is so much joy and power in hobbies.

It’s no secret that millennials are hyper-obsessed with productivity. It certainly feels like there’s a new productivity “hack” being written about every week. Before this year, I thought (subconsciously) everything I did outside of work needed to be…productive. Something I think our generation has lost or needs to perhaps embrace more is hobbies. Hobbies for the sake of joy, and that’s it, instead of worrying if it’s feasible as a side-hustle or the like. This year, I discovered how much joy hobbies can bring, with no other motive other than it providing happiness during the time you’re dedicating to that particular activity. It sounds so simple, yet I think many in our generation have difficulty taking hobbies at face value.

This year, my love for indoor gardening blossomed (pun totally intended) and I started learning the building blocks of DIY (sorry, couldn’t resist another one). Both provide immense joy and a much-needed break and diversion from my work life. Are they the most productive activities or the “best use of my time”? Probably not. And that’s totally okay. I am looking forward to further cultivating those hobbies in 2021 and perhaps discovering many more!

Learning 3: Your mindset is everything. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly. 

This year has been a roller coaster of epic proportions. I experienced some really high highs, but also some of the most unpredictable lows. A common theme I noticed during the lows, was that I wasn’t spending enough time cultivating a positive mindset. I have always been a huge proponent of personal development, particularly in the realm of growing and maintaining a positive mindset. Personally, I do this by journaling and reflecting, but everyone has their own method that works for them. I really noticed the effects it had on my mood and overall mental health when I slacked on these “workouts”. It needs to be consistent and it’s especially important during busy or stressful times. 

Learning 4: Rest is so important and needs to be a priority. 

I’ve always joked that the one thing I’m really good at in life is sleeping. I can fall asleep within a few minutes of my head hitting the pillow and I have no difficulty sleeping-in until whatever hour I desire (I’ve had some pretty epic double-digit hour sleep-ins during the holidays).

Active rest, meaning waking hours where I’m doing nothing or have nothing scheduled, on the other hand, has always been difficult for me. In a year where many of us have had the privilege of working from home, it’s not hard for the lines between home and work to be blurred and at times, non-existent. With no physical boundaries and all travel pretty much cancelled, it was really hard for me to carve out time to relax or to be fully “off”. The majority of this year was a sprint for me and it all culminated with me feeling the effects of it in November. My mind felt foggy, I woke up most days feeling uneasy or cranky and even the smallest tasks felt insurmountable at times. I took a few days off and immediately felt better. Of course. This is not rocket science nor is it a groundbreaking experiment on physical and mental health. I’m actually a bit disappointed in myself for only taking the time for active rest after seeing these initial signs of fatigue and burnout (and with some strong nudges from my husband).

The key for growth in anything is the following pattern: 

Stress + Rest = Growth

It’s the same equation, whether you’re training for a triathlon, trying to hit a deadlift PR or building a business. The “rest” part of the equation is as important, if not more important than the “stress” part of the equation. This formula is going to be pasted onto my desktop going into 2021.  

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Do you have any lessons or learnings you’ve gathered from 2020? Drop us a comment below. I’d love to hear about them.

Wishing you all the best for 2021 and beyond,
Xenia

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