Twenty-twenty was an unpredictable and unprecedented year. For many, positivity and growth was put on pause as our focus tended toward the negativity that surrounded us. Now that it’s 2021, let’s start up our positivity again.
To start, take an honest look at the year behind you and do your best to zero in on the brightest spots. For example, the world got a wake-up call about the need for massive adjustments to our approach to healthcare, and many Americans experienced a renewed passion for social justice. Millions of us were challenged to redefine our workspaces and adopt new ways to stay connected with friends and family. We were invited to think for ourselves and become more critical consumers of media and news.
So while there’s no doubt about the fact that 2020 was a heavy year, it was also full of opportunity. Here are four ways you can keep the momentum going and continue making progress this year.
If there is anything you need to let go of to live a fuller life, leave it in 2020. To do this, start writing.
Writing out all of your thoughts and feelings is a technique recommended by many therapists for letting go of difficult emotions and coming to terms with traumatic experiences. Rather than pretend 2020 wasn’t hard for you or choose to move forward without looking back, take the time to put everything you’re going through down on paper and don’t leave anything out. When you’re done, take a deep breath and turn the page.
If you want to take this one step further, burn these pages until you are left with only blank sheets. This ritual can be profoundly comforting and cleansing. Once you can get closure with 2020, you will be able to give 2021 everything you’ve got.
With the page turned on 2020, plant both your feet in the present. Be prepared for this to be difficult. It can be immensely challenging to stay present, especially if you’ve recently faced hardships that continue to weigh on you. To make this easier, consider using meditation and mindfulness exercises to find your place in the present.
Devote a few minutes each day to focusing inward—meditating on your feelings, clearing your head, and detoxing your mind of any worries or anxieties that may be holding you back. Use your breathing to ground yourself and your senses to notice your surroundings in the moment. With some practice, these exercises will become so natural they will be almost second nature.
The past will continue to nag at our lives if we let it define us. Staying present keeps us from forming unhealthy attachments to our past. There is a difference between learning from the past and dwelling on it. Reflect on and live in this truth. Use your past to move forward, not as an excuse for staying put.
The next way to ensure that this year is a great one is to set expectations that make sense in this version of the present. While normally a healthy dose of self-challenge and discipline is a good thing, this year is different. Right now, many of us could use more peace and compassion.
You can give yourself a measure of both by changing the focus of your goals. This year, don’t let your goals be achievement-motivated. Last year was hard. Starting 2021 with strict targets and harsh deadlines is a recipe for disappointment and stress. Instead, let your goals be motivated by your passions. What changes would you like to see in your life? How can you help make the world a better place?
For example, you may want to set your sights on a promotion at work, but reframing this goal as a desire to help your company move forward places you under less pressure and allows for different interpretations of what “success” may look like.
And remember that nothing deserves your attention more than your mental health. The most important thing is not that you achieve all of your goals but that you are kind to yourself.
As the year progresses, you might find yourself veering off the path you’ve set yourself on and onto one that may resemble the one you took last year. To prevent this from holding you back, create a routine to remind yourself of your purpose and worth.
For some, this may mean creating a vision board and journaling about progress. Others may benefit more from choosing accountability partners to help them stay the course. Whatever it may look like for you, make the decision now to stay focused on what you’ve set out to do. Writing out a list of your goals on paper will help you remember them.
This year, you can place distance between yourself and your past and achieve everything you’ve set out to do by moving forward. We don’t know yet what exactly this year will hold, but we do know that it’s bursting with possibilities.
So rather than adopt the popular mindset of just being glad you made it out of 2020, why not try being glad to be in 2021? Remember to make room for gratitude and to forgive yourself if last year did not go as you had planned. Stay focused, stay present, and stay resilient. But above all, be compassionate toward yourself and keep putting one foot in front of the other.