How 2020 Brought Us Clarity

In 2015, one of my clients called me about the desire to craft a five-year strategic plan called their “2020 Vision”. It was an obvious play on words, but it provided an opportunity for the team to take what they had learned up to that point and use it to get clear on the direction they want to go. When we go to the eye doctor for an exam, we’re all hoping to be told that we have 20/20 vision so that we can see the world and path ahead with clarity. Who wouldn’t want that for their business? Their family? Their life?

Now, let’s fast forward to the actual year of 2020… Not many of us can say with a straight face that this year looked at all like we envisioned it. Even if we could clearly read the eye chart, there was no way to see what was coming. A global pandemic approaching a full year of infamy. Schools, sports, markets, family gatherings—canceled. Protests against social injustice flooding the streets. 

Social distancing and the abrupt shift to work from home, even if you had kids or roommates. Economic and political uncertainty. Last year was anything but “clearly seen”. It begs the question, what good has any of this adversity provided? If any at all…

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, studied a group of more than 2,300 people who reported their lifetime exposure to several negative life events and scenarios. What they discovered, was that people who experienced moderate adversity throughout their lives reported better mental health and higher level of life satisfaction than those with low to no adversity (Source). Why? These negative and often painful experiences increase our capacity to empathize with others, build resiliency and self-efficacy, and even teach us how to reframe what we think about stress. This is where the value of the last year lies, rapid growth and personal clarity.  

As we look back on this past year, I challenge you to shift your perspective, and keep this in mind… What you see depends on where you sit, and where you sit depends on what part of the story is currently unfolding. In the midst of chaos, it’s hard not to focus on the disappointment of unmet expectations or what feels like continuous uncertainty. What we can focus on are what new strengths we bring into 2021 and how they can prepare us for whatever challenges lie ahead. The success of last year isn’t measured by the execution of our prior plans (what we saw), but by the calibration of our vision that it forced us to do regarding right now (what we see). What if the year 2020 wasn’t about the achievement of goals, but an upgrade that finally brought us 20/20 vision to what’s truly important to us, what we want to change, and where we need to go next… a mental cataract surgery if you will.  

Embrace this new perspective and awareness and incorporate it into every area of your life be it professional, familial, or personal. We aren’t who we are in spite of what we’ve been through; we are who we are because of what we’ve been through. The long-term impact of last year will be very different for different people. Some will come out dejected from the beatings, others will rise up stronger than ever. Regardless of the path that got you to 2021, I believe last year has brought the opportunity for everyone to get that much closer to 20/20 vision.

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