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No, We Can’t Pretend the Crucible Year of 2020 Never Happened

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re more than ready to bid farewell to 2020. Me, too. But while some pundits are telling us this has been a year to forget, the opposite is actually true. Not only has this been a year we could never forget, but it’s been year that’s definitely worth remembering.

Really, that makes it just like every other year.

The way I see it, there are no bad years. There are just bad things that happen during time frames known as years. And while more bad things may have happened for more people in 2020 than in many other years, everything that happened wasn’t bad. There was plenty of good, as well.

This isn’t some Pollyanna blog that’s suggesting you view 2020 as a half-full glass of iced tea when it’s clearly been an overflowing jug of toxic waste. Collectively and individually, we’ve all experienced the painful fallout of a global pandemic. It has been unsettling to just about every aspect of life – work, finances, family, travel, social gatherings, physical health, mental health, and on and on the list goes.

What I will suggest is that how we remember 2020 will go a long way toward shaping 2021 – and the years that follow.

Process your pain

For starters, it’s almost always therapeutic to process the pain and loss we experience in life. Otherwise we’re like the guy I know who thought the solution to every strange noise coming from the engine of his car was to turn up his radio. He would drive blissfully on without hearing the engine noise, but the car soon needed a tow truck to get off the side of the road!

If, on the other hand, we acknowledge the realities we’ve had to deal with in healthy ways, we are more likely to move forward in a productive manner. And somewhere in the evaluations, we’re also able to see the good things that happened, as well as how we were able to learn and grow from the challenging experiences.

Process your values

Personally, when I processed all that happened in my world during 2020, one of the things that hit me was a confirmation of some of the values that I use to guide my life. Those values have always sounded good, but their true worth was proven during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

For instance, when 2020 began I was introducing the concept of transfluence, an approach to leadership I’ve spent several years trying to define and refine. I touched on the concepts in some of my blogs and articles throughout the year, and my book on the topic came out in September. Many of the ideas in the book were tested by the furnace of the 2008 recession, but it was affirming to see that they also were extremely relevant during the crucible of 2020.

The book talks about how leaders can deal with pride and fear, how we can lead with transparency, how to build honesty, humility, and heart into our leadership, and how to infuse leadership with passion and purpose. Those things are always essential to having a transformative influence in the lives of others, but they are particularly crucial during disruptive times like a global recession or a worldwide pandemic.

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Process your future

Perhaps the most undeniable and universal reminder from the past year is that we are not in control. We live and lead differently when we acknowledge that the results of our work are out of our hands. While it frees us to worry less, it doesn’t free us of our responsibility to prepare for the future, to have a good attitude, or to live with integrity.

When I think of that responsibility, I’m reminded of an old saying that’s often mis-attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

My challenge – to myself, as well as to you – is to reflect on the good, bad, and ugly of 2020 in search of meaning that can help us all make the most of 2021. When we turned the page on 2019, we had no idea what was in store for us in 2020. And the same is true now. But we can prepare for the uncertain future, I believe, by learning from the realities of the past.

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