Ten Lessons I Learned (or Relearned) in 2020

Jessica Lynn


Photo: Gustavo Scafeli/Unsplash

Come mid-December, I get reflective. I don’t plan on it; it just happens.Maybe it’s seeing all the end of the year content, “Best of 2020” lists, and in memoriam headlines. This year, that list is too long, reminding us of how fast it goes.

Hard times seem to go on forever, but keep in mind, they will not last. The best way to deal with them is to shift your mindset and dig for the gold. There is always gold or, at the very least, some silver. It’s the difficult times that teach us the most valuable lessons.

Here are some things 2020 reinforced:

1. Competency drives behavior

Competency increases confidence, and lessens fear.

According to Psychologist Susan Whitbourne,

Being able to alter your thoughts and reactions will build your confidence in your own ability to cope.

It was a tough year for most. But those not afraid of change fared the best. No judgment, I didn’t always succeed in not letting fear get the best of me. But if you had a role-model mindset and got down to work and not buried your fear in ice cream, continuous Netflix streaming, or political misinformation and mudslinging on Twitter, you came out ahead in 2020.

I doubled down on my blogging and writing business and had one of the most productive years to date. I resisted the urge to increase TV consumption and actually decreased my movie consumption, and my output soared.

My mindset was: I can’t do anything about the pandemic (I did give blood in late March, which was one of the most empowering activities). I’m stuck inside with a teen, I’m going to take advantage of this and work my butt off.

I made more money this year from my writing and blogging than I have to date.

Those who weren’t afraid of change when the pandemic hit and altered their mindset to fit the times are a different type of entrepreneur. How we handle change and challenges, reveals who we are.

2. Non-judgement is key

When you judge, it’s more likely you will accept other people’s judgment about you, no matter how harsh or inaccurate it is. And, really, when we judge others severely, we judge ourselves severely as well.

“We can never judge the lives of others because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” ― Paulo Coelho

Those who lead drama-free lives don’t play the game of judgment. When we judge, it makes not taking things personally a lot harder and bogs us down with noise from the outside. When we practice non-judgmental communication with those we love or even with strangers on the internet, it frees our mind for more important things, like pursuing our dreams.

3. Mindfulness and awareness make the difference

Mindfulness and awareness are the keys to re-conditioning our brains to a place of non-reaction and power.

The mind is like an instrument you can use wisely or not. Continuous thought loops, especially the negative ones, which run most of us, are not a productive use of the mind. When negative chatter dominates thinking, calm your mind by practicing awareness.

It is that simple. But not that easy.

Put down the drink, the computer, the smartphone, the book, and just sit with yourself — then you will know the quality of your life. Those thoughts are what you’re running from when you distract yourself with five seasons on Netflix, vitriol, outrage, tribalism, canceling, judgment, rage, constant monitoring of the news.

Try sitting with yourself instead. And, up the quality of your thoughts. You will be less likely to react. Even if it is just sitting with yourself for ten minutes twice a day. That small tweak will make a large impact on the quality of your life.

4. Family and friends are the most essential

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships. If this year reinforced nothing else, it was this. Relationships are necessary for a meaningful life.

One determining factor to a happy life is who is part of your inner circle.

I made a few more calls this year to friends and family, and it made me think, why do I need a pandemic to remind me this is important? I hope I continue to reach out to those I love, even though conversations aren’t always easy with family. Especially when you don’t see eye to eye on important issues the world is grappling with.

You can’t choose your family, but you can choose to practice acceptance and non-judgement. You can choose to be the bigger person.

The more you learn to not dominate people with your beliefs, making yourself “right” and others “wrong,” the more emotionally centered you’ll be. Because come on, when it comes to some things, you won’t change their mind anyway, not with all the reason and logic in the world.

But if you remain calm and open, you can learn to communicate in a way that leaves both parties feeling heard.

5. Your health and wellness sustain you

I got extra healthy this year, was more consistent about taking my vitamins, sitting with myself, drank more veggie smoothies, and ate out a lot less at restaurants.

More mindful than ever about mental health, I took more walks, drank more water, made time for meditation, and read more books this year than any other year.

6. Confidence and happiness are an inside job

Nothing “out there” will give you confidence or make you “happy.” Confidence is simply your belief that you can figure things out, even during difficult times.

We each are responsible for our own emotional well-being, the actions of others should not determine our happiness, or we’ll have a long, rough road ahead.

Remember that happiness is an emotion, not a constant state of being.

You can build your confidence by working on things you love to do and seeing success blossom from sustained focus and effort. The more skill, knowledge, ability, talent you have (this has to be developed and learned), the more you’ll achieve, and the faster you will achieve it, undergirding your confidence.

7. Practicing gratitude works

Find joy in the things you already have. One thing you can be grateful for is simply the air in your lungs and that you can breathe.

According to helpguide.org to cultivate happiness,

What it takes is an inner change of perspective and attitude. And that’s truly good news, because it’s something anyone can do.

Gratitude makes you feel good. If you are down and depression is getting the best of you (unless it is more severe depression and you need to seek treatment), one of the most helpful things you can do is to help someone less fortunate than you. It will make you appreciate what you have. Even if you only have life.

How priceless that perspective is in a year like 2020.

8. Your environment shapes you

Your environment shapes your quality of life — your productivity, health, happiness, and work.

Your environment includes every aspect; your partner or spouse, your friends, where you work, what state you live in, what you have in your refrigerator.

No other year has given us this lesson more. Whereyou hang your hat determines the quality of your life.

My daughter and I have a pretty solid relationship, but this was tested to its limits in 2020. This year had us jammed together, 24/7, in a small house. It was an opportunity to change some things, work on our communication, rework our environment, be creative, and build on what we have.

We lived outside a lot in our back yard, held socially-distanced movie nights outside projecting films onto one wall of our garage, and made dinners together. It was a lot of fun, we wouldn’t have done this as much in any other year.

Not only did we survive, but we thrived and are closer for it. She is still going “to school” a few yards from me, and noise-canceling headphones are my new best friend.

9. Optimism is more productive than pessismism

Many entrepreneurs got to work this year while others complained and buried their heads in the sand; some worked hard taking on more challenges while others hid on the couch. I read so many inspiring stories about how people shifted their businesses to make this new way of life work for them.

There is a difference between the entrepreneur who waits for the world to go back to normal and those who accept now as normal. In the long run, it’s easier on the psyche to not wonder when things will go back to the way things were and accept the ways things as they are. It allows you to move forward and think outside the box.

When we grieve for the normal we no longer have, it makes it harder to accept what is; it can keep us stuck and treading. A feeling of helplessness can set in — not empowering.

When we work when the chips are down, it gives us something positive to hang our hopes on.

10. You always had it

Trust in yourself, not the noise. 2020 provided us with so much noise, it was hard to hear ourselves.

It was a year of a pandemic, political tribalism, fear, misinformation, quarantines; it is crucial to stay educated but not inundated. Never lose your center of gravity, which resides only in you.

Choose compassion, being centered and grounded, leadership, challenge, hope, renewal. Don’t let the change of a new year pass you by without reflecting on what you learned or was confirmed.

Choose optimism over fear, family and friends over infighting, challenge who you are and accept the challenge. Go into 2021 as a leader, go after what you want, and dedicate your mindset to humility, compassion, empathy, and self-awareness

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Writing on all things California and Texas. It unfolds here. Your daily dose of local news. From politics to food, from celebrity culture to current events. Follow me for the latest updates. Twitter: @girl_thriving

Los Angeles, CA

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