Finding Hope at the End of a Difficult Year: REMARKABLE LESSONS FROM 2020

No one could have foreseen the events of 2020.

It was a tumultuous year. The pandemic overshadowed everything. Fires, hurricanes, protests, and the election dominated headlines. So did Tiger King, toilet paper shortages, major events held over Zoom, and everyday heroes.

For me, one of the biggest standout memories of 2020 had been being able to spend more time with my aging puppy, Auggie in her last days.

What moments from the last year stand out for you?

Whatever they are—and whatever your verdict on last year may be—we can all agree 2020 has been disruptive and unforgettable.

It’ll be fascinating to see how history looks back at 2020 and what big lessons future generations take away from the past year.

As the year closes, here are some of the best life lessons we can take away from 2020 right now. Bringing these lessons with us into 2021 can help make life better and happier in 2021 and beyond.

Not receiving our newsletter? Get insightful info on finances and more in your inbox every month with the Visual Insights Newsletter

7 Hard-Won Lessons from 2020 & How to Apply Them

1. Accept That We Can't (& Never Will) Know Everything

Lack of information, misinformation, and disinformation became polarizing themes in 2020. They shined a light on how important facts are. They also showed us the facts aren't always available, accurate, or complete when you look at just one source.

The key lesson here is that no one has all the answers. And no one ever will.

And that's okay. It's the not knowing that keeps us curious and thirsty for knowledge. And trying to quench that thirst can be a deeply enriching experience.

How to apply it in 2021: Try not to get anxious about what you don't know, and be sure to get your information from more than one source. Also, question the sources you do use and acknowledge the biases they (and you) may have.

2. Expect the Unexpected

Planning gives us a sense of control and helps us work toward goals.

But if 2020 taught us anything, it's that the best-laid plans often go awry. Plans for weddings, graduations, vacations, careers, and much more were shattered in 2020. After a year like that, it's natural to feel out of control, anxious, or even threatened.

And, yet, the unexpected can be good for us. It can force us to pay more attention, think more critically, and even engage more deeply. And the better we get at going with the flow in the face of the unexpected, the more satisfying our lives can be.

How to apply it in 2021: Try to build some flexibility into your plans. Think about contingencies and backup plans so you're ready to adapt if you need to switch gears. Work on developing a "go-with-the-flow" mindset when you're confronted with the unexpected.

3. Be Thankful for the Blessings in Your Life

For many of us, 2020 came with profound losses. Some of us will have to live with those forever.

As painful as that may be, we are still here to talk about it. That in itself is a gift.

Finding those gifts in our lives and acknowledging them can make us happier. It can help us build deeper connections and stronger relationships.1 And it can make us better at dealing with the big challenges life throws our way.

How to apply it in 2021: Try to recognize the gifts in your life, especially if you're feeling stressed or anxious. Think about ways to show appreciation for the people you love and work on making gratitude a practice in your daily life.

4. Live in the Moment

Research says that at any given time, close to half of us are not living in the moment.2 With everything that 2020 threw our way, is that really a big surprise? Probably not. But this may be.

A wandering mind makes us unhappy. And the more our minds wander, the more unhappy we are.3

The reason why is that, when minds wander, most people think about negative things, like what they're worried about. And that gets in the way of enjoying the good moments that can be happening right in front of them.

How to apply it in 2021: Try to be more present and mindful. Savor the little moments and pleasures that inspire joy. And when your mind does wander, do your best to refocus on the moment, so you can enjoy life as it's happening.

5. Ask for Help

Last year, so many people made sacrifices, big and small, to help others and keep things going. That showed how people are willing to make big sacrifices to help each other, even total strangers, during tough times.

Yet, even with all of that help out there, most of us won't ask for it—even when we really need it. We're hardwired to be independent. Sometimes, that can make us hard-headed when it comes to asking for help.4

But, being able to ask for help can deepen our connections with the people around us and allow us to lift each other up when we need it.5

How to apply it in 2021: Know your limits. Ask for help as part of a conversation if you have a hard time doing it. Also, remember, asking for help isn't weakness. It's a sign of strength and courage.

6. Value Relationships

2020 has tested so many relationships. It put new distance between some and made it impossible to get distance in others. That ended some relationships and strengthened many others.

With those shifts, 2020 affirmed just how important our relationships are. It showed that we truly can be stronger together and that our relationships can be a source of support, strength, and deep fulfillment.

Last year also showed us how the quality of our relationships matters much more than the quantity of them.

How to apply it in 2021: Invest time and energy into nurturing your good relationships. Consider new ways to deepen, grow, and cherish them, so you get more enjoyment out of life.

7. Invest in Self-Care

2020 wasn't just stressful. It was also exhausting. The burden of shelter-in-place orders, working and studying from home, and social isolation took a toll on many of us, psychologically and physically.

Most of us ignored that, though. In times of stress, we tend to focus outward, on the source of our stress. When we do, we ignore our needs, like the need for quality sleep, and we make things worse for ourselves.5

That's when self-care is most important. We tend to think of self-care as something indulgent, like taking a bubble bath. But true self-care is more fundamental: making sure we're getting rest, movement, connection, fresh air—it could even look like taking time to plan meals for the week or set up automatic bill payments so we're less frazzled by daily decisions. It gives us the chance to relax, step away from our stressors, and get some clarity. It's refreshing and reenergizing. And it can make us more resilient.6

How to apply it in 2021: Commit to taking better care of yourself in 2021. Pay attention to your needs and make self-care a priority. Better yet, make it a habit so you can better manage stress and stay healthy long-term.

We're stronger for having lived through 2020.

Financial Lesson:

How I'm Going to Make 2021 a Better Year

2020 has been a history-making year, no matter what you take away from it.

BEGINNING OF CUSTOMIZATION (REMOVE THIS RED TEXT)

For me, one of the most meaningful lessons of the past year is learning how to

Suggestions:

embrace flexibility and adapt in the face of new, unexpected challenges

maintain a sense of calm when things seem especially tumultuous

discover and do my part to support the racial justice movement

find ways to help others and create positive change in my community

END CUSTOMIZATION (REMOVE THIS RED TEXT)

I’ve also learned how resilient we can all be. We’re stronger for having lived through 2020.

As we reflect on the past year and get more distance from it, we’ll continue to learn from it. We’ll get some perspective and keep growing from the experiences and challenges we had in 2020.

Looking forward to 2021, I’m not going to make any predictions. Most New Year’s predictions are wrong, so I’ll spend my time and energy on something more useful.

Instead, I’m going to make some resolutions.

BEGINNING OF CUSTOMIZATION (REMOVE THIS RED TEXT)

I resolve to tell the people I love that I love them every day.

I resolve to play an active role in racial justice.

I resolve to take science- and evidence-based action.

I resolve to use my voice for positive change.

I resolve to stay flexible in my planning and ideas.

I resolve to appreciate the blessings I have and express more gratitude.

I resolve to listen more and communicate better.

I resolve to set aside more time to take care of myself so I can be my best self every day.

I resolve to become more active in my community so that I can make positive changes from the ground up, rather than solely relying on others to do it from the top down.

END CUSTOMIZATION (REMOVE THIS RED TEXT)

What resolutions do you have for 2021?

If you haven’t thought about it, it’s not too late. If you’re drawing a blank, let’s talk.

Some of the most important aspects of my role as an adviser are listening and talking to my clients. I enjoy talking things out and helping my clients find some clarity, especially after recent shakeups.

If you’re feeling shell-shocked by 2020 or you’re thinking about financial goals for the New Year, call me at (626) 405-0256. Now is a great time to evaluate your financial strategies for the year ahead. It may also be a good time to make adjustments. If it is, I’ll let you know.

Stephanie DeWitt Ascend Financial Consultants, Inc

P.S. Sign up for my emails to continue the conversation. My subscribers get my best insights.

# (626) 405-0256 @ Email Me W Visit Website

Not receiving our newsletter?

Get insightful info on finances and more in your inbox every month with the Visual Insights Newsletter