Gold Nuggets In A Trash Heap?
How To Reflect On 2020 and
Move Forward In 2021
by Connie Vanderzanden
“You must make peace with your past in order to move forward with your future.” ~ Billy Cox
To say 2020 was a big year is putting it mildly. Together we faced a pandemic, widespread protesting, a political year showing us the best and worst of what society is, continued loss of black and brown lives, and awareness that we can no longer hide behind the institutions we have been raised with.
(And turning the calendar over to 2021 does not fix any of those things.)
If 2020 were a tarot card, it would be the Tower, which interestingly came up in my Solar Eclipse New Moon reading in December. The Tower card is all about the breakdown of the status quo, leading to deep transformation. The card illustrates the structure of the tower torn down representing old ideas and behaviors. Death to what we have known.
So, when I suggest that you take time to look back to reflect on such a dumpster fire of a year, your gut reaction might be to say “NO WAY!”
Here’s why. Our ego is a powerful protection tool. It is designed to keep us safely seated on that comfort couch. When we reflect on 2020, Ego reminds us of the pain and loss so that we stop thinking about it… thus making any memories of things that went well or things worth celebrating harder to recall.
Over the last 19 years of business ownership, this is one of the key lessons I have learned. There is power in the reflection process. It clears our memory banks and our energetic connections to the past so we can move forward with more grace and ease. I will admit, it’s not the most comfortable process to do. There won’t be a parade or a crowd of cheering spectators at the end of the process, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. I do it to remind myself of the journey I made, of how far I have actually come in the last 12 months. It is a humbling experience, one that brings tears and laughter.
Many years ago, I was preparing to head to a virtual mastermind retreat. I was still new at this masterminding thing, so I was super nervous about the prep work, which included reflecting back over the year and preparing to share that information with the group. When I get nervous or overwhelm kicks in, I go into “over complicate ALL things” mode. Perhaps this one time, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I grabbed all my planners and journals and I reviewed them. I will admit, some periods of time were painful to reflect on. Like seeing projects not move forward, week after week. Noticing how I was barely keeping all the plates spinning. Then I found the golden nuggets, the wins. All buried in between and underneath the painful parts.
As I was preparing this post, I looked back at the mastermind prep work. (That’s also the amazing part of having a reflection process, seeing the strides I have made year after year. In sales, team, tools, mindset, and priorities!) I saw all the pivots and lessons learned, and began remembering more clearly the struggles I’ve overcome. The reflection process is key because it allows me to confidently and courageously close the prior year’s book and start my journey with fresh eyes, restored energy, and strength to keep moving forward.
Want to try this for yourself? Here are some key things to look for. My suggestion is as you review your year - calendar, planner, journals, and notes - grab a fresh note-taking device of your choice and capture these three categories. Set a timer for 90-minutes, grab some tea, and reflect.
Find the Wins and Celebrate
We reflect to find ALL the wins. Not just the big ones, but the small ones too. So take the time to dig for gold to find your wins. Not the wins based on someone else’s journey. Find YOUR wins for the last 12 months.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
- You wore your mask or you remembered to carry your mask with you
- You got out of bed when your emotional health was at a low period
- You asked for help
- Every time you had a new client, a new speaking opportunity
- That time you met an amazing human being and had the best conversation
- Realized you have adopted a new habit that you desired a year prior
Did you improve on a daily habit like walking or meditation? Turn it into a percentage - instead of 3 out of 7 days, you improved your meditation habit by 43%, especially if you were starting from scratch.
Leave the wins on your list as you find them. On my list, I had some weight loss at the beginning of the year which didn’t quite stick around the last three months of 2020. I still count the win for the first part of the year. The weight gain later, well that’s a lesson I learned.
Identify the Lessons
Now that you’ve reviewed the whole year, finding the golden nuggets to celebrate, what didn’t go as you planned? Did you find some roadblocks that required a different route or action? Any deep dark sinkholes that your plans got sucked into?
Reflection on all the lessons we learned helps to identify:
- Innovation for now and the future
- Choosing to be in Beta Mode
- Exploring the problem from all angles, allows us to pause and learn from the lesson so we can create a new approach to achieve success the next time
- Take a second look at the plans that didn’t get any forward motion. Still relevant or were they based on someone else’s journey and were not the best option for you at this time?
In the past, I have had many opportunities to replay the same roadblock in my business, repeating the mistake over and over again. Only with the reflection process was I able to shine a light on what the actual underlying problem was. It wasn’t necessarily the actions I was taking, sometimes it was my mindset or the wording I was using. When I could look at the roadblock in a different way, that’s when I could finally find the way around it to achieve success.
Here are a few 2020 examples that may have come up to help you get started.
All the travel planned for speaking was canceled. While some were rescheduled as virtual, some weren’t. What lessons were learned from this?
- How did the organizers react?
- How was their communication skills during a stressful time?
- Do you have more information on what an ideal speaking engagement will look like?
- What tools or equipment made it easier or delightful to do a virtual gig?
Due to stay-at-home orders, the office was closed. Team members had to work from their homes and all client deliverables went virtual.
- If a team member struggled, what strength or tool do you think may have helped the situation?
- What tools failed and which ones did you lean into even more?
- Where were the communication holes? Consider all types of communication from your team to your clients, to receiving snail mail and sending packages, to phone service and timeliness of responding to emails.
- With the shifting of old ways of doing business, how does that change the values and mission for the business and the team overall?
As you identified the lessons it is natural to also find the losses. Those items during the year where you simply needed to take a knee and some personal space to grieve.
Grieve and Mourn the Loss
It is often way easier to quickly sweep the grieving process away and move forward. I get it, I’ve done it. And I have also experienced that grief coming back around, at some random time usually right in the middle of a growth moment with horrible timing, making a stressed-out situation 3-4 times worse than it needed to be.
When we sweep grief away and don’t embrace the full emotion, it means we are saving it for later.
It’s in our subconscious minds, swimming around murking up the waters. Triggering thoughts and emotions at the most inappropriate times. Like that last time, a team member had a small mistake and you emotionally exploded all over them, wondering where the hell did that come from.
It’s stuck in our bodies, you know that achy knee and back, slyly reminding us that we aren’t as whole as we think we are. Perhaps money anxiety hit and all of a sudden you could hardly stand or sit because your lower back decided not to support you fully until of course, you took a moment to deal with the emotions you were keeping bottled up inside.
It shows up in how we relate to others in the world. Perhaps we close ourselves off from ever having that feeling again, becoming isolated and playing small in our business. It can show up in making a choice that is safe, stalling future growth for the business and ourselves.
Yes, sweeping grief away at the moment is the easier quicker choice but somewhere along the way it will come back in some fashion demanding that you resolve it.
For example the year I closed and walked away from my commercial space, it was sad. I was closing a door, a death of sorts to the business. While I hurried with tasks - creating new space at my home, donating ALL the things one person accumulates over 8 years and three team members - I didn’t take time to grieve. I just picked myself back up and kept moving. When I finally slowed down enough three years later, that’s when that grief showed up in the form of a skin rash and throwing my back out. Thankfully I am pretty aware of what my body is telling me and thanks to my health team and spiritual coach, I was able to identify what needed to be fully released and healed. My body held on to stress, grief, and sorrow. Did I really need to have a full breakdown at that specific time? No, it was painful. The lesson learned was when I don’t take time to feel the feels, eventually, it will come back and bite me in my ass.
Learn from my mistake, take the time to grieve. To recognize the loss. Perhaps even hold a little ceremony for it.
Check out this amazing article that offers two different ways to release grief. It gives a little bit more understanding around grief along with the rituals - timed automatic writings or journaling and speaking to the earth.
That’s the process I use. Review and release all of my note-taking devices to find the wins (no matter how small), the lessons I learned, and to acknowledge and grieve the losses, normally with a burning ceremony.
I really loved that creative moment above about celebrating in a bigger fashion. Since you may be a solopreneur, like me, we may not have anyone to celebrate with. Here’s my offer, hit me up by either emailing me or scheduling a 30-minute consult. Let me be your witness and cheerleader. That is, of course, one of my strengths and part of what I love to do. I’ll even bring my bell to celebrate, you provide your own confetti.