It would be easy to treat 2020 a bit like a regretful purchase – you know, when you throw the receipt away without looking at it, or when you stuff your shameful Big Mac evidence in the outside bin. You could even be forgiven for then wanting to set the bin on fire.
If that’s you – mate, no judgement here. Have a great holiday and toast a marshmallow for me!
But if you’re a bit more optimistic and sitting somewhere between “let’s try and salvage something from this dumpster fire of a year” and “I’m so grateful for all of the wonderful lessons and experiences this year brought me” then I’d love to invite you to create a bit of a 2020 digest – and I’m here to share mine with you too.
The final week of the year, as we hazily float between Christmas and New Years wondering what day of the week it is, and whether we care anyway, is about more than poor food decisions and annoying relatives.
It’s a great time to kick back with some fresh perspective and think about what the year held and what, if anything, we’d like to take with us into the next. Temporal milestones are important. Like little landmarks in our brains, they help us to draw lines and make sense of the structure of our lives – and a new year is one of the most powerful temporal milestones we’ve got at our disposal.
We get to zoom out, set intentions, and bask in the opportunity for a fresh start.
How to build your 2020 digest
Pick one word
Record your lessons
Credit your sources
Evaluate your opinions
Celebrate your achievements
Start, stop, keep
Choose your own adventure
2020 Digest Step 1: Pick One Word
If you had to sum up your year in a word, what would it be?
For bonus points, have a think about what your 2019 word would be, and what your intention for 2021 will be too.
My 2019 word was exploration – all about adventure and challenge. 2020 was the year of realisation – when things broke down, and started to break through.
My 2021, I’ve decided, is going to be about connection – to purpose, to self and to others.
For more help with picking your word, check out Dr Jason Fox’s work here.
2020 Digest Step 2: Record Your Lessons
If 2020 had one thing going for it, it was lessons. Buckets of them. We learned, together, about what we were capable of. About what really mattered. About how we want to live, work and lead.
But lessons, if we don’t embed them, have a habit of wearing off. So before we launch into another year, have a think about the most important lessons you learned this year. They don’t need to be big and profound, you probably won’t remember them all, and you’ll get some of them wrong. It doesn’t matter. Just write them down.
Values shape everything. There is nothing less gratifying than living a life out of alignment with your values – except a life that doesn’t have any.
It’s a long game. Very few of the things we get worked up about matter as much as we think they do.
You’ve only got your health. When our health is threatened, we’ll shut down the whole world for it, if we have to.
Nothing is as bad as you think. Every worst-case scenario you have planned for your life, health, relationships or work is much worse in your head than it is in real life. There’s nothing you can’t handle.
The process is the real work. We’re so used to reading heroes journeys and happy endings, that we’ve become accustomed to thinking it’s outcomes that make us happy. But we're wrong.
2020 Digest Step 3: Credit Your Sources
If you take the time to read my blogs, odds are that you’re a learner. A grower. Someone who’s hungry for insight, direction and development.
There’s an interesting paradox about learning though - the most powerful insights often feel so common-sense, once we understand them, that we can forget what it was like not to know. The Heath Brothers call this ‘the curse of knowledge.’
Break the curse, and consider all the places you drew ideas, inspiration and growth from this year. People, podcasts, books… the lot. That way, you’re well placed to share it with others and help them learn the things you’ve forgotten you didn’t used to know.
What did you change your mind about this year? What did you let go of? Importantly... how has that changed you as a person?
Here’s three things I changed my mind about this year.
Feelings - It turns out they actually drive everything, and they’re really important. Who knew?
Brene Brown - I don’t know why I resisted jumping on the Brene bandwagon for so long. Well, actually, I do. It’s an unnecessary oppositional response to anything popular or mainstream. It turns out, her work ticks all of my boxes: evidence-based, accessible, relevant in every area of our lives and utterly transformative… if you’re ready to listen. She’s great.
Doing nothing - I’m the first one to recommend the importance of space, especially where strategy and leadership is concerned, but my version of it usually has an agenda. A book to read, something to wonder about, a podcast to listen to, or a conversation to have. Doing nothing is hard – it requires us to genuinely be with ourselves, and that’s not always comfortable. But in the same way that building muscles requires intentional recovery between sessions for our torn fibres to rebuild, grow and strengthen, our ideas and selves need that too.
2020 Digest Step 5: List Your Achievements
What are you most proud of this year? What did you pull off? I can almost guarantee that you achieved more than you realise. Write them all down, map them across a timeline and then step back, satisfied. Nice one, you.
This year, I'm proud of:
Finishing my second book and landing a contract with Major St Publishing. You Don’t Need An MBA: Leadership Lessons that Cut Through the Crap hits stores April 2021.
Taking a break when I needed it. I held a lot of space for others during lockdown. I nurtured dozens of leadership teams through tough decisions, supported my team, clients and family and worked more than ever. After a few personal and health catalysts piled on, I crashed and burned - so I stopped. I cancelled everything and focused on my own wellbeing. I was upfront with my team, my clients, and my family about what I was doing and why it was important, and guess what? It was great. Nothing was ruined.
2020 Digest Step 6: Start, Stop, Keep
What did you start this year? What did you stop? Most importantly... what do you want to keep, as you roll into 2021?
If you don't choose it now, you risk forgetting or slipping back into old habits. Set the intention, and put them to life - make them real, schedule them and commit, today.
I started heaps of things this year. I'll be keeping:
What's On Your Mind - These chats with Digby have kept me sane all year, and your messages, feedback and support bring us joy each and every week.
A phone-free zone in the bedroom - A gamechanger for starting and ending the day.
Meetings that Matter - Strategic facilitation training for people who need to lead conversations that drive change. It's a beauty (and there’s 3 spots left, as of today, in our February intake!)
Long form blogs – I used to think people only wanted to read short things, and I needed to cut my thinking short. If the web traffic is anything to go by, I was wrong!
2020 Digest Step 6: Choose Your Own Adventure
Chances are that once you get your brain juices flowing, you'll unleash a flood.
Things you gained. Things you lost. Things you bought. Things you sold. Things you’re grateful for. Things you regret. Things that make you angry. Things that give you pause. Things that bring you joy. Places you went. People you met.
This bit is totally up to you. Get it all down, put it somewhere you can come back to... and then help yourself to some more Christmas leftovers.
You’ve earned it.
As for next year… who knows what’s coming?
All I know is, we need to be ready for anything. So take the time to consider your digest, and what you’re going to take into 2021 with you, to be ready and waiting.