2020. What a year.
As it has aptly been called, 2020 was the year of the coronacoaster. It truly was a rollercoaster of emotions, from extreme highs to extreme lows. I felt them all, just like I know each and everyone of you have too. I’ve heard many accounts of heartbreaking physical, emotional and economic pain and suffering. But similarly I’ve been recounted contrasting stories of genuine revelation and delight. I have a sense that as the world and everyone’s lives within it were forced to slow down and pause many were afforded a rare and precious opportunity to reflect on what matters most in life.
Like all of you, I too experienced times of real stress and suffering, I shed my share of tears, but I also experienced a lot of joy, even extreme happiness. I grew personally tremendously, and found jubilation in revelation. I remain an optimist and believe that if people can gather together in celebration of their diversity and find common strength and courage in all that what we share rather than concentrate on our differences we can face any adversity now and in the years to come.
More than an optimist, I am also an optimalist. The word optimalist, from the Latin root optimus meaning ‘the best’, encapsulated my personal endeavor to always be the very best version of myself in whatever situation or circumstances I find myself. Taking it beyond carpe diem – seize the day – I hold myself to carpe punctum and seize every moment. Moment to moment I want to express my uniqueness and reach out with that to everyone whom I encounter in my journey of life from dearest family and friends to the stranger I may never meet again.
A useful way for me to summarize my learning and lessons of 2020 is through one quote and three books that proved powerful tools for both myself and my coaching clients. My hope is that they prove helpful to you too in your own journey of growth and transformation and that may illuminate your path into 2021.
“What one can be, one must be!”
That is how American psychologist Abraham Maslow, famed for his Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, summarised his theory that all human beings seek a path of self-actualization. Once our basic physiological, safety and emotional needs are met humans begin to desire growth and development in the pursuit of ultimately “self-actualizing” and thus achieving one’s full potential. This drive is not a want, like I want to binge watch some Netflix and eat ice cream, but a deeply ingrained need to become the best version of ourselves. In the pursuit of one’s highest potential, one must strive and effort to master the skills and overcome the challenges to become that potential. “What one can be, one must be!”
Inspired by Maslow’s words, I took the challenge of the coronacoaster to try and learn as much as I could about myself. And whilst that came with a steep learning curve, like many things in life it’s a matter of perspective. If some of your metrics of success are personal development, personal mastery and personal growth, the challenges of 2020 can be seen as opportunities to discover more about oneself upon that road of self-actualization.
Together is Better
I always sign off by asking everyone to stay surrounded. That’s the message of my first book, Simon Sinek’s Together is Better. A short but profound read, Sinek counsels that we “travel with people we trust”. Or asked in my own words, do you have a community that you have full confidence in? Confidence comes from Latin’s confidere, meaning intense trust. The coronacoaster put everyone’s confidence to a stress test. It’s during the ups and down, the downs particularly, that we learn who we can truly place our confidence, or our intense trust, in. Did you travel 2020 with those your trusted? If not, who are you going to travel 2021 with?
Man’s Search for Meaning
As challenging and disruptive as 2020 was, history keeps score and many have suffered through far worse. Man’s Search for Meaning is one of my all time top three books. I reread it almost every year. The book is the story of Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian Jewish psychiatrist who somehow, by nothing short of miraculously turned the horror of his three years in Auschwitz into inspiration.
His words and story mean so much to be, and they helped me put the challenges of 2020 into perspective. If Frankl could not only survive but cultivate an inspired version of himself in the most deadly Nazi concentration camp, surely I could find my optimus at any time and any place.
He would soon after being rescued go on to develop and practice logotherapy, a type of therapy that places reason, purpose and meaning at its centre. Frankl believes that no matter what happens and circumstances we go through or are going through we still have a choice to respond in absolutely any situation. That’s the power of finding your ‘why’. Not easy at all but profound.
Lastly, James Clear’s Atomic Habits was my read of 2020. I’ve always been a big believer in goals and resolutions and working towards them, but lately I’ve changed my view. Whilst they do carry some value, what are far more valuable are habits and routines, or like I like to call them algorithms. Reason being that habits and algorithms create sustained transformation. I’ve seen that maintaining change is much more difficult than achieving goals.
That can be seen clearly in the research associated with weight loss, where the majority of people (70%-85%) who achieve their weight loss goals will within five years not only regain the weight but also put on more.
People battle to maintain their areas of transformation. But by implementing daily algorithms and routines, Clear’s book shows that small gains accumulate and create the sustained transformation people are hoping for.
That’s it from me. And now that you’ve heard my story of growth, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment or send me a message about your personal story of growth and areas of development and personal mastery. And remember always live with purpose and be and stay surrounded.