[This post was written on New Year’s Eve, but only posted today due to two power outages!]

As 2020 draws to a close, I am sure most of us will be extremely glad to put this difficult year behind us. The optimists among us will be looking forward to a better year, hoping that we will turn a corner, especially once the vaccine roll-out begins. For the pessimists, the hard facts that we have just had our highest daily recorded Covid-19 infections yet in South Africa, will spell doom and gloom for 2021. Either way, these very real hopes and fears are heightened for many of us who are experiencing illness and death within our immediate circle of family, friends and colleagues.

When times are tough, we often choose to shut the door on the painful memories, frustrations and challenges that we have experienced. We would rather move forward than look back. However, there is considerable value in setting aside some to time to reflect on the year that has passed. And even more so because it was such a difficult one.

This year has tested each one of us in different ways. It has revealed how we respond to change (and constant change has been the order of the day), and how we handle ourselves and our relationships in stressful situations. We have experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions – anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, confusion and overwhelm, to name a few. These have impacted on our relationships, our physical well-being, and how we handle our work.

2021 is likely to be another bumpy ride. So, before too many days go by, I challenge us all (including myself), to set some time aside for reflection. Find a quiet comfortable spot, make your favourite drink, grab a pen and paper, and spend a bit of time pondering and jotting down your thoughts.

Here are some guidelines to help you on your way in the areas of family and work. You can do the same for other key areas in your life, like physical health, spiritual life, friendships and creative pursuits.

Family life was markedly different for many because nuclear families spent much more time together than normal, while single people were forced into isolation.

List and celebrate the positive experiences you and your family shared this year. How can you build on these in the year ahead?

List the main challenges your faced as an individual within the family (identify external/internal stressors) and/or as a family unit. What did this teach you about yourself and your family dynamics? How can you do things differently in the future to manage these/similar stressors better?

(Consider discussing these together as a family unit if appropriate to you.)

Our work lives were turned on their heads as some of us shifted to working full-time from home. Others had no work at all for a long period, and then returned to a completely different working landscape, which includes the challenges of applying and adhering to Covid-19 protocols. More difficult still are those situations where people have lost their jobs or source of income.

List the main challenges you faced (think of situations, projects, and client or employer relationships that presented particular challenges). How did you handle them? What could you have done differently to handle them better? How can you prepare for similar situations in the future?

List and celebrate your successes. How can you build on these in the year ahead?

Reflect on how you are doing your work differently due to the pandemic. What opportunities might this present for how you work in the future?

As you work through these questions, I hope they will provide some key insights that will help you to prepare, at least to some degree, for the year that lies ahead. None of us knows what 2021 will bring, but if we start it with the intention of adapting and learning as we go, we will find ourselves coping that much better. The amount of change and uncertainty that we have been subjected to in 2020 has been excessive. Even so, change is a real part of life and can be a huge force for positive growth.

May 2021 be a year of meaningful and positive growth in all aspects of your life.

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