As the new year quickly approaches, I am reminded of all the things that 2020 presented to us that were beyond our control: from COVID and the loss of loved ones to the horrific presentations of racial injustice throughout our country. While we may not have had control over the events of the year, we were able to chose how we wanted to respond.
In reflection I am reminded of the time I chose to spend with my immediate family: the mini celebrations that we planned each week to have something to look forward to, walks with my Mom, and long phone conversations with distant relatives. During the summer, instead of sweating it out in a spin studio, I enjoyed biking outside and instead of dinners at my favorite NYC restaurants, I enjoyed picnics outdoors with fresh fruit and delicious wine. While many of our “normal” activities were missed this year, we had the opportunity to step into simpler ones: the things that don’t cost money or take time to create. Things that are there to enjoy every day and have often been overlooked. During my now daily neighborhood walks, I have seen children building snowmen, sled riding, and families taking walks together. This is a 2020 special edition, it used to be rare to see my neighbors enjoying the outdoors to this extent. For me it has been the joy of reading a book outside as day turns to night, organizing my drawers, and painting my basement, finally!
I recognize these small gifts, not to diminish the extreme pain and hardship that has taken place: the families who have lost loved ones, jobs, homes, the essential workers who have fought every day for us to feel safe and have some semblance of normalcy from the garbage collectors to grocers and hospital employees, but to see the whole picture.
As a human in 2020, we have been given the opportunity to practice kindness and express gratitude, whether it is a large tip for your delivery driver or providing meals to those in need. A space has been opened for us to love strangers harder because we too are affected by their affliction and while some are luckier than others, we are all in it together.
Lastly, I am reminded of the smallest of pleasures, the most disregarded gift of all- our ability to breathe. This year we watched as George Floyd's last breath was taken by force. We have watched the news and read reports of millions and millions of people across the world taking their last breath due to COVID, many struggling to breathe for days or weeks before their lives ended. When we look at something as seemingly small as a breath and feel grateful, it really changes the way we look at what matters in this world.
As I approach 2021, I bring with me the relationships that I hold dear, my friends, family, and friends who have become family. Being good in business and being a good caring person are not separate, they don’t even run parallel; in 2021 what will matter and who will make a difference, are the leaders who care about their workers as much as their work. We haven’t just crossed the line that is command and control to servant leadership, we have eliminated it for good.
Whether you lead a team, a household, or simply yourself, what matters most are the people with whom you surround yourself and how you choose to treat them. Who have you chosen to walk into 2021 with? Do they have your back? Do they respect your opinion even if they disagree? Do they make you feel good about yourself and give you energy? And now ask yourself, have you done the same for them?
The last piece to this is a thoughtful inspection of those that bring you down. Who are the people that you give to who never give back? Who are the people that take your energy and leave you unfulfilled? Who are the people that don’t even seem to be taking great care of themselves? What are the groups or affiliations that you lend your time to because you felt there would be a value but perhaps there is none? A gift to yourself, let go of those that aren’t serving you. If you can’t fully walk away, be aware of the situation, acknowledge it for what it is, and protect your energy.
Let’s head into 2021 together, stronger than ever. This past year has shown us our resilience and power; now we have the opportunity to be better for it. Choose your people wisely because you don’t have time to waste, and give back as much as you can. Be your best self by being the best for others.