2020 was a different year for most of us. A static year. A painful year. A year of loss. A year far from loved ones. A year when plans had to be put on hold. However, 2020 was also a year of rediscoveries. A year of growing inward. A year of change. A year of resilience. A year of hope. 2020 gave us much more than we give it credit for. It brought us the understanding of what truly matters – love, health and having our loved ones close.
For me personally, it was a year of settlement. Luckily, spending the most part of the year at home, working from home, holidaying at home and doing everything at home wasn’t bad at all. It was actually great. It allowed us, as a couple to connect even further and enjoy our time together even more. Strangely enough, this year was not a burden but a real blessing. Luckily, our loved ones also stayed healthy/recovered well throughout the year, which was another blessing.
As the year is ending, I love looking back and taking stock of my work and personal life, what I enjoyed, what I learned and what was I excited about, but also what could I have done better. Whereas last year I reached the end of the year with more “growth momentum”, this year I am closing it with more of a feeling of “settled growth”. And I think I am not the only one one to close the year this way. We don’t always need to shoot through the roof and smash goals to feel accomplished. Slowing down and realizing the value of what we achieved so far, cherishing our health and our loved ones is sometimes the best measure of success. Looking back at 2020, there a few specific things that stood out for me and that I learned and appreciated:
Slowing down. It’s no surprise that you see this one as the first point on my list or anyyone else’s list for that matter. Slowing down is the one upside that a lot of people valued this year and despite all the changes and challenges the year brought. Being home, enjoying extra time with our loved ones, being able to skip hour-long commutes and not having to literally run from meeting to meeting, this was all a blessing this year. 2020 was a constant reminder of the fragility of life which forced us to be more present than ever. A gift beyond imaginable if you ask me. If you are closing the year healthy and clos to your loved ones – be it physically or via Zoom – let me tell that it’s enough to consider 2020 a success.
Long walks and bike rides. I am forever grateful for the fact that 2020 has taught me to love walks. Short walks. Long walks. Walks in the neighbourhood. Walks in the park. Morning walks. Lunch break walks. Deep at night walks. Walks to close my activity rings (on the Apple Watch). Walks to clear my head. Walks that showed me the beauty of our neighbourhood. Walks that showed me that Berlin has a beautiful and long fall season. Walks in the cold and walks in the sun. Walks during which we made small plans and walks during which we made big plans. It’s been a whole lot of walks this year. It might sound silly but I am forever grateful that 2020 allowed me to slow down and rediscover the power of simple walks. To walks, I also add bike rides. We got our e-bikes in summer and explored our city like never before and created so many beautiful memories. Truly a highlight of the year.
Getting my finances in the right shape. In 2020 I made huge strides in terms of managing my own finances. While I never really had debt and was careful with money (bless the European university systems) I was also not too savvy when it came to managing my finances. This year, I finally started taking it more seriously. In the past, I played a little with budgeting and tracking spending but it never really took off. This year I focused a lot on saving and investing. First of all, I focused on learning more about saving, investing strategies and tools (I spent a lot of time on the Reddit finances German thread) and also actually getting started with it. I created separate bank accounts for savings as well as a brokerage account for investing. I played around with budgeting more than usual, so I could start building up some savings and also start investing a little. I am far from reaching the goals I have but I am very grateful to 2020 for enabling me to build the right mindset and achieve this progress so far.
What I learnt at work
Looking solely at what I learnt at work, things take a different turn. I am ever working on becoming a sharper version of myself, no bullshit attitude and always standing up for myself. And this year was a good year for that. While 2019 was my most difficult and challenging year at work yet, with lots of projects to juggle, tight deadlines and all stars aligned for projects to fail – whenever things could go wrong, well they sure went wrong – 2020 was the year of settled growth. I spent the time growing more into myself and refining certain aspects.
Building a strong backbone. Having a strong backbone both in your personal and professional life is a huge strength everyone should cultivate. I have been working on it for a while, and generally, performing well allowed me to keep developing in that direction, find my own voice and opinions and speak up. I truly think that part of it comes / should come with experience. This year, I spent a big part working on it. Pushing back and saying no and managing expectations, as often as needed, have become a necessity in my role. While this year has been testing in terms of patience many times, I kept learning that it’s on me to have a strong backbone and stand up for myself and protect my time, my energy and my commitments to my work, and also those around me such as my team.
Mentorship. Mentorship was a big part of 2020 for me. Giving back and taking care of those looking up to me at work and making sure I shared the advice I think should be passed on, was a source of joy throughout the year. Coaching and mentoring team members and empowering them to achieve their goals and beyond has been a very fulfilling experience this year. I am also excited to see that the work I’ve done has been seen and valued and that I will be stepping into a more “formal” mentorship program in 2021.
Here is also a heartwarming look into what 2020 brought to other people. I Learned to Appreciate My Husband,’ and Other Silver Linings From 2020. NY Times asked readers to name one good thing that happened in an otherwise dismal year. Here is a selection from the more than 1,500 responses. A wonderful way to end the year, recapping on what 2020 brought us. Loved reading these letters from people all around the world.
How I am heading into the new year
As a final note, I am heading quite energized into 2021. I started the 30 day yoga journey Home from Yoga with Adriene, and I am already at day 6, therefore getting into the new year with some progress. I’ve also already written down my goals – I need to refocus a lot of my energy on the right things and therefore goal planning felt like the right thing to do for me – so I am fully ready for the new year. I would encourage everyone to take stock of the year we leave behind and find at least one thing to be grateful for. As for goal setting, while 2021 is a new year, don’t feel pressured to do goal planning if it does not feel like the right moment for you. Every day is a good day for setting goals and just because we are starting a new year it doesn’t mean that you have to. Once you are ready to do so, the most important thing is to do it realistically and work through it, regardless if you plan them at the start of the year or mid year.
So this is it, my recap of what I learned in 2020. Thank you for reading and do let me know your 2020 highlights and/or lessons learned in the comments section below. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy and healthy start into 2021!