Tomorrow I’m going away with my husband to do our year-end review and annual planning process that we’ve been refining for the last seven years.
I know that taking time to reflect may feel like it’s not productive, but it’s actually one of the most important ways to invest our time so that our roots grow deeper and our limbs stretch higher each and every year.
When we skip reflection, we stagnate. When we take the time to look back, the future gets way brighter.
We’ll dig deep into what 2020 has offered to us and how we’ll carry those lessons into 2021…but I got a head start.
As the final chords of 2020 are played and begin to fade out, I’m sitting with the medicine this year brought and how it’s impacting my plans for 2021.
While I’m not going to reveal everything we have up our sleeves for the coming year, I’m letting you in on the biggest lessons I learned in 2020 personally and how they’re impacting our 2021 business plans.
I hope reading these sparks some digestion and integration for you, too, so that in 2021 and beyond you find more ways to have more by doing less.
Lesson 1: Being a mother can be more fun than I thought.
Obviously, I love my kids, but prior to the pandemic I had a ceiling on my capacity to simply be with them. When we didn’t have childcare this past spring, I found myself freaking out…and then I busted on through my limitations because I didn’t have a choice. I was able to access levels of joy in motherhood that were out of my reach before, and it changed me forever in the best way possible. In 2021 I’m blocking out way more time to simply be with my kids, and I’m so excited for the space and fun!
Lesson 2: I cannot control what other people think of me. I can only control who I am and what I do.
This year has been a lot when it comes to social media, call out/cancel culture, and other people’s assumptions about people based on only what they see on the internet. It’s been really hard and made me so much stronger. I’ve peed my perimeters, gotten super clear on who gets access to my time and energy, and gotten to know the truth of who I am on a deeper level than ever before. And I’m so grateful. Moving into 2021 I’m clearer than ever on who I am, and this clarity has been guiding something really exciting we’re revealing in Q1!
Lesson 3: Embrace nuance.
Our dual-party political system in the United States has given us the illusion that there are only two ways of being. But there’s a lot of nuance in what a person can be and believe at the same time. Distilling viewpoints into the binary robs us of our humanity. What’s been the most nourishing for me is to stay in curiosity and let go of assumptions, so I can keep learning. I’m committed to staying in conversation and community with people who are different from me in 2021 and beyond, so I can stay in touch with the nuance.
Lesson 4: I’m here for liberation.
2020 has been a huge awakening for our world around racial injustice. Thanks to the work I’ve done with Rha Goddess and Gina Gomez, learning from adrienne maree brown, Valarie Kauer, Milagros Phillips, Anu Gupta, and so many more, I’ve moved from feeling like I need to do something to help to stepping into my contribution to our collective liberation. Lilla Watson said it best: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” In 2021 I’m more committed than ever to showing up for my calling of changing the way we work because our liberation depends on it.
Lesson 5: I’m not here to please you.
In February, I spoke out publicly to try to get a law overturned in Maine that removes our right to body autonomy if we want to send our kids to private or public school. Unfortunately, the law stands, so we’ll be exploring unconventional education for our kids (which I’m actually really excited about!). The experience of speaking up about something controversial had me feeling like I was going to die, but when I didn’t, I came through the other side so much more connected to my purpose. I’m here to stay true to my calling, not here to please anyone. This truth will continue to be a guiding light next year and beyond.
Lesson 6: Productivity can be a trauma response, and nervous system healing is everything.
Early in 2020 I read Patriarchy Stress Disorder by Dr. Valarie Rein, based on Rha Goddess’s recommendation, and it connected so many dots for me around overworking and obsession with productivity. I learned that these behaviors can be responses to trauma, including experiences we’ve had personally as well as collective and ancestral trauma. The way we work is inextricably linked with our nervous system. Body first. Business second. I realized that the reason tracking my energetic ebbs and flows has been a lifeline for me is because it has helped me heal my nervous system. Tending to my nervous system in 2020 has been everything and will continue to be a focus in my personal life and my work forevermore.
Lesson 7: I am not responsible for everything and everyone. I’m simply showing up for my shift.
The combination of not having any childcare and losing two primary team members this spring made it so that we couldn’t carry out most of the plans we had until much later in the year. The additional layer of my husband Mike transitioning more and more out of the day-to-day operations of the company triggered a state of feeling remarkably stressed and burdened by financial and company responsibilities by September. I knew that if I didn’t change the way I was approaching things, I would break. My friend Eliza introduced me to the idea that we’re not actually in charge of our businesses. Instead, we work for the Goddess and we just need to show up for our shift. I found profound ease when I decided to give up identifying as the primary breadwinner and just show up for my shift instead. As I plan for 2021, I’m viewing the whole thing through this lens, and it feels damn good.
Lesson 8: We have to be willing to give up good to have great.
I’m not the only one for whom 2020 has required a lot of letting go: of plans, of loved ones, of the way we thought things were going to be. Sometimes we’re forced to let go, and I’ve had plenty of those moments. But this lesson is about the times when I’ve proactively let go because while something was good, what I really want is great. Choosing to end The Kate & Mike Show is just one of those examples. We did four years of weekly podcasts and it was beautiful. And then it was time for it to be over. Not because we didn’t love it. Not because it wasn’t working. But because there was something else we could both feel percolating. Next year I’ll be letting go of what feels good, but not great, even earlier.
Lesson 9: The more separation I have in partnership, the more connection is available.
This one is a personal one. Mike and I have been on such an amazing journey of reinventing our partnership this year. The more we’ve created space and not been all up in it in the day-to-day operations of the company, the more fun we’ve had, the more we’ve rekindled our spark, and the more connected I feel to him as my husband, not my business partner. What a gift. 2021 is going to have plenty of room for our marriage, more than ever before.
Lesson 10: I am a boss.
Mike used to do a lot of the difficult things in our company that I didn’t want to do, like have the hard conversations. When we officially decided to take him out of the day-to-day, I had to put on my big-girl pants and start having those conversations. I didn’t want to. I dragged my feet. But you know what? I got in there, I opened my heart, and it’s been great. I’ve become a much better leader and upleveled my vision in a huge way because I’m committed in a much deeper way than ever before. 2020 has been the year I’ve become a CEO, and even though it’s uncomfortable, I’m really starting to love this side of myself. CEO Kate is planning 2021, and it looks really different than any year previously.
Lesson 11: The less I do, the more impact I have.
I think I will learn this lesson over and over again, in more powerful ways, until the day I die. As an Enneagram 7, I LOVE to say yes to things. I am the ultimate enthusiast. This is my superpower and my downfall. That’s why I teach how to do less and have more…it’s the medicine I need. Due to the impact COVID had on our company, we had some projects get crunched together that were originally planned much farther apart. I found myself once again swimming in the sea of doing too much and being truly humbled by the experience. And from this place of never again, with the help of my friends Sarah and Eliza, the simplest, most elegant plan for 2021 arose. I can’t wait to unfurl it for you over the coming months.
I’m emerging from 2020 simultaneously softer and stronger, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the lessons, unexpected as they were.
How about you? What did you learn in 2020 year? How is it impacting your plans for 2021? Leave me a comment and let our community know!
Kate Northrup is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and mother who supports ambitious, motivated and successful women to light up the world without burning themselves out in the process. Committed to empowering women entrepreneurs to create their most successful businesses while navigating motherhood, Kate is the founder and CEO of Origin Collective, a monthly membership site where women all over the world gather to achieve more while doing less. Her first book, Money: A Love Story, has been published in 5 languages. Kate’s work has been featured by The Today Show, Yahoo! Finance, Women’s Health, Glamour, and The Huffington Post, and she’s spoken to audiences of thousands with Hay House, Wanderlust, USANA Health Sciences, and more. Kate lives with her husband and business partner, Mike, and their daughter Penelope in Maine. Find out more and receive your free copy of the 5 Simple and effective ways to get the results you want in your business at katenorthrup.com.
Image courtesy of Vlada Karpovich.