Was 2020 a year to remember, or what? While I think it’s safe to say that many of us consider it one that we’d rather forget, there are always lessons to learn from adversity. We might not have enjoyed the educational experience much, but hopefully, we all managed to grow.
What takeaways do you have from the year spent primarily indoors? Here are four things that I learned in 2020 that made me a better version of myself.
1. I Learned to Prepare for Anything
Like many folks, I hit the high-alert button when the news of the pandemic broke. I didn’t let my out-of-control feelings fuel panic-buying, but I did take a hard look at my finances to see where I could cut back and what I needed to do to feel more secure.
I realized that my family wouldn’t do too well without my contribution, so I invested in a term life insurance policy — just in case. It’s one of the most affordable forms of coverage out there. Plus, a conversion rider lets me switch to a whole policy when my financial situation improves enough to afford the higher monthly premium.
I identified ways to slash expenses and automatically add to my investments with the right apps. Truebill looks for repeated subscriptions that I forgot to help me stop paying for those I no longer use — I was able to save money monthly the second I set up my account. The Acorns app lets me automatically invest my spare change for only $1 per month.
Such tools helped me get to work on padding my emergency fund. Although I was fortunate not to lose employment, I nevertheless upped my hours in my tutoring side hustle to add a few extra bucks to the kitty each month.
2. I Mastered Mindfulness, Not Multitasking
However, even though 2020 had me working harder than ever, I refused to make myself crazy. It only took one day of trying to be the perfect homeschool teacher and writer to make me realize that I couldn’t do everything.
As it turns out, human beings weren’t meant to multitask, and trying to do so only creates more stress while making us less efficient. Every time you switch tasks, it takes your brain time to get back on track. While you may only lose a fraction of a second, over the course of a day, those interruptions add up until 5 p.m. arrives, and you realize you still have items on your to-do list.
Instead, I introduced my kids to the Pomodoro technique and made using it a family affair. Everyone has a timer in my home — when we set them next to our workspace, we signal to other family members that we are in deep work and shouldn’t be disturbed outside of emergencies.
The method works because my kids can see precisely how long they have to wait before they can ask me if they can head outside to play on their next lengthier break. I also glance at their timers and respect their schoolwork enough to wait to interrupt them until they get a break.
3. I Got Radical With Acceptance
I’m a people-pleaser, and I also deeply care about my career progression. Therefore, my instincts scream, “say yes,” when my boss plunks another assignment on my desk. However, when it got to the point where having to tackle one more project daily meant the quality of my work would suffer, I accepted the limits of my fragile humanity and learned how to say no.
Ironically, doing so probably helped my advancement prospects. Saying no to those things you don’t want gives you more time to say yes to those you do. Once I accepted that I couldn’t singlehandedly write every advice column in the world, I realized that infusing every piece I write with love instead of hastily throwing words on paper makes me a more coveted freelancer.
I also learned to let go of unrealistic expectations. I’m camera-shy, and Zoom meetings coupled with no haircuts for months made me doubly reluctant to turn on my webcam. However, once I accepted that hey, my colleagues were all in the same boat, it became easier to show my face for a bit more of that human connection that so many folks craved in 2020.
4. I Embraced My Higher Nature
2020 meant dealing with countless frustrations daily. It wasn’t unusual to run to three separate stores to find one roll of toilet paper and then stand in a checkout line stretching from here to Timbuktu due to staffing shortages. Tempers flared.
However, I’m a fan of Michelle Obama’s signature catchphrase, “When they go low, we go high.” My mindfulness practice helped me to put myself in the other person’s shoes and lose my patience far less frequently. I might have felt every bit as disgruntled at having to wait in line while doing the potty dance, but I didn’t take out my frustration on the beleaguered cashier, who was, after all, already risking their lives so I could get a roll.
These 4 Things I Learned in 2020 Made Me a Better Version of Myself
Like most of us, I’m happy to say 2020 is behind us. However, I’m forever grateful for these four lessons I learned that made me a better version of myself.
Jennifer Landis is a mom, wife, freelance writer, and blogger at Mindfulness Mama. She enjoys yoga day, red wine, and drinking all of the tea she can find. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.
Image courtesy of Daniela Constantini.