It is the time of the year to take stock, to look back, to look forward. I am no different. It is time I stopped for a 2020 reflection. As I did my goals mark to market last night, it gave me clarity on the areas of life to reflect on, probably well beyond the areas that I had set myself goals on. Before I embark on my goal setting journey for 2021, it is important to bring this year together for a close. You might consider me ludicrous for doing a mark to market on goals after a year like this, or for even try to goal setting after we found out how everything can be turned upside down. But I still find use in it. The north is always there to be found, no matter how lost you get.
This year, I did a 2020 reflection half-way through the year, half in reflection mode, half in “how to mode” to help you on that side of the screen think through it. If we are honest with each other, the first 6 months of the year had a full year on it, or more, and they were well worth reflecting by. Funny enough, that is the most read article on the blog EVER at over 6000 reads since November, when I guess everyone followed the usual cycle of reflecting back on the year. If you are looking for a way to think through it, that may be a better article (or so google says). My own reflection is below.
Being healthy and fit was my #1 goal for 2020. Let’s face it. I was a C-minus for achievement and an A-minus for effort. Not sure what you should count when looking back on your goals, but I will go with both. Despite being severely hit by Covid, I used lockdown to get me running after 6 years (because that was the way to keep sane and listen to my books or podcasts), I had new 1-on-1 yoga and breathing classes to help with my recovery and also strengthen my back, I picked up my hula hoop again during lockdown #1, I even had a new bike as a birthday gift and went on some adventures with it.
Well, as the Summer got left behind and more jobs came my way, I found myself in a dire condition at year end. Exhausted and having trouble getting out of bed – well at least that has helped me finally improve my sleep average beyond what I even thought it was possible. Sudden weight gains beyond any number I have seen on the scale before (thank goodness the London scale is now broken, I promise I did not do it, and I promise it was not during lockdown!). Often unfit and needing to catch my breath. Still not having a regular exercise routine when work or kids get tough. Haven’t picked up my tennis racket. Suffering from a mix of anxiety and burnout but in therapy and in a recovery trajectory.
All in all, I am not giving up. This will remain my #1 goal for 2021 and I will actually set myself even more targeted goals to ensure I get a stellar grade by the next Summer.
My goal for 2020 was to be a more peaceful parent. You don’t need to go imagine me being a tiger mum, roaring at my children from every direction. Peace is from within and outside. It is how I feel about my parenting (by not feeling guilty all the time) and how I demonstrate my parenting to my children (by not screaming). In the oddest way, Covid-19, lockdown, illness, disrupted lives and home schooling has still led me to an A mark on this camp. When I first did my mark to market I gave myself a B-plus, but when I wrote down all that we have done this year, I re-marked myself. Sometimes it feels worse than it really is, and writing down all that you have done (or going through it in your head) can help you see things for what they are.
My goal of being a peaceful parent expanded from just being peaceful to being physically present and connected. In the end, all are related. Peace comes from being there and available and not always running. And peace comes to them from me being available to them as well. We have spent more time than ever together, I got to know the children even better, be with them, with no rush, and nowhere to go. Little Girl C has grown in confidence and emotional stability, and whilst she has more to go we have gone a long way in dealing with “failure” and sharing how she feels about me, Hubby B or Baby S. Baby S on the other hand gave us all a lesson of joy and sweetness and impregnated our house with “I love yous” and “squeezy hugs”. To this day he still leaves home with a felt “I will miss you Mana” and arrives after lunch to give me a hug and say how much he has missed me. We had many cuddles, and we read together his first words, his first attempts to write his name, his first journal.
What we also did is that we spent more time together as a family of 4. We had memorable holidays and we had memorable weekends without end just spending time with each other, not having the escape of school or work on Monday morning. I haven’t always been peaceful, especially in the last 3 months as I have grown in tiredness, but I have found peace in us and constantly try to operate from a place of love.
Writing and Inspiring
No matter what I leave behind as “undone”, I get a confident A on this one. It is a relief to even write it down. I know I persevered, despite all the options to just stop. And I know I did the un-imaginable (at least for me). I did it with a purpose, with a meaning.
A key goal I had for Make Space for Growth was to be authentic, and continue to write in a way people could relate to and that perhaps would help them. I wrote about the pandemic, life, moments of shine, moments of anxiety, random day to day moments. Furthermore, I also ventured into writing more about business, knowing many people out there could be struggling with theirs. I have been engaging with 3 amazing businesses and I spark in those moments. I even created a (small) community.
And what else? Well, against all odds of my fears of public speaking, I launched a podcast. Out of the blue, without much thought, I just jumped in. And must I say, I loved it. I don’t know if you did, but it was one of the best energy boosts of the year to interview 10 amazing women and hear their stories through pandemic and beyond. And against my fears, it is now on youtube.
Finally, writing is also about learning. Beyond practical learning – which we had a lot of this year – I also did a few good courses and, more importantly I read a lot. 12 books that I can at least count, and that is a record for the year. Better to write about that separately I guess.
As we started the year, I wanted to be more connected to my Portuguese charity, whilst also allowing it to be more sustainable and joyful for everyone. For the UK charity, I kept my goals simple – I wanted to have my accounts in order and raise more money. KISSS principle applied. So what happened?
I was definitely more connected than ever. Working from home just made me naturally be more available and allowed me to sometimes shift work schedules to accommodate being more in touch with the team. As we all moved to working remotely, it created a greater sameness, while also reducing some of the day to day tensions. Most team members thrived working from home. And it was a time we needed to thrive.
In fact, emergency hit us in Mozambique as schools got closed and children no longer had access to food in school. We had to re-invent ourselves within days or weeks. And we did. The whole team got together around this effort, bringing covid-19 relief to a country that was barely hit by it directly, but immensely hit by it indirectly. Some of our children are still not back to school since March. Whilst it is hard to ever say that my goal is achieved at the charity, I do feel like we have done all that we should be doing on the ground.
As to me personally, I got some parts progressed, with the more important one being to understand where we have gaps and where we need to change. And that clarity is worth a lot.
I have kept my work goals separately from my other “life” goals, as I target them to job specifics and tend not to share widely. However, work is still worth a reflection for the year. Work has been a roller coaster year. After the initial months of soul searching as I tried to find meaning in the 16 years I have been with the Firm, work magically fell into a dream job. Working remotely was a true blessing for me, allowing me to do my job but take away so many of the negative parts of it – such as always being away from the children, never being there for drop off or pick up, or even for wake-up time. It also gave me the space needed that my work often requires. Working on a trading floor while trying to find white space to do strategy and just decide where to go next can be challenging. And away from the trading floor I could be better at the areas where I am at my spark.
As the Summer came to an end and I had a multiple roles expansion, my peace left me. It has taken me many months to be at peace with it, and in all honesty I am still not. I dislike the feeling of always under-delivering, even when I am over-delivering. Also, I dislike the lack of strength to get things done that I know need doing. I dislike how it has suddenly drained everything away.
Maybe I do need to have a broad work goal for 2021.
Family was not on my goals for the year, as in a way, you feel that is sort of BAU (business as usual). No matter what, as I reflect back, I feel like I was closer to family than we have been in a while. We were more in touch, made a bigger point about being connected. The fear of loss was greater, and that is likely to have reminded us of what we value and what we are missing.
We spent a good part of the year in Portugal and privileged being close to family and keeping ourselves relatively “safe” to be able to allow the children to spend as much time as possible with grandparents and cousins. As part of it we built great memories, and we build more certainty that we want to be close (even if they don’t always understand that the 4 of us are a special isolated unit).
This was another area that was not on my 2020 goals, but one that I know will be on 2021 goals. Through the pandemic, I did find the introvert in me, but I also was re-assured that the extrovert in me loves being with close friends, building deeper relationships, sharing moments together. They are compatible and I am keen to find a place of peace and balance to bring them closer to my core spectrum. The last book of the year (Big Friendship) was a testament to this and came in perfect timing to help me think through it.
2020 reflection: peace
To many, 2020 was the most difficult year. I grief for those who have lost people, for the 2 MM that have lost lives, for the many affected with other health conditions that went uncured, for the many affected by job losses, by mental health, by the mess that this year has been.
For me, I have to keep it honest. This was an amazing year for me personally and for us as a family. We have grown stronger together. We have achieved more peace, more clarity, more meaning. And we have been blessed by being together, having financial security, having good health overall and living in a privileged part of the world. For that, I am grateful.