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For the past two weeks, I have been flooded with questions, comments and exclamations about the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. I am with all of you who are celebrating this new beginning! BUT, in the immortal words of Henry Ford, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
In other words, if we want to make 2021 better than 2020, there are lessons from the previous year we should carry forward to change ourselves — and to change our culture.
Here are the most important lessons from 2020 I’m applying this year:
Lesson 1: Science and Wisdom Matter
Science is imperfect, but it is the best system we know to figure out how the world around us works. The conclusions of science may change based on new information. That’s referred to as learning. Initially, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was thought to be a threat on surfaces. Now we know that surface transmission is not a major risk and that the virus primarily spreads through the air. We could never accomplish on our own the work that scientists do on our behalf. So we must learn to trust them.
Generations ago, people turned to elders to help them make decisions. Why? Because they were seen as having experience and wisdom. With the speed of technology, many of the elders in our society have been cast aside. However, their experience about human interactions and history is still valuable to us. We just need to be willing to listen.
Where do you get your information? From someone who is sharing the results of their life’s work — or from someone who stands to gain (financially, politically, etc.) if you listen to and follow them? When you make decisions – for yourself, your family, your business – do you rely on the most accurate information? Do you speak to elders in your family with distance and indifference or interest and curiosity?
Lesson 2: Gratitude is a Superpower
When my father was 67, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Thankfully, he is still with us today at 85. I sat with him during the weeks he was in the hospital and learned an important lesson: gratitude. I felt gratitude for his life, for my life (my parents brought me to the U.S. from Argentina when I was 3, changing the arc of my life), for my experiences shared with family and friends, for the successful work I had done with business colleagues. But we don’t need to experience fear for our own life or that of a loved one to develop gratitude. It comes with a change in perspective.
If you have managed to remain Covid-free, or if you have recovered from the illness, you have much to be grateful for. That gratitude can help you persist through and overcome obstacles, seen and unseen. It can light the way forward for yourself, your family, your business and our culture.
What are you grateful for today? How can you carry that sense of gratitude with you when facing your most challenging obstacle?
Lesson 3: Be Mindful and Live in the Moment
Recently, many people have been sharing with me their feelings of depression and anxiety. While these are complex emotional states with no simple solution, mindfulness and living in the present moment can help.
You will experience sadness when you focus on some past event that you believe did not end well. Anxiety is anticipating some event in the future that may not go well.
The past is part of history and out of your control. The future is full of possibilities, based on your thoughts, words and deeds in the now. Being mindful and living in the moment simply means taking the best action you can take, given the information you have right now. If new information arises later, you can make a different decision in that moment.
What past events or future concerns keep you from being mindful and living in the moment?
Lesson 4: We Are All Part of the Same Human Tribe
In recent years, so many of our social and cultural conversations — around social justice, climate change, poverty and on and on — have become tribal politics. Many members of our culture fail to communicate effectively. They respond from a place of fear, whether of the “other” or what they do not know.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that people “hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.”
Of the 108 billion humans who have walked the Earth in the last 200,000 years, we are all more than 99.9% genetically the same. There is no other. There is only us. We are all part of the same human tribe.
In your own culture or subculture, in your business or personally, whom do you see as the “other”? How can you communicate in a way that might change that perception?
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Disclaimer: The above commentary entails the views of the author and not necessarily the views of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.