2020. Now that was one year for the history books; one probably best viewed in the rear-view mirror. In a bid to take some positives from the unexpected challenges we faced in 2020, here are 13 life lessons readers told us they learned, especially during the lockdowns.
We all know 2020 was quite the year, and not just in business. Our everyday lives, and our society, were upended in unimaginable ways. But, despite it all, and perhaps more than anything else, it seems it was also a year that allowed many of us to evaluate our perspectives, and re-evaluate our priorities.
Needless to say, when we invited readers to tell us about lessons they learned in 2020 - especially during life in lockdown - it was, as expected, a rather lively discussion. It looks like we all learned a lot about ourselves, human nature, and how a virus that never existed before could threaten to tear at the fabric of society.
So without further ado, here is a collection of life lessons you told us you learned from the unexpected challenges we faced in 2020. We hope you'll find one or two to help you get through the current national lockdown.
1. Commit to a routine that includes getting outside every day.
What this looks like for me is a long walk or bike ride in the evening. Some days I’ll just take my coffee or lunch outside on the patio. It helps break up the day and relieves my Zoom fatigue. Since we don’t have our normal social office interactions, it also reminds me to walk away from my computer and get some fresh air. Sunrise, sunset and even night walks are all great ways to get out there, no matter the time.
2. Be more patient – with everything.
And I mean everything! From faulty technology to deadlines to family members that seem to need a little more attention, a little patience and grace can go a long way. In a digitally obsessed world, we're used to having what we need immediately and right at our fingertips, some things just seem to be taking longer now, and if anything can go wrong in 2020, it has. It feels like our ability to tolerate and persevere when things get tough just got better.
3. Reach out to family and friends more frequently.
Depending on your situation, this year has been a time of too much togetherness or too much alone time. Regardless, friends and family need to know we are thinking about them. A text, a video call, or a care package can go a long way in keeping your loved ones close when you can’t necessarily be there in person. Human beings do not thrive alone. Having a strong network of supportive family and friends helps enhance our mental well-being.
4. I can actually cook a pretty good family meal.
I've always enjoyed cooking dinner, and it's always been an enjoyable family tradition - bringing everyone together for a delicious meal. But when lockdown came, so did the need to make breakfast and lunch and everything in-between. As a family, we’ve attempted many of the amazing recipes on this website during the pandemic. And I, for one, am glad for the opportunity to have expanded my repertoire with simple dishes that kids and adults in my life love.
5. Surround yourself with considerate and caring people.
I’m so fortunate, and honoured, to say my colleagues over the years have been all of the above. Their values and integrity have especially had numerous chances to shine over the last several months. They say a person's true character is revealed in adversity, and that’s proven to be true time and time again. Social media is a great way to connect and stay in touch with people but often I feel it doesn’t give you the full picture. So find ways to support each other in any way we can.
6. Exercise daily.
This sounds simple, but it needs to be done. We are all dealing with more stress, more mental load, and more change. Committing to a daily workout can help us handle these issues better, and it’s good for us too. Whether it's a power walk up (and down) Headington Hill, a few laps in University Park, or a weight session at the gym, exercising daily has certainly helped in getting through the days. As a general goal, I aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-high physical activity every day.
7. Video calls will never replace in-person interaction.
Technology has been a blessing (and a curse) over the last few months. We’ve been able to continue business as usual for the most part, but Zoom and Teams will never replace face-to-face interaction. We are a relationship-based species, and we need to have that personal touch to thrive - our brains are wired for personal interaction. So here's looking forward to when we can meet again, face-to-face, without the need to be socially distanced.
8. I can get away without wearing a suit and still look professional.
We’ve all been forced to adapt to technology and doing things differently. It was interesting to see how at the start of the pandemic, many were still power-dressing. But that has relaxed a bit, and I’m starting to experience more ‘top half only’ power dressing (including me), casual shirts, and even the occasional baseball cap a.k.a. Zoomwear or video chat ready apparel and accessories. But guess what? Work is still happening, and business is getting done.
9. Virtual learning can only go so far.
This is a little different for everyone, and I can only speak from my own experience. But all the memes in the world can’t convey enough how thrilled my children and I were at the return to face-to-face classes. Younger students need help to learn online - lots of help. As parents, we have to help with turning on a device, logging into an app, reading instructions, clicking in the right place, typing answers and staying on task.
10. Value our healthcare professionals and essential workers.
We must remain mindful and thankful for our healthcare professionals and essential workers. Since the first wave of COIVD-19 cases, many have sacrificed their personal liberties to take care of others. Clap for carers, bringing them doughnuts before a shift, writing a note of thanks, etc. are all great ways to show our appreciation with, but we must, as a society, find a way to help and show that we care on a long term basis - especially when it comes to salary and benefits.
11. 2020 is better viewed in the rear-view mirror.
We are but a few days left and counting on what seems like the longest year in the history of years. 2021 can’t come fast enough. If the UK's vaccination programme is the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm hopeful we'll reach the end of this tunnel in 2021. But while the crisis caused chaos and uncertainty, 2020 will also go down as one of the years when we all, as humanity, pulled together to tackle a problem that threatened our existence.
12. Oxfordshire roads can be a pleasure to cycle on
That's if you first remove the traffic. I rediscovered my love for cycling when the first lockdown started in March and no sooner discovered that, without the traffic, it was possible to get around oxford so quickly and so efficiently. In fact, I could make it to most destinations in 20 minutes or less. And venturing further afield into the Oxfordshire countryside wasn't a daunting experience either. I'm still cycling, but the cold weather, and the return of traffic, is trying my perseverance.
13. Change is inevitable.
This is probably the best lesson that 2020 has taught me. Change is an opportunity to innovate, pivot, improve, and reinvent. The more quickly we learn to adapt and to change, the better positioned we will be for the future. And candidly, with all of the challenges of the past year, the best lesson that 2020 has taught me was not resilience and dedication, but rather, flexibility. Regardless of how successful something has been in the past, don't be afraid to change it when the time comes.
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Got any life lessons from 2020 to share?
If you have any life lessons from 2020 to share, or if you have found any of the life lessons from 2020 lockdown useful, we'd like to hear from you. You can get in touch by filling in the form below, anonymously if you wish. We may contact you to discuss further.