If the first quarter of this year is a portent, 2022 promises to be challenging. So how do we ensure that 2022 is not a repeat of 2020? Retreating to 2019 is not the answer. Instead, use what we’ve learned since 2020 to improve our outcomes.
Remember 2020? It was an extended lesson in dealing with the unexpected. For people and organizations that enjoy their routines, it was a deeply unsettling year. Nobody emerged unscathed.
Nonetheless, we approached the end of that year with a measure of optimism. After all, the next year had to be better, right?
And then 2021 happened.
In fairness, there were many signs of progress in 2021. But things did not turn around magically; we did not return to life as it was in 2019. In fact, many of us came to question whether we really wanted to return to 2019.
As 2021 wrapped up, a clever meme circulated on social media in which 2022 was represented as “2020-Too.” Clearly, optimism was in short supply; folks were dreading another miserable year.
But that pessimism assumed a lack of learning, growth, and agency. Yet, if we were to take stock of ourselves today, we’d likely notice several changes from our 2019 selves. We’ve faced illness, dislocation, isolation, economic insecurity, and existential fear. And we’ve discovered remarkable resources within ourselves, our families, and our communities.
So how do we stop 2022 from repeating 2020? Despite the fact that so much about this pandemic, economy, and geo-political situation is out of our hands, we do have some assets to deploy:
Agency — Viktor Frankl famously observed that our power lies in the space between the stimulus and response. While we cannot control much of what is happening in the world, we can control our response to it, we can control what actions we choose to take. Remembering we have this power and then using it makes all the difference in our outlook and outcomes.
Reflection — We are not doomed to live in a recursive loop like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. The way we break out is by reflection: honestly assessing what has happened and why. Better still, by looking for alternative explanations that might shed more light on the subject and help us escape from our entrained ways of thinking. When we insist on thinking the same way every time, we doom ourselves to experiencing the same thing every time. Reflection breaks the cycle.
Move forward not back — There is a concerted effort underway in this country to “go back to normal.” For many, this means returning to life as it was in 2019. This is physically impossible. And it isn’t actually desirable. The “good ole days” were not as universally good as we want to believe.
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.– Heraclitus
To try to return to 2019 is to deny that we have experienced anything new or that we have learned and grown in the last two years. In fact, we have learned a great deal since 2020 about ourselves and the way we work. Don’t squander that learning. Use it to build healthier workplaces and happier lives.
[Photo Credit: Debby Hudson]