From Restless to Rest: 3 Steps to Find Meaning in 2020

While 2020 draws to a close, one prevailing sentiment is, “Good riddance.” As a leader, you may be growing restless to wrap up this year and move forward to a better year in 2021 (whatever that means).

Not so fast, I say. Don’t overlook the opportunity to discover meaning from a year that no one anticipated, and not many want to repeat. Here are three steps to find meaning as you approach the end of 2020.

Press the pause button

As a leader, you are accustomed to moving at a fast pace. After all, there are countless people to meet, decisions to make, and deadlines to fulfill. If you aren’t paying attention, the treadmill keeps speeding up, and soon it’s almost impossible to get off and catch your breath.

Make it a priority during this season to slow down and take a break. Use the PTO you have in the bank—don’t let it go to waste. Get away from the office even if you can’t travel as usual. If you’re working remotely, close the door to your home office. Get some rest. Relax by a warm fire or take in the scenic view from your patio. Enjoy the holiday lights and music from your faith background or secular traditions.

Consider writing in a journal as you reflect on what could be the most unusual year in your lifetime. Your insights will serve you well as we emerge from the pandemic. As the philosopher, Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Give yourself permission to grieve

Your reflections may trigger an emotional response as you recount losses you experienced this year. Few parts of life have gone untouched by the COVID-19 crisis. Your daily experience may have turned upside-down due to a shift to remote work, having kids home from school, or fallout from the economic downturn. Perhaps you missed significant life events like graduations, weddings, and funerals. Or you lost out on vacations, concerts, and sporting events. You may have experienced severe health issues from the virus itself.

If you feel a deep sense of loss, that’s okay. You’re not alone. I, too, experienced those feelings as training and speaking engagements were postponed, moved online, or canceled altogether—I miss the opportunity to travel and interact with leaders in person. Adding to my grief, I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my dog to a brain tumor.

About that time, I came across a Harvard Business Review article with the title, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” It soon became the most downloaded article ever from their website. Grieving is a process that moves through several stages, so give yourself time and space to do so. Only then will you arrive at the last stage of grief, which the article highlights as finding meaning. Therein lies the key to keeping the year of loss from becoming a lost year.

Ask yourself: What has 2020 made possible?

My coach, Rick Erisman, asked me this question when I was at one of my lowest points of the year. It’s a refocusing question that will help you find significance, meaning, and purpose in this season, even if your circumstances don’t change. I’ve been asking myself this question nearly every day since Rick first suggested it.

The COVID-19 crisis eliminated travel and kept me at home far more than usual in 2020. When I start bristling against these limitations, I turn my thoughts to the positive side. I have a stronger marriage from devoting more time to meaningful conversations with my wife. I’ve enjoyed the increased bandwidth to be “Papa” to my four grandkids. I usually fight with our artificial Christmas tree to prepare the branches for decorating. This year, I found myself enjoying the tree while listening to holiday music.

What has 2020 made possible for you? Pause now to answer this question. Replace your restlessness with rest. Discover meaning amid the challenges of this year. Express gratitude for what 2020 has made possible.

This article was first published on the LeadChange blog.


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