Professional Development

My 21 lessons of 2021

This year was supposed to be different.

Because of the global pandemic, we had already been unduly robbed of 2020 and so 2021 had a lot to make up for. With the vaccine programme being rolled out and hope of overcoming this virus in sight, normality felt within arm’s reach. Unfortunately, it seemed this bizarre situation the world found itself in, wasn’t over just yet and that perhaps 2020 was merely the prequel to 2021!

This year, I grappled with being a mum of two, returned to work from maternity leave to a promoted role, took on a non-executive board position and ended the year starting a new job! Whilst we would all describe this year as testing (at least it felt like I spent most of my year testing), there were so many valuable lessons I learned. Here are 21 that come to mind.

1. Family is everything. Having a little bit more freedom compared to last year to see extended family and celebrate occasions with them has been so special. I’ve realised just how much joy I feel when my house is filled with family.

2. My body has given me the greatest gift. Although my postpartum body was almost unrecognisable, I learned to appreciate and love it for all it has endured. It’s home to the life giving mummy tummy that delivered me the most precious gift.

3. Staying connected matters. That random message, those regular voice notes or those scheduled video calls, in another year that’s been spent mostly in smaller social circles, these interactions have helped me to stay well connected to those near and far. Being able to nurture these friendships at the press of a few buttons has been a lifeline.

4. Getting vaccinated saves lives. Ultimately it’s your choice. I get that. But getting vaccinated was by far the best one I made. A simple act that helped to save the lives of my many loved ones.

5. Practice gratitude daily. This ritual has absolutely got me through this challenging year. Reflecting each evening on everyone and everything that I am grateful for helped me to sleep peacefully with positive thoughts running through my mind. 

6. Walking is the best medicine. This year I tallied over 1,000 miles of walking and lost 19kg! Nursing my body back to better health has been physically, mentally and emotionally rewarding. It really has been the best medicine, especially with all the incredible company I’ve had along the way.

7. It’s nice to be nice. I’ve been lucky enough to be the recipient of many random acts of kindness. Whether it’s my favourite foods (ice cream) being delivered to my door, flowers for no reason or simply words of encouragement. They really have made me feel so loved, remembered and valued.

8. Everyday I’m hustling. Because much of this year was spent on maternity leave, it was important for me to carve out time to get my creative juices flowing, giving me a little escape from the routine that is parenthood. Having my side hustle www.instagram.com/cardsbyjaz allowed me to channel my creativity and generate some extra spending money too!

9. Wear your mask. I know it’s easy to get complacent, it’s been two long years already. We’ve already lost so many to this horrid disease, so protecting others and slowing the spread has never been more important. I’ve learnt to recite a new mantra every time I leave the house; Phone, Keys, Wallet, Mask.

10. Give generously. This year I parted with 20 inches of my lockdown locks for the https://www.littleprincesses.org.uk/ in the hope that it would give someone else the same cloak of confidence it had given me. It was an emotional goodbye, but I imagine it would have given someone else an even more emotional hello, and that made it all worth it.

11. Prioritize self care. There’s been a lot to navigate this year. Trying to be everything to everyone has been exhausting. By carving out time to just be and focus on me has been invaluable. Whether it was taking an afternoon nap, going to get a beauty treatment, listening to a podcast or simply crashing out in front of the television, by losing myself in these activities, I found myself all over again.

12. Celebrate your wins. We tend to spend time wallowing on what could be better and what’s still left to do, that we forget to celebrate our successes. By reflecting on how far I’d come, I gained confidence in my abilities to go even further, so I’m celebrating the wins, no matter how big or small!

13. Work hard, play harder. I work to make a difference, to set an example to my children, to earn a living so that I can live life. I play harder because it’s so much more fun! This year I’ve found more innovative ways to play with the children, even managing to weave in some work (recycling) into it.

14. Always be kind. This year has taken its toll on everyone. Even when people seem fine on the surface, you never really know what they are going through. Being part of a community that is so focussed on giving has given me real life examples of how a little kindness goes a longer way than you may ever realise.

15. The climate is changing and so should we. Cop26 has shone a global spotlight on climate change like no other. We all have to play our part, the small changes each of us make, will collectively make a big difference. Despite working in this field for over 15years, there are still changes I’m making to my life to help build a better tomorrow. Whether it’s sourcing local fruit and veg, being more conscious about sustainable fashion or simply eliminating food waste. Here are a few things you can do to help too. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/what-can-I-do-to-stop-climate-change

16. Feel the fear and do it anyway. If I had let all the doubts going through my mind win, there is so much I would not have accomplished this year. We all have those whispering voices in our heads telling us we aren’t quite good enough, but learning to park them has been my biggest achievement this year.

17. Show up as your authentic self. Starting two new jobs this year has given me two opportunities to reinvent myself. But it’s me they hired, not the reinvented version of me. So I showed up as my true self, with my best and most colourful Nike’s on both times.

18. Make memories and capture them too. As I flick through my phone, I realise that despite the lows, there have been so many highs this year too. I have another year of memories in the bank and thousands of photos and videos to remind me of all the precious experiences.

19. Know your worth. All too often we sell ourselves short. This year I’ve learnt to truly appreciate the value I add and I’ve not been afraid to put a price to it. I know my worth and I will unashamedly ask to be rewarded accordingly. The stats need to change, even if it’s one woman at a time.

20. Presence not presents. We all have so much stuff! And rather than adding to the mountain of things we really don’t have much need for, we celebrated this festive period focusing on being present for one another, rather than buying presents for each other. A practice we will definitely be taking into the coming year.

21. It is darkest before dawn. Ok, there is no hiding the fact that it’s been a pretty dark year. Covid variants, more cases of racial injustice, petrol price hikes, supply chain shortages, climate change, the energy crisis to name a few. But we are the ones lucky enough to make it through.

2022, we are ready for the dawn. 

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