How 2020’s Lessons Can Shape 2021—for the Better
Are we there yet? Has 2020 finally ended? This is a sentiment I hear all the time, especially in social media posts where someone I know has suffered another loss of some kind: a relative or beloved family pet who passed away, getting laid off, or contracting COVID. As we get ready to make resolutions for 2021, the past year showed that navigating uncharted waters is possible when we know what fuels our souls and makes us happy.
Taking care of yourself: The year 2020 has taken its toll on our health even for those fortunate enough to stay virus-free. Say hello to the “Quarantine 15.” The stress of living through a pandemic caused us to increase alcohol consumption and to binge-eat comfort food (fill in the blank for your vice of choice...mine was chocolate). One study showed that alcohol consumption among American adults increased by 14 percent and a Nielsen survey revealed that alcohol sales at the beginning of the pandemic in March rose 54 percent compared to a year ago.
The demand for stress-reducing fitness activities skyrocketed yet public health mandates forced the closure of gyms. Fighting the battle of the bulge was possible but it took commitment and innovation. We soon saw fitness instructors offering their cardio, yoga, and spinning classes for free via Zoom. They recognized that staying healthy was an essential weapon to combat COVID-19. Yet, their own survival required thinking outside the box to earn a living.
When the weather got warmer, I saw instructor-led yoga classes of more than 20 socially-distanced people on the beach in Dewey. Instead of shutting down completely due to limits on indoor class sizes, this teacher realized that moving the class outdoors did not violate the restrictions and more importantly provided a safe way for eager students to find peace in a chaotic world.
For me personally, that meant asking my personal training gym to offer virtual sessions that included weights, cardio, and stretching from the comfort of my home office/workout room. Even though the space limited what activities I could do, it allowed me to do something instead of nothing.
Connecting with others: While Zoom became the latest four-letter word in our vocabulary we loved to hate, it perhaps was responsible for saving countless lives. Almost immediately, Zoom became a lifeline for everyone sheltering in place around the world, enabling family and friends to find comfort from others via a virtual shoulder to cry on or a contactless hug when it was most needed. It created an instantaneous and low-cost way to stay connected in a multitude of ways.
Without Zoom, it is safe to say that the economy would have completely come to a screeching halt. Instead, most businesses, nonprofits, and governments were able to stay afloat by adapting to a new normal of conducting commerce and delivering services remotely.
This was certainly the case right here at CAMP Rehoboth. In only a few weeks, CAMP Rehoboth was able to pivot to virtual-only meetings which enabled members of our community to receive support via its Men’s Discussion Group, Women’s Coffee Chat, LGBTQ+ Youth Circle, and Tai Chi classes.
In some ways, transitioning service delivery to an online platform allowed CAMP Rehoboth to reach an even broader audience than would have been possible in the pre-COVID operating model. Even when the vaccine makes Covid less of a worry, having to drive to CAMP Rehoboth’s downtown location will likely not be a barrier to benefit from the center’s many services.
Values matter: When we look back at 2020, 10 or 20 years from now, this is what many of us will say: “Remember when...we never left our homes for months on end? …my son/mother/aunt/spouse contracted COVID and passed away alone because regulations prohibited visits from loved ones critically ill in the hospital? …millions of people were furloughed or laid off?” In each of these cases, life as we knew it changed in an instant.
For some, the physical and emotional isolation due to home confinement made them wonder if living in a city was detrimental to their overall health and well-being. Others, who helplessly witnessed the unexpected and tragic loss of someone close to them, were forced to reflect on their current journey and if they were truly happy. Finally, a sudden job loss in today’s evolving marketplace allowed some to redefine what work might look like moving forward.
As an executive coach, I help clients create an intentional focus on making an impact in a way that is fulfilling and aligns with their values. Navigating the pandemic has changed all the rules. Employers understand that flexibility is required to operate in today’s ever-changing environment.
Once you understand what you need to be happy at work (e.g., a different role; additional responsibility), let your employer know and explain why it is important to you. One thing 2020 has taught us is that living your best life has never been more important.
Wesley Combs, a CAMP Rehoboth Board member, is a diversity and inclusion expert, executive coach, and a passionate social justice advocate. He is the founding principal of Combs Advisory Services where he works with clients who share his values of enabling equity, equality, and opportunity in the workplace and the community.