It feels like more people are paying attention to the changing of the calendar than ever before. Have you noticed that? I can’t recall another time where more people were this interested in what year it is. Maybe 1999/2000. That was a big one in people’s minds.
But we didn’t do this in 2008/2009. We didn’t blame the calendar for the global financial meltdown. No one decried 2008 for tanking the stock market and foreclosing on peoples homes. Yet, many of us seem to talk about 2020 as if it, the year itself, is to blame for everything that happened within it.
Maybe that’s because we don’t know who else to blame. Who’s fault is a pandemic? In 2008 at least we had the boogeyman of the bad banker. Or, maybe it’s because there were several big happenings, seemingly lumped together within those 366 days, which we collectively call 2020. The hits did seem to just keep on coming.
I think maybe it’s due primarily to the warping of time that many of us experienced as a result of staying home. Whether you did it to protect your family, colleagues, and neighbors, or just because you were told you had to, you probably staid home, away from people, more last year than ever before in your life. Yes, there are some of us who really enjoyed that, but none of us were fully prepared for it. And it did, quite apparently, cause us to look at time a bit differently.
Regardless, consistency is the mother of compounding returns. And so I’ll again use our completed revolution around the sun as a marker. As a reminder, to approach life mindfully and intentionally. Just as I, again, reflected back on my personal experience of 2020 last week; I will now lay out my intention for 2021.
My Three Words, 2021 Edition
I’ve been using the practice of selecting three words each year for quite a while now. If you want to know why, read the first 176 words of last year’s post. Basically, this is a way of setting my intention and then reminding myself quickly and easily of that intention throughout the year. These three words will guide my actions and my decisions for the next 12 months or so:
Let’s dig a little deeper; what do these words mean, to me, now?
I almost wrote this one as “relationships,” plural, because it is about all my relationships, not just one. I didn’t, because I find the singular more provocative in some way. Like it somehow forces me to consider the very nature of what a relationship is.
More pragmatically, this word is all about actively building relationships. Something I’ve never been good at. I am getting better, but I must admit the bar was set pretty low.
I was always a loner as a kid, but more than that, I experienced social anxiety. Going into a store by myself triggered panic attacks because I was terrified to have to talk to a clerk. I went through years of therapy while I was still in elementary school. And I still have to fight that fear back to approach a stranger, although it’s lessened after years of practice.
And I’m an introvert, meaning it takes energy to be around groups of people. After a couple days at a conference I need to hole up at home for about the same amount of days to recover and recharge.
As you can imagine, it feels like the deck is stacked against me in this area. That actually makes it all the more important that I build and grow the relationships that I am lucky enough to have.
This year, I intend to:
- Take time to connect with people. I’ve been working on this incrementally for years. In 2021 it is a priority. Small talk, learning details about the lives of the people I work with, showing them that I care.
- Proactively reach out to people I respect and admire. I’ve told myself I was going to do this many times. And I have, a little bit, here and there. Again, this year it’s a priority. I won’t wait for people to contact me, I’ll contact them; and I’ll find ways to help them.
This stuff is natural for some people. I’m not one of them. So, I’m going to put in the work.
Similarly, I wanted to write this as “investing.” Somehow that sounds better in my mind. Because of that, “invest” creates tension for me, which is one of the reasons I decided to leave the ‘ing’ off. The other reason is that I feel “investing” is used almost exclusively for financial matters and for me this word is bigger than that.
Yes, I’m including financial investments in my intention for 2021. Those following along know that I was able to build a cash reserve for the first time last year. To me, that means it’s now time to figure out how to put money to work for my family. I work hard, shouldn’t my money?
One of the most important lessons my mom taught me was how to balance a checkbook. And generally how to manage money; how to save and then spend instead of racking up debt, etc. This is something that should be taught in school so that everyone can learn it. Next on the list is the fundamentals of investing. I’ll tackle that myself this year.
But as I said above, this isn’t just about money. In 2021 I will invest in myself. I’ll invest in sleep every night so that I can be more productive each day. I’ll invest in fitness and exercise every day so that I can stay healthy as I age. I’ll invest in educating myself so that I can continue to both broaden and deepen my abilities over time. You get the picture.
My third word could have also been written in plural as “habits” but this one doesn’t mess with me the way the other two do. Still, “habit,” singular, does seem to refer to both the concept and the action better than the plural does – plus it matches the others.
In many ways, choosing habit as one of my three words for 2021 can be seen as a continuation of “consistency,” which I chose as a word for both 2019 and 2020. But it’s also a bit of a shift in intention and a change in scope. Or, at least, a change in perspective.
I could go on and on about how powerful habit is, but I’ll leave that for another time. For me, habit is a two-sided coin. This year I intend to both reinforce good habits and also break bad ones.
My 2021 Goals
The last piece of this post is to publicly share my personal goals for 2021, as a way to help make myself more accountable to them. Most of these are repeats from last year, many with values adjusted. I think that is a good sign of consistency, and that I’m on the right track. I like these goals because they are easily quantifiable and are also emblematic of a lot of qualitative success behind the scenes.
- Run 1000+ km
- Read 50+ books
- Meditate 300+ times
- Publish 100+ works (blogs, talks, podcasts, papers)
- Invest X dollars (while maintaining cash reserve)
- Take a trip over 3 weeks long (nomad, not vacation)
Publishing one hundred distinct pieces of content is daunting, but necessary, I think, to create the future I want. Traveling seems very far away right now, but I hold out hope that I’ll get to use my passport this year. Investing my sound a bit materialistic or gauche but it is both an area of education as well as a sign of many other things working in my life.
There you have it. My three words. My goals. A snapshot of the intention I am setting for myself in 2021.
What about you? What are you focused on? What do you hope to achieve? Drop me a note somewhere and let’s chat!