Four years ago, I wrote a piece called ‘2016: take the good with you’. It came at the culmination of 12 months which many people had described the ‘worst year ever’ bringing, as it had losses, human suffering, and ugly division. In the piece I wrote about how, in spite of all that, we should preserve the joys from that year as we moved on. Into a better future.
Oh, if only we knew.
Now, four years on, we find ourselves in the last throes of an annum that has brought relentless challenges. And a whole gamut of negative emotions: pain, sadness, fear, despair, anguish. We’ve all had our own individual battles to a lesser or greater degree amidst this global struggle that has enveloped us all.
So no wonder that as we look over the horizon to the green shoots of 2021, with a hope afforded by incredible scientific endeavours, we are exasperatedly summing up this year as a total disaster. Never mind 2016, this really can assume the dubious title of ‘worst ever’. The memes are circulating as we express our universal disdain for 2020. And no doubt, we will all feel a collective sigh of relief at the chime of midnight on 31 December.
It is so easy to write this year off. Condemn it to the dustbin. Who would blame us?
But to define periods of life as simply bad undermines the richness of our lives; and when we dig deep, we can always find things to be grateful for. The good stuff.
Being able to identify the positives in any situation or circumstances – however challenging – is good for us. It helps to build our resilience and create a positive mindset. It also makes us more solution focused so we become attuned to finding the positives when the chips are down.
It really is not always easy to focus on the good – especially when we feel under overwhelming pressure. There are, however, habits that we can build to make it part of our every day.
This could be individually or collectively. Inviting people to share their three good things at the end or start of a team meeting? Reflecting on the day and asking yourself what were the best bits? Or as a family, team, or organisation, sharing one positive thing from each day, at its end? This is something my own family does, adding a good thing from the day, written or drawn, to a jar. A collection which we can also revisit in the future to evoke some happy memories.
Personally, for the last few years, I’ve kept a diary writing down the good things of the day. In March and April, that wasn’t always easy: how can I find the positives when I scroll through social media and see statistics that take my breath away? Not statistics, people. Wow. So some days I would have to work harder than others to notice the good stuff. A chocolate bar hidden at the back of the cupboard. A cup of tea made for me. A kind word from my child.
Because that’s the point too. This good stuff doesn’t have to be big stuff. There is so much joy that can be found in noticing the minutiae of our lives. And the more we notice, the more we get to see – building that positive mindset. Which is why adopting habits to do so is powerful.
As we career towards 2021, I’ll repeat the words I wrote in 2016: ‘And so, as the year draws to a close, take from it the memories that made you smile, the feelings that lifted your soul: those are the things to treasure.’
Merry Christmas. And may 2021 be filled with numerous good things – big and small.