Career & Jobs

The Year 2020: A Gift For Personal Growth

Congratulations! You made it through a harrowing year – perhaps the worst year of your life. And today, you can turn the page – or the screen – on your 2020 calendar.

But not so fast. Don’t leave this year behind without taking stock of where you are landing as you celebrate welcome endings and long-awaited beginnings.

While most of us are keenly aware of what we lost during 2020, we may not be as conscious and appreciative of what we gained.

As this year ends, take the time to assess what you learned this past year and how you can benefit from your growth in the new year.

How Did You Handle Your Toughest Challenges?

When the racial tensions boiled over this summer, Joan, the CEO of an advertising firm, determined to quickly and decisively address the firm’s issues. Along with the others on the senior team, she established an event designed to acknowledge the experiences and tastes of the people of color (POC) employed by the firm.

The efforts fell flat. Why? Because the company leaders, all of whom were white, did not gather input from the larger company community before acting. Their assumptions about the best way to address the diversity in their culture were wrong. Black employees, as well as others who fell into the category of POC, were not happy! They considered the efforts to be superficial and somewhat insulting.

How did Joan handle this? She avoided defensiveness and moved quickly to address her mistaken assumptions by asking and listening carefully to the concerns of the POC in the agency.


As she welcomes the new year, she will avoid assuming she understands what others are thinking without asking them. And she will be open to input that may not be easy to hear.


What challenged you in 2020, and how did you address the issues? The time you take to reflect on your challenges, how you handled them, and what you learned can prepare you for a strong 2021.

What Went Well?

Jack is a member of the senior team of a medium-sized financial services company. He describes how the team came together to find new ways to work during the crisis this year. He says that the team had always functioned adequately. However, as the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns unfolded, the team leader took unprecedented steps to support each team member. He put great energy into understanding their circumstances and helping them work productively within whatever constraints they faced.

The leader also engaged the team in activities designed to build trust and spur creativity within the company culture.

As a result of their renewed strength and engagement, the senior team was able to help the organization survive and perform well throughout the year, despite their virtual environment.

Jack says that the team learned the importance of trust-building. They will continue with similar efforts next year.


Take stock of what went well for you and your organization this past year. What did you or others do to facilitate these positive outcomes? What can you carry over into the new year?

What Surprised You?

Sara, a consultant in the non-profit and educational world, says that she has struggled with anxiety most of her life. While she has succeeded despite what she has considered her disability, she has struggled. Much to her surprise, she handled the uncertainty that defined our world during the pandemic.

Sara surprised herself by how she succeeded in catching her anxiety as it bubbled up before it overtook her thoughts. By asserting mental discipline, she reduced her need for certainty and control and lived in the present moment.

How did she do it? Upon reflection, she says that the pandemic enabled her to understand what really mattered to her and to set clear priorities. And the mindfulness practice that she adopted didn’t hurt!

She found that she could indeed focus on living in the present rather than planning for and worrying about the longer term. She says that she felt more centered as she gave up trying to control everything in her life and her business.


We all faced new experiences in 2020, some good, some difficult, and most likely a few truly awful. Reflect on what, if anything, amazed or even astounded you. The lessons buried in the surprises create opportunities for exponential growth.

What Have You Learned?

Despite the difficulties and, in some cases, trauma many of us have faced in 2020, the year offered unprecedented learning opportunities. Don’t waste the chance to grow. As our pace slows over the New Year holiday, allow yourself to reflect and learn. What lessons will you take into the new year to make it your best yet?

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