How to Make 2021 Your Anti-2020

If I were to ask you about how your year went last year, you might laugh. You might cry. Depending on your mood, you might respond with choice words because I had the audacity to even ask such a question. 

2020 was the year we were all glad to leave behind. For most, it began with high hopes and expectations for plans and goals for a fresh, new decade. We were excited and ready to make our Plan A hopes and dreams a reality. But things went sideways as the novel coronavirus invaded our country and started spreading like wildfire. Many of us resorted to Plan B. After months of the virus spreading, thousands dying, civil unrest and continued lockdowns, Plan B proved insufficient. We needed Plan C.

What is Plan C? 

I think everyone is familiar with the concept of Plan A, our plans with ideal circumstances and outcomes, and Plan B, typically the next best alternative. Plan A is built on sheer optimism. Plan B is still optimistic, but factors in a little bit of realism. The problem with Plan B? No one wants to settle for that.  

Instead, you develop a Plan C. Plan C puts the things that are out of our control into context. Plan C says we are going to courageously be committed to controlling what we can control and letting go of what we can’t control with contentment.

Plan A allows you to envision the very best and do your very best, while Plan C empowers you to let go of the outcome. The key to success as we plan for our goals and dreams is to run hard after plan A with great self-discipline — by design, not by default — all the while keeping your Plan C commitment in keen view.

As the managing partner of a large, dynamic financial services firm, our Plan A for 2020 was to continue doing what we do well —face-to-face planning and strategy meetings with our 50,000 clients. When coronavirus hit in March, those meetings came to a screeching halt. We were forced to consider Plan B.

Plan B was to accept a horrible outcome that would reduce our client impact at a time when our clients needed us most. Their hope was already greatly diminished, financially and otherwise, and reducing our impact on their behalf was not an option we were willing to consider.

So on to Plan C. We transitioned to Zoom meetings, tweaked a couple of technology opportunities and doubled down on more meetings than ever. This plan led to the greatest year of both client impact and new client acquisition for our firm. By letting go of the things we couldn’t control and pivoting to the things that we could, we not only salvaged 2020, but we surpassed our original expectations. 

Generally speaking, 2020 was perhaps the most Plan C year ever. Everything that could go wrong did. With Plan A in our sights, we had to pivot. And nearly at every turn. So many things beyond our control threw a wrench into our Plan A.

Lives were lost.

Livelihoods were lost.

Division intensified.

Schools were closed.

Plans were cancelled.

But do you know what? Even if you didn’t have a Plan C at the ready, some good can still come out of 2020. (I know it’s hard to fathom, but stick with me here.)

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With a little intention and self-reflection, we can use what we’ve learned in 2020 to make strategic decisions for positive life change in 2021. 

Think about it. What did you learn about yourself last year? Your likes? Dislikes? Take some time to jot them down. Put pen to paper here and really give your answers some thoughts.

Next to those things, write down the reasons for your likes and dislikes. Avoid judging your answers; this isn’t a right-or-wrong exercise. Itemize what is weighing you down and what you’re not enjoying about your current life, and then write down why, one by one.

As the last step, grab another sheet of paper and do some brainstorming. The sky’s the limit. Don’t edit yourself or evaluate what’s realistic in your situation. Just dream a little. Look one more time at your lists and then, on this fresh sheet of paper — this clean slate — brainstorm ways to take the favorites from your “likes” list and turn them into something you love. What would enhance your life, making your “likes” even more appealing? What don’t you like that you’re ready to let go of? 

It’s time to identify what living your best life looks like for you. That’s the first step in making an action plan to get there — to becoming the best version of your authentic self.  Map out a plan and take one small step at a time. Use what you’ve learned about yourself to fuel growth and change. 

Life does give us opportunities to “trade up” in our pursuits. Having the vision to make that transition is an important element for both success and actually reaching our goals of significance. 

With a little effort, and by squinting real hard, I think we can see 2020 a little differently — as one of life’s opportunities to trade up.

Let’s not let that opportunity go to waste. Let’s trade up in 2021.

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