It’s fair to say that all our predictions and advice for 2020 went out the window in February. All those good intentions and carefully plotted five-step career plans gave way to more primal, achievable goals. Goals like “Get out of bed today” or “Wash some part of your body”. But we’re nothing if not optimists. Next year isn’t far away, and you should never miss an opportunity for self-improvement and discovery. To that end, we’ve got five (realistic) New Year’s Resolutions to carry you into the warm embrace of 2021. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.
"2020 has taught us many harsh lessons, but also some softer ones"
Pick one skill
Let’s start with an achievable goal. Fewer than 10% of people actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions, but that’s because we tend to aim for lofty, vague, unachievable things, like world peace or abdominal muscles. Instead, make 2021 the year you upskill into one simple thing. It could be something for your career—we recommend future-proof tech skills like Blockchain, AI, Internet of Things, Data Science or Cyber Security—or something more personal. A new hobby, a new ability. Make 2021 the year you finally learn how to grow things, or knit, or play an instrument, or master Adobe Suite.
Take a chance
2020 was probably the worst year we’ll see in our collective lifetimes (at least, let’s hope so) but it did give us one small gift. Perspective. If you felt stuck in your career, in your degree, in your life in general prior to this year, it’s time to shake things up and take a risk. Human beings are hard-wired to be risk averse—we tend to exaggerate potential hazards and ignore the likely upsides. But as Mark Zuckerberg says, “The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” If you want to make change in 2021, you have to make it for yourself.
Christmas and New Year are the traditional times of forgiveness, but we really should be practicing this lost art year-round. If for no other reason than it’s incredibly good for you. Forgiveness has been shown to lower your risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol and sleep, reduce pain, anxiety and blood pressure. And these benefits actually increase as we age. The longer the grudge, the greater the release. Make 2021 the year you let go of anger, guilt, hurt feelings and disappointment. And don’t get hung up on whether or not someone deserves forgiveness. That kind of misses the point. “Forgiveness is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings, whether the person deserves it or not,” says Dr. Karen Swartz from John Hopkins Hospital.
The easiest resolution to stick to, and one you’ll probably smash with or without this list. But still, it’s worth a mention. 2020 has taught us many harsh lessons, but also some softer ones: be kind to yourself, make time for what’s important, don’t feel guilty about indulgence. Self-compassion is actually linked to several mental health benefits. The trick is to keep your treats reasonable (no Bentleys or Burmese pythons, sorry). Small self-gifts are the driving force behind the so-called Lipstick Index—an economic trend in which small luxury consumer purchases actually increase during tough times. We all need a little treat now and then.
If we could offer one piece of advice for 2021, it would be to stay curious. Curiosity is a seriously underrated virtue. It can help squash prejudices and stereotypes, increase your opportunities for personal growth, and even ignite your limbic system. But it’s also fantastic for your career. Over 88% of employers are finding it hard to get employees with the skills they need, which is why we’ve seen a rise in so-called ‘Lifelong Learning’. More and more people are committing to continual curiosity and self-improvement by learning new skills, asking questions, broadening their CV and breaking into new fields. The old cliché, like most clichés really, contains a nugget of truth right down at the core: it’s never too late for a fresh start.