The WORD for 2021

For several years, I’ve had a practice of choosing a focus word for each year. Sometimes this word resonated deep within me, and other times it was purely practical.  The last several weeks I have been reading, researching, praying, listening, scrolling, and genuinely seeking a clear word for the upcoming year. My word for 2021 is…. wait for it…. RELATIONSHIP!

This word impressed upon me early, but I wasn’t sure it was right. After all, relationship isn’t the strong motivational word one typically associates with a focus word. However, as I ruminated longer and more deeply on the idea of relationship, it was abundantly clear that RELATIONSHIP is definitely an appropriate word for the year 2021. 

Humans are social animals.  We need relationship with other humans.   Unlike wild animals or machines or even artificial intelligence, human beings are actually enhanced by relationship.  We work harder, are more engaged, and are happier when in healthy, strong relationship with those around us. Whether in the workplace, in your personal life, or in your own soul, relationship helps human beings thrive. 

Relationship impacts all areas of our lives for better or worse.  Teams with good working relationships are more productive.  Focus on relationships with the people at work, and you will become a better leader. Families with strong personal relationships are stronger.  Focus on relationships with your spouse, children, parents, or other significant family members, and you will create a bond not easily broken. Author Heather Stillufsen said that walking with a friend can be great therapy. Focus on relationships with your friends and enhance your emotional health. Focus on relationship with your God and find the inner peace that may have been missing from your life.

Regardless of the setting, there are a few guiding principles to enhance any relationship:

Be Gracious – No one is perfect.  Give grace to mistakes.  Allow space for mistakes and misunderstanding.  You will want the same when you make a mistake.

Put in the Work –  Human beings are complex, which means relationships can be complicated.  Take the time and put in the work needed to grow your relationship.

Focus on the Present – Be present when present.  Turn off your phone, stop multi-tasking, pay attention to who is in front of you.  A strong relationship is worth your focus.

My word for 2021 is Relationship.  What’s your word?

An Optimistic Look at 2021

Many of us are excited to see 2020 in the rear view mirror.  It certainly has been a year like no other.  But how do we approach the upcoming year as an individual and as a leader?  The truth is that the world may not change simply because the calendar reflects a new year.  What does it mean to look forward with optimism in the midst of difficulty?

It is important to make the distinction between positivity and optimism.  Choosing positivity sounds positively wonderful. However, positivity is not the same as optimism, and the difference can impact your ability to lead – especially in times of crisis or change.  According to Simon Sinek, positivity is telling ourselves (and others) that everything is good, even if it isn’t.  Optimism, on the other hand, accepts reality as it is and looks forward to a brighter future” (Chio, 2020).  This is a subtle difference, but an important one.

Ignoring the negative in the name of positivity does not allow you to appropriately address the needs of a situation.  Dismissing the feelings that accompany a trying situation to focus on a “positive only” outlook can be disconcerting to those holding these concerns. 

Optimism is a mindset that intentionally chooses to move forward into the future in spite of the realities of the situation. 

Dr. Joy Karavedas

Rather than turning a blind eye to the difficulties of a situation, optimism examines the tough realities and chooses to move forward with the belief that you have the power to make change.

So, as we say goodbye to 2020 and look forward to 2021, let us explore all the good and the bad that was 2020.  Let us clearly understand the difficult year it has been – both professionally and personally.  Then, and only then, let us also move forward to achieve our goals and dreams in spite those difficulties.  

Chio. (2020). Simon sinek on the difference between optimism and positivity.