It is mid-December and I sit by the window in a café and sip my coffee. A blank Word document stares right back at me and I ponder what to write about what’s in store for us in 2021. My first thought: 2021, please be kind!

We are resilient beings that have a sense of hope for the future and for ourselves, whether small or on a grander scale, despite having gone through the tough year that was 2020. New year’s resolutions and new goals are in order but honestly, ask yourself, how many of those from last year were you able to keep and develop into a habit? (Not to worry if you failed to keep them all till end of year!)

I’d like you to pause and think about your “why” right now (you’re probably thinking I’m borrowing ideas from Simon Sinek, huh?). Really though, isn’t it important to dig deeper and practice more mindfulness, knowing why you do what you do? It’s not about having a long list, nor is it about being in competition with other people.

Take your time and think it through. Here’s some of mine that I’d like to share with you:

Complain less

According to a study from Stanford in 1996, complaining makes your brain shrink due to the stress from the negativity of doing the act alone. 30 minutes or more can physically damage the brain.  The worst part being is that the average person complains between 15 to 30 times a day, according to Will Bowen, best-selling author of “A Complaint-Free World.”

Practicing gratitude is a goal of mine, especially on tougher days. Whatever the reason, it’s good to practice pausing before reacting. This also minimizes the consequences of saying something you might not mean.  It can seem like a chore, but actively reflecting on two or three things a day that made you happy or something you’re proud of can change your outlook in the long term. There’s a lot to feel grateful about. Managing to get up early in the morning, ticking off one thing on your to-do list, or something bigger like achieving a sales target for the quarter. It’s good to be more conscious of your thoughts and pay attention to what’s going well in your life, especially during an uncertain time.


Choose discomfort

Why on earth would I want to do that?

Being more intentional with how you live day by day can get you into developing new habits which you’ll be glad you’ve done one day! Just the act of getting out of your comfort zone is a way of living more intentionally. One can decide to get up earlier in the morning to squeeze in a morning walk or run no matter the weather. If you’re not fond of cooking as it takes a lot of time, why not try out new recipes you may find you are good at making for yourself? Want to get into photography? Don’t worry about looking silly taking photos of your subject from different angles, even if it means people giving you weird looks on the street.

One way I’ve chosen to pursue the uncomfortable in my life was making a big decision to move far away from home to move to London to pursue higher education. I was comfortable with my life back in the Philippines. Not to mention, nice warm weather all year around, but I chose to fly to Europe despite the uncertainty 2020 brought. Since moving to London, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs as I have no family here to fall back on. Despite this, I’ve been trying to become more adventurous and explore London on my own. I usually prefer exploring new places with a friend, but I’ve been trying to enjoy my own company a lot more.


Practice the power of pausing

From a communications aspect, this closely relates to my first point about complaining less. Overall resilience is developed. The act of simply putting more thought into your words before blurting them out is beneficial, especially during tense situations. This can save you from getting into unnecessary conflict with others. Additionally, a pause—just by taking a breather in between activities—is helpful to stabilize your own stress levels. One example could be taking a minute or two for yourself in between meetings. Also, if you have the opportunity for a five-minute quick coffee break, you can take advantage of that as well. The few moments before getting out of your car to tackle the rest of your day can become a natural, calm transition too. Even the commute via the London Underground is my time to pause before I accomplish what I have to do when I get to my destination. It’s good to hold some space for yourself for some quiet and peace even for a few minutes throughout the day, as all the work and hectic-ness never stops.


Make time for your hobbies

We all have the same 24 hours ahead of us each day. It would be more meaningful to take a closer look at where you could channel your energy in something personally uplifting. Most of us, if not all, say we “don’t have time” because of the obligations we have—but maybe challenge yourself a bit to prioritize that thing that brings you joy! This is a way of being more kind to yourself in 2021 moving forward.

What’s been working for me is allotting an hour or two a day to practice some photography and photo editing. I have a long way to go to consider myself close to professional as I have a lot more to learn, but I enjoy the process of improving the skill while it helps me unwind.  Another thing that’s been bringing me more joy is actively trying to get back into reading. I wasn’t much of a reader until the first lockdown started. I managed to read a variety of thriller and contemporary novels (anyone have a Goodreads account? Let’s share titles!). Although I’ve fallen short on keeping up with this new habit lately, I’d squeeze in an hour walk whilst listening to an audiobook or podcast to help get back into the groove of things.  The bottom line is, make sure to do something that makes you happy every day even if it’s a small thing. Bubble baths can count!


Stop comparing

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and although that may be a cheesy line that many of us have heard before, it’s the truth. Many of us go about work or school, and even our own personal lives, comparing ourselves to others to see if we’re doing better than them or not. (Again, guilty). Arguably, a little bit of friendly competition at work, for example, can motivate you to achieve more. However, the moment you start undervaluing yourself is when it becomes dangerous. We may find inspiration from others and learn from them but remember to see your own success in both the small and big things. As someone who has always been hard on herself, I’ve been trying to give myself more credit and allow myself to be proud of having the desire to grow amid the pandemic, i.e., taking up my MBA and involving myself with extracurricular activities at university such as writing this blog. Likewise, I’m also proud of how I’m improving my confidence by establishing new friendships outside the Hult community and expand my network somehow.

2021 is a fresh start for all of us amid the pandemic and we owe it to ourselves to try to do better given the circumstance we’re in. You’re in control of the way you face this new year, so I hope you live it up more mindfully and with more gratitude.