A 2021 guide to be your highest and best self

The last year was rough for most people, confining them to their homes, throwing well prepared plans out of the window, upending our “normal” lives.
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I am not one for New Year resolutions which I believe are meant to be broken. But I do love to-do lists, goals and vision boards. To that effect, I am constantly reminded of my life coach, Katsuko Sugiyama’s words, “What kind of person would you be if you were operating at your highest and best self?”

The last year was rough for most people, confining them to their homes, throwing well prepared plans out of the window, upending our “normal” lives and physically distancing us from family, friends and even acquaintances who we would have given an arm and leg to meet just for the comfort of the social proximity of the interaction.

This year might be a bit better, but it promises to be as chaotic, undefined, unknown and different from any other year. Whilst we prepare for the future that awaits, we may or may not make New Year resolutions, but we should definitely set the tone for our own lives and try to regain some semblance of control, if we can.

I believe in incremental improvements to whatever I do and integrating new practices into my life. During COVID-19, I focused on regular exercise, mindfulness practices and perfecting digital skills. So not surprisingly, I ended the year 15 kilogrammes lighter, a strong and positive mental outlook for my team and myself and facilitated over 150 online conversations including my own podcast and several digital series. The last was instrumental in ensuring I ended up on the YourStory’s Digital Influencer list.

But like many, as busy as I was, during the year I often felt I was not doing enough. It was only when I did my reflection exercises at the end of the year and took stock of my achievements that I realised all that I had achieved. Which brings me to this year, the new year of 2021, and it is also the start to a new decade. I have decided that I want to be very intentional and strategic in how I spend my time and resources in order to make the most impact for myself and my organisation. This is my 2021 guide, which I’ll share in case it can help you, too.

Be purposeful. Invest and take time to understand what the Japanese call your ikigai or “the reason you jump out of bed every morning”. When you operate from a sense of purpose, you can ride the storms that await us. When life is smooth sailing, everything is perfect, and life runs like clockwork. It is when times are tough that we need motivation to see us through. For the last few years, I have been clear about my purpose and my head, heart and gut are in synchronicity.

Be intentional. You have 24 hours in a day, and it is your frame of mind which will determine whether it is enough or not to achieve your goals. Last year in one of my mindfulness practices I instituted an exercise of identifying the one thing that I had to definitely do that day. “Eat the frog” or tackling the big ticket item on your agenda, the one that intimidates you and makes you procrastinate, has helped me move quickly and intentionally. It actually helps save time.

Integrate and institutionalise tasks into the bigger strategic vision. I find it difficult to maintain and sustain interest in things that are not part of my bigger strategic vision for myself and my organisation. Therefore, my fitness routine has extended to my organisation and I have invited my network to also participate. These helps me with my own reflections and also connects me to people who further motivate me and introduce me to new practices thus keeping it interesting. It is easier to do things when a crowd of familiar faces are cheering you on.

Be kind to yourself and others. Everyone is on their own journey and in the midst of a pandemic, we cannot even begin to imagine what someone else is going through. We are not expected to and should not expect of ourselves or others to achieve goals, revenues and successes at pre-pandemic proportions. Last month during one of my network meetings, an entrepreneur was so disappointed in herself for not achieving the goals she had set for herself at the start of the year, even though by her own admission she had grown her business. I gently reminded her that many businesses had to shut and if she had survived and grown, it was success. We have to reframe how we think about success and we definitely need to cut ourselves some slack. We might have to recalibrate our pace of growth and build in more downtime this year to accommodate mental health needs.

You are enough. We are all aware of the various new skills people have picked up during the pandemic - baking banana bread, growing food kitchens and more. This puts pressure on us to do the same or more and compete with our friends and neighbours. But each of us is unique and have different needs. We must realise that we are enough, and we don’t need to compare our success or even our lives with another. Invest in your own self, know your ikigai and fine tune it so that it becomes your core. No one can be you and take pride in that.

Be grateful. If you are reading this then you have survived the pandemic. Many people have not. Many have lost their lives, their loved ones and may also have lost their jobs. Know your privilege and be grateful for it. Use the advantage you have to improve the world around you, even if it is your family so that you can leave it a bit better than you found it. The outward focus might help strengthen your inner resilience.

As I embrace this new year and decade, I am consciously working to be my highest and best self. I do hope you will find these suggestions useful to embark on your own journey to be your highest and best self.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan

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