by Davide Fioraso
We’ve finally made it to 2021. What now?
Without any doubt, 2020 has been a difficult, complicated year. An extraordinarily challenging year that we will remember for a lifetime. And that, frankly, we couldn’t wait to leave behind.
Now, that 2021 has arrived, our lives hasn’t really changed that much compared to a few months ago. After all, as physics, philosophy and science teach us, time is only a relative concept. Yet this parameter that we use to conceive and measure the passing of events can be something powerful. By analyzing a series of cadences on our lifestyle, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered how commitments to pursue new goals (or make positive change happen) increase after time reference points, such as the beginning of a new year, the start of a new term or a new month. Think about it: how many times have we said “in January I’ll start the gym again”. These benchmarks, the researchers write, “are the beginning of new periods of mental accounting that help relegate past imperfections and gain a new overview of our life, motivating aspirations.” In short, the effect of a new beginning. Thinking of 2021 as a new start has helped us to get a motivational boost.
Of course, we could not expect a magical resolution of every problems, yet, as only a crisis can do, the pandemic has opened up the possibility of systemic change: habits, relationships, work, management of space and time. To capitalize on this energy, it is worth reflecting on the positive practices we have developed in 2020 and that we can bring into this new year. A great example is given by Sigal Samuel in an article on Vox, citing eight habits that readers said they wanted to keep: buying fewer things, favoring responsible actions and consumption, slowing down and putting less pressure on themselves, giving priority to family and friends, daily training, regularly cooking and gardening, working from home and spending more time in nature. No way we are suggesting that 2020 was a year to be taken as an example. But why not save whatever good it has brought?
Let’s think about it. What bad habits have you avoided during these difficult times? And what good habits did you start? How have your priorities changed? Will you be able to continue to support these changes, even if the world around you seems to slowly return to normal?
These 8 habits, bring back to mind what Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American biologist and writer, calls voluntary simplicity: going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing, doing, acquiring less in order to have more. Kabat-Zinn is a realist and recognizes the limitations most of us face to live this way. The rent to pay or the children to feed are real needs, not a switch that can be turned off. “You don’t get to control it all” he writes “but choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more.”
2020 has been characterized by a remarkable involuntary simplicity. It is up to us, given the possibility, to convert that into voluntary actions and aspects of our life that we have experienced. The effect of a new beginning can be something powerful and na incentive to support change.