Ahh 2020…what can I say about such an eventful year with its fair share of ups and downs.
From the circuit breaker to work from home arrangements, 2020 has definitely been a year of change for many of us. This is notwithstanding the massive transformation that our economy is undergoing right now.
As 2021 comes into sight, perhaps now might be a good time to look back and reflect on your own 2020 journey.
Instead of focusing on how good or bad the year has been, you would be better off thinking about the lessons learnt and your growth as an individual. Doing so keeps you grounded and provides clarity to your own thoughts.
With that said, these are five important lessons I learnt from my experiences in 2020.
Fortune favours the brave and prepared
As we get older, many of us would forgo risk in exchange for stability and comfort. However if 2020 has taught me anything, it is that great rewards come with a certain degree of risk-taking.
For instance, my decision to invest (and stay invested) during the market correction in March turns out to be the best investment decision I have made so far. While I suffered heavy losses during that period, my investment portfolio now sits on a nice positive paper gain and is on track to surpass my growth expectations for this year. Furthermore, dividends received for this year also surpassed that of last year. All in all, things went unexpectedly well for my investments.
Besides the investing side of things, starting this blog has also proven to be a rewarding decision. While I have only gained negligible income from it, the positive comments and viewership statistics affirm that what I know can provide value to others. And for that, I am both humbled and grateful to all my blog visitors. As such, I will be writing more posts in the year to come.
In truth, I had my own fair share of doubts and fears prior to these two decisions. However, such fears should not inhibit us from making choices or decisions.
Of course, I am not advocating for a mindless sense of risk-taking. Rather, do your adequate preparation or research and when the time comes, do not be afraid to take that step forward. More often than not, you would be rewarded for it.
Rome was not built in a day
Besides the bravery to commit yourself to something, mental fortitude is also needed to sustain the effort. We, myself included, often just give up at the first significant hurdle that we encounter.
Whether you are learning or creating something new, there are bound to be obstacles and bad days along the way.
Take for instance this blog, there have been countless times when I felt unmotivated to write up new posts or complete half-written ones (my co-founder can attest to that😂). Much of it was down to me juggling both my full-time job and the demands of maintaining this blog.
Incidentally. it was through these bad days that made me realized that nothing comes easy even if you are doing what you truly believe in. There is a saying that goes like “do what you love and you do not have to work another day”. Well, in reality, it is never all sunshine and rainbows even if you are truly passionate about something.
The main thing is having the patience and determination to get past those bad days or moments. After all, great things are not accomplished in a day or two, rather it is through a long process of continual effort and discipline.
Having said that, these are some ways to make that journey a tad more manageable.
(Try to) Enjoy the process
I know I know… it is not easy trying to enjoy doing something when the going gets tough.
During times like this, keeping a mental note of why we started doing something in the first place can help us to take the bad days in stride. If anything, we can deem such obstacles as mere trade-offs in helping us achieve our goals.
However, if the going gets a little too tough to handle, there is no shame in taking a break and regrouping. This is after all a marathon and not a sprint.
Have flexible goals and targets
We all set goals and targets for ourselves. This helps to spur determination and provide us with a yardstick to measure progress.
What happens when we fail to accomplish these self-imposed targets or goals? Well, we feel absolute s*** about ourselves.
Instead of torturing ourselves like that, have flexible goals instead. This way, even if we fail to achieve them at the desired deadline, we would not be too hard on ourselves.
Of course, this is not to say that you procrastinate and keep putting off accomplishing these goals. Rather, do it to the best of your efforts and if it could not be done within the desired timeline, don’t sweat and just give yourself more time to get it over the line.
A word of warning though, do not try doing this for hard-stamped deadlines at the workplace or school.
Comparisons can be detrimental
For some reason or another, modern society is rife with many forms of comparisons. We compare just about anything in life, from working attitudes at the workplace, the amount of salary we earn to even examination results at schools.
While we can do nothing about external comparisons from others, we should be aware of how we compare ourselves with others. Cause it is such comparisons that can really affect how we view ourselves to be.
I still remembered at around the midway point of 2020, I started looking at the layout and design of other finance blogs in Singapore. The main reason for doing so was wanting to improve how my blog looks and functions. However, what initially started as me looking for inspiration soon spiralled into negative and self-deprecating thoughts.
I compared my blog with the other financial blogs and started putting my own blog (and myself) down. I wondered why my blog was not up to par with the rest in terms of quality and style. This caused me lots of stress and also made me felt inferior to the rest of the financial bloggers.
Thankfully, I have since gotten over that as I realized that the comparison was needless and stupid.
Firstly, most of the current influential financial bloggers in Singapore has been around for quite some time. As such, they would have had more time to gain the skills required to write and design their blogs better. Secondly, they would not know or bother about how I feel about myself. Hence, putting myself down would only be detrimental to me.
Now, I’m not saying that my blog is suddenly flawless and great. In fact, there is still much to be improved upon before it is close to my ideal image of what it should be. However, I am comfortable at improving it at my own pace instead of constantly comparing my blog with the rest.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Much has been said about mental health in 2020. However, I still want to add my personal voice to it. After all, the more it is being talked about, the less it would be frown upon or casually dismissed in society.
If you are in a tight spot at work or your personal life, do not be afraid to confide in people you trust. More often than not, you would feel better after talking about your feelings or problems instead of bottling them up.
Personally, confiding in others about my feelings and problems has never been easy. Much of it is down to my own thinking that I should not burden others with my problems. While that still remains true to a certain extent, I have learnt that opening up to others has its own liberating benefits too.
Besides the obvious benefit of alleviating stress, you could potentially also gain new perspectives regarding the issue. This is extremely important as we can become tunnel-visioned or blindsided when in a bad or stressful situation.
Additionally, you could also build better interpersonal relationships with others. By confiding in others, we are effectively opening up a vulnerable side of us to the other party. This, in turn, builds trust which would go a long way into forging stronger relationship bonds.
Besides the mental aspect of approaching others for help, there is also the technical aspect, in terms of skills and expertise.
As an individual, there are only so many skills that we can pick up and learn to an acceptable level of proficiency. At times, there would be roles to perform where we either lack the interest or expertise required. In such instances, instead of depending on oneself to pick up the skills, it would be easier and faster to approach others for help. This could then fast-track the accomplishment of certain goals in life.
Change is the only constant
On the topic of skills and expertise, this brings me to the last lesson I learnt in 2020, which is to embrace changes in life.
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me anything, is that what we deem as normalcy can change in an instant. On the employment side of things, we have already seen retrenchments across many industries. Some jobs have also been made redundant with the progression of technology.
In this ever-evolving landscape of change, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand and think we are safe and comfortable. Doing so renders us unprepared and unaware of future potential game-changers.
Even though I’m currently working in a very resilient industry, I am not resting on my laurels. Instead, I’m looking at picking up new skills in animation and video editing.
Why you may ask?
Well, even in an ‘iron rice bowl’ industry, one can get bored or lose interest in the job. When this happens, I do not want to be stuck in a job because I have no other skills to offer. Hence, upskilling myself provides opportunities should I choose to leave my current job in the future.
So there you have it, five of the important lessons I learnt in 2020. Looking back, some of these lessons seem like common sense. However, in the hectic lifestyle that we sometimes lead, we forget about the simple things in life.
Regardless of how 2020 has been for you, here’s to 2021 being an even better year.
As always, stay healthy, happy and invested in your lives!