The 5 Critical Lessons We All Learned From 2020 — and How to Use Them to Succeed in 2021

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Laurie Halter318
Helping women "rear" careers and families
May 29, 2024 at 2:46PM UTC

While most people are only too happy to put 2020 in their rearview mirror, it’s important to look back and reflect on the many gifts the pandemic and its consequential shutdowns have given each of us. Fairygodboss members shared some of the most poignant lessons they learned in 2020, and even though these gifts may not fit under a Christmas tree, they will be the lessons we need the most as we make our way into 2021. 

1. Slowing Down.

There was one overwhelming response to lessons learned from 2020 and the pandemic: the gift of slowing down. Fairygodboss members mentioned this in everything from meals with their kids, to taking a mental health break and some deep breaths while working, to shutting off their laptop at the end of their “virtual day.” Fairygodboss member Lori Buckley says it best when she notes:

“Not everything has to be entertained, overscheduled, and busy. Time with family and a nice meal at the dinner table can carry so much value.” 

Buckley is not alone in her sentiment. A recent New York Times article discussed how many CEOs are coming back to the dinner table during COVID. According to a report by Family Meals Movement (FMI) of the Food Industry Association, 85% of respondents said they plan on eating family meals together more or just as often as they did before COVID. 

FGB’er Jocelyn Lyons agrees with the above, saying:

“One lesson I have learned is that my real priorities are being present with family. Too often we are so concerned with achievements (at work, school or otherwise) as a measure of success rather than seeing happiness and strong relationships with family as success. I now understand that the most important measure of success for me is being a present parent, wife, sister, and daughter.” 

2. Honoring your accomplishments.

One silver lining of remote work? The ability to toot your own horn! Introverted contributors tend to get lost in the shuffle, often relying on co-workers and managers in the office to notice the excellent work they are slaving away at quietly. But with COVID forcing the workforce home in droves, many employees are finding it necessary to not only state, but also celebrate, their accomplishments and contributions on a larger stage. 

“My biggest lesson this year has been to celebrate my accomplishments. It’s always been hard for me to celebrate my own accomplishments and get recognition. But during COVID and working remotely it became even more difficult because no one is physically seeing me doing the work anymore,” said FGB’er Kristen Olson. “Ladies, always let everyone around you know when you’ve accomplished something!” 

3. The realization we are beyond capable.

I love what FGB’er Jackie Ghedine, co-founder of The Resting Mind, has to say about our willingness and ability to adapt to new situations.

 “One thing I have learned in 2020 is this, we as humans are terrible predictors of our emotions and the impact situations and circumstances would have on us. If we were asked this time last year, what you would do if you had to lock down for two months, we would have predicted the worst. Our ability to adapt and pivot is greater than our mind leads us to believe.”

4. Know your authentic self is more than enough.

There’s a lot of new challenges the pandemic lifestyle has brought us: kids crying during conference calls, dogs walking through the back of Zoom meetings, deliveries at the most inopportune times. We have all learned that being authentic can often be more important than looking perfect and getting everything done. Progress over perfection was our warrior cry! 

“I learned that it’s possible to slow down and ‘leave things undone,’” said FGB’ Carolyn Uzelack. “Our senior leadership team all went down to 70% pay (and theoretically, 70% time!), and for many months I continued to work at 110%... until I realized that maybe this was finally the time to address my significant work-life imbalance! I’m trying now to take a few more deep breaths and realize that what’s ‘urgent’ (and what often becomes urgent due to others’ lack of planning) should not take precedence over what’s truly important for that day.”

5. Be grateful.

Another big plus of the rollercoaster that was 2020? Gratitude! Even as restaurants close their doors, people are told to stop gathering with friends and family, and outdoor spaces are shut off to the public, the human spirit is amazing in its ability to look at the world through rose-colored glasses.

FGB’er Debbie Higgins says it best: 

“This gift of time made me grateful for all the things I previously took for granted, that got lost in the shuffle of a busy life. It made me refocus on what is truly valuable in life: love, health, family. Nothing else matters.”

Debbie, I could not have said it better myself! 


Laurie Halter is the owner of Charisma! Communications and host of the Carearing podcast, where she explores how leading females “rear” successful careers and home lives at the same time. You can reach out to her via LinkedIn @LaurieHalter. 

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