How to End 2020 with a Bang, Not a Whimper

2020 hasn't been the year you planned for. But with one quarter of the year remaining, this is the perfect time to reflect on and learn from what's transpired so far, and to create a plan for closing out this year with a bang.

Rachel Cooke
5-minute read
Episode #617
The Quick And Dirty

Whatever shape your 2020 has taken thus far, there is still time to claim it as a win. Follow this process for reflecting on and closing out this year in a big way:

  • Look 2020 in the eye
  • Find your bright spots
  • Learn from your lows
  • Choose your ending
  • Write your 2021 bumper sticker

We are officially in the fourth quarter—the home stretch of a calendar year that none of us could have predicted or planned for.

I’d be hard-pressed to name an emotion I’ve not felt in the past six months. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if you just nodded your head and murmured, "Same."

I’ve reimagined my year-end process to accommodate a year that’s been, well … unimaginable.

To date, 2020 has left some marks on me. I’ve got bruises and shadows I’ll carry for a while. But I have every intention of closing out this year on a high, optimistic note. I’ve reimagined my year-end process to accommodate a year that’s been, well … unimaginable.

I will reflect on my year-to-date with generosity extended to myself. I will infuse intention into my fourth quarter. I will redirect and redefine. It’s a process I’ve already begun and will continue to nurture through the end of the year.

If 2020 has left you uncertain, unsteady, or unlike yourself in some way, then today’s episode is for you. I’ll be sharing my closing-out process in progress, and I invite you to follow along. 

Look 2020 in the eye

If I told you I ran a mile in an hour, you might not be very impressed. But if I told you I did it with my ankles tied together, would your assessment of me change? I hope so.

2020 has been an ankles-tied-together kind of year. I plan to assess myself through that filter, and I urge you to do the same.

We’ve had a collective experience of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, unrest, loneliness, and unprecedented change.

Let yourself reflect on all that’s transpired this year. Whatever your personal situation, we’ve had a collective experience of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, unrest, loneliness, and unprecedented change.

Let a highlight-reel play in your mind. What shape has your 2020 taken? What obstacles came out of nowhere and stared you down? Because if you’re still standing, you’re already winning.

Find your bright spots

Now you’ve gone through the motion of setting the expectations-bar where it belongs. And it’s time to find your greatest hits of the year.

If you’re still standing, you’re already winning.

This is not the time to look back at goals set in January and mourn what didn’t get done. This is the time to celebrate the moments in which you showed up as you needed to. Perfection not required.

This self-reflection can be a collection of personal and professional successes. Where did 2020 throw you a challenge that you didn’t see coming but conquered anyway?

For me, I’ve found a space to keep my business running while I’m supporting my kids in homeschool. I’ve learned that not becoming a teacher was indeed a wise life-choice on my part. I’m pretty mediocre at best. But I’m doing it and they’re doing it, and that’s celebration-worthy this year.

I’ve also made some big pivots in my business. In 2019, I spent much of my time running in-person workshops with leadership teams. I’ve now totally rejiggered the format and structure of those programs that I deliver as virtual group coaching modules doled out in chunks versus days.

The homeschooling is meh. The business pivot is a win. Turns out, modulated group coaching delivers a different brand of impact that my clients are loving.

Where did you show up for yourself or someone else this year? Take just a moment to celebrate that.

Learn from your lows

Only once you’ve sufficiently celebrated your victories is it time to look at the moments better suited to a bloopers’ reel. 

These are moments we choose not for pointing, laughing, blaming, or shaming, but to teach us something about how to do better in the future.

In March of this year, I suddenly saw three major contracts get canceled. Those contracts represented a huge chunk of business for me, and I’ll confess I spent a hot minute hosting a pity party for myself. It was not my cutest moment.

But I’m on the other side of it now, and I’m not here to dwell on what felt like a personal failure. I want to focus on what I ultimately learned. And those learnings are mine to keep.

What’s something essential you learned about yourself through your challenges this year?

Reflecting on this personal low-moment I’ve taken two important lessons that will influence how I navigate the years ahead. And they are:

  1. When my workload is heavy on active projects, I tend not to prioritize investing in relationship-building. But I’ve learned that relationships need to be built and nurtured always. And I’ve now established a practice of reaching out to three professional contacts each week, no matter how busy the workload. This will help me manage my pipeline going forward.
  2. I’m an extravert. I take positive energy from being around people I care about. So when times got hard and I turned inward, I got stuck in the mud. It wasn’t until I started reaching out to my amazing circle of supportive and encouraging friends that I began taking steps forward. There will always be setbacks to face. But now I know my path to overcoming them is paved with friendship. And I won’t let weeks of isolation pass the next time I fall down.

What’s something essential you learned about yourself through your challenges this year? And how will you let that shape the way you show up for your future self?

Choose your ending

Three-quarters into this year, it makes sense to be reflective. But don’t lose sight of the fact that one quarter still lies ahead.

With holidays and year-end performance processes and all of the administration that comes with closing out a year, for may, Q4 is the most hectic. You may be swept up into the busyness. But you can still be intentional about how you close out this year.

What is one thing you need to do for yourself, professionally or personally, that will allow you to tie a bow on 2020 and claim it as a relative success?

You can still be intentional about how you close out this year.

A friend of mine is converting a small bedroom into a proper office. Another is finishing a certificate in data analytics. Yet another is self-publishing her first novel.

As for me, I’m launching a new program for leaders around building meaningful employee experiences virtually.

My friends and I each strive for something different. But each of us is being very intentional about choosing the thing we will prioritize above the noise, things we will commit to making happen before year-end.

What bow will you tie around this year as a gift to yourself?

Write your 2021 bumper sticker

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, bumper stickers do a great job of communicating a big idea in a succinct way. There’s no room for excess or detail, just vision.

So what’s your vision for yourself in 2021? I'm not talking about what you'll achieve or how you'll measure success. Instead, what version of you should we expect to meet?

Maybe 2021 will be your year of curiosity and exploration. Or it could be your year of leaning into entrepreneurship. Maybe it's your year to take a well-deserved breather, or invest in your education, or make sure your craft finds its voice.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure yet what my 2021 will look like. But I promise I’ll spend the next couple of months really reflecting on it. And if you have any suggestions for me, I’m all ears.

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About the Author

Rachel Cooke

Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.