What I learned from 2021
Unlocking uncomfortable truths, maintaining integrity, finding purpose
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. — Nelson Mandela
Every new year I start a new journal. Capturing my thoughts and lived experiences via pen to paper (yes still doing this old school). I have volumes of journals and notebooks. Growth and change captured through happy and painful memories, ideas, goals, plans, stories. Everything that needs to be remembered written down. 2021 was another interesting year and not just the ongoing pandemic moments. Reflecting on lessons, experiences, and uncomfortable truths by highlighting within five points.
1. Growth Mindset
Taking on challenges through new opportunities and learned experiences helps me grow. I seek out different sources of information from books, webinars, TED Talks, social channels, even people watching. Learning and knowledge to me are forms of currency. I spent a lot of 2021 reading, listening, watching (did you binge Ted Lasso and Succession too?) to satisfy my innate curiosity and to pass socially distanced time. I am also grateful for the ongoing ability to continuously learn and experiment at work, but with my two pronged approach:
- Professional growth building new skills with training libraries and learning paths. My commitment to learning helped me log 385 learning hours and earned 13 badges, achieving “Champion Learner Gold” status of the top 6% of all learners at IBM. One needs to chart a path of what they want to learn and achieve in the year.
- Validated several hypotheses by actively observing workplace dynamics and behaviours. Assessed processes and data, gathered feedback via interviews to add to my research. Separate post to follow on how organizational culture (and subcultures) when positive can ensure employees thrive or when toxic and manipulative can threaten and cancel individuals’ careers.
There is no excuse to not find time to enrich your mind by learning new skills or exploring new interests. Passing pandemic time with a growth mindset brought me peace and much satisfaction. The current year will not be any different and I’ll continue to push myself to grow. What did you learn in 2021?
2. Ongoing Self-Care
The pandemic continues to impact us all. Being confined to our homes, travel disrupted, limited to no face-to-face socialization, online work/school fatigue was all taking a toll on myself and my family. Additional supports were needed for our mental health, especially for my children. Escaping to the outdoors for walks was beneficial. Our home gym was also a relief. Daily meditation was and continues to be crucial in settling my hyperactive mind.
My family all being vaccinated meant this past summer we were comfortable in taking longer road trips around Alberta and to British Columbia. Fulfilling the year-long travel void. Meeting up with friends for outdoor gatherings and mandated vaccine requirements for indoor dining has been a welcomed change (especially as a foodie!). Self-care needs to be included in our daily routines. Self-care is a reminder that taking care of you comes first. Ongoing self-care is a essential to your wellbeing.
3. Conformity Bias
Lets face it the majority of us are biased, unconscious or conscious. Like choosing Coca Cola over Pepsi. Pink colored clothing is only meant for girls and blue for boys. Individuals choosing not to wear masks or get vaccinated, even though mandated by public health orders. Bias is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, “as a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.” Biases not only happens in our day-to-day lives. Biases are baked into corporate culture. Such as in hiring practices, career advancement, or more importantly reporting concerns involving non-inclusive behaviours. The means to identify biases with corrective actions needs to be further examined.
Conformity bias is a group mentality where bad behaviours are enabled, empowered, and yes encouraged in order to belong and to seek acceptance. From my experience, conformity bias shows up in teaming dynamics, organizational status and hierarchy. Sadly when this happens the behavioural changes to correct these ingrained biases and behaviours, may take years to resolve. Especially when patriarchal management exists and non-inclusive behaviours continue even though reported.
Where are the upstanders in these organizations? Bystanders are abundant where conformity bias is exhibited from leaders, peers, and or team members that ensure accusers reporting incidents are perceived in a negative manner. Psychological safely is threatened. Disrespectful and toxic work environment prevails. Resilience is not enough to build trust (or rebuild) in maintaining healthy working relationships when conformity bias exists. Watch for fake allies and their followers. Pay attention to their actions as their words do not align.
4. Examine Relationships
Do you know the saying that came from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, “…you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” This saying applies in a professional context as well. One needs to take stock of who’s in your corner or has your back. Coaches, mentors, peers, leaders who are well-meaning people are no longer treating you fairly due to their biases.
Examining relationships professionally is needed; assuming some of you may have also examined your friends and family roster during the pandemic. Assessing for mutual respect and acceptance, reciprocal support and inspiration, alignment in values and guiding principles, a balance of giving and receiving. Professional relationships should meet the same criteria, especially from your coaches and mentors.
Compatibility within the relationship is key and knowing differences are acceptable as we are all unique individuals. My roster of allies and supports has decreased, more so over the past year. Gaslighting, discriminatory behaviours, and sinister agendas all characteristics of selfish and egotistical, despicable human beings. Remove these individuals from your professional roster. Focus on nurturing positive relationships and maintaining strong mental health.
5. Defining Purpose
The day-to-day grind of working and family life the past year has not ended with this pandemic. Many lines blurred from working at home and managing a household with my familia of co-workers. Everything hasn’t been all terrible with saving grace moments of vaccines and my children returning to in-person schooling during our fourth wave (relief two less co-workers!). Others’ choices and decisions has been exasperating. Sets the stage for evaluating my life’s purpose. What I can or should I do to help?
Consciously infuse your thoughts, emotions, and behavior with positive, life-affirming energy — kindness, compassion, generosity, justice — you’re keeping your ego at bay and you’re able to see your true purpose with greater clarity. — Douglas LaBier, Ph.D.
Maintaining my personal integrity and upholding my values and beliefs is extremely important to me. Misalignment from relationships and burnout caused by a toxic work environment has painted a clearer picture. Ongoing journaling and help from others has provided clarity to my purpose, I need to share my lived experiences. I can help another person or people with my stories. This purpose spills into my professional work, whereby delivering projects via pro-bono work has been very rewarding. Collaborating with others who are truly excited and welcome your help is fulfilling. I solve complex problems by building trust, listening with empathy or compassion in understanding needs or pain points, and providing a different perspective. Finding my purpose has given me a new perspective going forward.
Reflecting on my notes and events that transpired over 2021 has given me a greater sense of pride and accomplishment of the challenges I faced and what I was able to overcome. I am in control of my character and actions. Those who are capable of controlling a narrative and go against their own values are who we all truly need to question.
2021 felt as if it was business as usual. What happened to the rallies and campaigns behind diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)? Allyship was a checkbox filled. Social campaigns flashing diversity and words of inclusion with vain outcomes. Equity is a game that is not equitable when the game continues with patriarchal powers. For those who claim to live by DEI, stop the slacktivism! Do better! Even better, lets talk.
Going into 2022 with many unlocked uncomfortable truths to be shared in future posts as I continue to unpack my lived experiences. For now may you be happy, healthy, and find peace in the new year ahead.