What I learned from 2021

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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:

  1. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Janice Mah

Janice Mah

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Storyteller | Mother | Foodie | Traveller | Food Allergy, DEI & Human Rights Advocate | Social impact, Volunteerism | She/Her