After 2020 and 2021, what do you think will happen this year? 2022. In this article, let's do a recap of the last 100 years and maybe the path that will emerge for us is that we need to expect the unexpected.
Last week of December 2021, I ran a poll with my LinkedIn community. I asked a simple question - As the year comes to an end, what are your expectations for 2022? I had 75 individuals vote for the four options and at the end of the 24-hour voting period, this is how the breakdown looks -
It will be much better - 69%
It will be the same - 15%
It will be much worse - 3%
It does not matter to me - 13%
One thing is for certain, the results of the poll show that I have an optimistic network of friends who truly believe that 2022 will be much better. They truly believe that expecting a better year will relatively make it an easier one to go through. We don’t know what is going to happen but at least we can expect things to improve.
Now before I read too much into the results of the poll or share with you my views, I want to make one thing clear - I am an ‘Eternal Optimist’! Throughout my life, I have always been able to see the silver lining of a dark cloud. Ray of sunshine emerging from beneath the stormy clouds. I always see one thing to latch on to as I am about to drown in the unknown.
I also believe in the power of visualization so let me take you through one right now. Be with me. I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you were born 100 years ago. The year 1920. As you open your eyes, the world is trying to revive itself from the painful experiences of World War I and of the Spanish Flu. The data is not completely accurate but it can be approximated to between 40-50 million people losing their lives during these two events.
A few years later, you and your family experience the Great Depression. Your family loses all their financial wealth. You grow a little older and you witness the atrocities of Adolf Hitler across Europe. Life continues to experience pain as World War II rages on. You are 25 and you witness the atomic bombs dropped on the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. You can’t even estimate the impact it would have had on generations in those cities. Assuming you are an Indian, you see India attain freedom but the despair of losing lives continues as more than a million people die during the partition. You continue living through the ups and downs of life through the decades till Covid-19 strikes in 2020 and the world is changed again.
During every passing year through the last century, humanity has faced grave atrocities. We have seen irreplaceable loss. We have seen epic failures and experienced pain like no other. But we have also grown. We have also seen extraordinary advancements. We have seen joy, happiness, and strength. Time and again, we have seen the human spirit prevail.
I am reminded of a quote by Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
That to me is our answer for 2022.
In 2022, expect the unexpected. It will be a year when Covid might recede or new variants might emerge. How do you choose to react? Do you choose to take precautions and protect yourself or do you choose to not care? It will be a year when employees might resign and we continue to witness the Great Resignation or it might be the year when organizations raise their game to retain employees. What do you choose? It might be the year of startup IPOs, emerging unicorns or it might be a year of a full-time job for you. What do you choose?
Our brain is a powerful tool. It learns to anticipate future occurrences from patterns experienced in the past. This process is called “anticipatory timing,” and it allows us to interact with the world and make decisions on the go. Our beliefs and experiences drive what we anticipate in the future and how we react to them.
Now, expecting the unexpected is a paradoxical thought so how do you put it into action. Let me share three core ideas with you that will help you put this idea into action.
Reset Expectations - The first step to putting the idea of expecting the unexpected into action is to reset your expectations. Start the year with a blank slate and as you move forward, don’t go ahead with expectations instead reset all expectations. The moment you let go of what you want this year to bring to you, you will be liberated from the attachment of the expectations and thus the focus will turn to you and not the year.
Driven by Values - The situations on the outside will continue to evolve and stay dynamic but if you are driven by a set of core values, they won’t distract you from being who you truly want to be. Start this year by doing this reflection. What are my core values? How can I practice them on a daily basis? Whenever I speak about core values, the example of Disney comes to mind. A company that has built a sense of community, optimism through storytelling, and innovation in everything they do. All these behaviors are truly reflected in their values of “optimism”, “innovation”, “decency”, “quality”, “community”, and “storytelling.
Own Every Action - Once you have reset your expectations, defined your core values, then the final step is to always own every action that you take. It is your actions that help you achieve the results that you want to achieve. No one else is going to act on your behalf. However complex the situation maybe, if you are ready to take full ownership of your actions and find the creative solutions that will help you succeed, then 2022 is your year.
These ideas may sound extremely simple to some and complex to others, but they always take time to build. Your brain is used to working in a different way so for it to make the shift, you need to build this practice, build this muscle. Sometimes it is easy to get it done on your own and at other times, seek support from a peer, a manager, a friend, or a coach.
To summarise, life will continue to throw lemons at you. Once you catch a lemon, squeeze the juice to make lemonade, use the zest in your lemon pie, and sow the seeds in the ground to grow yourself a new lemon plant.
As I finished writing this, I expected this to be a great month for me but alas, I should have expected the unexpected. Covid finally got me. I got tested positive. Just another curve ball within the first 10 days of the year and I am sure many more will follow.
This article was first published in People Matters on January 28, 2022. You can read it here.