What Has 2021 Taught Us?

A year ago, I wrote that 2021 was going to be a ‘bounce back’ year. The rollover of a new year is full of hope and it really felt like a reset was about to happen. Here we are at the beginning of 2022 and while we have rebounded, in many ways our challenges seem quite the same.

According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in their collaboration and reflection resulting in The Book of Joy, ‘we learn when something happens to test us’. What have we learned?

This ongoing global pandemic does have a way of shifting our perspective from the mundane to reflecting on issues of deeper complexity and consequence. We are presented with a unique opportunity to transform ourselves and our connection with others for greater benefit. Yet wherever we look, we see the push and pull of conflicting scenarios playing out right in front of us.

Today’s vantage point gives us a much clearer view of our common humanity. Across the globe we confront similar challenges. For the better part of the last few years, worldwide, we have measured and recounted, analysed and acted on similar data and findings. We’ve shared experiences of scientific, political, psychological, sociological and economic impact and fallout. While we share a common humanity, personal experiences have varied widely with devastating impact for some and inconvenience or mild disruption for others.

We march and protest, emphasizing our differences WHILE we collaborate and confer to achieve solutions for the common good. Collaboration across the world has led to vaccine production within time frames not previously contemplated. Yet, inequitable vaccine accessibility and distribution shines a light on global injustice.

The emphasis on moving from individualistic thinking to the ‘good of the whole’ has advanced to a central question for discussion and debate around the dinner table. Perspectives are increasingly challenged. Over the past few years, some of us enjoyed time to focus more on ourselves, to get more in touch with our own needs and wants. As the potential for continued isolation stretches out into yet another year, one can’t help but hear this little voice reminding us that connection to others is what gets us through. And while we’re all challenged to be resilient, we know it’s much easier to be resilient where well being is supported and resources are available.

These past few years we’ve lost and we’ve gained. We’ve thrived and suffered. But, let’s not let negativity or cynicism steal our energy or resolve. The stage may be set for positive transitions not even contemplated in less disruptive times.

We may have glimpsed the positive impact of our own resolve. We’ve maybe seen and experienced a few ‘bests’ that could lead to better places. We’ve learned to function amid great uncertainty. We’ve seen and experienced the power of collaboration. We’ve learned to think beyond simplistic solutions, focusing on more insightful ways to address complex issues and challenges. We are more aware that polarity thinking – either black or white – just holds us back. We have a heightened sense of the fragility and interconnectedness of our systems and the great need to take care of our world and each other.

We’ve learned we can move with the world. New mindsets show us how to adapt. We can hold on to our strengths and let go of the things that may have worked well in the past, but are just not a good fit for a changing world.

“No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the quality of human life on our planet”. His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Archbischop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams The Book of Joy Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.

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