2021 Reflections: 4 big lessons — and how they’ll help YOU

Dec 9, 2021

Did you kick off 2021 full of hope and ready to ‘get back to normal’?

I know I did. Most people I’ve spoken to this year expected to put the challenges of 2020 behind them. Instead, we’ve faced another year of restrictions and uncertainty.

For many, continuing to sit in the unknown made this year even more difficult. Especially with no end date in sight.

But amongst the challenges, there’ve been many big lessons and growth opportunities.

I’m always advocating for people to take ownership of and create a career on their terms. And the past two years have forced everyone to address this if they haven’t already!

Here’s what I’m seeing…

People’s priorities have shifted. They’re no longer settling for bad bosses, toxic work environments or jobs they hate. They have options and are thinking strategically about what’s important in their work and lives.

Employers are encouraging people to take control of their careers and ask for what they need. They’re investing in career development and supporting non-linear career paths. Most importantly, they’re listening to what their people want.

And the best bit is, this is only the beginning. I’m excited for what’s in store for 2022 and how the professional world will continue to evolve.

On a personal note, I’ve also been reflecting on what I learnt this year — and what I’ll be taking with me into the next one.

So, today I’m sharing my biggest lessons and honest confessions for 2021.

Read on to discover the four greatest insights I learned in another extraordinary year. Find out what worked, what didn’t — and how these lessons can help you!

LESSON #1 — BE YOUR OWN AUTHORITY

One of the greatest lessons I’ve mastered in 2021 is learning to trust myself. To listen to my own voice, not anyone else’s. Especially in business.

I’m an independent soul (my family might even call it stubborn!). But I began to notice I was often looking for answers outside myself. By paying too much attention to the latest ‘formula’ or how others in my industry run their businesses.

This was a big mistake I made in my last company. I left the corporate world to do things differently — then recreated the same corporate model in my own business. And I hated it!

My late father was also one of my biggest mentors in business (and life) and I often looked to him for advice. It’s no coincidence since he’s been gone these past two years, I’ve felt lost!

But this year, I realised. I have all the answers I need within myself. And the ability to create a career and business on my terms.

For many of us, our conditioning has led us to believe there’s only one way. Following a traditional career path and climbing the corporate ladder. If you’re dissatisfied, to immediately look for a new role in your existing field.

Being your own authority means taking ownership of your career. To stop seeking out other people’s advice and opinions without considering your own. And designing your career around what’s important to you.

I stopped consuming information from ‘gurus’ who wanted to tell me what to do. And while others can be a source of inspiration and evidence of what’s possible, I learnt to trust what’s right for me.

Instead, I went back to basics and asked myself: What makes me unique? My core strengths, knowledge and expertise. I looked at the questions people were asking, their problems and results they wanted my help with.

This led me to shift my focus to supporting high-achieving leaders at a career crossroads. I mapped out my unique methodology and launched my signature career coaching program in March. Then created new career development presentations and free resources — with more to come in 2022!

Consider — Are YOU looking to others for validation and answers? Where do you need to start trusting yourself more in your career + life?

LESSON #2 — LETTING GO OF CONTROL

One of my biggest lessons for 2020 was learning to surrender. 2021 has again tested my relationship to certainty and control. It’s pushed me to let go of control of the future, the uncertainty of the world — or trying to plan things out ‘perfectly’.

At times when I felt anxious, my response was white knuckling. Trying to control the outcome and refusing to let go. Control is always a sign of fear — and the best way through fear is to step into the uncertainty.

I’ve learnt to have a clear intention and goals but to release control of the ‘how’. For example, putting pressure on yourself to land a specific job or client. This creates desperation, which turns people away!

Another pattern of behaviour I noticed on occasion was avoidance. But what we resist persists! Instead, I’ve chosen to face the future and let. life. happen.

I’ve found a delicate balance between letting go and taking responsibility for my results. By being proactive and consciously choosing how to respond during times of uncertainty.

Consider — What have you been avoiding? Where do you need to let go of control or attachment to the outcome?

LESSON #3 — GET MESSY, TO GET AHEAD

My ‘theme’ word for 2021 was visibility. In my 2020 review, I talked about my commitment to show up in a bigger way this year. To follow what lights me up, take more risks and put my ideas out into the world.

This year, I got messy and stepped outside my comfort zone — repeatedly. I did many of the things I’ve been talking about for YEARS. Going live on LinkedIn, regular speaking gigs and running my own live masterclasses.

In the past, I told myself I wasn’t ready to run a webinar or didn’t have enough experience to speak on stage. But the truth is, the perfectionist part of me wanted to get things ‘perfect’ before taking action.

I felt the same way when I hit publish on my first blog post — and I’ve since written 70 articles. Then again when recording my first video during lockdown last year. And even though the camera position was wrong (giving a nice view up my nose!) and video quality imperfect, I’ve continued to share video tips every Friday.

At the heart of perfectionism is a deep fear of not being good enough. We avoid putting ourselves out there because we’re worried what others will think.

So why was I motivated to step outside my comfort zone? It was the desire to help more people and make a greater impact through my work. It’s my mission to show others what’s possible and how to create career success on their terms.

In 2021, I took imperfect action. I tried, failed, learnt from it, tweaked it and repeated it. And what I discovered on the other side, is there’s no longer any fear.

You see, the more we face our fears, get messy and do ‘hard’ things, the easier they become. We create a new neural pathway and give our brain the evidence it needs to overcome the fear. I have no uneasiness about speaking or going live anymore — in fact, I enjoy it!

Consider:
•  Where are you afraid of being seen? And how did perfectionism hold you back in 2021?            
•  What’s one small, imperfect action you can take to step into the fear?

LESSON #4 — OWN YOUR UNIQUE VALUE

A big realisation I’ve come to in 2021 is the difference between thinking we’re worthy and truly believing it. I’m a confident person and like many people, can articulate and rationalise my strengths. But did I know my unique value or feel it on a sub-conscious level?

As I put myself in new situations this year, I noticed old feelings of comparison and ‘not enough-ness’ creeping in. And it caught me off guard! I thought I’d mastered imposter syndrome years ago.

The funny thing about imposter syndrome is it often pops up when we up-level our careers and lives in some way.

It could be growing older or the challenges I’ve faced, but this year I’ve let go of trying to be ‘perfect’ or something I’m not. I’ve learned true self-worth is being comfortable with and fully owning who you authentically are. And as 2021 comes to a close, I truly believe in my unique value.

Consider — What are your unique strengths and what makes you unique? What one step will you take in 2022 to fully own who you authentically are?

So, there you have it. The four game-changing lessons I’ve learnt during this extraordinary year. By sharing these insights, I hope you can learn from my experiences and reflect on your own year too.

Next time, I’ll be sharing my annual Christmas bonus to wrap up the year. A simple year-end reflection to help you review your year and get ready for 2022!

Ready to create a career on your terms in 2022?

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Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.