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Habits, mindsets and actions that have helped me get through 2020

2020 has not been a great year for most people. Who knew that would be grappling with a global pandemic that would disrupt every aspect of our lives? This kind of stuff only seems to happen in horror movies.

Despite all the craziness, I must admit that 2020 has been one of the best years I’ve had in a long time. I’ll probably put it down to two things. First, 2019 was a great year and therefore I stepped into 2020 with a good foundation. Second, the disruptions and change in lifestyle resulting from COVID have forced me to evaluate my life and make drastic changes. In this article, I would love to share the habits, mindsets and actions that helped me get through 2020.

1.The Mindset shifts

This was a year of massive mindset shifts that have helped me simplify my life and approach situations very differently. Some of the shifts include:

  • Learning and embracing First Principles Thinking as a way of solving problems and approaching decision making.
    I tend to overcomplicate things and then find myself overwhelmed. This either leads me abandoning projects and when I persist, I spread myself so thin that things I started with great intentions leave a bad taste in my mouth.
  • Learning to have a long term outlook on life.
    By default, I’m not very patient and to be honest I struggle with clearly setting and visualising long term goals. I know the kind of future I want to have but it’s the skill of setting the short, medium and long term goals and having the patience to execute on this goals every day even when I cannot see the goal line.

    Long term thinking is helping reduce stress and anxiety as well as help me make better short term decisions.  I’m learning that anything worthwhile takes time and that I still have time to achieve my goals. Perhaps my rush to get everything done all at once was as a result of having scarcity rather than abundance mindset.
  • Learning to commit to mastery.
    I’ve spent a good chunk of my career dabbling on several things. Sure, it’s exposed me to a lot of areas and I have a broad awareness on many topics but some of my biggest successes came from sections of my life when I was totally focused. I’m learning how to pick a few areas in life and go really deep with the intensity and obsession of the late Kobe Bryant. One of those things is writing.

2.My faith and spiritual growth

My faith in God has always been a big pillar in life since I decided to be a follower of Christ 22 years ago. I’m certainly not the perfect Christian. I don’t read my bible every day and to be honest, I don’t pray as much as I would like. I’ve also had seasons in my life where I’ve questioned the very essence of my faith.

There is something special about being able to say a prayer and not just believe but feel that you’ve been heard. You can now let go off what was weighing you down and move on to the next challenge. It’s like having a big weight off your shoulder.

The other element of my faith that I find quite liberating is understanding the art of surrender. The more I try to control my life and orchestrate every situation, the more I realise that I’m not fully in control. God holds the whole world (Psalm 95:4) and promises that he has great plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11). Some times my desires do not always line up with God’s plans for me and that’s ok. Things always work out in the end. The more I learn to surrender I ask God for his help, guidance and perspective on things, the more I operate in his favour rather than just grinding it out. Phew, it’s less exhausting.

This year, I also challenged myself to go deeper in my faith. I did this by volunteering in church for positions that would involve leading a team or co-ordinating things. I knew the responsibility would force me to step up my game and put more focus on my spiritual walk.

3.Supercharging my learning

This year I’ve really upped my learning game. It’s not like I was not a good learner but I seem to unlock a whole new level of curiosity. The more I learn the more I realise how little I know. On a typical week, I go through an audiobook, a minimum of 10 podcast episodes, lots of Youtube videos and blog post read.

If I’m curious about a topic, I’ll google it and follow the rabbit holes until I’m able to deconstruct the fundamentals and understand how it works. The beautiful thing is that I’m not just consuming knowledge, I’m taking lots of notes and connecting the dots between the things I’m learning.  The net effect of this has been a growth in my skills and confidence…after all, confidence comes from learning and lots practise.

4.Focus on my health and fitness

For a long time, my fitness journey has been one big yoyo. One time I’m consistent then life changes happen and my focus and commitment is derailed. This year I decided to end to the crazy cycles. I invested in a personal training and joined a gym during one of the busiest seasons of my life.  I’m also hiking once a week and have started working on my dieting.
Rather than take on a project based approach to fitness, I’m taking a long term view with full understanding that this will take time . I’ve broken down the process in different stages so I can master one element of the journey at a time before moving onto the next:

  • Stage 1: Work on getting good at exercise and general fitness.This started off with hiring a personal trainer and committing to a workout schedule. I’m happy to report my fitness levels are the best they’ve been since I was in my early 20s.
  • Stage 2: Work on my dietI’ve cut down sugar and excessive cab consumption. I’ve started experimenting with making salads. The next big thing will be intermittent fasting.
  • Stage 3: Toning up. I’m going a for lean and agile look.
  • Stage 4: Get deep and deeper and Keep working on everything in stage 1-4 for life.

The second half of the year has been extremely busy with juggling a full time job, a side hustle, being a first time dad and this writing thing. There is no way I would have been able to get through the demanding commitments if my health and especially physical fitness was not in good shape.

5.Family

When things are tough is when you need your loved on the most. This pandemic really highlighted the value of family an thank God my family has risen to the occasion to be such a great support system.

This year I became a first-time dad which has completely changed my life. I have a new level of appreciation for my wife. I’ve really enjoyed watching our little boy grow and start to develop his own little personality. I’ll have to say that having a baby has made our marriage stronger since shifting the focus from just the two of us to this little human being we’ve created leaves no room for fretting the small stuff. I’ve had to cut back on any other social commitments. If I’m not working or working out, you’ll probably find me with my little family.

When the pandemic started, we started a Zoom group within our extended family in order to minimise isolation and support each other. This Zoom group quickly turned into a weekly family catch up and fellowship session. This has allowed us to bond more as a larger family and get to know each other more intimately. There has been soo much personal growth within members of the larger family who attend the Zoom catch ups as we break down generational barriers and fellowship with each other.

6.Friends, acquaintances and extended support system

While it’s been invaluable having a great family to lean on, having good friends, acquaintances and a strong  extended support system has made life so much easier. Sometimes when you are going through some hard times, it’s refreshing to know that you are not the only one going through the same experience.

This year I made an effort to purposefully connect with friends and also grow my support system by joining a peer mastermind group. Part of my growth plan for next year will be set up a peer mentor group where I can invite like-minded friends who are in the same growth trajectory and want to support each other as well as keep each other accountable.

7.Self care

I used to be sceptical about self-care for a long time until I found myself in a dark space. My self-esteem and confidence were in tatters and I could not just “man up” or “snap out of it”. I had to take time to build my confidence brick by brick and learn to really look after myself so I don’t end up in the same hole.

In the last couple of years, I have started taking self-care more seriously and this year I decided to step things up and add more practises to my self-care toolkit.

  • Mindfulness.
    While this still requires ongoing practise, I’m learning to be more present and control my internal chatter. I tried meditation but was not very consistent. The few times I’ve meditated I feel more peaceful and grounded.
  • Daily journaling.
    While I have not been consistent, I the last 3 months I’ve experimented with different forms of journaling and I’m finding it a great way to bring perspective to the day, make sure I’m on track of my goals and capture memories along the way.
  • Negativity Detox
    They say ignorance is bliss. I get easily triggered by negativity and it ends up sending my mind into turmoil. The best strategy I’ve found is to limit the source of negativity. I quit watching normal TV in 2019 and this year I continued to stay away from TV and news. I’m not completely oblivious on what is happening in the world, every week I browse the news for a few minutes and in most cases, I’m always surprised that I’ve not missed out on anything other than the emotional rollercoaster.

    I also severely limited my social media consumption by blocking social media off my phone. I deleted half my Facebook connections then blocked the timeline feature. When I go on Facebook, the most I can do is message people or participate in group discussions. No mindless scrolling and getting triggered by rubbish posts. If you want totally piece of mind, install a Chrome extension called News Feed Eradicator for Facebook and restrict yourself to only using Facebook from your desktop.
  • Learning to be kind to me.
    I have high standards and expectations of myself but with time I discovered that I do judge myself very harshly. Of late, I’m learning to be more patient and kind to myself.  This means:
    • Not calling myself names when I mess up.
    • Giving myself time and space to make mistakes, learn and grow.
    • Learning to use the word “No” more often rather than say yes to other people expectations then up running myself dry.

8.Embracing productivity as a way of life

Driven by the need to get more done and knowing that parenthood was going to add significant time pressure to my life, I decided to start learning more about productivity.

Earlier this year I enrolled in Tiago Forte‘s Building A Second Brain course. This course was life-changing in terms of understanding how to deal with information overwhelm, get more productive and create more. It’s in doing this course that I rekindled my life for writing. Behind this blog is a whole bunch of systems and process that go into making the whole process enjoyable and sustainable.

I’ve delved deeper into the world of productivity and you’ll probably see more from me as I learn more.

9.Writing

As a teenager especially the mid to late teens, one of my favourite in things in the world was writing fiction. I had a vivid imagination and would handwrite pages and pages of stories. Somehow in my adulthood, I lost the skill and passion for writing but later rediscovered it this year. I started writing every day and publishing short articles on my blog and to date I’ve published more than 100 articles.

The thing I like about writing as opposed to spoken words is that it gives you a better opportunity to crystallise your thoughts and present your ideas. I naturally speak really fast and have an accent and these two can sometimes hinder smooth communication. With writing, I don’t have the accent or speed problem. No matter where you come from, if you can read English, we can communicate easily and effectively.

Writing is helping me become a better communicator which has been a big boost in my confidence. The other hidden benefit is that all that content I have been writing can be repurposed allowing me to increase my following without doing more work. Launch my blog is also starting to open new opportunities and change my identity. I now call myself a writer.

In Conclusion

I’m grateful for all the highs and lows of 2020.  All the life lessons that 2020 has generously bestowed on me.

As I write this, I’m in the process of finalising my plans for 2021. While the world is still in a lot of anxiety, I know that moving forward will require deliberate commitments to stay focused and positive. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings forth.

What are the habits, mindsets and actions that have helped you push through 2020? I would love to hear your insights in the comment section below.

John Kiama

On this site, I share everything I've learnt (and still learning) from my personal and business growth. Hopefully, my life lesson can help can get to your goals faster, without making the same mistakes I’ve made.

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