So here we are again, in the midst of another lockdown in the UK and facing minimal signs of optimism about the year ahead… It has taken me a while to find the right words to put down for this post; I had hoped to be able to review lessons and achievements from last year and focus on a brighter more hopeful new year, but with the latest news it’s made that much harder. I knew we wouldn’t stroll into 2021 and the pandemic would be gone, but I thought that we might be starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel with the roll-out of the vaccine. Being put back into another lockdown for a minimum of six weeks has been a real blow, but I am trying to remain optimistic that this is the best thing to do to bring numbers down whilst the most vulnerable get vaccinated…then I am crossing everything that as we approach Spring we will start to get back to some semblance of ‘normal’ life again, and we can start planning things with some confidence.
I have been quiet on here as I took some time off over Christmas to recharge my batteries, regain focus and spend plenty of time away from screens and in the great outdoors. It has been a very strange period, we didn’t really celebrate New Year because we didn’t feel like there was much to celebrate, but actually when we stopped and thought about last year it wasn’t all bad. It’s certainly been one of the most challenging years of our lives, but there have also been sparks of positivity and fun amongst the chaos. I hope you enjoyed whatever you found yourself doing over the Christmas Period, and are also able to share some cautious optimism about the year to come…
Lessons from 2020
Last year has taught me to appreciate the things that I had definitely taken for granted for a long time…I used to fill my calendar full of gigs, adventures and events without realising how lucky I was to be in the position that I could do that. Having those things taken away in 2020 has really made me take a step back and appreciate the lifestyle that I have been fortunate enough to build, and also confirm that those things are what I love doing! I have really missed those events, but also hugely missed being spontaneous which I didn’t feel like I could do last year.
2020 has also taught me that the best thing you can do in life is surround yourself (obviously at a distance right now!) with inspiring wonderful human beings, and you will feel like you can conquer anything! The support I’ve had from those closest to me since I started my blog has been incredible, you guys have really given me the confidence to go for it and keep trying to spread the message and help people in whatever way I can. I am also so grateful for the people I have come into contact with since starting this journey in September, and I have been so inspired by so many of you.
I feel like I have undergone a real mind-set shift over 2020 which is actually pretty hard to put into words. I feel like I am in the best place emotionally that I have been for a very long time (despite everything!), and I am aligned with my vision for the next few years. Reading Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week has been fairly responsible for that, but I have also spent some real time reflecting whilst life has been a little slower paced than usual. One song has really resonated with me on this subject, so instead of me rambling on anymore why don’t you take a listen to it:
And on a lighter note, I learned in 2020 that my dog absolutely loves joining in with yoga, but it doesn’t create a very conducive atmosphere to focus on your inner self with a dog licking your face or barking!
What are your key takeaways from 2020? Have you had an inner awakening or had a big lightbulb moment? Or did you just have a truly awful year that you can’t wait to forget about?
Achievements in 2020
Despite everything that 2020 threw at us, I am really proud of what I managed to achieve over the course of last year. Even if your achievement is making it to the end of 2020 then that’s a huge deal – it hasn’t been an easy time to navigate through at all so don’t be hard on yourself if you didn’t achieve what you’d hoped last year. I am sharing these to show the value in reflecting on the previous year, and even when it’s been so tough for everyone once you stop and think about it you may be surprised by the things you’ve managed to do!
My 2020 achievements:
- Started up The Female Engineer Blog, hitting 50 subscribers before Christmas and having wonderful support and feedback from everyone so far. I’m blown away that 50 people are interested enough to get my posts straight into their inbox, it means a lot so thank you all! I’m so excited to continue on this journey this year, and to see where my audience might reach to in another 12 months’ time.
- Read 17 books, with 30% of these being non-fiction books. My target for the year was to increase my ratio of fiction to non-fiction books, whilst also maintaining a high number of total books read. I didn’t set a specific target, but I am really pleased with what I achieved.
- Completed 75 hours of ‘activity’ tracked through Strava, which I don’t use for everything that I do so I am really pleased with this number. I’ve seriously improved my running over the course of the year; I’ve got to the point where I am consistently doing local trail runs throughout the week, and I am really looking forward to being able to go on longer adventures around other trails once restrictions start to be lifted. I also completed my longest mountain bike ride this year across a super challenging Brecon Beacons ride, which was an achievement I’m really proud of.
- Ranked in the top 2% of French learners on Duolingo, racking up 55 hours of French practice over the course of the year (thank you furloughment!). I had been using Duolingo casually for about 6 months pre-Pandemic and was consciously trying to maintain and improve my French knowledge. However, once I got furloughed from work one of my main goals to keep my brain ticking over was to do some French every day, hence the big numbers for 2020!
Now I’ve had my turn, why don’t you sit and think about your achievements over 2020? Maybe write them down in a journal or diary so you can refer back to them…just think if you can achieve those things in a pandemic what can you do when life returns to normal!
Goals for 2021
Now I am not a traditional ‘New Year’s Resolution’ setter, as I believe these are often hyper-specific and get forgotten after the first month of the year. As someone who used to be a regular gym-goer pre-pandemic, I always used to get frustrated with the full gym in January but then it was always quite sad to see the numbers tail off by mid-February. It always made me think about how many ‘resolutioners’ didn’t stick with their new goals, and wondering about where it went wrong. Were they too specific with their goals? Did they set too many goals? Were they unachievable in the first place?
I’m all for encouraging people to aim high, but you have to be honest with yourself otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fail from the get-go. If you’ve never done any running in your life and your target is to complete a marathon by the end of the year, that’s pretty unlikely to happen, and you will end up getting frustrated, disheartened and probably never run again…Whereas if you break this down into smaller goals which are more plausible, once you achieve those you will then be inspired to continue pushing on and maybe in a couple of years get to that bigger goal. On a side note, if you are aiming to get into running then I can highly recommend the Couch to 5K app – this is such a good thing to work through and is aimed at total beginners with really achievable workouts and targets.
I always try to aim for a few rough goals for the year, but this year it feels so hard to come up with these with all of the uncertainty that we are still facing on a daily basis. I have three areas I would like to continue to improve on for 2021, and even though these are continuations of goals from this year it is all I have at the moment. I often add to my general goals as the year progresses, which is something I am expecting to happen this year once the immediate path through the pandemic becomes a bit clearer. For now, these are my 2021 goals;
- I am going to continue my overall reading goal, trying to work towards a 50% split between fiction and non-fiction books even if this reduces my total count for the year. I am trying to hit this as I am passionate about learning new facts or skills, and I find reading books such a good way for me to absorb this kind of information.
- I would love to keep progressing with my own running by signing up to some 10K races to try and hit that next level, but I just don’t feel confidence in filling my calendar just yet.
- I’m also hoping to continue building my blog audience and making progress with it all, so my target is to just keep growing from where I am at today and see what happens!
What are your goals for 2021? Do you set specific goals and review them at the end of the year? I would love to hear your personal preference with this, as it’s something that works so differently for everyone.
Life is so difficult for the vast majority of people right now, in so many different ways. Some are mourning, some are fighting the virus, some are desperately hunting for a new job and some are really struggling with their mental health. Whatever you are facing, remember that you are not alone. We are all in this mess together, and no matter what happens we can support each other. Make sure to keep an eye on your friends in these crazy times, and also never be afraid to reach out to someone if you are struggling yourself.
I honestly believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel…the vaccine is being distributed and I’m hopeful that once the most vulnerable people are protected that we will be able to start opening up and getting back to ‘normal’. I can’t wait for the day that I am able to hug my friends again, be spontaneous and be able to start planning adventures again.
Better days will be on the way, let’s all try and keep hopeful during the first difficult few months of 2021.
The Female Engineer