Traditionally, New Year’s resolutions are rooted in self-loathing and the belief that most of us want to be an entirely new person; this year, let's go back to basics.
It's started already, the 'new year, new you' klaxon that signals the beginning of a multitude of marketing messages built on the notion that we are not enough. At the precipice of such a fragile start to the new year, the notion that we should automatically begin a thankless and perpetual fight against our very selves is a toxic narrative we should challenge head on.
The notion that we should automatically begin a thankless and perpetual fight against our very selves is a toxic narrative we should challenge head on.
Yet there is no question that the prospect of a new year offers the opportunity for a reset, a fresh start that perhaps we all need after the bruising economic and emotional challenges of 2020. As an industry, the crisis has amplified our existing weaknesses; from long meetings, to an over-reliance on the pub, the crisis affords us, professionally and personally, the opportunity to redraw our boundaries and aim higher.
With this in mind, I share the following tips to better navigate the year ahead, with the implicit understanding that everyone’s situation is different.
Above: A new year is a chance to redraw boundaries and aim higher.
Look beyond the veneer of social media
In an era of performative working the risk is that creatives measure themselves against the impossible, and often entirely imagined, standards of perfection and achievement broadcast on social media. Of course, a successful creative life sits beyond the borders of our news feed, a clutch of awards or a successful side hustle. Across the industry over the past months, brands and businesses alike have quietly gone about getting the work out in the most challenging of circumstances. Simply getting the job done is sometimes a radically creative achievement in itself.
Simply getting the job done is sometimes a radically creative achievement in itself.
Be honest about the playing field and intentional about challenging it
2020 was an important reminder that the playing field is anything but level. People of colour are facing anger, anxiety and exhaustion as the killing of George Floyd and the daily diet of racism and double standards is played out on a global stage. Recognising the sheer weight of that burden is business critical. For the year ahead to be one of action we all need to ensure that our commitment is more than just a blank space on an Instagram square.
Above: To nurture our cultural learnings in 2021, on occasion we need to put down our phones and pick up a book.
Take accountability for self-development
Yes, I know, I was rolling my eyes too reading all the articles about what to do with all that mythical ‘free time’ in the fog of the first lockdown. Yet, the truth is we all need to take accountability for our self-development and for nurturing a culture of continual learning. A small yet simple, liberating step is to stop the dead-scrolling and pick up a book. As the author Douglas Adams said so eloquently: “Books are sharks, because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”
It's never too late to bring movement into your life; but to run your own race you have to have the courage to try.
Relax, this is not an invitation to accept the slide into self-loathing that all too often accompanies the deluge of articles and marketing messages that shame women for having the audacity to simply exist in their own body; that cacophony of social media images that combine to reflect an impossible level of airbrushed perfectionism which only adds to an ecosystem in which you believe exercise isn’t for you. Don’t let that toxic narrative take away the joy, the silliness, the exhilaration and the space to exhale that comes with sport and exercise. It's never too late to bring movement into your life; but to run your own race you have to have the courage to try.
Above: Simply by doing exercise on your own terms, you've already won.
Don’t get side-tracked by the short-term
If there was ever a year where an industry that has historically been in thrall to short-termism needed to look up and embrace the long-term, 2021 is it. Coming out of the other side of this crisis with our creativity, compassion and commercial focus intact demands playing the long-game.
Purpose and kindness must be the guiding force for the year ahead.
Radical kindness is the leadership trait we need for 2021
There is no playbook for creative leadership in the midst of a global pandemic. Yet, if the last months have taught us anything, it is that to keep going, to succeed and to grow in the face of challenge, nurturing a supportive creative culture is vital. Physically disconnected, facing a myriad of pressures, the danger is we fail ourselves and each other by dialling down our empathy and humanity. It’s always been too easy for marketing commentators to scoff at the notion of purpose, yet the truth is purpose and kindness must be the guiding force for the year ahead.
It’s a state of being which must always be an active and consistent choice for leaders. In the words of Clayton M Christensen, one of the world's leading thinkers on innovation: '"It's easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time. The boundary - your own personal moral line - is powerful, because you don't cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there's nothing to stop you doing it again. Decide what you stand for and then stand for it all the time."