After 2020, we're all in need of a bit of optimism. Luckily, it's hard to imagine things getting any worse. Here are some reasons to be excited about 2021...
What can be said about the year we’ve just been through that hasn’t already been said many times already? In short, we’ve had our reality turned upside down and experienced unprecedented changes to our way of life. 2020 was a year that will go down in history and that none of us will ever forget. Now, it’s over. Of course, viruses don’t follow calendars, just as they don’t care about borders or discriminate based on race, gender or any other factor. But, while the passing of another year on the Gregorian Calendar might just be another arbitrary day in the lifecycle of Covid-19, to us, it means something. It’s an opportunity to reflect and a time to plan. It’s a chance to take stock and a moment in which we dare to dream. This pandemic will be with us for some time yet, but that doesn’t mean that the coming year will mirror the last.
Here are 3 reasons to be excited about 2021…
Sometimes, it's actually true that Pain = Gain
It’s a cliche that we’ve all heard a thousand times, and normally it’s said to us in moments of unnecessary suffering. That may seem to be the case now as well, but on some level we all know that as a species we had this coming. Our lifestyles, at least those of us who can afford them, are unsustainable. We’ve become so detached from the natural world that supports us that most of us didn’t see what was right in front of us – but hindsight is always 20/20. Whether it was a pandemic, climate catastrophe or the collapse of a cornerstone species such as bees, this moment became inevitable a long time ago. We were never going to see the folly in our ways without a grand reminder, and even this shockwave might not shake us out of our complacency.
Irregardless of how much things change because the Covid-19 pandemic, change they will. Our collective conscience functions much the same as our individual ones. What happens day to day certainly affects us, but our lives are often shaped by a handful of big events. We build our identities around them and they often come to determine how we approach life in general. Right now, a lot of people are hurting and many of our collective myths have been shattered. The virus will be with us for some time yet and the recovery will be slow and unequal. The majority of governments don’t seem to be seizing the opportunity to rebuild better than before. In short, hope is scarce.
Keep your coins, I want change
On the other hand, most people no longer buy into the narrative that their governments don’t have money to spend. They’ve seen for themselves the trillions that have literally been conjured out of thin air to keep economies afloat and vested interests alive. Anger about the continued concentration of wealth, power and money is reaching a zenith in many parts of the world. A comfortable majority of human beings now agree that we are causing unprecedented changes to Earth’s climate and driving a mass extinction event. The curtain is being pulled back and the man behind it (it’s almost always a man) is coming into view. How much longer can real change be avoided? 2021 might not be the year it all comes to a head, but things will continue to accelerate.
We can expect further big leaps forward in the battles for social and climate justice. Movements such as Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and Fridays For Future have permanently moved the dial. The pandemic has also shown us that drastic changes to the way we structure our societies and live our lives can change more rapidly than we ever imagined. We can now demand that our leaders show the same urgency about other existential issues as they did over Covid-19. Many of us have become too cynical to believe in such things, but history is very clear that paradigm shifting events such as great wars and pandemics almost always drive grand social change and game-changing technological advances. 2021 will be a year of both.
Covid-19 will no longer be the only front page news
We’ve already seen this trend start to develop in the second half of 2020, but last year will always be remembered for THAT virus, or least in the context of it. 2021 will be different. The Covid-19 pandemic will doubtless continue to grab plenty of headlines. But when the dust eventually settles on the year ahead, it will most likely have been just a part of the story. Important breakthroughs and tragedies related to the virus will continue to be front page news. However, we’re also learning to live with this disease, both practically and in the sense that most of us no longer let it dominate every waking moment of our lives.
Just as the US election cycle, Brexit and events in places such as Hong Kong have managed to push virus headlines further down the page, the big stories of 2021 will do the same.
Will the COP26 summit be the moment that the world finally takes climate change seriously?
Does anyone doubt that the fields of science and technology will continue to churn out paradigm shifting discoveries and inventions?
Maybe there are even a few good reasons to be excited about 2021 that will surprise us as much as this pandemic did. In fact, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should expect the unexpected.
Opportunity is the eternally beautiful twin of ugly old Crisis
Crisis always breeds opportunity. Unfortunately, a lot of the opportunities created by this particular crisis were vacuumed up by powerful individuals and organizations. Unless you’ve been passing the lockdowns of 2020 under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the wealth of billionaires has increased by over 25% to a staggering $10.2 trillion overall, while the ten richest of them added over $400bn to their fortunes last year. But, when your gut stops wrenching and your head ceases to spin, consider the opportunities that have been created for all of us by this unprecedented change to our way of life:
We can’t re-imagine how we pass our time without reflecting on what (or who) we spend it on. Many of us have re-learned the value of family, friends and community. While we’ve also spent even more time on social media than we did before the pandemic, we’re no longer under any illusions as to who the important people in our lives really are. We’ve also come to value many activities that we used to take for granted. From being able to travel around the world to simply going out for a cup of coffee, this episode will leave many of us with a newfound appreciation for life.
A fresh start and the space for new ideas
Even if most of us were not in a position (like Zoom or Netflix) to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are still plenty available for those with the foresight and fortitude to go after them. The world has gone online, new businesses are being created in every sector to try and take advantage. Some are yet to be imagined, and others that may be struggling for oxygen in a crowded field may soon rise to become big players. If you have a vision of the future, now is the moment to go after it. Investors are on the lookout and you may never have the time or opportunity provided by this pandemic again.
Even if you’re not looking to strike business gold, this is also the perfect moment to transition to a new career in an emerging industry. Maybe it’s time to make working from home or for yourself permanent? This is especially true if you work in one of the soon to be ‘industries of the past’ or fulfill a role that can be replaced by automation. The rule book has been torn up, the only question we should be asking ourselves now is how we want to contribute to its re-writing.