At times it seemed like 2021 was a year that would never end. But the fact that it finally is coming to a close is one of the few certainties in a year defined by constant uncertainty and change. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t ending along with it. It’s been a year in which, it’s safe to say, we’ve all been reminded of the importance of well-being and resilience in our lives. But times of adversity and challenge can teach us a lot about ourselves and what we need to thrive. That’s certainly true for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying there’s much about 2021 that I’m happy to leave behind. But there were also lessons from the year that I want to take with me into the new year. 

As I look back over a year of writing Thrive Guides, here are seven lessons taken from them that I hope can help you make 2022 a year of meaning, purpose, connection, and joy.

Human connection is the key to our hybrid future

Whether we’re back in the office, working from home, or doing some combination of those, fostering human connection is essential — in companies, in teams, and in our own lives. I believe that so deeply that, along with Anh Phillips, I co-wrote a book this year entirely devoted to just that subject: Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines. One study we cite is the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which found that close relationships are the single biggest factor in our happiness — more than money, fame, and other outward forms of success. So while technology allows us to virtually connect in our hybrid world, it’s human connection that allows us to thrive.

I’m sorry, but we need to stop saying “I’m sorry” all the time

Apologizing is part of our very human instinct to seek acceptance and belonging. There’s nothing wrong with it — when it’s appropriate. But over-apologizing weakens the sentiment when it’s actually warranted. It also makes us appear less confident, which can in turn make us less confident. There are going to be plenty of times when we really do need to apologize in 2022, so let’s not be sorry about maintaining the power of such an important tool by not overusing it.

We need to build in time for recovery, not just on our vacations, but between vacations

This was my main takeaway from my summer vacation this year. What struck me was how many people I met at the wellness retreat spoke of their need to “escape” from the stressful or burned-out lives they were leading. It made me wonder: Why don’t we put more of our time and energy into designing the sustainable life we want, instead of accepting one we need to escape from?

A sustainable life requires a sustainable relationship with technology

A great place to start? Getting rid of reply-all emails. I had another epiphany when I returned from vacation and found myself buried in the mountain of reply-all emails that accrued while I was away. It was tangible evidence of our need to create a more mindful relationship with technology — another major theme of Work Better Together. The goal is to make conscious rather than unconscious choices about what to do with our time and attention. And there are few tech habits less mindful than reply-all. So please join my Death to Reply All Movement, and make that the start of creating a healthier relationship with technology in the new year.

Bringing our whole selves to work means accepting — and not avoiding — our emotions

This was a year in which the line between our work lives and our home lives blurred more than ever. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s been a time when we’ve been most in need of our humanity, much of which is defined by our emotions. So I hope 2022 will be a year in which we create a more human-centered workplace by accepting our emotions and practicing compassion for others to do the same. We’ll all be better for it, and our workplaces will be, too. 

We can’t practice self-care without self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is essential to self-care and our overall well-being. If we can’t accept ourselves, our well-being is going to suffer, regardless of how diligent we are about our other physical and mental health practices. But self-acceptance can be a challenge in a world driven by social media. So how can we learn to show up for ourselves in a way that nurtures our well-being? One of my favorite episodes this year on the Deloitte “WorkWell” podcast I host was with writer, disability advocate, and Instagram sensation Rebekah Taussig. I hope you’ll give it a listen and then remind yourself in 2022 to celebrate that we’re all perfectly imperfect.

Don’t let well-being become just another item on our to-do lists

2021 was a big year for well-being. But one trend I noticed was that well-being can become just another stress-inducing task we feel guilty about. The whole point of bringing more well-being into our lives is to lower our stress, not add to it. Well-being shouldn’t be a benchmark but a mindset, something we design into our day. And there will be much more to come in the next year on how we can be more intentional about well-being in both life and work. So as we start the new year, define well-being in a way that works for you, and give yourself some grace. Have a joyful new year, and I’ll see you in 2022. 

Author(s)

  • Jen Fisher

    Chief Well-being Officer at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Life-Work Integration at Thrive Global

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on workplace well-being and creating human-centered organizational cultures. She frequently speaks and writes about building a culture of well-being at work and serves as Deloitte’s chief well-being officer in the United States, where she drives the strategy and innovation around work-life, health, and wellness. Jen is also the host of WorkWell, a podcast series on the latest work-life trends and author of the book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines (McGraw-Hill, June 2021). Jen is a healthy lifestyle enthusiast and seeks to infuse aspects of wellness in everything she does. She believes self-care is a daily pursuit and considers herself an exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! As a breast cancer survivor, she is passionate about advocating for women’s health and sharing her recovery journey. Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert and dog, Fiona.

    Follow her on LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.