A theme for 2020: grow

Society nudges (or shoves) us to reflect on the past at this time of year. And then we are to turn our attention to the future, to set goals for the year ahead. Of course this transition has been even more profound, prompting recollections of the last 10 years of life and, no doubt for many, pondering of the next decade of life.

I have vague recollections of setting resolutions at points in my life. But it’s not something I’ve really done for at least a few years. Problems/opportunities/goals often emerge out of sync with the 12-month cycle we focus on. Nonetheless I do find myself meditating on the past and future at this time of year. Two years ago, I tried an approach of selecting a theme or a word for the year. In 2018, the word was build. For 2019, I decided on thrive

For 2020: grow.


2020 is bringing some big projects, professionally and personally. I’m taking on additional responsibilities at work and moving deeper into management (of the project and people varieties). I’m finishing a project management certificate program and maybe (probably) sitting for the exam to qualify for professional accreditation.

Oh and I’m training for a 50 mile foot race in June. Maybe you wonder, Why the heck would should sign up for an event that demands so much time and energy training when there’s so much else going on?!

I started 2019 with a mantra to “progress from striving to thriving.” It’s challenging to achieve that transition when the environment around you is changing. It doesn’t have to be bad to be different and require adjustments. Several months ago, this quote arrived in a newsletter (The Morning Shakeout) in my inbox:

Shit does not get less complicated. (Mike Wolfe)

I wrote it on a Post-It that went under my computer monitor. And on another that I stuck to my big whiteboard. It’s easy to get caught up in things, to become overwhelmed by how things are changing, especially when there’s some lack of communication. It’s easy to delay activities or decisions until “things settle down”, to wait for some sort of clarity. And there are reasons, often very valid ones, to do that.

But I also can’t let the storm of ambiguity, complexity, and anxiety keep me from moving forward and taking opportunities to (im)prove myself.


Stress carries a very negative connotation in our culture, but achievement and improvement often comes from going outside our comfort zone. But we can (and do frequently) overdo it. It may come from a sense of pressure or responsibility (I think especially prevalent in work and relationships). “This must be done. Now. And only I can do it.” Other times we slip easily into the more-must-be-better mindset. “If <x> hours of exercise is good, then <xy> must be better.” “I’ve been so productive today! If I stay just another hour or two..”

Go down that road far enough and stress becomes unproductive, recovery inadequate. Keep going and it can lead to burnout, injury, illness, etc. Been there, done that—and would prefer not to visit again.

This “formula” has popped in a few places (I think it may have originated with Peak Performance), and it’s stuck with me.

stress + rest = growth

Rest and recovery are key to keeping stress productive. I see some incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth in the next year.

But I have to be intentional about making time and space for rest. Running and exercise are a big part of how I manage stress, and training for a race helps encourage commitment. I’ll plan to keep one day a week free of work and classwork, as I’ve done the last few months. I’ll take time to go into the mountains with Gene. I’ll take vacation. I’ll keep my morning time for reading and coffee. To reach key goals this year, I need to recharge regularly, and that won’t by accident.


I’m both excited and terrified by the things that 2020 has in store for me. There will be some long hours in the office and on the trails. There will be stress and anxiety and frustration. There’s a lot of work to get done. But there will also be fun and relief and celebration. Setting “grow” as my theme for the year will, I hope, help me remember to rest, with intention, so that I can continue forward and achieve my goals.

Happiness is the joy you experience while pursuing your potential. (Neil Pasricha)

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3 Responses to A theme for 2020: grow

  1. Pingback: A word for 2021: Center | Ever on & on

  2. I love that stress + rest = growth

  3. Pingback: 2022: A year to dare | Ever on & on

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