close connections: Looking forward in 2021

By Nancy Norman

Like all important messages about life, “looking forward” is vital. Yes, we also need to “be in the moment” to see clearly what is happening and to keep anxiety at bay. And, we need to “study the past” to see what works and to keep from making the same mistakes again.

But for many, being in the now may be too stressful, and longing for what was too depressing. We’ve faced numerous challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will likely continue into 2021. It’s been a long time since looking forward has been as important as it is now.

What does looking forward look like? Basically, it’s looking to a reward in the future—something we desire, wish for or want to experience. It’s anticipation.

Here are some ways anticipation can help:

  • Anticipation builds hope. Something to look forward to means there will be a tomorrow. It offers the promise of a different time, different activities and different challenges. 
  • Getting ready for what hasn’t happened yet can lift one’s spirit today. When we feel ourselves sinking into sameness, finding something to look forward to can lift us up again.
  • Keeping our eyes forward builds resilience to come back after so many losses.
  • Creating pleasant visions can build stamina to persevere through hard times when the hits keep coming.
  • Looking to the future to something different or out of our routine can combat the depression of “things will never change.”
  • Banking on a desired event in the future makes today look and feel better.

However, finding things to look forward to is harder with the challenges and barriers we face, even more so now. Due to COVID-19, we’re advised to not gather as much, not travel to certain areas and not go to the grocery store as often. In light of our daily limits, what has to happen to anticipate and look forward to something? 

The things we anticipate don’t all have to be joyful. Scrape the bottom of the barrel, if necessary. Anticipate things that keep you moving forward, like doctor appointments, home improvements, exercise, commitments to keep and emails to write.

Likewise, we need to balance looking forward to big and small things. They may look different than what we’re used to, but we need both short and long-term pleasures to enhance our days. Here are some possibilities:

  • Buy a calendar and write every little thing on it (going to the store, favorite TV show, phone calls). It’s a reminder of the potential of tomorrow.
  • Set your own limits. If working from home, don’t answer emails on the weekends. Create a “take care of yourself” day where your needs are put front and center. 
  • Change things up. Wear different clothes for work and lounging. Try different foods. 
  • Think about something far into the future, like a vacation, and study everything about where you would want to go.

Looking forward isn’t always easy. But seeing how important it is for today, it’s worth the work in this new year of 2021.

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