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Growing Leaders Blog

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Snow Globes and Training Wheels: How to Begin a New Year

By: Tim Elmore

Following the holiday break, I wanted to offer you a word of encouragement.  Every person I met in 2020 could hardly wait for the new year to begin — including frontline workers who are exhausted from their labors, folks working from home who are lonely and annoyed, and teachers who’ve had to manage their own children as well as a classroom full of students. It was an unusual year. 

Allow me to provide you with two metaphors I’m focusing on as this year kicks off.  

Many of us felt like we were stuck in our own “snow globe” in 2020. You remember what snow globes are, don’t you? They’re a small glass bubble containing a scene inside, but it’s always contained — isolated from the outside world. Like this, we’ve been secluded in our homes, a little afraid of catching COVID-19 or scared we’d run short of essential supplies for our families. It was strange, almost surreal. At times, it felt like an old episode of The Twilight Zone or the movie Groundhog Day. We found ourselves in a repetitive routine. We felt trapped and unready. 

Truth be told, many of us weren’t ready. 

When the pandemic hit, few if any of us had any “training wheels” for the journey. Training wheels help us prepare for a ride. Most of us learned to ride a bike by using training wheels. They prevented us from tipping over and falling. Once we’d gotten used to balancing ourselves, the wheels could be removed. The problem with the 2020 pandemic is it came like a thief in the night and most of us had never practiced for such times. You’d have to be over 100 years old to remember the Spanish influenza pandemic (1918-1920) and about 85 to 90 years old to remember the economic downturn of the Great Depression.

So how should we prepare for the new year?

Simple Ways to Break Out of Your Snow Globe

May I suggest you do something different? Break out of your routine snow globe and initiate a new routine. While we should refrain from large gatherings, I think it would be good for our mental and emotional health to enjoy life outside of our rut. You could take a walk while you’re on the phone talking. Listen to a podcast while out and about. You could set a goal to meet one new person every week in 2021. Why not escape from your annoying bubble, either serving someone outside your home or surprising them with gifts. Here’s a simple list of questions for breaking out of the snow globe: 

  • Ask yourself: When was the last time I did something for the first time? If it’s been longer than a week, go online and find a new activity to try out now. 
  • What is a constructive new habit I could embed into my weekly routine? Decide on a habit you know would be helpful, then attach it to an old habit and begin. 
  • How could I replace comfort with curiosity? Try something that is a bit scary but will stretch you and make you a better person. We are like rubber bands; we are useful only when we are stretched. 

Simple Ways to Utilize Your Training Wheels

May I also suggest you pause and reflect on the new year? Perhaps even discuss it with those you spent time with over the holidays. Talk about what you learned last year, and turn this strange and annoying year into a set of training wheels. What did 2020 allow you to do that an ordinary year would have prevented you from doing? My answer to this question? Since my travel time and administrative meeting time decreased, I was able to write two books and four e-books. Why? I was at home in quietness. It was extraordinary. The year was a set of training wheels for improving this skill set for the future. Let me suggest you try the following:

  • Review what 2020 taught you. What are the most vital lessons you learned?
  • Repair what needs to be fixed. What troubles did you spot while sitting at home? 
  • Decide how you want to grow in 2021. What will you read? Whom will you meet?
  • Simplify where you can. In 2020, what tasks did you observe that were unnecessary? 
  • Choose where you want to invest your time. Where can you be intentional? 

What I Plan to Focus on This Year

To break out of my snow globe and to leverage the training wheels of 2020, I plan to be intentional when moving forward into this new year. Here are some decisions I’ve already begun to implement in my life: 

  1. Learn to love each of my family members in their preferred ways to be loved. 
  2. Eat healthy food and exercise to keep my A1C at or below 7.0. (I’m a type 1 diabetic.)
  3. Make emotional, one-on-one connections with my wife, Pam, every week.
  4. Invest in younger leaders who are hungry to grow and can influence others well. 
  5. Write two books this year on themes I’ve been studying for over 10 years. 

If you see me this year, you won’t find any snow globes, and my training wheels may be off, as I hope to be progressing freely based on what I learned in 2020. Here’s to a tremendous 2021 for you as well.


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Snow Globes and Training Wheels: How to Begin a New Year