Sunday 3 January 2021

Word of the Year 2021: Simplicity

I have been toying with my Word of the Year for 2021 for the last few day and struggling to settle on one word. My word for 2020 was belief – I wrote here about recognising the need to have greater self-belief in myself:

“Belief in my good intentions, in my capability, in my competence. Belief that I can achieve anything I set my will to. Belief that I do enough, have enough and am completely enough.”

In the past I have done better some years than others in using the Word of the Year to motivate or improve myself. During 2020, my self-belief grew exponentially. It was a year of hard work, at work, at home, with my children, in my community, alone for the last two months of the year. The hard work was accompanied by growth in my confidence and knowledge of my work.

I ended the year with recognition at work and having learned lots of new things. I managed to network and start working with various community groups and finally I made sure my children had everything they needed while we remained in lock down on and off through the year: access to online learning and devices, continuous encouragement and some monitoring, and most importantly routine and support to make sure things didn’t get to much for them. I think this has been the first year in 17 years of being a mum, I could put the mum guilt to one side and say I did my best in the circumstances we were in.

By the end of the year, I was full of self-belief and confidence but also overloaded with a feeling of stress and burnout. I realised I had been so busy “doing” all the time, that I had neglected my spiritual health and my relationship with Allah (SWT). I learned the hard way that if you don’t nurture your faith and connection to Allah (SWT), for instance through the quality if your salah, dhikr or reflection, everything else in life starts to feel meaningless and you start to feel aimless and even sad.

Because I felt so sad by the end of the year and had to work my way back to feeling more motivated and positive (with great difficulty), I committed going forward to prioritise my faith over everything else insh’Allah. I also realised I had to stop trying to do everything. At work I need to say no more, delegate more and raise problems without trying to deliver the solution to all of them. At home, I need to set boundaries with family and friends and again delegate chores and be more specific and firmer in asking for help.  I don’t know how this will fit with the million goals I have set for 2021, but it did make me think I need to simplify what is going on in my life.

So words that I considered for this year included ambition (the next step after self-belief, to act on it), fearless (again setting big goals and continuously moving beyond my comfort zone) and purpose (making sure everything I do goes back to trying to please Allah SWT). But in the end the one I want to hold onto is simplicity:

Simplicity means identifying what’s essential, then eliminating the rest. ~ Leo Babuta.

That means cutting down on e-mail especially, screen time, finding ways to filter and minimise the deluge of information, content, tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, WhatsApp’s that we get all day. All of these are other people’s noise and other people’s priorities, not mine.

It also means being clear on what benefits me and my goals going forward and saying no to most of the rest, especially at work. I am not sure how I will reconcile my goals for 2021 with my desire for simplicity, something to test and play around with in the coming year I suppose.

Do you have a word for the year? What would yours be and why?

Word for 2011: Courage

Word for 2013: Discipline 

Word for 2014: Focus

Word for 2015: Shukr 

Word for 2016: Health

Word for 2017: Salah

Words of the Year 2018: Quran and Khidmat (Service)

Word of the Year 2019: Acceptance

Word of the Year 2020: Belief