Time to refocus

As the mammoth year that was 2020 winds down, we could all benefit from taking a step back to consider what we’ve achieved


There has been a lot of talk recently, on Twitter threads and in WhatsApp calls, about how 2020 has been a ‘write-off’ of a year – how we spent much of it on pause, failing to achieve what we’d initially set out to and pondering over opportunities that we might have missed.

With all this at the forefront of our minds, it’s not surprising that we might be finishing the year feeling a little bit deflated. It’s a natural reaction to a year that unfolded in ways that none of us could have foreseen.

It seems to me, though, that we’re approaching the end of the year in the wrong way. 2020 has presented us with situations that we could never have imagined 12 months ago. We’ve adapted in ways that we never thought we’d have to. We’ve overcome things that 2019 us would have baulked at.

We haven’t often failed at this. Most of the time, we’ve managed. Sometimes, we’ve flourished. We should be proud of ourselves, rather than regretful over events that we had no semblance of control over.

Surely this is the way we need to frame 2020, as we head into its final month, rather than focusing on what could have been? As December progresses, it’s time to zoom (verb, not noun this time) out slightly, and take a moment to reflect on everything that we’ve achieved. And we promise that, when you think about it, there is going to be a lot.

In optics, practitioners who had previously been comfortable with paper systems and exclusively face-to-face appointments have launched websites, installed remote triage systems, and managed a process of furloughing, supporting, and returning their (often extremely anxious) staff members to practice in one piece.

Across the length and breadth of the UK and further afield, entire optometry teams have introduced new infection control measures and protocols, communicated them to patients clearly, and adapted to maximise confidence and increase safety at lightning speed.

Whether it’s opening a new practice, or securing funds to ensure the survival of your existing one, or managing to start a pre-reg placement despite the upheaval to your final year of university, or kicking off a campaign to directly confront discrimination in the sector head-on, we all need to take a moment to consider the bigger picture. And that means putting aside our old hopes for what we thought 2020 might be, and instead focusing on what it actually ended up being. We are living through a global pandemic, after all. When we look back on this year, we should look back knowing that even our smallest of successes were against odds heavily stacked against us.

Wins can be smaller than those highlighted above, too. Maybe you’re a locum, who has just started booking regular work again after months out of practice. Maybe you navigated a period out of optometry by picking up work unrelated to optics, or volunteering, or just spending more time at home. However you navigated this year, and whatever small adaptations you made to get through it, you deserve a pat on the back. It’s not something any of us could have planned for, after all.

With our successes rather than our perceived failures in mind, we’ll be in a much better headspace to close the year, and to enter 2021 with a brighter mindset. So, why not make a list of your 2020 successes right now? You don’t need to show them to anyone – in fact, we recommend that you don’t. Grab a pen and paper, and jot down everything you feel you’ve achieved this year, no matter how small. Then stash your list somewhere safe, so you can look at it whenever you feel like this year hasn’t been a successful one. Think of it as an early Christmas present to yourself, that no one else needs to know about… unless you want to share it with us, of course.

We’d love to hear about your achievements in 2020, whether they’re personal or professional. If you want to share your story, email [email protected] with ‘2020 WINS’ in the subject line.