We typically send out a different type of newsletter at Christmas time, focusing on business in the year ahead. But this year I felt compelled to share some recent, more personal experiences, in the hopes that they might resonate with some of you – my clients and colleagues – as you head into this Christmas season.

Since COVID in early 2020 I have been practical and stoic about abiding by all of the regulations and requirements that have been asked of us by our provincial leaders and health authorities. But last week, when we heard the mandate of a continued shut-down of personal meetings until the new year, I admit my heart sank. Imagining Christmas without my kids and family close by felt like a powerful punch in the gut I somehow wasn’t prepared for. I really believed we would be able to have small gatherings. My resolve to stay the course took a nosedive. Had COVID finally broken me? My first thought was “Who would know if we did gather?” Probably no one. Except me. And my law-abiding family who wouldn’t come even if I asked them to.

So I wallowed – just a bit – and experienced the sadness and disappointment of this year’s Christmas reality. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us have had our “COVID moments” when it all gets just a little too overwhelming and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings. But it’s also important to quickly find new perspective.

In the last month, within my existing network, someone was diagnosed with cancer, another is facing Christmas with her spouse in hospice, several have lost close family members this year, one was faced with unexpectedly finding two small children in her care, another whose child is in hospital, several who shut the doors of their businesses. Those are also Christmas stories. And there are thousands more. In every corner of our city, province and country, people are facing choices much more difficult than mine.

In our 2019 Christmas newsletter, we talked about the importance of making intentional choices in 2020. Who could have imagined that for many of us, those choices were either taken away, or hampered in some way. In any case, life in 2020 has been different than any of us could have imagined.

In business, we’ve spent the better part of a year pivoting. Responding to whatever was happening around us, to what we were being asked to do from governments, to doing our best for our employees even at times when it felt impossible. I’ve been privileged to work with so many amazing business leaders who chose to put their people ahead of themselves; who never gave up and sought the higher good in all their decisions. I’ve seen businesses survive and even thrive, while others closed their doors. None of it seems fair. And yet here we are, almost a year in, still having to pivot in our personal and professional lives.

What shifted for me that evening when I was feeling so disheartened, was the realization that the option to pivot – to change perspective – is also a privilege. My story, and yours, is part of a tapestry in our community that represents the good, the difficult, the hopeful, the challenging, the terrible and the divine. And each of us has the power to choose how we experience those things and to watch how those choices impact those around us.

So as we head into a holiday season that may not look the way we would like it to, I encourage you to choose creativity in how you mark the elements of the season that are most meaningful to you; to ask yourself how you can bring meaning to others. And as we face another year of what still looks like instability, for a little while anyways, I encourage you to be thankful for the opportunity to continue pivoting – whether that means doors opening or closing – and for the growth that comes from going through difficult times.

And above all, I encourage you to continue being a community that supports each other – in business and in life – because that is what ultimately creates joy, resilience and hope for all of us. At this time in history, let’s be people who shone their unique light into the world in the midst of crisis and loss and uncertainty. Because it’s also an opportunity to be our best selves in each of the choices we make.

We wish you a healthy, hopeful, and heart-centred holiday season and a prosperous and purposeful new year.

Ingrid Vaughan and the Smart HR team