My three words for 2021: character – honest – light

In 2016 I chose three words to focus on during the year, following a suggestion by Chris Brogan, and I repeated this in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, when I chose: vital – work – jigsaw. How did I do in 2020?

  • Vital – My aim was to live more in the real world and not online. With lockdowns due to the Coronavirus regulations, the challenge became greater, especially when only permitted to leave our house once per day in the spring. However, more than ever this highlighted the importance of the real world and the danger of living online.
  • Work – Again, Coronavirus created more challenges, but I have been working on business and on my own projects all year. From completing training courses to decorating our house and even repairing my Dad’s cuckoo clock, I have enjoyed this year. While enjoying rest over the Christmas holiday, Mrs Z and I have relaxed by completing a new jigsaw puzzle.
  • Jigsaw – This related to finding my place in community jigsaws or rather establishing my place. While I don’t think this can ever be fully resolved, I am happier knowing where I am.

What are my three words for 2021?

character – honest – light

Why have I chosen these three words? 2020 has been a very different year and events have led me to question even more deeply how we all live and my own way of life. They have magnified concerns I have had for years, especially regarding the application of science and technology. My three words reflect this and, while in previous years they often focused on activities I wanted to develop, this year they are more about exploration of issues I believe we need to address. My thoughts below are in no way conclusive and are almost a stream of consciousness. It will be interesting to see how they develop through 2021, hopefully producing positive action.


Character has many dimensions. There is our own character – who we are, our personal qualities, behaviour and morals. It is always a challenge to be the best we can when there are so many temptations and distractions to divert us and I will continue to strive to remain on the path leading ahead rather than these diversions.

A character is also a symbol that we use to communicate. In computing terms, these are letters, numbers and other marks. My concern grows at what I see as the disproportionate focus on numbers and I question whether this will lead to ultimate disaster for us. The human response to Coronavirus demonstrates the extent to which decisions are made almost entirely on numbers which we clearly are unable to comprehend. Other considerations, such as mind, spirit, emotion, family and many more, have been ignored, which again I believe are disastrous. Decisions that affect whole communities need to be made on more than numbers and take into account history, philosophy and more non-mathematical knowledge and experience, as well as spiritual and emotional considerations. I will be working more on this through the year.


As a writer and journalist, I am interested in the honesty and dishonesty of communication. I don’t limit this to what we see and hear in the media, but question how honest each of us is when we speak, whether consciously or unconsciously. In current times, we have become experts at expressing things differently to how they really are because we are so afraid of causing offence. I believe we often fool ourselves.

As a ‘sufferer’ of Crohn’s disease, I see that suffering is a word that is commonly avoided in connection with any disease or disability. I have been thinking a lot about this. I suffer. In no way do I believe the discomfort or inconvenience of half a century of Crohn’s disease are either normal or easily tolerated: I suffer. To say that I don’t suffer is dishonest. And for anyone worried about suggesting that my bodily functions are not normal, then please don’t worry: they are not. For 50 years, the one thing I have wanted is to be normal, by which I mean not to suffer.

If I were to be offended, I would be offended more by someone making little of my suffering by substituting a euphemism than by recognising my suffering by calling it just that.

We should not be afraid of the concept of ‘normality’. We should not have to apologise for not being a victim or sufferer, which is entirely compatible with non-patronising empathy for those who are affected in one way or another.

This is just one way in which I believe we communicate dishonestly. I’ll be thinking about a lot of others through the year. Unless we are more honest, we suppress problems which will find other outlets, often with more vigour.


One morning, towards the end of 2020, I woke up experiencing tremendous lightness of spirit. Many of us have burdens we create for ourselves: worries rooted in problems we face, either real or possible. I come from a family of worriers, so know this well. That’s why this feeling of lightness of spirit was so remarkable. I face problems, just like everyone else, although I have come to realise how fortunate I am and how grateful I am to live the life I do. I was puzzled and felt guilty about feeling such lightness when so many people face fundamental problems, having lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, homes and all that they have worked for. Then I realised that this lightness of spirit it what we live for and if, without anything else, we can achieve this lightness of spirit, it becomes everything to us.

I don’t know whether I will continue to experience this and my aim is to maintain it and help others to attain it.

Work in progress

2020 was a remarkable year that presented us with problems and situations we have never experienced before. As I wrote above, these thoughts are not conclusive, which is why I have chosen to focus on these three words during 2021.

Do you have three words or a direction you have set for yourself in the year ahead?

Good luck with what you believe and want to achieve, and may you have a wonderful New Year.

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