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Illustration by Jenny Chang-Rodriguez
January 5, 2021

2020 was a heck of a year. We had to slow down and face all kinds of discomfort. We missed human connection. We missed travel and parties. We also missed the gym, yoga classes, dinners out, and nearly everything else.

Amid all the loss, we also gained something valuable. We were asked to draw inward, and, frankly, that's what many of us needed. It's also what the world needed. This was clear by the decrease in pollution and increase in time with nature. As the trees began to breathe, so did we.

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Staying focused on the internal.

The pause of 2020, though challenging, can be used as a powerful lesson to keep our minds oriented inward. Why? Because always focusing on the external world isn't healthy. Being forced to feel the discomfort of being alone and even "bored" was good medicine for modern times.

People learned to entertain themselves by picking up hobbies, like bread baking, putting together puzzles, and reading. Many of us reconnected to a simpler, more childlike version of ourselves and put more effort into reaching out to loved ones. Those moments of pause and reflection were necessary in our previously fast-paced world.

The virus and its effects likely won't disappear in 2021. Meaning, this year may give us another year of introspection before we enter a "Roaring Twenties" of this millennium. Parties, malls, town squares, and close contact will be back—and we'll have been longing for it. So what then? Will we go overboard and lose the value of stillness and rest?

Perhaps this is a chance to settle in the center, to find the dynamic balance between alone and bored, out and overwhelmed. The earth made a not-so-subtle suggestion in 2020 that humans need to rethink how we live. She'll shake us off with another fever if we don't take a hint. (So take the hint.)

How to be more intentional in 2021.

One thing the pandemic is teaching us is that life is precious, and we never know when our time will be up. That may sound like nihilism or even pessimism, but that's not necessarily the case. Knowing that death is the only certain thing we have in life can encourage us to be more present and live fully in the time we have.

So what do you want out of this life? It's OK to not know just yet. Rather than resolutions, 2021 can be the year you set intentions. Find your inner compass and set your sights on what you want to achieve and who you want to become. Then, stay focused on that outcome and walk in that direction every day in 2021. There will be moments when you stumble and moments when you just need to take a break—which, as we learned last year, is perfectly acceptable.

These moments help build vitality. This can be the year you enhance your resilience, restore your sleep, calm your nerves, drink more water, and support your microbiome with nourishing foods. There are many ways we can grow into the person we want to be, and taking care of our overall health and well-being are the first steps to achieving those goals.

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Pedram Shojai
Pedram Shojai
Doctor of Oriental Medicine

Dr. Pedram Shojai, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Master Herbalist and acupuncturist, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk and The Art of Stopping Time and founder of He is an acclaimed Qigong Master and Taoist Abbot with a practical approach to modern living, using Eastern thinking and practices to help himself and others overcome the Westernized challenges of everyday life, and to wake up and live their lives fully. Pedram is also producer of the movies “Vitality,” “Origins.” and “Prosperity” along with the series- “Interconnected”, “Gateway to Health”, and “Exhausted.” In his spare time, he is also a kung fu world traveler, a fierce global green warrior, an avid backpacker, a devout alchemist, a Qi Gong Master, and an old school Jedi bio-hacker working to preserve our natural world and wake us up to our full potential. His upcoming book, FOCUS: Bringing Time, Energy and Money Into Flow, is about bringing your attention in line with your intention to get the life you want.