This year, I again am turning to the words of one of my idols to set my agenda for 2021. Ever since Mary Schmich began her column for the Chicago Tribune in the early 1990s I have been an avid follower. She’s an amazing writer. Funny, wise and charming are words that have been used to describe her. She touches so many lives. As Andrew Donlan of Medill Reports says, “without her work, Chicago – and the rest of the world- would be a little bit dimmer of a place. That is why for my New Year’s message I am going to pass on some of her thoughts on a guiding word for the year. 

Eight years ago a reader told Mary about her guiding word habit. Each January since, Mary has written a column about her word. She says a guiding word is not a resolution. It’s gentler. It’s more like a friend standing by the side of the road with a map, saying “When you get lost, think of me and I’ll help you get back on track.” A guiding word is your personal trainer. It fortifies your will when you’re feeling weak. 

This year she chose “endurance.” The ability to do something difficult for a long time; the ability to deal with pain or suffering that continues for a long time. 

For me, my guiding word this year is “hope.” Hope is about having something to look forward to. Believing good things can still happen. It's about seeing all your best qualities and looking forward. Hope is a part of resilience. Resilience is about how well you can recover from setbacks. 

This is not an easy time to have hope. Covid-19 has forced us to learn new ways to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Families can’t hug each other and celebrate together. It’s hard to have hope when you have lost a loved one to the virus and you didn’t get to say goodbye, I love you. 

Work life is unstable for many, including me. I work in the trade show world where face-to-face marketing is the way business gets done. Sales calls have been reinvented. We all hope for normalcy to return. In the meantime we grapple with ways to effectively mimic the excitement of the show floor environment, the intimacy of sales visit, and forge relationships using digital platforms. 

Winter in Chicago when so many gray days present themselves it’s hard to gather up hope. It just seems easier to roll over and go back to sleep. 

As part of my daily commitment to hope I will turn to routines. Self-care in the form of exercise and fresh air be it gray or sunny, wet or dry. Connecting with someone new a few times a week. Learning a new skill or improving an existing one every day. And, doing something that brings me joy every day. Something as silly as mindless TV, reading a trashy book or laughing at a corny joke. 

Hope is about dreams. Pope Francis has reminded us that is important to dream together. And, that is especially important right now. Here’s to awakening every day with hope.

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