The Secret to Life After COVID: Learn to See with 2020 Vision

Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership
16 min readFeb 22, 2021


Reset your life to thrive post-COVID. Take 15 minutes to answer 6 questions that will inspire you to reset how you see your life today, and how you approach your future. Put on new lenses to see with 2020 vision.
“Hope in sight” by IAPB/VISION 2020 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This past year, I got engaged. That evening, while celebrating with my fiancé’s family and feeling on top of the world, we began hearing reports that airports and borders would soon be closed due to the coronavirus. The next day, we each flew to our respective homes on different continents. We didn’t see each other for the next 7 months.

Piling upon other personal setbacks this past year, which included finding myself underemployed, distance from my future wife made much of 2020 feel like a desert — dry, fruitless, and with no end in sight. Perhaps yours felt the same.

Thankfully, as the year progressed, I began to lean into my faith and to take heart in the writings of leaders and winners in my network who were bold enough to share their views. As a result, I began to see my 2020 experience in a different light.

Brian Tome says it this way,

“The desert is a dry place. It’s where dreams go to die, and survival looks like the only positive outcome.

2020 has left us all scratching our heads, asking ‘When will it end?’ But to those who want to emerge from this year in a better place than we entered it, that’s actually the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking: ‘What do I need to learn?’”

The past year was a desert, which presented each of us with significant, unexpected challenges. Each of us lost something, if not someone, along the way. This is real, and we must remember what we lost.

Still, as we continue to face COVID constraints that force us to adapt, consider what would happen if we viewed this moment through the lens of opportunity. What if instead of adapting bitterly to tough circumstances, we were adapting in order to rise to meet new opportunities disguised as challenges?

“Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.” -Victor Kiam, former owner of the New England Patriots

In fact, to those who have viewed their challenges as opportunities, the future already looks brighter.

Perhaps they reinvented their business or their workplace culture. Maybe new challenges helped them become aware of a flaw in their own character they can now address, or a new skill they finally had time to cultivate. Or perhaps they finally had time, motivation, or forced proximity with someone that enabled them to mend a fractured relationship.

For a moment, let’s allow ourselves to ask:

As a result of COVID and other 2020 events, has our view of the future darkened or become brighter?

Has our perspective become clearer, or murkier and more uncertain?

The bad news is that many of us cannot honestly answer these two questions the way we would like to. However, the good news is that the choice is ours. We can learn to see with 2020 vision.

What is 2020 vision? It is first allowing our jolting 2020 experience to awaken us to our emotional realities and to what matters most to us. Through these lenses, we have the ability to seize this opportunity to reimagine and ultimately reset not only the challenges we faced in 2020, but also where we were off course in our own lives even before the world locked down.

Additionally, we have the opportunity to be an integral part of a better answer to these questions for our family, our community, our nation, and our world.

Amanda Gorman articulated this beautifully through her poem, The Hill We Climb, performed at the 2021 presidential inauguration.

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew;
that even as we hurt, we hoped;
that even as we tired, we tried;
that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious

…We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be

…For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it,
if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Through the following questions, we will take a quick journey together. We will learn how to embrace our reality with honesty, paint our future with clarity, and move forward in what matters with an unshakable hope that you and I will emerge victorious.

Answer the six questions below, and allow them to be your guide toward a beautiful, hope-filled, meaningful life after COVID. Let’s jump in…

Be Honest: Mourn and Celebrate

1. Ask: What do I need to Mourn?

To begin our journey, we must recognize that we all lost something in 2020.

Perhaps your loss was simply the goals you expected to achieve this past year, or it may have been the comfort of normal rhythms of life. It could have been financial loss, or something far more tragic such as the loss of a loved one. Maybe your loss came from other 2020 events, such as the re-emergence of personal pain connected to racial inequalities, or the loss of your sobriety as you battled COVID-induced isolation. We all lost something.

As in any grief process, we must first acknowledge the reality of our loss, and allow ourselves to experience our resulting emotions. In other words, we must allow ourselves to mourn our loss.

Why mourn? It’s freeing. In order to move forward with gusto, we must first make peace with where we are, so we are not constantly looking back. And it’s therapeutic. It allows us to experience and process our emotions rather than burying them, and to finally unchain ourselves from the hidden pains we have allowed to hold us back until now.

Feel it. Talk about it with healthy people in our lives. Take it to God in prayer or journal through it. Explore a grief recovery group or program. Find a healthy way to mourn.

2. Ask: What do I need to Celebrate?

We must also recognize the battles we have won. Though you have lost, you have also overcome.

If you are reading this, you still have your greatest gift, life itself. And regardless of what you lost, you probably still have what you need in other areas. For example, if you lost financially or lost your business, you may still have your family nearby. Better yet, perhaps your family relationships are closer than ever. Or if you lost the comfort of your usual community due to curfews and stay-at-home orders, you may still have your job, your health, and your relationship with God.

Just as we must mourn our loss, we must celebrate our overcoming. This could be survival physically or financially, or survival as a business or as a family. This could also be experiencing increase in one area, despite loss in others. What we have gained, or even what we have maintained, is worthy to be celebrated. It is worthy of our immense gratitude to God and people around us who have kept us afloat in the midst of the desert.

2020 was a rough year for me financially, relationally, and in my career. Yet, everyone close to me is still alive and I have built stronger, deeper relationships with my family and my fiancé.

Talk about it. Have a special dinner with your family. Thank God or express gratitude in your daily journal.

Though it seems counterintuitive, perhaps now more than ever we will benefit by recognizing what we have to be grateful for, then finding a way to celebrate. You don’t have to feel guilty. Celebrate!

Find Clarity: Focus on What Matters

Tome continues to talk about the power of a desert,

“Many of us would rather find someone to blame than to see the greater purpose of the desert. But the purpose is there, for those willing to look for it.

The theme of deserts comes up time and time again in the Bible. It is the place where God refines His people. …It’s the place where they hang on, and find the strength necessary for their future.

…Every hero… has passed through the desert. It’s no different with you. This isn’t the time for happy-clappy, deny-reality, positive-self-help-talk. It is a time to take stock of what our life really looks like. It is a time to notice the cracks in our foundation that have likely been there for a long time. It is a time to envision a future where God’s plan for our life is all that matters.

To those who persevere, the desert will change you. The Israelites who crossed the desert gained the Promised Land. Jesus emerged from the desert in power and purpose.

…You’re closer to the other side than you’ve ever been — closer to the Promised Land, to a renewed purpose, to the birth of something new — if you stop fighting against the desert and instead allow it to refine you.”

3. Ask: What is Necessary?

When we go through a desert, it becomes easier to recognize what is absolutely necessary for life.

I can live without the luxuries I could afford on a higher salary. I can live without going out every weekend. I can even live with facemasks (at least for a few more months). But there are a few things I cannot live without.

In my experience, there are five such necessities. I bet you have experienced these as well, especially when they’re missing. So find a way to make sure you have a reliable source of these five, with or without a global pandemic. Let’s begin with the most obvious.

Basic financial stability. In the modern world, most of us do not grow our own food, and we have to pay monthly for our home. We need a minimal amount to meet our survival needs, and to enable the next four necessities. The gig economy has soared during the past year, as people look for stability by supplementing their incomes.

Physical safety, health, and activity. Maintaining our health keeps us alive, which I have heard is important. And regular physical activity has a long list of benefits — from increasing health and mental clarity to improving emotional well-being. At-home fitness programs have grown exponentially in recent months, and we have become increasingly thankful for green spaces that allow us to get out and move without much risk of breaking the six-foot personal bubble.

Intellectual stimulation. If I do not challenge myself to expand my thinking at least a bit each day, or do not use my unique gifts for a while, I can feel my mental acuity or ability slip. It’s not just me. Consider what has motivated the surge in people finding ways to stay mentally engaged by exploring new hobbies and learning new skills, largely online.

Relationships. We need each other. And while we are thankful for Zoom, we need all aspects of human relationship to maintain our well-being — conversation, the ability to look each other in the eye, and physical proximity or touch. This has been a central challenge for many of us in 2020, but it’s essential.

Genuine Hope. Even if we have the other four areas, life still feels dry and aimless without something to look forward to, a strong sense of reality, and meaningful direction. It is in hope that we find the will to take the next step. As Robert Schuller said,

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”

We all need hope to keep going, to power us forward no matter where we are or the odds stacked against us.

For a great story on finding hope and purpose even when all seems lost, check out this video (see minutes 2–11).

Finding hope, or more specifically finding hope in the right place, is essential to the human spirit. What do I mean by the “right place”? Something good, something real we can rely on, and something worth not only waiting on but also pursuing.

I am thankful to have this kind of enduring hope. In a separate article, Brian Tome talks about what this hope looks like in his life.

“I hope for lots of things. I hope the economy holds out and strengthens. I hope the vaccine does its job. …I hope the Bengals make the playoffs. I hope that big buck eventually steps into my view. But if my hope for 2021 is based on fragile metrics like these, I have no real and enduring hope. We all need something deeper and more transcendent.

I find that kind of hope… when I reflect back on my life. I know I shouldn’t be here. A marriage of 32 years with kids who like me. Leading one of the largest churches in the nation. Publishing books and working hard to inspire you to an adventurous life. None of that is possible on my own power. It is Christ in me. That has been my hope, and it continues to be. …It’s one I’ll bank on, trusting my future is glorious and secure no matter what 2021 throws my way.

Before we get too far into this year, it’s worthwhile to ask: Where is your hope? Is it secure? How is it powering you into this new year?”

4. Ask: What is Meaningful?

We must begin with what is necessary. Yet, we must also go beyond it. Once we have those necessary pieces in place, what do we do with it?

The best time answer that question, to ask whether we are on the right track, is when we have already been forced to take a step back. Why not seize the moment?

We are a year into the impacts of COVID, along with the other issues it has drawn attention to in our society and in ourselves. In one way or another, COVID has been a step back for all of us. But that can also be a tremendous gift. It offers us a reminder to make sure we’re chasing after the right things, not just chasing our own tail or building a bridge to nowhere.

In his book, Winning the War in your Mind, Craig Groeschel offers a short list of common cycles that keep us from living a good and meaningful life. Perhaps you…

· “Commit to stop arguing with your spouse, then keep arguing?

· Worry nonstop even though you know it’s a waste of time and makes you sick?

· Exaggerate to impress others even though that’s not the kind of person you want to be?

· Freak out because your credit card bill is so high, then continue to make more unnecessary purchases?

· Scroll on your phone for hours instead of talking to your spouse and kids, who are sitting only a few feet away?

· Decide you are going to lose weight and then find yourself grabbing a soda and candy bar when you stop to get gas?”

Scott Ginsberg says it this way,

“[We] waste time… efficiently do tasks that nobody wants done …tranquilize [ourselves] in the trivial …knock over everyone in [our] path politicking and maneuvering. …Where are you wasting a great deal of energy that might be more usefully employed?”

In my own life, I found a way out of many of these cycles: Getting clear about what is meaningful to me and therefore worth my time and attention.

About seven years ago, I created a list of life goals. I felt God had placed these in my heart as genuine desires, and as genuine pursuits according to what the world needs and the unique gifts He gave me. Through that process, I learned a great deal about focusing on what is truly important, which has enabled me to avoid or overcome many pitfalls.

Here are the four areas of meaning I have found. While this is certainly not a prescription for what you should find meaningful, it is an example that I hope prompts you to reconsider what you’re pursuing.

Further, I hope this reset prompts you to change your daily choices, so that those choices become habits, and those habits become a life well-lived. A life you feel good about, and that changes the world around you for the better.

Meaningful Relationships. I have always been more oriented toward tasks than relationships. But many life experiences and lessons learned from others has helped me see that there is no life except in relation to others. Our relationships with other people and our relationship with God not only define our surroundings, but they define us. And they define the impact we will have on the world.

Though it’s certainly a process, prioritizing relationships has begun to pull me out of my to-do list and into the essence of life through connecting with others. This begins with seeing people for who they are and valuing them. What relationships are most important to you?

Personal Growth. The greatest impact we have on the world is our influence, or more specifically the example we set for others in our daily lives and in difficult moments. Whether we navigate these with character and competence will influence how others manage these in their own lives.

This mindset allows me to crave feedback and growth opportunities, making my influence on others a little better every day. What makes you a better version of yourself?

Meaningful Work. The nature of work is this: Impacting others by creating value that makes their lives better. We create value when we make our workplace better for our employees or co-workers, if we make a better product for our customers, or if we market through inspiration and appealing to love rather than through fear.

Of course, there are countless opportunities outside the business sphere in education, government, serving our communities, etc. Seeing life through this lens led me to simultaneously leave my job and two startup enterprises, to re-orient my career toward the unique impact I want to have on the world. What impact do you want to have on the world through your unique gifts?

Rest, Play, and Adventure. I still struggle with rest. While I am drawn to growth and work, prioritizing relationships and rest requires me to be intentional. Maybe you’re the opposite. Either way, study after study has shown that rest is foundational for our ability to give our best to our work and our relationships.

But rest doesn’t just mean sleep. It also means finding activities and environments that genuinely rejuvenate us. For me, this includes travel, playing sports, dancing spontaneously with my fiancé, playing my guitar, eating great food, or getting lost in a compelling story. What refreshes and rejuvenates you?

This is our opportunity to create a new normal for our lives, our work, and our family or community. I pray your “new normal” leads you to become better, do better, and live better.

Emerge Victorious: Chart Your Course

“BCS National Championship Coverage, Jan. 6, 2013” by Matt_Velazquez is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Brian Tome finishes his article this way,

“Step forward. Do the hard work. Ask the right questions. Make changes to your life. …Allow yourself to be challenged and changed.

In the desert, our flowery clichés fall apart. Our little devotional sayings become meaningless. That is a good thing. Because what’s left after the desert is strong, true, and unshakable.

This desert will eventually end. Those who approach this time with a sober mind, with expectation, and with a spiritual rootedness, will come out the other side stronger than ever before.”

5. Ask: What will I do now, and how will it be different than what I was doing before?

This is about doing something about what is resonating with you as you have been reading. I hope you have taken the time to ask yourself the questions above. If not, your first step is to carve out time on your calendar. It will be worth it.

Once you have identified what you need to mourn and celebrate, as well as what is necessary or meaningful in your life, it’s time to set those in motion.

List your answers.

Then decide: How will I mourn? How will I celebrate?

When you have clarity on what is necessary and meaningful, work backward from what you want your post-COVID life to look like. What can you do about it today?

For example, identify which of the meaningful areas you have defined in your life currently feels the furthest from what you are currently pursuing. Where are you the furthest off course?

Choose one way to reset your choices in that direction.

Here is an idea that worked for me in the area of relationships: Leave my cell phone in another room when we’re eating, and focus on the other people at the table. Be curious about their day, what they’re thinking and feeling, and getting to know a little more of who they are.

Matt Poepsel offered the following advice in a work context,

“Not all of my experiments stick, of course, but I’ll never know which I like if I don’t try them. As we kick off the new year, it’s the perfect opportunity to try. …Start your next team meeting with a fun “learn something new about one another” exercise. [Or] ask each of your team members to anonymously describe your leadership style in one word.

Alternatively, Greg Welch suggests choosing a word for the year that you keep in mind, which can guide you to more of the person you want to be and the impact you want to have. This could be an excellent approach, especially if your meaningful pursuits share a common theme — such as growing to be more forgiving or generous in your relationships at home and at work.

6. Ask: What will the impact be… On me? On others?

When we envision a better life and a better world through the lens of what is necessary and meaningful, we experience a spark within us. That spark draws us in to focus on the best things, and causes us to lose interest in life’s self-defeating cycles and infinite distractions.

That spark is what each of us needs to reset parts of our lives, and perhaps to redefine our destiny. And the time is now. Those who respond best to challenging times will be victorious, whether in sports, at work, or in life.

After winning the national championship this year, in which he also passed Bear Bryant for the most championships in college football history, Alabama coach Nick Saban said this about his team,

“Back in August, we told these guys that the team who best handled this most unique challenge of 2020 would be the team that would win a national championship. …They just went to work. …I absolutely love this team, and I love all the adversity that they had to overcome.”

Let’s learn to handle our challenges like champions.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, mourn what we need to mourn, and celebrate what we can celebrate. Perhaps that includes gratitude for the opportunity to reset and see ourselves, our lives, and our impact through new eyes.

Let’s get clear on what is necessary and meaningful.

Let’s be victorious in our lives and our work, by taking one small action at a time that begins to shift our life toward the one we want to look back on years from now.

Let’s create a better life after COVID, and in the process play an integral part in making the world around us a better place.

And let’s do it by seeing with 2020 vision.

Honest. Clear. Victorious.



Mike Weppler
Adventures in Life and Leadership

To live a life worth imitating: Son, Husband, Father. Passion for developing leaders + elevating families, organizations, & the discourse of US/Global affairs