There’s no pretty way to put it: 2020 was a disaster. I won’t recount all of the ways our lives became upended for one simple reason: We all lived it. The biggest question we’re asking ourselves now is how do we learn from the year we had and move forward in meaningful ways?

The simple fact is that COVID-19 didn’t just impact our lives temporarily; some of these changes are here to stay. While the pandemic has been a devastating experience for many, it’s a learning experience for us all. It’s important to reflect on what we’ve learned, whether about ourselves or the world around us.

In a series of articles, I will share trends that are shaping 2021 and possibly the future. These trends will be about shifts we are seeing in culture as well as ways that businesses are responding in their marketing. We’ll look at these trends to help us think through ways to be better people and better brands. We’ll get a glimpse into the lives everyday people had to live this past year, and learn from what the leading companies have done, both right and wrong. But for now, I want to break down how we will be looking at these trends.

Understanding Environments

For the purpose of this narrative, let’s explore what the word “environment” can mean. In the most basic sense, it means our surroundings. The things that exist in a 360-degree view of yourself. It could be your home, your school, your workplace — the places in your immediate vicinity.

Next, we have the physical environment. Nature, flora, fauna. The birds and the bees, the flowers and the trees. The sweeping landscapes that take your breath away.

Finally, an environment can be a state of mind — what you do to fill your cup. Are you meditating? Practicing self-care in other ways? Your mind is as much of an environment as the next place.

The purpose of looking at all these definitions of environment is to frame the way we look at our trends. The interesting thing about using the lens of environments is that there are multiple ways we can interact with them.

COVID-19 has certainly had an impact on the way we move through the world, and in turn, the way we experience and affect our environments. Now whenever we go somewhere, the first thing we think of is safety. We think, “Is it clean?” “Will it be socially distanced?” “Will I be exposed to COVID?” Prior to this widescale pandemic, the only people thinking this way were the immunocompromised and those with mysophobia.

In addition to concerns over physical environment, we have the beating that mental environments took and continue to take. Death tolls in the news every day, lockdowns and restrictions, the constant fear of personally being infected or making your loved ones sick — it takes a toll on the psyche. It only makes sense that people would start to think about ways to destress and find ways to comes to terms with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Four Areas of Interaction

So how have our interactions with our environments changed in ways that may continue this year and beyond? These are the interactions I will explore:

  • Control Finding peace in a chaotic world
  • Explore Trying, and sharing, the unexpected
  • Protect Rising to the occasion for our planet
  • Champion Recognizing the value of every person

These are only short descriptions of what each environment interaction means. In future articles, I’ll break down each one in depth and provide examples of how they are manifesting in 2021 trends. Until then, think about the ways you see these interactions affecting your business, your brand and your life.