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20 Lessons for 2020
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20 Lessons for 2020

I am delighted to welcome the intelligent, creative & beautiful Tabitha Musa as a Guest Writer on Beyond the White Coat. I instantly connected with Tabitha’s bubbly spirit through our shared passion about people, purpose and harnessing the power of your potential.

Tabitha Musa, soon to be starting at Oxford University

2020 has been a WILD year already! Here are 20 lessons for 2020 to aid us all to reflect on what has been and redefine the rest of the year with new intentions.

1. Know You. Be You. Unapologetically.

Before anything else, work, school, aspirations etc it is so important to have a personal understanding of your own identity. It sounds obvious but a struggle that I faced was allowing friends, family and society to define who I was, being labelled as ‘the smart girl’ and not allowing other areas of myself to flourish. What you are known for is not all that you are.

Explore your own thoughts, passions, and reclaim your identity.

Remember you’re truly one of a kind so don’t let other people determine your design.

2. Have a Firm Foundation

As well as knowing who you are, it’s also key to have a set of principles that you stand by. For me, this has been my faith but you may use a personal mission statement outlining what you stand for and what you want your life to represent. Really take time to do this because the deeper the roots, the sweeter the fruits.

Building from a place of authenticity, whether it be your business, career or even relationships, will mean that whatever you produce is true to you. Also remember to build yourself as well as your brand, prioritising personal development and your physical and mental wellbeing.


If we don’t deal with issues at the root, they’ll come forth as bitter fruit.

Making the Oxford dream a reality

3. Fruitfulness is not equal to Successfulness

The way I see it, successfulness pertains to what you gain: things such as wealth, status, accolades etc. Fruitfulness on the other hand relates to what you GIVE, not what you take. The same way that fruit feeds is the way we should be a nourishment to others.

Ask yourself what is your VAT? Your Value Added To the people surrounding you.

This shift in focus from being served to being of service is key in long term growth.

That’s not to say that you can’t have the two. But let success be a by-product of you bearing fruit. Work on your VAT.

4. Your vision should be BIGGER than you, go BEYOND you and BENEFIT others


I love the idea of vision being defined as the ability to plan the future with wisdom and imagination. (This notion was presented to me years ago on a programme run by the Diverse Leaders Network.)

Whatever you plan should involve collaboration with a team or partnership with other individuals, provide a solution to an issue that you are passionate about and leave a legacy.

If your vision doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.

Its always your GROWTH season

5. Think Big. Dream BIGGER.

A lyric that I love is “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of dreams”, from a song by Steven Malcolm.

We often downplay our dreams, writing them off as unachievable fantasies.

But I say: dream on! And make sure you WRITE YOUR DREAMS DOWN.

I have a vision board with a plethora of plans that I am working towards stuck in a visible place as a constant reminder of where I’m heading. Maybe you prefer another method but having your dreams on paper is another step towards them materialising.

Before anything becomes a reality it must first be a mentality so begin with the end in mind.

6. Be SMART with your Goals.

Vision is more of a broad, long term idea but this can be broken down into individual goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

Taking the time to plan and define your goals in detail greatly increases your chance of reaching them. Have specific time frames and metrics of success to measure your progress and remain diligent in their fulfilment.

The ability to achieve goals is a character trait.

7. Your Character is Determined by your Habits

What’s great about habits is that they can be intentionally formed so whatever it is that you want to be or do can be achieved if you choose to. You are what you habitually do.

Many people ask how I managed to get straight A*s at GCSE and whilst natural ability always plays a part, remember that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. My 5am morning revision routine and customarily rewriting notes immediately after the lesson were just a couple of habits that formed my character as a “high-achiever”.

Desire drives discipline and passion drives excellance.

Oxford University: A dream becoming a reality.

8. When things go Left, What do you have Left?

A prerequisite for success in this life is an understanding that things aren’t always going to go your way so it’s important to have a safety net.

It’s easy to be weighed down by what you perceive as “failure”. Failure makes a terrible anchor as it doesn’t let up when it’s time to move forward. Instead, use HOPE as your anchor; grounding you in troubled times with the optimism that a better time is coming.

Learn to fall forwards and not back, seeing every set back as a new challenge, a new lesson, a gap in your plan that can be rectified, a redirection to something better.

If you take a loss but learn a lesson, it’s still a win.

9. To All Things A Season.

Times of difficulty  as well as delight are inevitable. There will always be hard times as well as happy ones. Time and again I remember thinking “why, why, why” when faced with multiple challenges throughout my life and I often felt overwhelmed. My certainty that although weeping may last through the night, joy comes in the morning gets me through.


Tell yourself that this too shall pass and tough times never last.

10. Learn to Learn for Learning’s Sake.

In an exam-driven, pass or fail society, this takes an active shift in perspective.

How often do you choose to learn something new or study an area of interest beyond your appointed curriculum or “necessary” syllabus?

Removing the notion of simply learning to pass a test generates an intellectual freedom and a curiosity that enables genuine retention of knowledge beyond any mark scheme.

Qualifications are only one piece in the jigsaw of your composition, only one weapon in your arsenal of skills and selling points, so widen your scope of understanding beyond any specification.

Academia isn’t everything – and that’s coming from an academic.

11. Knowledge is Only Potential Power

We’re taught that knowledge is power but I’m not sure that I agree. To this day, I question the power that I wield by being able to recite the quadratic formula with ease.

However, like a spring coiled tight, or an object at height, energy is only released when these items are set free. The spring flies with power and the object accelerates downward with speed. In Physics, this is known as elastic or gravitational potential energy.

Similarly, I would posit that knowledge is potential power, activated by action.

It’s not what you know but what you do with what you know that counts.

The same goes for the time, money and skills we may have at our disposal. What do we have to show for all the opportunities that we, living in a first world country, have available to us?

Resources mean nothing without resourcefulness.

12. Don’t Just Do It. Review It.

Speaking of opportunities, we may often find that we run through every door that presents itself as open. But where does it lead?

Take the time to analyse whether or not the commitments you take on or the opportunities you sign up to are going to benefit you, enhance your development or propel you along your chosen path. Or are they just going to detract time from pursuing your purpose?

Time is money: save, spend and invest it wisely.

Whatever is true. Whatever is noble. Whatever is right. Whatever is pure. Whatever is lovely. Whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

13. Breaking News can Break You.

You’ve likely noticed it before now but the prevalence of social media and news outlets has been greatly heightened this year.

You have to be able to strike a balance between:

staying informed and dispelling ignorance & maintaining your peace of mind.

Death tolls and graphic images have been commonplace on our phone and TV screens so watch your intake and take a break when necessary.

Another great exercise is to keep up to date on your personal areas of interest. For example, I love reading articles on latest research such as linguistics issues with space travel.

Word of warning: the media makes money out of misery.

That includes the news cycles AND marketing products.

14. We don’t need Change; we need to BE the Change.

There’s often the declaration that we need change in our society but I believe we need to first change ourselves.

BE the change you wish to see in the world.

The world needs more kindness so be kind. The world needs more peace so be a peacemaker. There is so much that we can do to impact our immediate sphere of influence without offloading the responsibility to a passive system.

You can’t change THE world if you can’t change YOUR world. Change starts at home.

15. Yes, We Need to Read the Room but sometimes we Need to SEIZE the Room.

It is so often believed that you should simply match the energy of every place that you go. But what happens when you enter an environment where people are low in enthusiasm, high in stress or love to complain? We don’t have to do the same.

My motto for life is “be the light”, which alludes to our ability to illuminate darkened spaces. Change the temperature of those cold environments being a thermostat not a thermometer.

Are you impressionable or do you make an impression?

16. Learn to Rest.

Lockdown, although a terrible necessity, gave us all a chance to slow the pace and take a break from the busyness of general life. Prior to this period, I would definitely say that I was burnt out and struggling, juggling many commitments simultaneously.

Learning the importance and the art of rest has been pivotal in remaining refreshed and boosting long term productivity.

Guard your heart, protect your mind and be kind to yourself.

17. An Attitude of Gratitude

Being thankful for all the things we have available to us is the first step in creating an optimistic and positive mental attitude. Take time to list the things you’re grateful for, directly thank the people who help or provide for you and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t; what you do have rather than what you don’t.

If we can’t appreciate the things we have now, we’ll never be grateful for the things to come.

18. The Ability to Adapt keeps Lives Intact


2020 has changed so much for us all. School, work, family situations and more have all been shaken to varying degrees but those who have the skill of adaptability have fared a lot better than those who are more rigid in their mindsets and patterns.

Develop a flexibility that allows you to thrive and not merely survive in times of crisis or change.

A good book to read regarding this is Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson: it’s short, sweet and simple. What have been the benefits of change in your life?


There’s a silver lining to every cloud if you look for it.

19. Life is precious

My prayers sincerely go out to all those who have lost loved ones this year. The saying “send them flowers whilst they’re still alive” really speaks to the importance of spending time with loved ones, making people your priority and not taking life for granted.


Express love daily because tomorrow is never promised.

20. Life is Purposeful

See there’s a reason you were placed on this earth.
Every person has a purpose, every moment has worth.
So take time to unearth all the amazing things within you!

Love, Tabitha
Redefining Lives, One Perception at a Time.

©Beyond the White Coat 2020
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