by Kathi Szabo – Transformational Mindset Coach

Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, have you done the exercise of picking a word? Just one word to focus on for the entire year. I decided to do that for 2020. I had been working with VIA Character Strengths, (check out your Character Strength Profile here) and well, my ZEST wasn’t being used all that much. It was a character strength I didn’t make the time for or use on a daily basis. But it was one I coveted.


When I would meet people filled with Zest, you know the ones, the people who wake up every morning with a smile, excited for the day, and never seem to ever be sad, I would hear my mind say “wouldn’t it be nice to always be in that high of spirits?”

So for 2020 I decided to focus on Zest. To approach every day with excitement and energy, not doing things just halfheartedly. It seemed serendipitous as on January 1 I went to a group meditation and that word was there. I knew I was going to live 2020 with the spirit of adventure! I was planning two retreats: an Empowerment Retreat in Cabo and a Yoga Retreat in Italy! My dreams were starting to become reality!

But then, you know what happened.


Covid. Pandemic. Both retreats cancelled. My yoga studio shut down. Unable to see my kids or my mom. I could have totally given up on my word not even three months into the year, but I didn’t. The universe was testing me, seeing if I was serious about utilizing my character strength of Zest.

See Zest is easy to use when we are traveling or at a party or spending the day doing something we love and rarely get to do. Using Zest when the world is shut down and your plans for the year go up in smoke, well that was going to be challenging, but I was up for the task!

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that 2020 was a Great Year for me! It wasn’t.


First there was the beauty of being alone on the beach in LBI. That never happens. But I needed to hear and smell the ocean. Mark and I jumped in my jeep and headed down the shore one day in April. I’m not sure if it was technically legal, but I was so excited to just walk briefly on the beach, touch my toes in the ocean and feel the sad beneath my feet. It was a new sense of excitement for a place I had been many times before.

Then there was learning to host yoga classes on zoom and helping our yoga community stay grounded. Our office was a mess, but I have to say, we were excited to bring joy to others, to serve our community when they needed it, and bring some normalcy with our regular schedule of teachers wherever possible. I used Zest to create this energy and excitement for something that was incredibly challenging!

Then there was the intentional use of Zest to create some family fun! We always loved to play games and now we could all play, uninterrupted to celebrate birthdays and holiday. Playing games before was ok. I mean, sometimes they were fun, but sometimes it was just something to do to pass the time. In 2020, via zoom, playing games with my kids and extended family became an afternoon filled with laughter. It became time to be present with family and not be sidetracked by other things.

Zest played a role in purely enjoying the weekend my son came home to be best man at a backyard wedding. I spent more time with my college friend Robin than I had in years! A trip to Maine became much more exciting as we had more time and space to enjoy the trails with fewer people to share them with. And I found zest in being able to take my dog everywhere because stopping to eat was not a problem, everyone had outdoor dining and she was welcome!


Yes, there was much pain and suffering in 2020. I am fortunate no one in my immediate family died from the virus or was hospitalized. I am truly grateful for that. But we didn’t see each other except via a screen, and no matter how hard we tried to keep our business functioning, before the end of the year we had to close like so many others.

I could have chosen to just use my character strength of perseverance and I would have survived 2020 like so many others, but I chose to also use Zest. To live every day with excitement and energy. To find the good in these challenges.


I haven’t retaken my VIA Character Strength assessment to see if I’m using Zest more because I know I am. This year I’ve been so excited to watch the seedlings I planted sprout and grow ready to bring veggies for me this summer. I check on them numerous times a day – excited to see the subtle changes in just a few hours. It’s incredible! Mark and I are back to exploring local hikes and trying new restaurants (take out or outdoor dining for now). And we launched a new business that we are passionate about!

Life may not always be perfectly aligned with our desires. But it is exactly in that moment that we have a choice, a decision to make. The decision that Albert Einstein once said was the MOST important. And that is to decide to live in a friendly universe. To believe that everything is happening for us. And to approach each day with excitement and energy. To experience the day as if it is our last.