The Most Memorable Advice of 2021

Words to help you think differently about life

Black and white photo of two women gossiping across a fence
Lambert/Getty

In a turbulent year, Atlantic writers have sought to provide readers with practical advice. Whether it’s how to navigate the pandemic, how to avoid bedtime procrastination, or how to break a phone addiction, our pages have been here to guide you through these confusing times.

But some of the stories that have resonated most have also offered insight and recommendations for our everyday life, such as how to improve our relationships, how to push back against the idea of “staying positive,” and the importance of saying no.

As 2021 comes to a close, read a few of these words of wisdom from the past year, to carry with you into the new year.


"A life spent chasing the mythical state pf being able to do everything is less meaningful than a life of focusing on a few things that count."

The Best Time-Management Advice Is Depressing But Liberating
You can make time for things that matter, or you can make time for more email.


"Let's all retire the idea of our 20s as a #bestlife-- and just strive for a good one."

The One-Size-Fits-All Narrative of Your 20s Needs to Change
Your 20s don’t have to be the “best time of your life.”


"A gratitude practice shouldn't imply forced politeness or tossing around half-hearted thanks when you don't feel like it. It's really a guardrail against the human proclivity to take one's partner for granted."

The Most Effective Way to Thank Your Significant Other
One fact of long-term relationships is that humans often take their partner for granted. Think of gratitude as a buffer against that.


" “Preplanned meetings in which both parties are prepared for difficult discussions drain some of the most painful emotions from conflict. Partners are then able to focus on solving problems and to do so cooperatively and creatively.”

The Secret to a Fight-Free Relationship
Conventional wisdom says that venting is cathartic and that we should never go to bed angry. But couples who save disagreements for scheduled meetings show the benefits of a more patient approach to conflict.


 “Self-care alone won’t fulfill people’s psychological needs as we rebound from the pandemic.”

‘Self-Care’ Isn’t the Fix for Late-Pandemic Malaise
What we need is to take care of others.


"For women there’s something important to be gained by saying no ... to making sure other people feel comfortable with the power we wield."

Women and the Liberating Power of Saying No
From Jane Austen to Rosa Parks, from Joan Didion to Stacey Abrams, saying no has been the key to female self-respect and political empowerment.


“Tragic optimism” is the search for meaning during the inevitable tragedies of human existence, and is better for us than avoiding darkness and trying to “stay positive.”

The Opposite of Toxic Positivity
In a survey done in the early months of the pandemic, more than half of people reported feeling grateful, and almost 70 percent expected to feel grateful in the future.