Nature’s seasons hold many lessons, which stand out most clearly in the darkest time of year. While at a conscious level we know that winter turns to spring, and eventually summer, in the midst of it we can begin to doubt the process.
Seasonal shifts present us with a great metaphor for the phases of our lives whether in our work projects, or personally. When the weather changes, even when it turns colder and less hospitable, nature is offering us wisdom. Partly what is offered is a reminder of the need to rest, to cease our striving, and to let go, before we re-emerge in a new form.
This is one of the ways that it is gently demanded that we fall into the natural world’s rhythms, through our personal practices and experiences. Rather than making new, concerted efforts, in wintertime, it’s about letting go of outcomes as the practice.
Personal and professional seasons of our lives make parallels to nature’s seasons, and are just as real. While our subjective seasons don’t always properly match nature’s seasons, many people feel the time of year affects them, for example, in some form of winter blues.
Honoring Nature’s Seasonal Shifts
Whether metaphorical or literal, outside us or inside us, seasons helps us learn the practice of acceptance. There are going to be moments that feel like the hopeful beginning of spring, and others that feel like the darkest days of winter—where for many animals and plants, only rest is possible.
There’s no predefined amount of time, or way of knowing in advance, when spring will come. We only know that it comes. And I know because personally I have lived through some very long winters! I find a source of sustenance in learning how human beings historically have lived through nature’s seasonal shifts, and made the most of difficult conditions.
There are bright spots even in the moments of darkness. Winter, for instance, even as the darkest time of the year, invites a different kind of belonging. It’s a time when we are brought closer together, and closer to our communities by necessity.
In this sense, we’re not facing the difficulty alone, because many people have been through this darker season before, and are even in the same season with you now. There are also years or months in your career or business that will be like the summer of life.
Every place is a place to be, and every time is a time to be.
If you currently find yourself in what feels like a winter season of your life, it’s important to keep in mind that it doesn’t mean all of your life is going to feel like this. But also when things are moving well and easily, from strength to strength, it’s also not a permanent state of affairs. Nothing is permanent. The only constant is change.
The measure of our success will be how well we can adapt to that change, and whichever season we’re living through at a particular point in time.
As with the natural seasons of the year, there are times when we need to shore up our resources, in the knowledge that difficult times are ahead, and when we have to draw upon what we’ve made while the sun was shining.
Certain truths in our lives can only be revealed in a particular season, and sometimes that season might very well be the coldest of winters. Forcing that moment to be other than it is doesn’t help much. There will also be times we know with quiet inner certainty that spring is only just around the corner.
How Businesses Need to Adapt to Seasons
Businesses go through seasons too, harder ones and easy ones—even crisis moments that arise and must be met head on. That can be an apt metaphor for facing the cold. When executives try to avoid crises, by sweeping them under the rug or by being less than honest with the public or employees, this only prolongs and makes the situation worse.
We have to practice acceptance with the seasons of our lives and of our businesses, in order to achieve a state of thriving.
In a larger way, we also have to accept ourselves as part of the natural world— a world that has limits. Entire industries are facing this fact through the climate crisis, where they have to change or risk irrelevance.
Since it’s clear breaking nature’s rhythms and rate of replenishing cannot be the solution, it’s necessary to face the problem head on and adapt.
The individuals who make up Productive Flourishing exist in relationship with their own larger networks, as well as part of and alongside the natural world. In that sense, PF, like all organizations, is like an organism. At any given time, different people in our networks may be in a spring, summer, or winter of their lives or businesses.
If we’re interested in seeing our people, and the organism of the company overall thriving, it’s to our detriment to ignore our ecosystem, and environment.
What’s the weather your company or team is going through— metaphorically or literally?
Did you see a monetary boost of shopping during the holiday season, or is the re-emergence of new variants of COVID with the cold weather affecting you? Either way we need to be aware of our teams’ experience of global trends and rhythms.
It’s important to know the nature of the environment where we find ourselves. The kind of business in which your employees are involved, but also all companies and industries have their own seasons.
At Productive Flourishing we often think about how the time of year has an effect on what’s happening in the business. We recognize the moments when we’re happily at work within the team, when we are preparing for a harvest. When we are producing planners, we know August, through to December and January is the busiest season.
Those are the times when we have a lot of planning, seed planting and work to do, and it requires a lot of preparation, expenditure of energy and team synergy. I can’t help but wonder how many teams out there are truly set up for success, in terms of predicting and weathering upcoming seasons. Do they set their teams up for success with these seasons and cycles of their business?
What kind of creative and productive magic would be possible if companies and industries matched up more closely with the seasons and rhythms in our natural world?
Finding Alignment Through Nature’s Seasons
The question I’d like to pose is as to how all of us— in all of our teams, in all of our companies— can find a rhythm that is in more alignment with nature. Take a moment to imagine how much better the world we live in would be if individuals were able to settle into their own natural rhythms.
What flow, magic and beauty could come out of that?
Not only that, but what economic results might we see? The flourishing we see in nature every year could very well be seen on an individual basis, as well as on the team and in the wider company.
Even if it doesn’t better match the natural world, each individual on your team ought to know the expectations of what your company’s seasons look like. Will there be a fallow period when things are allowed to grow and take shape? When will be the period where high energy and output is expected?
But leaders need to know it’s humans in their companies putting in that level of effort. Leaders must ensure there are fallow, resting times as well. This means honoring cycles where more incubation is needed, and knowing that’s all part of the natural cycle. Know that the best work we can put out in the world comes after these cycles of rest and incubation.
It’s worth considering how you can do a better job of setting yourself, your team, and your organization up for success by leaning into the natural and lived experience of each individual on your team as we move through the coldest, and for many, the hardest time of year.
We’re in the places we’re in, individually or in our team, for a reason, and for a season. Seasons can be short, really long, or anywhere in between, but there are always lessons to be learned, full of valuable insight, knowledge, wisdom and grace. All these things are there for us to learn from the season that we’re in. I personally am attempting to do a better job of imagining each season as a gift.
I would add that one of the greatest gifts this winter has offered was Momentum Day, on Saturday, January 29th. If you missed the opportunity to take part, it will soon be available as a take-home coaching course, the Momentum Day Home Study.
That means there’s still a possibility to be part of the learning and the growth that happens there each year, and further meditation on the topic of seasons. I encourage you to take advantage of it as a resource and source of inspiration, as well as to share with your friends, families, and teammates.