flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘seasons

I Want Rhythm Not A To Do List

When I was young, I loved To Do lists. What a buzz! I would list everything I had to do, set a priority and set about ticking it off!

I loathe To Do Lists now. I threw away my diary years ago when I worked on an MBA programme and the lecture times changed so frequently that my diary looked like a dog’s breakfast!

Now I like a rhythm. I like to sense the time during the week, the month, the day, the year that I should be doing whatever I should be doing!

Rhythmless Britain Where Seasons  Take Us By Surprise

It is difficult to dance through life in Britain. Bills arrive at odd times and are paid at odder times. The tax year begins on the 6 April – why? Who knows. There is no rhythm to anything. People even seem surprised when winter approaches. “It’s cold”, people say. It’s December. What did they expect? I know what I expect.  “Good!  It is cold.  Now I can  .  .  .!”

My Seasons By The Bottle

I want my life to be a dance with my goals. Like these bottles at the Vesuvius Cafe on Canary Wharf in London. 52 bottles laid out in 12 sets, I want to mark the passing of the seasons with the right wine and the right food. I want to celebrate the seasons of life by going to the market to buy food in season and cook it with a sense of adventure.

I want my head around learning to dance with life. I don’t want to spend my time chasing the clock and ticking lists. Lists and clocks lower quality of life as surely as squalid air travel and grubby packaging around supermarket food!

It is not only Luddites who like to savor life

Now believe me, I am no Luddite. Never have been. I like progress. I like thinking up better ways of doing things.

But I want to savor life. I want to have time to listen to people. I want to notice the seasons and enjoy them, not complain about them.

To represent the season of my life, I have a handful of goals

I’m not sure I have the system right, but at any time in our lives, I think it is good to have 3 to 5 ‘goals’. When I was in New Zealand, I had 3.  I had my rather large university course.  I had settling in a new country.  And I had departing from an old country. That’s enough! What didn’t fit into those three folders had to be put aside.

Now I have five ‘goals’ ~ I wish I had three but I have 5!

  • I have settling in a new country
  • I have my writing ~ this blog mainly
  • I have my community and town of Olney
  • I have my next website supporting career decisions
  • And I have the website I want make – a gratitude site.

My goals change with the season of my life

In due course, the season of settling in (another) new country will pass and my goals will change.

For now, I can ask whether what I am doing helps me learn how to achieve these goals. What do I learn about my own thinking? What do I learn about my overall story from each of these goals and the way they come together?

It is the way I explore these 5 goals that will give me the rich life that I take into the next season as surely as my summer harvest must be full to provide a good autumn and a good Christmas supports an energetic spring.

I’ll achieve my goals better if I slow down and explore them well

My goals are a framework to coddle my efforts and softly support the tentative explorations of the land in which I live.

The way I explore my goals determines how well I meet them.  To explore them well, I must make plenty of space for them and stop rushing around being in a hurry.

Put that to do list aside!  What are your goals?  What are you learning about how to achieve them.  Enjoy!  In a few years, these goals will be gone from your life and replaced by others.

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A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace. (John 3:16-21)

As a youngster, I was baffled by the Biblical advice that there is a time for all everything under the sun. A time to be born. A time to die. It seemed perfectly obvious to me. But then I was a literal child.

Positive psychology and the seasons

A big message coming out of the positive psychology school and the poets like David Whyte, who write about work, is that we must take each season of our life in turn.  It seems though that even positive psychologists struggle to understand the ups-and-downs of life.

Let me try by using the seasons.

It is autumn now in the UK

Summer officially ends in the UK this week. The trees have already turned. The paths are strewn with leaves of all colors and it is cold inside – because it is not cold enough yet to turn on the heating. If we were still farmers, our crops would be harvested and stored, and we would have fodder in the barn for the livestock to survive the winter.

Live life on its own terms

It is here that we find the message. We have to live in summer on summer’s terms. We plant and we reap and we store to provide for the winter.

And we must do the same in winter. We must live winter by the merits of winter.

I am still a ‘noobe’ in the northern hemisphere so let me talk about winter where I came from. Our winter was all of three weeks and days were a short 11 hours! So we lit a log fire in the evenings and gathered with friends and went to bed early to get warm. On weekends, we gathered again to have barbecues in the gentle mid-day sun. We might take advantage of the rainless days to do some maintenance. But mainly we didn’t. Winter was a time of rest and recovery before the growing season came around again.

Up here in the northern hemisphere, I think we are expected to be a lot more productive here. People use summer to play and the long winter nights to work.

Ups-and-downs of contemporary life

The old agricultural seasons help us understand the ups and downs of life and what it means to explore each for what it is.

Of course, we hate the downs. We don’t want them to happen. We are terrified they won’t end.

And the ‘ downs’ are real. I hate it when people tell us they are in our mind. People die. Economies collapse. We aren’t stupid or insane. These are real events. Very real. Very distressing. I hate the Nietzsche expression that what does not kill you makes your stronger. I don’t hate a lot of things but I really hate that.  Downs are real. Please, don’t insult me by telling me they are in my mind.

Winter is not the absence of summer

But they downs need to be understood in their own terms for what they are.  Just as we understand winter as winter not the absence summer. Winter comes before summer, and after summer, and must be respected for itself.

Happiness is respecting the winter of our lives

That is happiness. Happiness is respecting the quieter times, and the harder times, and seeing them as part of the pattern of life.

Then, and only then, do we have the heart and the courage to explore them, not to love them, but to do what is required of us, respectfully and gently, and patiently.

Then we can be in them without rushing them to end.  It is pointless to try to make them end. They will end in their own time, just like winter.

We’d do better to accommodate ourselves to their nature and live within them. And live well within them.  Just as we don’t have frolics in the sun during winter, we may not be bubbling with joy in the hard times. But demanding they end does not end them sooner. It just makes them harder.

The trick is to live winter on winter’s terms.  I am pretty clear that it is easier to do if you understand winter as something that precedes summer and follows summer.

Does the analogy of the seasons apply to our non-agricultural, frenetic, confused modern lives?

When it is less clear that our suffering “is not our fault,” or when it is not clear when our suffering will end, I’ve found it helps to find a mentor who might explain the objective situation.   It also helps to live through hard times in a group. Because much of our fretting is really a cry of “why me?”, when we are all in it together, at least we do not have to protest that the hard times are part of our personality.

When we are leading a group in times of suffering and distress, I’ve found 3 things help.

  • Bring together people who suffer in the same way.

    When they hear each other’s stories, they’ll sort out in their minds what is a feature of the situation and what is in their minds. But don’t tell them to cheer up or that it will all be alright!  Dismissing their hardship is insulting and confuses them more.

    • Assure them that you will be there for them and live your promise.

    Listen. Engage eye contact. Be interested in their story. When they hear themselves telling their story and they see you still listening, they’ll calm down, a lot. Life will still be hard but you won’t have made it harder. They know they have you at least.

    • And celebrate what goes well.

    Don’t pick on one small thing and say that the life cannot be hard if that one thing went well! That is also very debilitating.  They do not need their reality dismissed or tell feel an impossible distance from you.  Just give them the space to talk about what is going well.  That reinforces your relationship and you will hear more about what goes well. See! Easier for you too. 🙂

      Be a warm, companionable log fire in the winter of our lives?

      Understanding why bad times is part of happiness is tough, and living through hard times happily is tougher

      I hope using seasons helps you understand the issue.  And that the 3 forms of aid for your group are helpful. They are classical prescriptions from positive psychology.

      And of course we can ponder why we made happiness so hard to understand in Western thought when we began with the right advice in the Bible!  The philosophers can help us with that!

      In the good company of entrepreneurs

      Are you one of the 14% of UK’s working population who works for yourself.  I am!

      And if you are, like me and so many others in UK and everywhere where solopreneurs and the Free Agent Nation are booming, you are probably obsessed with productivity and getting things done.

      You also probably beat yourself up for procrastinating. And you feel really bad on days when you just cannot get yourself going?

      Is that you? Well, you are in good company. We all feel the same way.

      To stay sane, this is what you need to know about procrastination and productivity

      1 Keep your to do list simple

      2 Accept that some days you need to chill out

      3 And for the surprise – procrastination may be a sign of experience

      I am not going to write on keeping your to do list simple. Lot’s of people have done that. I also won’t write on chilling out. I’ll do that another day.

      Let me stick to the surprise that procrastination is wise

      . . . and remind you about Caesar as he sat with his army on the wrong side of the River Rubicon. He knew that once he crossed the Rubicon, he would be declaring war on the city of Rome. And battle would commence.

      You are like Caesar waiting to invade Rome

      Some times, when we are resisting getting down to work, we are in the same position as Caesar on the edge of the Rubi con. We know that once we cross, there is no going back. We will be causing less strife, but once we get started, we will accomplish this task no matter what.

      As Caesar undertook a long march and bloody battles before he triumphed, so will we. We know we face long hours, physical fatigue, frustrations, disappointments, conflict and anger.

      We know about the power of goals. Once we get going, we move inexorably toward them. We don’t get care what gets in our path. We trample over it all in our determination to win our prize.

      With age comes wisdom

      When we are twenty-something, we are very good at crossing the Rubicon because at that fresh age, we don’t really understand the damage we do as we stampede everyone in our way.

      When we are older, we resist.  We know that the victory is not always worth the battle.  We know we emerge the other side as a different person. And there is no going back.   At the very least, we want to linger and enjoy the desultory delights of just being with people before battle commences and carnage ensues.

      But we do get moving eventually

      But we do get moving when battle calls.  We know, rather sadly, that we enjoy the battle even though it has consequences.   We will even make new friends, because undoubtedly once we set forth with a clear mission, the universe does conspire to help us.

      Get you things. Dreams mean work.

      So we dilly-dally for a while. Half-treasuring the present. Half-summoning up the psychological resources. Is that so unwise?

      We will be leaving soon and we must say good-bye properly so we can so hello to a new dawn.

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