The lilacs and irises are here. The kids have pulled out their shorts. The neighbors are talking about who has spotted the baby foxes who were born nearby.
Spring took its time, but it’s here, and a few hot days have put us on notice that summer isn’t far.
I’ve come to believe that the change of season is a built-in opportunity to check in with ourselves, a lesson I learned thanks to a friend who was witness to a big change in my professional life a few years ago. It matters to me now to acknowledge that there are seasons of growth AND rest in our lives and careers, as there are in the natural world.
Years ago as I was considering leaving a long-time role at Columbia University, I was wringing my hands about why I felt such an urge to right-size my career when things were going so well, and I’d been on an upwards climb for so long. Work and life had become so busy I scarcely was conscious of going from one activity to the next, but I was also reaping the rewards of satisfaction at my job, great outcomes from my academic work, a series of side-projects I loved and the beauty of watching my girls grow up.
Despite all the wins, I knew my family and my spirit needed tending to. I wanted to slow down, and also didn’t want to. How could I make sense of this?
I went for a walk with my friend Sara, talking through my internal conflict. She said:
“Nayla, it sounds like you’re entering a different season of your life. There is a time for everything and it seems like this is a time for a different volume of work. This doesn’t mean you’ll never go back to something like you have now, if you want it. Just now, you need something else.
Huh, I thought. This is natural, to ebb and flow, rise and settle. Seasons change, so do we.
Heeding the Seasons
Hearing the call to something different is not easy when you’re busy leading your life but I believe deeply that the signals are there, waiting for our awareness.
- Our body sends us signals like bursts of energy or a deep sense of fatigue.
- Our attention sends signals, drawing us closer to something or creating an aversion to something else.
More than one of my clients put their professional growth plans on hold during the winter. They noticed they simply didn’t have the energy to network, or the clarity to take action. They recognized the signals their attention and bodies were sending and pressed the seasonal pause button. This spring they have found the energy to get back on the course that matters to them.
Every time I share this idea of seasons in our lives, people around me exhale. It just feels right.
So maybe as we enter the month of June, you can check in with the seasonal needs of your own work and life.
You can ask yourself questions like:
- What do I long for or crave now? Or conversely, what feels complete to me?A friend recently told me she’s exhausted by being such a deliberate planner. This spring and summer she’s heeding the call for spontaneity, which this week looked like saying yes to an offer for same-day concert tickets, even though there were lots of things that wouldn’t get done at home in order for her to go.A client in a newer executive role has been building relationships with the board of the company, a deliberate process of meetings and lunches over the course of the last year. As we anticipate summer, he senses he’s completed the heavy lift, and is ready to enjoy the maturity of these relationships – he even quoted the Byrds’ song absentmindedly – “It’s time for me to reap the benefit of all that investment and just enjoy partnering with these people in a more collaborative way now!”. (Turn! Turn! Turn! – The Byrds)
Seasons on Your Timeline
Sure, the natural shifts in seasons can prompt reflection, but there’s no benefit from forcing something that’s not here.
We don’t have to be wed to the calendar. We don’t have to wait until January, or June, or September to check in with ourselves, set new goals, or slow down. We can have a fresh start on our timeline. We can rebuild, practice something new, pivot, and evolve at any time.
The invitation to slow down long enough to pay attention to ourselves is always there if we’re listening.