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Primal Wisdom Part 3: “To everything there is a season…”

The motivation for this series of posts on Primal Wisdom is that there are aspects of human nature that have developed over thousands and tens of thousands of years. They are part of who we are and how we inherently function. If we live in such a way that is congruent with that primal wiring, then we plug into an intelligence that is older than time. We can leverage a wisdom that has nurtured and enabled us to live and grow in a healthy and sustainable way for as long as we have been around. It is only in the last few centuries that we have forsaken or forgotten that highly-tuned sensitivity and powerful wisdom in the more “developed” parts of the world. My belief is that there is a way to integrate the wisdom that is embedded in millennia of human development with the goals and drive of today’s world in such a way that allows us to create a more productive and enlightened society.

This week, the focus is on our relationship with the seasons of the year and how that should inform the types of work that we personally and organizationally should focus on during those times.

For most careers these days, we have long since moved from the fields and outdoor shops into the much more predictable pastures of commercial office space. Almost the world over, the “office” environment is basically the same. The lights turn on around 6 or 7am and off at 6 or 7pm, it’s 68-74 degrees F (20-23 degrees C) and 30-60% RH (unless you are in that part of the office with the wacky controls glitch) and everywhere gets a pretty even 30 footcandles of fluorescent light per square foot. Summer, fall, winter, spring – the expectation is that we show up by 8/8:30 and work until 5:30/6. There are certain days, when the jacket we might wear is heavier or when an umbrella might accompany us. For most of out time in the office, we are pretty much removed from what is going on in our natural environment – temperature and humidity of the air, the rising and setting of the sun, the directionality of the wind, and many other subtle factors that subconsciously impact us through subtle functions like our circadian rhythms, vitamin D production, adrenal health, energy level, etc.

There are some significant benefits to working in controlled office environments – protection, stability, predictability, etc. However, the human organism is not wired to perform the same tasks throughout the entire year. To quote Ecclesiastes 3:1 (and probably more familiarly the 1965 Byrds hit song) “To every thing there is a season…”. In our personal and corporate lives, how should the season influence our focus and behaviors?

Fall - Preparation & Celebration

Fall is a time to finish up the work of the past year, take inventory of how year has gone, and gather the resources needed to survive (or live comfortably) during the upcoming winter months. It’s a good time to show gratitude and celebrate the achievements of the past year. It’s also a time to clear out any things that are not critical for the winter so that we can make space for what is most necessary for meaningful winter work. Personally and organizationally, fall is the time to push through any final initiatives to fulfill the goals of the year, collect the performance metrics and data to inform the contemplation of the upcoming winter months, and to celebrate and be grateful for the year that is coming to a close.

Winter – Contemplation & Planning

Winter is the dark time of year – it’s the quiet time. It is not the time for pushing oneself or lots of outward engagement. The physical work has been done and now the focus goes inward toward reflection and introspection. Winter is time to rest, strengthen, and subtly prepare for the upcoming year. It’s the time for creativity and contemplation of new possibilities and ideas – exploring what to initiatives, plans, and strategies to “plant” during the next season so that we can have a prosperous year ahead. Personally and organizationally, winter is the ideal time to revisit strategy, reflect on one’s identity, and develop plan that will allow us and or organizations to act more purposefully and aligned with our true nature. However, these will be difficult to do in a meaningful way without adequate preparation and collection of the right information and resources in the fall.

Spring – Motivation & Purposeful Action

As the light and warmth return in spring, our contemplation and planning transitions to motivated and purposeful action. Spring is the time when the creative energy and planning of the quiet winter months becomes restless and needs to transition into inspired and purposeful action. As the world restlessly begins to stir from it’s winter of reflection and planning, it is the time for making bold choices and inspired action that will affect the entire year. Personally and organizationally, spring is the time for making decisions, allocating resources, and eagerly pursuing inspired action. However, without adequate contemplation, reflection and planning during the winter season, we may find ourselves too worn out for inspired action or without a clear energized path to focus our energy and we may miss the opportunity or miss the mark and set ourselves up for a difficult year ahead.

Summer – Sharing & Play

Summer is the time of year where - if our planning in winter was on point, and if the hard work of spring was adequate - we should start seeing dividends. As the momentum from our work in the spring perpetuates itself, our time and energy is freed up and we can shift our attention more toward sharing ideas, building or creating community, and play (or the carefree exploration of new ideas). While both summer and winter involve exploring new ideas/possibilities, in winter we are doing so strategically with great implications for the success of the following year. In the summer, this exploration comes from a place of abundance and we can afford the luxury of exploring all sorts of ideas without major implications to our long-term success. Personally and organizationally, summer is the time for playing or experimenting with new things while also sharing ideas and building connections with others.

While there are still some vestiges of our traditional season patterns within our modern corporate world, most of it has been forgotten. Each season has its purpose, and every other season depends on the outcomes of the ones before – so all of them need to be respected. If we take these seasonal qualities seriously, there are significant implications for how companies should focus their energies throughout the year, and a pretty simple framework for a much more balanced, purposeful, and sustainable corporate strategy. I also think that, at a subtle level, employees in such organizations would somehow feel much more solid, healthy, and productive. I’d be fascinated to see what an enlightened company that took this to heart would look and feel like – let me know if you know of any.

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