Winter Reflection

On winter solstice, I find myself reflecting on life's swiftness. Another year has slipped away, and the feeling is bittersweet. Susan Cain, American writer and lecturer in her book, “Bitter-sweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole,” describes bittersweetness as “a state of longing, poignancy, and sorrow—an acute awareness of passing time, paired with a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world.” This recognition understands that light and dark, birth and death, bitter and sweet are forever intertwined.

These days of shortened sunlight and cooler temperatures lead me indoors, both literally and metaphorically. At Seasons Leadership, we use the seasons as a metaphor to guide how we move and respond through the cycles of change in both leadership and life. When a chapter closes, whether it be a job, a relationship, or a purpose, and we are unsure of what comes next, we find ourselves in a metaphorical winter. Winter, with its cool stillness, beckons us to deliberately slow down, reflect, and create space for something new to emerge—eventually. This is the space where true transformation occurs.

The challenge of winter lies in allowing uncertainty and sitting with unease, feeling the bittersweetness while undergoing transformation from within. This departure from my usual comfort zone of crafting and adhering to plans is significant. Typically, being busy and filling my day in pursuit of my dreams is my standard operating mode. When a life chapter concludes, and a new dream has yet to materialize, I am without a concrete agenda, feeling somewhat rudderless. To navigate winter, I focus on the present moment with mindfulness, cultivating faith that the cosmic forces around me will continue their dance, gradually revealing possibilities. This process takes time and changes me. I grow in self-awareness, knowledge, and wisdom.

Leaders can experience the particular effects of winter at any time. A sign that you are experiencing winter as a leader is that you recognize something is closing out or ending (a project, a job, etc.) and you don’t know what is next. Not knowing can make you feel frustrated, confused, tired or anxious, and all of those feelings are perfectly normal. Remember to take time with your team to process and reflect on what came before. This could be a formal project review or even just a simple check-out with everyone involved in the particular project or job.

Leaders are people and taking care of your needs as a person contributes to your ability to lead as well. Winter is a time for taking things slowly and resting. You don’t need to have all the answers so don’t force them. Focus on being rather than doing. Think about what you need to renew and refresh while reflecting on what transformation you would like to have as you come through winter and into spring.  

Winter provides a unique opportunity for introspection and self-discovery, serving as a canvas for quiet reflection where time unfolds at its own unhurried pace. The familiar rush of life moves into a rhythm that defies acceleration. Amidst the winter chill, it becomes imperative to be kind to oneself. As the external world decelerates, internal landscapes quicken with questions about our authentic selves and the purpose underlying our life's journey—reminiscent of the heroes and heroines navigating the unknown. Joseph Campbell, American writer and professor, encapsulates this well:

"I don't think the meaning of life is what we're seeking. I think it's an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."

Winter invites us to explore the resonance of our existence as human beings and as leaders. Within the quietude of this season, true transformation unfolds.

 

What to do in winter:

1.        Create space for rest, reflection, and renewal.

2.        Journal and try Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages to tap into your deepest thoughts and feelings.

3.        Connect with someone you love and express why you appreciate them.

4.        Walk in nature and observe how plants and animals are "resting" for inspiration.

5.        Revisit past winters and reflect on the lessons learned and gifts received. Consider how these experiences can inform your present.

6.        Avoid major decisions or commitments; instead, develop short-term plans and follow your energy and curiosity.

And join us in early 2024 for all new episodes of the Seasons Leadership Podcast season 5! We will begin with a reflection on winter and share our personal stories of winter transformation. Subscribe on your favorite podcast platform: Spotify or Apple Podcasts or follow us on our show page at seasonsleadership.com/podcast.

Susan Ireland draws on 30+ years of leadership experience in corporations to help people positively impact the world. As an ICF-Certified Professional Coach, Susan works with executives, entrepreneurs and leaders at all levels to enhance their leadership and business acumen, encourage self-discovery and turn challenges into positive results. Her belief in the unique value of individuals and appreciation for the wonder and awe of their journeys inspires enduring, transformative change. susanireland.coach

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