180: How I Balance My Life with the Seasons


Welcome to episode #180 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. Nature is one of the most concrete forces in our lives. As we start to change seasons and find ourselves with different patterns and routines, we notice that the outside world does have an effect on our lives. Whether or not we’ve created a life where we feel protected from the elements, or not – being in tune with nature and its seasons is a great way to consider how we show up in our lives and in our work. Today’s podcast on how I balance my life with the seasons will give you examples of what you can do today to create a life and work situation that feels more in tune with your surroundings.

I love fall and the change from the summer to fall. I recently held a 5 year planning workshop with everyone and noticed that within the span of one week, so much in our outside world has changed. The leaves are changing color already and it’s such a beautiful analogy because in one day people went from confused to clear on their dreams and plans. 

When I created that workshop, I really sat with this idea that so many of our lives are created by decisions we made many years ago. We’re just seeing the fruit of our labor now. The decisions we made to change our careers or to open up ourselves to different relationships – or even the decisions we made to ask for help – to be coached at the highest levels. I am seeing people create new work and relationships every single day and it blows my mind. I am also seeing in my own life, decisions I made to really step into certain roles I had in my personal and work life, take form as well – so I wanted to create this podcast with that in mind.

Recently, I went on a hike with my husband and I was thinking about how much less fear I had about injuring myself than I had in the past. I’ve been working through the idea that even if my body gets injured, I’m actually ok. Injury is not a problem. It’s made me take on bigger challenges even when I don’t feel ready or my body doesn’t feel perfect. Things like a half-marathon, training for a triathlon, the 6 hours and 15+ miles of the Spartan – and even surfing and martial arts. It’s not that I’m not scared but it’s like I’ve remembered that it’s fine and I’m fine.

I have always had this sense of knowing that I can handle hard things, but I lost some trust in myself when I burned out – feeling like if I just go with the flow, I end up hurting myself along the way. Yet, I realized in the last several years after doing my own work on creating patterns of thought and behavior that eliminate burnout, that I’m actually making more progress than I realized in all areas of my life that once felt at a bit of a standstill.

So much of it has come with identifying with nature. This has been a big theme for me these years. Nature and its cycle of seasons. Nature and the ability for it to continue to change. Nature and how it moves on without personalizing it. Nature just is.

When I started considering a more balanced life, I was at the cusp of burnout recovery. I started realizing that the transient nature of the seasons created the perfect backdrop for me to test how I did when it came to certain aspects of my life such as working, resting, being with my family and playing. 

I’ve broken my life into 4 seasons that reside within the 4 seasons that I experience here in the Northeast of the US. 

In the fall, it’s all about transition. I’m transitioning into the following year by investing into myself and the world around me. I’m planning, cleaning up my physical environment and creating a longer-term vision. I’m usually in a period where I’m investing more heavily into myself, my brain, my skills. Similar to a back-to-school period for students, I consider this a great time to begin working on bigger projects. I often begin the process of planning the next year during this time ahead of the rush of new year and holidays. This year, I’ve been leaning towards bringing up all of the planning activities such as the 5 year planning workshop so that we have time and space to enjoy this period of letting more and more things go. I actually do a full evaluation of my time at this time of year and decide what more I can let go of. For example, reducing the number of decisions by deciding what new routines I’m working on or where I’m traveling this next year.

In the winter, I begin to focus on what I love and take care of small things that might block progress. For example, I clean and organize my life even more. I host a lot more training workshops, gatherings, retreats and create a lot of warmth in my home because I love people. I take time to travel as well to open myself up to inspiration and energy of change. I really think of this as a nesting period. 

Often, winter is a wonderful time to think about what the people in your life mean to you – and why you’re here in the first place. A reconnection to your purpose and what you love. When you think about winter, there is a sense of restoring one’s self and restoring can look like many things. Restoring our homes, restoring our relationships, restoring our energy and the connection we have with the work that we do. I usually make a point at this time of the year to make a list of all the things I would love to do and the things that I need to do – the smallest things count here. 

I get a lot of joy out of cleaning up odds and ends – which with kids and work and a full family life – can be many. This is why I’ve tried to simplify life a lot – to remove as much clutter as possible from the home as well as in my mind. This is a practice because as soon as something leaves, it seems like we see space on our desk or in our homes and try to fill it – so it takes work to leave it unfilled and to hold off on adding more.

In the spring, I’m in the phase of connection and reconnection. I find myself in a natural place where work is beginning to wind down from its planning and new execution phase. There’s a bit more of a rhythm and flow in the schedule. People know what they’re doing, teams seem to get the plan – and we’re reminding ourselves why we’re doing this in the first place. Spring is such a perfect time to move into cultivating focus and being more creative. Similar to what we see in nature, we’re in the period of growth and stretching towards new possibilities. 

This is usually where I’m taking time to be reinspired by spending time with the family by ourselves. We’ve been going away with just my husband and myself during this time – or doing easter break with just my husband and the two kids. We’ll plan our own trips that look a little different from the norm. We usually have a period of spontaneity in the spring, because we often have so much going on with the day-to-day that I purposefully like to block time for mystery and for impromptu gatherings of friends and family. This coming year, we’re going to do a surf camp in El Salvador with just Jay and myself – which is pretty amazing. We haven’t done a big trip like this without the kids and it’s so fun to have the anticipation of this trip coming – to look forward to time with each other doing something super different and fun. The kids will be with the grandparents and it’s so perfect that they’re at this age where independence is more important and we can see them exercising this with being without us for this period of time.

In terms of work, I often find the spring a time where I start refining the plan for the back-half of the year. What needs to be done and when? How do things need to change? Something I’m going to try this year is to consider the work of reconnecting with others at this time of the year as just as important as the work of getting things done. 

Now, let’s talk about summer. Summer is really a time of heat and intensity. In Chinese Medicine, the summer is associated with the fire element and I always find that balance becomes so important for the summer. Specifically, balancing what has been happening in the year and finding this season to be a great time to go into maintenance mode with the workload – especially in the early summer – and to spend time with family and friends more intensely. I actually love working more intensely in the late summer because I find that I have so much renewed energy from time away from work that I come back inspired by the travels or my own revelations. I’m excited to dive into planning for the fall. I’m excited to make decisions about what I want to learn more about and how I want to invest in myself – and it shows, because by the time the fall ends and we’re heading into winter, I find that things have materially changed in my work and personal life. 

This is why the summer is such a great time to shift your identity – to change who you are around and therefore question who you are and who you want to be. It was during summers where I had a hard time spending time with my family because I was always on call that I wished for things to be different – this time of year really highlights what we’re out of balance with and where we want more balance in our lives. Perhaps we love spending time with our family and wish we did it more often – that’s another sign of what you really desire. I even remember wishing I could go away for just 2 weeks because I could barely take 1 week off – and that was the start of some pretty epic travels and 4 week trips that we started taking. Just from seeing what was in versus out of balance.

So those are the four seasons and how I’ve moved and shifted my life and work with the seasons. I find that we’re always in some season in our life, and when we’re disconnected from nature – trying to push against the natural ebb and flow of our energy and the energy of our life – we tend to burnout, feel disconnected and want to be inspired again. If this is you, I encourage to take more time in nature to notice how everything in nature changes. Leaves fall. They are purposefully dying and there is a time and place for this to happen. 

We’re not always in a growth mode that looks the same every day. Growth can look like restoring your energy or planning. Growth can look like noticing what’s in and out of balance in your life. Growth can also be the way that you invest into yourself and do what no one else is doing – which is questioning why you’re living the way you’re living. Do these things and you’ll have a life that feels fully your own.

If you’re ready to Own Your Best Life, I want to invite you to watch the free training on how to Stand Out and Lead, using spiritual, high-performance strategies. You can access the training at https://may-empson.mykajabi.com/stand-out-and-lead.

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That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.

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