Do you have a favorite season, one you embrace more than all the others? For me, living in Northeast U.S. and teaching for a profession, it’s summer. Besides the longer days and warmth of the sun, summer also means, “School’s Out!” It means freedom from external structure, and the opportunity to create new structures for myself; it means the ability to focus on my personal priorities rather than my work-required ones. If you are in other professions or parts of the world, different seasons may impact your productivity and creativity in other ways.
The season of the year is constantly on our minds and impacting our daily routines. But what about the seasons of our life? The shift between life seasons is often much subtler than the transition from fall to winter. For example, did you notice the moment as a young adult when you stopped relying on your parents and began taking care of yourself? As a parent, were you aware when your children began to play, get dressed and go to bed independently, freeing up some of your time? Did you mark down the day when your primary relationship went from casual to serious, or when you stopped regular communication with old childhood friends? We generally don’t notice these changes until they’ve already happened. We look up one day and realize that our routines don’t fit the facts of our lives anymore. We’re still cooking dinner for four even though the children have left the nest; we’re still hoarding frequent-flier miles even though our jobs no longer allow us to travel often.
So how do we become more cognizant of the life-season we’re currently in, and make our habits and routines best fit that season?
Describe Your Current Season
Take a moment to consider how you’d describe your current season of life. What are its defining characteristics? Consider family, relationships, work and education. Maybe you’re in the “post-college, first-job, living with roommates” phase. Or you could be in the “living with partner, working toward career change” phase. I would describe my current phase as “mother of a young family, established in one career and working toward establishment in another.”
Consider How Your Season Affects Your Priorities
Based on that description, what are your biggest priorities right now? Continuing your education? Being present for your kids? Buying a house? Taking care of aging parents? Make a list of your top five priorities, and see if you can put them in order from most to least important. You may be surprised at the values you’ve attached to aspects of your life. For example, though we often spend more time at work and tend to put work tasks ahead of personal ones, our priority list may force us to realize that we value family time more, or should be making more time for religious observances or personal care.
Reconsider Current Objectives Based On Potential Future Seasons
Looking at life as a series of seasons helps put things in perspective. We often feel that if we have a strong desire for something, it needs to happen RIGHT NOW. As a survivor of childhood cancer, I’ve spent most of my life being afraid that there’s not going to be enough time to achieve my dreams, which makes me believe I have to be working toward them every single day. That’s not a bad mentality to have, but you have to be realistic: not all dreams are achievable within a single season. While my children are young, I can work toward my dream of publishing books and articles, but maybe it’s not time yet to pursue the goals of starting a podcast or becoming a public speaker. When I look ahead ten years to when my children are more absorbed in their own activities, I’m glad that I’ll have my own dreams to take the place of my family’s needs.
Consider Changes To Your Life Based On Your Current Season
Now that you’ve gotten a clear picture of where you are in your life’s timeline, consider whether your current routines and habits fit the season. Where can you find more time? What activities can you cut back on, or outsource to someone else? No matter what season of life you’re in, it’s always helpful to align our priorities with our daily activities.
We’ve gotten deep into life-pondering, but don’t forget that no matter what season of life we’re all in, it’s summer for everyone! (At least for most people reading this website.) Make time for some summer fun, whatever that means for you!
Leanne Sowul writes the column “Be Well, Write Well” for DIY MFA. Her historical novel, Waist: A Tale of the Triangle Fire, is currently out on submission via her fantastic agent Suzie Townsend. In the meantime, she is working on her next historical novel and a nonfiction project on creativity; she will also be participating in the next Writers Read live broadcast on July 17th. Leanne also blogs about writing, reading, work/life balance and self-improvement strategies at Words From The Sowul. Contact her at leannesowul(at)gmail(dot)com, or on Twitter @sowulwords.