Even if I hadn’t been paying attention to the calendar, the weather here in the Shenandoah Valley this week has loudly proclaimed the arrival of Fall. When I saw the thermometer’s 45 degrees yesterday morning, I donned a jacket to walk up the driveway to get the newspaper. The air was clear, cool, and invigorating. When I got back to the house, I splurged on a few minutes of fire in the gas logs of our fireplace. It took the chill out of the room, and I enjoyed the coziness along with my cup of coffee.
I don’t handle heat very well, so Fall is my favorite season. I associate it with new beginnings, new energy, and renewed interest in setting and pursuing goals. Perhaps it’s a lingering taste of freedom from when the children (now grown and gone) went back to school after being home all summer. Perhaps it goes back to my own school days when Fall was associated with school friends and exciting new subjects to learn.
I still revel in the riot of changing leaf colors and happily anticipate being able to put my bird feeders up when the black bears are more likely to be hibernating. I love watching the squirrels ferret away nuts for the winter and the hummingbirds filling up at the feeder before their unbelievable migration begins in just a few days. The flowers in my flowerbeds are messy, but I know the seeds are feeding birds and falling to the ground to rest for the winter. The farm markets are beginning to create Fall displays of colorful pumpkins, gourds, chrysanthemums, and apples, and they just make me happy.
Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Fall. My friend Pam recently expressed a sense of mourning for her beloved summer days. My mother isn’t a fan of Fall either, because she knows the darker, shorter days of winter are not far behind. And let’s face it, change is often uncomfortable, even good change.
But here’s the lesson I remember so well from Dad’s tutelage when I was beginning to drive: learning to shift gears smoothly is one of the most important skills I had to learn. Now I know it’s a critical skill for life as well as driving. Each change of seasons—the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives—call for taking a deep breath, taking stock of where we are and what we’ve learned, and setting our sites on the season ahead with hope and equanimity. When we resist the right time to shift gears, we get unnecessary grinding and potential damage to the vehicle. When that vehicle is our life, we must pay attention.
A gear-shifting exercise
The end of one season—or the beginning of another—is a great time to reflect on both past and present. This reflection can identify those activities and emotions we need to let go, and help us choose what to focus on in the weeks ahead. It doesn’t have to take long. Using a journal can document your journey so you can look back on later and be reminded of your choices, but even just a quick review in your head can be illuminating.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What did you love (or what made you happy) in the last three months?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What did you learn?
- What will you do less of in the next three months?
- What will you do more of?
- What do you want to have accomplished by the end of the year?
- To accomplish this, what steps do you need to take?
- Of your four essential connections for a Heartspoken Life (with God, with Self, with Others, or with Nature), do any need strengthening?
Click here to download these questions as a checklist.
I love this quarterly exercise, but we all know that change—sometimes pleasant and sometimes not—can come upon us at a moment’s notice with no respect for a calendar or any other commitments we’ve made.
Learn to shift gears smoothly before it’s forced on you. Practice makes perfect and deep breathing as you’re shifting is a powerful way to let go of what no longer serves you and make space for growth and abundance around the curve ahead.
Nurture the essential connections of your Heartspoken Life and they will support you in navigating the road that awaits you.
You might also enjoy “Changing Seasons Can Be Messy”