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  • Writer's pictureCarmel Pelunsky

THE GIFT OF WINTER


Winter gives us the gift of physical and psychological regeneration. Whether we live in a country of sunny, white wonderlands or endure months of gloomy skies and endless drizzle, the days are shorter, the nights are colder, and the natural human (and animal) instinct is to stay in. Winter reminds us to rest, to reflect and to regenerate.


Changing leaf colour. The Transition to Autumn


Ironically, it is often by escaping winter that we create the space that we need. Through July and August, clients have regaled me with stories of theatre in New York, restaurants in Italy and unexplored spaces in Vietnam. Upon their return, they talk about feeling expanded and energised, and with this comes a fresh perspective on their work. While it is impossible to imagine a holiday in the heat of Europe with four kids and your in-laws being ‘relaxing’, one of my clients used it as an opportunity to ask his friends and family the questions we had curated ahead of time. Their answers are helping him to figure out what he wants to do with the next phase of his career.


As vibrant and healthy as those who have been away look, those who have not yet taken a break appear physically worn out and mentally exhausted. Each one can tell me with Swiss-like precision how many days they have until they go away. It is abundantly clear what the ROI on annual leave is - those limping to the finishing line are not being particularly effective. They tell me so themselves. And then there are those who cannot take time out for multiple reasons including health, family commitments or the sheer cost. How do they rest, reflect and regenerate? How do they find their ‘winter’?


As I was contemplating this question, I remembered an article about coaching I read many years ago. I need to declare my struggle upfront. When it comes to defining what coaching is, I find myself torn between one colleague’s perspective that coaching, “is simply therapy that successful executives are willing to go to,” versus the ongoing desire of the professional bodies to define coaching as a unique endeavour with its own principles, ethics and ways of working. This article brought it together for me and offered a beautiful insight into why coaching was never going to be just a passing fad.


In “Hestia and Coaching: Speaking to the ‘hearth’ of the matter”, Hilary Armstrong bravely suggests that beyond the pragmatic and measurable performance outcomes of coaching, much of its perceived value lies in creating a space in which we ground ourselves and get centred. Coaching provides clients with a space to rest, reflect and regenerate. Sometimes all three processes happen within one coaching session, sometimes they occur over a period of time. Coaching provides the opportunity for us to take a breath, to be heard, to have someone bare witness to the mountain we have climbed that week as we navigate the relentlessness and complexity of corporate life. Coaching offers a space for reflection…sometimes to have the mirror held up to us, sometimes to grapple with our most existential career questions. And coaching offers a place for regeneration…a way to become a somewhat more energised, clearer, more focused, more determined, more contented or more confident version of ourselves.

Of course, coaching is not the only answer. A recent article titled, Need a Break Now? Try Treating your Weekend like a Vacation, references the work of Cassie Mogilner Holmes, a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management who has shown that US workers who treated their weekends like a vacation – thinking and behaving how they might if they had travelled somewhere fun, were happier, less stressed and worried, and more satisfied when they returned to work on Monday, than those who had a regular weekend. It’s not rocket science but how many of us do it? A client of mine recently became the poster child of the ‘holiday weekend’. She started doing yoga as a way of forcing herself to switch off. Rather reluctantly, she recently attended a two-day yoga course over a weekend. As someone who prepares every Sunday night for the week ahead, she was worried when she felt so physically exhausted by the Sunday afternoon. She was equally amazed, however, by how quickly and efficiently she got through her emails that evening. “My body was tired but my mind was so fresh,” she explained, “I got through my Sunday night prep in half the time.”


While animals can hibernate through the three months of winter, few humans can afford to do so. But that does not mean that we cannot recognise moments that are granted to us, and use them, whatever time of year they occur, and in whatever context. Sometimes these are extravagant holidays, sometimes they are an hour of coaching or a weekend visit to an art gallery instead of doing the laundry. The Gift of Winter is reminding us that we all need to rest, reflect and regenerate in order to remain vibrant and alive. When and how we do so is up to us.


Until next season

Carmel

 

PAUSE FOR REFLECTION

Coffee break for self reflection

1. As winter nears its end, have you had your moment of rest,? If not, how can you do so in the next few weeks?


2. Which of your team needs the Gift of Winter – how can you support them to create space for themselves to rest, reflect and regenerate?


3. If you could plan a ‘weekend of rest, reflection and regeneration’, what one thing would you love to do, and who would you want to bring along (if anyone)?





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