In North America and Europe, the beginning of September signals the winding down of summer. Families have returned from wondrous vacations. In many places around the world, it is time for back to school. Children have grown over the school break and are excited to enter new grades. The season will soon begin to change. The next rhythm of life is starting. For all these reasons, September often feels like a new year to me. It’s the beginning of a new day. It is time to renew and refresh. To start again. Afresh.
This week I was reminded in conversations with colleagues of the importance of renewal in our field. In the Organization Development world, we often get subsumed into the operational side of our work – helping teams work better together, strategic planning, vision sessions, organizational planning with executives, leadership development sessions – that we forget our unique contribution. Our unique contribution isn’t helping organizations achieve basic effectiveness. It is, as a development field, supporting the organization’s capacity to transform and renew itself. Our unique contribution is helping people find new ways of interacting, thinking, creating, organizing and operating, such that they enrich themselves as they achieve the purpose for which they are working together. As a field, we lose our effectiveness when we fail to nudge the clients and leaders that we serve, to see beyond basic effectiveness to renewal. Personal and organizational renewal is the place where transformation, innovation and thriving happen. This personal and organizational development is what our field offers through the application of the behavioural and social sciences to the issues and dilemmas inherent in human interactions and organizing.
At a time when it is so easy to fall blindly into routines that can be lackluster, I am taking the time to reflect and renew myself. I am reminded of two personal resources that never fail to renew and intend to practice them this fall: gratitude and passion. I am a summer baby and one of the birthday presents I received this August is a gratitude and prayer box. The idea is that when I find myself worried, I should think of all the things I am grateful for and write those down, and then turn my worries into prayers and write those down also. You might call prayers intentions – do what works for you. We know intuitively and from research that this is far from some frivolous wishy, washy act. The practice of gratitude improves overall mental health and well being, as well as the quality of our interactions and relationships. It a practice for the whole year, not just at thanksgiving.
And then there’s passion. Nothing renews, restores and refreshes like passion, because passion fuels purpose. I believe that if passion has brought you to where you are, that same passion will sustain and renew you there. Or as the feet in the cover picture of this post signifies, passion will lead you to the next place of purpose you need to go. One way to renew passion is to remember the stories from your life that drove you to your purpose. Or recall the times when you were most passionate about what you were doing? What were the circumstances? What were you doing? Then ask: how can you get more of what you want? These are appreciative inquiry questions focused on uncovering the conditions present when we are at our best, so that we can design and redesign the futures we want from those times.
So as September signals renewal and changing seasons, what renewal does it signal for you? What state of mind might help you thrive in your work? What project excites you? What relationships might you repair and nurture? What forgiveness might release you to thrive? Overall, what might be possible if we think of this season in these renewal terms and let go of the laments for vacations past and expectations of the fall blues? The seasons serve to remind us of the rhythms of life. As we move from summer and the earth continues its rotation, we also have an opportunity to begin to reflect on our spring and summers and to reap and store our harvests for the winter.
What does this season signal for you? Even if you haven’t started on that resolution you set in January – remember, it’s the beginning of a new day. It is time to renew and refresh. To start again. Afresh.