Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

I love the change in seasons. It is always a time for me for pause and renewal. A time to reset along with the transition of the seasons.

I have enjoyed this summer. It has been full on as always with lots of love and laughter, time with family and friends and in the midst, me, trying to catch up on everything I have planned all year that I thought I would get to in the summer “when things slowed down.”

Things slowing down is, of course, a fallacy.

There has been no slowing down externally. Work still needs to get done, plans keep being put in place to fill the fall, kids still have summer camps and back to school needs. The pace of our world has not changed these summer months and it will not change as long as we live in a world and in communities that require our effort to be maintained, sustained and renewed. Some form of work, even if only to meet our basic physical/physiological needs, let alone our need for self-actualization and living a meaningful life, is inherent to the human condition and to be clear, meaningful work is one of the factors influencing social determinants of health. Yet, we can be challenged when work feels like it never ends and that it is hard to find time to truly renew ourselves. This is the problem we continue trying to solve with notions of work-life balance. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has gifted us with a move towards remote and hybrid work arrangements, workload and work intensity concerns have continued to grow. The convenience of being at our home desks has also equated to many working longer hours as our work and lives now blend even further. But another gift of the pandemic has been rethinking (dubbed the Great Rethink) what living a meaningful live means and looks like to so many of us. It is easy to lose sight of this opening and revert back to old habits, but this is a moment and opportunity in the world for all of us to think, act and interact differently with each other and our world, if many of the transformations we have hoped for are to be realized. Though transformation requires fundamental changes at every level of systems, the most important unit of systemic change is each and every one of us.

As I prepare for the fall and have been in one too many metaphorical “calm before the storm” conversations, I am reminded, that all the rest, time off and vacations in the world will not sustain me if I do not carry an attitude and stance of inner rest with me into the season ahead. As I reflected on this in the context of all the foreboding conversations about the “busyness” ahead after Labour Day, I have been reminded of something I heard a speaker say a long time ago—that in our world today, we now live to work and work at organizing our play. In sum, we live in a reality where we spend most of our productive waking hours at work and we work hard to orchestrate vacation and vacation plans meant to be the antidote to our work-filled lives. To be clear, every break and vacation can be helpful resets, but does not sustain the energy we need for our lives, if work returns to the center, to the exclusion of everything else. We may not have control over the pace of change and all the work needed in our world, but each of us does have control over our inner experiences, no matter how much is going on around us.

So as we move into a change in season, I have been asking myself: How else might I continue to design an evergreen, resonant life? I am still holding the question, but here are some of the micro habits I am cultivating to live and lead from a stance of evergreen renewal:

  1. Living from Resonance: Resonance is my radical commitment to living a life guided by my own stories. The stories I choose to give precedent to guide my identity and purpose. When I am living from resonance, I anchor to what matters most to me, guided by my own internal compass and not by what others design, expect or project onto me. It requires a constant commitment to (re)discovering and/or (re)membering: Who am I? What is my story? What impact/story do I want to have? What is my purpose? My research and life experience has taught me that when we are living on purpose, “work” is not a burden, it is part of our life’s calling. And if we do not fully find purpose at work, how can we design lives that integrates our purpose such as through volunteerism, community organizing, etc?
  2. Self-care: In an era of mental health crisis and burnout, many are reminding us that self-care is not selfish. I would add that self-care is not only not selfish, it is fundamental to wellbeing and for me, is the antidote to the overwhelm of these times. A common coaching tip I offer is this: As a leader, I cannot give what I do not have, I cannot support others when I am running on low or empty. Self-care, whatever that looks like for you, provides that daily/weekly/regular reset needed for body, mind, soul and spirit, especially at the busiest of times. Part of living a Resonant life is valuing life—including not taking our own lives and wellbeing for granted. What is your self-care recipe?
  3. Living values: In a polarized world where conversations that divide us seem to dominate, anchoring to values and principles are central to finding ways forward. What are your values? For me, 3 values keep me moving: (1) Love, which for me goes beyond a value to a theory of change. As I note in Transformation After Trauma: The Power of Resonance, like Martin Luther King Jr., I believe that love is the most durable and enduring power in the world and ascribe to his now famous quote that: “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (2) Courage—I seek the courage to transform the narratives around me in very concrete and practical ways. Language and my words matter, as does what and how I align with or choose to discard the narratives around me that do not serve my identity and purpose in the world. But it takes courage to be different, to be an outlier, to say no when everyone else says yes. I remind myself that saying no is healthy when it reinforces my resonant life, my boundaries and strengthens all that I am saying Yes to. (3) Wisdom. In a world of complexity, my favorite question to ask in looking for possible solutions to the questions we have no easy answers for comes from my lens as a Human Systems Dynamics Professional: What is your next wise action? The complexity of the challenges we face mean that we must work in collaboration with many others to seek that next wise action.
  4. Laughter—If you know me, you know that laughter comes easily to me. In our world today, it is increasingly difficult to truly find happiness and joy. Laughter has always been my portal to both expressing my happiness in an episodic moment and holding on to joy in the everyday ups and downs. What are your sources of joy? How might you engage the world in a way that keeps you uplifted despite the challenges of these times? Whatever that is for you—from reading books to a movie night with family and friends—life can never be too busy for these in the precious time we have on earth.

So this Labour day weekend, as we head into a new season, my wish for us all is that we will take the proverbial saying that it is possible to work smarter, not just harder to heart and put it into action. This is a commitment to take the renewal that all the fairs, festivals and family time offers this weekend, as a portal to transform our everyday experiences, even when the going gets tough. Let’s value ourselves enough to live a resonant life—living in alignment with our identity and purpose; having the courage of our convictions to live by our values; Engaging unapologetically in self-care and finding our portals to joy and happiness.