Do you try to live and work in perpetual 'summer' mode?
One thing you notice living in a temperate climate is the changing of the seasons. In autumn and winter, we see nature dying back, retreating into hibernation. In spring and summer, we see it springing back into life again. It’s as if winter is resting and summer is thriving. It’s a similar rhythm to sleeping and waking. Down-times allow us to recharge so that we have the energy we need for the up-times. Try going without sleep for a night or two and you quickly realise how vital it is!
Confucius said wisely: ‘If the land is always filled with sunshine, it will soon turn to desert.’ These words resonate down through the ages and yet, in the 21 century, our technology (e.g. electricity, light, on-line) and culture (e.g. consumerism; competition; on-demand) are driving us incessantly towards continuous activity, constantly straining to achieve, to out-perform. Busy-ness is equated with value (if you don’t believe me – try telling your boss and peers at work that you’re not busy). No rest.
In order to sustain this lifestyle, we live on caffeine and all sorts of other stimuli to keep us going, running at peak performance. As a consequence, physical and mental health suffers and we feel caught in a perpetual rat race where only the fittest survive. Organisational KPIs drive us to lower costs and higher results, always with an anxious look over one shoulder to keep an eye on the global competition biting at our heels. Resources are getting scarce and the environment is at risk.
So here we are and it’s tempting to think, ‘We’re all doomed’ and to cry out in protest, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off!’ Or we can pause and reflect: What is driving our leadership and business beliefs and behaviour? What could the benefits be (e.g. energy, sustainability, effectiveness) of building autumn & winter periods into our organisational plans and cycles? What ecological principles can we draw on? What could that look like in practice? What are we willing to do to make it happen?
Nick is a coach, trainer and OD consultant.