In my book 7 Ways To More, I outline 7 guiding principles that I have made part of my daily life to ensure I am maximizing this one life that I have. In one of my chapters I discuss the seasons of life and how the seasons of life are a lot like the seasons of weather.
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What season are you in? The seasons are defined as: spring (March, April, May); summer (June, July, August); autumn (September, October, November); and winter (December, January, February). Life can truly be compared to the seasons. There are four different seasons in a year. They’re about three months—or twelve weeks—each. Life is like this as well.
From one to eighteen years, most children in America are in their spring seasons. They are in school, just planting seeds. We plant in the spring because that is when the soil is most fertile. The earth is coming out of the winter months, and the right conditions (rain, sunlight, and warmer temperatures) are present for the roots to establish themselves. These well-established roots will foster the growth needed to prosper through the summer. The same thing happens to kids as they grow. They are planting and developing strong roots to prepare them for their lives—or at least that should be the goal.
Then when we get to age eighteen, we typically have an opportunity to continue planting (college or further training of some sort), or some people go out and start work. Without some kind of education beyond high school, the work is likely to be manual labor—hard, physical work. This is the summer period. If you have a job, you are trying to find your place within a company or in some kind of career. You are putting in the hours to show that you are a committed employee. Or you are working a lot of long hours to save up money to move out on your own.
Up until you turn forty, you are still in the summer season. If you went to college, you start your summer a little later. Either way, you are putting in the hours and the effort to get on a career track and to make money and/or to pay back your student loans. Here is some advice—pay off those loans as quickly as possible. Don’t keep them hanging over your head.
The years from forty to sixty are the fall season, the harvest time of your life. Ideally, your hard work and education have paid off for you, and you have earned higher pay and better positions. You have taken your experience of the last fifteen to twenty years and applied it to get yourself to a place of stability. You are in control of your destiny. This should be the goal, and I hope you can or will achieve it.
Now we come to winter. For most people it may start around age sixty to sixty-five (although people are retiring later and later) and last until you fully retire or until you die. Yes, I know, I hate to type those words, but it is a reality. In this final season of your life, if you have planned well, you can hibernate and live off the harvest that you created during your forty-plus years of work and effort. You get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
During the four seasons of your life, you will have lots of miniseasons as well. Life as a whole can be compared to the seasons, but in each year there are four seasons as well. You will live your life one season at a time, within the bigger context of the four seasons of your whole life.
As you are reading this book, maybe you are in the spring of your life. What do we do in the spring? We plant. We plant the seeds that we hope to harvest in the fall. I hope this book will get you planting. If you want to invest in a new business venture, you may require money, so you have to figure out how to get that money. This is planting. Maybe you have decided to go back to college, or to finish a degree that you started but never finished. What if you invested in a seminar on a subject that you have a passion for? All of these things are considered planting. Opening a Roth IRA or contributing to a 401(k) plan are both things you could consider.
You can’t harvest unless you plant. What comes after spring? Any guesses? Yes. It’s summer. This never changes. Maybe you are in your summer season. The summer is hot and can feel really long. I work with many people who are in their summer season. I like to compare the summer to a sales cycle that has only a little bit of time left before the cycle ends. If you are a good sales person, you have planted lots of seeds in the spring. As you are coming up to the end of the quarter and the sales cycle, you have to put in long days and long hours to really nurture the seeds you planted in the spring. This period of time is hot and grueling. You are trying to make sure the crop stays alive so you can harvest and reap the benefits of the sales in the fall.
In the summer, our focus should be different. It’s hard to plant in the summer. If you have ever tried planting a garden and you planted late, you know that it’s hard to get the plants going—it’s too hot, or it’s too dry. In summer, we should be focusing on the crop we planted in the spring. Are you currently in your summer? Are you putting in the hours necessary so you can harvest a crop later? If you started a new business, are you putting in the time and effort to get it on stable ground to be able to harvest later?
For those reading this book who are twenty-five to thirty-five years old or who have taken a new job with a new company, this summer season requires a lot of effort. This is where you show how you are different. When things are hot and dry, when the workload is large and the problems are big, the company needs people who are willing to stay in the field long days nurturing the crop. Keep in mind that the summer is just a season; it is not forever. You just have to get through to the next season. That promotion can be eighteen months away or five years, but you have to stick with it. That is what the goal is during the summer—nurturing our crop and managing our crop. Our goal in the summer is to get to the fall where we can reap the benefits of what we have planted and nurtured.
Whew! What season is after summer? Fall. Yes, fall follows summer, every year. We have now finally made it to the fall. What you have done early in your life sets you up to reap the benefits of your harvest when you are forty to sixty years old, but each year you will have a fall season as well. What do we do in the fall? We harvest our crop, and we reap the benefits of the crop. Going back to the sales cycle, if you did your planting well in the spring, nurtured the crop in summer with water and follow-up, you now get to the fall, and those commission checks will start coming in. Maybe you attended that seminar in the spring. You took the material you learned in that seminar and diligently applied it to your life or your work (your summer). You now start seeing the benefits of this seminar. Maybe what you learned at that seminar allowed you to generate extra income, or maybe it allowed you to get a raise at work. You eventually get to a point in the seasons where your work and effort from the planting you did is realized in some kind of gain. This is the goal—to be able to harvest the crop.
What comes after the fall? Yep, it’s winter. What do bears do in the winter? They hibernate. Mother Nature allows them to hibernate because they planted well, worked hard, reaped a harvest, and can now live off that harvest for a while. The winters can be cold and long for some. As humans we can’t completely hibernate, but if we’ve done the work, there should be enough to live on comfortably at the end of our lives.
I work with a lot of people who are in the winter season. They reaped the harvest of their planting after they graduated college and got their first job, but they have been living off that harvest too long and have not planted anything in a long time. We must continue to plant—if we don’t, after a while we won’t have anything left to harvest or live off. A harvest can last only so long, and then we have to plant again. No matter what season of life you are in, you have to continue to go through all four seasons to be more, become more, have more, and ultimately give more. Remember the person I mentioned earlier who hasn’t invested in his personal and self-development in years? He has been in the winter season that whole time; he can’t harvest the executive job, because he hasn’t planted anything.
There are four seasons for a reason. It takes all four for this world to operate. If we plant in the summer, typically our crops can’t get enough water and nutrients to take off and be successful, or they don’t have enough time to reach full maturity. That is why we plant in the spring. The ground is moist and cooler. This allows our seeds to take off.
So, what season are you in? When is the last time you set some goals for yourself? Are you still living off of your harvest from years ago? Is it time for you to plant some more? That is what goals are. They are the seeds that allow you to start moving toward a new harvest, and your next harvest could be a big one.
To your success and your future.