There are four project phases, or ‘seasons’ in every project. Each one demands a different mindset. If you can’t roll with the seasons, success will be hard to come by.
I’ve been thinking a bit about the seasons lately. I think it happens every Christmas, when I’m rocking around in shorts and thongs, and I see some poor sap on minimum wage dressed up in a white fur and polyester Santa suit.
Nothing says summer to me like a sweaty Santa Claus.
Anyway, I’m playing with the idea that projects have ‘seasons’, and in the same way that zen monks find harmony when they are aligned with the annual seasons, we can find harmony (and effectiveness!) if we are aligned with the seasons of our project.
Let me try it out on you and you can see what you think.
The first ‘season of success’ is spring. This is the creative phase. This is a space of dreaming and creativity. This is a place for imaging what is possible, about surveying the options ahead, and seeing what our heart feels called to.
It’s a time to connect with our passions, and to start drawing them into service. It’s a time to anchor our motivation in the dreams of what we might possibly achieve – to fill the booster engines with fuel, so to speak.
This requires a particular mind-set: open, embracing, inspired, heart-felt. We let our imaginations run wild.
I sometimes play a game with my team. It’s called the “yes, and…” game. The idea is that in the brain-storming phase, as we’re throwing ideas around, you have to begin every sentence with “yes, and…”
In this way, we can circumvent the censoring that might happen if we were worried about what was technically possible (the “no, but’s…”)
You end up with a lot of whacky ideas on the table, but you end up getting a good sense for what inspires you, and we always seem to come up with a least a handful of great ideas that way.
The second season of success is summer. This is the season of work and development. This is the season of putting ideas into action – of making things happen.
This is the business end of things, and requires a particular mind-set as well. Here, discernment and judgement are essential tools. The dreaming of spring is behind us, and now we need to get out the garden clippers and trim our vision back to what’s not just technically possible, but what is most efficient and effective.
This season also demands grit. In the slog of work, our motivating dreams might seem a long way off. This is the season to keep our head down and just push on.
The third season is Autumn. This is the season of harvest. This is when we gather the fruits of our labour, and reap our rewards.
The key to the harvest mindset is gratitude. We need to recognise and celebrate everyone (including ourselves!) and everything that made our success possible.
This is not a time for judgement. It’s not time for deconstructing what went right and wrong and what we could do better next time. It’s a time to simply stop and appreciate and enjoy everything we have and everything we’ve done.
In this celebration comes the power to continue on. In the fruit of success are the seeds of the next project.
The final season of success is winter. This is a time of cleansing and reflection. It’s an inward time where we take stock of what is, and is not, serving us.
The key to the winter mindset is ‘letting go’. Whereas summer was about ‘holding on’ through the tough slog, winter is about stepping back, taking stock, and deliberately letting go.
We can only fit so much on our plate. Winter is the time where we clear out the old and make way for the new.
And we slow down. We step back from the world of busy-ness and doing things, and come back to our hearts – the things that are most important to us. Once we’re there, once we’re looking at things through that lens, we’re able to choose where our energies are going. We can reset our priorities.
Anyway, I don’t think I’m probably telling you anything new here. Anyone, who’s lived through a project – of any sort, can probably relate. A lot of this comes naturally to us.
But what I think it does show is that through the seasons of success, we need to stay dynamic. The mindsets that serve us in one season will just get in the way in another.
And this is a challenge because some mindsets come easier, and feel more comfortable than others.
Some people love the expansiveness of spring. They get a charge out of creativity. But when summer comes along and they’ve just got to put their heads down, they get bored and frustrated, and long for the dreamy days of spring.
And good ideas fail for a want of work.
Or some people are very good at discerning right from wrong. They’ve sharpened their judgement mind into a fine blade. This is awesome in summer – in the work phase – but in the creativity phase, many good ideas get cut down before they’ve had time to take root.
And their ideas tend to be unoriginal and predictable as a result.
In a similar way, getting stuck in the contentment of autumn will hold you back from doing anything new, and getting stuck in the backward looking regrets of winter can lead to depression.
The four seasons of success need each other. And to draw out the full value in each, we need nimble and dynamic minds – even and especially if that means getting out of our comfort zones.
There is a mindset for every season, and we need to be flexible and humble enough to fully embrace them all… and use them all to our advantage.