The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for The Five Seasons Of Life

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There are many models for understanding the stages that people go through during their lives. Here is one that is based on the Five Seasons.

These seasons are Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and then your Second Spring. The actual ages shown in the illustration above are approximate, because they can vary from person to person. Here is an introduction to the seasons.

Spring and Summer

Childhood is your first spring. The fields are green, the sky is blue and you can wander forever. Providing you are given encouragement, every day is an adventure. You can explore the world, discover your talents and follow your dreams.

Summer is a time for travelling, sitting in cafes and discussing how to change the world. Teenage years throb with idealism. Providing you receive guidance, you may be able to discover your vocation and what you can give to the world.

Looking back, what do you recall of these times? What were the positive things? What were the challenges? One woman said:

“I had a wonderful childhood. This was despite having an illness that meant I had difficulty walking for several years.

“My parents always encouraged me. Even when I was in a wheelchair, they focused on what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t do.

“When I began walking again it was hard for me to do sports. So my parents spent time and money on us learning to sail together. This helped me to grow in confidence.

“My teenage years were a bit more difficult, because some people tried to bully me. But I found several close friends with whom I spent time.

“This was when I became interested in how technology could help people. I started by creating a chat room, which turned into a support network.

“The experience helped me later when creating my social media company. Nowadays we work with big companies, but also with social enterprises. We help people to share knowledge and hopefully do good.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on the theme of childhood and early adulthood. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the positive things that you recall from these times. 

Describe the challenging things that you recall from these times.

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Autumn and Winter

Autumn is the time when a person may begin worrying about security. Perhaps idealism doesn’t work after all; perhaps they had better get a proper job. Some people look for a life-partner, forget their life-passion and begin saving for a life-pension.

They get a mortgage, work hard and try to establish security. Providing they hit the company targets, they gain promotion and climb the corporate ladder. At the same time, however, some people may gather more debts.

Winter arrives. Sitting in a traffic jam one day, the person may say: “I am successful, but I am not happy. What can I do about it?” Failing to see an immediate answer, they may numb themselves and work to gain another promotion.

One day another wake-up call arrives. They hear about a school friend who has died. Reflecting on the shock, they embark on the existential journey travelled by many people over the years. They ask:

“What do I want to do with the rest of my life? How can I follow this path? When do I want to begin?”

A savvy person may stay in their job, but also begin pursuing a parallel strategy. Accepting their talents, they aim to do fulfilling work in which they can also get funding. They explore how they can build on their strengths, do satisfying work and get a reasonable salary.

They learn how to channel their personality, rather than change their personality. People develop, they don’t change. A rose can become a better rose, it cannot become a daffodil. The message is: “Be who you are, only more so.”

The person says ‘Yes,’ to spending time with positive people, but ‘No,’ to negative people. They start doing more of the things they love.

Winter is a tough, but it can also be beautiful. Here comes the sun.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on the theme of your Autumn and Winter. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the positive things about your Autumn and Winter.

Describe the challenging things about your Autumn and Winter.

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Second Spring

Choosing to live life, a person may decide to make the most of their Second Spring. They recapture their zest and feel alive.

They do what they want, dress the way the want and spend time with the people they want. Life is for living and they enjoy every day. That doesn’t mean everything is rosy.

The person has stronger control needs but, paradoxically, accepts some things they can’t control. They focus on controlling the controllables. They do good work in their garden – the things they can influence – whilst contributing toward building a better world.

Erik Erikson talked about people entering The Generative Age. This is the time when they aim to nurture both the present and future generations.

Some people embody this generosity throughout their lives. Others find it becomes more natural as they grow older.

Laura Carstensen believes in the power of older people. She is the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, whose mission is to redesign long life. You can discover more about the Center’s work via the following link.

http://longevity3.stanford.edu/

In the video below Laura describes why older people often tend to become happier. Here are some ways they take this route.

They savour life and live in the moment

They focus on what it important in life.

They invest in relationships and give to others.  

Laura is also the author of A Long Bright Future: An Action Plan for a Lifetime of Happiness, Health, and Financial Security. She says:

“Life expectancy is ballooning just as science and technology are on the cusp of solving many of the practical problems of aging.

“What if we could not only have added years but spend them being physically fit, mentally sharp, functionally independent, and financially secure?

“At that point, we no longer have a story about old age. We have a story about long life.

“If we capitalise on the very real strengths of older people, then added years of life can dramatically improve quality of life at all ages.”

Let’s return to your own life. Sometimes you can go through all five seasons in one day. As you grow older, however, you have a greater sense of perspective.

Depending on your age, you may already be experiencing some of the positive things and challenges of your Second Spring. Alternatively, you may be looking ahead and planning how to make the most of this time.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the positive things about your Second Spring.

Describe the challenging things about your Second Spring.

Describe the specific things you can do to build on the positive things and manage the challenges during this time.

The Second Spring is a time to plant seeds of hope that encourage both present and future generations. You may not see them blossom, but that doesn’t matter. Sometimes your flowers will grow tomorrow.

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