Thursday 20 October 2016

Wellbeing: Tides of time

There is a natural ebb and flow to life and we can all benefit from acknowledging it

Published 25/08/2015 | 02:30

William Blake
William Blake

Sometimes I get dizzy thinking about all the cycles of nature and the unifying force that keeps them in stable equilibrium.

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There are thousands of cycles going on in our very bodies: circadian rhythms governing cell rejuvenation, hormonal production, sleep and hunger; the infradian rhythm of the menstrual cycle and the ultradian rhythm of the breath.

Look upwards and you'll see the solar cycle and the lunar cycle. Look around you and you'll see the oxygen cycle and the plant cycle.

Nature even has its way in the material world. Economics doesn't deviate from the prosperity-recession-depression-recovery cycle, while in the stock market, there is a time to buy and a time to sell, just as there is a time to reap and a time to sow.

We can all benefit from knowing about these cycles. For instance, if you optimise your sleep and get to bed before 10pm on a Sunday - 10pm-2am being the window during which we get our most rejuvenating sleep - you can make Monday morning considerably easier.

Likewise, if you know the day when your appetite naturally spikes during your menstrual cycle, you'll become more conscious of giving your body what it wants and less likely to embark on the binge-shame-purge cycle.

Elsewhere, if you obey the ultradian rhythm of work, which dictates we need to take a break every 90 minutes, you'll discover you can get more done in less time.

There are cycles governing accomplishment too. One of the great fallacies of human progress is the idea that it's an upward gradient that we can scale step-by-step like the metaphorical career ladder. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it was that easy?

Success, like everything else in life, is a series of interlinking cycles. It's not a line or a ladder. It's a circle in which history has a strange habit of repeating itself and life lessons seem strangely familiar.

Progress is a seasonal process and it's unlikely that you'll experience one harvest after another. Seeds have to be planted just as fields have to be left fallow.

We seem to have forgotten this. The hyperproductivity movement of the modern age doesn't take into account the seasonality of the human production cycle. It's all about bulletproof coffee and life hacks these days.

The great race to improve efficiency doesn't allow for ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs and expansion and contraction.

Granted, we might experience the odd Indian Summer - just as there will be the occasional long and brutal winter - but you can't mess with Mother Nature. It's better to know what season you're in and to move with it, rather than against it.

The springtime of this cycle is when we have new ideas and motivations. It is coupled with a burst of energy, a sense of prolificacy and a sudden compulsion to look up evening courses.

This is the time to plant seeds by searching for new opportunities. Use the spring in your step. It's a time of momentum, and momentum should always be seized upon.

These opportunities come into bloom in summertime. This is when maintenance becomes key. It's all too easy to become complacent during summertime, but remember that now is the time for weeding.

Bad habits, self-limiting thoughts and toxic people all have to be dealt with during the summer of your cycle in order to get the most out of harvest, which is just around the corner. Remember too that we all have a tendency to give up just before the harvest.

Autumn is when we enjoy the fruits of our labour. However, this isn't as easy as it sounds.

As the late motivational author Jim Rohn sagely pointed out: "The greatest form of maturity is at harvest time. This is when we must learn how to reap without complaint if the amounts are small and how to reap without apology if the amounts are big."

If you're the type of person who struggles with feelings of worthiness, try to remember harvests should be enjoyed because winters are inevitable. In fact, winter can come out of nowhere.

"Learn how to handle the winters - it's a fact of life that winters follow the fall," wrote Rohn. "Difficulty always follows opportunity."

Winters feel like a time of shut doors and "unfortunately we will not be offering you..." emails, but perhaps this is because we're pushing against a force that is greater than ourselves.

During the winters of our life cycles, we often forget we have to take the rough with the smooth. More to the point, we forget that there is a time when our stock is high and a time when it is low.

If you're in the winter of your cycle, try to spend the fallow time on self-development as opposed to opportunity-hunting.

Or in the words of Rohn: "You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of."

The poet William Blake had his own approach to the seasons of the life cycle: "In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy," he wrote.

Either way, just remember that spring will come. It always does.

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