4 Seasons of Life We All Live Through & 4 Practices to Optimize Your Energy and Thrive Year RoundOn Purpose with Jay Shetty
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- 5 Feb 2021
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Look out your window. Is it snowing? Is it sunny? Now take a deep breath and take a look at what it feels like; not outside your window, but inside yourself. Are you energized and excited about a project? Or reflecting on the last few months of your life?
On this episode of On Purpose with Jay Shetty, Jay describes the difference between the seasons of the year and the seasons of your life. Through this parallel, he provides simple practices to be more attuned to each season you are experiencing in order to grow with the times instead of against them.
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How many of you ever feel exhausted, fatigued or wiped out? Do you feel like every time you try to get motivated to tackle your to do list what? To make a change, you just can't get yourself going? Or are you working hard, striving towards your goals? But things just don't seem to be coming together.
And you're not sure why? According to statistics, only one out of every seven Americans say they start the day feeling refreshed. That means most of us are still tired when we wake up in the morning. I know what you're probably thinking. That's because we need more sleep. But listen to this. Nearly half of those who say they sleep seven or eight hours a night say they're still tired at least several mornings a week. And we know this is definitely not just a challenge for Americans.
Sleep is important. It's essential to good health and high performance. We know this, but sleep on its own can't restore us. If there are too many other things draining us, it's like pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom. It's never going to fill up. Today, I'm going to share with you the surprising thing that's draining you along with five ways to get your energy back and experience more synchronicity and flow in your life.
There's one big drain that most of us are not aware of. And here it is being out of sync with your season, whether from a popular music lyric, the Bible or another source. You've probably heard the idea that for everything there is a season in our lives. We experience seasonal changes in external nature, what's happening around us. And we also experience seasonal changes in our internal nature, what's going inside of us and is cycling through our lives just like nature.
We cycle through seasons throughout our lives. The problem is it's easy to look at the calendar or look out the window and know the external season, but most of us don't know how to recognize what season we're in internally. And so it's hard to reap the benefits of that season. And as a result, we feel out of balance. Now, this whole idea of being balanced with nature and of having our own internal season can feel a bit esoteric.
I know I get it, but this idea that we go through seasons in our lives is grounded in science all the way back to ancient times. If you look at our Vayda, along with traditional Chinese medicine, to name just two, there's a lot of talk about balancing elements in seasons within and outside ourselves, like in Oradea. If you're living somewhere where it's cold in winter, you want to support your body by eating more warming and cooked foods than raw foods.
That's a practice that supports you for the season you're in. But modern research is also starting to reveal how we benefit from being in sync with nature. Andrew Huberman is a neurobiologist at Stanford University, and one of the things he studies is how we can use science to optimize our body cycles. Now, get this. Huberman says that our eyes are a massive source of communication to the brain. And of course, our brain is a primary regulator of our bodies functions.
Huberman's says that there is one simple, powerful way to do all of the following things. One, regulate your sleep, wake rhythms to optimize your metabolic function. And three, optimize countless other body functions, including dopamine production and wounding healing. The list goes on. What's the single simple, powerful thing we can do? Watch the sunrise and the sunset. It's really that simple. Now, I've heard that watching the sunrise and sunset is really good for the mood, but this puts a whole new understanding on just how and why this simple act is so impactful.
Huberman says that when the sun is low in the sky, the angle of light communicates to our retinal neurons, the neurons in our eyes, and that synchronizes a whole system of clocks in our bodies to help regulate loads of functions, including our organ function and how our bodies time, our sleep and wakefulness cycles. And this is one of the reasons we can get so out of sync when we stay up really late. We force our bodies out of sync with the natural rhythms, and our bodies struggle to find the balance needed to get restorative sleep, for example.
So even hard science says we are meant to be in tune with nature. But now let's talk about your personal season and how to identify and get in sync with the season of your life. Right now, it may be winter outside, but your internal season might be summer or fall. The season you're in doesn't have to correspond to the weather outside. It's a cycle you're going through and it may be a time of expansion or of pulling in or protection of growth.
For reflection, let's look at each season and with it, I'm going to give you a science based practice to support your ability to experience the full benefits of what that season has to offer. Let's start with summer. Summer is that gogo time? It's casual and fun. When we think of summer, we think of playing and having the top down on the convertible. The days are longer so we can do more. Summer is a time of achievement.
If you're in summer, it might be a time when you're preparing to launch a new venture or a new product you're creating or putting something out into the world.
I think most of us have this expectation that life should be perpetual summer year after year. We plan to always be creating, always crushing it. One thing I've observed is that in the West, we're so focused on the external, on making and producing things and goals outside of ourselves. We're constantly putting expectations on ourselves to do more and better and improve ourselves and our worth to always show tangible results. In the East, there's more of a tradition of focusing on the internal on setting our intentions, on seeking meaningful input and on contemplating our desires and the processes through which we might advance or attain them.
It's more reflective. Both perspectives and approaches are important. It's like the concept of yin and yang, if you're familiar with that. They represent balanced energies and both are necessary. The doing and the resting both are central to our well-being. Some is great, but we can't live there all the time and be balanced and healthy if we're meant to be in spring or winter. But we're pushing like it's summer. We start to burn out, we feel exhausted.
Things can feel like no matter how hard we try, they're just not coming together. I get it. I love to be productive and put things out there into the world. When I was living as a monk, all I wanted to do was give as much as I could. Every day I pushed it to the edge with what I could offer others. The problem was that I thought that was service, but it wasn't self-sustaining and I never shifted cycles into receiving and replenishing.
The result was that I became totally out of balance and even had to be hospitalized because I drained myself so badly. When I had David Goggins, who's a former Navy SEAL as a guest on the show, he said that one of the tactics he would use to get through some of the excruciating SEAL training was that he would focus on others, on his teammates and how they were doing. And that was a really effective strategy because it would take him outside himself and keep him focusing on his own discomfort.
And yet he learned the hard way as I did, that focusing entirely on others is not a sustainable strategy over the long term. And David became very ill as well. He had to move through some other seasons for a while to recover. So the basic point of what I'm trying to share with you right now is that just as we have spring, summer, autumn, winter, externally, you go through the same seasons internally. Now, the crazy thing is that if it was winter, you would always wear a coat, you'd wear a scarf, you'd wear a hat.
You take an umbrella out with you to prepare for what winter will bring. But in our internal lives, we keep hoping it's going to be summer. We keep forcing it to be summer. And so we never take that coat. We never take that scarf. And that's why sometimes we can feel lost, disconnected or feel like we're suffering in our lives. Being in summer is great, but again, lots of us focus on it almost exclusively. But when you learn how to cycle through all of the seasons, when it really is summer for you, you really will be able to crush it.
If you're in summer right now and you're in that go mode, here's a science based practice to support you and help you maximize that summer cycle and summer energy. Steven Cotlar is a peak performance expert and the author of several bestselling books. One of the areas Stevens has studied deeply is flow, including how we get into those flow states where you're so immersed that you lose sense of time and things are just moving almost like they have their own momentum. When we're in summer flow, states can be super helpful because you're able to get into that deep focus mode and really create.
Cotlar says that flow begets flow, meaning that the more often you experience flow states in one area, the more often you can experience them in other areas. So the practice to train yourself to experience more flow is to find one area where you experience flow easily. For lots of us, this might be a physical practice, like running or skiing or dancing, or maybe it's another space, like playing with your kids or playing a musical instrument. It doesn't at all have to be related to your work.
And Cotlar says it's unlikely that it will be. Most of us have some area from childhood, for example, where we could easily get into flow. So find an. Area where you get into flow easily and make it a priority to experience that flow often for at least 30 minutes a week. More is better do that activity. Cutler acknowledges that it's going to seem counterproductive, that if you want to be more productive at work, to go dance more often, but it works.
Again, the research shows that flow begets flow. So look for that space. You feel flow and make sure you're doing at least 30 minutes a week, though again, more is better. That will help you maximize your summer flow. Now, I want to take a moment to clarify that when you experience seasons in your life, they don't have to go in order as they do in nature. Winter can follow summer, for example. And also, just because you're in winter, that doesn't mean you don't have some bits of summer here and there.
Like in nature, you might have a few warm days during an otherwise cold season. It's not all or nothing. Generally, production doesn't come to a grinding halt outside of summer. We just prioritize and manage differently. I know a videographer who's often called to go to these video shoots in really gnarly weather, whether it's pouring rain or subzero temperatures. Someone once asked him how he managed to function so well being outside in such bad weather, to which he laughed and said there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
This is another important reason we want to recognize what season we're in or that we're entering so we can prepare appropriately. I remember when I first moved to New York from London and everyone told me to get ready for the winters in New York. They're freezing. There's so much colder than London and actually worried me a bit. And I accept I accepted that was the case. So I went and bought like a ton of really warm weather gear, heavy coat, big insulated gloves, huge snow boots.
So I was prepared. I ended up looking a bit like Big Bird from Sesame Street for a while because of the color of my coat. But I was warm, right. So when we refused to accept that it's winter, we might end up walking through Central Park in January in shorts. When we're in sync with our season, we can be prepared for what might arise. So let's move on to fall. Fall can also be a productive time.
Lots of us think of fall as harvest time. We're harvesting the fruits of our labors and gathering things up and storing them for the future.
For me, last year was for working hard to bring you loads and loads of content and advice to try and help and support you and to serve you doing what I know has been such a difficult time for so many. For a while I actually thought I was in a season of summer last year, a season of Go, Go, Go. It wasn't until into the year that I realised I was actually in a fall season.
And I realised that because it became apparent to me when I took a close look at some things in my life that it was time to release some things.
Think about what happens in fall, at least in areas that experience four distinct seasons, animals work like crazy to put away food for the winter and the trees lose their leaves. Not only is for the time to work and harvest, it's also a time when we're called to let things go. Even in pop culture, we see the idea of seasons of life. Now, I'll try not to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but the movie Avengers End game begins with the superheroes.
Having just gone through the season of fall, they've had to release and say goodbye to a lot. As the movie opens, Captain America and the others are in a deep winter trying to heal and reflecting on what's happened. Then there's a shift. Suddenly, a character we haven't seen returns and brings with him a new idea about how the team might move forward. They move into spring and intense learning season where learning and experiment are the two top things.
And then it's go time, summer, when they finally put their plan into action in fall. We have to release what it's time to release so that we can complete the cycle and make room for the new. But what happens when we resist, whether it's ignoring repairs that need to be made on a house or in a relationship? Maybe it's recognizing that a friendship has run its course, but still hanging on. We've all resisted releasing things who cycle or time has ended.
And that's exhausting because we're working harder, trying to make that job of that relationship work for us when it's just time for things to change. Imagine if trees tried to hold onto their leaves as the leaves are trying to be shed. Right. It's just not possible. Or again, it can create that feeling like no matter what you do, things just aren't coming together. It could be that you're ignoring a change that needs to be made. You should be trying to hold on to those dying leaves.
It can be hard to see the reality of what it's time to let go of because it requires that we take the time to reflect and look at our lives and relationships with honest eyes. We have to ask ourselves what it's time to let go of and to give ourselves a chance to hear the true answer. And that can be more challenging than it sounds. So I'm going to give you an exercise that will seem simple but can be challenging when you actually do it.
And I'm going to ask you to write down what you come up with. Research shows that writing things down actually results in deeper reflection and meaning, making in a study people who journal for ten to fifteen minutes daily reflecting on a problem or a challenge reported feeling more positive about their ability to resolve it. Now you can do a single long session of reflection, like taking an hour to do this, or you can do multiple short sessions, like taking a week and doing this for 10 to 15 minutes each morning.
Take a screenshot right now of where we are, because you're going to want to come back to this later on. So you remember what minutes and seconds were at where you know, where we're nearly just over halfway through the podcast. I like the hour because you can really drop in deep at your reflection, but I realize you might not have that luxury of time either way. I want you to try a practice that I wrote about in my book, Think Like a Monk, which is to gently repeat a question over and over to find the deepest answers for yourself.
In the book, I wrote about an experience when I was a monk of diving to my deepest fears by again and again asking myself, What am I afraid of for this exercise? I want you to ask yourself, what can I release? It may take you a few minutes to quiet your mind and your thoughts, and that's fine. Just close your eyes, take some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Ask yourself again, what can I release and write down?
Whatever comes up, it might be a feeling, a person, an idea, whatever it is, jot down what comes up. Then take a deep breath, close your eyes and ask yourself again, what can I release again? This is designed to help you sink down to your deepest knowing of what you are ready to release. You want the deepest answer you can find. Maybe it's a toxic pattern in relationship. Maybe it's a goal with your business that isn't the right fit for you.
Maybe it's the idea that if you don't take one million dollars or one hundred thousand dollars or some other amount this year, that you're not succeeding. Maybe it's a limiting belief. Like you aren't smart or resourceful enough to meet a goal or to make a vision for yourself come true or to find true love. Maybe it's a reliance on eating sugar to improve your mood or some of the practice that's not healthy for your body that you're ready to let go.
Now, the process for letting go of those practices or patterns can look very different for each, depending on what it is, but that's the first part to get a clear idea of what it's time to let go of or shift. And even identifying those things can actually start to help them shift. Just seeing and getting clear on those issues and patterns and behaviors that it's time to let go of is at least half the work. Once you identify something, it's time to let go.
You know where you're headed. OK, now we're on to winter. Winter is a time of reflection and death and of quiet.
I like to think of it as a time of sparse beauty because so much color and what normally catches our attention is going away. And we can see some of the deeper things that are there inside ourselves. When things drop away, like those leaves dropping in the fall, we're left with a clearer view of where and who we are if we choose to pay attention. That's one of the gifts of winter. Winter is also a time of deep recovery and restoration.
Winter doesn't feel good. Sometimes it can feel cold, it can feel harsh, it can feel difficult. And maybe you feel like you're going through a winter season in your life. Maybe it feels like your relationships are cold, your challenges are harsh, and you're going from difficulty to difficulty. The biggest mistake we can make in winter is to ignore it. We don't prepare for it. We don't accept it. We keep thinking something's wrong and want to make it better.
Not realizing that actually just by simply leaning into winter, we will actually be able to go through it. Just like when you're experiencing a season in real life, if you ignore that it exists, it may hurt you more than if you accept and embrace it. Winter, to me is a time when moving forward doesn't look like creating and producing. It's where we move forward by going deeper, by reflecting on who we are and where we are in our lives to notice the things we normally don't notice.
It's a time of slowing down, a time of protecting and preserving the fact that so many of us were sort of forced into a winter last year because of the pandemic may have been purposeful on some level, a sort of correcting of the balance, because so many of us have been driving hard for so long. I had so many people tell me last year, gee, now that I have all this time, now that my schedule is quietened down, I'm feeling all these things I've never felt and seeing things I never saw that might have been challenging for a lot of us who had really gotten out of touch with ourselves.
And that's what happens when we try to be in perpetual summer. We're focused on the externals. Winter brings us back to the internal focus. Here's a supportive practice for you. If you find that you're in winter right now, Stephen Cutler, who is the peak performance expert I mentioned before, says that one of the secrets of high achievers that they understand is that recovering is just as important as doing. Resting is just as important to progress as anything else we do.
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman says that it isn't until we downshift that we actually start learning specifically all of the neurochemicals that were activated in our brains when we were in summer, pushing ourselves to produce new things and driving forward those neurochemicals that were released, mocked our brains for learning. They marked areas for growth and change in our brains. But get this, our brains don't actually change until we downshift and until we rest. Here's what I find fascinating. When I'm when I'm thinking about this in sharing this with you is that we think progress only looks like doing, but progress can be resting.
We think progress only looks like stuff happening for us externally. But progress can be preparing and learning. Progress looks like a lot of different things in different seasons, right? Progress in spring can look different to progress in fall. And the biggest mistake we can make is to think progress only appears to us in one way and we keep forcing that type of progress. I hope this is deeply resonating with you that are you looking for progress in the wrong way?
Are you wanting it to be a season that it isn't currently in your life? It's the same when you go to the gym and you do a big strength training workout, like maybe you're working your chest and your triceps really hard or whatever it may be, and you may have been working hard and burning it out at the gym, but the actual muscle growth doesn't happen until you rest. That's what the season of winter does for us on a larger scale.
When we actually go with its flow, it hits our reset button. Here's a specific practice to calm your body into that rest state for deep recovery. It's a combination of meditation and breath work and breath work is a great way to bring your nervous system down, to calm it down, because that big, slow movement of your diaphragm directly communicates to your brain that it's time to slow down. You can use your body in that way to direct your brain and your nervous system.
You want to get into a comfortable position. I like a seated position with your legs comfortably crossed. Or you can do this line back in a bed. I like seated upright because your chest and your belly have an easier time to expand and you're less likely to fall asleep. But if you fall asleep, that's okay too. That might just be your brain and body telling you it's time to sleep. And that's what you need right now. Again, take a screenshot on.
They say he can come back to this when it's time for the practice to take a screenshot right now to start, you're just going to close your eyes and breathe gently into your nose and out your mouth for a few breaths and just notice your breathing.
You inhale, you feel your stomach expand as opposed to your. Breathe into your belly when you exhale, feel your belly gently contract. Continue this at your own pace for a few more breaths. Now, when you inhale, feel you're taking in positive, uplifting energy and when you exhale, feel that you're breathing out and risk releasing any negative or toxic energy, do that for a few more cycles. Now you're going to shift your breathing deeply for four seconds, then exhale for longer than four seconds, gently using your abdominal muscles to lightly push out that breath until you've completed a full acceleration.
Then repeat breathing in for four seconds and out for more than four seconds. I recommend that you spend at least 20 minutes a day, at least three days a week doing this kind of breath work. If you're in winter, it can be especially helpful if you're feeling frazzled or burned out. And again, it's OK if you fall asleep while you're doing it. The point is to help your body and your brain relax deeply. And if while you're doing this meditation, some reflections and realizations come up for you, go ahead and write them down.
Take five minutes at the end of your session and write down any insights that came to you or that come to you in those five minutes when we have been going and going and we finally encounter some stillness, it's common for us to see things we haven't seen before. As Albert Camus once wrote in the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me they lay an invincible summer.
OK, let's move on to our last season spring. I saved spring for last because it's a time of renewal. I mentioned earlier that last year for me was a full season loss of productivity and lots of letting go this year are moving into spring. Spring is a time of rejuvenation and rebirth. I know I'm in a spring season now because when I tune in to myself, what I feel is the desire for newness. This we all need to learn new things to read and to listen and just fill up my mind with new ideas, with new old wisdom, if that makes sense, along with new science.
And I want to give myself time and space to make new connections and gain new insights for myself. Maybe some of you are feeling that too. Spring is a time for what you may have been heard called beginner mind.
It's a mindset where you're approaching life with almost this childlike fascination and curiosity so you can learn. Whereas winter is more contemplative and reflective, spring is like give me new material to work with in winter. You're kind of looking through where you've been and what you have, and in spring you're wanting something new and different. Yoko Ono once shared something really beautiful about our connection with the seasons that I want to share with you. She said spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence and winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. I love that idea of spring connected with innocence and that links to the practice I'm going to give you to support yourself, Steven Cottler says. We've got a mental tool that's like free fuel for passion, that when we engage it, it effortlessly propels us and it's a tool we all have. The tool is curiosity. Spring is a time of following your curiosity.
It's a time of exploring topics. You're interested in creating a vision board or brainstorming new ideas for your business or trying new things with your romantic relationship. A few weeks ago, I offered a Friday podcast on how to expand your range. And if you're in spring season, if you missed it, I recommend you go back and listen to it, because I provide some ideas for following your curiosity, such as how to engage in an intentional sampling period.
This week, I wanted to give you something totally different that's going to play on your curiosity and also help you build a critical skill along with some relationships. This is a listening practice and it's focused on something called generous listening. Krista Tippett, host of the podcast on Being, says, Generous listening is powered by curiosity. When we listen generously, we ask questions without presuming answers. Our only goal is to learn. And science shows that when we truly listen to people, we create trust and deepen relationships.
Now, one of the reasons we struggle to listen to people is because we don't ask good questions. If we ask boring questions will get boring answers. So learning how to ask better questions makes us a better listener. Your generous listening practice is to choose three people. There can be a family member, friend, colleague, mentor, or maybe someone you just like to get to know better or learn something new about them. You're going to invite each of these people to basically a one sided conversation.
And I call it that because you're going to be asking the questions and simply listening to the answers. Imagine your sort of interviewing the person. The best interviewers go deep. Remember, your only goal here is to learn what matters more than the answers the person gives is how intently you listen to them. Let yourself ask follow up questions to explore their answers even further, just like I do with my guests for this exercise. It doesn't matter who you choose because I truly believe everyone has something to teach us.
You can set out with your own questions. I recommend having three to five. That's all you need. And here are some. If you're struggling, what's something you wish more people knew about you? What? Something that tends to be misunderstood about you. What's a viewpoint you have that might be surprising to others? How did you arrive at that viewpoint? What drives or motivates you? You'll invite three people for their own thirty minute conversation where you simply ask these questions or are the ones you like.
And after the conversation, take at least five minutes to reflect on what you've learned. What surprised you? Did your perspective on anything shift? Now notice that general listening is a practice you'll be able to use any time, not just in spring. Similarly, the seasons will overlap a bit here and there. It's not only in winter. We need rest and recovery. We need to build that into all of our seasons to some degree. If you do some reflecting, you start to notice the predominant theme of season you're in right now.
And if you embrace that and go with the seasonal flow, I promise you will be an incredible season to experience.
Also, don't forget that simple practice from Andrew Huberman that you can use no matter what season you're in watching the sunrise and Sunset so that the natural light can help to regulate your body's clocks and cycles, even if you can do it only one day a week, please do it.
Spend ten minutes outside if you can, or looking through clear windows so your eyes can take in that full natural light.
I know that we went over a lot in this episode, so relax and share with a friend and discuss it makes you go back to the parts that you screenshot and share what season you're in and what you're learning from it and dropping out in the comments. As always, I'd love to hear from you.
Thank you so much for listening to On Purpose. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you and I'm sure will be connected again next week.
Thank you. Hey, guys, this is Jay again, just a few more quick things before you leave. I know we try to focus on the good every day, and I want to make that easier for you. Would you like to get a short email from me every week that gives you an extra dose of positivity? Weekly Wisdom is my newsletter. Write down whatever's on my mind that I think may uplift your week. Basically little bits of goodness that are going to improve your well-being.
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This podcast was produced by Dust Light Productions, our executive producer from Duss lt is Michelle Usif. Our senior producer is Julianna Bradley. Our associate producer is Jacqueline Castillo. Valentino Rivera is our engineer. Our music is from Blue Dot Sessions and special thanks to Rachel Garcia, the dust like development and operations coordinator.