Earlier this year I was feeling depleted and exhausted – part of me wanted to dive in to the new year with the enthusiasm of a sprinter hearing the starting gun at a race – to charge toward my impossible goals. But more of me wanted to curl up with my journal and a cup of tea, reflect deeply, and move slowly. While feeling that internal tug of war, I wrote this piece honoring my own winter-
Even in the San Francisco sunshine and this heat wave, I remember -
we can’t escape winter. We can choose a location, travel between timezones and escape the cold – but that internal winter can’t be so easily evaded.
Winter, that time of dark, drained of energy, and curled up with a chill that no blanket can warm. A time where looking outside (or in), a glance might just trick you into believing that everything isn’t just dormant – but dead.
Curled up I wonder – and that alone starts the shift. Just to wonder, to feel curious, what is true here? A Chicago girl, I love the stillness of waking to a winter morning blanketed in white. A hush that calls for tentative steps – listening for the quiet crunch of the snow, feeling it crackle beneath each step, noticing the glimmer of sun on the snowflakes and the crystalline ice surrounding small buds, tiny reminders that growth and blossoming is the order of things – even if it clearly isn’t time yet.
Can I wonder just the same about my own winter? Get curious and still enough to notice what is shifting, cracking, glimmering – even in the dark? Can I be quiet enough, move slowly enough to see the tiny buds of desire as they emerge – even if they feel frozen, fleeting, not yet able to be held?
I can’t will the arrival of Spring. But my attention is oxygen for those embers of desire. Can I trust the inescapable turn of the seasons – maybe just enough to welcome winter, relish in the darkness, be nourished by turning inward and allow those little glimmers to delight?
Energy and EQ
Once I gave myself permission – permission to be still, to go inward, to honor that desire for slowness – I noticed the little glimmers. The brilliance and surge of energy that arose while talking with a dear friend. The delight that bubbled up when I drew a picture of my new vision for the new year. And the way my energy was strongest during and after time with my clients.
I came back to my favorite practice for building energy
1 slow down and welcome how you actually feel
2 relish the delight
3 pay attention and choose based on what you notice
Emotional Intelligence requires awareness – that capacity to simply observe ourselves with curiosity and without judgment - and then to choose based on what we discover.
This type of awareness has transformed my life (and that of many of my clients.) Years ago, when I was working as a corporate attorney, by 6PM or 7PM at the end of my work day, I would often be exhausted and longing to crawl into bed. And then I started teaching Negotiation at Stanford Law School from 6:30-9:30 at night. With student questions and a long commute, I wouldn’t get home from class until around 11pm. Yet, something unexpected was happening – instead of being exhausted when I walked in my door, I was energized, not with a mind racing through my to do list, but with a buzz of joy from teaching. On the nights that I taught, I was consistently energized and awake until 3AM. It was striking – and I got curious. What else was I doing that left me energized?
So I took on a 30 day practice – after every activity I marked in my calendar a + or a – noting whether it gave me more or less energy. I was simply curious and tracking like I was on my own anthropological study – not deciding what or who *should* be energizing but simply noticing. I paid attention to the nuance – beginning to notice who was in the meetings, what were we discussing, what was my role – in the times I was most energized.
But I didn’t just notice and then toss away those moments of delight as research – I relished them, I held them and let them fuel me. As neuroscientist Rick Hanson says in his book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence,
“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience — even the comfort in a single breath — you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.”
Relishing the delight that is already here matters — and provides even more fuel for new choices. So for me, at the end of those 30 days I looked closely at my calendar – and could see who and what truly brought me alive. And I honored that insight by using it as my due north, my unique compass, to reorganize my work and play as I created my business. That act of simply noticing what brings me energy, putting my attention there, and celebrating those glimmers of light – was my path toward my real impact.
Are there activities like that for you – ones that have you feel energized, present and on fire? Can you relish them and get even more curious for the next 30 days and see what emerges?