Many years ago, I overheard a woman giving sound advice to a young girl about waiting out the four seasons that evolve in relationships before making the decision to marry. The girl who received the advice shared that she had met her perfect partner and had quickly fallen in love. Their relationship was everything she had ever hoped for. Although they were both in their early 20s and had dated for only a couple of months, they were ready to make the lifetime commitment to marry.
Over the years, I have thought many times about this valuable advice about waiting out the four seasons of relationships, and although I was only a bystander to the dialogue and don’t know the outcome of the conversation, it stirred a thought process within me about the advantages of waiting for the evolution of values that the four seasons of living a full life eventually bring about within relationships—including the relationship we have with ourselves.
The four seasons vary significantly in ecological characteristics and bring about an array of changes that include splendor, as well as challenges. These are periods of planting, cultivating, harvesting, and feasting. So, too, do our values evolve during the passing of the years as we plant our personal and professional seeds,cultivate our standards and beliefs, harvest our ideals, and take pleasure in our outcomes.
Seasons of Life
Springtime reminds us of new love, the innocence of a child, and the planting of seeds that will blossom with good care, sunshine, and water over the years of nurturing. As children, most values are centered on the emotional needs of feeling and consist of interaction with parents, including touch and nourishment. As teens, our values expand to include friends, possessions, independence, self-expression, and a desire for control. In our 20s, our hormones set in motion the process of connecting with that special someone whose closeness and attention we most desire and value, and it is at this time that our social awareness begins to register the value that relationships add to our lives. We begin to welcome the connections outside of ourselves and become aware of the effect they have on our lives. In their book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves write, “Instead of looking inward to learn about and understand yourself, social awareness is looking outward to learn about and appreciate others.” Spring highlights the value of relationships.
Summer is the cultivating and growing season. Making the time to nurture our standards and beliefs, summer is the time to care for the goals that we have thus far seeded in our lives. In our 30s and 40s and through our careers, associations, parenting, personal growth, climbing the corporate ladder, owning a business, or volunteerism, we have interactions that place a demand on our valuable time. Our work life may be filled with compromise and sacrifice in the form of working long hours or working with those whose values are dissimilar to our own. Through life challenges, we become aware of the importance of bouncing back and cultivating resiliency in our efforts. These are the times for refining and fostering our goals and anchoring our new values. Remembering that goals will change and expand and our personal journey will continue to grow, so will our values deepen and refine who we have become.
Just as the seasons are fluid, we continue to negotiate our standards and navigate our beliefs along the way, not always in a straight line, but deviating occasionally to gather ourselves once again. This is not the time to give up on ourselves—but to stay the course of our journey. As Angela Duckworth writes in her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, “On any long journey, detours are to be expected.” Summer fosters the value of resiliency.
Fall is the time for harvesting. The saying, “You reap what you sow,” comes to mind as we enter into the autumn of our lives. If one is open to gathering the experiences of having lived full lives, reflecting upon the challenges that have occurred and accepting that life is filled with opportunities for harvesting the knowledge that we have gathered along the journey, we will prevail and enter the sweet spot of wisdom. In our 50s and 60s, we now understand that disturbances of the seasons in our lives are a natural process of cleansing, revitalizing, and focusing on what is truly important for our happiness and for those whom we care about. Our wisdom helps us become more considerate, well-informed, and better at solving problems. All of life is a continuing process of solving problems. In our personal lives with family and friends, the better we are at soothing and calming the stormy times that come our way, the healthier our relationships. In our work lives, what is work but solving more problems? The more problems we solve, the more successful we become. I appreciate what Martin Seligman states in his book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, about knowledge. He states that it’s no longer just “ornamental knowledge” that we gather in our process of growing, but knowledge that solves the real problems of life. The value of fall is wisdom.
The season of winter is our time to feast. In the 70s and above, we plant seeds in a new stage of life, cultivating fresh and more intimate relationships as a contentedness arrives in the hearts of those who are enjoying the winter celebration of life. I see these winter warriors simplifying their material possessions, downsizing their spaces, feasting on freedom to explore new vistas, appreciating well-being and a sound mind, and simultaneously deepening healthy relationships. As Theologian Richard Rohr writes in Falling Upward, “If you are on course at all, your world would grow much larger … but, I must tell you that, in yet another paradox, your circle of real confidants and truly close friends will normally grow smaller, and also more intimate.” Reflecting on accomplishments in our later, wiser years will allow us to appreciate the value of connections and enjoy the outcome of contentment knowing that all lives have mattered in the development of our own life. Winter celebrates the value of deeper connections through our relationships.
We have weathered yet another year of the four seasons, and our values have been shaped by the experiences we have had and the relationships we have held close. We will continue to plant seeds, cultivate our standards and beliefs, harvest our ideals, and take pleasure in our outcomes. As for the advice given to our young girl about waiting out the four seasons: Many relationships begin in the springtime, they grow together and weather a lifetime of evolving values, and become the shining lights of true love.
Happy New Year!
Hilda Villaverde, PhD, holds a doctorate in religious studies with a minor in pastoral counseling through Emerson Institute. She is a business owner and author of five books, as well as an ordained minister and a public speaker. She presented at the inaugural Arizona Chapter HFMA HERe event in December 2013.