Seasons of Change

by Debbie Mytels, September 25, 2014

As the Earth’s cycle turns to autumn, many cultures – and our educational systems – consider it the beginning of a “new year.” So as the leaves turn brown and fall, it’s an important time to reflect on what’s been accomplished during the past and what can be done differently in the time to come.  So a dozen enthusiastic members of the Transition Palo Alto/Silicon Valley Steering Committee — along with reps from Heart Beat Earth, Sunnyvale Cool, Move to Amend, the Fools Mission and the Palo Alto Unitarian Church Green Sanctuary Committee — organized an evening workshop on “Seasons of Change” on September 10 led by Menlo Park author and career counselor Carol McClelland, Ph.D.

Carol developed the workshop from ideas in her 1998 book, “Seasons of Change: Using Nature’s Wisdom to Grow Through Life’s Inevitable Ups and Downs.”  This inspiring book analyzes the process of personal change.  It start with the “autumn” feeling that “something needs to change,” then moves into the “early winter” of confusion and questioning, and then to the dark solstice of despair – and the search for “sparks of light.”  Out of this darkness in “late winter” some new seeds of possible choices develop – and by spring they can burst into bloom with new energy for some new growth and initiatives.  By summer the changes are thriving and you feel the full enjoyment of life.  And then, perhaps, the process will continue to cycle again.  For those of us who have gone through some deep personal changes, this pattern rings very true and we’ve learned to look towards the natural world for reassurance and wisdom — in both dark times and in abundance.

In her current work, Carol is now exploring how these “Seasons of Change” apply not only to individuals going through the cycles of their lives, but also how these seasons occur in the life of organizations, social movements, and society as a whole.  The goal of the September 10 workshop was to introduce Transition activists to the Seasons of Change concepts, giving us all a common language – and a roadmap of sorts – for examining the effectiveness of the work we are doing and setting a course for the future.

When applying these concepts to organizational life, Carol also pointed out some of the pitfalls that can happen as an organization grows through the cycles.  One obvious challenge is that a group fails to notice “the signs of fall” – and keeps doing the same things while declining in vitality and effectiveness.  Another pitfall is failing to stop for reflection, allowing for a period of dark solistice resting, questioning, waiting . . .  Still a third mistake is to jump too quickly to solutions, rushing into action without being prepared for its consequences or planning for follow through. Embedding the Seasons of Change metaphor into its organizational culture can help a group become more vital and to weather the storms of change both internal and external.

As our local Transition movement and its friends who attended the workshop continue to evolve, we will all be enriched by the deep Earth wisdom that Carol shared with us!

If you are a part of a group that would like to experience one of Carol’s workshops, you can contact Carol via her Green Career Central website: