“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (The Bible, New International Version)

A thought-provoking conversation

I had an interesting conversation with a friend some years ago regarding an issue I’d battled with since I went into business. Reading through my journal entry about that conversation sparked off the idea behind this article.

The journal entry is from the early days of my business and I was struggling with physical marketing at that time.

I’m an introvert and prefer spending time alone or with a few friends and family. Time spent alone includes reading, listening to music, or just in silence. Business-wise, a day well spent includes writing, creating new products, coaching or speaking.

Marketing activities like networking and physical meetings were tough and I made a total mess of it. So I learnt to ‘fake it until I make it’. I got so good at faking confidence that people didn’t notice how much I was sweating during the process.

Anyway, our conversation hinged on the fact that I had accepted the fact that marketing was not my strength.

For the first time, I openly confessed that I didn’t like the marketing process at all. I had tried different tactics to get myself to love marketing including working with a marketing coach. It worked for some time and then fizzled out.

In contrast, I had helped my business clients become great marketers and improve their businesses using their natural skills and talents! So it was time to acknowledge that this ‘trying to market’ season was over and stop trying to make it work my way!

I’m not alone…

Many people try to fit into a life that’s a struggle for them. For some, this involves staying in jobs or organisations they hate, but they feel that they have to endure. Or maybe they’ve outgrown their jobs or organisations, but they’re unwilling to explore what else is available for them.

They wake up daily with a feeling of trepidation when faced with spending another day in their job. Going to work means spending most of the day with people they don’t like, or in a place that drains their energy. Then they go home in the evening – stressed, drained, unhappy – and life continues.

Day in, day out, it’s the same old grind with a few exceptions. Most times though, waking up and going to work each day is a drag.

This also happens in business and I too have been a victim. I can’t count how many times I’ve hang onto people, programs, or business activities when I should have let go!

Family and societal expectations can ruin your life

Hanging on can be due to fear and wanting to stay in your comfort zone. But I also believe that it’s partly due to our education system and societal expectations.

Many of us grew up with the idea that we have to follow the path our parents went through. This means we had to get good grades in school, go to college or university, get good jobs, and have a steady income and pension.

Others have had to follow a certain path that was already set for or decided on for them. There was no option or space for saying No. You do it because it’s expected of you or because you got great grades in school!

Beyond that comes marriage, having children, buying a shamba (farm), and building your home. We’re expected to retire between the ages of 55 and 65, collect a pension, and spend the rest of our lives in our shambas or rural homes.

In my opinion, this is not living because retirement becomes more of ‘go home and wait to die.’ Sadly, that’s the life many people live once they exit active employment.

The seasons of our life become so predetermined that we forget the words of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. We forget to go with the ebb and flow of life and go with what is expected of us instead.

Examine and learn from your past seasons of life

Something needs to shift if you want to live life on your own terms while also flowing with the seasons of life. Below is an exercise that has worked for myself and my clients.

Deliberate practice of this exercise will help you become more aware of the seasons in your life. This makes it easier to identify when a season is ending and when it’s time to let go of a season that’s come to an end.

Best of all, you’ll have skills for handling tough seasons like mourning, loss of a job, business or income, illness, and other turbulent times. This will help you grow faster, even during sad and painful times.

Try this exercise

Take some time to examine your life and see instances when life took care of you without you having to lift a finger. Remember what it was that you were asking or wishing for and how easily and effortlessly it fell into your hands.

Then look in the opposite direction and identify the things you are trying to force that are not working.

Examine all areas of your life: personal growth, health, relationships, romance, finances, career/work/business, spirituality, philanthropy…everything.

  • Take a deep look and identify where you have tried over and again but have produced no or poor results.
  • Also, identify where you’ve regressed as you tried to make things work.

Once you have identified the areas where you’re forcing things, pick one and choose to let it go. Accept that this season of life is over and just let it go.

Then make a decision about what you want and allow life to bring what is best for you to you when the season is right.

This doesn’t mean that you just sit and wait for magic and miracles to happen.

The act of allowing means that you’re actively living and taking advantage of the opportunities that appear. So keep an eye out for signs that what you want is starting to manifest. Then take action on all opportunities that show up – big and small.

Finally, also learn to identify when a season is ending so that you’re able to let it go as the new one begins.

A personal positive experience

After the conversation with my friend, I sat down to write a blog post. While it was very clear to me that my challenge with marketing was to be the basis of the article, I didn’t know how the actual article would end up.

Two hours later, I had pounded out over 2,000 words on my laptop. I read through and deleted everything!

As I sat looking at the blank Word screen I got an idea to use the verse from Ecclesiastes as a starting point for the article.

The moment I read the verse, I realised just how much I had been trying to stick to a season that had already ended for me.

With hindsight, I could now see that trying to make things work in the way everyone was telling me I should do was never going to work. I also faced the reality that I have never had to market to the clients I had worked with, at least not in the traditional sense.

The moment I wrote the previous sentence, I took a pause and asked myself, “What in the world was I thinking when I created a marketing strategy and tried to ‘fit’ myself into it?

The answer to this question revealed that regular marketing rarely brought me clients.

I was focusing so much on creating a door in the wall – a door that didn’t exist – while life was trying to show me that a window I was ignoring was letting in exactly what I wanted!

Forced marketing can work, but is it worth it?

In fact, the people I actively market to, the ones I have to call, send follow up emails to, and call again until they either say ‘No’ or accept to work with me, are the ones that ended up being my ‘not-so-ideal’ clients.

  • Most demanded a lot and expected magic from coaching without having to put in some work themselves.
  • They bargained about the fee and I was left feeling as if I was robbed.
  • Many of those who signed up for coaching and paid didn’t complete their assignments in time. Some didn’t even complete their coaching programs!

Don’t get me wrong…there was nothing wrong with these people. The problem was that the relationship was not conducive for both of us and is clearly not a win-win situation.

It was such a relief when I decided to only work with my ideal clients and only when it was clear that this was a win-win relationship.

In contrast, my best and ideal clients are people I’ve never marketed to

  • I’m just going about my life as usual, doing what I love, or helping someone out. I meet someone, they get interested in what I do…and become clients.
  • They get referred by someone I know or have coached. They contact me, we have a Discovery Call, and they sign up.
  • Other times I’m speaking somewhere (something I love doing) or someone reads an article or social media post I’ve written, they contact me…and the story continues.

They find me when I’m living my life or doing what I love

Most of the people in the second category pay my full fee without question. This happens despite the fact that they did not know me, we were total strangers.

Some do ask for a discount due to their economic circumstances. In such cases, we work out something that’s both affordable for them and also a good fit for me. And then we go ahead and have a great coaching relationship.

I also love the fact that these clients:

  • Respect time.
  • Are eager for the coaching.
  • Appreciate the work we do together.
  • Take their coaching seriously.
  • Complete most of their assignments in time and let me know when they are unable to do so or are stuck.
  • Make massive changes in their lives during and after the coaching.

Most of all, they challenge me to become better at what I do because they move very fast. There are times when I’ve had to abandon session plans because the clients have coached themselves.

Coaching them is a great win for me and being coached is a great win for them.

Beyond clients, I’ve noticed that the business has it’s own seasons. Again, it’s also much easier to flow with these seasons than try to force the business into something else.

A personal negative experience

There are instances when holding on to a painful season can have negative repercussions that harm you and your loved ones.

My experience with this is from a close family member – my aunt.

My grandmother was murdered in July 2007. Nothing has come out of the case to date despite some people being arrested for the crime. The arrests and subsequent court cases have been a long game with the judicial system to the time of writing this article.

Since my grandmother’s death, my aunt has held a grudge against many people – the killers, the police, the magistrate, my grandmother’s neighbours, other relatives, and the world in general.

She got so bitter that the only thing she talked about with passion were the details of her mother’s death. She also attended and disrupted court proceedings with her claims, which partially led to delays in the justice she was keen on getting.

Negativity breeds complications

Sadly, my aunt allowed that painful season to determine her life to a very large extent. Over the years, her health deteriorate. She was already diabetic and with time, she also developed hypertension.

The illnesses became one more reason to be angry. The angrier she got, the worse her health got. She ended up spending a lot of money on medication and was in a lot of pain.

Even sadder is the fact that many people (myself included) avoided her. Being with her for even 5 minutes brought such negativity into your life that you end up feeling physically sick. We love her, but we didn’t want to get involved in all that negative vibe.

Other family members mourned and moved on. It was a painful process for all of us, but most people got over it by choosing to celebrate grandma’s life instead of allowing her death to rule our lives. We now remember grandma with fondness and have kind of made peace with the lack of justice.

Personally, I learned a lot about my lineage from grandma’s funeral. I learnt that I come from a lineage of pioneer women, women who are not afraid to take risks.

It was astonishing to learn that my grandma was one of the first Africans to plant tea and coffee in her locality. This was at a time when Africans would be arrested by the White settlers for trying to do so.

During and after her funeral, I kept wondering, “Just who was Cucu (grandmother)?”

I was also quite impressed when a Bishop travelled all the way from Rift Valley (hundreds of kilometres away) to officiate the funeral. During his speech, he revealed that my grandma had mentored him when he was a young pastor.

Both negative and positive seasons can have positive lessons and endings

On the day of my grandma’s funeral, I started seeing myself in a new light. It also became clear why all my life, I have been involved in careers that are ‘emerging’ in Africa, coaching included. It’s my lineage.

This was a painful season and different people handled it in different ways with each person having different results depending on how fast they got over the season.

Luckily, my aunt has since changed and embraced a more positive and healthier way of living. I met her early this month at a funeral and was amazed to see her looking so good and talking so positively!

We talked again a few weeks after the funeral and the positive attitude has remained. In fact, she’s now taken up a mission to unite the family and to ensure that all the cousins and their children know each other.

It’s clearly a new season for her, one that she’s deliberate about.

The seasons of life continue…

This was not an easy article to write. I struggled with the first draft for 5 hours because it felt like looking into a mirror.

That draft got shelved and stayed there for 7 years…till today. I’m still not sure whether I should publish it or not, but I guess this time I have no choice.

The main lesson for me is that when you go with the ebb and flow of life, life gets easier to handle.

This is especially true when you learn that there is “…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…” as stated in Ecclesiastes.

  • Stop searching and allow life to bring you what is best for you now.
  • Stop holding on to things, people, events, careers, jobs, businesses, ideas…whatever it is that is already beyond its ‘let go by…’ date.
  • Stop holding on to the good seasons.
  • Stop holding on to painful memories and allow laughter back into your life.

In short, simply allow both good and painful seasons of life to pass. Enjoy the good ones and hang in there during the painful and tough ones.

I used to hold on to what was familiar instead of taking what life was offering me. This led to many missed opportunities. Additionally, I sometimes held onto pain because I was afraid of letting go. Pain can be comfortable when you’re not sure of what comes next.

Another key lesson is to stop holding on to the very nice and peaceful seasons or rush through the painful ones. I just live through them, knowing that life only gives me seasons I’m equipped to handle. Looking back, I can also see that I grew during the painful seasons, especially when I allowed myself to flow with life.

I’ve come to accept that no season lasts forever and that seasons of life are just that – seasons. Many times, the best thing to do is wait until the season is over and to let go of the present season as I step into the next one.

How about you?

I’m sure you too have enough examples of times when you get what you want without having to work for it or to use the ‘regular’ methods for getting it. It seems like magic, but there it is in your life without effort.

You probably also have painful lessons from times when you held on to seasons that were over. And you must also have learnt from some painful seasons and moved on with the new knowledge.

Good seasons of life are easy, but it’s also important to learn to let them go when the time comes.

When life forces you out of a season, it’s normally not a very comfortable thing because you are not ready. This results in unnecessary pain, even at the beginning of what later becomes a beautiful season.

Give yourself permission today to let go of the seasons you’re holding on to. Don’t wait for life to force you out if the season is up for you and you’re refusing to move on. Allow these seasons to end.

Additionally, give yourself permission to embrace the new ones that come even as you learn from the past ones.

Looking back, can you identify seasons that you hang onto and those that you let go of easily? What were the results? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

(Photo by Ivan Vranić on Unsplash)

This article is a tribute to my niece Claire Muthoni who passed away in a road accident on 20th February 2022, just a month shy of her 21st birthday. Losing Claire made me reflect again about going with the ebb and flow of life…and that’s how this article got polished up and published. Claire lived life fully and she had an amazing ability to connect with people of all ages and to flow with seasons of her life. She’s greatly loved and missed by family and friends.

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