Because September means back to school, it always reminds me of a fresh start, crunchy leaves and the sense of something new and exciting on the horizon. Unfortunately, being a parent, it also now means spending £83 in WHSmith on stuff miniature people don’t really need and will have lost by Halloween. But, setting that aside, the great thing about when “back to school” rolls around when you’re an adult is that it doesn’t have to mean actually doing anything any more. Instead, it can mean hibernating. Or what you might call “chrysalis time”.
This is an expression I picked up from the US coach Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big. (Yes, I know I mention her a lot. That’s because she is the best.) “Chrysalis time” is an incubation period for a new idea or a new direction. It might even be the start of a total reinvention. It’s that feeling you get when you know that something’s not quite right in your life, but you also know that you’re ready to change it. If only you knew what you needed to change and what you wanted it to change into… It’s a new start without the pressure of a new start.
I love this idea. We give ourselves so much stress with goals and targets and to-do lists, and we schedule things and put a date and a time on when we want them to happen by. This has become a disease of modern life. Plan, achieve, plan, achieve. I had a letter on Dear Viv recently where the correspondent was obsessed by the fact that she “should have been further on in life” than she was. I felt like whispering: “Slow down. You’re right where you need to be.”
Think of it as a time when you only have the tiniest vision of what’s coming next. Maybe you can see five per cent of the picture. Ninety-five per cent is missing
Chrysalis time is the solution to this. It’s an acknowledgement of the fact that we don’t always know what our next incarnation is going to be or even whether we need another incarnation or just an ever-so-slightly tweaked version of the person we are now. When we come out of the chrysalis, we might be a butterfly. Or we might still be a scrawny pupa insect with a slightly better haircut. (Sorry, I didn’t do biology. Pupa, right?) The fact is, we need some downtime.
Instead of screaming, “I have no idea what I’m doing with my life,” you can just think to yourself: “I think I might be having some chrysalis time right now. I’ll wake up when I’m good and ready.” If one of those weird beasties was trapped inside its chrysalis, you wouldn’t shout at it to come out sooner or try and pry it out of its pod early, would you? So why do that to yourself? Instead, take some time out to rest, give yourself a break, let some ideas germinate and give yourself some breathing space.
Tara Mohr thinks of it as a time when you only have the tiniest vision of what’s coming next. Maybe you can see five per cent of the picture. Ninety-five per cent is missing. That is a scary lot of stuff to have missing. But there’s no point in stressing out about it. Just focus on the five per cent you can see – articulate it, sit with it, think about it. Who needs to go back to school when you can go back to your cocoon? Don’t expect me to bust out of it before the spring.