Accept, Emerge and Focus: Ways to Grow in All Seasons


It’s okay to hibernate

Hibernation is not just for bears and field mice anymore. Physically and emotionally, we need this winter solace to recharge. I read recently that there is dormant potential in this gray, cold and sometimes less-exciting time of January. The celebrations are over and we’re supposed to be in high gear to get things done, setting our goals and focusing on how to get ahead and prosper.

Yet, our bodies and minds crave a time out. We should accept the fact that even in the midst of everyday work and living, this time of the year is one that calls us to hibernate like a pro. We must accept the idea that we can take some time to sow the seeds that will soon flourish after the quiet welcome to the new year. It’s okay to be gentle with ourselves and others as we take time to discover what is “warming” within us. The Quaker writer and teacher, Rufus Jones, wrote: “I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.” During this time of year, it is critical that we tend to our inner selves so that we may perform better and find our purpose only to emerge anew come spring time.

Decide to wriggle free

Data suggests that January can be less productive unless we focus on the warming from within. In fact, even February is slightly less productive than the rest of the year thanks to snow, ice and long winter nights. Maybe this winter you will choose to focus less on what you do and more on what you want to be or become. We need full emotional tanks to perform at our best. If we’re sluggish, perhaps this time of year is the perfect opportunity to understand and list what is depleting to you and what is replenishing. Are you overscheduled? Just spinning your wheels? At a dead end with your career? Or just plain unhappy? Experts suggest you overcome these feelings by doing the following:

  1. Focus on self-care
  2. Limit yourself to three priorities
  3. Lighten up and clear out your clutter
  4. Take the reins and change
  5. Be iterative

Find your niche and be SMART

Just like the reliable turn of each season and the fact that winter will come to an end, we can rely on constant change in our lives. But we have choices on how to deal with these changes; embrace them, reject them or think differently about how they impact who we are and our purpose. Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH and CEO/founder of engagedIN offers what she calls the “secret sauce” of change. I had the opportunity to get to know Kyra and her work a few years ago. She has been instrumental in helping me find my niche amidst change, regardless of the season. I find myself “warming” within to discover what might emerge as the spring flowers blossom. Kyra and her team focus on the use of scientific evidence in moving a program from an idea to an action. In fact, it is my distant relationship with Kyra, which sparked my interest in the mind-body connection of behavior change and action.

I was reminded of the critical importance of behavior in performance when I took a webinar on The Science of Goal Setting: How to set high goals and actually hit them in 2018. In this webinar,  SMART goals are set as tools to manage individual behaviors. To move from goal to action, we should narrow the attention of each goal and focus only on the relevant activities – avoiding what the expert called “big, sloppy goals” that link to general concepts, but do not move us from intent to action.

The idea is similar to what Kyra calls the Brain-Behavior Gap™ on her website. Both experts suggest that in order to find your niche, change your behavior or set SMART goals that meet performance. We should also consider timing, value and specifics. It’s also important to be iterative, taking small steps to achieve big end-of-year goals. For instance, rather than simply conducting a mid-year or end-of-year performance review, why not monitor behaviors (or sub-goals) monthly, weekly or daily if possible. As humans, we relish in the visible progress of achievement. Writing down our intentions and then checking them off at the end of the day is quite satisfying, according to research.

So in order to find your niche, live purposefully within life’s ebbs and flows. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to get you started in these next few weeks of winter’s coziness:


  1. Narrow goals
  2. Tie goals to specific behaviors (baby steps are okay)
  3. Track behaviors and not outcomes


  1. Give yourself or others a goal that you/they can’t influence (be real!)
  2. Use a manager’s or organization’s goal as an individual goal (be personal!)
  3. Devise goals downward to meet low expectations (It’s okay to fall short, but aim high!)

Happy hibernating…

Just for fun…

Did you know that Swiss people have long held the title of being some of the happiest people on earth, putting stock in personal production rather than long hours? According to CNN/Money, CNN/Money  Swiss people work less than Americans but earn about the same. Most recently, much of the employers took it further as they now offer a six-hour workday with some restrictions to ensure higher productivity and more attention to personal life.


Stacie Rivera ipart of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Peg Wright

Great blog Stacie! I’ll be forwarding your insight to a few folks who are struggling with the self-imposed winter shut down. I like that you are suggesting folks narrow their focus on goals. Going big can be overwhelming and contributes to the shut down syndrome. The fallout results in a variety of outcomes, most of which are not positive. A very good read with very good advice.

As a proponent of change, I like the change in seasons and use that change to challenge myself to think differently about what can be accomplished in accordance with any restrictions the weather may bring. As long as I acknowledge what I must do to accommodate the change, I can move forward without complaint or resistance.

During winter months, in most areas of the world, the weather requires dressing differently. More clothing; different from warmer weather
Driving habits need to change, sometimes taking longer to arrive at a destination
Food choices are different, as well
And we stay indoors for longer periods of time, a real challenge for sure!


Thank you, Peg. What I enjoyed most about researching the information for this blog is that it forced me to slow down and take a strong look at where I am and why. Winter is a great time to breathe, reflect, and set a foundation to flourish. Thanks for reading and sharing!

Megan Manfredi

Thanks for this post! It’s often hard to not be hard on ourselves when we are more inclined to stay in and hibernate during winter months. I know I often feel like I’m wasting my time, but self-care through the colder and darker parts of the year is so important to stay happy and healthy.


Megan – I appreciate your comment and it’s okay to be gentle with yourself (sometimes we need to remind each other of that). Pass it along to others who may be struggling to “get it all done” rather than figuring out how to “just be.”


LOVIN’ THIS!! I’m GOING to reread it again and REALLY start working on my list and goals. Thank you for the encouragement!


Ron – Fantastic! Take the time to be true to you – when I was researching content I came across a tale that speaks of a person who uses artificial means to warm a cocoon only to find the butterfly is just not ready. We all need time to rest, emerge, and be!

Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

Thank you for these words of wisdom, Stacie! These are practical for me, especially focusing on self-care and limit myself to three priorities.


Nicole – Limiting is not easy, but essential. And remember too write it down, then check it off when done. The reward is wonderful! Be gentle with yourself.