And how to use them to make the career or life change you’ve been searching for
If we looked at every season of life as a mountain, we’d find ourselves exhausted and often feeling like we’ve failed.
Life invariably takes us through many different landscapes. Here we’ll explore the big four: mountains, rivers, forests, and deserts. Each one possesses wisdom and power to help move through life with greater ease and purpose.
The key is to know what season you are in and which landscape offers the best means to get you where you want to go.
Mountains push us beyond our current limits. You’ll know you are in this season when you are pursuing a clear goal. The compelling summit ahead of you is drawing you forth.
The goal will require immense discipline and tenacity. You will need to be focused almost purely on that goal, especially as you get closer to the summit. Everything else will drop away.
There are times when you discover you’ve been climbing the wrong mountain. These experiences can bring a sense of failure and directionlessness. It invites a new season and a new landscape.
There’s a lot to celebrate when you do reach the summit, and invariably this begins the descent. Coming off the summit of a mountain can sometimes compel us to set the next goal.
Taking time to explore other landscapes between mountains is equally powerful.
Rivers invite us to flow with life. There are times when the goal is an unknown destination we cannot yet see. The best way to get there is to surrender to life.
The river can show up in many areas of our life — relationships, work, friendship, spirituality. It is important to honour those seasons where it’s okay to be carried along for a bit.
Rivers often meander. Honour that the best way to your destination is not always a straight line.
It is easy to mistake the river as a passive experience, and it should be known that sometimes the flow of life can be so strong and intense that it can carry you faster than you can handle.
If we aren’t aware, it is possible to hit rapids and turbulent times. Pulling off to the side of respite and self-care becomes important. This means taking time to reassess and plot the best path through the next set of rapids.
Just as we may not make it to the summit of every mountain, we may also decide the river is not taking us where we want to go. At such a point we need to powerfully decide to pursue a new landscape.
For many of us, life is like a forest — full, complex, and busy.
Forests invite us to be able to see both the woods (the big picture) and the trees (the detail). Often, when trying to navigate one’s way through the dark corridors, it is very difficult to get a higher perspective.
The path through a forest is often not clear. The clearest path is to stay high, out of the gullies. Find outlooks and openings that bring clarity and perspective. Elevate yourself daily.
Forests encourage us to stay in the present moment and attend to what is needed now. But it is only through elevating above the canopy that we get any perspective of the whole and what our destination might be.
Forests offer growth in finding mutual support and interconnectedness. Survival relies on humility to receive help from others and generosity to give it where needed.
The desert is a landscape many of us have been less familiar with — at least until the pandemic. It is characterised by the qualities of isolation and having no horizon.
Deserts offer the hidden gift of having no destination, which is important at various times of our life. The lack of destination forces us to reflect and be present to whatever is arising in each moment.
But unlike forests, these environments have less outer stimulation. Survival requires us to dig deep into hidden reserves we forgot were available to us. It’s where we tap into our inner resilience.
As we become more adept at surviving these seasons, we learn to welcome these into our lives. If life in other landscapes isn’t working out, and especially if coming off a mountain or out of the forest, welcoming a season of the desert can be powerful.
More important than any landscape is the ability to consciously and powerfully move between them. We can learn to recognize what season we most need, how to embrace it, and how to map our journey through it.