As an old farm girl, I know that sometimes it is best to plow a field but leave it unsown for a season to allow the soil to regain its fertility. I have also observed that sometimes fallow periods are necessary for leaders — a time to resist planting new things to better prepare for what is to come. That sounds like a good thing, right? Well, it may sound that way, but for me (and I’m guessing most Type A leaders), when I’m in the midst of it, I hate the fallow season.
Fallow seasons aren’t like a retreat or sabbatical, where I consciously choose to step back and gain perspective. No, for me, the fallow seasons have a mind of their own. My typically strategic decision-making gets bogged down in gray fog, with no clear path forward. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels . . . and trying to force my way forward only drains my energy level. During these phases, working harder at resolving whatever issue I’m grappling with doesn’t’ help (trust me, I’ve tried). But I’ve also been doing this long enough to recognize that some of the greatest successes come when you finally break through to the other side of the fallow season.
Call it 40 days in the wilderness, exploring the shadow side of opportunities, or your subconscious jerking your chain, I have not found a way around occasionally getting stuck in the middle of a fallow season. Nor have I found a way to gracefully move through it. For me, it is a matter of perseverance and running out numerous scenarios, sometimes without even knowing what I’m moving toward on the other side. Although most leaders don’t talk about their fallow seasons, I find it hard to believe that I’m the only one who experiences them.
So if you find yourself stuck in the middle of a fallow period, how do you get to the other side? For me, in part, it’s a matter of recognizing that it’s not about me, but it’s up to me. The fallow seasons force me to seek God’s guidance, process far-flung options with my team, and search out additional perspectives from my colleagues or experts in the field. I mean seriously, heaven help us if I have all the good ideas! But no matter how much input I get from others, at some point as the leader, I have to make a decision. In most cases, after wading through the bogs of the fallow season, I am able to make a decision from a place that I never would have come to without the challenges of journey.
Maybe you’ve found a way to avoid the fallow seasons, but in case you haven’t, follow your instincts, trust your gut, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. . . . the harvest is bountiful when you get to the other side.