Models, models, models

I’ve been unfolding a series about models, not least because what we believe about a matter – which model we’re working with – is hugely influential in the outcome. In addition, the flexibility that we have over the ideas that we foster also helps us to forge the path of least resistance for ourselves.

Of course, there are a million ways to frame things. It’s that old (and actually not very pleasant) analogy to there being ‘more than one way to skin a cat’, or Simon and Garfunkel’s (also less-than-buoyant) song, ’50 ways to leave your lover’!

You get the idea; we choose which approach works for us.

Until it no longer works, and then we’re perfectly within our rights to change it (whatever it is that isn’t working).

Everything, after all, has a natural lifetime – a shelf-life, you might say (even that lover possibly!?!). Sometimes we suffer when we don’t quite understand that the end of something is nigh. (Ever stayed in a relationship when it was well and truly passed its sell-by date?! The self-induced pain of not being able to let go, perhaps…?)

But of course, with the end of one thing comes the start of something new, of course. ‘One door closes’, and all that!?

Everything’s cyclical

The ‘5 elements’ is a cyclical, whole-systems approach used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I say ‘whole-systems’ because it’s an unbelievable model which can be applied to explain and understand, well, anything! From the year, our health, business cycles, emotions, an entire life-cycle, relationships, phases in the economy…

As an aside, the ‘meridans’ – the ‘gridlines’ of connected points throughout our body, which are used in acupuncture and other healing modalities – are each governed by one of the five-elements.

The 5 elements model is incredibly simple (aren’t all the best ones?) and yet it’s explains a tremendous amount.

In simple terms it looks a little like this:


Imagine a circle, around which these phases reside…


Wood, represents spring, which in turn represents the initial growth phase (ie. when ‘the sap rises’).  This would be when you’ve just taken up a new hobby or sport – there’s a tonne to learn and get enthused about…(and no doubt a mountain of new kit to purchase!? ; )


Fire, represents the early summer. This itself represents the time when all systems are go (‘the heat is on’!?!).

Hobby-wise – take running, or triathlon – this might be when you’re fully in your flow. You know what to expect when you’re racing, for example; you know how to build up your training, you know how your body best recovers, and you know roughly where you currently are, form-wise and where you could be…and you’ve still got enough fire in your belly to get yourself there! ; )


Earth, represents late summer. During this phase things start to slow down some…you can sense that when the fruits are full and simply ripening in the glorious lazy summer days, and when the shadows are long.

Maybe you’re cruising. Maybe your enthusiasm has waned somewhat…but you participate because, well, that’s what you do! You haven’t yet turned your attention to a changing anything yet…so you’re still ploughing on through with the old – nothing is pressing itself to be changed. Apply it to any of the examples – a job, a career…


Metal, represents autumn. Autumn is when we reap what we’ve sown. There is no more growth, per se, simply the harvest of our endeavours. We take in the nutrients from the fruits and we fill the stores to overwinter. Make sure you have a sweep out of any debris before you stock back up though!

Maybe it’s time to hang up your racing flats, and start thinking about the next activity…or even coaching?

How do you think your coaches and mentors got to where they were?! And why are they now giving it back? The circle is coming back around on itself and years and years of experience are never waster…not if you choose to pro-actively pass them on; and share the learned wisdom.


Water. And finally, we reach winter.


As we’re all in the physical winter right now (as I’m sure you’re all well and truly aware!), let’s focus on this period a little, as water is super interesting. Water is about winter, when the land lays fallow, the days are short and when we, as well as ‘nature’, rests inside to rejuvenate. (At least hypothetically…oh how removed us humans are from our natural nature!?)

You might think that water represents the ending of things, but in fact the trees have done their shedding in autumn…(and what’s more, it’s the meridians of metal/autumn – the Lungs and Large Intestine – which are concerned with purging and grief) Winter is about downtime…but in order to start afresh… Winter is really the forerunner to starting over – it leads the merry pack! Because without a period to recoup and regroup, there can be no reinvigorated growth come the spring!

Once again, it’s a matter of how you decide to frame things! (Maybe see ‘Are you a starter or a finisher?’ here!) But winter is our time to take a step back and to have the mental and physical space to allow new ideas to emerge…

Back to changing your perception

It comes back to the discussion about how you perceive things, and which model you are following. Check out the other article about that here.

We have to let go of something before something fresh can take its place. Fully leave behind in 2017 what we no longer wish to take with us into 2018.

Although, of course the Chinese New Year doesn’t start at the beginning of January – their ‘new start’ is a little later…I think that they understood that we’re not through with the actual winter at the start of January; we haven’t quite finished with the resting and reposing bit, and we’re not quite ready to spring in to action! Their new year starts on the cusp of spring.

So if your new year goals don’t kick into play straight away this week, know why!

Overlapping models 

It doesn’t matter which framework you register your life against. If you have a backdrop of some sort of model, it can help navigate through life and experiences, you know, just to bolster up against if and when the proverbial hits…(as it sometimes will).

It just helps. It helps us to gauge the dynamics of a situation, it helps to understand our own actions and motivations, our strengths, weaknesses and our natural inclinations. It just seems to help make transitioning through events easier…when we have a support system in the background. Nothing feels so alienating as when we haven’t got back-up, does it?

Although ‘the ancients’ seem to have worked ‘it’ all out pretty well, I think that a deep-seated need to have a framework with which to understand ourselves better is why all of those psychology models are all the rage – the Honey & Mumford’s learning styles or Carl Jungs’ archetypes, the Enneagram types, the Myers & Briggs preferences…or even your ‘Colour’ personality (and umpteen other models… and let’s not forget about ‘star signs’ and the Chinese zodiac, of course! ; )

‘Hocus-pocus!’ you might think, but haven’t you been surprised at the remarkable accuracy of your ‘INFP’ or your ‘ESTJ’* malarkey?!

*Myers-Briggs personality types.

Regardless of how much notice you take of such models…(and essentially they are all overlapping models in many ways helping to explain how you are…what your nature is) they can help us to better understand ourselves, our motives and our possible pitfalls!

And when we have a better grasp on why we do what we do…only then can we truly understand how to change something.

In the meantime, keep working on a healthy dose of winter’s rest and recuperation, allowing new things to show themselves so that they can spring into action come the spring! : )