Falls Colors in Napa
I’m absolutely stunned each time I walk outside at the continuing fall beauty. I have a few extra advantages here that may not be available to everyone. First, I have a dog, whom I prefer to walk instead of just let her loose in the yard (which she also gets to enjoy). So I’m outside by her necessity more often than the non-dog-walking population. (I will skip the part about her non-interest in actually walking.)

Second, I live in a glorious part of the world to enjoy fall’s bounty. Wine country not only provides us with a vast array of deciduous trees turning a huge range of colors this time of year, but the vines also put on a spectacular color show as they move into their own winter hibernation mode. So the colors viewed are not only the full spectrum of palest yellows to oranges, persimmon, apple red to crimson and deep purple, but they are bloody everywhere in this neck of the woods.

If you live farther afield where fall is already well past, my sympathies! But in fairness, I’ll say that this year is rather unusual for those of us north of the Golden Gate. Not only was harvest very late (blah, blah, blah – everyone’s heard that around here endlessly), but our fall has stretched on unusually long, warm and dry, allowing us to enjoy the colors much longer than usual.

The crispness in the air is inspiring. The sun beating down at its steep descent provides vistas and illumination viewed only this time of year. And with the leaves virtually in motion all the time, it makes for a dazzling show from the moment you step outside your door. The foliage actually sounds alive (even though the leaves are in the process of taking their final bow for the season).

It’s because they make so much noise. Not in a bad way. It’s just lovely to hear the rustling as a breeze passes. (And this past week it’s been big gusts of wind resulting in lots of Winnie-the-Pooh type fall noises.)

I won’t say I believe in ghosts, but it feels like there’s so much activity in the air. As you walk down the lane and a breeze stirs up, your head is turned by the first branch rustling as the breeze wafts through it. Next, you hear a different sound, more bass, as it hits someone’s New Zealand flax bush leaves. As the same puff of air hits a Ginko tree it’s like the piccolos in a symphony picking up the theme for a flutter. It’s lots of high-pitched short notes as a big gust knocks together all the bright yellow leaves, and they whack back and forth playing their eighth notes as they whirl (it’s that funny fan shaped leaf) quickly to the ground.

I think one of the reasons we like fall so much is that we can see, hear and smell so many things changing right before our eyes. We are not a species that does well with everything staying stagnant and unchanging. We need the perception of change in order to feel like we’re progressing in life, or in fact, actually feeling alive.

We see the leaves change and fall off the trees, and we know we’re moving into a new phase of life. We hear it in the change of air: Leaves sounding like paper rustling, fires crackling and sparking bits of percussive accents heard no other time of year. We smell the spice notes emitted by some leaves as they dry up, their sweet scents having dissipated at the end of summer.

Let’s not forget the heavenly smells from the many fall foods that are like no other. Apples have so much tanginess and acidity. Squash and pumpkin are accented with flavors from the Spice Road. (Yes, I know, pumpkin IS a squash.)

Fall is also the time of year many businesses really begin to crank it up for the year. Kids are back in school. New model cars get their big sales push. Home remodeling projects begin to move indoors for the next several months. And new fiscal years begin for some with big pushes for accelerating revenues. The squeeze is on.

How do you keep up?

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

Where do you get your fresh, new ideas?

As we feel ourselves moving into the last marathon stretch of 2011, trying to eke out the last drops of energy, creativity and productivity (like those leaves), it’s important to take time to recharge not only your energy but your little gray cells (as Hercule Poirot would refer to his brain cells). It’s easier this time of year to blow a fuse faster with the stress of the holiday season coming. It may also be easier to feel frustrated because you’re wondering why you are more short-tempered and less patient than you are in the spring or summer.

If you looked at a few of my ideas last week on goal-setting for the New Year and thought, “Sheesh! I haven’t got time for this stuff!”, perhaps it’s time for a bit of decompression. Sometimes you’ve stared at a blank page too long, and those little gray cells just don’t fire off with a fresh, new idea. So if you started to set a few goals, but you weren’t feeling particularly inspired, it may be best to scrap those and start anew.

Perhaps you were inspired and put down a really big goal for yourself next year. But then you froze, like the proverbial deer in headlights, wondering how the devil you would accomplish such a gargantuan task?

If you can’t break down a really big goal into smaller chunks, your brain is at an impasse. It’s not that the goal is impossible to achieve (it isn’t), it’s that your brain hit a wall.

It rarely fails me to harness up my four-footed companion and head outside for even five minutes to get a fresh idea on a stuck problem. It must be those ever-changing leaves and vistas.

Whether or not you’ve got a dog, a six-foot tall imaginary rabbit, or just your own two feet, get out there to stimulate all your other senses. If that doesn’t do the trick for you, here are a few other ideas to get the creative juices flowing so you can have a FUN and productive session setting your 2012 goals:

  1. Exercise! If walks don’t excite you and your muscles, what does? And if walking needs extra stimulation, think like a kid: Make yourself avoid every crack in the sidewalk; alternate run-walking with slow-walking. Try ten deep lunges then regular walking. Just break up the monotonous rhythm.
  2. If words fail you for setting goals, create a vision board. Do you see a picture in a travel magazine or home improvement magazine, longing to have that location or product in the photo? Cut it out with scissors and put it on a board. Sometimes you need the reverse stimulation of the end celebration before you know what you’re celebrating. Then you may suddenly realize what the celebration is for and begin filling in the steps in reverse to achieve that goal.
  3. Play with your kid or watch kids play. Kids’ interactions are so fascinating to watch. It may stimulate your juices about what you’re longing to achieve.
  4. Listen to music – something you don’t listen to often. Music stimulates feelings, many of which we associate with past memories. Those, in turn may stimulate you to think about a long-forgotten wish that can lead you to an exciting new goal. (Sports or any TV definitely will NOT do this in the same way. Instead they may dull your little gray cells even more. So it’s unlikely you’ll find inspiration from the boob tube!)
  5. Go to an art gallery. I don’t get to do this nearly as often as I would like, but I always find it feels like a mini-vacation for my brain. Looking at paintings, sketches, sculptures and so on simply fires off an entirely different set of neurons than most of us are using all day long in our businesses. Give that left lobe a little break and get the right brain lobe a mini-workout! (And, yes, the same applies to going to a tasting room around here. Smelling and tasting wines stimulates a whole different set of brain cells. It’s a great way to recharge – as long as you don’t overdo it!)

Goal-setting shouldn’t be an unpleasant chore. Undoubtedly the hardest part of the project is merely setting aside the time to do the project. It may work best for you in several small chunks. Fifteen minutes here and another fifteen minutes there.

I know some folks who turn off the phones and all devices for a full day to map out their goals and strategies for the New Year. You’ll have to do what works best for you, Friend.

All I know is that it’s better to fall into your goals with ease than struggle climbing up to them. What works best for you?