T oday marks the Season 7 Finale for the HBO Series: Game of Thrones. The series has made the expression “winter is coming” famous as it is used to reference not only the notoriously harsh winters in the northern reaches of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros but also the advance of an army of undead lead by the icily supernatural Night King and a few other “Whitewalkers.”  I’m afraid that I am unable to resist the confluence of Season 7’s finale with my theme for the last couple of weeks.

In last week’s post, Navigating Inflection Points, I discussed profound shifts in our lives that mark fundamental changes for us and our need to anticipate and pass through these points to become the next version of our self. These rites of passage chart our progression through life and reflect our evolution through fundamental change.

In Game of Thrones, when someone invokes the phrase “winter is coming,” they are giving a warning to prepare. Be ready when the cold winds blow or else. They are saying: that frightful season will be upon you soon and now is the time to put things in order if you want to survive. As the Night King advances, the warning becomes more dire because his coming brings death or worse. All apropos as we head toward the fall and into our own winter. Our seasons are changing and we need to be ready.

For many years, we have had a portable basketball goal stationed on our cul-de-sac. That goal has seen thousands of shots taken. Hours of practice and play. Injuries and triumphs. As our basketball players have grown up and moved on, the goal has sat idle; rusting and rotting. Yesterday, amid this changing season, I dismantled the goal and discarded the pieces marking the change in a very visible way. The sunny day had a cool breeze, giving a hint of fall. I thought to myself, winter is coming.

The sunny day had a cool breeze, giving a hint of fall. I thought to myself, winter is coming.

How do we prepare for the changing seasons of our lives? We see them coming but are never quite sure whether or not we’ll be ready when they arrive. Today’s children seem to resist an adulthood that refuses to promise a better future than that idyllic childhood in which they knew so much comfort. The changing seasons make no such promises. The only assurance: things will change.

Considering the inevitability of change, how might we cope? Can we be intentional with our preparation and acceptance with winter’s eventual arrival? With my own thoughts of change and winter’s arrival in my life, two words have continually come to me: gratitude and hope. These words are proof against winter’s darker inclinations. With gratitude, we are able to accept our life as it is, seeing the gifts of beauty and joy that surround each of us. With hope, we are able to weather the cold winds that blow against us because we believe. We believe in a warmer tomorrow. We believe in the possibilities in front of us. We believe in a world that still offer us a place to inhabit.

With gratitude, we are able to accept our life as it is, seeing the gifts of beauty and joy that surround each of us.

Now, the big question: how do we muster gratitude and hope when winter arrives, the cold begins biting, and the lights go out? How can we possibly be grateful when we fall face first onto the icy ground and feel the snow covering us completely? Where is the hope in that moment? We have to choose it. We have to push our self up and take one step forward. We have to love those around us without expectation. We have to give to those around us without expectation. We have to believe that there are other seasons to come. We have to trust that winter will pass.

Tonight, I’m certain there will be numerous plot twists and surprises in store for those of us watching the Game of Thrones Season Finale. Winter has arrived and the story’s characters are facing powerful winds and uncertain futures. Perhaps we don’t have to face an army of undead but I”m sure we all have a Night King haunting us in some fashion. Gratitude and hope – weapons as good as Valyrian steel or dragonglass in our battle against winter’s darkness. Keep them at the ready for your next winter.