Struggling to thrive? Think like a gardener

I like most of us want to be healthier and happier. I want my life to be better than what it is now.

When we think of improvement we often think it’s about improving ourselves. How do I get more motivation, confidence, discipline etc?

We want to exercise more so we start a habit only for it to flounder in the face of life’s multitude of obligations. Family, work, housework and more.

The habit starts with off well but disappears like a newspaper in a rainstorm.

Why is it so hard and what can be done about it?

What I have found is that the emphasis on ourselves, our attributes is a mistake. It fails to take into account that we exist in an environment.

The Soil and the Seed

In the west, in particular, we have historically an overemphasis on the objects of our study. Trying to determine their properties. In the case of people, their motivations, fears, how they think and feel.

It’s based upon an idea that there’s a separation between the object and it’s surroundings. Seeing the world as a machine, with parts that are removable, discrete, separate entities. Or like a game of pool or billiards, with balls bouncing of of each other according to knowable rules.

But that fails to accept the obvious fact that if you want to understand anything it’s necessary to study the context in which it lives.

The idea of separate entities is a myth, which doesn’t fit the reality that everything is connected.

Ecology and ecologists understand this. You can’t fully understand a lion unless you know how it relates to the ecosystem it lives in. People are no different.

It’s the imagery of a seed in soil: Everything exists in situ. Like seeds, we all live in a kind of dirt.

It’s what farmers and gardeners understand too. Growth and change is not about building, but nurturing.

How well that seed grows depends on how well that seed takes to the soil it’s in. The wrong seed or the wrong soil and the plant will struggle, even wither and die.

With people it’s no different. We have the physical environment, the chemicals, objects of our homes, workplaces, the world at large. But we also have an environment of culture. Of ideas, values, rules, and laws.

Having this metaphor in our mind we can now see that improving our life means focusing more on our surroundings and lifestyle.

Working on altering the soil we’re in so that it’s more suitable for our growth.

The Right Dirt

#1 Awareness

The first step is always to be more aware of yourself. Notice more when your environment affects you and in what way. This requires a certain amount of of introspection. Notice when you become angry or upset. Look for the source and ask why you feel so strongly.

If you notice when you are getting upset. Then you can choose to follow where it leads you, or you can ignore it. It becomes more of a conscious choice.

Take a look at health. What food and lifestyle choices do you regularly make?

Relationships with other people will affect you as well. Your success will be influenced by who you know, as well as what you know.

The motivational speaker Jim Rohn said that we are the ‘average of the five people we spend the most time with.’

See what sort of messages you are regularly exposed to in books, media, internet, and notice how they affect you.

#2 Better choices

The next lesson is we need to be more careful of our influences in the world we live in. Maximising those influences that inspire us and give us hope and joy, whilst those that make us feel helpless and sap our energy should be reduced or avoided.

Think of it as lifestyle crafting. Having a home that helps you achieve your goals, rather than a cluttered home the prevents you.

Bad news about things we have no influence over, distracting social media. We can afford to do without these influences.

I am not advocating a ‘head in the sand’ approach, but I feel we can surround ourselves with too much suffering and useless information. Ending up pessimistic, demoralised and distracted.

So step away from some of these influences and replace them with better ones.

Thinking like a gardener

Thinking like a gardener then is tending to your surroundings. If you want to find success, be creative, focused, then you need to remove those obstacles distract you or slow you down.

Proper foundations are necessary for a house to be built. Our lifestyle and surroundings do the same for us.

The reason why you are unhappy, unwell is that you’re in the wrong soil. The environment you live in is not conducive to your well being.

To thrive means to work more on the environment we live in. Protecting ourselves against the more toxic influences and creating habits that promote our health and happiness.

Image Credit: gunnar3000 / 123RF Stock Photo

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