A Metaphor for Personal Growth

It’s springtime. At this time of year, I find myself staring out of a sunny window, enjoying the warm glow of the sun, and dreaming about spending time in my garden, tending to new growth. A little fertilizer here, a tiny little prune there. Gardening is a gentle and loving process.

I developed my love of gardening with my mother, a gentlewoman herself, and the garden is where we spent our time together, bonding. She would pull weeds and I would fertilize or water in, behind her. Years later she is gone, but her love of gardening lives with me, bigger and brighter than ever.

She tended to pretty little flowers, and I have more of a penchant for trees and shrubbery. One gardening lesson I learned from my mom is that whether we have to or not, we all grow and evolve. We all need to be nurtured, loved, attended to, and supported and when we get these needs met, we flourish.

Although she is no longer with us, perhaps my mom exists on another plane of existence, in an alternate dimension. Is she still gardening, metaphorically? Perhaps she continues to shine her light of love from wherever she is now. Are my inspirational thoughts really just messages that she somehow sends to me? I know I can feel her energy, whenever I think of her, and sometimes she comes to mind while I’m dreaming and wondering about my garden.

Beware: Be careful, because where we focus our energy, is what grows. Mental and emotional energy is like fertilizer for character traits. We all want our children to grow up to be happy and have everything they want. But perhaps we should consider not only their happiness but, who they are evolving into as people, too.

Generally speaking – and I fully realize that there are many exceptions to what I’m about to say – management and leaders have historically wielded fear and threats like a knight may have relied upon an ax for protection. In our more modern era though, perhaps the worst among us tend to hide in the shadows of success.  They may appear successful on the outside, superficially sporting Armani, driving a Porsche, and regularly jetting off to Miami, London, and New York. They keep themselves busy with power and controlling others, all the while, avoiding their own lonely, selfish heart.

These are among the most aggressive among us. Mean-spirited, self-centered, narcissistic, and the first to throw you under the bus. Thankfully, there is a clear movement for developing a compassionate spirit in life. Gentleness and compassion are healing qualities that we all need and will respond to, lovingly.

No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now. Don’t focus on negative things; focus on the positive, and you will flourish – Alan Watts

Mom-bond

Change

Are you the same person today as you were five years ago? Unlikely. You’ve been creating a memory bank of positive and successful experiences for as long as you can remember, right? If you have, then you’re among those who are more capable today as a result of learning and growing through experience and education. If you have too many negative and failed memories, I urge you to consider a change.  We can learn valuable lessons from our mistakes, too. How have you benefited from your difficult experiences?

Life lessons

Honestly, it is a struggle – and I do mean a challenging struggle – for many of us. If we just do not know how to do this, consider consulting with your Psychologist. Why hold onto upsetting memories, when there are always lessons to be learned and silver linings. Once understood in this way, we’re able to plan our days as well as our futures, founded on the invaluable lessons we’ve learned. Our future success builds upon our past success.

I'm-Head-Gardener-Here

Life and its journey are not simple and are often trying, but are also about adapting and transformation. Happiness and success, whether we like it or not, are usually about personal development and making adjustments. Change is often our best course of action, but when we have an emotional hurt that just will not go away, our tendency may be to clench up and try to maintain everything as it is. Is this really desirable, I ask? Is not having to change more important than the alternative of being happy, healthy, prosperous, well-adjusted individuals with significant relationships? Change is natural. Everything in life changes.

State-of-Flux

What is the point of change?

We might just as well ask about the meaning of life itself. Personal development and improvement? Is that not the point of change, growth, development, and evolution, anyway? Consider. Are we consistently fruitful and happy? Of course, we all have moments that are somewhat challenging, but the answer is universal. In fact, it is impossible to be consistently successful, well-adjusted, and happy all of the time. Life fluctuates, and we move right along with it if we are wise.

The most healthy tree bends and is whipped around by the wind. Otherwise, it would break. Yet these trees are held fast by an expansive network of roots. Metaphorically, our root systems reflect our emotional needs. They are out of sight but still require nurturing.

Viewing trees in my yard, those with the most gnarly and scarred bark, are those we see as having character. As we accept the bumps, bruizes, and downturns of life, we strive and reach high. Like a flower reaching toward the sun.

Like living on a continuum. Accept where we find ourselves when we wake tomorrow morning. Then, not being completely unhappy or satisfied with this continuum point, we expend effort to move along the continuum in the desired direction. You decide on the direction. This movement creates and releases energy. It’s challenging and rewarding.

If we charted our experiences and emotions, they would reflect the ups and downs of any stock market chart. If we were to continually experience the same emotion to the same degree, we would eventually lose that feeling, all-together. We would be unable to maintain it, and we would begin to feel something else, like a loss of that emotion, such as disappointment, sadness, numbness, or confusion. At best we would experience an emotional “flat line.” No shame or disappointment, but no joy, optimism, or happiness either. Blawness, if that makes sense. One feeling inspires us to enjoy the next one.

Emotional Flux

Spark-of-Joy

We can experience one emotion because we have experienced the other feeling. The one that counters the first; one that is somewhat different and balances us, emotionally. Consider emotions to live on a dichotomous scale or a continuum. Feelings then are always a relative experience. The fact that yesterday I was worried and confused is – in part – the reason that today I feel confident, focused, and creative.

In fact, if you experienced an exhilarating day yesterday, you might encounter a bit of a lull today. Expect it. It’s simply a natural bounce-back. It’s an evolutionary process of nature. We continuously flux emotionally, and the direction of this emotional flux informs us of immediate change, movement, and opportunities. Like the seasons or the stock market, our mood will move either upwards or downwards, always self-correcting.

Today’s feelings give rise to tomorrow’s experiences. I only know the degree of my happiness today because I remember how bewildered I felt yesterday. We can actually “find ourselves” by making a conscious decision to change. If you are not happy with something about yourself – say you are still a smoker and hate that fact about yourself – when you are ready and decide that it is time to become a better person, you start feeling happier because of your decision to change. By following through you’ll become even more satisfied and confident. You’ll be able to relish in your achievements.

Personal-Improvement

To really feel the happiness we need to accept ourselves of course, but that does not mean we shouldn’t also accept that part of ourselves that wants to grow, become stronger, and be more capable. If you realize that success and happiness might just be experienced more frequently by those who are disciplined – you can begin to struggle and practice with becoming more disciplined yourself. It is likely going to be a struggle but we need to hang in there, love ourselves through the change process and maintain our focus on our ultimate goal until we get over the fight. Clearly, change is not all rainbows and lollipops, but perseverance with change will set us free.

Choose My Emotions?

You have heard the story about two wolves who meet in the woods, one black one white. They engage in a fight. Which one wins? The answer, if you know the story, is the one that you feed! The wolves are merely a metaphor for our inner struggles. Which wolf will you feed and nurture inside yourself – the smoker or the non-smoker; disciplined or carefree? There is no right answer, but the way you answer creates a unique experience – your particular adventure. Will you nurture love or hold love back. You decide, but it will move you along the continuum. Which direction? The choice is yours.

Journey-of-Love

The point that I want to clarify here is that we have been the ones who have chosen all along. We were the ones who fed and nurtured one wolf over another the whole time. There have always been outside pressures on our decisions, but we made the final decisions. We might have been lacking a degree of conscious awareness about it, but then that too is a significant component of my message. The more aware we can become of what is important and meaningful to ourselves, the clearer our decisions can be. If we are unhappy, dissatisfied, or irritated in any way, we can decide to change, grow, develop, and evolve. However, only to the degree that we are clear and aware can we consciously create our own happiness and success.

The day you decide that you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves – that is the day you will find your way out. Michael Singer

Michael, I believe, is thinking about the importance of personal reflection. He is encouraging us to consider not just our garden and what is in it, but how it will make us and other visitors feel. This gardener thinks, plans, and creates strategies for a garden long before it comes into existence with the ultimate purpose of creating a place that will nurture the soul. Plenty of emotions spread throughout. The garden, in this case, is another metaphor for our mind.

Contemplation

The gardener sows seeds and provides homes for baby plants according to a blueprint and then just cares for them as they mature into individually beautiful plants, finally displaying a very charming garden. A peaceful, meditative garden. The garden is the symbolic representation of our emotional world. You may recall that I have said that emotion or mood reflects the quality of change we make. We usually strive to achieve a final outcome, but as I’d like to suggest here, the quality of change may be ultimately more important and valuable.

Seasons of Life

As much as we rely on the love and kindness of others to energize us and assist us to meet our needs, we will benefit just that much more if we care for ourselves with respect and compassion too. Growing seasons come and go, showing up with a smile, only to wither into a peaceful slumber. There is nothing wrong with us because we are not growing 100% of the time. We are not broken. The season has not died or ceased to exist. It merely naps, changing its form slightly and allowing what was there last season to show up in the spring all over again, this time bigger and better than ever before.

Gardening

Some call it growth. Others maturity. Be very careful of the “thoughts,” and “beliefs,” “values” and “expectations” you plant and nurture in your mind. Just as my mom is no longer with us, her love of gardening lives with me, bigger and brighter than ever. It has value to me, and so I nurture it. I have had to make room for new plants that are important to me and weed out others that were likely more valuable or meaningful to my mom. Like the blossoming flower, we all reach up toward the sun. Such is life. Just one gardening lesson I learned from my mom.

“Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends.” ― Aberjhani

Calgary Psychologists International website

As an Executive coach and licensed Psychologist, I assist professionals, individual entrepreneurs, and corporate clients with interests and challenges related to personal and professional leadership. Posts reflect client concerns and actions. You don't need to be an executive to secure coaching for yourself, but you should have a degree of ambition. Strategizing on how your career or life might improve and move forward takes time for reflection, either on your own or through dialogue. Opportunity is required to reflect well upon new and detailed information regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Sound consideration leads to a strategy that produces informed action, which precedes success. Wear your strengths like a badge of honor, and be cautious of areas you may tend to error in.

7 Comment on “I’m Head Gardener Here

  1. Pingback: Extreme Self-Care | calgarypsychologists

  2. Pingback: Fresh Perspective on Gratitude | calgarypsychologists

  3. Pingback: Life is Really Turning Around for Us | calgarypsychologists

  4. Pingback: Leadership Coaching Improves Careers | calgarypsychologists

  5. Pingback: Extreme Self-Care | calgarypsychologists

  6. Pingback: 5 Career Tips | calgarypsychologists

  7. Pingback: Life is Really Turning Around for Us | calgarypsychologists

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: