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no garden without a gardener


It definitely feels like we are turning a corner toward Spring. Despite some chilly mornings the daytime temperature is starting to rise, we can see the golden glow of daffodils and more buds are appearing each week. I was reminded of an expression that I believe is useful for how we manage ourselves:


there’s no garden without a gardener.

Does this expression overly state the obvious? Maybe. However, when it comes to achieving projects and goals, we can overplay the outcome we are looking for without giving appropriate recognition to the work needed to achieve what we want. Here are four lessons I think we can learn from the gardener.


Lesson 1 – Be clear on what you want

When thinking about a goal or project, initially we can jump in with lots of enthusiasm and energy only to find we run out of steam early on and lose heart. I can think of times when I’ve been really enthusiastic in a garden center. Excited by the thought of the pictures of a particular plant or packet of seeds. Buying an array of mismatched plants that may or may not be suitable for my garden, or as is more often the case my level of gardening competence (for that, read low level…).


To get the best from goals and projects spending some time upfront to think through what you are really looking to achieve and test that against the other competing demands you might have can save you time, money, and stresses further down the track. And of course, hopefully, achieve the things you want.


Lesson 2 - Prepare the ground for what’s to come

Understanding our starting point is critical. For the gardener spending time preparing the ground, removing plants that are no longer wanted or haven’t survived the winter, and planning what to grow (and where to grow) are all essential to make the most of the growing season. Much of this work goes on without much to show to the outside observer. Without it though, the coming months of growth will fall short of what potentially could happen.


For our goals and projects, some upfront analysis and preparation are just as important. Assessing the outcome, you require against the current reality you find yourself in is time well invested. This is often where we can develop more effective expectations about what is possible and how. Some of the best progress I have seen at this stage is about removing the things that will get in the way of your goal. Just like the gardener freeing up space, light, and energy for new growth.


Lesson 3 - Keeping up the process

Once the gardener has planted out what they want to see grow there then follows a period of doing some basic things consistently well. Often supporting and complementing nature. Watering and feeding, ensuring light can get to the plants, providing support for plants that can’t support themselves. All of these things require commitment and patience. And therefore need prioritising in amongst everything else the gardener needs to do. Nature will take over if the gardener falls short of their responsibilities.


Projects and goals are no different. To achieve all that we want we need to get on and ‘do the work’. There will be times when this feels like too much effort. And yes, there will be things that get in the way that you hadn’t anticipated. Taking responsibility when this happens can feel challenging. Just like in nature, without your sustained effort to keep up, your project or goal will wither and die. This really is why lessons 1 and 2 are so important. If they are done well, then we lessen the chances of losing heart. As our understanding and commitment will be strong.


Lesson 4 - Enjoy the process and the outcome

Garden is one of those words which is both a noun and a verb. The gardener appreciates that the process (to garden) leads to the outcomes they want to see (the garden). And often it’s the process that they can take just a much enjoyment from.


Thinking about our project and goals from the two aspects of process and outcome can help bring greater balance to our thinking. Not just ‘saving up’ our enjoyment for the end result. An overreliance on the outcome can lead to resentment along the way. Particularly if (for reasons beyond your influence) the end result falls short of what you wanted. So, if you can work out how to find pleasure in the process you are way more likely to stick at it even when times get tough.


The new beginnings of spring can often be a great time to kick off a new project or goal. If that’s you, see how the lessons from the gardener can help you achieve what you want in 2021. As always, I’m interested in how you get on.

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