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I want to talk to you about gardening, and some lessons I have learned in the weeds. I learned similar lessons doing power lifting, and I am certain those lessons can be learned other places. I can explain them best using gardening.

Tend your Emotional Garden
This is a piece of our garden.

Each year, my wife and I expand our garden a little bit. We elected not to use anything electric, or powered other than a lawnmower. No electric hedge trimmers, no mulching machines, no drills are allowed. If we can’t do it with human power, an ax, a shovel and a rake etc., then it can’t get done here. Arbitrary rules, granted. We have a front bed that is only allowed to have red, white and related colors. We have a back bed that is only allowed to have purples and yellows.

The first few years tending to the garden was extremely easy. It didn’t take much time to maintain, and we could add to it with ease. As the years went by and the garden got bigger maintenance rose to match it, and we stopped expanding. Sometimes a plant would die and need to be replaced, weeds would be heavy in one place and light in others. More work was needed. We found a balance.

That is a brief tale of our gardening. Why talk about it? What does this have to do with motivation? Because the slow steady act of gardening taught me several things.

1) Don’t plant more than you can tend.

I mean it with plants, but it is true in other places of life. Have the number of friends you can maintain while being a good friend, rather than a poor friend to them all. Make the promises you have the ability to keep rather than overextend yourself, and fail everyone. Take on tasks at work you can excel at, and don’t promise when you can’t deliver. Engage with your significant other in a way you can maintain. We don’t all have the same extent and same skills in all ventures. Learn the size of your own garden.

2) Grow your garden slowly.

If you plant too much the first year, you can overshoot the maintenance you can handle. If we had planted the full extent of our current garden, I would have failed to maintain it properly. I would not have learned how to keep up with the year’s cadence, and plants would have died while I figured it out. By approaching it one piece at a time, growing naturally over time, the ability to keep learning as the garden grew helped me, and the plants. Know your own growth limits. We all expand at different rates, it doesn’t mean you can’t get where you want to be, but your pace may be different than others.

3) Have rules.

When we first began, we didn’t have rules. Any flower we liked could go in any bed, and be any color. It looked ok, because let’s be honest, flowers are pretty. As years went by, we quickly settled into a series of rules for the garden beds, imposed by ourselves of course. The rules improved the gardens. They had a more cohesive theme, they had a more appealing color palette, and they complimented each other better. Rules gave us a better outcome.

In most every aspect of life, rules give freedom, not constraint.

4) Have a garden.

Everyone will have their own garden. A place to learn how to discipline one aspect of your life and carry it into others. If you don’t have one, start looking today. Find a progressive long-term activity, and dip a toe in. Then dip the foot, then stand in the shallow end. Progress yourself as quickly as you can sustainably, with a mind toward your future self, and your self maintenance. Do so, with discipline.

Tend your garden.

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Anna Varlese
Anna Varlese
Nov 09, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love it!

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