Goal setting for many people means making a halfhearted attempt at New Year resolutions in early January. Oh, they’ll try to do their best but soon give up. And another little piece of their self-esteem dies too. It doesn’t have to be like that and in this article we’ll describe a simple 2-part tool you can use to improve the odds of success.
Part 1 of this tool is ‘awareness’. Personal development books often talk about becoming more aware – of living in the ‘now’. That’s easy to write about but what do those words mean in daily life? Let’s use the symbolism of gardening to explain this better. You are the gardener. You’re free to choose what type of garden to create. What’s your next step?
Most experienced gardeners have become so by paying close attention to the environment in which they are gardening. For example, the weather and the soil quality will strongly influence the type of grass, flowers or vegetables that can be successfully grown in a particular garden, in a particular part of the world. Gardeners know this and work within the laws and limitations set by nature and their local environment.
In the context of your ‘Life Garden’, this suggests that before planting any new goal seeds, you would do well to understand more about the environment they are to be planted in. This means you will need to roll up your sleeves and go take a regular walk in your Garden! Notice what is growing well and what is struggling. Ask yourself why is that so? Sometimes you will not get an easy or quick answer because the reason why one type of flower blooms easily and another one fails is not at all clear.
Part 2 of this tool involves some virtual gardening. Find a quiet and safe place where you will not be disturbed for about 5 minutes. No TV. Turn the cell phone off. This may even be late at night or early morning if you have children to care for! When you are in this private space sit down, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Hold it briefly and then release it slowly. Never straining. Take two more deep breaths.
Imagine you are taking a short walk in the garden of your life, as it has been this past year. Notice the grass, the flowers, the butterflies, and the fallen leaves. You may have a favorite spot in that garden. Go there. Admire the view. Is there anything you don’t like about this garden? Some flowers you want to change? Weeds you want to pull? Dead grass that needs replacing?
(Please resist any temptation to throw them over the neighbour’s fence! Perhaps build a compost heap and create some natural fertilizer.)
You might be doing the work alone or there might be another gardener present to lend a hand. See or feel or hear those changes beginning to occur. Now it’s time to leave your inner garden and go back outdoors. You can enjoy visiting again another day. There is probably more gardening to be done but you have made a good start. Relax in that knowledge.
Take a couple of slow deep breaths as before, and then open your eyes. You are done. There is no need to analyze or intellectualize anything about your experience. Often times gardeners just garden for the love of it. And so should you.