We all have limited time in this lifetime whether we recognize it or not. There are also limited resources, of course, and the success of living a good life has a lot to do with defining what matters most in our lives and putting our limited resources towards our priorities.
Do you feel that life is a bit hazy and wish that you lived your life more clear-sighted? You’d rather live by your own agenda instead of others. Or you may wish that you had more control over your life. So this is my invitation for you to put yourself back in charge and empower yourself to live each day with a clear view of your life ahead.
We have now seen a full year and seasonal cycle in our garden since we have moved to this house. As I wandered around our garden, I identified a few trees and shrubs that needed pruning in an effort to improve the quality of their fruit and flowers and overall health and well being. It occurred to me how much we can learn from Mother Nature about how we live our own lives.
Here is typical pruning advice:
- Prune to a main branch or trunk
- Prune off small, dead or weak twigs and branches
- Cut down about 30% of the whole tree/shrub annually
- Prune regularly
Why do we prune? Well, we prune in order to let in light, rain and air; to give access the whole plant so that it will grow healthy productive branches, flowers and/or fruit. So what about pruning in our own lives? What would that look like?
We have so much going on in our lives – competing priorities of time spent with different people, tasks and projects of different importance and substance, and suddenly life goes by without seemingly significant achievements and tangible results. Twigs and branches crossing are like competing priorities and as they block each other and prevent light, rain and air to penetrate and our lives can easily feel like a tangled mess. Competing priorities for a plant means small fruits, minimal development and trivial flowers that won’t grow to their full size and full potential. What if we could prune our own lives, clarify and untangle our priorities and help ourselves reach our full potential? Here are some of my ideas as to how.
1. Reflect and Prioritize
“What’s the point of prioritizing and reflecting when I don’t even have enough time for my already overwhelming tasks and responsibilities?” As pruning is for plants and trees, in order to let in light, rain and air to the right branches, prioritization is necessary for us too. If we don’t prioritize, we spend our valuable and limited time on things that may not even be all that important in our lives. We all have finite energy and time and so we want to support the most impactful priorities so that we can be our best selves and reach our full potential. Alternatively, we could just let things be, let branches grow how they will, live by default, like an untouched tree. Whatever appears first and whoever demands the most and loudest gets our attention, not because they add to our lives but because we didn’t prioritize, we imposed no selective process at all. When we could have spent our time with someone who builds us up, who values our input, who brings meaning to our lives, we may be wasting our energy on something totally unimportant just because someone asked for our time. Understanding that pruning is going to benefit our lives greatly could be a good start on this prioritization journey.
2. Prune to main branch or trunk: Prioritize around your main mission and key objective of life
What is the main branch of your life? What is the core that will stay with you until the end? For me, it is friends and family who I care about and my mission in life to support people to live their best version of themselves. Everything else can disappear and my life will not be diminished in any way. In fact, it may even be more focused and true. How about you? What is the most important thing in your life right now and in the future? Who will you select to get more of your attention and who might be pruned off so that you can spend more time with your chosen ones? What are you spending lots of your energy on right now and is it adding to your core values and main mission of your life? If not, why are you spending so much time on it?
3. Prune off small dead twigs & branches: de-prioritize & remove stuff that is taking energy out of you.
Pruning seems so obvious for trees, yet it is much harder in our own lives. How about that painful incident that happened to you a while back which was hurtful and unpleasant? Are you still hanging on to it? Although it is in the past (a dead twig), we re-live situations and scenarios over and over in our head and let it bother us for a long time. How about the bruised branches that are rotting? They are not going to survive and may even allow disease into its wound and harm the overall health of the tree. How about depending on a relationship that has been damaged for a while? You know it’s broken and irreparable, yet you are unable to leave it behind. How about the friend who has been taking advantage of you? How about the abusive boss? Or what about your own really bad habit(s)? Recognizing the importance of letting go, could be a good start to our own pruning.
4. Yearly pruning is important: important to evaluate our priorities regularly
A year comes and goes and soon another one comes and goes as well. One day it occurs to you: “What happened to the past few years?” Where did time just disappear to while we were unfocused and undirected? While carefreeness too has merits in life, it is useful to dedicate our time to what is important instead of mindlessly wandering from one year to another, especially if we are to reach our full potential. Regular reflections on life refocuses and re-energizes us to stay on top of what is vital in our world.
5.Start with pruning no more than a third of the tree. Parting with our attachments, whether relationships, habits or job/assignments, is difficult. So part with the obvious detractors first.
We are habitual beings. It is difficult to make changes. Try to discern what is the biggest energy zappers in your life. Start with those and then let the cutting heal. Is it a relationship that deteriorated? Perhaps the relationship has been waning for years but you are unable to make a change because it too requires a lot of energy to call it off. Has your job has been dragging you down as well? Start with one situation even though sometimes one energy drainer may also be affecting the other too. Happiness and stability at home and work will affect each other. Letting go of one detractor will make space for happiness to come in – like more light radiating into the plant when branches have been removed helping other parts of the plant recover as well. It’s all connected. Maybe your personal relationship issues have been affecting your relationship with your colleagues. Or your job dissatisfaction has been affecting your home relationship and you have been taking things out on your partner. When the change has healed, you may be ready to access other areas that need pruning too. I am guilty of wanting drastic changes quickly but I’ve often realized that patience might have solved some of my issues and if anything, I might have made the same changes later but in better and less disruptive ways.
I hope I have made my case around pruning – de-prioritize detractors and give light and energy to our priorities. So what is your life goal and mission? What should you be keeping around to nurture and what should you prune off at this point before it starts to affect your general well-being?
“If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down”
Roy T. BennetRoy T. Bennet
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