You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life. — Albert Camus
Last weekend we worked in our garden in our annual outdoor spring cleaning ritual. Call me crazy, but I always love that first foray into spring―pulling weeds, preparing flower beds, pruning trees, cleaning the deck for summer barbecues―because it always represents that life begins anew after the long winter’s rest.
One of the things I noticed as I pulled weeds from the garden was how the flowers always reappear in the same spot, year after year. They’ve learned to bloom where they’re planted. That’s a strategy Mother Nature invented that many (including me) could learn from.
In a culture where we pride ourselves on progress and acquisition, there are five words we repeat far too often that can lead to distress. These words are: IF I COULD JUST GET. We’ve all said these words in one context or another….If I could just get a promotion, then everything would be better. If we could just get the kids to behave, then everything would be easier. If we could just get a bigger house, then our family would be happy. You know the drill―the grass is always greener in someone else’s garden. We spend so much time focusing on getting the next thing we want that it’s easy to lose sight of what we have.
I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t try and better our conditions or change what needs improving, but if we channel all our energies on reaching the next destination or on seeking the next acquisition, we can completely miss the gift the present has to offer. As the writer Albert Camus said, “You will never live if you’re looking for the meaning of life.”
One of my coaching clients, Larry, figured this out early in his career. Larry was a Director and project manager extraordinaire, but he had a history of leaving a job and moving to another company every two to three years. The problem was that Larry kept making parallel moves. He wasn’t getting promoted because he hadn’t yet discovered how to grow his people and leverage the talents of his team.
One day, I asked Larry if rather than focusing all his energies on managing complex projects, what if he also focused on developing complex people. Would that change his “two year itch” to leave, I asked? What I wanted him to consider was whether he was willing to bloom where he’d been planted because there was fertile soil for growth right there underneath his feet. Larry ended up staying at his company for a five years and spent the last three learning to become a master developer of people. His reputation in his industry grew and he was offered a position as a Vice President at another company with a larger team and greater responsibility. But before he left, Larry had learned a critical skill of leadership. He’d learned how to bloom where he was planted.
So what if instead of asking the question that begins with, “If I could just get….,” we asked ourselves something different:
If I could learn to be content with where I am and with what I have, how might that shift in perspective enable me to bloom where I am planted? How would it allow me to contribute more powerfully? How could it help me feel more gratitude? How would that change the way I interact with others? How could learning to bloom where I am planted help me grow into the leader/person/parent/friend I am seeking to become?