Alright, I get it, we are tired of the amount of gardening metaphors that are used to illustrate life lessons. Preachers, self-help authors, grandparents, ex-boyfriends… it seems like everyone loves to use a good ol’ plant analogy to explain life’s greatest lessons. 

But I have to be honest, ever since Jeremy and I got married and moved into our place, I can’t stop gardening. I don’t know what has gotten into me, but I love it! I used to watch my dad garden but it just seemed like a messy chore that required too much time and patience. I thought plants were interesting enough, but it never became a passion of mine until recently.

And to be honest, it actually has shown me a lot about life. I know, I know, shocker! But before you click out, just read my thoughts and maybe it will bring forth some new ideas for you as well.

Our little patio provides the perfect place to sit in the sun with a good book and some iced tea. It was one of the first things about our house that we fell in love with! We moved in and bought some chairs to go out front and spent as much time as we could out there. 

But we slowly started to realize how nasty the plants were. They were completely overgrown and dead. We started to wonder how many years these plants had been there without anyone to really take care of them. We decided that even though we are renters, we would take care of this small garden while we had it! 

Gardening has taught me a lot about life and the habits we surround ourselves with. Too often we go throughout our days trying so hard to change our lives—our mindset, our habits, our words, our thoughts, or our emotions—without realizing the hard work we have to put in along the way. Gardening has shown me that the steps toward change are vital. Missing a step is like trying to win a marathon without training. It just won’t happen or you will hurt yourself in the process. 

Here are three steps toward change that gardening has shown me: 

  1. Tear up the shit.Yes, you heard me right. Before we can watch the flowers bloom, we have to tear up the dead and dying plants that have taken root for years. When Jeremy and I started tearing up one of the nasty plants that had been sitting on our patio, there were about 20 spiders that came crawling out. It was absolutely terrifying! No one had taken care of this plant for years and it had now become the local hangout for a tribe of spiders. This process of tearing up the old took a really long time. We started with one and continued throughout the course of a few weeks to tear up the rest. It was hard work! Not only did it take days, but there were so many deep roots that took forever to find.

    Sometimes we move toward new change so quickly that we wonder why it just doesn’t seem to be working. We want to implement a new habit but it just doesn’t seem to be sticking. Little do we realize that there are deep-rooted ways that have to be torn up in order for the new to take root. Throughout our childhood and into adulthood, we’ve been given narratives to live by. These narratives are given to us by society, family, friends, and many other forces. These narratives then create habits that sometimes go unnoticed for a long period of time. When we want to change a given habit, we have to tear up the roots of where it came from. The best way to tear up the shit that has created toxic habits in your life is simply to ask questions. Dig deeper about the narratives you have been given and the ones you so easily used to accept. How has it affected you? Where has it created a habit that you want to break? 

    For example, growing up I saw all of the women in the world constantly cover up their face with makeup. From the movies to my friends at school, it seemed like everyone wanted to cover up their natural skin. It was a story that I saw every woman buy into. “You can’t go out in public without your face on.” It was so ingrained in me that I still struggle to this day to break the habit of putting on makeup just to go in public. I wanted so badly to break that mindset, but first had to identify the story that created the habit. 

  2. Choose according to your own uniqueness. Once Jeremy and I dug up the roots, we were able to move on to the fun part of picking out good looking plants that would not only suit the patio but also fit our personal styles. We spent hours searching through the many flowers and ultimately chose the ones we loved and could care for. It was a process that we didn’t rush through. But in the end we had the power to choose.

    We have the power to choose the new narratives and habits we accept. We no longer have to blindly accept what has been given to us. When we have deconstructed and are ready to create new narratives that align with each of our uniqueness, we have to remind ourselves not just to chose what everyone around us is doing. The key here is to remember that you have the power to choose. What works for one person might not work for another. Some people find peace and joy by painting their emotions and inspiration. They create a habit through painting that will build them up and bring joy. For me, that is not a habit I want to create. I find it fun, but I understand my unique creativity and painting just isn’t it. Writing is. I now build habits based on what works for my unique narrative. We then get to decide what habits and decisions we put our energy into next. What will build up healthy roots? How can you change your habits to foster a renewed mindset? 

  3. Show up everyday. As we all unfortunately know, plants require time, attention and…water. Don’t worry, I’ve killed off way too many plants with lack of water and care. We’ve all been there. Its a daily act to show up every day for your plants! Not only does showing up require watering, but it also requires pulling weeds and cutting off the dead so that new can have space to grow. 

    The same is true with the change we want to see in our lives. We can try as hard as possible to change our habits, but if we aren’t consistently showing up for ourselves in other parts of our lives, we won’t see the point in changing. If you really want to wake up earlier, but have consistently given up on yourself in all the other areas of your life, you won’t see the point in putting in time for yourself every single morning. Habits are formed over consistency of time and effort. I used to grab my phone every morning the minute I woke up. But I started to see how this affected my mindset as I entered my day. When I consistently showed up in my routine to foster a renewed mindset every morning (link blog post here), I watched how my mindset shifted significantly. But it took me showing up consistently for myself every single day. 

Change can be hard. You might be starting to see the ways your habits are leaving you feeling down, anxious, hurt, or disappointed. You want a better life for yourself but you don’t know where to start. What would it look like to become curious? Why have you accepted these habits and routines in your life? How can you change them for your unique self? And how can you consistently start to show up for yourself? 

You might just be surprised to see what starts to bloom. 

Elyssa Schultheiss