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Gardening is a great hobby that is enjoyed by many people.  Whilst I wouldn’t call myself an avid gardener, when I finally drag myself outside on a nice day, it is a nice feeling to get a few odd jobs done and have the place looking better. 

Today was one of those days for me and as my wife and I pottered around in the front garden, enthusiastically assisted by our five year old, I had time to reflect on a few life principles that related to gardening. 

So what can we learn from gardening?

Don’t wait until the weeds get too big:  I’m not a consistent gardener, so every few months the weeds start to get out of control.  By then it’s a lot of work to get the garden looking good again.  I always regret that I didn’t deal with the weeds when they were small and their roots weren’t fully established. 

The same is true in our lives with the habits and addictions that we fall into.  They always start small, but if you don’t deal with them early, they can entrench themselves and be much harder to remove later. 

What can start with a few binge drinking sessions can become a dependence on alcohol.  What starts with a few cigarettes on the way home from school can end with lung cancer.  What starts with impatience with your children can become an abusive relationship that damages your kids’ self-esteem and causes long-term damage.  What starts with a few small wagers can end with the loss of life savings.  What starts with innocent office flirting can end in a marriage-wrecking affair.

If you have a small habit that has the potential to grow into something larger and more damaging, don’t assume that you can control it and keep it small.  Deal with it now, so that you don’t have a bigger problem later when it may prove much harder to deal with.

Act on what you learn:  My wife and I enjoy watching lifestyle shows.  You know, the type of show where you get to see how professionals set up a beautiful landscaped garden, what to plant and how to maintain your newfound Garden of Eden.  They make it look so easy and the final outcome always looks terrific. 

We watched these shows for years before we ever even attempted to apply the skills we were learning in our own yard.  We would look at each other and say, “We should try that one day.”  But never got around to it.

We can do this with other aspects of life as well.  There are many people who are avid conference attenders, sermon listeners and self-help book readers, but who fail to apply the principles that they have learned into real life.  Genuine life change isn’t found in a book or at a conference, it is found in action taken from something that you’ve learned. 

One of the intimidating aspects about learning new things is finding out how to apply all of the skills that you have heard about.  We can sometimes suffer from paralysis by analysis when we have too many options for change, so we end up thinking that it’s too hard and not acting on anything.  Keep it simple.  Pick one thing that you think will add the most value to your life and make that a habit before moving on to the next.

Look at the big picture:  My next door neighbour spends a lot of time in the front garden, but (and I hope this doesn’t come a cross as too harsh) there isn’t often a lot to show for his endeavours.  There doesn’t seem to be a plan, just a lot of activity.  I suspect that more time spent standing back from the garden and less time spent working on all of the little problems would be beneficial and the same could be true for us on occasions.

There are times when I observe people going from one mini-drama to another in their lives.  If you find yourself in this situation, it can be worthwhile sitting back, reflecting and deciding on a strategy that will enable you to positively impact one of the areas that is causing you trouble.  make a plan and then execute that plan, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy.

Gardening is a great hobby and a wonderful form of relaxation for many people.  The next time you’re working away in your yard remember to pull the weeds out when they’re small, act on the advice that you learn and work to a strategy.

And don’t forget to smell the roses!

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