The month of March can signal many things to many people. For me, it is nearing the beginning of Spring, a time of new growth. We have had a lot of change over the past few months and our approach to how we respond to change can be empowering or stifling. We will take a look at how our mindset supports or impedes success. But first, I would like to share how growth resonates with me as one of my top values through a personal story that continues to reveal possibilities, courage opportunity and success.
I have always had an affinity for trees. As a child, I loved climbing trees. I did almost any activity I enjoyed doing on the solid ground, if it was remotely possible, in trees. At the very least, I gave it a good ‘ole try, with the exception of riding my bicycle. I played dolls, had tea parties, and played make-believe games in certain trees.
Over the years, two of my most memorable trees were my grandmother’s giant magnolias, which once kept me safe from the scary Weimaraner (the gray dog with gray eyes that lived across the street and once bit the mailman). It charged out one day and I scrambled up the tree until someone came to the rescue from what I feared could be a disastrous meeting on the ground. I was grateful to my love of these trees that day.
Then, there were the Camphor trees in our yard in Pelham, GA, with their huge trunks and sprawling large limbs that reached out to the ground, with nooks and crannies for balancing games and toys and children, and provided hours of play and fun, creativity and even discovery of possibilities during the years we lived in Pelham. My sister even attempted to glue me to the tree, and I am still not certain as to her intention. But we had just discovered flour and water make a paste, so whether she wanted to test it out or just make me stick to the tree, I happily let her try. It was a tree after all! By the way, I did not stick.
And there was the large Cunninghamia tree in our side yard, which was a fir tree with long prickly limbs and leaves, and I was convinced that it was the tallest tree in town. A little boy in the neighborhood climbed up near the top, which was no small feat because of the uncomfortable branches and leaves at every move. He would not come down because it hurt too much, so the fire department came to our yard to help him down and it was quite the exciting activity of the day. I worried that was the end of climbing that tree, which I had not yet ventured to scale to its upper branches until I heard my dad say that no one can climb the tree unless they are able to get down on their own. This gave me hope, and one day, I climbed up as high as I could go until the top of the tree started to become narrow. I was determined to make it up and down without assistance. I reveled in the fact that I made it and knew I could count on myself to get down. So after a short pause (hanging out up there was not super sublime for an elementary school child because it was unpleasant). I began my way down. Now you may think that if one was convinced they could complete the task on their own, going down would be rather quick. However, I had to give thought to carefully placing my feet and hands, all the while being fiercely stuck by the prickly leaves and limbs. The bottom line is, it hurt, and it was a slower process than I had hoped. I recall small red dots on my arms and legs for several days after my journey was done, but I had accomplished what I set out to do and I was satisfied.
I never chose to climb that tree again. Once was enough. Many years later, when I went rock climbing with my brother, I recall some of the feelings I experienced in the strategy of carefully finding where to put my hands and feet in order to go up and return safely to the ground. I understand the affinity rock climbers (one of my sons and daughters-in-law included) have for climbing as an adventurous sport.
Later in life when we moved to an old neighborhood in Sandy Springs, GA with large oak trees, I realized how much my affinity for trees stayed with me. I gently teared up when one old oak had to be taken down in our yard.
I now live in Denver amongst 100+-year-old trees. Living in an area like I do, was one of my strongest desires when we moved here – to live where there were tree-lined streets, with huge trees. I had not given a lot of thought and awareness about the tree connection in quite a while other than they are beautiful, provide shade, are havens for animals and are crucial to the ecosystem of our planet.
I started to realize that they are a metaphor for me and there is a deep connection. Whenever I walk among the parkways and sidewalks, I notice of these age-old trees that are often threatened by low water, neglect, weather or progress, and I notice my affinity with them. I am aware of their importance, their soul, and aliveness. I am surrounded by huge trees that I honor and appreciate. And, no, I have not climbed them in Denver. Their lower branches are very high and I am not quite as nimble as I was in my childhood.
The other night I dreamed of my former home where my mother planted a 15-year old magnolia. Much to my disappointment at the time, it was not very tall or strong, so climbing was out of the question and could not take place until long after I had grown up and moved away. I have driven by the old house and seen the great tree in recent years, and although it does not seem quite as grand as I remember those in my grandmother’s yard, it is lovely. However, in my dream, it was grand and certainly climbable, and I joyfully watched my kids and other neighborhood children go up as high as they could and sprightly come back down. It was a pleasurable experience observing the delight I once knew in that activity. The dream also brought thoughts about my past, the connection to nature and what trees mean to me.
Trees are a metaphor for growth. For the most part, the growth of a tree starts with a tiny seed and knows what to do. It is part of nature. Not dissimilar to us, the growth generally happens without constant notice unless it is drawn to our attention. The service of trees is vast and growth is imperative. Humans can find their likeness in life to this process and become incredible, creative beings.
For me, my journey over the years reminds me of possibilities, connection, determination, accomplishments, fun, challenges, and courage. As I mentioned, growth is one of my most important values by which I live my life. My remembrance of experiences reminds me of endless possibilities, a belief in myself and my abilities, enjoyment, appreciation and gratitude. And, of course, delight.
Growth is a natural phenomenon, but your approach to it is really up to you. An interesting exploration is the exploration of Fixed Mindsets or Growth Mindsets. One source I use in my coaching and consulting business is Carol S. Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A quick synopsis comparing these two ways of viewing yourself, others, and opportunities based on Dweck’s philosophy looks like this:
|Fixed Mindset – Talent and ability is static
|Growth Mindset – Talent can be developed
|Focus on looking smart and proving smart
|Focus on learning
|Fear of challenges; gives up
|Ready to take on challenges, persists and surmounts
|Effort is useless
|Effort is a way to succeed
|Resists feedback unless supportive
|Appreciates feedback and learns
|Success of others is threatening
|Success of others is inspiring
Mindsets, though, are not permanently fixed. They can be changed. Understanding how your mind is currently geared is an asset toward success.
According to Dweck, “The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life, and the impact you have on others. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
Once again, it comes about with awareness. One of the best ways to begin to recognize how your mind is working is to listen to your internal and external language. The words you use to describe yourself, situations, things and other people are very revealing. The process requires a thorough discovery of beliefs, origin, desire and intention, followed by a commitment to take charge of how you operate in the world. What will you choose?