Izzy Findlay MA, LPC, LCDC

The Progress Project

Harvesting Your Best Life: Lessons From The Garden

What the gardening process teaches us about nurturing the life we desire.

Posted Sep 22, 2020

Regina Findlay, used with permission
Your life is in your hands.
Source: Regina Findlay, used with permission

“Your mind is the garden,

your thoughts are the seeds.

The harvest can either be

flowers or weeds.”

–William Wordsworth

As mentioned in my previous post, Mother Nature is one powerful healer. She’s also an exceptional teacher. And when it comes to teaching us lessons from the land, the garden becomes another of her classrooms. Whether gardening is a lifelong passion or a hobby you picked up to stay sane during COVID, it presents us with many opportunities to not only learn about horticulture, but our own lives.

In the above William Wordsworth quote, he suggests that the simplified process of gardening mirrors human life and the psyche. Depending on what we “plant” in our lives, we either bloom or wilt. Let’s dig further into this sage passage to explore five similarities between the steps of gardening and life.

1. Visualizing. Before breaking ground in your garden, it’s important to have a vision for it. Tossing out a handful of random seeds and crossing your fingers won’t result in those juicy carrots you dreamed about. Thinking of what you want to grow in your garden and how to lay it out is a good first step to making your vision a fruitful reality.

In life, this translates to considering what you want to create, how you want to live, and what you want to achieve during your time on Earth. Because your mind-garden is a blank canvas, the possibilities are endless!

2. Preparing. Regardless of what you choose to plant, poor soil isn’t conducive to growth. This is why gardeners take the time and energy to improve the condition of the soil before planting. After adding some compost and essential nutrients to the garden, crops have a higher chance of surviving and producing.

Creating the right foundation is vital to achieving your goals and dreams. Fortunately, there are countless ways to make your personal bedrock more fertile. Getting an education, engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, paying off loans, and organizing your workspace are a few ideas that help to enrich your life’s terrain.

3. Sowing. You don’t have to be an avid horticulturalist to understand the symbolic meaning of “You reap what you sow.” When a gardener wants tomatoes, they plant tomato seeds. When they want peppers, they plant pepper seeds. It’s a very clear, deliberate act that yields an expected (and delicious) outcome.

Each of us has the power to choose which “life seeds” to plant. For example, if you sow seeds of unhealthiness and hostility, it’s likely you’ll experience these in return. Contrarily, if you plant seeds of kindness and understanding, your life will blossom with positivity and love. Additionally, the “seeds” you plant represent all the things you want to do in your lifetime—your goals—such as buying a home, running a successful business, or obtaining a higher degree of education.

4. Tending. A gardener’s truly arduous work begins after the seeds are in the ground and sprouts begin poking through the soil. Because a garden requires a lot of care and attention, it is a constant task. Regular (and often daily) watering, weeding, fertilizing, and pruning are required for a healthy and prolific garden.

To ensure your dreams take root, it’s imperative to be devoted, aware, and present. Make sure to nurture the things that leave you feeling uplifted and fulfilled. If your metaphorical garden is unkempt, full of mental weeds, and bears little fruit, it’s probably time for some maintenance and pivoting. Negative relationships, excess baggage, and self-limiting beliefs, for example, should be pruned, as they’re no longer useful or beneficial. By shedding these toxins, you’re also inspiring new growth in other areas of your life.

5. Harvesting. Ah, yes … the most anticipated and joyful task of gardeners. After countless hours and energy spent, the crops have grown abundantly and are finally ready to be harvested. If, on the other hand, production was less than bountiful, it’s up to the gardener to analyze what happened and to adjust for future planting.

Just like gardening, we live the life we cultivate. Approaching your dreams and goals proactively is key here. If you want to reap the harvest of having a big family, traveling to exotic places, landing that dream job, or reaching a place of financial stability, it’s critical to have a plan in place and take the necessary steps to reach your goal.

When we become intentional with our life plans and more mindful of our everyday interactions with the world, our gardens will undoubtedly flourish.

Class dismissed.