Speed Up by Slowing Down: An Ode to the Micro-Ambitious.
If you are familiar with my writing and work, you know how much I love to garden. It's not simply the act of gardening but the garden as a teacher. A garden is potted poetry. It's not beautiful because each section is beautiful, but because each part is beautiful in relation to the other.
The garden is an exercise in alignment and authenticity because nothing in it stays the same, and it's up to us to pause, reflect and respond accordingly. The same holds for your vision in life, your leadership and how you’ll show up in the world. When you don't take the time to establish what authentic success means to you and tend to that vision, the garden of your life languishes.
What’s keeping your garden from flourishing? The answer lies in addressing these three common challenges:
1. You're Not Sowing the Right Seeds
We tend to see fruits, not labor. We see the award-winning garden, the fully realized person, not the planning, potting, and repotting that made them that way. Just like everyone's dream garden looks different, success takes on different shapes and meanings for all of us. It changes according to the season of life. Yet, in our bigger, better, faster society, we're spoon-fed a false narrative of success: when we work hard, do the 'right' things, and meet the 'right' people, our lives will bloom into success and happiness. As we begin sowing seeds accordingly, the unexamined life that promises fulfillment often lets us down.
2. You're Letting Your BHAGs Get the Best of You
Many of us struggle to recognize when our Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals propel us or when they paralyze us. If you have a BHAG to design and grow an award-winning English garden or anything else for that matter, the micro-steps you create to support your goal will arguably be even more important to your success. Conversely, when we don't have plans to execute, our BHAGS can become so aspirational that they obstruct us from the potential for joy and purpose. The truth is that purpose often finds us. It shows itself when we live in sync with our values and grow to know ourselves more fully.
3. You're Awaiting Epiphanies Instead of Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom
Waiting for an epiphany to change your life is like waiting for flowers to bloom without tending to them. We can waste untold decades in a state of inertia, hoping that someday, an unforeseen circumstance will shatter our worldview and jolt us awake, revealing who we truly want to be. But, friends, I'm here to tell you that you already have the wisdom you seek.
Carl Jung wrote that all adults have both an inner child and an old sage within them. Honoring your inner child's energy, curiosity, and spontaneity while also being still enough to hear the quiet voice of your inner sage will enable you to tune into those epiphanies you're awaiting.
What Seeds Can You Sow Today so You May Stand in Your Sunlit Garden Tomorrow?
4. Give Yourself Permission to Repot
There's lovely wisdom to the old maxim, "Bloom where you are planted." But there's equal beauty and wisdom in planting ourselves where we can best bloom. I call this repotting. It's the intentional act of seeking out new soil that nourishes your life so that you can grow deeper, more robust roots to live more authentically aligned in ways that enable all your 'small p' purposeful actions to lead you to your larger sense of what I call 'Big P' Purpose. Repotting is not about finding the shiniest, prettiest pot; it's about enabling your continued growth and development so you can thrive.
5. Don't Let Society Tell You How to Garden
We live in a culture that believes anyone in midlife is on a slippery slope toward their demise. The truth is, you have more years of living, not dying to do. You are just getting going, entering a new season, writing a new chapter, and continuing to become and grow whole. There's no "Sell By" date limiting your usefulness when cultivating a growth mindset in the decades of life and leadership in front of you. It's never too late to let go of relationships that no longer serve you, to 'upskill' and perhaps soften your edges, to learn how to embrace change and better navigate transitions.
6. Get Your Hands Dirty
Micro-ambition by micro-ambition. Seed by seed. Curating the life you want takes time and tending—the result: miraculous. With some calluses on your palms and some joy in your heart, could 2023 be the year you start consciously curating your Big Hairy Audacious Garden?
I’ll be co-leading an empowering and liberating Mastery Week, The Consciously Curated Life, with MEA Facilitator Aparna Shute, from April 17 – April 22 at MEA’s awe-inspiring Baja, Mexico campus. Together, we will identify the threads of your life, unearth the wisdom within, and create your 2023 Impact Statement.
Barbara Waxman is a veteran guest faculty member for MEA and is a leading life stage expert, leadership coach, and gerontologist. She is part expert coach, caring truth-teller, strategic thought partner, and an accountability advocate, buoying her approach with compassion, honesty, research-based expertise, and a light heart.