Lessons for Life and Leadership from the Lawn
I wanted to name this series “Lessons from the Garden” because it sounds nice and gardens are beautiful. However, I kill plants inside and out on a regular basis so that seemed misleading. In truth, I spent much of the summer of 2016 weeding my front yard. It wasn’t glamorous and didn’t result in anything with splendid color. I toyed with the idea of “Lessons from the Yard,” but I thought that title made it sound like I was in prison. I decided on “lawn,” and whatever you call it, I learned a lot sitting in the grass for a summer.
Lesson 9: Finding the Flourish Space
In my front lawn, there are different environmental conditions for plants. Parts of the lawn get full sun most of the day, while other parts are very shady. Some sections get part sun and part shade. The big trees suck up the moisture and challenge all the plants under them.
Different grasses grow best in certain types of environments. I have one type of grass that flourishes in full sun, but doesn’t do well in shade. Another type of grass does well in shade, but burns to a crisp in full sun. Under the trees, I planted an ornamental grass that can grow in shade and hold its own in the fight with the tree for moisture.
If I tried to use one type of grass for every part of the lawn, I would have large bare spots. No one grass flourishes in all areas and conditions. I have to pay attention to what flourishes where. When I plant grass in an area that has both sun and shade, I mix the seeds of two types of grass. Then, I wait to see which one will end up doing best in that area.
People are like grass in that we don’t flourish under all conditions. We can function and even create success under most conditions, but to truly flourish, we need to find our unique nourishing environment. When we identify our best conditions, things are easier. There is a sense of flow and ease.
We can’t define our flourishing space until we do some self-examination. Here are some questions to help you determine your best environment:
Do you prefer working with people or working alone?
Do you like getting lots of attention or do you prefer to work outside the limelight?
Does a frantic pace rev your engines or do you prefer a slower pace?
Do you like lots of interaction with others?
Does working as part of a team appeal to you?
Do you like working in a noisy place or a quiet one?
Do you enjoy being creative?
Is collaborating important to you or would you rather do it your own way?
Do you like recognition?
Do you enjoy public speaking?
Is the purpose of your work important?
Is making money a top priority?
Do you like challenges?
Is possible promotion important?
Do you want to be surrounded by people who are similar to you or do you enjoy people with diverse views?
There aren’t right or wrong answers to these questions. Just like grass, people grow and perform best in environments suited to them. We can struggle along and do a good job most anywhere, but to truly enjoy work and reach our full potential, we need our flourishing space.
Another way to define our best environment is to think back to times when we felt like we were in our groove and things were easy. What was the environment like in those times? We can learn a lot by examining our past.
People often say that they don’t know what they like. That’s common. How can you know if you like something if you haven’t experienced it? The solution is to get out there and try! Once you take a job or create a certain environment, pay attention to what you like and don’t like about it. Make a list! You might decide that you want to work from home at least two days a week. Maybe you like doing data analysis, but you hate answering phones. Perhaps you like being in charge and want to start your own business! It’s like planting two types of grass and seeing which one does best.
As you move through your life and career, look for environments that give you more of what you like and less of what you don’t like. Each job, whether volunteer or for pay, should be closer to your ideal than the last one. You get to craft your flourishing space over time. It only requires you to pay attention and choose intentionally.
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