5 Things PLANTS Can Teach Us About Personal Growth

Plants can teach us a lot more than you’d think.

Growing my own vegetables during isolation has been a really interesting journey that has taught me not only how to garden, but also a lot about growth in general. Humans are not so different to plants in terms of what we need for psychological growth. So, today I’m sharing the top five things plants have taught me about human development.

One – Individualised and Consistent Growing Conditions

Plants need exactly the right amounts of water, light, fertiliser, and so on. At the start of the growing period, they might need a different type of food compared to when they are flowering. They’re complex! It depends on the particular plant too – cucumbers like it hot, while parsnips prefer it cooler. You can’t treat them all the same and expect them to thrive.

It’s not only about getting the right growing conditions occasionally, but consistently. A plant watered one day, then not watered for a month will not thrive like one that’s watered throughout the month.

If we learn how to treat ourselves and which environments we thrive in, growth will be easier for us. We are individuals, though, and the conditions I need may be very different from what works for you. Only we can determine what it is that enables us to flourish.

Once I find the appropriate conditions, I put in place habits to ensure consistency. These habits could be anything, from diarising a daily gym session, to blocking out weekend evenings for relaxation. 

Two – Relying on Others

Very few plants grow without relying on other things – a wall for them to clamber up, bees for pollination, and so on. Their growth is stunted, if not stopped, if they don’t have the ‘help’ they need from certain things. Flowers, fruits, vegetables and insects are all part of the pollen cycle.

I loathe asking for help, and yet plants only thrive when they rely on others. Very few plants are able to exist independently, and humans can’t do this either. We cannot succeed unless we reach out to others when we need their assistance.

Three – Having Space to Grow

Some plants grow okay in a pot, but the vast majority grow best in open soil. If you’re growing things in a pot, it’s a science in itself to figure out what size pot each plant needs for its root ball.

I am inclined to make my world smaller when my anxiety is rife. I know that when I do this, I don’t succeed because I don’t have room to ‘spread my wings’. The bigger our world, the more opportunities to meet others to help us on our way, the more success there is to find.

Four – Making Sacrifices

When growing vegetables, we only want them to grow fruits that ripen before the end of the season. Sometimes gardeners remove budding fruit, so that the remaining veggies can fully grow. This makes plants concentrate their energy on ripening what remains on their stems.

We get caught up on the hamster wheel of ‘busyness’ and end up doing pointless things. We stop preserving energy for the things that are useful to us. Just like gardeners learned to prune plants for the largest veggie haul, we need to do the same with our own lives.

It can cause panic, though, can’t it, to drop certain things from our lives? When part of us is pretty sure that an action is the right thing to do, we fear what happens next. We fear the discomfort of going through the removal process, and worry that what is on the other side is no better.

Five – Aiming for a Goal

Plants’ main mission is to reproduce, but there is also an intermediary mission: to ‘meet’ the sun. Have you ever seen a plant bending itself in all directions to get closer to its light source? The plant is relentless in its pursuit of its goal. Even if it has a bad spring, or a cramped pot checks its growth, it will recover and continue its pursuit of the light.

If we grow and adapt ourselves towards our goal, we will get closer to our goal, than if we panic or stand still. When I encounter obstacles, I get frustrated, stomp my feet, and feel annoyed at life not going to plan. Instead of the anger, we need to keep going, focussed only on that goal we so desperately desire.

These similarities are fascinating, but there is one significant difference that we have. We don’t have such a limited growing period. Plants thrive in only one or two seasons, but the rest of the time they are stymied by cold soil, rain, and so on. Our life is finite, but our growing year is not. This allows us to be more intentional: we don’t need to grow for the sake of growing. We have the opportunity to check in with ourselves and make sure we’re heading in the right direction.

In fact, a sense of urgency puts too much pressure on ourselves, which creates a sense of scarcity. This pushes our goal even further away. Our role is to focus on the goal, not the time it takes to get there.

The biggest takeaway from these comparisons is that if you keep your conditions right, you will bear the ‘fruits of your labour.’ This is (quite literally) what plants do. A happy plant grows exceptional fruit or flowers that keep coming. The more we work towards our goal, the better life begins to look for us, and the more fulfilled we will feel.

Be. More. Plant.

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