When we talk about growth, many of us think: marketing, business, exponential growth, data. However, today we want to trace the concept of development and evolution back to its roots (literally). What does it mean to grow? How do we expand our minds and improve our bodies? How do we go beyond who we currently are to reach new heights?
In times of need, we look towards nature because, simply put, it has answers. Pick up a leaf from the ground – any leaf will do – and even those of us with no botanical knowledge will be able to immediately notice the system of veins running through its blade. Does that remind you of something?
Our own physicality and human nature are equally complex and more connected to Earth than we realize or care to admit. We are who Mother Nature shaped us to be. We need water and light to grow, we change according to life’s seasons, and even our mood is subject to influence from weather conditions.
But if you still can't see the wood for the trees, allow us to elaborate.
At the Roots: Where We Come From
At first, we are but tiny seeds. Some of us have a chance to fall on fertile soil and some of us have to fight for survival in barren ground. Some of us are regularly watered, exposed to sunlight, and properly cared for and some of us are left unattended to fend for ourselves. So how do we grow healthy roots?
We don’t choose our family by blood (sometimes an apple falls really far from the tree), our guardians, or school teachers. We have no say in where or when we are born, what circumstances constitute our first environment, and if the grass is greener where we are able to go from our first neck of the woods.
Still, we can adopt a family – friends who will support and nurture our growth (even if it’s slow and messy), people who will (gently or not) nudge us to challenge ourselves. We can choose our mentors, work towards leaving our circumstances, search for new soil, build a new home, and keep our minds open in order to learn from the grind. For you were not brought up in the woods to be scared by owls. You got this.
The Tree Trunk: Who We Are
Soon enough, something sprouts from the ground – a teeny tiny proof of life dressed in green. About that time we start to form our personality, our first hopes and dreams, and before we fully grow into ourselves, our character is formed into a solid trunk, our core, the spine that holds us in an upright position.
Psychologists are not unanimous in the nature versus nurture debate, but they do agree that at its most basic, personality, as our unique patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, remains fairly consistent throughout life. For example, it would be extremely difficult for an introvert to become extroverted.
However, if we understand the mechanisms of our personality well, we can use it to our advantage. We can work with what we’ve got towards unlocking the potential that lives in the trunk of our unique tree. Check your personality type (this test is our favorite), paint a solid picture of who you are and what you stand for in your mind and heart, accept that nobody’s perfect and that growth is always painful but worth it. Only then, with a fairly fixed personality, will you outgrow a fixed mindset.
Branching Out: Decisions, Decisions
Psychologist Carol Dweck believes that under the surface of our fixed broad personality traits lie our "in-between" qualities such as beliefs or coping strategies. These, according to Dweck, are very much changeable. Therefore, if we can, for example, break away from our limiting beliefs, that might have a resounding effect on our behaviors and possibly on certain aspects of our personality.
But it boils down to our personal choices, the limbs and twigs. Each and every branchlet is an evergreen decision we make that shapes the tree of our life. Our fate depends on whether we pick what is right over what is easy and convenient, whether we opt for creating rather than consuming, if we go after that dream or stay in the safe but mundane zone of comfort. Everything we do matters.
Once again, we turn to nature, this time within ourselves. If you struggle to make the right choice, stop for a moment. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think about your crossroads. What’s the gut feeling? Does path A make you feel expansive or contracted? Now, what about path B? There’s wisdom in our bodies, and usually, we know what we want before we know what we want.
The Crown of Leaves: Success and Flourishing
If every twig is a decision, every leaf and every bloom is the consequence of it. A tree is known by its fruit, and the fruits of our labor are the sweetest. Hence, if you decide to invest in yourself, after a while you will see positive change in your wellbeing.
Who said success doesn’t grow on trees (wink-wink)? Education, taking a healthy risk from time to time, starting that new passion project (sometimes for the sole purpose of challenging the brain), but also self-care, good diet, exercise, and proper rest are all steps towards growth. And above all: gratitude.
Sap is the tree’s blood. It travels within its veins distributing nutrients throughout the whole plant. Gratitude is that same kind of nourishing life force. It spreads within us fixing what’s broken or weak in order for us to grow strong, healthy leaves and, in time, burst into beautiful flowers of happiness. If you allow gratitude to fill you in head to toe (or crown to root), it will fuel your growth and prosperity.
Great Oaks from Little Acorns Grow
Do you know the best part of growing and evolving like a tree? Rebirth. When a branch is cut off, it regrows. When the leaves perish in autumn, they come back in spring. It’s that cycle of natural changes that corresponds to what we go through in our own lives: loss – patience and recovery – flourishing.
A tree is a symbol of life for a reason, all we are mimics nature. So grow tall, grow proud, grow mighty. Invite birds to rest on your branches so they can sing songs for you. Let other people rest in your shade on a bit too sunny a day and they will water you with goodness in return. And be patient, your growth might be slow but if you tend to your sprouts with love, it will be tangible.