Gardening brings us face to face with both the potential for abundance and the limits of our control over outcomes. There are plenty of things we can do to produce a rich harvest, but there are no guarantees that any of them will work. In this regard (as in many others), gardening is a near perfect metaphor for creating what we want in life and business.
Worry vs. care
One of the distinctions gardening can teach us is that between worry and care. This is important for two reasons: (1) Worry steals vitality and creativity, whereas care feeds them. (2) Worry doesn’t produce tomatoes.
To worry is to invest time and attention in anxious or uneasy thoughts. When we invest in those thoughts we spin tales of woe and intrigue. We see images of what has gone wrong in the past and what could go wrong in the future. Worrying is a declaration that something important is at risk and that we are relatively powerless to prevent a damaging loss.
To care, on the other hand, is to invest time and attention in interested or affectionate thoughts. When we invest in those thoughts, we seek and cultivate connection, insight, and understanding. Caring is a declaration that someone or something is important and that we can have a positive impact on it and it on us.
Given the difference, we might wonder why we worry.
We worry because we think it will help
It seems to me that there are three reasons that we worry. First, we mistakenly believe that something outside of us can impair our wellbeing, and we think worry will protect us. Secondly, we fear that if we stopped worrying we’d lose the motivation to intervene for positive results. Finally, we think that worrying proves that we care.
Worry impairs rather than protects wellbeing
When it comes to protecting wellbeing, worry is a really bad investment. In the garden, worry is powerless against the vicissitudes of weather, the potential of a given seed to germinate, and the incursions of hungry critters.
When it comes to growing a business and to life in general, worry cuts us off from our innate wellbeing. It puts static in the line that connects us to wisdom. The more we worry about being okay, the less okay we feel and the less access we have to insightful action. That leads to even more worry, which further impairs our sense of wellbeing, so we worry more. It’s a vicious circle.
Worry is the great de-motivator
There’s nothing like a good spell of worrying to sap motivation. In or out of the garden, it’s hard to summon enthusiasm amidst a snarl of scary thoughts. Preoccupied by worry, we’re predisposed to a victim mentality. And when worry does get us moving, we tend to be scattered and curt. We act like lone rangers. We overlook opportunities and possibilities for creative and collaborative action.
Worry can’t prove that we care
Many of us live in a culture in which worry is the expected response to problems and not worrying is seen as evidence that one doesn’t care. This can cause us to hang onto worries even when we know that worrying isn’t helping. Who wants to be seen as cold and uncaring?
But reflect for a moment on how worry sucks energy from relationships with ourselves and others. It puts a kink in our connections. When we worry, we can care immensely yet be blocked from a heart-to-heart expression of that caring. It’s frustrating, lonely, and, of course, not helpful.
Worry can’t prove that we care, but caring can.
Whereas worrying blocks access to wellbeing and wisdom, caring opens it up. As soon as we disentangle care from worry, our hearts open, and insight begins to flow. We are able to authentically connect with others and clearly communicate our caring.
When caring puts us back in touch with our innate wellbeing, we see again that nothing outside of us can cause us harm. That unleashes motivation, freeing us to act boldly and creatively because there is nothing to lose by doing so and everything to gain.
And when we simply care without worry, we realize that there is nothing to prove, no one to convince of our goodwill.
It’s not about the tomatoes
The thing I love most about gardening is that it’s not about the tomatoes. It’s about gardening in and of itself. And the lovely thing is that the more we lean into gardening for its own sake, the more we come to care for what we are creating and the less we worry about results. And, don’t you know, that makes us better gardeners.
The origins of Shaboom and an invitation to apply for individual coaching
My company name is taken from a tune written and recorded by The Chords in 1954. The refrain, Life could be a dream captures the promise and impermanence of dreams. It calls us to be bold, visionary, and creative. It honors intuition and alternate ways of knowing. And it reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously.
It’s exactly what I want for myself and for my clients.
This fall I’m opening up my practice to five new individual clients. This is a rare opportunity to work with me at a deep level to unleash your creativity, hook up your genius, and take bold action to create your dreams. I will begin interviewing prospective clients next week. To learn more and apply, please click here.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr.