Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Overwelming Lessons from the Garden

My garden was once my pride and joy, but somewhere over the last 7 or 8 years it lost its place on my 'interest' list - so much so when I attempted to venture down the path last week I could have cried.  I couldn't get to the bottom - the 'lawn' was at least 3 foot tall, the hedges double their width and brambles criss-crossing the paths.    At that moment I felt completely overwelmed and ashamed.  How on earth was I ever going to tackle this jungle?   I had a strong desire to just go back indoors, lock the back door and deny that I have a back garden but I knew sticking my head in the sand for another year would only compound the situation.

As I hacked away at the brambles, took the hedge trimmer to the hedges and 'lawn' to re-create a path I knew I had to get a plan together, just randomly tackling the job was not going to transform this jungle to an acceptably wild but tamed rambling garden, much less a beautifully manicured one (but thankfully that's not my style!).

Some coaching questions came to mind and whilst I was hacking away I began to answer those questions and formulate a plan.   It gave me a sense of relief to realise that taming my garden is possible, and also perversely how it took my wild jungle of a garden to remind me to apply some key questions and themes of coaching to my own life!

How important is this to me?
At this particular point this is important to me - as I'm beginning to question the purpose of all the running I am doing and what value and enjoyment I am getting from that, I remember that I find peace and solitude, a time to think and just be, the enjoyment of being outside immersed in nature when working in my garden - ironically similar to what I get from my running when I'm not on some crazy schedule of races. 

How will I know when I get there
I'll wander down my garden with a sense of satisfaction and pride - I know what that feels like - I've had it before!   I'll be on first name terms with the tip employees I'll have visited that often!

If something isn't working do something different 
Clearly my strategy of do nothing wasn't working to manage my garden the way I wanted it so it was time to do something different - TAKE ACTION!

How do you eat an elephant?  In bite size pieces
In its entirety the whole project is completely overwelming but I broke it down into small chunks - daily chunks in fact.   I figured that if I fill two manageable size garden bags with clippings and weeds each day and take it to the tip (just a 2 mile detour from my daily commute to clinic) that I will start to see results very quickly - and it takes less than an hour to fill those bags!

See the opportunities
Being August, being the Olympics I am presented with a great opportunity - clinic is quiet so I have more time, the evenings are still long, my daughter is home and available to help, and the weather is good (haha - that one may prove yet to be a challenge!)

Don't sweat the small stuff - do what creates the biggest impact
Starting to clear the paths and cutting back the hedges made a huge difference - the garden now looking like it is under some control!   Once the biggest shrubs, areas of bramble are cleared I'll start working on the flower beds, though I did weed the one nearest the patio, the one that is on view!

Identify the biggest challenge or sticking point in achieving this goal
The removal of the garden rubbish is my sticking point - I purchased two manageable size heavy duty garden tidy bags which when full I can still lift and move through the house to the car, and found out the opening times of the local tip!   Once I'm onto the 'finer' weeding and the bags take longer to fill I can start on the huge pile of garden waste left over from last year's short lived attempt to tame the garden - some of it has composted down but much of my garden rubbish is twiggy and woody.

Identify the added benefits
I'm also going through a huge de-cluttering inside the house so the daily trips to the tip means I can also dispose of the house rubbish and not have that hanging around in the 'tip' pile!   Some much needed bonding time with my daughter.  The headspace and prompt to come back to my equally neglected blog!   I always knew 2012 was going to a year of change, it has been and is continuing but this has made me realise I've just allowed the change to happen rather than proactively steering it to my best purpose.

If some of this sounds familiar, not just your garden, but any areas of your life where you are feeling overwelmed with the enormity of the goal, then try applying some of these questions and see how much better you'll already begin to feel now that you have the beginnings of a manageable, realistic and achievable plan in place. Any change, whether wanted or not, can be overwelming but applying some questions, giving it some thought and attention, identifying and find solutions to the  sticking points can transform that negative overwelming feeling to one of an exciting challenge or adventure

Operation Back Garden is now on day 2, and I'm looking forward to my stint in the garden! It has rained overnight and there is a lovely fresh earthy smell in the air and an early morning coolness - wonderful!

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