It’s been a month since I started my gardening experiment. Actually the box said Chia Obama would grow full in 1-2 weeks, so perhaps I’m a little late in reporting this out. What can I say? I’m a slow learner.
At this point, I’m ready to call this experiment complete. The results were far from perfect (Chia Obama turned out more like Chia Doc Brown from Back to the Future), but the seeds did grow into something and I got $13 worth of entertainment value. As such, I consider it a success.
Here is what I learned:
- Gardening Takes Patience: You don’t get immediate results with gardening. It took a week before I saw tiny sprouts on Chia Obama. I was frustrated before that because it didn’t seem like anything I did mattered. What I didn’t realize was that just because I didn’t see it, the wheels were already in motion. Results come when they come. The seeds work on their own schedule, not mine.
This is true with habits too. It can take weeks or months to start seeing results, not days. Just because you can’t see results doesn’t mean they aren’t coming.
- Don’t Force It: I got excited when I saw sprouts, but they were growing unevenly. I wanted Chia Obama, not Chia Doc Brown. So I decided to add more seeds to the scalp. More is better, right? NOPE! Adding seeds was almost disastrous. Clumps of grown sprouts were falling off Chia Doc Brown under the force of gravity. Luckily I was able to scoop the sprouts up and stick them back in place, but my unbridled enthusiasm almost ruined the experiment.
My takeaway is that you can’t press the gas pedal on your habit, even if you are seeing positive results. You have to give the habit space and let it come to you.
- Control the Environment, not the Plant: A seed is a living thing and isn’t going to magically grow into a plant because you want it to. That being said, you can influence whether the seed grows by putting it in a room with the proper temperature with the right amount of sunlight and giving it enough (but not too much) water. All of which needs to be done thoughtfully and deliberately.
Gardening translates well to habits because they also cannot be controlled but can be influenced. Time of day, frequency, and signals to start (or end) are the environmental factors for habits instead of temperature, light, and water. If you can control those factors a habit can better take root.
I wish I could take credit for this metaphor, but Leo Babauta already made the connection in chapter 12 of his book Essential Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, Briefly. (His book is excellent and totally worth reading.)
Thanks for reading.