I’m going to assume that you have heard this Chinese proverb before. Did it impact you the first time you heard it – or if this IS the first time, does it?
What does it make you think about? What you missed out on, or what you’ve created today from your ‘planting’ years ago?
What does it make you feel? Regret and frustration…or full of appreciation?
Perhaps this quote makes you think and feel ALL of this, and more.
I don’t work in the world of investment where this idea translates into compound interest or time in the market. But most people understand this concept and you probably ‘get it’ from this perspective, don’t you?
From a lifelong learning perspective, this teaching reminds us that it’s never too late to accomplish the things we want to. We have all heard stories of people taking up a running, or yoga, or an instrument, or making a career shift later in life and having loads of fun and success. ‘Start now and do a little bit every day and see the incredible progress you can make it just one year!’ they say. Easy to say…but not necessarily easy to do.
In fact it is simple, but it’s not easy. This is partly because as we get older (and are not longer in school) we forget what it’s like to learn something new, and for the most part we think we can do it all alone. Learning takes effort! It can be confusing and frustrating while we’re figuring it out. And it’s easy to get caught up in self-doubt, verbally beat ourselves up, and quit…
When we were grade 1 or 2 and learning addition and subtraction, and we just didn’t get it, we didn’t give up. Why not? Well, because we had a teacher, and probably a parent too, explaining it again, and in new ways, until we understood – and who encouraged us to keep at it.
And because – for most of us at this young age – we still really and truly believe in ourselves. When does that self-doubt start to creep in?? But it does and in my view THIS is what keeps us from ‘planting a tree now’ when it comes to changing things in our lives. Career, relationships, fitness, finances – it’s all the same process. It’s not that we don’t see the value of taking action, creating new habits, starting something new NOW or understand how it will impact our future. We don’t plant that new tree because we doubt our abilities; we doubt that ‘things will be different this time’…
Our present lives are a reflection of decisions we made years past. Some decisions served us well and others less so. These decisions came from our thoughts and feelings at that time. And so an essential lesson that I take away from this teaching is DECIDING what to plant IN OUR MINDS.
Earl Nightingale likened the mind to the earth, more fertile that any garden we have ever seen. I love this imagery and it use it regularly to help people change their thoughts, which changes beliefs, inspires action and creates new results. Another simple but not easy task! (Next week I’ll talk more about how to use this idea to remove weeds and plant new seeds).
The beliefs we have today were planted years ago. Some we planted intentionally and some were planted by other people, our culture and society. To go back to the analogy of investment and time in the market, the longer the beliefs have been growing in your mind, the stronger their roots and the bigger they have grown. Taking it further, what ‘compound interest’ are your thoughts and beliefs generating? Self love, or self doubt, can both grow stronger with time…
The best time to plant belief in ourselves was twenty (or more!) years ago. Confidence, sense of self, comfortable in your own skin, presence – these are all labels we use to express someone with a deep-down belief in themselves. Some people have this core belief, but in my experience – with individuals, in business, in community and in schools – most of us need to plant a belief tree today, and intentionally nurture the beautiful trees we have planted in years past.
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now”.
It is never too late to accomplish the things you want to. Read this teaching again and honour the good you have created in your life through your past decisions and actions – and feel inspired for what you can create by what you choose to plant now!