3 Lessons on Mental Gardening That Can Grow Your Team

mental gardening

My in-laws are probably the most avid and talented gardeners I know. 

When my wife and I visit their home, I always find myself amazed at the beauty of their back yard.

The perimeter of their well-manicured lawn is an oasis of beds filled with trees, shrubs, and flowers arranged to produce a symphony of color.  A large wooden deck, itself sprinkled with planters full of fragrant vines and blooms, invites guest to wander out and enjoy the splendor of this setting – and it would be difficult to recall a visitor who left their half-acre of Heaven without commenting on how stunning and peaceful it was.

The most impressive thing I learned about their immaculate landscaping effort is that when they moved into the home nearly 25 years earlier, virtually everything looked different.  Over time, though, they completely transformed the area – pulling up the weeds to clear out new space and establish borders, placing the anchoring trees and complimentary plants, then pruning and weeding where necessary every season.  The results speak for themselves.

Why is this important to you?

Because the last time I visited their home, while walking with my morning coffee, it occurred to me that we all have a plot of land we are responsible for cultivating – and it is our personal choice to either neglect it or build it into something appealing and productive.

The plot of land we all possess is in our own minds.  Our thought garden is where we plant the ideas and beliefs that eventually grow and mature into our choices and then our circumstances.  After some consideration, I found three lessons on mental gardening that can grow your team..  There are three simple but significant similarities that our thought gardens share with the back yard my in-laws found when they purchased that home years ago.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”  Just as my in-laws found their back yard riddled with unwanted tangles of weeds, so do we, as individuals, at some point recognize that our minds have been corrupted by destructive or negative thoughts that clog up the soil and deprive our other plants from prospering.

The first similarity between their backyard and our personal thought garden is that we all have undoubtedly taken ownership of a few unwanted weeds, and we must identify rather than neglect those negative plants (thoughts) and remove them to prepare the “soil” for new growth.

The weeds we inherit are often limiting thoughts or criticisms placed there by our parents or peers when we are young, and it is these negative beliefs that must be eradicated for us to enjoy any great harvest in the future.  Maybe you were told you weren’t good enough, or attractive enough, or smart enough to be successful – but whether your garden is filled with dandelions of doubt or ragweed of worry, if they are allowed to thrive and grow unchecked, they take over and keep favorable thoughts from flourishing.

Think about the dandelion – quite possibly North America’s most familiar weed.  Because their roots can grow up to three feet long, dandelions – like doubts – can be both irritating and resilient!   And those of us with allergies may be amazed to learn that just one ragweed plant can produce one billion grains of pollen.  Ragweed, like worry, is a nuisance that spreads quickly makes us miserable if not removed.

Doubt and worry are two common types of destructive weeds in our thought gardens, and if we want to create a pleasing and peaceful landscape, these and any other negative thoughts must be cleared away so space is available for more pleasing and productive ideas.

The second similarity is that we must be deliberate about what we choose to plant in the patch of earth we’ve prepared – there is only so much room in the garden, and what we plant is undoubtedly what we will harvest. Like preparing a playlist on our I-pods, there are certain thoughts or ideas that we repeat to ourselves over and over each day.  These thoughts and beliefs we choose to repeat and fertilize with our attention eventually grow into the reality we either endure or enjoy.

If you desire a harvest of carrots, you wouldn’t plant kudzu!  So it is with our thoughts – by focusing our minds on the positive things we want in our lives, we help to produce the harvest of a successful new year we desire.

As gardeners, we choose the seeds (and thoughts) that are planted and nurtured – and should remember that wasting garden space on unproductive ground cover (much like wasting time on distracting and unproductive ideas or activities) only keeps you from sooner enjoying the blooms or bounty that might have been created by more productive plants!

As Abraham Lincoln said, “If we magnify our pleasures the way we magnify our disappointments, we would be a lot more successful.”  Because we are 100% in control of our thought garden, we need to choose to cultivate confidence by planting and fertilizing more positive thoughts.

Finally, the third similarity is that we must be prepared to invest time and energy in maintaining the garden.  Anything neglected withers, and new weeds will always sprout up and need to be pulled before they establish themselves and spread roots in the soil.  Even after we have taken the time to purge our gardens of past weeds, the winds of each new season will bring new ones.  Be aware that each day you will be bombarded with negative thoughts and criticism and suggestions that can serve as obstacles to your intended harvest.

You must be willing to regularly tend to your mental gardening and remove any unwanted sprouts that could steal sunlight or resources from those ideas and beliefs you intend to nurture.  It is your garden – and with a little planning, effort, and vigilance you are sure to provide yourself with a lush landscape that offers both peaceful beauty and the fruitful harvest you want to enjoy.

What your team thinks about always becomes their reality. 

Improving self talk and team communication with a fun corporate or  teacher team building event can have a HUGE positive impact on overall performance and confidence. 

When your team can replace negative thoughts and behaviors with more productive ones that promote trust, encourage team collaboration and improve morale, you are on your way to building a tremendous team.

Plant the right seeds, and the successful new year you create may eventually impress even your in-laws!

And if you liked this article, you’ll love the many resources in Sean’s Teamwork Toolbox.