Lessons in listening: Getting to your roots

Alas! The chance of a frost has diminished, the earth has begun to warm and moisten, and planting season is here! For the ambitious gardener, this process likely started weeks ago with seeds and grow lights. Yet for many of us, it is time to dig in and get dirty.
In our home this process begins at the kitchen table with my daughter and me creating an overzealous list of flowers and vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, pumpkins, beets, carrots, watermelon! Rutabaga! But, of course! My realistic and temperate partner then appropriately culls our list. Then we are off to Green Haven to buy seeds and starter plants and start baking a banana bread for the kind neighbor who tilled our garden. The next step is getting in the dirt and planting our treasures. Then we water and wait. And water, and wait. And weed, and water. And wait.
This process of growing a garden is not unlike the process of change or integration of a new habit into our lives. When we plant a tomato seed, we aren’t eating a BLT the very next day. Likewise, when we decide to train for a marathon, we aren’t running it the following day. Change is a growth process and much of the early change happens internally, just as the early growth of a seedling occurs underground.
As a health coach, I regularly steer away from giving advice. My job is to create an environment in which my clients are able to tap into their own wisdom. That said, if I were able to give just one piece of advice to get them started, it would be this: Be patient and give yourself time to grow your roots. Your success in creating a sustainable behavior change is directly linked to your willingness to build the foundation for that change.
The roots of change start with your vision, or your “why.” What inspires you about this change? How does integrating this change open you up to new possibilities? How will you feel when this change is a regular part of who you are and how you choose to live your life?
The roots are also grounded in your values: who you are and what really matters to you. When in your life do you feel most alive and fulfilled? How does this change support or connect to these feelings? I liken this exploration to the time in which your seed is germinating underground. On the surface you see nothing, but what is going on just beneath the surface is absolutely essential if your plant is to come to fruition.
In addition, roots need nutrients from the soil to grow. Ask yourself, what nutrients of support, encouragement, and practical elements do you need in order to grow? This need for support continues, even as your progress forward has started. In the seedling stage, be gentle with yourself as your roots are not deep and strong yet. Our plants need just the right amount of sunshine, shade and water. They might also need a cage or trellis, as they grow strong and hardy. As we journey forward, it is not only OK, it is necessary to ask others and ourselves for patience and nourishment. That is how we give ourselves the opportunity to grow into our best selves.
With that, out to the garden. Dreaming of the first bite of my August BLT, and embracing the growth of my little plant!

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