Seeds of change

When habits take root and prevent us from progression, even the smallest adjustment – that’s significant to you – can encourage fresh growth

Trees have enthralled and inspired people around the world for millennia,  their unwavering presence never ceasing to spur on the collective imagination. Even today, countless societies and cultures continue to imbue these tall and often ancient giants, with wisdom. But why do humans gravitate towards these organisms? And what has prompted so many poets, novelists, artists and filmmakers to personify them through the years? Which of their qualities suggests an aura of intellect? Perhaps the stillness of trees is an indicator of how they have watched over the landscape for centuries. Upon extending their roots deep into the soil beneath, trees remain planted – both literally and figuratively – in one place for their entire life.

Remaining in one spot for extended periods is not something we share with our woody counterparts – humans have always roamed, moving town, country or continent. Some relish and embrace the lack of constraint and opportunity for transformation, while others find it difficult. For them, stepping into the unknown is a sensitive endeavour, requiring a deep breath and much bravery. Yet change remains an important part of life and is worthy of celebration.

In Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables series, the eponymous lead loves being surrounded by nature, particularly trees. Set in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, the sweeping scenery keeps her young, wandering mind content. Yet even this orphaned teenager comes to see that change is inevitable. As her neighbour Mr Harrison says in Anne of Avonlea: ‘Changes ain’t totally pleasant, but they’re excellent things. Two years is about long enough for things to stay the same. If they stayed put any longer, they might grow mossy.’

If we were to take Mr Harrison’s musings to heart, it invites the question of what needs to be done to avoid “growing moss” in daily life. First, it’s important not to mistake moss with fungi which, in the context of trees, can provide nutrients and help with growth. Similarly, for humans, if something akin to healthy fungi supports wellbeing, then it might be worth maintaining. Knowing what really needs to be altered and whether it’s currently beneficial to you or not is paramount, as change for the sake of it can be counterproductive. In other words: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Yet when the same old, same old begins to take its toll and no longer feels fulfilling, the moment might come when the moss must be cleared. There is no one way of going about such a task. Nor, for that matter, will the results be the same for everyone – we all lead different lives. Apart from ensuring that the beneficial fungi stay put (unless you desire otherwise), the methods used to enact meaningful developments are yours to decide. What’s more, you get to define how significant the change is, with none too big or small to fit your personal definition. It could be scaling back work projects to make more time for family and friends, swapping cardio classes for Pilates or spending more time with your nose in a book than looking at the TV – it could even just be rearranging photos on a shelf. The only important thing is that it’s significant to you.

It can be useful to use the acronym SMART when considering your goals. Ask yourself if what you’re altering is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

  • Specific rather than broad changes will enable you to make positive steps – large or small.
  • Measurable rather than boundless objectives will keep you motivated.
  • Achievable aims are less likely to disillusion you.
  • Realistic goals are easier to maintain.
  • Time sensitivity can help get results.

When striving to make change, remember to be patient and kind to yourself, especially if things take longer than what you’re hoping. Likewise, if goals fall into place quicker than initially imagined, enjoy the moment – you’ve earned it. And take comfort in knowing that you and that mighty oak in the forest, or perhaps the resilient willow by the riverbank, are both worthy and deserving of growth.

Clear the moss

If you’re on the cusp of a purposeful change, or wish to work towards one, consider asking yourself the following:

  • Could this be beneficial and/or fulfilling?
  • Does it meet my personal definition of significant?
  • Is it SMART?
  • When change is slow – am I being patient and kind to myself?
  • When change is quick – am I appreciating each moment along the way?
Words by Alex Bowers

This article was originally published in Breathe Issue 27, Here and Now - View Magazine

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