Your life is a lot like farming.
Yesterday, I went to my in-laws’ house during the national holiday and worked. Here are three of the lessons that working the land has taught me about life:
Planting involves a lot of preparation of the soil beforehand. Likewise, changing your life, or doing anything good in your life isn’t just a matter of shouting, “Let’s get to work!” and scattering seeds of change. None of those seeds will ever take root in your life if you don’t first spend time preparing your heart to receive those seeds. Effective and lasting life change (growing a harvest of a new lifestyle) requires research, planning, and a good source of motivation (the water that seeds of life change need to live) before you just start doing.
But remember that it is possible to prepare too much. If you spend the whole season just tilling the ground and never lay down any seed, then you’ll never reap the lifestyle change you desire. At some point (sooner rather than later), you just need to plant the seeds and get out there and start doing. The process itself will teach you much.
Weeding gets rid of the nasty stuff that prevents or hinders good growth and good harvesting. In your life, there are certainly things that are preventing your growth or hindering a life change you want to make. Get rid of them, and do it quick. Have you ever noticed that participating in certain activities or hanging around with certain people seems to drain your energy? Some things are better left to others to deal with. Your goal should be to maximize your energy and maximize the use of that energy. Nobody ever changed their life when they were exhausted or worn out. Stop letting those weeds in your life rob you of the energy you need to grow and change.
Additionally, don’t allow “pretty-looking” flowers (or fun habits and good intentions) to suck up all the water of motivation that your seeds of life-change need to germinate. Learn how to weed through your own habits and tendencies in order to create a more efficient lifestyle that will help you achieve your goals.
Harvesting (chili peppers) involves a lot of getting down and dirty among the bushes and choosing the good ones. After doing all the hard work of preparing, planting, watering, and weeding, you’d think harvesting the fruit of your efforts ought to be easier, right? Not so. Harvesting is the final, difficult and dirty step to go through before you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labor. After all your effort and training, you still have to send out those resumes, make the phone calls, ask for the sale, maintain a healthy weight, take the certification test, and so on. The fruit of your labor – a new job, a new prospect, a new sale, a new lifestyle, certification – awaits.
What do all these things have in common?
Two things, actually:
- There’s a time to “get your head in the game” – to focus your attention down at the work in front of you and just get moving.
- There’s a time to straighten your back, stand up, observe your progress, reassess, and reorganize your efforts (after all, you don’t want to go over an area again that you’ve already covered).
The value and necessity of reassessment
I learned the value of reassessment the last time I went about trying to make a plan for life and studying Korean. I was doing the hard work of preparing my heart for the seeds of change by researching “planning” on Google and I stumbled across Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan e-book. This was an invaluable resource for me as it breaks down all the steps for creating and following an effective plan.
Honestly, I’ve read a lot of material about planning in the past, but Michael Hyatt presented some new concepts for me that are more important than the actual planning itself:
- A Weekly Review Process
- A Quarterly Review Process
These are the times when you “stand up” in the field of your life, take a look around you, and make sure you’re still on track (and not redoing what’s already been done). For each of these times, he offers some advice:
- Weekly Review: “A plan is worthless unless you review it on a regular basis.” (p. 35)
- Quarterly Review: “The secret to staying on top of your priorities is to schedule regular times for review and reflection.” (p. 42)
Most people aren’t good at reassessing
For as many people as are bad at planning, there are at least that many planners who are bad at regular reassessment. It’s much easier – and seems like a much better use of time, actually – to just make a plan and try to stick with it, rather than actively reassessing that plan. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, regular reassessment could save a great deal of time and energy in the long run.
For example, if we don’t reassess our lives and plans regularly, then the following things may happen:
- We’ll end up redoing what’s already been done because we just aren’t paying attention.
- We won’t do it effectively the first time because we missed something along the way.
- We will convince ourselves that “I have a plan and I need to stick to it” even long after the plan stops working.
- We can’t move on to the next thing when we feel guilty about not “sticking to” the plan we made earlier.
So we waste lots of time and energy on a plan we either fall ignorant of or feel guilty about changing. We would all be far more effective if we regularly reassessed our original plans and weeded out what wasn’t working quickly, rather than keeping our original plans around so long that they spoil the harvest. There are always more effective ways to do things. If we’d just give ourselves permission to stand up, reassess, reorganize, and modify our plans, we’d enjoy a more plentiful and earlier harvest of life change.
How do I do it?
For me, this looks like taking a full Saturday (or holiday) away from everything, in a coffee shop every 3 months to reassess and restructure my priorities and plans. It’s how I established my plan for studying Korean. It’s also how I decided to start writing this blog on a daily basis.