Right outside the windows of my office, I have flower boxes.
Two years ago, one of our employees, Jennifer Brotherson, generously built them for me with great love and care. Last summer, I filled them with fake flowers. For the most part, I was happy with those flowers and had even started with artificial flowers again this summer. But after a few weeks, I realized that I needed real plants.
So, I asked Heather Coffey, who can give you the names of more plants than anyone I know. And, who has helped my husband make our garden possible, to plant the flower boxes with real plants. Periwinkle, coleus, and ivy, as seen on my Instagram.
I love seeing those plants when I look out the window! They are vibrant and healthy. But I also notice that they can start to wilt in the heat of the summer day. They need water! Excess water drains out; water evaporates, and the plants have no access to water beyond what is in the soil in the box. The plant's response provides a constant barometer—real-time feedback. They were doing well, but now they are not.
The plastic plants were, frankly, much easier. They required no care and always looked good. But they were far less beautiful than the real ones. They weren't alive, growing, and changing.
First, I had an ‘a-ha' moment yesterday about life. There is a lot to do and a lot happening beyond flower boxes. I get tired and sometimes a little overwhelmed. I sometimes equate lots to do with something's wrong.
It occurred to me as I looked at my plants that nothing is wrong. It's just an energy problem, a minor resource shortfall. There's enough light and soil, but it's summertime; maybe there is too much light, too much warmth. Whatever the cause, the plants need more water.
Similarly, when I am tired, I realize that it means nothing more than the fact that I'm tired. I need to rest. Maybe I need a little less daylight and to sleep for a bit. Nothing is wrong. I only need to manage my energy, take a break, do something different, catch my breath.
The second thing I realized is the importance of observing the people around us. How's their energy? Are they wilting a little, experiencing a resource shortfall?
Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy of The Energy Project have reminded us to manage our energy rather than our time. Because time is finite, no amount of management can give us more or replenish it once it's past. Energy is different. Good energy management can make a real difference in how well we thrive.
Everyone around me is also trying to manage their energy. Maybe when others aren't at their best, they start to wilt. They, too, need a little more water, sunshine, rest, or a break from the heat. As part of the ecosystem of others, maybe I can provide that water just like I do for the plants. I can't be everything for everyone. But there are at least a few that I can do something simple to nourish and support, beginning with my family, colleagues, people in my congregation, and people I pass in the grocery store.
Let's be honest: sometimes we are a little fake with each other–I'm all good, no water or sunshine needed here. However, to thrive, we all need the right resources flowing at the right rate. We need to manage and replenish our own energy and give and receive resource support from others. I've written before about resource balance and the sweetness of strawberries.
This week's podcast is with Ray Wang, the CEO of Constellation Research, author of the recently released Everybody Wants to Rule the World. He gives us a fascinating look at data—which we are surrounded by—demonstrating that we are advantaged when finding the biggest ecosystem possible to be part of and to participate therein. It might require us to relinquish something, compensated with the more significant opportunity it provides.
My window box ecosystem is the same. I can toss in the fake flowers and forget them, but if I'm willing to sacrifice a little time and effort to care for the real deal, the rewards and enjoyment are far greater.
P.S. If you'd like to be eligible for one of five copies of Ray's book, hit return, and I say, I Want To Rule My S Curve.