The late British gardening author Mirabel Osler wrote,
“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”
Not everyone smiles at the same work.
Personally I discovered long ago that I like the “idea” of gardening a lot more than doing gardening.
What makes me smile is brainstorming or delivering a talk to hundreds or even thousands of people.
For you it could be photography… turning chaos into order… or making pancake art (yes there is such a thing!).
One person’s chore is another person’s joy.
I met a woman who loved cleaning refrigerators so much she wanted to start a business doing it for others!
Gardening may or may not be your thing.
But the process of growing a garden does offer valuable lessons you can use to change course to be your own boss.
1) Wanting it with all your heart
The first step to changing course is desire.
I’m not talking about wishing or hoping.
I’m talking about a deep longing to change the course of not just your work but your life.
The kind of longing where you’re done complaining about your barren landscape and gazing enviously at other people’s garden — and you’re ready to dig in to create your own.
A longing so powerful it makes you turn off the TV or tune out of Facebook (or both) because you know there’s not a moment to waste.
2) Tend the soil
There are many ways to prepare for change.
Regular doses of inspiration help. After all there is no better proof that you can make money doing what you love than the people who are doing it.
Watch television shows like Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den as the original show is known in Canada.
Follow other knitters or tiny house builders or stamp collectors on Instagram.
Mostly though, the way to tend the soil is to make frequent trips to the well of knowledge and information.
Soak up everything you can about starting a bed and breakfast, being a consultant, owning alpacas, getting paid to write or travel or create art… or whatever it is you want to do.
3) Plant the tiniest of seeds
Even the biggest plants began as tiny seeds. And so it is with dreams.
Every major enterprise began with super small steps like… call Fred.
If you already know what you want to do, then use what you learned in step 2 to start taking small targeted steps to get there.
Buy video editing software, call your department of health about home based food business regulations, go to local estate sales.
If you haven’t the foggiest notion of what makes you smile, then plant lots of different seeds.
After all, the only way to get an idea of what excites you is to experiment.
Read a book, take a class, talk to a stranger about their work… cast lots of random seeds out into the world and see what takes.
You may be surprised at what pops up!
4) Keep the weeds down
It’s not always possible to actually “weed” people out of your life (you know how fussy loved ones can be when you disown them).
You can, though, use selective sharing to mentally root out the voices of those who poo-poo your dreams.
Instead reserve these conversations for people who understand and support your desire to change course.
Sometimes weeds come in the form of bad advice from ill-informed people.
Despite never being self-employed a day in their life, too many people are all too happy to tell you why your idea will never work.
If you don’t want to spend your life in the weeds along with them, then you need to find a way to counteract this kind of negativity and bad advice.
A simple start is to picture yourself in your future life.
Then remind yourself of what you should really be afraid of…
Namely, looking back at your life and knowing you allowed your dream to die on the vine from neglect or willingness to give up too soon.
5) Practice patience
Sufficient desire to make a change — check.
Soil tended, seeds planted, weeding done — check, check, check.
Now all you need to do is scream at your garden, “Grow, damn it!”
You can’t rush your dreams any more than you can rush a garden.
Some of the seeds you planted simply won’t take.
You can get discouraged about that if you want.
Or you can consider that those particular seeds weren’t meant to grow and then plant some different ones.
Other seeds seem to take forever to sprout and even longer to bloom.
Sometimes things happen so slowly you think nothing is happening at all.
During the first few years of my own business I had days when I was so discouraged I wanted “throw in the trowel.”
But I didn’t.
And neither should you because that’s usually the time when you wake up to find your first magnificent bloom.
The day you wake up and discover the life you dreamed of is the life you’re living.
So hang in there.
Patiently nurture those tender shoots and your field of dreams will grow.
6) Enjoy the Journey
As Osler observed, it’s the ongoing work of gardening that brings the joy.
You can’t just plant a garden and be done with it.
It’s like saying, “Well, I finished growing as a person now. What’s next?”
Rather, gardening is about coming up with ways to make the garden more interesting or fun or diverse.
It’s about redesigning the garden to come up with new ways to add value to the all those it serves.
Mirabel Osler’s name comes up again and again in the world of gardening writers. So I decided to do a little digging myself.
As I read Stefanie Hargreaves review of Osler’s book, A Breath from Elsewhere, I could not help but think of its application to the process of changing course:
“Osler’s argument – to break the golden rules, follow your instincts, and create the garden that you desire… effectively [draws] the reader further down the path towards the garden as refuge – a place perfectly suited for ‘inspiration or freedom, for discovery or surrender.'”