A person smiling, surrounded by plants.

4 Things Plants Can Teach You About Yourself

Looking into the wisdom that countless people don’t even realize plants possess.

“Can I help you?” The woman at the plant nursery asks me. “No, I’m fine, thank you,” I respond. Walking along the aisles, I look at the various indoor plants. Some with dark shades of green. Others with white flowers growing from them. Some small and contained. Others a mass of sprawled leaves.

It quickly becomes overwhelming.

I walk back to the front. “On second thought,” I say to the woman at the counter, “I would love some help.” Moments later, I stand at the counter once more. I have three plants in hand. Well, I actually have three plants, three pots, and a macramé plant hanger as well. I’m happy I asked for help.

There are a lot of similarities between the life of a plant and that of a human. Here are four things plants can teach you about yourself.


On productivity

Some plants prefer low-light environments. They enjoy dim, shadowed spaces. Others prefer medium or high-light environments. They want a setting that gets a lot of light.

Each plant has its own light preference. Put a low-light plant in a low-light environment, it grows. Put it in a heavy-light environment for too long, it dies. The key is to match the plant to its ideal environment. The right match results in the plant being able to do its job and do it well.

Humans face something similar. Instead of sunlight though, humans have different preferences of work-time.

The two that you may be familiar with are that of the early bird and night owl. Early birds get up and get things done. Night owls wait until the sun goes down to do their most productive work. Like plants, the key is to match the right person to the right environment. Force a night owl to work before sunrise and they will struggle. Conversely, let them work all night until sunrise and they will thrive.

Test out which category you belong to. Do important work early in the morning. Then do other important work later at night. See which feels best.


On growth potential

I have a peace lily in my living room. It is bright and vibrant. It has the potential to grow much larger than it is. But I don’t let it. Instead, I force it to remain in its current pot. This stunts its growth. I feel a little bad, but I like its present size and don’t want it to get any larger. So I don’t let it. I intentionally halt its progress.

Humans do something similar to themselves.

Someone turns down a managerial role because they don’t want the change. Someone else sabotages a relationship because it’s getting too serious. Or someone stops reading because it takes too much effort. A person may have tremendous potential, but they never move into a larger pot. They stay with what they know. They don’t take the opportunity to expand. It is safer in the smaller pot, but less rewarding as well.

When faced with something outside your comfort zone, tell yourself that it is an opportunity to grow. To move into the next pot and reach higher into the sky.


On nutrition

Some plants rarely need water. Others need it frequently. I have one plant that needs water once a week and another that can go without it for a month. Different plants require different amounts of hydration. Likewise, different plants require different types of soil as well.

The more I learn about nutrition, the more it seems that humans follow a similar pattern.

It would be nice to say that all humans would benefit from a certain type of food. Or that they would do well eating a particular quantity of food. But that, unfortunately, seems too simplistic. Instead, like plants, the right diet seems to vary dramatically from person to person. You may excel by counting calories while someone else may do well abstaining from all carbohydrates.

On an individual level, it can feel maddening. Like being a plant but not receiving instructions on how often to be watered. Ultimately, you are responsible for figuring it out for yourself. So test out different foods. Experiment with quantities. Uncover the regime that works for you.


On patience

The bamboo on my desk sprouts a new branch maybe once every six months. Growth happens naturally though so long as I care for it. It takes time, but neither I nor the bamboo are in any rush. It will happen when it happens and I know it will happen.

Humans struggle to be patient. When we want something we want it now. It’s a behavior we are born into – crying out for milk from our first breath.

However, patience can be learned. Part of that is acceptance. It is accepting that the thing we desire will come to us in time. That we must wait to receive it, but that it’s on its way. This has been a tough lesson for me as I’m sure it has been for you. But knowing that it is coming, whatever it is, allows me to accept my present circumstances and thus remain patient.

For years, I panicked over my business. Over how much it earned. Now, I don’t.

I accept it will keep growing. I trust it will happen. So long as I continue to nourish it, it will continue to flourish. And because of that, I am able to wait with a smile. You can learn to do the same. Trust things will continue to get better. Take care of yourself. And let the growth happen naturally, just like the bamboo on my desk.


Move forward as a plant

Plants are lucky. People have studied them in detail. We have agreed-upon rules regarding how much light they prefer, how often they need water, and more. We have a rulebook that allows the plants to thrive.

Humans don’t have that.

Yes, we have been studied, but we don’t agree on what the results mean. Or on the best way to take care of ourselves. And so, ironically, we must look to the plants to give us guidance.

  1. Do important work in the morning and evening to see when you are most productive.
  2. Embrace opportunities to leave your comfort zone.
  3. Test out different nutritional theories to see what works best for you.
  4. Know that so long as you take care of yourself, all will be well.

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