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Pull the Weeds from Your Life

Are there any weeds in your life (i.e., things that drain your positive energy)?

Yesterday I weeded my front garden for the first time in months. Typically this is something I enjoy doing but for some reason I have neglected this maintenance task and it showed. On this cool and sunny day, I took my time and decided to play with weeds.

As I searched for the hidden culprits who were secretly and quietly squeezing the life out of my garden, I thought about how weeds easily creep into our lives, in our communities and in our organizations. In my line of work as a communications and organizational development specialist, I find them everywhere and I am often asked for tips on removing them.

Have you got weeds? You're not alone. Here are some thoughts on weeds and some tips for their removal from your life.

Bringing Weeds into Focus

Weeds draw on the healthy energy of others. Given Merriam Webster's definition, weeds are regarded as things that tend to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants; they are classified as an "obnoxious growth, thing or person." Garden experts will tell us that weeds thrive in places where things aren't optimally healthy. Ironically, their hidden function is to bring things back into balance.

So who/what are the weeds in your life (i.e., those elements that invite you to bring more balance to your life)? They may fall into the categories of persons, situations, places or things.

Person: Who is it that drains your energy? Is there a person in your life who consistently disagrees with you or challenges you? Someone who drains your energy or makes you feel unhappy? Distracts you from doing the things you would like to do? Distracts you from spending time on things that you feel you are supposed to do?

Situation: What drains your energy? Are there situations that surface in your life that cause you stress or make you feel nervous (e.g., speaking in public, talking to a boss or neighbor, dealing with difficult customers, etc.)

Place: Is there a physical space that you visit or find yourself in that, for one reason or another, takes your energy away or doesn't feel good (e.g., a cluttered room in your house, an office environment, etc.)?

Thing: What issues or problems distract you from doing the positive things you envision? Which ones drain your energy every time you think of them?

Removing the Weeds from Your Life

Increase Awareness - Increase your awareness of any "weeds" in your life. Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to stop, look and listen. Take a few minutes to look at the garden of your life. Identify any weeds that drain your energy. You may find that you have different types of weeds - write them down on a list in your journal or in another safe place. Writing them down will lighten your load and help to objectify the weeds. It will also empower you to select one area to work on - if you choose. Sometimes it is easy to say, "I have neglected my garden and now I have too many weeds. I don't have time to remove them all." If you ever feel this way, select a small section and start there. One weed/problem at a time. One focused moment at a time. One day at a time.

Assess Their Impact - What impact are your weeds having on you? To examine their impact on your life, you might look at breadth, frequency and strength of response.

  • Breadth - How widespread is the problem? Do you encounter any particular weed in every setting of your life? One? More than one? Assessing breadth may help you determine the level of urgency for dealing with a particular person, situation, place, issue or problem.

  • Frequency - How often does any one weed drain your positive energy? Which ones do you encounter more frequently than others? How many hours a day is your energy hijacked by the weed? Paying attention to frequency may help you determine which areas to target first.

  • Strength of Response - What is your reaction or response to each weed? How much mental energy does the weed rob from your time with yourself, family, friends, or your work? Are you experiencing dispiriting physical symptoms from encountering a weed? Maybe you are having an "allergic reaction" to a person, situation, place, issue or problem. Are you losing sleep? Paying attention to your responses to any given weed can help determine priority for its removal.

Determine Level of Priority - Once you've determined their impact on you and/or the others around you, you can decide which areas are top priorities for you. Sort them out and identify the one that is causing the greatest negative impact on you and/or your environment.

Make a Decision about How to Deal with It - Know that there is always something we can do to positively impact a situation. There are three choices: Accept it, change it or leave it. That's it - three choices - once you acknowledge this fact, you will reclaim a sense of element control over the situation; in turn, your levels of optimism and personal satisfaction will increase while feelings of powerlessness decrease.

  • Accept It - After assessing their impact, perhaps you decide that some of the weeds aren't that bad after all - perhaps the cost of pulling them or the effort required is just too great. You may decide to let it rest - keeping your eye on them and reassess them at a later date. You may even believe that they will make your life richer or more beautiful in some way. Given this option, you may choose to let some of the weeds continue to live in the garden of your life and hope that they will grow into beautiful flowers.

  • Change It - You may decide to make some changes. There are always lots of options - go after those weeds on your own or hire an expert to help you. There are usually lots of change options and it is often helpful to brainstorm with a trusted advisor. In your home garden, you might choose to rebalance the soil or spread mulch over the area. Translated to the garden of life, our options generally include: changing the other person (always a "go to" but not always easy); heightening the other person's awareness; adapting the way that we communicate - trying a new approach; changing the way we think and/or respond to a person, place, situation or thing. When you decide to try to initiate a change, I'd suggest an initial brainstorming session to generate a list of all the change options you can imagine - every single one. They don't even all have to be good ideas - but capture every thought. Then decide which idea you want to try first. If you follow this piece of advice, you will always know that you have options in your proactive journey to make positive changes in your life.

  • Leave It - Subtly different than the option of "accepting it," we may choose to leave it (i.e., pull the root of the weed from your life.) Although this is an efficient approach in the garden, it can often feel complicated to implement this option in our lives. Leaving a person, place, situation or thing can be difficult and complicated. Some people exercise this option more easily than others. And it is not always the right decision but in some cases it may feel like the right option. For many people, this is often the last resort after having tried a number of different approaches. Only you can decide what is right for your unique garden.

Employ Proactive, Ongoing Assessment

Like most of us, I have some weeds in my garden. I've pulled some of them and I'm watching others to see what develops. I may decide to pull them later, but for now, they are doing no harm and they may actually turn into something beautiful.

Remember that the hidden function of weeds is to bring things back into balance. Your weeds offer clues about how we are doing and feeling and invite us to be more intentional. The way we respond to our weeds indicates what's most important to us. Look for clues in your life, your health, your environment, etc.

If you start to feel dissatisfied or unhappy about something, get to the root of the problem with the tips provided here. We can utilize them to make healthy adjustments. We can use them for renewed perspective. Some of them are even beautiful.

Bring beauty to your life by examining what's in your garden. You get to choose what stays and what goes.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on strategic planning, coaching and/or motivational programs.

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