- Weeds and New Perspectives
When weeds invade your garden, it's tempting to feel guilty about them - even to try to pull them out. But what if you let them stay? Find out in this episode of The Unforced Garden Podcast.
Let’s talk about weeds. They’re unwelcome in most gardens. Weeds are a signal that the gardener hasn’t been committed to the garden, that something is amiss, untended, an eyesore, bringing down property value, a source of stress to be reckoned with, perhaps with poison, perhaps with fire.
There is a different lens through which you can view weeds. Let’s start with soil. Soil is filled with living organisms, all working together to create a rich ecosystem of life and nutrients. When soil becomes cracked and dry, that ecosystem lacks moisture and temperature control. The organisms die. The soil dries up and floats away as dust. The ecosystem fails.
Brilliantly, dry, bare soil attracts weeds. First come the pioneers; small weeds such as chickweed, that send a network of shallow roots into the dirt, beginning a fine mesh that will knit the soil back together. They provide just enough water and soil retention, enough sun cover, for other seeds to take root. Soon come grasses and taller plants, such as false dandelion. Then come shrubs. Then small trees. Then large trees. The ecosystem of the soil is restored, and the land has become verdant once again.
In other words, weeds can be the benevolent saviors of your garden. They have simply been recast as ugly interlopers, forcing themselves in where they’re not wanted. That’s a pity because they could be ameliorating your soil, providing nutrition, and sending benevolent chemicals to your begonias.
Consider a good weed patch. A patch of long dried grass, blowing golden in the breeze provides movement and highlights the movement and shimmer of sunlight. Chickweed is a supple, soft, lush green plant, edible and comfortable on bare feet. False dandelion has an architectural beauty to its tall, stark stems, and provides buttery yellow blooms that morph into fairy-like puffs of silvery white. The ground is covered; the soil is rich, and animals take cover; squirrels and jays plant seeds, and new things grow.
There is the possibility of letting a garden grow without every planting a thing. You could line a lawn-sized patch of bare dirt with several paths, install some statuary, benches, and archways, maybe a table and some chairs, and then let go. See what happens. Let the weeds come, and enjoy them, along with the animals that flock to them. You can simply sit on a bench with some lemonade and look for wildlife instead of pulling weeds. The hardscaping (the furniture and paths you set up) will set off the wild landscape emerging around you; the space will look intentional.
Swamps become meadows. Meadows become shrub-lands. Shrub-lands become forests. It’s okay; nature knows what to do. You don’t have to do anything.
And there is the possibility, in an Unforced Garden life, to do the same thing with your life planning. If you’re tired, drained, out of ideas, even out of hope, or if you’re confronted with endless weeds in your life - flubbed opportunities, perhaps the caretaking of a special needs child or an elderly relative, a menial career, a broken family, or recovering from a suicide attempt, to take the weed patch approach to life.
Here’s how. Install the hardscaping of life. Open spaces of time in your schedule where you are free to do what you like. Weekly visits to somewhere in particular. Monthly coffee dates with a friend. Daily walks around your neighborhood. A good dinner every night. You know, things to that effect - regularly scheduled anchors that are, of course, fun, easy, and good for you.
And then you wait, simply wait, for activities, friends, job opportunities, school opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, hobby opportunities, to emerge. Keep the ones that are fun, easy, and good for you. Let the others bow out of your life. In other words, clear out everything you can and let the weeds come. And learn to love the weeds that you are simply stuck with - scars, heart-breaking children, trauma, miscarriages, and grief. Perhaps, like garden weeds, they’ll send nutrition and softening to your soul, and heal you from the inside out.
You can also permit weeds in a cultivated life. There’s always room for a lovely middle path. You can strike a balance between false dandelions and begonias and enjoy the ways in which they set each other off. Caring for an uncle with dementia can lead you to discover rich friendships with other caretakers. Grief can open you up toward expressing greater love to others. Contrast is beautiful.
Here’s your homework: let a weed grow in the garden of your life. Something unexpected, something you didn’t plan for, something that, on the surface, is an ugly interloper but may, upon close inspection, be lovely, helpful, easy, fun, and good for you. Watch it. Consider it. Learn from it. And if you hate it, kill it off. If you love it, let it stay.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations6m | Aug 19, 2019
- How to Become More Disciplined
You want to be more disciplined - to take care of the needs of your career, health, and family. But it turns out that discipline doesn't work. What does work? Find out on this episode of The Unforced Garden.
As Scott Adams says, any system that relies on willpower is doomed to failure. Discipline relies on willpower.
Willpower is a finite resource. Over the course of a day, your willpower drains away - which is why you’re more likely to exercise in the morning and more likely to yell at your kids in the evening.
Discipline is a losing strategy.
Work smarter not harder - and do it by making it seem like the things you do don’t feel like chores. Here’s how.
Figure out what you’ll actually do in a given context. Then make a concrete note of how you feel when you act that way.
For example, many people report visual, tactile, or time-based triggers. They strap on an apron and find themselves automatically cleaning house. They walk past a plate of muffins and start noshing. When they stand on the back porch under the light of the moon, they call their best friend.
So it’s worth experimenting to see which triggers you have and to identify if they actions they spark work for you. For example, if you’re trying to give up fast food, it would be worth it to put out a massive pile of healthier muffins in the middle of a spot that you traffic frequently. If you eat enough muffins, you won’t have room for a #3, hold the onions. If you haven’t had as much social contact as you need lately, step outside onto the back porch. If your apron got hidden at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper and hasn’t been out in six months, retrieve it and put it on.
If you find that you’re automatically eating better, feeling less lonely, and that your home is cleaner, then maybe triggers work for you. Strew them everywhere.
Put a glass of water on your computer desk. Hide your phone out of sight so you don’t keep getting sucked into it.
That’s the reverse. Strew triggers around for the things you want to do. But hide the triggers for things you don’t want to do. Doritos go behind the cooler in the garage. Apples go in a bowl on the kitchen table. Tempting garden tools and packets of seeds land on your highly visible front door table, that series of books that always leaves you feeling lonely and depressed and sick goes into the trunk of your car, to be deposited at a thrift store.
In other words, discipline is for the birds. Use triggers instead. UNLESS you figure out that discipline really, really works for you - it’s fun, easy, and good for you. In that case, go for it! This is all about becoming aware of and then prioritizing the techniques and activities that make your life wonderful. More likely, triggers will work for you - and if you find them fun, easy, and good for you, use them.
Here’s your homework:
Identify one trigger that’s already in your life. You have some already. Like this: “after I use the bathroom in the morning, I wash my hands and brush my teeth.” Do you eat plates of heated leftovers whenever you turn on Netflix? Do you take a nap every time you pull a blanket up to and over your shoulders? It doesn’t have to be good or bad, just notice the trigger. Write it down. For bonus credit, write down more triggers - any that you notice, without judgment.
Then identify one trigger and see if it works for you. If it’s useful that you fall asleep when you pull a blanket up to and over your shoulders, use that technique when you want to fall asleep. If it keeps making you fall asleep during your favorite shows, keep the blanket far away from you. Make the trigger work for you intentionally.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations4m | Aug 12, 2019
- How to Overcome Shyness and Be Less Awkward
What it says on the tin. Get some tips about how you can improve your social skills - your way.
As with everything in the Unforced Garden of your life, overcoming shyness and becoming less awkward is a process that involves figuring out which aspects of being social are easy, fun, and good for you. Once you know which aspects of being social are easy, fun, and good for you, you MUST honor them and prioritize them. There is no one correct way of being social. Therefore you have the freedom to socialize with others YOUR way.
One way of figuring out your specific way of interacting with people - especially acquaintances and strangers - is to sort through the who, what, when, where, and why of your interaction style.
Who are you drawn to? With which types of people do you tend to have an unforced rapport? Old women walking their dogs? Teenagers toting around musical instruments? PTA moms? Geologists? Start figuring out your tribes - people who have the same values and interests as you. Make a list of your tribes - you can have several tribes! See if noticing and prioritizing tribe members will make it naturally easier for you to socialize.
What do you naturally do well when you’re socializing? Do you have a warm smile? Listen well? Are you witty? Are you empathetic? Are you decisive? Helpful? Figure out your strengths as a socializer and prioritize those behaviors during social interactions.
When are you best able to socialize? In the morning, when the sun is rising? Just before lunch? At midnight? Figure out when socializing feels easiest. Then put yourself into social situations at that time. There’s no point in prioritizing social interactions that happy when you’re exhausted or foggy.
Where do you like to socialize? At your house? At work? School? The park? At cafes or art classes? At knitting groups? Do you like big groups or small groups or one-on-one visits? Figure out where you like to socialize and prioritize it, value it, and honor your inclination.
Why do you want to socialize? Do you want more close friends? Do you want to develop a wide social network to function as a safety net in life? Do you want to figure out how to make friends in the first place? Do you want to me more successful in business? Do you want to pursue romance?
Throw that stuff out the door. Just socialize in general and see what good comes of it. Socializing with a goal - an ulterior motive - just makes things awkward and gives you an uncomfortable type of tunnel vision when it comes to the people around you. Be receptive to emerging good things that arise naturally and let the rest go.
Here’s your homework: Figure out one who, what, when, or where that works for you already when you’re socializing. Then honor and prioritize that method. For bonus points - and more effectiveness - combine two or more of the W’s.
That’s the end of this episode of the Unforced Garden. If you liked it, please share it.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations4m | Aug 5, 2019
- How To Become More Confident: Confidence, Work, School, Self-Esteem, and Relationships
In this episode you'll learn how to be confident in work, school, friendship, and romantic relationships. Hang on to your hat and hit play.
Let’s talk about confidence. In this episode, you’ll learn how to become more confident, not just in general - although we’ll cover that - but also how to apply that confidence to work, school, self-esteem, and relationships. At the end of this episode, you’ll get some homework and begin applying what you learn. Let us begin.
When do you know that you have confidence?
When you feel sure that you’re making good choices.
The more good choices you make, the better.
When you make a good decision and act on it, you respect yourself more. Confidence equals respecting yourself. Make good decisions. Act on them. Respect yourself. Feel more confident. Repeat.
Let’s talk about having more confidence at work. Here’s how to be respected and get promoted at work the Unforced Garden Way:
Prioritize the work that you’re good at, the work that is easy, fun, and good for you. In other words, do the stuff that helps your company the most and makes you shine. Figure out a good thing (that fun, easy, and good for you activity) and decide to prioritize it. Tell others that it’s fun for you. Encourage them to invite you to do more of it. Let your work speak for itself. That will help you become known; that activity will become your trademark, and your further growth in your job and career will develop more and more good things based on that first good for you activity.
Let’s talk about having more confidence at school. Here’s how to get good grades and make friends the Unforced Garden Way:
Approach your studies by using methods that work well for you. Try studying outside. Try studying in 5 minute chunks. Try studying with a friend. Try reading your notes into an audio recorder and listening to them while you go for a walk. Try studying alone while listening to music. Figure out an approach for studying that is fun and easy for you and turn to that method often.
When it comes to friends, be friendly to everyone. Everyone. Don’t try to befriend certain people and hope that they will like you back and strive to be quote unquote worthy of their attention. Nope. Be friendly to everyone. A few of them will feel an immediate, unforced rapport with you. Those people will be your friends. In other words, you will have planted the seeds and good things will arise. The rest - those people who didn’t feel that immediate rapport - will know of you as the friendly one. Not a bad thing.
Let’s talk about having more self-esteem the Unforced Garden Way:
It’s all about having respect for what you’re doing. If you feel like crap about yourself, it’s probably been acting on decisions that you disagree with. Start making better decisions and acting on them. The more times you do something that you agree with, the more you’ll respect yourself. Because you’re a person who makes good choices and acts on them. You’ll start to trust yourself to be someone who makes good decisions.
Let’s talk about confidence and relationships. Here’s how to get into a good relationship and keep it equitable and respectful the Unforced Garden Way: Big news, everyone: An Unforced Garden Style relationship is fun, easy, and good for you. Much as in friendship, the rapport must be instinctive, not forced. The relationship must come naturally. And the relationship must be good for you - in the sense that it causes you to feel vibrant, strong, loved, and respected by both yourself and your partner.
Go on a billion dates. Continue dating the people with whom you have natural rapport. Go on a million more dates with those candidates. Continue dating the people with whom you have a natural rapport AND a lot of fun. Go on a thousand more dates with those remaining candidates. Select the person with whom you have an instinctive rapport, a lot of fun, and a vital sense of health and happiness. As with everything, plant a million seeds of opportunity, and prioritize the seeds that are fun, easy, and good for you.
If a relationship stops being fun, easy, and good for you, you have two approaches. 1. Try a few Unforced Garden-Style solutions - plant some seeds and try some new strategies to see if things smooth out. And, 2, break up. There’s nothing like a clean breakup to clear the garden bed for more opportunities.
Here’s your homework:
Pick one area of your life to focus on this week. Confidence in general, confidence at work, self-esteem, confidence in school, or confidence in romantic relationships. In that area, make decisions that you respect. Then act on those decisions. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
That’s the end of this episode. If you liked it, please share it with someone else.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations6m | Jul 29, 2019
- How to Be Happy: Design Your Own Happiness
You know you want to be happy, but no one can tell you exactly what to do. Good news: you can figure out. It just takes a bit of thoughtful experimentation. This episode of The Unforced Garden shows you how.
An Unforced Garden Life isn’t a prescription. This podcast won’t hand you a checklist of what to do in order to achieve happiness. That’s a good thing. A prescription for happiness won’t work because everybody’s unique. You already know that The Unforced Garden is all about doing things that are fun, easy, and good for you. That requires a large amount of awareness and commitment on your part. You have to know what’s fun. You have to know what comes easily to you. You have to know what enhances your wellbeing.
Here’s how to be happy the Unforced Garden way.
- First, figure out which activities, places, and events make you happy. Dig around in your memories and make note of any happiness you experience in the present. Take notes - happiness may arise when you aren’t expecting it to, and it may abandon you at the events that you most expect it. Christmas and weddings can suck. And being stuck in the bathroom during a tornado warning can be fun. Track this data like a scientist.
- Identify which conditions you can intentionally replicate. If you loved camping with your parents, try going camping with the people you live with now. If you were happy during the road trip with your college buddies, pack the car - even if it’s just for five hours of carefree driving. Et cetera. Try the activity out; you’re auditioning it.
- Prioritize these activities. This is a circular thing. Jot down candidates for happy-making activities. Audition them. Prioritize the activities that make you happy, and let the duds fall by the wayside as markers of your bravery and pro-active happiness seeking. And don’t be too literal. You may not have the money to spend the summer at Lake Tahoe like you did as a child, but maybe you can spend the afternoon at a local pond or river. Tweak things. Go small. Go easy. Keep your expectations low. Note how well each method works and act accordingly. You got this.
Here’s your homework. Identify one activity that made you happy at some point in your past. Figure out how you can replicate that activity, tweaking as necessary to make it feasible. Audition that activity and prioritize it if it works well.
That’s it for this episode. If you liked it, please share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations3m | Jul 22, 2019
- Turning Any Activity into an Unforced Garden
If you can't blow off a task that you don't want to do, can Unforced Garden methods help? Yes. This episode shows you how.
You can apply Unforced Garden methods to any area of your life. Work, school, family, hobbies, wellness, volunteering, and civic duty. You think that you are doomed to stay in the same job. You’re not stuck in that job. But if you decide to stay in that job, you can apply unforced garden methods to it.
Take inventory of the good things in your job. Which things are effortless, fun, and contribute to your wellness? Write them down. Which things are difficult, wearisome, and unhealthy for you mentally or physically? Write them down too.
Here’s your two-step process:
Double the amount of effort you spend on good things. Halve the amount of effort you spend on things that don’t suit you.
Let’s go a little deeper now.
If you must perform disagreeable tasks, break them down into parts. Which of the activities in that task don’t work for you? Brainstorm a new way to approach those activities and audition them.
For example, you may hate the task of writing ten pages of your novel a day - you’re more of a world-building, history-creating novelist - but you made a bet to your Uncle Larry that you would. You’re locked into that task unless you pay up.
You’re not doomed to hours of suckage every day.
Use different approaches to that task and see which one works best for you. Here are five potential approaches to audition:
- Try a word sprint to see how many words you can type within five minutes. Try to beat your record.
2. Try talking into a recording device and then transcribing what you dictated
3. Take a notebook to the park, sit on a bench, and write longhand.
4. Use the Pomodoro method and write for fifteen minutes, rest for five minutes, and repeat until the ten pages are done.
5. Block out two hours, turn off your phone, lock your door, put on some music, and write without stopping until you’re done.
You’re still doing the task that you don’t feel like doing. But you’re trying new approaches. You will find something that works better for you. Uncle Larry will lose that bet. Your wallet and your readers will thank you.
In the event that a task doesn’t suit you and you must do it, plant seeds by way of trying different approaches and cultivate the seeds that work well.
Nothing that you do regularly in your life has to suck. Plant seeds. Try different approaches out. Make life fun.
Here’s your homework: Identify one unenjoyable task that you perform regularly. Figure out several new ways to perform that task. Be creative and goofy as you design options. Audition those options and cultivate the new approach that works for you. Repeat until you’re never doing anything that sucks.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please send it to someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations4m | Jul 15, 2019
- Why Five-Year Plans Are Useless
Many people are starting to whisper that five-year plans are bunk. They're right. Learn why in this episode - and what to do instead.
Five-year plans are useless. They lock you into a path, and if you deviate from that path, you see it as a failure. If you don’t deviate from that path, you dedicate yourself to that five-year goal, once you arrive, even if you know it isn’t a fit for you.
If you embrace every deviation from your path, you see that you learn new skills and gain insights. If you allow yourself to change course when you’re forcing an issue, you find methods and trajectories that are frictionless.
Failure isn’t bad. It’s a sign that the activity wasn’t a good fit. Fantastic. Move on. Try something else. See if it’s better.
Remove friction when it comes to money, contentment, loving relationships, creativity, and well-being.
Don’t follow a rigid five-year plan. Seek out good things in each area - money, contentment, relationships, creativity, and well-being. Acknowledge the good things and release the rest. Honor the skills and insights you learned. Notice when the good things you have induce further good things, and let any emerging not-so-good things fade.
Do this and you’ll find that your life in five years is aligned with the actual you. A plot you came up with and put to paper - a five-year plan - won’t be. Life isn’t lived on paper. Life is lived in experiences. An Unforced Garden Life is built by having experiences, being aware of them, noticing whether or not they’re good things - whether they’re effortless, fun, and good for you - and valuing and prioritizing the good things.
Here’s your homework. Make a list of which activities are good things in your life. Effortless, fun, good for you. Jot down how much time you spend on each one of them per week. Select one activity on the list and double the time you spend on it. After a week, reflect on how that went, and, if it went well, commit to prioritizing that activity.
That’s it for this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations2m | Jul 8, 2019
- Planting Seeds
There's nothing passive about an Unforced Garden Life. Learn how to be proactive about creating a life that is truly suited to you.
The Unforced Garden Life is in no way passive. Instead, as you have the energy and the inspiration and the motivation, you gamely plant seeds for new good things in your life. The thing is, you have to be absolutely fine with it if many of these seeds don’t end up working out. A good thing - the thing that suits you well - comes easily, is fun, and leads to your greater well-being. Just as some seeds are well-adapted to a particular garden spot, with its particular context of sun, soil type, and moisture, opportunities are adapted to certain types of personalities and situations.
In an Unforced Garden Life, your job is to welcome the seeds of opportunity that thrive and to gracefully release the seeds that didn’t do well. You don’t want to spend untoward amounts of time nurturing a seed that produces an opportunity that is hard to tend, unenjoyable, and causes you stress, overwhelm, depression, or insecurity - or worse physical health.
And this has to be regardless of how attractive and pleasing the seed may seem on its packaging, or how the opportunity may present itself on paper. For example, I love sunflowers, and according to the back of the seed packet, a sunflower would do well in my garden. But even though I’ve planted hundreds of sunflower seeds, I’ve only ever had two sprout. It’s disappointing, and it should have worked - I followed the directions. There should have been dozens of sunflowers out there. But no; they didn’t work out in my garden’s particular context. But the thing is, even though sunflowers didn’t work out, California poppies sure worked out, along with roses, grape vines, artichokes, and borage. My garden looks great. And it doesn’t take much work at all.
The same goes for opportunities outside of the garden. For example, you may want to spend your retirement backpacking along the major trails: the Pacific Crest Trail, for example, or the Appalachian Trail. You practice by hiking a lot, camping a lot, and learning how to pack well for a backpacking trip. You love your two-week backpacking excursions. You dream of backpacking almost permanently, living away from the suburbs, building community with the other hikers along the trail, and spending your days walking in nature, soaking in beauty and sleeping soundly in your tent at night.
But when the time comes, after your first two weeks of backpacking, the whole thing starts to feel difficult. You realize that you’re not good at it. You’re so stressed that you can’t enjoy it. And the physical toll the constant exercise is placing on your body hurts your joints. You come down sick with a fever. And after a while, all you want to do is leave the trail and go rent an apartment near a donut shop.
In an Unforced Garden Life, you would give yourself permission to ease off on your extreme hiking lifestyle. Perhaps you’ll rent an apartment near a trailhead, and hike only a few days a week, instead of all of them. Perhaps you’ll couch surf your way across the nation, exploring the nation’s trails along the way. In any event, you can stop an all or nothing approach, use a little less time and effort with regard to backpacking, and explore something else. You might enjoy volunteering at a library, or writing a novel, or taking up gardening, or working on a cruise ship. Or you could plant a seed for each of these ideas, seeing how each one works for you.
And when things sprout that are fun, easy, effortless, and for which you have an aptitude and an affinity, focus on those things. Tend those things. Enjoy the new good things that emerge because of them. And if you need more in your life, plant more seeds.
So here’s your homework for this week: choose a single seed to plant - launch a new activity or change an activity to use a new method. See how it works out. Note if it’s a good fit for an Unforced Garden Life. If it is, tend it. If it isn’t, let it go and plant another seed. Repeat.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with a friend.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations6m | Jul 1, 2019
- “I Hate My Life:” 1 Big Rule and 3 Strategies for Making Life Better
Here's what to do when your life sucks. One lifesaving phone number. One big rule. Three strategies for improvement.
When life sucks, it sucks. Poverty, illness, grief, heartache, loneliness, and injury have the power to bury you under a mountain made out of rubble and thorns and boiling, suffocating grease. If you’re thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1 800 273 8255. Pause this episode and go call right now. 1 800 273 8255.
Despite that mountain of rubble and thorns and boiling grease, you also have the power to thrust your fist out of the rocks, thrust your grease-covered head out to face the sky, and shoulder your way out into the field of life once again as the dust settles onto your thorn-scratched shoulders.
Here’s the big rule for making your life better. Are you ready? Here it is: Stop doing things that suck.
Do that and you’ll be fine. I give you permission. You can stop listening now. You’re good. Go forth.
But if you want more specific actions to take, this episode has you covered. Here are three concrete strategies that will make your life suck less.
One: Change your environment.
Where are you when your life sucks? Get out of there. Get yourself to a library, walk around the neighborhood, go to the movies, work from home, go to a friend’s house, or take a hike. Go swimming. You get the idea. Wherever you are when you feel miserable, leave that physical place.
Two: Change your actions
When you’re feeling awful, stop doing what you’re doing. Go make a pot of coffee. Read a book. Do some brainstorming. Wash those dishes. Take a nap. Shoot some hoops. Play music. Whatever. Just choose something different from what you’re currently doing and do that for a while instead.
Three: Change your thoughts
You can go easy on yourself and just turn your thoughts to a different subject. That works. Or you can go deep and flip your internal narrative to a more positive perspective. This strategy is the least physically demanding but perhaps the most mentally demanding of the three strategies. But it works.
For bonus points, combine the strategies - change your environment, actions, and thoughts all at the same time. Take yourself out to lunch at a local diner, break out a different project, and say kind, truthful things to yourself.
Here’s your homework: When you notice yourself feeling awful about your life, try one of these strategies. See how well it works. If it’s easy, fun, and good for you, then it’s what an Unforced Garden Life calls a good thing. If it doesn’t work, let it go, and try another strategy next time. Remember the big rule: Stop doing things that suck.
That’s the end of this episode. If you liked it, please share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations3m | Jun 24, 2019
- How to Know When Something's a Good Thing
You know when something's a big part of your life. But how do you know what to do if something isn't a good thing for you? Start to tease out the answer to that in this week's episode.
You’ll know that something’s a good thing when it aligns with your natural affinities. You’ll know that something aligns with your natural affinities when it meets the following three traits:
- It leaves you feeling good
- It comes to you as naturally as breathing
- It’s so fun for you that you’d do it even if you weren’t being paid
I think it’s safe to assume - and correct me if I’m wrong - that when something makes you feel like crap every time you do it, it’s not a good thing. Plus, we don’t need to set ourselves up for a life of struggle as we do things that we’re not suited for. Finally, if we don’t like what we’re doing, our situation sucks. Things that consistently leave you feeling awful, struggling to do them right, and aren’t at all enjoyable may or may not be useful. But they shouldn’t be the foundations upon which you build your life.
For example, let’s say that your whole family is composed of highly paid lawyers who belong to prestigious firms. Naturally, everyone assumes that you’ll be a lawyer too. But when you hear their stories, you feel icky about the moral compromises they make to achieve their wins. When you fall in line and go to law school, your classes are terrifyingly difficult; you don’t have the knack. And when you graduate and begin to practice law yourself, you find every minute of your day misery-inducing. It seems that your fit in your family, your efforts as you clawed your way through law school, and your reputation rest on being an excellent lawyer.
Meanwhile, in your spare time, you entertain and soothe yourself by making spreadsheets. You love formatting them, laying them out to look attractive, and setting them up to be easy to use. Your head for numbers - apparent even from the early years of elementary school - allows you to spend endless hours of free time riveted by understanding, setting up, and tweaking your system of personal finances. When your best friend’s small business loses one bookkeeper after another, you enjoy filling in the gaps by pitching in when you can to look over their books, and you wave away offers of payment because you love the puzzles and laying out everything so it’s easily understood.
It’s really clear. You’d be an excellent bookkeeper, or financial adviser, or accountant. But you’re stuck over in lawyer-land.
If you decided to begin living an Unforced Garden life, you might consider shifting your priorities over toward bookkeeping. You might take the pay cut, stay strong in the face of the shock of your family and friends, move to a smaller place, and gradually shift your hours over from lawyering to bookkeeping. Bookkeeping is fun and effortless for you. You feel fulfilled when the numbers sing out clear and true. And you look forward to work.
Ultimately, you know that something’s a good thing for you when it leaves you feeling good, it’s easy for you, and it’s really fun. This may come at the expense of social backlash, less money, or embarrassment. But it’s worth it. So be a little brave. Shift your priorities from something you do based on external expectations, and move those priorities over to something that is a good thing for you. At your own pace, of course.
So here’s your homework for this week: identify one thing you do because of the expectations of others. Decide to move your energy and attention away from that. Then select one thing that you suspect might be a good thing for you, and audition it - put your attention and energy on it and see how it makes you feel, if it’s easy, and if it’s fun. If it is, consider keeping it on.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with a friend.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations5m | Jun 17, 2019
- Peer Pressure
You're ready to try the Unforced Garden Life. But what will your friends and family think? Learn how to deal with that in this week's episode.
It takes a certain amount of bravery to embrace the Unforced Garden Life. There are many pathways and milestones that our peers value. For example, getting married, buying a house, getting a college degree, or a few college degrees, having two and a half children, looking well groomed and fashionable at all times, volunteering, and working full time. Etc.
The thing is that many of these things may not suit you. They might cause you stress, or heartache, or insecurity. If you’re not good at pursuing these pathways, if they make you sad or angry, or if everything is constantly difficult for you all the time, then I want you to be aware of one critical point:
You have the freedom to change the pathways and milestones that you pursue. In other words, you don’t have to work so hard. You can choose to do the things that work well for who you actually are, and you can do so proudly and with confidence.
But it’s also true that choosing a path that is visibly different from mainstream expectations can be scary. Will other people think that you’re sub-standard, off-putting, under-performing? Getting past these fears is no small feat. So be gentle with yourself and take your time as you experiment with the Unforced Garden Life and feel free to backtrack, readjust, and maybe try again later. You don’t need to listen to this podcast and emerge at once, metamorphized, into a blazing iconoclast, eccentric and bold, flying your freak flag.
By the way, I’m a fan of all those things.
And even while you melt those fears away over time, be aware: standing apart from others, without apology, often inspires their admiration, inspires them, and gives them permission to examine their own choices. This is modeling, my friends. It works just as well on your peers as it does on your kids.
So here’s your homework this week: check in with yourself to see if one of your mainstream pathways or goals actually rubs against your grain. Is something not working for you? Become aware of it. Write it down in a place where you’ll see it and allow that idea to begin percolating on the back burner of your mind. For bonus points, brainstorm a way that you can gently supplant that pathway with something that works better for you - at least in theory. Give that a little go. See what happens.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with someone else.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations3m | Jun 10, 2019
- Taking Action in an Unforced Garden Life
If you're only doing things that are fun, easy, and good for you, is it impossible to introduce new challenges and opportunities in your life? Find out in this episode of The Unforced Garden Podcast.
An Unforced Garden need not be passive. No, you can gamely plant seeds for more and more opportunities, take on new challenges, and make plans. Of course you can.
The thing is, you need to be willing to scrap them when they turn out to be overwhelming, bone-crushingly fatiguing, stressful, unhealthy, and they cause you to be insecure or sad or critical of yourself or mean to other people. Nip those things in the bud.
So go ahead. Try out that new knitting club. Plan that vacation. Apply for that job. Approach that new acquaintance. Commit to the hundred pushups challenge. These are planting seeds. See what sprouts. Of the things that germinate, sprout, and grow tall, see which ones are healthy, which ones are hard to maintain, and which ones don’t suit you, and which ones make you feel contented and relaxed whenever you spot them. Keep the ones that are healthy and make you feel good and are easy to tend. Best are the things that you don’t need to tend at all, or you don’t need to use willpower to tend them - you just naturally gravitate to them because they bring you joy.
In August we’ll talk about the passive approach to an Unforced Garden Life - which, surprise, surprise, has its advantages. But today let’s talk about the active cultivation of an Unforced Garden Life, for all of you energetic go-getters out there.
The key is to plant seeds when you have the energy and the inclination. When you’re ready to start something new, go stick some seeds in the soil and see which ones stick. Don’t worry about the ones that fail to thrive. Not your issue; the context and situation aren’t right for your garden or your life.
It’s best to plant a zillion seeds at one time. That means good things will happen no matter what; a zillion seeds will sprout at least one thing. If that one thing doesn’t suit you, you’ll know that it doesn’t work for you. Cross that sucker off of the list. If the one thing does suit you, add it in with a warm welcome.
Most likely, you’ll end up with a garden of sprouts. As they grow, let the things that don’t work for you die off. And greet the things that do work for you kindly. Just don’t work hard to maintain them. Stick to the things that are fun, easy, and good for you.
Caveat: just don’t let so many good things swarm around you that you feel a sense of overwhelm or stress. That’s not good for you. If there are a ton of good things piling up over your head, pick the best ones and let the rest go away. There will be time for them later, maybe, if they seem like a good priority to you.
Here’s your homework:
Plant some seeds this week. Launch a new project, apply for a job, try a new recipe, text a new acquaintance, or take a class. Evaluate each seed to see if it sprouts. If it sprouts, see if it’s a good thing for you or if it doesn’t suit you. Welcome in the good for you seeds and don’t prioritize the dead seeds or the seeds that don’t suit you. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
That’s the end of this episode. If you found it useful, share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations4m | Jun 4, 2019
- Letting Go of What Doesn't Work
Now that you know the first two skills of living an Unforced Garden Life, what is the reverse of that? Learn about the other side of these two skills in this episode.
So, living an Unforced Garden life takes two skills. 1, noticing the good things that naturally arise and, 2, valuing and prioritizing them.
The other, necessary skill, that co-exists with these two practices is the reverse: noticing what isn’t a quote unquote good thing for you, in your situation, and allowing that thing to fade away from your life. Maybe not forever. Maybe not all the way gone. But gone enough to let the good things thrive.
But it can be blisteringly hard work to figure out what’s a good thing and what isn’t. I think that first, it’s helpful to clarify that something can be good - wonderful, in fact - and just not naturally arising.
Think about plants in a garden. Each garden site has its own type of sunlight exposure, moisture, and soil type. Some plants will thrive easily it one garden’s situation but won’t in another’s. And there are many other variables beyond moisture, sunlight, and how hard or soft the soil is - what about how alkaline or acid the soil is? Which animals live nearby that eat garden fruits? How many times a week does the gardener enjoy going outside to groom the garden?
An Unforced Garden is one where the gardener promotes the plants that do well in that one particular garden and allow the ones that don’t work easily to fade from their sphere of importance and effort. Maybe pansies do well, or perhaps lantana, or maybe a prone rosemary, or, maybe, a sweet potato vine. There are many options.
The one that works will little or no effort on the part of the gardener - and brings joy, and contributes to the beauty or utility of the garden - wins. Let’s say the prone rosemary does well, but not the lantana, pansies, or sweet potato vine.
Hm. Prone rosemary. It’s good groundcover. You can use it as a culinary herb. And it’s hardy and low maintenance. It’s a good thing. That prone rosemary is a good thing in this garden. But it might not be in the garden down the street, literally three doors down, where sweet potato vines do well. That’s fine. Sweet potato vines are lovely but they’re not necessary for a satisfying and fulfilling garden.
So, here’s your homework for this week. Notice one thing that doesn’t work particularly well in your life. Something that causes you too much stress, or leaves you upset, or causes you to work an unsustainable amount. Let that fade in importance. Perhaps you can schedule an event less often, call up that friend and let her know you won’t be able to babysit her kids every week anymore, refrain from volunteering at the next PTA event, stop working overtime at a job you hate, or stop dating the person who keeps blowing up your phone with drama. Let it go, let it fade, let it die on the vine. And focus on a truly good thing in the garden of your life instead.
That’s the end of this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with a friend.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations4m | May 27, 2019
- You as You Would Like to Be
This episode covers how to begin figuring out which good things really suit you. Learn one simple - but not necessarily easy - technique for sorting out what you actually like.
What the Unforced Garden Life does is make it possible for you to be you as you would like to be. Not in the sense that you presume you ought to be that way. In the sense that you’re relieved to be this way, happy that it’s okay, confident that you’re contributing, having fun, and feeling content.
What the Unforced Garden Life does is bring you back home to yourself. This requires awareness: you have to know which actions are good for you - in the sense that they come easily, that you’re good at them, and that they’re so fun you’d do them as pastimes even if you weren’t being paid.
And that means knowing what you like. And, believe me, you don’t know what you like. Not really. You need to go on a hunt for awareness. Outside of your expectations and the expectations of your mom, for example, outside of the expectations put on you by TV and your friends and acquaintances… what are the things that actually make you feel good?
I had to go looking, and it was really hard. Eventually, I touched on something.
I had one memory.
It was like a compass. One early, foggy morning in my early twenties, I stood outside on a wooden porch, surrounded by hills covered in green grass and pine trees. Dew beaded on the grass, shimmering. I held a cup of steaming coffee, and my shoulder leaned against the damp gray wood of the porch’s supporting post. Across the field from me, a doe emerged from the trees, dipping her head low into the grass.
In that moment, I felt true contentment. I was relaxed, alive, aware, and vibrating with life.
And that is me as I would like to be, in the place I would like to be.
Now, when I decide which actions I’m going to take, I think of that morning: countryside, coffee, deer, early morning, dewy grass. And I choose actions that move me closer, rather than further, away from that.
So here’s your homework: remember times in your life when you felt truly happy. Remember this list of key words: relaxed, alive, aware, and vibrating with life. Jot those memories down so you’ll have them handy for reference. Select one of those memories to audition, and spend the next week choosing actions that seem closer - or move you closer - to that activity than other activities that haven’t suited you nearly so well.
That’s the end of this episode. If you liked it, please share it with someone else.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations4m | May 21, 2019
- Identify the Good Things in Your Life
Want to slowly develop a life that's filled with contentment, ease, and contribution? Listen to this episode. Be warned, though: you'll get some homework.
An Unforced Garden Life is created using a simple two-step process. First, identify the good things that are happening in your life. Second, value those good things and make them huge priorities.
Here’s what a good thing is not:
Something that causes you constant stress.
Something that causes you to doubt yourself constantly and try to validate yourself to yourself and others.
Something that makes you feel less healthy, self-assured, or content.
Here’s what a good thing is:
Something that diffuses a warm sense of contentment and relaxation into your bones.
Something contributes positively to your community or to your well-being.
Something that comes to you easily and isn’t a constant struggle.
The hardest thing to do when you begin shaping an Unforced Garden Life is dropping the expectations of yourself and others when it comes to income, career, role in life, appearance, time management, and image. But once you do, that leads to opportunities for life choices that actually suit you and not only help you make the best contribution to your community possible but also leave you feeling better than before.
An Unforced Life does away with five-year plans and goals. This is process thinking applied to life design.
Here’s your homework for the next week: Take an inventory of the good things in your life - the things that bring you contentment, contribute positively to your community or to your well-being, and things that seem effortless. Your list doesn’t need to be complete or perfect. Just jot down a few things. This is awareness.
Now, make a point of prioritizing one of those things. Any one of them, no matter how big or small. See how that feels. Maybe let a little something stressful leave your life.
That’s it. That’s how it starts. You can begin creating an Unforced Garden Life as simply as that.
This is what the Unforced Garden is all about: helping you to craft a life that is full of ease, happiness, and freedom. Tune in next week for more. And if you like this episode, please share it with someone.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations3m | May 20, 2019
- Announcing the Unforced Garden: A New Method of Life Design
Here's a new way to design your life:
Notice the good things that arise in your life. Then value and prioritize them. But how? That's what this podcast will teach you.
Support this podcast at — https://redcircle.com/the-unforced-garden-a-new-method-of-life-design/donations0m | May 17, 2019