The other day, as I looked out my window at the park across the street, I saw a man in a bright yellow vest with a saw holding on to a tree branch.
First I thought this must be some sort of urban olympics.
Upon closer examination, I realized it was a member of the parks department trimming dead branches from a tree.
As a born and raised New Yorker I do not know much about gardening, so I could not comprehend why you would cut branches from a living tree.
My husband, who grew up around way more gardens than me, explained the simple principle that in order to help a plant thrive, you must remove the dead parts.
He explained that the dead parts of the tree put too much stress on the plant.
Essentially the plant’s job is to keep itself alive so it will use all the energy it has to support whatever is on it.
If it has dead parts, it is still sending its energy and effort to the branches but it is a losing battle, and it is taking nourishment from the parts of the plant that are thriving. The plant becomes vulnerable to wilting and dying.
Trimming the branches allows the tree to use its energy more efficiently.
So how does this science lesson apply to you and the New Year?
Here is a life-changing exercise (inspired by trimming trees) to help you have the best 2020 possible.
This is a wonderful time of year to reflect on what you are feeling, what is growing and what you need to let go of.
Try this exercise:
Think of yourself as that tree in the park.
Get a piece of paper and pen and draw a tree with lots of branches.
Write your name on the trunk of the tree.
This is your tree, this is your life and what you stand for.
Now, on each branch, write down the things you spend your time doing.
Think about a typical day and write down all the big and small tasks you do.
Now, when you look at the finished product take a minute to pat yourself on the back and say, “wow, I really do a lot.”
(It can be a good idea to remember this when you are feeling behind on things or unaccomplished. You can pull out your tree and remind yourself of how much you do.)
Take a moment to look at your tree and as you read each thing you wrote down, notice how you feel in your body.
For example, when I did this exercise a few years ago I had a branch that said, “take my kids to school.” While this branch required time and effort I smiled when I thought about all the fun talks we had on our walks.
I had another branch that said, “participate in board meeting,” and I felt tight and stressed.
When you notice either a negative thought or feeling around a branch ask yourself:
“What would it take to let go of this branch?”
Remember the goal of this exercise is not to cut down your to-do list.
The goal is to reserve your energy (just like the plant) so you can distribute it to the tasks that really matter to you.
In the next few blogs I will walk you through how to let go of responsibilities, but for now, make a list of what you would like to let go of to allow more in.
I would love to hear some of your list.