Inspired By Plants

Plants rule the Earth. They account for 80% of the total biomass on this planet, and we rely on them to survive in every way from food, to clothes, to building materials, to oxygen. A world without plants- well we wouldn’t exist without one. More than what they can do for us physically, we can learn from their unique behavior how to handle crises and adapt in the most extreme situations.

A few of the most inspirational plants:

  1. The Sensitive Plant: Technically titled Mimosa pudica, this plant physically responds to touch- immediately drawing in its leaves. While plants must move (they grow bigger over time) it’s usually at a rate too slow for people to see. This plant has made a claim to fame through its sensitivity and shyness. So if you are someone who is soft spoken, introverted, or intimidated, think of the sensitive plant. If there are plants out there who have social anxiety, it’s okay if you do too.
Sensitive Plant: Britannica Encyclopedia

2. The Welwitschia: Native to Namib Desert in Namibia, is so important to the region it appears on the nation’s coat of arms. The welwitschia is a marvelous example to never give up in the face of adversity. This plant has two base leaves it keeps its entire life, and a tap root that runs deep into the desert ground to collect water. While it looks like nothing more than a squashed pile of leaves left to dry up in the sun, this plant can thrive for over 1000 years! The welwitschia teaches us to use our resource wisely. It is an inspiration to grow, even when people think you don’t have any reason to, or you appear too far gone already. You can always grow if you are willing utilize what you have. It doesn’t matter if your progress doesn’t look like progress to anyone one else. It doesn’t matter if your progress is slow and looks like a pile of dead leaves on the ground. A pile of leaves is more than a seed. And a pile of leaves that lasts for 1000 years is something extraordinary.

Wilwitschia: Info Namibia

3. Sierra Redwoods: These massive trees once grew across the Northern Hemisphere, now only reside in an the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range out in California. The enormous redwoods grow so large because their lifespan is over 3000 years and they can grow relatively quickly under ideal conditions. To grow quickly they need a ton of water, which they obtain from the winter snow once it melts, and need loose, breathable soil for this process to occur. The redwoods teach us that the most wondrous, magnificent, beautiful, gigantic accomplishments in life are still delicate. They take a lot of work and special circumstances to thrive in the way they do. They also teach us that it’s okay to be fragile, even if you look big and tough. We all need our own kind of care and there is nothing wrong with that.

Massive Redwoods: Save The Redwoods

4. The Night Blooming Cereus: This member of the cactus family blooms only once a year and only at night. The moment day begins to break the following morning, the giant white petals begin to wilt and fall off. These cacti wait an entire year until the right time to burst and bloom. It takes a ton of energy from a plant to produce a flower. This “Queen of the Night” waits until the optimal time to bloom. The cooler temperatures prevent the plant from drying out while it produces its fragrant blossom, and the powerful smell attracts local pollinators to quickly get to work to produce the next generation of plants. When they aren’t in bloom, these cacti look lifeless and small, however most of their mass lies underground- they can weigh up to 150 pounds once their heavy root system factors in. The night blooming cereus teaches us that we do not always need to showcase our progress and accomplishments to the world. Work on our roots. Develop a strong system of support to not just survive, but thrive in desert conditions. No one needs to see or know. You are not on anyone’s timeline expect your own. People flock the deserts of Arizona to try and snap a picture of this blossom, but they have to wait until the flower is ready. Work with consistency and patience. Then when you are ready, bloom with all you’ve got.

Night Blooming Cereus: Desert USA

Plants teach us a lot about survival. They adapt to insanely difficult terrain, and thrive in regions no other life could manage. They fuel our way of life. They can’t move or leave a difficult situation. They must bloom where they are planted. You can too. You can create beautiful, wonderful, fantastical things, right where you’re at.

Too Much Self-Improvement?: The Balance Between Goal-Getting And Life-Loving

*Disclaimer: This article is purely addressing the “self-help” industry, NOT advice/counsel provided by licensed medical professionals, psychiatrists, counselors, etc. If you have concerns about your current course of treatment or what has been discussed in sessions, please have a detailed discussion with your provider. Professionals have been trained, certified, and have the time to manage cases one-on-one. This article discusses the open access to advice given by anyone, through a variety of formats, regardless of credentials. I am NOT a licensed mental health professional. I am just someone trying to make the best of tough situations, and share those thoughts as a way to help others who might be in similar positions not feel so alone.

Think about how many times you’ve ever said, “I need to get my life together.” Do you binge watch self-improvement videos, reread self-help books, or share 300 quotes on Pinterest to get you ready to “get it together”? Do you rearrange your furniture? Do you buy a planner and fill out the next few days full of productive activity? What’s your go to method for getting it all together? Why don’t you feel better after a few days into your self-improvement journey?

Self-improvement, self-care, self-love, self-acceptance, self-help, all trending topics over the last few years, and especially in the first month of the new year. We are taught from a young age, that life is a journey of continual growth. There is something new to learn everyday. Someway to improve your work. It can always be better. Nothing is perfect. Anyone ever have a teacher who never gave 100% because, “There is always room for improvement”? This mindset while beneficial in some cases is also damaging in others.

This is becoming a little existential, so let’s start breaking it down. Too much strive is toxic. No drive at all, and then what? Never work towards anything? Simply seek contentment? This is a strange topic to discuss on a website that’s all about the power of positivity and personal growth. We’ve put forth a lot of questions, so let’s dive into the research.

In the US alone, the “self-improvement” market is worth an estimated $11 billion. This includes products, retreats, events, books, CDs, apps, etc., that try and motivate people mentally, spiritually, physically, or in any way want to influence people to improve in an area of their life. This statistic can be seen as both a positive and negative reflection on where our society is at. Since I prefer to think positively, let’s dissect this figure with our rose-colored glasses on first. Clearly, a lot of Americans are looking to improve in some way or another, and this number illustrates that they are finding answers to whatever questions they might have. This number also shows that there is hope for a society often seen as lost. People looking to improve, wanting to do better, is crucial to actually doing better. It shows that we are not content with the troubled state of where we are, and that we know there is so much more we can give. Sometimes we just need help to figure out how to get to the next level, and that’s okay.

Time to take off those rosy glasses. To quote the iconic modern poet Atticus, “I worry there is something broken in our generation; there are so many sad eyes on happy faces.” Are we a generation eternally trapped under the pressure of never being “enough”? Why are we seeking $11 billion worth of self-improvement? And here’s the not so nice reality of analyzing that enormous number. With that much content out for consumption, how can we guarantee that what is for sale is quality, accurate, and helpful? The truth is, we can’t. However, people are smart, and can determine what sources of media best serve their needs and their unique situations. (With that much content comes plenty of variety.) Trouble arises when people who are experiencing pain, who feel lost, get taken advantage of by companies trying to profit off people who are in a place of hurt, rather than provide genuine help. Research the media you consume. Self-help doesn’t always come from a kind place.

Here are some key questions you can ask to determine if a source is something you should continue to follow as a place of inspiration:

  • Where is it coming from?
  • Who is creating this?
  • Why are they producing this content?
  • What do I have to gain from consuming it?
  • What do they have to gain from me consuming it?
  • Is this worth incorporating into my life?
  • How can I use this information in my life?
  • Does this make me feel better or worse about myself?

These questions can help you to filter what content will actually serve you, and what content will harm you, or is eating up your time unnecessarily. Follow and consume content that genuinely inspires you to do good, and makes you feel good about yourself. Unfollow and get rid of anything that isn’t genuinely fueling your soul, makes you feel worse about yourself, makes you jealous, anxious, or feel like you aren’t enough. Balance is the key. Don’t write off self-help, because the self-improvement community is full of some incredible and genuine people, striving to create a real impact. This community has broken down barriers to discussing topics like burnout, depression, anxiety, positive self-talk, body positivity, the list goes on and on. So much good comes out of exploring your own potential. As with anything in life, just be mindful of the time you spend on it, and where you get your information from.

Why is too much self-help toxic? If anything, the constant mindset of growth and development should keep us in a place of balance and positive thinking. When we constantly strive for something more, we forget to enjoy what we have. In times of darkness, there are still small things to be grateful for. In times of prosperity, even more to be grateful for. Sometimes, we still don’t find it to be enough and keep looking for the next best thing. That’s when the cycle begins to get dangerous. When we find ourselves, never content with what we have, and always focusing our energy on what’s coming next. Take time to enjoy what you have worked for. You set goals, you achieved them. Take in that moment, and just feel that for a while before going on to the next project. The mindset that you always need to be creating, and working, and moving to the next phase takes away from fully embracing where you are at right now. Balance. Working towards your goals while living for the present.

In his article, “The Disease of More,” Mark Manson (best-selling author of The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life), discusses the notion that in the early stages of life, our own personal growth is somewhat linear. As we learn how to take care of ourselves, learn to read, master skills, obtain a job, the trajectory of our growth feels as if we are on an upward path. Then at a certain point, life is no longer about growth, but “trade-offs.” Essentially, once you become a fully functional human, and establish yourself in a field, you don’t grow anymore, you simply trade time. If you learn something new then you give up time that could have been spent advancing in an area you already excel at, or vice versa.

This theory, while interesting, failed to get to give up on the self- help industry altogether. The main point of contention I have with the argument is that growth begins as linear. Life is full of ups, downs, and twists, and everyone’s path is always different. Life never has been linear. Life can be seen as a series of trade-offs, as perpetual growth, as a circle, a spiral, whatever metaphor you choose, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we define the path of our actions. What matters is the actions or the inaction we take. What matters is if what you do everyday makes you feel good. If you are being true to your authentic self. If you are kind to others. If you are doing the best you can with what you have to work with.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more from your life. Wanting to become the vision of what you know in your heart you can become. You should want to achieve those goals, create those goals, chase those goals. There is also nothing wrong in seeking guidance from others when you need it. Surround yourself with positive light. Take in the ideas of people who share their thoughts and experiences. Digest them. If there are resources or programs that help you to feel good about yourself, and help to inspire you to become the best version of yourself take full advantage of them. Keep working towards your dreams, but don’t forget that where you’re at is also just as beautiful as where you are going.

Inspiration for the Uninspired

Inspiration is all around us. It’s hidden in moments of the everyday. The golden color that glows around the flowers at sunset, the smell of rain in the city, the early morning conversations about the day to come, the view of the valley sliced in half with a set of never ending train tracks, all hidden inspiration. What inspires you is a personal and intimate experience. Sometimes elaborate works of art, complex problems of war, or stories of triumph inspire us to create. Other times, the tiniest details ignite the soul and set the mind ablaze.

While the world flourishes with lovely moments everyday, when our own lives become clouded, or we experience difficult times of pain, disinterest, or frustration, it can become near impossible to see that the tools we need to escape these ruts are scattered all around us. Whether you are looking for creative inspiration, the motivation to get work done, or to just feel inspired to embrace the warmth of life again, there are ways to seek out what you need to feel re-energized and excited about what’s to come again.

This week we examine a list of methods to find inspiration when you feel lost:

  1. Free Write: Utilize writing as a tool for catharsis. Get down what you’re feeling on paper. All of what you are feeling. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, format, just write. You can write your thoughts as a list, a stream of consciousness, an essay, however you write is okay, just do it. Write about what you’re feeling in this moment. Talk about how you are feeling stuck, why you are feeling trapped, what is it you want to overcome, and why you think you can not. Then write about how you see yourself once you are out of the rut. Where do you want to be? Visualize it. See that image in your mind and describe it in such vivid detail that if you didn’t know it hadn’t happened yet, you’d think it already had. Now you have down on paper where you are, and where you want to go. One place, one writing session, one document holding your vision and reality. Research shows that expressive writing can help to reduce stress and promote clearer thinking. Why this happens is at the moment unclear, but scientists currently think a combination of factors contribute to the freedom felt after writing your current story on paper. One of those reasons is that in writing down what’s going on that is troubling you, your brain is automatically stimulated- forced into the creative process, because you need to reconstruct the details of your life into a story format. Writing is stimulating and gets the brain working, while allowing you to express the feelings and events of your life free of judgement. You are forcing yourself to process what is happening to you, while engaging in the creative process. Free writing might just be the perfect first step you need to clarify your situation and find inspiration once again.
  2. Create a Mood Board: Another tactic to try is creating a mood board. You can do this during times when you are inspired, so it’s ready to go with ideas and feelings that evoke a sense of wonder on days when your interest dwindles. You can also create one on days when you don’t feel your best. It can be a visual method of laying out how you feel and what you want to feel when you don’t know what your next move is going to be. You can create a physical mood board if you have the time and resources to do so. Things to think about when piecing it together include: color story, texture, images, and layout. Select images that speak to you, but don’t over think anything. Look through photos you’ve taken as well as other sources for inspiration. While looking through your old photographs you might remember times that brought you joy, or peace, or love, or sadness, or hope, and inspiration might start flowing through the process of creating the board. You might find more inspiration from searching for images and pieces to include from other sources as well. You can also create a digital mood board with tools such as Canva or Pinterest. Whatever your medium, mood boards are creative tools for visual expression of where you’re at.
  3. Get Out: If you feel caught up in your head, change your physical location to help clear your mind. Go somewhere new, somewhere you don’t normally go. Change your physical routine, to change the routine of your thoughts. Find a place to walk outside that isn’t your usual spot. Or if you don’t go outside often, spend sometime outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air. Take in the landscape. Embrace a brief change of scenery. Try a new restaurant, go to a store you’ve never been in before, see a different part of town that you don’t often pass through. You don’t need to buy anything, or even like what you see, but experiencing something different from the norm of your everyday will awaken your senses.
  4. Talk it Out: Reach out to your friends and family when you are feeling unmotivated. You can ask them for help, or just talk to them about anything at all. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling. Find out what is new in their life. It will take your mind off whatever is weighing on you, and will help you to focus your attention onto something new. It will break your fixation from the task at hand and focus you onto something new. The break might be what you need to see how to solve your problem later on. If you end up discussing your own feelings of frustration, they might be able to offer a solution. If their ideas don’t help, at least you’ve begun the brainstorming process with a fresh set of eyes. Your friends care about you, just like you care about them. If they were feeling stuck and trapped, you would want to help them too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  5. Do Something Unrelated to What You Want to Accomplish: Similar to distracting your mind with conversation, distract it with another project entirely. Do something you enjoy, unrelated to what you want to accomplish and focus your attention completely on that project. You can draw, read, watch a movie, clean, listen to a podcast, ride a bike, paint your nails, play with your dog, bake a cake, anything that isn’t what you are already trying to do. When you give your mind a break from thinking about the solutions to your problems, you give it a chance to just take in what’s happening. To experience those everyday moments that are inspiring. You might think of the answer to your questions, during this time and you might not. Either way, you will feel better after taking time away to do something for yourself. You don’t have to figure everything out right now to still enjoy life. This exercise will help you to see that it’s okay to move on from something and come back to it later.
  6. Track Your Progress: Keep documentation of your progress on your projects. This can be as detailed as a fully flushed journal entry every day about what you did and how you feel about it, or as simple as a bullet list of what you accomplished to achieve your long term goal. This will help you to monitor your progress over time, examine where you have been, and determine if you are on track to get to where you want to be. It is also encouraging to see how far you have come on days you feel you have nothing to offer. You have armed yourself with a record of your work, and reassurance that you will eventually rebound to keep making progress. If today you are uninspired and don’t already have a log of your journey, start now. Think about all you’ve done to get to where you are, at write it down to look at. Then from here on out, continuously update the list. Reflection is a powerful tool to help you remember your purpose for your project, take pride in your accomplishments, and rekindle the fire in your heart.

Some days a simple “motivational quote” is enough to get us going. Some days, a few words someone said when they were having a good day isn’t enough to get us through. And that’s okay. You, and your problems, and your life, and your passions are so much more complex than a few sentences or a list of feel-good ideas. What’s important to remember when you are feeling uninspired by the world, is that emotions (good and bad) are temporary. You will get through this period of uncertainty, this deeply dug rut. Inspiration is all around us. You are an inspiration. The work you do is important. The words you speak matter. The life you are living has beauty. Even on days you feel empty, you are so full of life. The periods of darkness will end. You will find your spirit again. You can do anything, right where you’re at.