“The paradox of life is that people seem to deliberate more carefully over little choices than the big ones. Before buying a car, they read all the ratings, check out resale values on the internet, and so on. But when it comes to choosing a vocation, they just sort of slide rather than decide. They slide incrementally into a career because someone gave them a job. They marry the person whom they happen to be living with.” — David Brooks, The Second Mountain
When I first moved into the Norman-style house built in 1930 situated on a corner lot in a small town that I purchased in 2007, it had three huge maple trees lining the street in front of my home’s entry having been planted when the house was built, and a place in the boulevard where a fourth had stood but had long ago been removed due reasons I couldn’t know. However, the spacing made available indicated there was a tree there as the rest of the street in that neighborhood had trees every 15 or so feet.
Within a year of moving in, I planted a young maple tree in this designated spot and completed the row of trees.
A couple of years later, lightning took out one of the older maples in a freak thunderstorm, and after having that now fallen tree and its stump removed, I planted another maple tree in the same spot to keep the symmetry alive, but also bring shade and privacy to the house. Knowing it would take time for both of these new maples to mature, each about three years old when they were planted and barely three inches in diameter when welcomed onto my property, I knew I may not be in the house to reap the rewards of the trees when they finally began to offer both of these qualities, but I owed it to the neighborhood and the intended design of the house and property to plant new trees where such trees were intended to grow.
Sure enough in 2015 I sold that house, and when I left, the trees were growing well but still narrow and provided little shade. I returned in 2019 driving down this street, stopping on the other side to have tea with a pair of neighbors I had so enjoyed getting to know while living in my old home, and in just four years’ time, the maturity of each of the trees astounded me. No, they weren’t thick as the now near 100-year-old pair of maples that stood beside them, but they did provide decent shade and the trunks appeared to have doubled in size.
Gardeners say that trees spend at least the first three years after being planted growing their root system and finding their water source deep below the surface, strengthening themselves underneath before we ever witness much growth of height or new structure of limbs above ground. Once they have established themselves and are able to care for themselves well, they then begin to expand, stretch, and display their gifts with us. Such is the case with certain life decisions. Many of the decisions of quality and life enrichment we make throughout our lives follow a similar maturation process.
From the physical care and nourishment we choose (beginning with what our parents provide when we are children) – the exercise, the food choices and rest found in regular deep sleep-filled nights, to the time and investment we make in our career choices through the education we enroll, mentors we gain tutelage under and resumé building we select. These are just two of many life-enriching decisions we make that take time to bear the fruit we hope will eventually be enjoyed down the road, and it is with each of these decisions, an investment worth the wait.
Take a walk through the Garden District in New Orleans, and the grand old trees planted many decades ago create a storied and magical beauty only time and care could have made possible. Or on the west coast here in Portland, walking through Laurelhurst, Council Crest or Westmoreland neighborhoods, grand trees of all varietals – oaks to Japanese maples – offer their unique beauty and shapes that only arrive with time, intention and appreciation of the community for the near priceless value that cannot be replaced in our lifetime to witness again.
A stately Italianate-style home found in the Garden District in New Orleans during a visit in 2018.
And that is just it; we humans, being the mortal beings that we are, yes, having the capacity to live nearly a century if we are so fortunate as well as wise in our care of ourselves both live long but also a short time depending upon how you look at it, so when it comes to making quality decisions, waiting a mere three years for what we hope to reap, in the scope of our lifespans seems to me to be a wise idea. But even if the waiting period of germination for our idea/decision to bear fruit is longer, even much longer, since we would rather experience the benefit eventually rather than not at all – retirement savings and accruement of compound interest, for example — the waiting is still the sagacious choice.
Let’s take a look at decisions, that while taking time to ripen and provide their fruit, are most definitely worth the life enrichment they provide.
1.Education (formal and informal)
2. Meditation (something we talked about in August’s A Cuppa Moments)
I will be talking more about this in TSLL’s upcoming video course on Contentment (available in 2024); in the meantime, I recommend reading the book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World to explore the many benefits of meditation, the variety of ways to meditate and how it deepens the quality of one’s life, but does take time.
~Read TSLL’s post on the 6 Benefits of Meditation and How to Meditate in Your Daily Life
3. Good nutrition and consumption choices
4. Learning and building skills and job experience in your chosen career path
5. Your sanctuary
Your home, your garden, wherever rejuvenates you and provides you with immediate calm when you step foot inside it. If your sanctuary is your garden, no matter how large or small, it will take time to see it mature into your vision, invest anyway. Similarly with your home, invest well, invest once.
But a sanctuary may not be four walls, and that is okay. Maybe your calm is found traveling around the world, invest in that. Your contentment, your enrichment is a wise investment to make.
6. Financial investments
Retirement, home value through renovations or property acquisition, stocks, bonds and IRAs of all different varieties.
7. Raising with love (children and pets) and engaging with love (all varieties of adult relationships).
Each don’t bear the potential of what they can be immediately as opposed to instilling fear or inducing controlling approaches which while providing results immediately, eventually result in unwanted outcomes of pain, loss and hurt. Being loving is a brave act because it doesn’t guarantee an outcome, but if continued and chosen by both parties, provides the most life-enriching and deeply appreciated qualities.
Something to keep in mind when you choose to live a life guided by these two simple practices of living mindfully, engaging with loving-kindness and integrity, is that no matter what the outcome, you engaged truthfully as you are but also lovingly and with kindness toward the person you are engaging with. Keeping this balance, both concepts in mind, when you engage will give the gift of a conscience that is at peace, and that is being loving to yourself and honoring your true potential.
8. Spouse/Life Partner: If to, Who to and if so, When to
There are lists that share being married as beneficial in many ways, but such a blanket statement is a disservice to the individuals that enter into a marriage because there are oodles of varietals each person must consider. Equally beneficial are the drawbacks in nearly every area. Yes, marriage may be financially beneficial, but it can also be financially disastrous depending upon who you marry. Yes, marriage potentially can boost your well-being, but it can also decimate your well-being depending upon who you marry and who you are when you marry (knowledge of self, sense of security in oneself, emotional intelligence, ability to communicate non-violently, etc.). Let’s take a look at a few crucial variables to remember to contemplate when it comes to marriage: Knowing the difference between connection and attraction (the former is key, the latter not as much as you might imagine initially); having a similar vision and desire for building a life you love together, not just loving one another. So in other words, similar visions of what living a good life together entails; being supportive of each other’s purpose (one not having to sacrifice their purpose for the other), whatever it might be, even if we don’t completely understand our loved one’s purpose, we respect their purpose and do not impede the journey that will unfold, accepting the unknowns.
9. Being loving to ourselves.
This involves the decision to get to know ourselves which involves many aspects that bring happy moments into our days, but also skills such as discipline that enable us to become the person we wish to be and are capable of becoming. In quite a few posts shared here on the blog I have written about being loving to ourselves and how that is the beginning of building a solid foundation of contentment. I will include a few specific posts at the end of today’s post, but you can also peruse them all here. I also recommend reading TSLL’s 2nd book which focuses entirely on building the life, specifically the skills needed as well as becoming more knowledgeable and honoring your unique strengths.
When we are loving to ourselves, we make better decisions with everything else that crosses our paths.
10. Where we live, our geographic location, the environments where we spend regular time.
Beginning with the community, town/city we call home, if you have ever moved, especially if you have moved after having lived in a place for a long duration to someplace quite different from what you knew, you can attest to the powerful influence of culture on your daily life and decisions, opportunities, values, etc., which speaks to the energy we either gain or expend trying to align to our true selves. If we live in a culture that is open-minded for example, it will probably be more likely for you to explore and let your curiosity lead you, whereas if you live in a parochial cultural, if you dare look or dance outside of the lines, there will be pushback and only the brave and courageous and likely with support from loved ones, will dare honor what is piquing their curiosity, but not without expending energy, versus being fueled by energy to embrace your true self, value a growth mindset and interact with different ideas.
All of this is to say, if you choose to make a physical move to a new town/city or country because you know it will provide the qualities you need to thrive, it may take time to acclimate, but if you have done your homework, your quality of life for the long duration moving forward once you have [acclimated], will likely enrich your life tremendously for years and decades to come.
I think of this decision quite a lot, and my decision to move to Bend, Oregon. When it comes to physical health, the immediate access we have to the outdoors has been wildly beneficial, and simultaneously mentally nourishing as well. To reflect on where I had been living, it is clear in my mind, I made a life decision that has enriched my life (as well as my pups, and I know many people move to Bend to raise their children in Mother Nature’s playground as well) for the long-term as well as the everydays, but it took time to settle in, many of the stories are shared in my third book of hiccups that occurred during the first couple of years as I settled in. It took time to find my home, but all of that time was given freely and well-worth the investment.
11. Cultivating a Mindfulness practice
First, what is mindfulness? Defined in the book mentioned in #2, Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World, “Mindful awareness—or mindfulness—spontaneously arises out of this Being mode when we learn to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment, to things as they actually are.”
Being mindful involves skills that we incorporate into our everyday approach to living life: appreciation– seeing, noticing, savoring everyday beauty, kind gestures, anything that is going well, anything that makes us smile, anything that enables the life we enjoy living to occur; simple awareness – being fully present in the moment; responding instead of reacting either with our words in conversation, with our actions or with our thoughts – not jumping to conclusions or worst-case scenarios, but instead using critical thinking skills rather than relying on past unhelpful defaults; and knowing the difference between Doing vs. Being and when to engage in one and cease the other, finding a balance that elevates the quality of our life. Meditation is a tool that helps us to master each of these skills mentioned above.
A mindfulness practice takes time to become our daily approach to living, but when it does become our modus operandi, we begin to witness our world, our relationships, opportunities change for the better, but it takes time and cannot be ‘purchased’ with one day’s change in behavior.
Life enrichment, as the list above indicates, is not something that occurs with the swipe of a credit card. Our lives, if we want enrichment, involve more than monetary exchange and often no monetary exchange at all. Someone can have all the money in the world and not have an enriching life. An enriched life is not a solo pursuit, but it does affect you individually. What I mean by this is we do not come out of the womb knowing any of the skills mentioned above, so we have to learn them, which means we need teachers, and while some teachers may cross our paths out of our good fortune because of the schools we attend or the parents we are born to, this isn’t always the case. Our teachers often have to be sought out. We have to enroll in the course, pick up the book, sit down and listen, struggle with the content, apply the knowledge and keep practicing, keep searching, keep daring and taking courageous steps outside of our comfort zone, but all of this is to say, we have the opportunity to enrich our lives, deepen the quality and thus live a life of true contentment if we choose to invest knowing the return may not, and most likely will not, be immediate.
So today, how are you choosing to enrich your life? What have you so far invested in that while not bearing fruit yet, because you have done your homework and trust your decisions, you are confident that eventually it will and thus are staying the course? Even though there will be times when we doubt our investment has been worth it, if it involves any of the listed decisions above, rest easy that each of them will take time and each has its own clock. I say this because I have said it to myself and am saying to it myself, your life is right on time.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
10 Simple Things We Unnecessarily Complicate, episode #210
How to Let Go of Comparison? Heal Thyself, episode #286