This morning I harvested some of the final tomatoes off our vines. Here in Arizona the growing season is coming to an end, but we have had some glorious offerings on our table, thanks to the mighty little garden in our backyard.
This morning I was reminded of that old thought: The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.
Of course this is obvious. Of course we understand this concept intellectually.
But really internalizing this idea in daily practice, it is one of the most powerful ideas we can remember and utilize especially when it comes to developing new habits and making the changes we want to see in ourselves.
Whenever we want to establish new habits or make changes in our behavior, it’s easy to become impatient. Once we have noticed the need for change, we get in a hurry for things to be different.
For example, how many of us have started a new exercise regimen, only to notice a week later that nothing has changed yet in our outside appearance and then promptly given up? How many of us have set New Year’s resolutions to get up earlier, start a meditation practice, or be more organized, only to find ourselves more or less unchanged at the end of January and then thrown in the towel?
Over the years, I have learned the one of the most powerful ways that we can learn to manage our minds is in the area of goal setting.
By definition, whenever we set a goal it requires new actions that are often outside of our comfort zone. If this wasn’t the case, we would already be living the way we wanted and there would be no need for the goal. Having a goal, necessitates different action than we have taken in the past.
But our minds do not like to do things differently. When our human brains evolved they were designed to optimize our survival; they were there to help us stay alive. In order to give us the best chance at survival, our brains operated according to a powerful motivational triad: seek pleasure, avoid pain, conserve energy. This system told our brain to seek food and companionship, stay safe and warm, and use as little energy as possible so that we could always be ready to act if we were in danger.
Even though we live a very different life now than our early human ancestors, our brains still operate according to this motivational triad: seek pleasure, avoid pain, conserve energy. The only problem with operating this way is that when we go to pursue a new goal, we are working against this evolutionary bias.
Doing things outside our comfort zone requires discomfort, energy, and stress. Because of this, our brain often tries to talk us out of pursuing our goals. It tells us it’s too hard, it will take too long, we can’t really change, we’re just not the kind of person that does x, y or z. It talks us out of exercise plans, getting up early, organizing our lives, or doing things differently.
The longer the goal takes, the more protest the brain offers. When we don’t see massive changes in the mirror a week into our new exercise regimen, the brain says, “See, you’re wasting your time.”
This is where it can be powerful to remember the phrase: the day you plant the seed is not the day you harvest the fruit and then learn to manage and direct your thoughts to get the results you want!
Anything worth doing and achieving is going to take a lot of work. More work than we think. More work than our minds think is “reasonable.” This is when developing the mental toughness and fortitude to continue despite the lack of immediate rewards and evidence is so critical. We need to exercise our mental grit long enough to ignore the excuses offered by our own brains and instead, persist and persevere towards our goal.
This is the difference between those who achieve their dreams and those who only dream about achieving.
If there are things you want in your life, if there are goals you want to achieve, or behaviors you want to change, the secret is to plant the “seeds” and keep watering and keep working even when it takes months or years for the “fruit” to appear.
The ability to persist when there are no obvious results of our hard work, is one of the greatest skills you can develop. And it is one of the most important things we can teach and offer to our children as well.
Most of our children have grown up in a world of immediate rewards. They turn on the faucet and water comes out. They order something on Amazon and it shows up on the porch. They don’t have to even wait a week for the next episode in their television series like we used to. We live in an amazing world! But this means that it’s even more important for them to learn and practice the mental skills needed to plant a seed and set a goal and then manage their own thoughts so that they can persist and persevere as long as it takes to realize their goal.
This mind management principle is only one of the important concepts that we teach and apply in our online course, Own It! In this empowerment course, young people will come to understand the power they have to direct their own thoughts, overcome the objections that their own brain will offer them, in order to achieve whatever they want in their lives.
When it comes down to it, there is probably not anything more important to learn.
If you want your teen to understand and apply this powerful idea in their own lives, enroll them in Own It! today. Truly the seeds you plant in their mind today will produce valuable fruit for the rest of their lives.