Updated: Apr 7
It’s no secret that I love to garden. My front yard garden has been a challenge for me. We have a huge maple tree in the front yard and the garden sits underneath it. Each year, I envision lovely swags of Japanese forest grass, vibrant colors of coral bells and a few other well-chosen plants to make it a beautiful space. But each year I end up being disappointed with how the plants have done—most of them are languishing, if not dead. At first, I thought it was the lack of sunlight, so I planted all shade-loving plants and they didn’t thrive either. Then I thought it was poor soil, so I amended the soil, yet nothing changed.
It took me a couple of years to figure out that my main archenemy are the bunnies who come to feed on the smorgasbord I have laid out for them. So, the following year I bought grasses that were bigger and I planted them with the hopes that whatever the bunnies eat would not cause too much damage for a bigger plant to survive. It has never worked, yet I keep doing the same thing—stubbornly hoping that if I just get another grass or coral bells, the bunnies will leave those alone and the garden will finally look beautiful. I should have rethought my strategy a long time ago, yet even this year, I tried a different kind of grass with the same results. I think I may have finally learned my lesson after all these years; I need a different vision and a new plan of action!
How often do all we do this--we have a vision of what we want, we come up with a plan on how to make this vision a reality, we work hard to implement our actions and we fail. So we try again and fail again. Then we try harder, work more--and get the same result. And this begs the question: At what point is it ok to say that we need to rethink our actions or come up with a new vision? How long do you keep trying before it is OK to give up?
The idea of grit (perseverance in the face of obstacles) has become a cultural value. We are told by our society that we are not supposed to give up. That is why giving up can feel like a failure and as something to be ashamed of. So we keep banging our heads against the same wall, because we are told we are not supposed to give up!
In reality, it is giving up--stepping away and getting a different perspective--is the most beneficial part of getting to our goals and vision. Gaining a new point of view will allow us to see where we are going off the road: Do we need to figure out what our main obstacles are (bunnies, lack of sunlight or poor soil)? Do we need to creatively come up with a new set of actions we can try? Maybe a new vision is just what we need, so we stop spinning our wheels and get ourselves out of a rut.
If you are not sure if you should give up on something, talk to someone you trust about the questions you have, what is working, what is not, and why. If you are a part of a team, have an open and courageous conversation together. You can also get an outsider to offer you their perspective and ideas.
Is this easy to do? Of course not! But without giving up, we may never get to where we truly need to be. Ask me next year how my garden is doing. I may just have some good news to share with you.
Have you ever been in a situation where your actions weren’t working? What did you do and how did it work out?
Have you given up on something you worked hard on? How did it change your perspective or your vision for the goals you set out?