Wading through the final gruelling stages of editing my book, I turned to happy thoughts: envisioning what the book cover would look like.
I could have chosen from many images that represent concepts and metaphors in the book:
- a crossroads
- a signpost
- a compass
- pages of a book
- a blossom
- a pros and cons list.
- a glass of water
Instead, I chose a succulent.
What do you long for most from a decision?
When I asked my social media followers what people wanted to feel when they made a decision, the most popular answer was PEACE and CONFIDENCE.
Before cautious decision-makers make a significant change in their lives, there’s a process that comes before confidence. The decision sometimes travels through fear and confusion before it arrives at the mile markers of faith, peace, clarity and courage. Along the way, we sort out what we actually want, what our options are and which path we’ll actually choose.
Confidence comes later, after making the decision, scared and uncertain — much like jumping off a diving board with your eyes squeezed shut and our stomach plummeting. After fumbling your way into your new normal, while grieving what you’ve left behind.
What I imagined most for my book cover was the fresh feeling of simple, confident peace. No plant demonstrates this more to me than the hearty, adaptable succulent.
5 Enduring Principles from a Succulent
The following excerpt from Dare to Decide, describes why:
One spring, a friend and I set out on a mission to connect some busy but lonely women by planning a get-together. We decided we would make succulent mini gardens. Armed with pictures from Pinterest and boxes of supplies from a greenhouse, I was excited for us to play in some dirt, create a lovely planter, laugh, and chat.
Since I had killed my first couple of succulents, I figured if I was going to lead this workshop and deliver an inspirational talk, I’d better learn a little more about what keeps them alive. Little did I know these tiny plants offered valuable lessons for thriving through life changes.
1. You’re best when you’re stressed.
Most succulents start green, but as they are exposed to the sun and heat, they blush with colour. Some kinds have red-tinged leaves, and others fully turn shades of pink or purple while some will even blossom. Of course, too much sun isn’t good either, but without a little stress the plant doesn’t reach its full potential.
We’re similar. We prefer life to be in our control. But often we don’t find out what we’re capable of until we get uncomfortable.
2. Start with less.
My first succulent was given to me in appreciation for an act of kindness. I kept the cute white pot on my desk, admiring it and watering it faithfully — till it started getting brown and floppy.
While preparing for the workshop a couple of years later, I discovered these little plants need very little water or space to thrive. In my diligent caring for my gift, I had overwatered it, causing the roots to rot. In life we thrive with less than we think we need.
Often, we feel we don’t have enough _____ (fill in the blank: talent, time, resources, skill, passion) to make a difference in our world. But sometimes it’s the tiny micro-steps that count and the constraints that cultivate creativity. Start with what you have and watch what grows.
3. Protect your bloom.
My succulent came with a whitish film on the leaves. I thought I was being helpful by wiping it off and shining the leaves.
This frosted layer, also called “bloom,” helps protect the plant from the sun, water, pathogens, and insects. As a water and insect repellent it keeps the dirt out, and as a sunscreen the waxy coating helps keep the water in, making the leaves plump and lush.
This reminds me of values: they protect us from things that might compromise our purpose, focus, and energy.
4. Thrive in a tribe.
While my one little succulent shrivelled away in its adorable white pot with plenty of space, the ones in my front garden seemed to crowd their way into the brick border as they multiplied.
I discover that while my single plant had withered from overwatering, it also might have died of loneliness. Succulents thrive when they share space with others.
Similarly, we thrive when we’re in a tribe, stabilized by roots intertwined and sprouting new life. When we’re left alone with our overactive thoughts, it’s easy to feel like we’re drying up. Find your people, and you’ll thrive in your purpose.
5. Brokenness births hope.
In preparing for the gardening get-together, I came across one woman who proudly cared for her young succulents until someone in her home knocked over the little pot.
Dismayed, she picked up the small plant and discovered its leaves had broken off. She placed them back in the container, watering it now and then. Days later she was delighted to see little shoots stemming from the broken end of the plant, ready to take root.
Our experiences are like this little plant. We can dismiss them, maybe even toss them away as useless. But often they are the beginning of a new start. It’s through experiences of brokenness, disappointment and, yes, joy that we can lead others to hope and comfort.
Peace blossoms in our hearts when we begin believing that, whatever uncertainty or chaos we face, however things turn out with our decision, we’re going to be okay.
Our kids are going to be okay.
Life is going to be okay.
When you see a bigger potential for your decision than a possible failure or disappointment, you create more space for peace. Make your decision, and welcome peace, clarity and courage in the process.