How to Change Your Soil

Recently I went to a learning and development meetup called Mindchimp. A small group of us sat together with pizza and diet coke and listened to four amazing speakers talk about how to inspire change.

I really enjoyed myself there; I’ve not had any reason to go to professional meetups for the past year so I let them slide as it’s always a heavy use of my social energy tokens to go to a networking event. But I know deep down that I come away buzzing with ideas.

In particular, one concept from Mindchimp has been buzzing round my brain:

When a gardener has a seed that won’t grow, they don’t blame the seed, they look to change the soil.

This joined another quote I heard from Sue Unerman, co-author of my favourite business book to date The Glass Wall. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but she said:

You’re going around like a one-bed flat when actually you’re a six-bed house. You need to open doors to rooms that already exist in you, to reach your full potential.

I really like both of these thoughts – that we have all the things we need right here, we just need to open to new experiences, and that when things aren’t as they could (or should) be, instead of blaming ourselves we should look change things around ourselves to help us grow better.

How can we do this?

To change the soil you’re in, you need to look at what you can and cannot change. Here’s an exercise I like to do to help separate the two. It can be in relation to a singular problem, or of an overall snapshot of where you’re at.

Draw two circles, one inside the other, like the above. Firstly, in the outer circle write the things you cannot control. If you’re doing this generally, it could be things like how much demand there is for your skills, how your family react to your life choices, or the attitude of others that impact your day.

In terms of a specific problem, if we were to look at the ficticious issue of an overbearing boss, things you can’t change are the situations in her life that are stressful to her, making her micromanage you. You also can’t change how she goes about her day to day work.

However, there are things you CAN change. In the inner circle, write those. You can change how you prepare for each day – do you make sure you’ve had enough sleep? That you were fully prepared for that presentation? Did you hold your tongue when you were angry (even if they deserved a dressing-down)?

You can have open conversations with people who you’re not working well with. It’s much better than sitting and complaining about the situation (which won’t solve anything).

In terms of opening new doors, you can gain new skills by watching YouTube videos or taking a free/cheap online course. You can do like I do and attend meetup groups of people in different fields. You can ask someone in your company to sit down and explain their job to you (even if you have no interest in what they do – it’s ALWAYS interesting to know the jobs of others!)

Depending on how stuck you feel in your current soil, you may want to re-do this exercise every couple of months or so, or until you feel like you’re on a different, fresher track towards where you want to be.

What’s more, this can be a great activity to do with students/teens, especially those who are lashing out due to a lack of feeling of control of their situations.

As always, please let me know if you try this out, and if so, how you find it!

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