I get a lot of “But how do I respond to when _<situation>__ happens?” kind of questions. How do we respond when something is not going well?
The interesting thing is, the answer does not change much. And I love giving this metaphor of a tree.
This is useful in dealing with employees, people, children, parents, in relationships, society, schools…everywhere.
Imagine there is this withering tree in a field you own. How would you respond?
If you scream at it, call it names, call it ungrateful for not growing despite getting expensive fertilizer – you are judging and blaming. You might be right. Maybe you did do your best. But your screaming does not help the tree.
If you are busy explaining why the withering is not your fault – we are trapped in blame games. This might sound obvious. But often we do not care about succeeding as long as we can prove that failure was not our fault!
If you are busy reminiscing what great tree-growers you were 2000 years ago – you are in denial. Stuck in the past. Out of touch with the present. You past greatness does nothing to serve the present.
This goes for past tragedies also. Yes, you did have a hard time. Yes, your intentions were great, and yet you could not get enough water, the best fertilizer. But all that is in the past. Unchangeable. The question is what you can do for the tree right now!
If you are busy arguing what the ideal tree should look like – it might be idealism. Lot of discussions, emotions, zero change. Or worse, self-righteousness leading to imposition. Where you come up with your view of “How the tree should look like” and then get busy convincing, persuading or forcing others to comply. They might. But the tree is still waiting to be watered!
If you conceptually know the ‘tools and frameworks’ to grow a great tree, but not how to start from where it is NOW – you are just an academic. Like the scientist who knows 364 ways to pick up girls, but has not met a girl himself.
By the way, all of the above demands effort. But nothing changes.
Yes, the withering is not our fault. But we ‘own’ the land. And everything that goes with it. That’s responsibility.
It is not about you. It is about the tree.
So we start exactly where it is. We figure out as we go. No rocket science.
The biggest question is not how much you know, or how great your intent is, or how noble your vision is.
The biggest question is can you meet the tree exactly where it is, be fully present to its needs without judgement and support it in all ways you can so that it grows to its best potential(not your best expectation) Can we do this for others? And ourselves? And our relationships?
We won’t know what the tree will end up looking like. But we know something beautiful will emerge.
How and what we do now and what space we come from, might be much more important than our 20 year vision or 20 year old regrets.