As someone who’s job it is to be slightly obsessed with personal and professional growth, I find myself pondering the concept of “growth” quite often. And what I find is that—no surprise–nature is one of our best teachers about what lasting, transformational growth looks like.

Take the rings of a tree, for example. This is a great representation of what growth looks like. Why?

–Because growth tends to be cyclical. Contrary to our westernized, linear way of thinking, we typically don’t do something once and glean the full life lesson from it (think hangovers). Instead, we often repeat patterns and find ourselves in the same old predicaments with different places and faces but similar circumstances. My clients tend to get so upset with themselves when they make a mistake—especially those with perfectionistic tendencies. But the truth is, we may need multiple go-arounds before we realize we’ve gathered enough information to make a change, to truly be able to see how our patterns are serving us or not, and to cross the threshold into more of who we really are.

Related to this is that growth is a process spread out over time. In our modern day quick-fix, instant gratification society, I watch people get frustrated with how long it takes to master a new skill, cultivate a new mindset, or shed old habits that are no longer serving them. But we weren’t really meant to have all the answers all at once or arrive as our fully developed selves from the get-go. That’s what life is for! The on-going process of discovery and unfolding. We are all always in research and development.

–Much like a tree, human growth is nurtured and nourished by various elements. The growth process doesn’t happen in isolation. There are a lot of forces and energies in play to mold and shape the resultant wise old tree that once started out as a sapling. The same goes for us. Our day-to-day relationships, the experiences we are born into and then those we choose for ourselves, the happenings within the micro and macro world–all serve to shape and influence who we are to become.

So as you encounter something as common as the trees in your own backyard, just notice all of the similarities, all of the wisdom, all of the lessons they hold and reflect back to us as we share in this journey called life.

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