Charlie was an unhappy gardener. His whole life had been dedicated to growing the perfect garden, but each year he found he got the same, dismal results: the flowers died, the grass lost its color, the weeds took over and the local wildlife stayed away.
Depressed by another poor year of lackluster results, Charlie decided to take a walk by his favorite river. Normally, this was a quiet place he could go and dwell on his failures, but on this occasion his thoughts were disturbed by a wise man sitting by the river edge.
Unaccustomed to seeing anyone on this quiet path, Charlie decided to say hello. The wise man slowly turned his head and what he said surprised Charlie: ‘It seems that you are unhappy my friend. Your eyes look sad, your posture is stooping, I see sadness in your face and your energy feels low.’ At first Charlie was surprised; a simple ‘Hello’ was all he was expecting. He was also stunned by the accuracy of the wise man’s observations and found himself agreeing with everything he had heard.
‘How could you know that?’ he replied, ‘You don’t even know me.’
‘You don’t have to know someone to pick up on their emotions,’ the wise man replied. ‘Would you like to sit and talk? I would love to listen to what is on your mind.’
Charlie did not normally find it easy to talk to others, particularly complete strangers. But this time something was different. The sense of calmness, trust and positive energy he felt being around this man moved him towards his quick response ‘Sure, why not.’
‘What’s on your mind?’ asked the wise man. Charlie hesitated and thought carefully about his response. He decided to be honest: ‘I am prey unhappy actually. All my life I’ve wanted to be a successful gardener an d all my life I have failed.’
‘Would you like to change that?’ inquired the wise man.
‘Absolutely. I can’t think of anything that would make me happier,’ responded Charlie.
Sensing the commitment in Charlie’s voice and body, the wise man then told Charlie that he could help him. ‘All the solutions to your problem are already inside you. If you are willing to change, then I will help you think, feel and behave like a successful gardener.’
‘Fabulous. How long will it take? Can I get what I need today?’
‘Patience, belief and commitment are what you need to succeed my friend, and the rest will follow with time. Today I can help you to raise awareness of the things you must change, but true, lasting change will take longer. If you only show commitment today, then you will resort to your old habits and nothing will change. If you will work with me for the next few months, then I promise you will have the garden of your dreams by next summer. I can also promise you the changes you make during those months will last for the rest of your life. How does that sound?’
‘That sounds great. What are a few months if you get to change for the rest of your life?’
The wise man added, ‘Before we start I must tell you one more thing. What you will learn during this journey is very powerful. You’ll learn how to use your own strengths to make the most of the tools at your disposal in your garden. You’ll learn to work with the garden and the changing seasons to make it beautiful. You’ll learn how you have to be to adapt when something doesn’t grow or look how you want it to look. You’ll learn how to bounce back from your disappointments and find different ways to get what you want.’
‘You can help me do all that?’
‘Yes, I can. Now, tell me what you believe about your skills as a gardener. What thoughts enter your mind when you think of you gardening?’
‘If I’m absolutely honest, I’ve kind of given up hope. I don’t believe I’ve got what it takes and seriously doubt if I can ever create the garden I have dreamed of for so long.’
‘And how do these thoughts affect the way you garden?’
Charlie paused. He had never considered there might be a connection between his thoughts and his actions before. After some thought he replied, ‘Now I think about it, I guess I haven’t been making much of an effort lately. I have been spending less and less time in the garden and haven’t bothered replacing my broken garden tools. I guess I didn’t see the point.’
Throughout the next few months, the wise man met with Charlie once each month at the same spot by the river. At each meeting, the wise man listened and asked Charlie some thought provoking, sometimes challenging questions. After each meeting, Charlie went away with various things to do, sometimes just to challenge the way he thought, but more often than not to actually do things differently.
Charlie began to notice that he was more willing to try different things on his own, feeling more confident that he had good ideas, knew more than he realized about gardening, and that it felt really good. He started to believe he was a good gardener after all.
After several months Charlie had done what he never thought he could do. The weeds had all gone, replaced by a beautiful array of flowers and plants. The grass was greener than ever before and the local wildlife filled the garden with energy and life. Enjoying spending his time in these beautiful surroundings he had created, Charlie started thinking about how the wise man had helped him since they first met. The interesting thing was that the more he reflected on it, the more he realized that the man had given him little or no advice along the way. In fact, the only advice he could remember was that sitting down and reflecting on what he had done each day was a great habit to develop. And Charlie vowed to himself there and then that he would always do this, not only when things were fine and vibrant in his garden, but also when it needed more attention because the weeds had begun to surface again.
Editor: Marwa Karoura