Eric Karjaluoto

A New Garden

Your path was no longer right for you. You didn’t hate what you were doing. You simply felt like something else would make you happier. Or, perhaps you just needed a change.

I’ve watched many people do this, only to stumble and end up right back where they started. This creates a pattern: 1) Start something new; 2) See little happen; 3) Lose hope; 4) Abandon this pursuit; 5) Return to what’s familiar; 6) Start dreaming about something else.

As this pattern replays, the one attempting to make a change gets worn down. Many give up. This needn’t be the case, though. You can successfully change paths, but you first need to change your mindset and expectations.

Most look upon life and career changes like a switch. You flip it, and everything is different, immediately. This is the wrong metaphor. Imagine flipping a switch and nothing happening. You’d probably repeat the action a few times, and come to the conclusion that it didn’t work.

Perhaps a garden is a better metaphor. Although you might not realize this, you grew a garden over the past x years. This might have started when you had a slight interest in a topic. Your garden grew as you dedicated more time to it. Now that you’ve put in a few years, it grows almost on its own, and seems to take less work.

When you contemplate a new life path or career, you start by looking at someone else’s garden. As you admire its beauty, you think, “I’d like a garden like that.” What you might forget, is that gardens don’t appear overnight. If you want to create a new one for yourself, you’ll need to start all over.

You’ll need to find a plot of land. Then, you’ll need to ready the soil. You’ll have to choose what to grow, and plant the appropriate seeds. These won’t do much, for a while. Instead, you’ll need to tend to your garden—watering it and pruning weeds. And you’ll have to wait.

The waiting is hard. This is when when your faith is tested. How long are you willing to keep doing the work, in spite of having nothing to show for it?

You’ll look back on your old garden. What you once took for granted in it, will seem better than before. You might even want to return to that place. If you’re like most others, you’ll do that. As you go back, your new garden will wilt, die, and soon show no trace of your presence.

I don’t think you’ll do that, though. I think you’ll remember that when you’re between two things, you’re sort of nowhere. The old garden is no longer your place. The new garden isn’t quite ready for you, yet. And that’s OK. Don’t think about this too much, or question your choice. This isn’t the time for doubt. Tend to your garden and be patient.

One day, a little sprout will appear. A day later, another will. You’ll feel great, but still need to be patient. Growth is slow, and advancement is often followed by a setback. A mouse nibbles at what you planted, leaving you disheartened. Address the problem, and get back to work. It’s your willingness to keep going that grows your garden.

Change doesn’t occur when you decide upon it. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, or that you aren’t equipped to make the change. Big changes are about transition. The change ends only when you stop—and your new garden will take years to mature. There are no shortcuts. Just keep going.

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