What Houseplants Teach Me About Culture
I love houseplants. I enjoy caring for the plants and watching them grow. Diagnosing them when they are growth challenged. Their response to the environment is quite visible. Providing a learning opportunity. Plants have taught me about the impact the environment has on our ability to thrive. We hear a lot of rhetoric in today’s information channels that suggest “we are in control of our own destiny.” More, “life is about choice-make good decisions” or “excellence is not an act, it is a habit.” Quite popular are the mantras of “your mindset will determine your outcome.” I do not disagree with any of this. I do propose the common rhetoric leaves out part of the recipe for success- the environment. Our performance, state of mind, and energy is influenced by our surroundings. I am fascinated with the similarity between people and plants. Specifically, the way they both respond to their environment. The visible and responsive reaction to the space they exist in. THE SIMIALARITY Plants need appropriate light, nutritious soil, and the right amount of water. Through photosynthesis a plant converts light, oxygen, and water into energy. That energy is what creates healthy, growing plants. People convert connection, learning, and meaningful contribution into energy as well. We use this energy to sustain our wellbeing and growth. WHO WANTS LIGHT? How much light does a plant need? It depends! Different plants need different levels of exposure to the sun. This is the first decision when bringing a new plant home. WHERE will it go to ensure the appropriate amount of light for that particular plant? A plant can get too much light. Turning the leaves yellow or brown. Taking on a burnt look. There is too much exposure! This environment is not conducive for the wellness and growth of the plant. It will continue to struggle in this location. Plants that are not getting enough literally “reach” for light. An almost desperate call for energy. This will cause the plant not to grow as intended, but at straining angles. This plant will struggle to be strong and healthy.
We can learn from this! The situation or circumstances we place ourselves in has an impact! Some of us love to be right there in the limelight, soaking up the presence of others! We thrive in high exposure to the energy of others! Those with a low exposure preference may feel their color fade when over-exposed. They lose their luster! Experience an overabundance of input. Instead of feeling energized, they feel depleted. If we get too much light, it can burn us out. Not enough and we have unmet needs. People seek out what they need through expressive behavior. Reaching or wilting in place. A plant’s exposure to sun can translate to the situation or role a person holds. Like photosynthesis, people convert interpersonal interaction to energy. Neither too much or not enough is healthy. What Soil Do We Toil in? When a plant that was once thriving begins to show signs of distress the culprit could be the soil. I aerate, add nutrients, and repot to stimulate circulation of oxygen and minerals. So much about the soil contributes to the health and growth of the plant. The condition of roots influence the health of the plant. Yet, the impact can be invisible until damage is done. Distress takes place under the surface. Caused by too much water, lack of oxygen, or outgrowing their environment. Most likely it will take a while to show up in what is being produced above ground.
Plants need to grow. People need to grow. Do we get what we need from our environment? Do we have a clear and compelling purpose – a why- that injects oxygen into our day. Do we have the necessary resources to produce what is being asked of us “above the soil?” Are we overwhelmed by the load? As light to a plant equates to a person’s role, the soil is reflective of culture. Do we have room to grow? Like plants, people can be in distress under the surface. While still visibly producing. Employee experience – the soil- is key to a healthy and productive workforce. Is our water level up? Plants all need water, despite the quality of soil and level of sun exposure. Different soil absorbs water at different rates. Plants store water differently. Some plants need regular watering, and without it will wilt. Other plants store water for extended time, requiring less frequent watering. Overwatering causes leaves to become saturated, the stems mushy, and even root rot.
The need for sunshine reflects my exposure level preference. My culture experience mimics the roots and soil relationship. The power behind my purpose acts like water in a plant. Water pushes the created energy through the roots and to the branches and leaves. Water vapor and oxygen releases into the environment. People use their energy to grow and give; and to push their gifts out into the environment. Like the improved oxygen a plant gives a home, the energy we release into the environment can be good for others. Or…toxic. TAKE AWAY There are times when the ability to act wisely on our emotions is daunting. Enthusiasm for the daily grind is out of reach. It may even feel unsurmountable to manage our complex emotions and connect to our joy. We ARE social creatures that exist in social colonies. The environment we are in impacts on us! We have an impact on our environment. When in an environment conducive to who you are, it is easier to be positive and make good choices. When in an environment that does not support who you, have you noticed you literally wilt? How you have conserved mental and physical resources, leaving parts of your life to fade out? I propose we pause before we focus on our own “thinking.” Pause before examining our choices and how we are showing up. How about we look at how the environment we exist in is influencing our experience. This lays the foundation for self-growth. Leading us to an intentional interactivity with our environment.