Pruning the Mind Garden
Unfounded insecurity and anxiety about incompetence visit themselves upon me once in a while. I used to become anxious at their mere presence, now I’m mostly at peace with them. Like vines they creep into the garden of my mind and weave themselves into the foliage of my thinking. Sometimes I know exactly what fertilizer quickened their growth – a less than stellar client engagement, a rejected proposal or article. But more surprising is when these vines of insecurity sprout from seemingly weed free soil.
I have never successfully removed all the weeds from my veggie garden. One season we went so far as to remove the top eight inches of soil and replace it with pristine, store bought soil. Still, the weeds came in within weeks of watering and fertilizing the tomato and zucchini plants. So with the mind. The vines of discontented thoughts resist elimination. The trick is to learn to prune early and appropriately. My irrational insecurity is a feature of my mind garden. I now know how to spot the earliest signs of it’s growth and how to tame it.
The work of leadership is fraught with challenges that fertilize our mind garden. Some of the challenges cultivate creativity and innovation, while others bring to life our inner aspects of incompetence and insufficiency. Trying to ignore or hide the unsightly vines of our mind only serves to strengthen them.
Proper care and pruning of the mind garden requires these approaches:
- Learn to identify the physical feelings of mental states. the mind is too preoccupied with it’s irrationality to provide reliable early warning signs. What does fear of failure feel like in the stomach and chest?
- While positive affirmations are great, they are insufficient weed killers. Have people you trust with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings and who will provide you another perspective.
- Become very familiar with your mind garden vines and weeds. Do not run from emotional discomfort. Reside in it longer than you would like in an effort to deeply understand where they are rooted in your thinking. This will allow you to apply the correct affirmations when you’re ready.
Even though I’m confident of my competence, my irrational beliefs grow as vines of the mind. Though I have never rid myself of them completely, they can no longer trap me as they did when I was younger.