Does it hurt to prune your life?

I had the most unusual breakfast in the most unusual place on Saturday — crackling with thick slices of farm bread, butter and apricot jam with delicious coffee, at Dassiesfontein, just off the N2 between Bot River and Caledon in South Africa.

One thing that struck me is the sheer number of items they have there — everything from coal stoves, leather products, chandeliers, antiques, wine, food, posters, boutique, Victorian fireplaces…

At times, I felt overwhelmed — just too much!

Nothing there of course just “arrived” of its own accord. It was chosen and bought by the owners and added to the goods.

It made me think of our often “overwhelming” lives. At out productivity workshops, we often hear that people feel overwhelmed. By everything from their daily “to do list” to attending PTA meetings, playing sport, going to religious services, exercising, travelling…the list goes on and on.

If you think about it carefully, we allow these things into our lives. Our commitments don’t just “show up” in our calendars as if by magic. We choose to live the lives we live.

Maybe it is time over the holidays to take a deep breath and reflect on your life, if you feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. Pull out the pruning shears and get rid of things that keep you busy without moving you towards what matters most in your life right now.

Enjoy the following piece about pruning by Bernice Ross, Ph.D., MCC, and Byron Van Arsdale, MCC, with special thanks to Michael Skye of Austin Detailers and the National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree City USA” Bulletin.

Has your life gotten a little complicated? Are you engaging in patterns and habits that no longer support you? Perhaps the people who study plants and trees can help us learn something about improving the quality of our lives. The concept we’ll be working with is called Pruning and is essential in maintaining a strong, happy, and healthy life

“The American Heritage Dictionary” defines pruning as “to cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth.” Two additional parts of the definition include “to remove or cut out as superfluous” and “to reduce.” Pruning means to remove unnecessary, undesirable, or unsupportive parts of your life that are contrary to your values, integrity, and ethics.

Whether you’re pruning your trees or your life, you prune first for strength and second for form.

When pruning for strength, begin by looking for habits, patterns, decisions, and choices that rob you of your energy, confidence, or emotional well being.

For example, is there an activity you feel you “should” do, yet the activity saps your strength and no longer serves any useful purpose? If so, it’s time to “prune” it because it’s “dead” and will drain resources from what nourishes you.

Has your life taken a direction that no longer supports you? If so, it’s much like a large branch growing over the neighbour’s fence. If you don’t cut it off, eventually there’s going to be a problem. The sooner you take care of cutting away the “erring branch,” the less likely you are to have difficulties.

Pruning for “form” is the fun part. Here we choose what suits us in terms of our strengths. When we prune for “form,” we get to add space, beauty, and light to our lives by carefully choosing to remove our lesser traits in favour of our best traits.

Pruning is both an art and science. It takes time, patience and effort to learn yet once learned, can provide you with the tools to create and maintain a high quality of life for many years to come.

Quote: “Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. “- Henry Cloud