Pruning your Practice

I am no gardener, but it’s my understanding that plants benefit from being pruned. And pruning involves not only removing dead wood, but also overgrowth.

Overgrowth might look like uncontrolled wildness, but it can also look like promising new buds and beautiful flowers. Sit with that for a moment. These healthy, lovely parts need to be removed in order focus the nutrients that allow other well-placed blooms to thrive.

Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

Choosing to make those cuts can feel counterintuitive. Even painful.

I’ve found this metaphor of pruning my practice to be both helpful and haunting recently. Removing seemingly successful elements so that other elements can flourish does not come easily to me.

I notice it is also a struggle for my strategy clients. If you’ve ever done a Stop/Start/Continue exercise, you’ll know that the Stop column is usually shortest, or even empty. It is not easy to commit to doing less. Leidy Klotz’s fine book Subtract speaks to this: not only is it hard for us to remove things — we often don’t even consider subtraction as an option. We are deeply programmed to add and grow. Klotz draws this tendency to our attention, but also speaks to the joy and sense of liberation that can result from choosing to subtract. (Can you hear echoes of Marie Kondo here?)

Subtraction may not just refer to the pruning of activities, but also to eliminating mindsets and beliefs that are no longer serving us well. (The work just got even harder!) I’ve found Barry O’Reilly and Chris Helder’s work helpful to my learning process on this — perhaps you will too.

As you pursue wiser decisions faster, may you find surprising freedom in bravely considering doing less not more.

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