Credit Union Times – June 2024
Stuart R. Levine

Life is challenging and more complicated than ever before, leading to increased pressures and anxiety. Finding ways to relieve stress and recharge one’s brainpower and productivity requires planning and thought. Paying attention to how you utilize your time professionally and personally will provide you with time and space for an important cleansing breath.

I like to work in the garden. Watching nature takes me away from the day-to-day firefights filled with tension. Being out in nature allows me to embrace new thinking, breathe and provides clarity of thought that subsequently enables me to read complex materials and digest them more clearly.

The lessons from gardening are very relevant to business. The success of a garden requires incredible planning and discipline. To prepare the soil, you need to understand sunlight patterns, root structure, and required irrigation, and then benchmark how well the garden is growing and developing.  You need the right tools, such as clippers, to remove dead leaves and branches. When you prune, you do so to ensure the health and productivity of the plants.

Just like in business when you see there’s a problem, like windstorms knocking over limbs, you analyze the data and then act. You remove underperforming assets and visualize how you want the garden to look throughout the year. You design it so that every two weeks, another flower or color appears. The same holds true for business to visualize the products and services that help people to grow. By planting seeds for people to learn and develop their leadership skills, they can contribute effectively, work together in teams, and have the best chance for success.

Gardens are in changing environments, and so are organizations. Organizations need to commit to standards of performance that eliminate things that inhibit their growth. They need to constantly evaluate the elimination of unproductive or toxic individuals who take up precious time and productivity from their teams. Studying the complex changing environment external to the organization is critical to understand what your clients and customers are facing and how to respond effectively.

Gardens, like organizations, thrive with diversity. The flora bunda roses in my garden grow in a tighter environment than normal. They are challenged to get along with all the garden specimens as there is only so much space for the sun and irrigation systems. So too, the workforce needs to see that results come from people of diverse backgrounds, working hard together for intellectual stimulation through collaboration. My roses have been there for ten years and have learned how to adapt and grow. So too, with resilient colleagues. Growth and success comes from adaptation and flexibility through the sharing of limited resources, including time, energy, and budgets.

At the highest of levels, the act of giving flowers is an act of kindness and joy. Business acts of giving, including listening, sharing valuable information, and saying thank you, provide gestures of decency and values. When I gift flowers to my family and friends, it is an extension of love and a spiritual way of connecting. When I ask Harriet, my wife, to walk with me in the garden, it deepens joy, and I share with her my commitment to adding beauty to our home to be enjoyed by others.

Gaining perspective is hard. It’s easy to become so driven by emptying your inbox and listening to your messages that you stop taking the time to determine what really matters in life. Urgency becomes mania and your productivity goes down. Stress in the workplace is a huge problem. If you’re stressed constantly, chances are you’re not doing your job as well as you can.

Finding ways to release tension and focus on yourself is not a self-indulgent act; it’s necessary for your long-term health and career progress. The objective is to find ways to gain a more valid perspective and see how your actions, behaviors, and thinking affect your outlook, personal relationships, and private life.

Sometimes you must get to a higher ground to see this. It’s like climbing a mountain to see the valley below. When you get there, the air is fresh, and the view is expansive. Such a view helps to regenerate you.

Getting to my higher ground comes from the ground itself – the soil and the earth that enable the flowers to grow. My growth comes from the same place. From there, I can achieve greater balance, replenish my spirit, and find clarity around what matters most. Find what brings you balance, and you will lead a more productive and fulfilled life.