“Water the fruit trees and don’t water the thorns.”
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.”
That one was from St. Luke and it’s only one of the many quotes where tree and fruits are used figuratively to bring not only beauty to an idea that a writer or a speaker wishes to convey but also emphasis and clarity.
Obviously, the “tree” in that bible verse refers to you and me. And what about the fruits? Well, they are our thoughts, words, and actions and their outcomes. Could there be other fruits? I believe there’s none. The things we think, say, and do and their eventual consequences or results are the fruits of the tree that we are. There’s nothing else that would come out of us through which we can be judged or valued as a person.
“Each tree is recognized by its own fruits.” Thus, you ought to be careful of what you think and say or do afterward. They are manifestations of the kind of person that you are… and they do have consequences or results. I don’t know if there can be an argument against that assertion.
Knowing how you think and what you say and do on a consistent basis is a simple way of determining what kind of fruits you produce. On a bigger scale, the fruits you bear constitute the reputation you built for yourself in the community where your belong and among your colleagues, peers, friends and loved ones. What people say about you when you are not present is your reputation. And your reputation is a consequence of your speech and actions. Do you agree?
There are times that even if you say and do good some people will treat you negatively. Don’t mind them. Their reactions are boomerangs that would harm them not you.
Your accomplishments in life are also consequences of what you say and do (which are both driven by your thought processes.) If people would scrutinize your resume, what would they see? What they see are your fruits. Success is one big and ripe apple in the apple tree. It is the end goal of all our personal and professional pursuits.
But there’s a fruit sweeter than success – happiness. That’s what simple people with simple dreams who don’t have a curriculum vitae to show try to grow in their tree. You would even hear people with grand dreams say that they aim for success because they want to be happy. Their success is the source of their happiness while for the simple folks I mentioned earlier, it’s the simplicity of their life and desires that makes them happy.
Reputation, success, and happiness – the results of what you think and say and do afterwards – are the fruits of the tree you become.
The kind of fruits you would bear depends on the kind of tree you grow into. If you are a good tree then definitely good fruits will spring out of your branches and twigs.
You should know that you have control of the process of becoming who you are. Yes, no one else is in control of it. We call that process self-improvement. The tree that would sprout from that transformation is your “best self.”
Only when you become your “best self” that you will start bearing the good fruits.
The journey into becoming your “best self” begins with one simple step – the rejection of any excuse to not become the tree you wish to be and bear the fruit that you desire.
Education comes next. We nourish the tree called “self” through education. And it’s going to be long and tedious. It’s actually lifelong. Remember what Aristotle said, “The roots of education is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” But with education, I don’t mean just formal schooling. Schools are not the only place where learning can be had. Learning comes in many shapes and forms.
Learning makes your better than you were yesterday.
Sometimes we feel discouraged when all the efforts we are putting into self-improvement is seemingly not bearing fruits. We need to be patient. Rousseau tell us that patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet. To that Moliere added, “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”
There’s one more fruit that your tree would eventually bear – wisdom. You know it’s there when you come to a realization that the growing of the tree is more exciting than harvesting its fruits. What you will become – your best self – is beyond your reputation, more glittery than success, and more overwhelming than happiness.
“Find your why and you’ll find your way.”
– John C. Maxwell
“What is your why? Why did you even get out of the bed this morning? Why did you eat what you ate? Why did you wear what you wore? Why did you come here?” These are the questions Howard Inlet, the character played by Will Smith, asks his employees at the beginning of the movie “Collateral Beauty.”
Should you be asked the same questions, would you be able to answer unequivocally? Do you have definite answers to at least the first two questions? If your answer is yes, good for you. Way to go! I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually you’ll succeed in your personal and professional pursuits, or I may not know it but you have already succeeded. But if your answer is no, I would suggest you do some soul searching because seemingly you have been cruising through life aimlessly. It is very likely that you don’t know your purpose. You are sailing in the sea of life using a rudderless boat.
Purpose is a powerful driving force in our quest for a better self and a better life. Purpose is the reason why we do what we do and why we exist. They help us have a meaningful existence. Thus, we should strive hard to know (or establish) our purpose and be driven by it. We need to live life purposely.
The question is how. How to live life purposely?
Simon Sinek gave the following suggestion – “Start with why” (which is also the title of one of the books he wrote). He (Sinek) explained that the WHY is your purpose, cause, or belief. Although the said book focuses on organization and leadership and how having a WHY helps the leader succeed in bringing progress and prosperity to the organization, the WHY principles that Sinek articulated apply to individuals as well.
It’s not only organizations and leaders who should have (and be very clear with their) WHYs. Every person should have them, whether or not they belong to an organization, whether or not they are leaders. Each individual needs to determine and establish their purpose, cause, and belief. It’s not only organizations and leaders who should know why they do what they do and why they exist. Each of us should have a clear understanding of these things.
Two of Howard Inlet’s questions – “Why did you eat what you ate?” and “Why did you wear what you wore?” – may, at first glance, be considered inconsequential. But as one of the owners of that advertising company in the movie, Inlet wants to drive home a very important point – that every member of that organization should be aware of the reasons why they do what they do.
This is one thing we ought to be doing even in a personal level also. We ought to be asking ourselves why we do what we do.
I presume (and I hope my presumption is right) that you have set goals in the different areas of life – family and relationships, career and business, personal growth and development, and fun and recreation. It is possible that you may have subdivided your life into areas differently from the way I did. But one thing for sure, just like me, you have goals in the different aspects of your life no matter how you may have structured it. Those goals are the manifestations of your purpose or purposes in life, causes you defend and advocate, and the beliefs you hold dear.
The answer to the question “Why did you even get out of the bed this morning?” should be as simple as – to pursue the goals you set in the different areas of your life. Right?
But how many out of 10 people set goals? How many do live a life driven by a definite purpose? That may be difficult to answer. The one thing I noticed though about estimates on how many percent of people in a particular society or country are successful in their chosen endeavors and fields of expertise is that none of the statistics went above 10%. Actually, majority of the articles I read on the topic claimed it’s only 2% to 5%. So, if goals correlate to success, given all the aforementioned numbers, is it safe to assume that approximately only 1 out of 10 people set goals?
Granting that my estimation is accurate, only 1 out 10 people know their purpose, cause, and belief. The great majority of human beings wake up in the morning not knowing what are they going to do and where are they headed to. I hope that you’re not one of them.
And those questions that I said earlier are seemingly inconsequential are necessary questions to ask to remind you that even the simplest things you do everyday should contribute to the attainment of your big goals.
Purpose-driven people constantly ask themselves this question – what consequences do my words, actions, and thoughts bear on the goals that I set.
Bear this in mind all the time – that your WHY is your north star. It gives you a sense of direction. It is the rudder boat needs when you sail. Not having a clear purpose is like looking for something that you don’t know. You’ll never find it. It is like walking aimlessly not knowing where to go. It’s living life randomly, not purposely.
When you finally decide to take control of your life and chart your own destiny, the first order of business should be knowing your WHYs upon which you will anchor the goals that you will set.
“When we strive to become better than we are,
everything around us becomes better too.”
– Paulo Coelho
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
That’s the first line in Robert Frost’s poem entitled “The Road Not Taken.”
Each time you wake up in the morning, you stand at a fork in a road – one path leads to self-complacency and the other to self-improvement.
“And sorry [you] could not travel both
And be one traveler, long [you] stood
And looked down one as far as [you] could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
You wouldn’t be able to see what lies ahead because the forest of life is dense and the road is not straight. All I can tell you is you will either bear the consequences or enjoy the results of choosing which way to go. And you were not born yesterday not to know the repercussions of self-complacency and the wonderful effects of self-improvement. You know which direction leads to ruin and which one winds through the valley of success and happiness.
But the road to self-improvement is either not taken or the one less traveled because it is easier, if not intuitive for people, to be complacent. Well, according to neuroscientists, we should blame our brain for this. And this is where we’re good at – putting the blame on someone or something else. Would you now add your brain to the list of what or who is to blame for your failures?
Neuroscientists say that we are naturally wired to prefer either lying on the couch or sleeping. We are naturally lazy. We hate getting out of our comfort zones. We want things to be given to us in a silver platter. Thus…
“Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;”
We don’t want to read or to do any personal growth and development program dropping as our excuse the lack of time to do it. We don’t like to undertake fitness programs saying they’re too difficult to commit too. We don’t believe in the value of proper nutrition reiterating that we have the right to eat whatever and whenever we want.
What we want is a magic pill that we can take to magically unlock our full potential and transform us into the best version of ourselves. The bad news is – there’s no such pill and there will never be. Self-improvement is not a magic pill to take but a Mt. Everest to climb.
Sometimes, when you feel like finally wanting to walk the path to self-improvement. You say…
“Oh I kept the first to another day!”
But having enjoyed your journey in the lane of self-complacency, you would exclaim…
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”
Well, God has given us free will. We live life the way we want. Nobody could ever coerce us into doing what we don’t like. Just don’t forget that whatever becomes of you when you get to the end of the path you decided to take when you came to that fork in the road is your personal choice. “Life is a sum of all your choices.” That’s from Albert Camus.
As I said in another article I wrote about self-improvement, “We indeed have the freedom to choose. It is just unfortunate that some people would choose not to make themselves better.” Free will is both a boon and a bane.
But should you decide to take the road not (or less) traveled – the road to self-improvement – this is what you would say when every strand of your hair turns gray…
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”