Once upon a time our garden-smart neighbor taught my husband how to prune fruit trees. I cried the day he trimmed our overgrown orchard of four apple trees. Each snip saw a perfectly good branch fall to the earth below. I was sure that trimming had irreparably damaged the tree.
It looked so odd and sparse.
Yet soon blossoms and fruit covered the newly reshaped trees. The perfectly good tree branches that had been cut away left the remaining blossoms more exposed to pollinators and the fruit more exposed to the sun. I began to see the beauty of the simplified tree form.
Later that year we enjoyed an amazing harvest of delicious apples.
Every spring my heart still sinks a bit as my husband whacks away at the trees, but I understand that the pruning is truly beneficial. Each tree can only meet its true potential when its growth is guided and formed by someone who has the vision of the end goal in mind.
When freed from the “too much,” it is finally able to be everything it was meant to be.
I make my resolutions in the springtime. It somehow seems most appropriate that way, as Easter comes with its reminders of renewal and redemption. Because both of these spring activities come around the same time of year, I suppose it was inevitable that the parallels in the two activities would also change the way I look at resolutions. It’s a perfect time to clearly determine where I want to end up in life. I trim and prune until those things that will get me there are left, and then free myself from everything else.
In this case, simplicity leads to both peace and growth.
First, trim away the “suckers.”
You can spot and eliminate these the most easily. They are the little growths that won’t become branches or grow fruit. They grow up around the base of the tree or on shallow roots.
In life these are the little wasters of time and energy that we’re not even that attached to. It could be a T.V. show that isn’t uplifting or inspiring. Maybe it’s a hobby that you’ve lost enthusiasm for. Sometimes it’s your usual soda or snack that’s more of a habit than a necessity.
Next, trim branches that grow down or toward the middle of the tree.
Growth in a fruit tree should optimally be up and outward for the best fruit.
In life, these are the things that keep us too inwardly focused, or bring us down. These are a little harder, because sometimes they seem good. They’ll grow, but in the wrong direction. When it comes to the big picture, though, they take energy from the things that offer the best opportunities for productivity and growth.
These could be foods that rob you of energy or leave you with a crash. They could be relationships that are toxic and harmful. They could be television shows or internet activities that seem relaxing at the time but in the end leave you feeling unhappy, hopeless, angry or afraid.
Third, trim any branch that crosses over another branch.
Branches that cross each other either grow into each other, or shade each other from the sun.
Here’s where we face the difficult choices – the choices between two great things when only one can stay. This could be which course of study to pursue. It could be between two sports or recreational activities. Perhaps you can afford or devote time to only one hobby or another. It could be a budget decision between a family vacation and upgrades to your home.
Sometimes this step allows for compromise. Family breakfast or morning exercise? Cut morning exercise, but allow a new branch to grow elsewhere called “walk during my lunch hour.”
Finally, when a branch grows too long, trim it to length.
This shapes the overall tree and keeps it easily harvest-able.
This is where we acknowledge a need for moderation. It means that connecting on the internet is good, but it’s easy to lose track of time. It means placing limits and boundaries on important relationships that, when left unchecked, infringe on other important obligations. It means acknowledging a need for leisure and recreation without letting them take over and shape your life all by themselves.
What Spring Resolutions could you embrace today?
Just one or two small cuts in each of these steps allows you to focus on what really matters, and grow in a direction that leaves you more inspired than overwhelmed.