Taming The Weeds: Lessons I’ve Learnt From Gardening

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Susan Shim is a Jerningham Silver Medal and National Scholarship winner. She holds a BSc in Psychology and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. Her first career was in Information Technology; she jokes that no matter where she worked, her job was the same: Chief Cook and Bottle-washer. As a coach, she is driven by the question “How can I help to create real change for the people around me?”

Susan is a recent contributor to Forward Forty, and blogs about wellness, success, and self-improvement.

Get in touch with Susan at justmi.coaching@gmail.com

My garden’s been trying to tell me things for years.

It was subtle at first – a bud that flowered in its own time, a dying plant that refused to live, no matter my efforts. Over the years, the lessons got louder, largely in part because of my battle with one tenacious pest – weeds.

While I might have been deaf to the voices of my garden before, I think, at last, I am ready to listen.

I think it’s because I’ve finally admitted that I am powerless over my nemesis – weeds. They have an infinitely greater capacity to grow than I have to pull them up, and now, I realise that my losing battle for a pristine garden has taught me some very important lessons in the process.

Here’s what I think they’ve been trying to tell me, and how I’ve internalised those messages:


Order requires a lot of effort

In life, we often like to do things in a particular way. We like our eggs, our coffee, our beds, done a certain way. We put in place strategies and processes that we like to follow. But all of that can sometimes get exhausting. Is our quest to do things our way really worth all the energy we put into it? Or are there better uses of our time?

Don’t try to control the uncontrollable

As humans, we are inherently predisposed to control. And when things go off plan, we panic, or try to regain control. Over the years, fighting the good (but futile) fight with my garden has taught me to come to peace with the things I cannot change, to admit when I am beaten, and to focus my attention instead on things that I can influence.

Go with the flow

Relinquishing control and going with the flow work hand in hand. Both happen at the same time. Yes, there are things in life that we need to plan out, but we also have to learn to give life a leeway. If something feels difficult, is it because of the situation, or our attitude towards it? We need to take a step back and assess what direction things are moving in naturally, and to figure out if the best way ahead is to work with, and not against the tide.

Find the path of least resistance

Nope, this doesn’t mean cutting corners, but rather, using your mind to find creative ways of getting to where you want to go. Maybe there’s a goal in your life that you’ve been working towards to a while, but just can’t seem to be getting any closer to achieving it. Have you thought about changing your approach or have you been going at it with blinders on? Getting to a particular outcome is often based on putting together a number of pieces, and sometimes, there might just be a better way of getting there.


Taking that advice has resulted in a garden – and a life – that is beautiful, symbiotic, and uses up a lot less effort. The lessons are universal and inter-disciplinary. Whether you are planning a new endeavour, or you have toiled and are now tired and frustrated, return to the lessons taught by nature. Remember that powering through the obstacles to your goal, is not the only approach.

If you find yourself stuck, consider these questions and strategies

  • If you feel stuck, try taking a perspective opposite to the one you are currently inhabiting. Step back, regroup, and do something that empties your mind for a while. You’ll be surprised to realise that the answer finds its way to you.

  • How can you work with those forces to move forward? Imagine going along with what’s easiest. Immerse yourself in it. Does that help you get closer to your goals? It might not be the ideal situation, but it might be the one that works best

  • Assess the forces standing in your way. This is a big part of the process. Consider your blocks carefully, and don’t forget to include your own fixed ideas as a key obstacle. Are these problems easily fixed or do they require you to go back to the drawing board?

  • Where do you really want to get to? Separate the outcomes from your pre-conceived ideas of how to achieve them, and then look for ways to achieve your goal that you might not have considered before

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