Lessons from farming: Plough, Prepare, Persist, Patience

In Changing life, Life goals, Productivity on September 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Journeying through the Catalonian hills recently, courtesy of Renfe trains, gazing out of the window, I noticed how even at the height of summer, the local farmers were already getting ready for an inevitable change of season. Tractors were out ploughing the green emerald fields and cultivating the land, so that fresh seeds could be sowed in time to be harvested for Winter and Spring.

I’ve never done it myself but no doubt farming is hard physical, ball-breaking work. The farmers in those Catalonian hills led me to consider how they use the certainty of the seasons and the surety of change to their advantage, to make sure that, hopefully, the greatest yield is produced from the efforts put in months before.

There is a certain relevance to life in general I think. Time always rolls on, even if we think we have all the time in the world to do what we want (we don’t). Life tends to spin in phases and cycles. Good times, boring times, not so good times, golden times. Unexpected events happen out of the blue. Sometimes we ‘harvest’ something magical and quite miraculous from circumstances or opportunities that occur.

The farmers in those hills have a certain amount of conviction that, every year, their efforts will produce what they need.  But, I’m sure also at the back of their mind is the thought, “perhaps it will be an awful season this year, maybe the weather will be horrible and inclement, maybe I won’t get the yield I want and the plants I need to sell.”  Those farmers, and probably anyone who has ever had to depend on their livelihood through agriculture, know there isn’t any guarantee but they must still work, still take a chance.

So maybe there are a few things that can be lifted and applied to those parts of life where we have goals or ambitions we want to accomplish in life. Having a purpose is important, but what can we do to make that purpose real and something that moves from potential to actuality.

Plough: Craft and graft. You have to turn up and dig, just like those farmers.

Sometimes (and I am guilty of this myself) we can overthink and analyse till the finest detail. Often, it reaches a point where it is not actually useful and just becomes a way of not getting started.

It is possible to come up with a thousand excuses (which never quite seem to be excuses) if that means we don’t have to take the plunge, get started and in the process face any fears or anxieties.

Courage, as has been said, is not the absence of fear, but mastery of fear. One of the best ways to start that process of mastery is physical commitment. Cheesy as it is, there is a certain truth to that well-known trainer slogan “Just do it.” Start, and see where it takes you. You know you might actually enjoy it.

When something seems like really hard work, or an effort and we talk ourselves out of doing it, even if we have a great deal of love or passion for it, that normally means “the effort it will take me to overcome my fear of just trying is hard work, not the actual task itself.” Remember times when you’ve tried something that you thought was going to be ball-breaking, but actually kept at it, and found it invigorating. It is the effort put in that invigorates. Graft and craft. You’re being productive and that is both invigorating and healing.The spark lit and the energy created. Fire wasn’t created by one attempt to create a spark. The intuition/inspiration of early man needed the physical act of plain old repetition to make a spark that lef to a sustained flame.

Prepare: those farmers didn’t turn up with with a teaspoon to do their work.

They selected the tools and machinery required to get the job done and as appropriate to the task at hand. Sometimes that might be one size fits all, but sometimes not. Meeting goals and ambitions requires forethought about how these can be fulfilled. Preparation is important and matters. Again, though this doesn’t mean over-preparing so you never start a thing. But, it does mean carving out time in your day, your plan or activity to devote time and energy to thinking through the steps needed to keep you moving forward.

The tools you need – mental, emotional, physical or spiritual.

How or where best to focus your precious time and energy.

Strengths, weaknesses and things you can work on to improve.

Habits to break and coax; situations to alter.

It is important as well, as often we can get so involved in the midst of our goals that at the times when things are not going well,  it is easy to throw the towel or get distracted with something else. Carving out time to prepare helps to renew your commitment to your goal. Plan. Anticipate. Lay the groundwork.

Persist:  ploughing, preparing and planting a big ‘ol field doesn’t take a few days, it takes weeks.

I’m not sure I’d have the drive to do it complete it myself, but then I’m not or have no desire to be a farmer.

However, in areas of life where we are committed to, persistence and consistent effort is important if anything tangible is going to happen. Energy and enthusiasm does come in phases.  We’re only human, and there are limits to the physical or mental effort that can be put into a task at any one time.

But, I’d wager a bet, that a lot of us don’t stretch what we think those limits are, instead ‘pulling’ the boundaries of those limits much closer to us, so that we don’t have to go that extra mile and make a bit more effort. We give in and give up. We don’t spend that extra time and energy on the task in hand, so that we can say we’ve really done our best, really tried, really persisted. An extra 20 mins on the task at hand could lead to a breakthrough. But, you’ll never know if you shirk off. Endeavour. Endure. Abide.

Patience: is necessary when growing anything. Whether its a cabbage in a field, a way/change of life or creating anything or setting a standard. Can you imagine how foolish those farmers would look if they stood by the newly planted field, screaming or shrieking at the soil or getting frustrated because the seeds hadn’t grown overnight?

Of course it takes time for growth. No amount of drama imposed on oneself or others leads to great work. Things take time and effort to cultivate and develop. Be patient. Forbearance. So, do the best with the circumstances infront of you. Use what you have.

Let Life and Nature take its course, add its own intelligence, and just resolve to keep persisting, ploughing, preparing and being patient. Things will take a turn either at the ‘right’ time or when enough focus and effort has been put in, or when events alter and become serendipitous.


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