Water The Flowers Instead of Weeds

May 16, 2020

This week I resumed teaching my budgeting class at the state prison. Because we’re in a pandemic, I taught over Google Meet. Sidenote: I’ve never used Google Meet. For a first time use, I’d give it a 5-star review (out of 5). Really easy and intuitive. Way to go, Google! 

After the initial pleasantries, I asked them why they were there and what they hoped to gain from the class. You guys. These incarcerated offenders with very restricted freedom have better attitudes about budgeting than most free people I know. 

Words or phrases freebirds often associate with budgeting include: deprivation, restriction, I don’t have enough money to budget, it’s too time-consuming.

But to hear offenders talk about it, they think it’s as great as I do. They get that it’s really just about planning, organization, structure, the means to the ends we all want.

This was super insightful to me, as I’ve become accustomed to convincing people that budgeting is a good idea. {Picture Jim Carey on Dumb and Dumber: “Pills are good...pills are gooood!”} 

To be honest, it threw me off a bit, not having to convince them that it is wonderful or reframe it for them. They freely admitted their mistakes in the past and are honest about the uphill battle they face coming out of prison. 

But they know organizing their money is going to help them. Where do the rest of us go so wrong? Perhaps we have too much time and luxury to water the wrong attitudes? Can you tell by this reference that I have recently planted flowers and am enamored with the miracle it is to watch something I planted grow with a bit of attention?

This pandemic business we’re all in has been a wake-up call for nearly everyone. Frivolous, un-mapped spending seems like less of a good idea for most everyone given the immediate uncertainty. 

But let’s talk about more than just money, okay? Things like personal habits and thoughts need attention, too. And now is a marvelous time to do so.

Weeds and flowers both grow with water and sunlight. And really, the only difference between the two is which ones you want and like. So which attitudes, habits and thoughts in your life are getting watered? And are they even the ones you want to grow?

Do you water the plants of possibility, pragmatism, and kind thoughts toward yourself? I really wish I could have continued the alliteration but it just didn’t work out. Or are you watering the plants of: stuck, I-don’t-feel-like-it, and self-loathing or impatience with others?

This article cites research from Michigan State University that something like 80% of our thoughts are negative. Guys! That is a really large number. I have no problem believing it, and wager that a lot of these negative thoughts are directed at ourselves, or the people and circumstances that make up our situations. “Watering” those thoughts doesn’t lead anywhere I want to be; I bet you agree. 

Sara Blakely is a hero of mine. At first exposure, it was just because she built and runs an incredibly successful company, Spanx. Then it matured into even more admiration because she created a business in such scrappy ways, hustling her way into Nordstrom’s for an unconventional product pitch.

But the more I have seen of her on social media and in professional speaking engagements, it’s grown into full-fledged fandom. There’s a composure, a kindness, a realness, and a down-to-earth-ness about her. She and her husband drive a van.  Her four kids wear mismatched clothes and aren’t coiffed little models. I feel like we could have a very real conversation...maybe one day!

She attributes her success to the work she did in high school on mindset, and credits Dr. Wayne Dyer and the 10-cassette tape program she listened to on repeat. This video highlights a few of the lessons that have been powerful for her: “I learned about manifesting, law of attraction, not caring what other people think about you…”

A few quotes from Dr. Dyer that are relevant to this here article: 

“Keep reminding yourself: I get what I think about, whether I want it or not.” 
“If you believe it will work out you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.” 

There’s a lesson of hope in these quotes for all of us. Let’s use our freedom to actively choose better thoughts about ourselves and our circumstances and possibilities. Let’s “water” the thoughts and attitudes that are most useful, beneficial, and beautiful for us. Forget those dang weeds and enjoy tending the flowers. I’ll do the same, and additionally keep taking care of my aforementioned literal flowers.