When I bought the house I live in now a number of years ago, it came with a stunningly landscaped yard, including an extensive network of koi ponds. It didn't take long for me to realize just how much work went into keeping it that way.
And when fall hit with all the leaves to clean up and get out of the ponds ... yowza! It was completely overwhelming. I'm not sure how I made it through that first fall.
Every year since then, I've made changes to the yard to try to make maintaining it a little more manageable.
Some years, those changes been pretty expensive re-models (like turning the koi ponds into pondless waterfalls, as shown in the image).
Other years, it's been smaller tweaks and adjustments to the yard itself or to how I go about the process of handling yard work throughout the year.
While these changes may bear some fruit all year, the real test for me is always how much difference they make to overwhelm of fall leaf season. So there is often a big gap between the time and expense put into making the change and figuring out whether it actually paid off.
Fortunately, my changes are helping.
Fall leaf season still often feels overwhelming with all that needs to be done in the yard, but when I think back to how it was that first year, I can see such amazing growth in my ability to deal with it due to the changes I've made along the way.
It reminds me so much of how personal growth works.
When I'm putting the hard work into personal growth, I often can't tell right away whether that growth is having the effect I want.
I may see small improvements in my day-to-day life, but the real test always comes in seeing how those changes I've made affect my ability to handle life's big challenges. And there's usually a gap between the personal growth work itself and the test of that growth to tell me whether the work I've put into it was worth it.
Just like my landscaping projects, I have to trust that the ongoing work I'm doing on personal growth is going to pay off when I need it, even though I can't always see the changes in the moment that I'm doing the work.
And just like my overwhelm every fall, life's big challenges can still knock me off my feet and make me feel like I'm making no progress until I look back at how I've handled similar challenges in the past. From that perspective, the rewards of personal growth work become obvious as I see the improvements in my ability to handle those challenges.
It's those moments of looking back to previous fall leaf seasons and how much more manageable things are now that inspire me to continue putting in the work and money to improve my yard.
It's also those moments of looking back to life's previous challenges and seeing how much better I am equipped to handle them that inspire me to continue doing the hard, ongoing work of personal growth, even when I can't see the fruit of that work in the moment.
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