We have a small, pretty garden on our balcony. You know the one with a few ceramic pots of the different show and flowering plants on the balcony. It’s one of those places we look up to for some fresh air and sunlight and also as a stress reliever. My wife has been tending to her garden for many years now. We also had a gardener who would show up once a month at our place to spruce it up. Last year, during the lockdown, one of our potted plants began to dry up. We tried taking all the care we could – moving it out of direct and intense sunlight, loosening the soil, watering it adequately. When the restrictions were removed, our gardener returned, pruned it, and added the necessary plant food. All in vain, the plant was dying. He eventually gave up, and we moved the pot along with the dying plant to one corner of our balcony. We gave up on it too. We would still sometimes water it along with the other plants partly because we procrastinated on disposing of it, and did not make any special efforts to revive the dried plant.
Earlier this year, we moved houses. The movers and packers, along with moving all our other boxes and kitchen appliances, were also in charge of moving the pots. They moved all of our pots including this badly dehydrated plant. And so the dried-out plant moved into our new home along with us and the other plants. We wanted to dispose of it but decided to leave it out on the balcony till the time we organized and set up our new home. Little did we know that setting this all up would take us a week. While we were running around trying to tick off a score of immediate tasks that needed to be done, our other plants on our new balcony were being neglected. Without further delay, we inquired around and found a new gardener who could come and help us out. This gardener shows up on a Sunday morning and looks around our garden. He inspects all of our plants and then stops to stare at this plant we were planning to dispose of. “Isko kya hua? (What happened to this one?)” he quizzes. We told him that it’s dried up and we were planning to get rid of it since last year. Despite our attempts and the attempts of our previous gardener, we couldn’t make it survive. He took another close look at it and then announced “Yeh aayega. (This plant will live.)” My wife and I stared at each other giving a look of surprise. Without further delay, the alchemist got down to work. He carefully removed the dried-out plant, we thought was dead, from the pot, emptied the soil, trimmed the plant down literally to just three or four bare branches, and delicately worked his way to repot it. All along, he just kept repeating to himself, to us, and to the plant, “Yeh aayega, dekho madam, yeh aayega. (This plant will live. Mark my words, madam. This plant will surely live.)” After instructing us to tend to this plant the same way we would to the other plants in our garden, he left. A couple of weeks went by and this is what we saw in our garden:
You don’t need to believe in yourself first
A lot of times we hear the popular phrase ‘believe in yourself.’ Every sports documentary and every other motivational guru would reinforce this belief in some way. This plant could have very well done that and still not survive. It could have believed in itself. However, many a time, when we are deep in our mess and we feel neglected it becomes difficult for us to just believe in ourselves and stand up. It’s just difficult. Imagine applying this belief during the last eighteen months of the Corona pandemic. Positive thinking, alone, does not help. The only thing we see around us is challenges, obstacles, difficulties, uncertainties, and more problems. This pushes us further down our mess, reinforcing the limits we put on our thinking. We end up sliding down the downward spiral of misery. When we are down in the doldrums, we vibrate from a place of lack and limitations. And it’s hard to muster up all that belief for oneself from that place. Trust me, it is.
What this incident of our dying plant taught me is that you don’t need to believe in yourself first. You need someone who believes in you and has faith that you will make it until you reach a point where you can lift yourself up and start believing in yourself. This gardener did the same thing with our plant, believed that it will live, showered it with hope and love, gave it a glimpse of growth and rejuvenation. And it lived. Not only did it just live, after some well-deserved tender loving care and hope, but it’s also happily growing now.
Find someone who believes in you when you don’t. Sometimes, we all need someone who believes in us just a little bit. When you have someone else believe in you, it also starts influencing one’s own beliefs and actions. This leads to an increase in the person’s performance. A Harvard psychologist Robert Rosenthal first observed this effect somewhere in 1965, which later came to be known as ‘The Pygmalion Effect.’ The Pygmalion Effect, also known as the Rosenthal effect, states that when someone has high expectations of someone else that leads to improved performance in a given area.
I have people who believe in me all the time. They remind me of my abilities even at times when I doubt myself. And as I work with my one-on-one coaching clients I operate from this same space. My clients come to me with all sorts of stories. Some feel they should do some things differently, others come from a space of lacking confidence or clarity, some others feel they aren’t ready yet, and others are ambushed with a sense of constant uncertainty. Some feel that their fears are too overpowering, and some simply set incremental goals based on the limitations in their minds. As much as they want to sell it to me I don’t buy into their stories. Instead, I help them create a lofty vision for their life and take tiny steps towards that vision. I help them dig into their contributing past, become mindful of their powerful present, and envision a future with endless possibilities. Then I fiercely believe in them till they begin to see that glimpse of genius in them and start believing in their vision.
Just like the alchemist who gave our dying and neglected plant a new lease on life…