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Pruning vs Pushing

A little over 10 years ago, in a rush of adrenalin brought on by a surge of ambition, I suddenly shifted into high gear. I hired a team, restructured my website, created a new marketing campaign, purchased complicated new software, and created all sorts of new products. I was driven.

Until my enthusiasm dwindled and I couldn’t understand why. The answer came loud and clear when I helped my daughter, an organic farmer, prune the fruit trees.

“If you don’t prune back most of the new buds,” Anna explained, “too much of the tree’s energy goes into producing foliage instead of growing fruit. You don’t want the trees to spread themselves too thin, reducing the amount of fruit they bear.”

The metaphor was inescapable. I was that fruit tree, spreading myself too thin, letting too many budding projects sap my creativity, my energy, my focus.

Busyness, or the act of spreading oneself too thin, is an occupational hazard for high achievers. It’s basically the absence of discipline. Discipline means doing with discernment, thoughtfully pruning rather than tirelessly pushing.

I wonder if we instinctively recoil from discipline, like a kid ordered to eat veggies. It may be good for us, but damn it, we’re not going to like it and we’ll try anything to get out of it.

Instead we slip straight into our drug of choice. I call it ABTS—“Addicted to Busyness Syndrome.”  We stuff every cranny of our lives with so much activity that we’ve lost touch with what’s really essential and what’s truly irrelevant.

But ask us to lighten our load, actually say no to a task, and we start to panic. As if our world would shatter if we slowed down.

Over time, I learned to value Disciplined Action—making prudent, sometimes unpleasant choices, doing what I need to do to, even if it’s not what I want to do. It’s the only thing I’ve found that allows me to successfully do what I love without sacrificing my sanity, or my Soul.

Where are you pushing in your life when you should be pruning? Leave me a comment below.


Comments & Feedback

  • Susanne Breul

    Wow, this post really hits home for me. And I have just come to the same conclusion, to prune.
    So, thank you so much for this confirmation, Barbara. I so appreciate it and you!

    • barbara huson

      I always love hearing from you Suzanne. And I’m so glad it hit home!!! I appreciate you letting me know.

  • Christine Kaneshige

    I’m currently working full-time and going to school part-time. I am 1 semester from completing my Master of Studies in Law (MSL) degree.. After I complete the MSL degree, I am considering applying to the Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) program; however, to pursue such a degree does require me to push myself beyond my wildest dreams but would also require “pruning” It is also possible that the DSW degree represents the “pushing” you discussed in your newsletter.

    • barbara huson

      Wow, that’s a lot to take on…a PhD while working…in a subject totally different than your masters. And yes, you’ll need to do some pruning to keep your sanity! But hey, if it’s what you want, I say go for it. I’d love to know what you decide to do, Christine.

  • Maria

    Thank you Barbara – best metaphor ever to exemplify the feeling of being stretched too far by trying to do too much and be all things to all people. And I can certainly relate to the “busy” response – in fact, I’ve often wondered why I seem to fear not having anything to do (while unlikely to ever happen)? On one level, that seems like Nirvana, but no, I run down the same old path of being busy and having too much to do time and time again. One thing I am trying to do though is, instead of thinking about what else I can add to my “to-do” list, I challenge myself to identify what I can take off it instead. Maybe I’ll be sorted by 90!

    • barbara huson

      Ha! Ha! I hope you overcome this addiction before you’re 90. It makes life so much better!! Thanks so much for responding, Maria. I love that idea of asking yourself what you can let go of!! That’s a powerful thing to do!!

  • Lisa

    I need to “prune back” on promising to meet up with people this month.

    Having great, supportive, loving friends feels so satisfying, however I need to search for a new job that pays at least 5 grand more and this requires me to be available to interview. I have to gently let friends know I’m not snubbing them, I just need to focus on bringing in more cash for a few weeks.

    After coming back from vacation, I had an epiphany about what I want to invest in and some things I would like to buy, so I need to quit my job where I’ve felt safe to earn more.

  • barbara huson

    Thanks for sharing this with me, Lisa. I wish you so much success in finding a new job. And I’m sure your friends will understand. Kudos for following your intuition and setting priorities. I’d love to hear from you when you find your next job.

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Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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