Personal Writing

Survive and thrive: A parable of two plants

I was sitting at a stoplight earlier this week when I noticed these two plants growing out of a crack in the concrete. I was struck by what a common human experience they represent, so I snapped this photo and started thinking about the lesson to be learned from these two little shoots.

Two people in the same community, with seemingly similar backgrounds and equal opportunities. Why is it that one thrives while the other shrivels up and dies?

Plant A, let’s call her Peggy, was encouraged as a child in her pursuits, even if they were whimsical and even if she wasn’t particularly excellent in them. Peggy’s parents and teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends and mentors supported her growth, so when she found herself in a tight spot, rather than give up, she persevered and thrived.

Peggy understands she’s not necessarily remarkable at everything, but that doesn’t discourage her because she knows she can work hard and ask for help. In all her life’s challenges, she’s had people surrounding her and lifting her up, so she intrinsically believes she can succeed.

Plant B, let’s call her Patsy, was never encouraged as a child in her pursuits, especially if they were whimsical and definitely if she wasn’t particularly excellent in them. Patsy’s parents and teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends and mentors didn’t actively work against her, but they didn’t support her or help her learn how to pick herself up, so when she found herself in a tight spot, rather than push on, she shriveled up.

Or maybe Patsy was not only never encouraged as a child, but she was actively discouraged behind closed doors in her home. Perhaps she was belittled for her dreams and aspirations. Maybe people told her she wasn’t all that special, so when she found herself in a tight spot, rather than push on, she remembered what they’d said about her, believed it and shriveled up.

While Patsy might have strengths, talents and gifts that are truly special, she has no idea what they are or how to access them. The lack of support she had in her formative years means that when she hits a snag in life, she likely leans heavily into the negative experiences she faced growing up, and rather than succeed, she withers away.

It’s not a given that every Peggy will thrive and every Patsy will fail because extenuating circumstances play a role: financial stability, access to other people’s lives, mental and physical health and other factors matter, too. Sometimes, in spite of the gifts we’re given, we fail to succeed; despite the negative experiences we’ve had, we find our own inner belief and rise up anyway.

Maybe Peggy plant grew because she was the one with the better position to the sun. Maybe Patsy plant was damaged by an animal or the wind and just couldn’t hold on.

It’s easy to look at life like the situation these two plants are in: there are limited resources and space, so naturally, some will succeed and some will fail. That’s just the “way of the world.”

But I don’t believe that.

Think of a time you overcame a tremendous setback, hardship or disappointment in your life. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where, in the past, you’d have quit, but this time, you chose not to give up?

Maybe you’ve never felt supported, never felt like you’re a “bloom where you are planted” kind of person. Maybe you believe you’re not all that remarkable but are filled to the brim with so, so ordinary. Perhaps you’re certain there’s a finite pie of success, and there’s clearly no slice for you.

If you find yourself agreeing with any of Patsy plant’s lived experiences or have some of these negative beliefs, then you might think you have no Spark and nothing to strive for. You might feel like dreaming is useless for someone like you.

Regardless your lived experience, despite the lack of support in your life, you CAN find joy, you CAN be successful and you CAN thrive right where you are.

Don’t believe me?

Imagine the thriving plant is Patsy.

Patsy plant still had all the hard and negative experiences, but she hung on and found a way through.

Whether you’ve had Peggy or Patsy plants’ experiences (and it’s likely you’ve had some of both), you can choose to be the plant that flourishes. Will it be easy? Not always. But can you do it? That’s ultimately up to you.

Discover and pursue the heck out of your Spark; prove “them” right or prove “them” wrong.

Go, and be extraordinary.

And if you need a starting prompt, download my free Discover Your Spark guide to get started.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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