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How to repot your life: Part 3

The final stage of repotting your life is about practices that add up to big changes.

PULL UP YOUR ROOTS

…And ‘bed in’ to your new life.

Part 1: Do you need to repot your life?

Part 2: Steps to repotting your life

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin,” advised German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” There are few forces in nature more powerfully motivating than the energy to break free from the shackles of stasis and start anew. Repotting gives you that opportunity, but ‘bedding in’ takes time and commitment. It also takes a clear-headed look at your environment.

Repotting requires killing pests

It may seem heartless but, like all good gardeners, you will come to realise that pests must be eradicated in order to ‘repot’ your life to a healthier place that allows you thrive. Pests can include anyone in your life who drains, weakens, confuses or distracts you instead of supporting and encouraging. Those endlessly needy ‘friends’ who are more like aphids that attach their sucking mouthparts to the veins of leaves and drain the lifeblood from a healthy tree.

A great friend of mine was once involved with a man whom we all dubbed Convolvulus after the weak-stemmed, prostrate and invasive weed that surreptitiously insinuates itself around vigorous plants and ends up strangling them. Like Convolvulus, this character ended up bleeding her dry before slithering on to attach himself to the next unwary victim.

The people most invested in wanting you to stay the same are often those you know best or with whom you are most closely involved.

Letting go of some of your existing, less helpful, connections can be particularly tough because the people most invested in wanting you to stay the same are often those you know best or with whom you are most closely involved. Perhaps most problematic, however, are those people whose intense emotional dependence is often conflated with love. Ending these unhelpful relationships entirely or spelling out the non-negotiable nature of your plans for repotting can be a real challenge. How, then, can you mark out clear borders, reclaim boundaries that have already been overstepped and ward off the pests that are continually trying to encroach?

ERADICATE YOUR PESTS

The following pest-control exercise may help:  

  1. Is there a person you can confide in who might help you reset the boundaries with someone who is making what you feel are unreasonable demands on you? 
  1. Can you rely on this person’s personal and/or professional discretion? 
  1. If you’re dealing with an especially tricky family member, is there an ally who can advise or help you confront them without unleashing a fully-fledged family feud?

STAY COMMITTED TO YOU

Doubt and anxiety come with the territory when it comes to repotting, and you’ll frequently find yourself oscillating and having to choose between your old potbound pessimism and your newfound repotter optimism. You have a vision of what your life might be like once free of all those pests and restrictions, when the changes you are preparing to make will allow your roots to stretch and extend further into rich new soil, refreshing you and refuelling you for the future. Now the time has come to make that vision a reality. To really commit.  

So what does committing to repotting look like? Occasionally, friends with an idea for a book will ask me about the so-called book-writing process. They fondly imagine hours spent communing with the Muses or perhaps plucking inspiration from passing cloudsThey invariably look disappointed when I tell them that my own technique is rather less glamorous and that all you can do is commit to staring at a blank page until your brain bleeds and doggedly putting down one word after another. That usually puts them off, and who knows how many brilliant books never got off the ground for lack of backside on chair commitment?

HOW TO TAKE THE SMALL FIRST STEP

You may well have decided that you want to repot and make yourself financially secure in midlife. From where you currently are, that may feel like a massive mountain to climb. Why not challenge yourself to commit to something relatively simple at first, like deciding to stop those impulse purchases and pay off your credit cards every month.  

Instead of wondering what would make you happy and fulfilled, ask what small step would make you feel marginally more happy and more fulfilled.

Or say that you decide you want to work towards something more ephemeral, like feeling happy and fulfilled – another daunting Everest of an aspiration. In this instance, you’ll probably find it more productive to think in comparative as opposed to absolute terms. Instead of wondering what would make you happy and fulfilled, ask instead what small step would make you feel even marginally more happy and more fulfilled. The answer might be something as modest as taking a daily stroll or watching the birds in your garden, but the point is that you’re out of the starting blocks and you’re already on your way.

LEARN TO FAIL FAST

Although repotting involves an openness to trying new things, there’s never any point in forcing yourself to do something that affords you no satisfaction, you’re not cut out for or you’re simply not enjoying. No one wants to fall at the first hurdle, but how can you tell when you’re flogging a dead horse?

It is inevitable that some of the new activities, experiences and routines you try will prove to be misguided. You may then be tempted to make the debilitating mistake of feeling guilty when you subsequently throw in the towel. If you’ve given a new venture your best shot and it fails to find resonance with you, don’t waste endless amounts of time agonising about it. Why beat yourself up? That’s classic potbound behaviour!

The world should pay tribute to towel-throwers. Indeed, if ever I attain canonisation, and it’s unlikely given my track record, I’d like to be venerated as the ‘Patron Saint of Giving Up’ or even ‘Saint Frances of Failing Fast’. Because if you’re going to fail – and you sometimes will – it’s so much better to fail fastAnd move on. 

THE 3 Rs… 

Routines, Reframe and Rituals. These 3 Rs are extremely helpful in order to guide you back on track when your repotting threatens to go pear shaped.

ROUTINES

The ones I find most useful are: 

  1. Wellness and wellbeing routineMore physical exercise and a well-balanced diet. 
  2. Purpose routine. Including pursuing activities designed to help you achieve the greater personal or professional satisfaction that generated your initial decision to repot.  
  3. Community routine. Keeping in touch with people you already know, but also engaging with new people and activities that encourage you to challenge and stretch yourself. 

REFRAMING

When things you’ve planned for aren’t working out the way you’d hoped, it’s all too easy to start catastrophising and assuming that everything is going to hell in a handcart. When that happens, I can’t help thinking of Minder, an ITV series popular in the UK throughout the 80s and 90s. Whenever confronted with an almighty cock-up, dodgy businessman Arthur Daley would remain typically unfazed. ‘Could we be the punters’ he instantly reframed on such occasions, ‘to turn this debacle into an earner?’ Learn how to turn things around and, like Arthur, flip the debacle into a straight up bacle. And, the most powerful reframe technique of all, learn to laugh at yourself.

RITUALS

Most cultures and religions have rites of passage or rituals to mark the transitions from one stage of life to the next. In our secular society, we seem to have lost many of them, but rituals function as anchors and keep us feeling secure whenever uncertainty is swirling around us. Traditional, religious rites might work best for you but there’s a lot to be said for creating your own go-to rituals. I prefer to focus my contemplative efforts on the issue or the person involved rather than invoking celestial intervention. If you’ve developed any personalised practice, rite or ritual – whether it involves your runes, your Kara bracelet or your worry beads – keep at it. Like a child with a comfort blanket, when you’re confronting great change, it’s reassuring to have the company of a few familiar friends. 

YOUR NEW BLOOM

My repotting journey involved shedding much of the ‘stuff’ cluttering my life and moving half a world away, challenging myself physically, intellectually and spiritually into a fresh way of perceiving the world and thinking about my place in it. Your repotting might be even more radical, although you might decide to stay in the same place and make what might seem to others relatively small changes – but to you they could be dramatic and far-reaching.

Managing beginnings and endings, seeing familiar things as if for the first time, reassessing old beliefs and notions, if there is one gift I would wish for you, it would be just that – a quiet revolution that embraces change yet safeguards the deservedly constant and unchanging.

Above the soil, your plant is still the same genus, but its leaves are glossier and its blooms more startlingly beautiful, all because beneath the surface its roots and tendrils are luxuriating afresh in a nourishing, new environment. And if those tendrils should reach the limits of the new pot and start to turn in on themselves, well, now you know what to do. Even more than a process or a journey, repotting is a frame of mind, a way of life and a commitment to keep on growingHappy repotting 

Frances Edmonds

 

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Picture: Getty Images

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