Gardening seems to be a favourite pursuit for many people all around the world. There are plenty of computer developers and lawyers out there who would happily leave their jobs to become full time gardeners. Being out in nature and working out in the open air is a fantasy for many. Gardening contributes to our wellbeing. It has become more evident during this pandemic. Look at all those beautiful garden transformations on social media.
Gardening can be done anywhere. Even on small balconies or indoor spaces. You can start as small as you like and grow as big as you can. Biophilic design in architecture is gaining popularity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we want to design buildings that connect humans to nature. After conducting research, they found that by “bringing the outdoors in”, we support human cognitive functions and wellbeing.
In a world where everything involves looking at a screen, caring for plants, brings a new refreshing set of challenges. While working in the vegetable garden at the farm and at EcoHub, we noticed positive changes in us. First we noticed on ourselves and then on other people. Apart from gaining new skills in gardening, we have noticed changes towards self-improvement, increased resilience and patience.
What is a “Growth Mindset”?
But where does the concept of “growth mindset” come from and why do we believe is related to gardening? Dr Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University developed the theory of two mindsets. The Fixed Mindset and the Growth mindset. When you have a fixed mindset you tend to believe that your abilities are limited. That your intelligence or your talents are traits that you have no power over and you are unable to change. When you have a growth mindset, you believe that your abilities can grow with hard work and persistence. That your talents and intelligence are not fixed traits.
How you could adopt a “growth mindset” by working on a farm or caring for a garden?
Although Dr Dweck did face criticism for her research related to these two mindsets, at Sporos we are big believers of the “growth mindset”.
Working on a farm and caring for plants and animals is a constant responsibility. Cultivating food doesn’t recognise 9 – 5 schedules or weekends and bank holidays. It takes hard work and a lot of effort to be able to cultivate your own food. You have to work in collaboration with the weather and the seasons. When planting season arrives, we work around the clock to make sure we will be ready to plant when the time is right. In the same way when harvesting season comes, if you don’t harvest, food will rot. You can’t tell nature to wait.
How does “growth mindset” relate to gardening? In a more tangible form, someone with a growth mindset would see failure as an opportunity. When you grow your own food you have to deal a lot with failure. The attitude is not to wallow and move on. We can all learn from mistakes and become better. When you want to develop a skill, you accept the fact that you will face certain challenges. If you want to grow, learn and become better, you have to be persistent and embrace challenges. You can never grow as a person when you don’t get out of your comfort zone. That comfort zone in gardening translates to hard physical work.
Another important thing you learn is that the end result is important but you can’t fixate over it. The process is more important. Sometimes more than the end result. If manual work is a torture to you, then take it as a clue that you shouldn’t go and work in a farm or try to grow your own food. Self-knowledge is key in this one. The majority of people will find the amount of physical work required challenging. Drawn from our experience, this is where most people give up.
Helping out at a farm for a short amount of time could mean that you will never get to see the impact of your work. That can also lead to feelings of demotivation and loss of sense of purpose. People with a growth mindset can often see the bigger picture and have a higher sense of purpose. Under those circumstances, finding a strong motivation sometimes can be hard. Working for a farm that is not your farm means working to benefit a community and not for personal gain. Contributing to a cause is enough to get motivation but not all people feel like that.
Permaculture and self-development
Permaculture is a system that builds resilience and helps people to thrive under any condition. It’s based on 3 core ethics: Fair Share (redistribution of surplus), care for the Earth, care for Humans.
Also, Permaculture is a process that abides by 12 principles. Because of their regenerative nature, it could be useful and applicable on many occasions.
When you observe what is happening around you, you can learn from nature and other people.
2. Catch and store energy
We can catch and store energy in many ways and become more energy efficient. Whether that is in our home design or growing our own food.
These can be tangible or non tangible. Obtaining yields can lead to personal (mental) sustainability and economic sustainability. For example obtaining yields of happiness and mental well-being or food.
4. Applying self-regulation and feedback
Evaluating the way we live and consume can help us avoid overindulging.
5. Use and value renewables
Try as much as we can to move away from depending on fossil fuels in our day-to-day.
6. Producing, not wasting
Zero waste living is hard to achieve but there are ways to minimise the amount of waste we produce. For example by buying less products with plastic packaging.
7. Design from Pattern to the little detail
Effective planning requires thinking in a holistic way. Looking at the big picture before looking at the details can help us gain momentum when planning.
8. Integrate, not segregate
A diverse system benefits everyone, from plants to people. Collectively we can achieve much more than on our own.
9. Use small, slow solutions
Baby steps can lead to sustainable change
10. Use and value diversity
Ecosystems as well as societies function better when there is a variety. It’s a law found in nature.
11. Use edges and value the Marginal
Make use of all available resources: land use, work places, homes.
12. Respond to change and use change in a creative way
Permaculture is about now but more about the future. Getting accustomed to design for change can be a great asset to have.
These principles can provide fresh perspectives. They can be applied to areas such as: running your own business, establishing your own brand, project management, personal goals and lifestyle changes to name a few. As they offer a very practical approach, it can become a real empowerment tool. With the permaculture principles in mind, we can also reimagine social structures. In that way, we can promote beneficial human behaviours as opposed to toxic ones. In exactly the same way we use mulch to prevent weeds from growing and encourage the growth of healthy soil bacteria.
On an individual level, you can start applying change in different parts of your life that are interrelated. Think about your role in the community. Your impact on the world and the specific steps to take to achieve change. Our society promotes fast, reactive responses and doesn’t value long, proactive processes. To many people it feels almost unnatural to step back and observe, to plan for the future. For some people it’s so hard to think about the near future let alone generations ahead. If we indeed want radical changes in the world, then the way we treat the planet and ourselves needs to change.
Written by Sporos Team June 2021