Your Personal Garden
by Maryellen Gor
Finding time to fit in job responsibilities, family
responsibilities, and then also find time for you can be
challenging. Growing Your Personal Garden is my vision
of how you can use nature and the beauty of flowers to
live gracefully and control your stress. Nurturing and
creating a path to help others grow and bloom is my
passion and mission.
I came upon my Personal Garden as I was researching
and writing my first book, Blooming Late: Cultivating
Your Self-Esteem After Fifty. The experience helped
me create the Blooming series that is now helping others
to bloom at any age. I have always been in love with
flowers so using flowers and words like blooming and
growing seemed an appropriate metaphor.
I believe that if we look at ourselves like a garden
and provide loving care and patience, we can create a
calmer, more relaxed way of living, allowing us to face
everyday challenges with strength, courage, and less
stress. By doing that, you treat your stress as if it
were weeds. Stress sprouts in unwanted places, choking
out the fun, beauty, and joy of life. If you control the
weeds of stress, youíll live a happier and a healthier
By Growing Your Personal Garden, nature and the
accessibility and beauty of flowers and plants will help
you live your life with serenity, peacefulness, and
Weíre all affected by stress, whether weíre
school children, corporate professionals, or retirees.
Stress related disorders are to blame for 75% of doctor
visits, according to The American Academy of Family
Physicians. Stress causes 1 million people to miss work
every day and accounts for 50% of employee burnout and
40% of workforce turnover.
How can we, in todayís ever-hectic environment,
find a way to slow down, take a breath, and still get
work done? When I know that I need to take a break and
just sit back and unwind, I think of a place that is
serene, beautiful and peaceful. I think of a garden. I
can see beauty, softness, unusual shapes, brilliant
petals and spectacular colors. I can even smell the
According to horticultural experts, the physical and
mental health benefits of plants and flowers are:
- Reducing blood pressure,
- Helping improve motivation and morale, as well as
- Creating calmness.
To me, a garden brings a sense of serenity, peace,
harmony, and happiness.
Growing Your Personal Garden is a metaphor for
managing your life using gardening terms. Many people
have told me that by growing their personal garden they
have reduced their stress levels significantly.
Growing Your Personal Garden is a process,
divided into four steps that will help you plan, plant,
grow and maintain your own personal garden, a garden
made up, either visually or metaphorically, of the
elements you decide are important in your life at the
This simple four-step process will allow you to take
control of your life and increase your productivity at
work. You will find professional and personal
relationships become much better because you are less
stressed. The four-steps to Growing Your Personal Garden
Step One: Preparing the Ground
Step Two: Planting the Seeds
Step Three: Growing Your Personal Garden
Step Four: Maintaining Your Personal Garden
And like any garden, you will see the results of your
labor as you see yourself and your life grow and bloom,
creating a garden that will last you a lifetime.
Step One: Preparing the Ground
Identify the life markers that are important to you.
Is it abundance? Is it beauty? Or, do you have one of
When I think about the way I live my life, I like to
think that I manage my life like tending a garden. It
takes care and patience and the ability to see the big
picture. One of the ways to see the big picture is to
reflect on what your needs and values are. I call these
Life Markers. They are a way to keep you focused on the
needs and values you have identified for yourself. I
have provided a list of Life Markers to help you choose.
See how many of them are most important to you.
Which ones become apparent to you right away; showing
that they are extremely important for you to be aware of
each day? You may want to start with three. You may even
decide you want to choose three for work and three for
at home. For example, my life markers are abundance,
beauty, confidence, harmony, joy and respect.
L I F E M A R K E R S:
Defining Life Markers
What I have found so empowering about growing my
personal garden are the six life markers I have chosen
that are most important in my life. These represent the
big picture to me of keeping whatís important in my
life in front of me all the time and at the same time
these six life markers help reduce my stress. They keep
me in a positive, moving forward position. I donít get
stuck and I can feel the energy of these six life
markers in the following ways:
ABUNDANCE: I realize that I have an ABUNDANCE of
nurturing, supportive friends and family in my network.
They raise my energy level because they believe in me,
value me, and we can have fun together.
It was back in 1987, when I came to realize my
ABUNDANCE of strengths and talents. I met five women who
became my coaches and I realized one thing: that I could
have talents, strengths, and flaws and thatís okay.
Run with the strengths and talents. Everyone has flaws.
Your flaws may be someone elseís strengths; so you
create a win/win.
I also came to realize that I have an ABUNDANCE of
contributions I have made to the workplace and to my
relationships. My awareness of this catapults me to
wanting to do more.
BEAUTY: I am constantly aware of where I create
BEAUTY in my surroundings at home. My home is my haven.
It is a place I have beauty, warmth, and a soft place to
fall. As I write this book, I am surrounded by beauty. Iím
at my computer with a candle burning and a classical
music CD playing in my computer while I write. A cup of
pumpkin spiced coffee is at my side. The walls of my
office are covered with beautiful works of art, mostly
of flowers and pleasing to the eye. That beautiful
ambiance puts me in a very productive mood. I thrive on
I love flowers; they represent BEAUTY for me. When Iím
not traveling around the country, I make sure when Iím
home that I have fresh flowers throughout my house. For
less than twenty dollars, I can put flower arrangements
in my kitchen, my family room, my dining room, and my
Another way to add BEAUTY to my life is having dinner
in the dining room. The table setting looks beautiful:
glassware, dishes, placemats, linen napkins, silverware,
along with a centerpiece of my beautiful flowers and
candles. Dining by candlelight two to three times a week
is a way for my husband and I to "chill out"
and enjoy a relaxing meal in a beautiful setting. To
complete the ambiance, we have classical music playing
in the background; some Mozart, Strauss, or Chopin.
CONFIDENCE: My self-confidence was greatly
enhanced in 1987. The coaches I talked about earlier
really showed me what I had to offer and it gave me a
whole new look at myself. My CONFIDENCE blossomed. I now
take more risks in my career. Back in 1987 I was a
manager in a public utility and I realized I wanted to
be a management consultant in business for myself. Those
coaches showed me how because thatís what they were
when I met them.
Today, sixteen years later, I have been a consultant
for thirteen years. But from that coaching experience, I
have also become a professional speaker, an author, a
personal development coach, and a leadership consultant.
And, along the way, I have included others who have been
my coaches as well, including my husband, Larry, a
person who always believed in me even before I believed
Looking back on being coached, I noticed two things:
one was having courage and the other was how I viewed
others and myself. The courage aspect had to do with
courage to receive constructive feedback and the courage
to have difficult conversations. Courage is one of the
most important aspects of developing our
self-confidence. Viewing others and myself had to do
with seeing others and myself as assets, not
liabilities. You generate even more confidence in
yourself as well as others.
HARMONY: To me, having HARMONY in my life means
that I have balance between time for self, time for
family, time for career, and time for social life. I
believe I do this very well because I do the first one
well: make time for myself. I am firmly convinced by
those experts that say you need to provide time for
yourself because you will then be able to help others.
That is very true. To some people, it sounds selfish. It
is not. It is really playing the role of self-care
provider. It will greatly reduce your stress and at the
same time it attends to your needs. This element of
harmony also relates to the RESPECT element, satisfying
In relating HARMONY to time for family and time for
social life, I realize the vacations my husband and I
take are very important to us. To get away from 2 weeks
of winter, we like to go to Hawaii where itís warm,
enchanting, and the ocean is 79į
. Another type of vacation are those extended 3-4 day
weekend vacations at a bed & breakfast.
JOY: Again in 1987, my coaches made me realize
how important JOY was in my life. That it was okay to
bring humor into your reputation, into the workplace,
and just being with people. Having a sense of humor, not
only makes you more pleasant to be around, but it
enhances your reputation. My husband is a perfect
example. Itís part of his reputation. Being married to
him for almost 30 years, we have faced some difficult
challenges but we have done a lot of laughing as well.
I know one thing about me; I need JOY in my life. I
am constantly aware of that. As Iím writing this book
on my computer, ELMOís face is looking at me. Of all
the Muppets, he makes me laugh the most. His voice, his
bantering are so enjoyable to watch. One day I was in a
candy store at the beach and saw this candy basket made
of ELMOís head. Instead of putting candy into it, I
put my pens and pencils in it; itís on my desk to
constantly make me aware of JOY and laughter. You just
canít look at ELMO and not laugh. Who is your favorite
cartoon character that could remind you of JOY and
laughter? Who are the people in your life with whom you
RESPECT: RESPECT for myself has to do with
honoring my needs, boundaries and priorities. One of the
greatest gifts I give to myself is honoring my needs. I
have manicures twice a month, a pedicure, massage, and
facial once a month. Everyday I read part of a mystery
novel because I love books and Iím always either
learning by them or being entertained by them.
I am also aware of my boundaries and how I honor
them. I know what Iím willing to do and what Iím not
willing to do and I am not afraid to voice those choices
to others; knowing that they may not like it. I can live
with that. An example that comes to my mind is when a
friend asked me to sell tickets for a political
fundraiser. She automatically assumed I would sell the
tickets because she said she was sending me 10 tickets.
After she was finished speaking, I told her I am not
available to sell any tickets and I would send her a
check for one ticket that someone else could use because
I would be out of town. She said okay; thanked me and
that ended the conversation. Our friendship was not
damaged in any way; we are still friends.
When you are asked to do something you feel you have
a choice with, and you know you do not want to do it;
think about how you can create a win/win. I dislike
selling; it is not one of my strengths. However, I did
want to support the political candidate. When you really
stop to think about having choices, decide accordingly.
When you learn how to say "no" instead of
"yes"; it shows people how to RESPECT your
boundaries and it builds more confidence in yourself.
Now that you have seen how I arrived at selecting my
particular life markers, Identify the life markers
that are important to you and then go to Step Two.
Step Two: Planting the Seeds
Now that youíve identified your life markers, select
the flowers that represent them.
You have two choices when it comes to selecting
flowers for your personal garden; one way is to
adopt flower symbolism from folklore. You can use
various search engines; for example, Google or Ask
Jeeves. One particular website that you can also
find flower symbolism is www.myteleflora.com.
For example, pink hyacinths mean play, having fun.
The second way is to select flowers that have
a special meaning to you based on the people you want to
remember. For example, I lost a dear aunt a while ago
who favorite color was pink. She wore pink dresses, pink
sweaters, pink jewelry. So, anytime I see a pink flower,
it reminds me of her.
Using Flower Symbolism in the Personal Garden
When I started to think of my life like tending a
garden, I began to research flower symbolism. I wanted
to create a personal garden that had blooms that
represented what I wanted to have in my daily life. I
wanted to keep this garden in front of me each day so it
would remind me of those elements that I needed to
reduce my stress and lead a life filled with ABUNDANCE,
BEAUTY, CONFIDENCE, HARMONY, JOY, and RESPECT. My
research led me to develop a garden that consisted of
those flowers and plants that represented various
feelings or attitudes of those six elements. Here is a
list of flowers in my first personal garden:
Flower and its Meaning
Life Marker it represents:
Amaryllis Ė Beauty
Fern Ė Confidence
Forget-Me-Not Ė Remembrance
Iris Ė Wisdom
Lily of the Valley Ė Increased Happiness
Orchid Ė Respect
Pansy Ė Thoughtfulness
Pink Hyacinth Ė Play
Rose Ė Gratitude
Sweet William Ė Courage
My personal garden allows me to feel calmer and more
relaxed which enables me to handle the challenges I face
everyday. When you have chosen your flowers along with
their meanings that represent your life markers, you are
then ready for Step Three.
Step Three: Growing Your Personal Garden
Now that you have seen how important it is to select
Life Markers that symbolize whatís important in your
life and the flowers they represent, letís begin to
explore how you Grow Your Personal Garden.
Once you have defined your life markers and paired
them with flowers, you have four ways to grow
your personal garden:
- Select personal objects you already own that you
enjoy that have flowers, such as artwork, coffee mugs,
or other home dťcor items.
- Collect seed packets or colored pictures of flowers
and create visual boards or collages for your home or
- Plant an actual garden containing the flowers you
have selected for your life markers or buy fresh flowers
that represent your life markers.
- Any combination of the above.
For your personal garden, you could actually plant
the flowers you want to have represented by the six life
markers or you can create visual boards like I did. I
created six visual boards, one for each life marker, and
I cut out beautiful flowers from gardening books and
arranged them on poster board to keep in front of me
each day. I also used seed packets to glue on the visual
boards when I couldnít find pictures in gardening
Another way to create visual boards is to create
PowerPoint slides and find pictures of flowers on the
Internet. Then use some fancy fonts and identify the
flower and its meaning underneath the picture while
arranging the flowers representing each life marker in a
creative way. After you have completed creating each
slide, print them on photo paper and mount them on some
foam board that you can buy in any craft store and
arrange your personal garden visual boards in your
Once you have decided how you are going to grow your
personal garden, go on to the last step, Step Four.
Step Four: Maintaining Your Personal Garden
Whether you are at home, outdoors, at the office, or
traveling, you can grow and maintain your personal
garden anywhere, anytime. You can even select a time of
day to reconnect with your life markers; such as early
morning, during lunch, after work, or before bedtime.
For example, when I was in New York City on business,
I stopped at the corner stand and bought a bunch of
white orchids for $5; took them back to my hotel room,
placed them in water and enjoyed growing my personal
garden while Iím away from home.
My sister Monica maintains her personal garden by
placing her fresh cut blooms in the kitchen, dining room
and living room. She and her husband get to enjoy them
at breakfast time as they gracefully beautify the
As you can see, it is very easy to live gracefully by
Growing Your Personal Garden. What does your personal
garden look like?
© Copyright 2003 Maryellen Gor. All rights
reserved. Excerpted from her upcoming book, Watering
the Blooms: Growing Your Personal Garden.
Maryellen Gor is an
author, personal development coach, and president of
Profits with People, a business consulting company. To
learn more about Growing Your Personal Garden, visit her
website at www.WateringCanProductions.com.
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