Intentionally practicing pause, my Mom and I took a week-long trip, an elongated pause to explore new terrain, delight in the senses, and soak in the arrival of spring together. 

We traveled to see some of the oldest landscaped gardens and famed flowerbeds of Charleston, South Carolina.

Spring came early this year, with temps in the mid-70s to low 80s in February. After the up-rush of spring temps, Charleston was next met with a chilling frost that devastated many of those lovely blooms.

By the time we arrived in late March, the radiant red camellias were gone, the azalea’s bright pink faces were fading, and even the beautiful wisteria, had lost much of its lavender luster. 

We were disappointed on the one hand – we’d missed the spectacular show of azaleas gracefully falling across yards – while also musing about each garden’s possibilities on the other.


Preparation, Experimentation & Wonder 

“One day, the gardener realizes that what she is doing out there is actually teaching herself to garden by performing a series of experiments. This is a pivotal moment.” – Margaret Roach, A Way to Garden

I caught the gardening bug early in life, surrounded by three keen green thumbs – both of my grandmothers, and my mom, Patty K.

It started with houseplants, but living out in the country with lush fields and gardens all around, it didn’t take long before I caught the gardening bug. I found myself dreaming about how to grow a little bit of beauty of my own.

Living in the Midwest, with the full panoply of seasons, I still find myself drawn to the magic of spring. 

To my mind, springtime contains three distinct opportunities, both for the gardener and for us all.


Time to prep and plan – soil, fertilizer, timing

How’s the soil this year? Do I need to amend it? Is the landscape around the back patio inviting enough? Are the containers bright enough? What’s spring weather like this year – Weird? Mild? Typical? 

How’s your life landscape looking this spring? Do you need a change of plans? Perhaps a new container- people, places, occupation? What relationships could use fertilizing to build resilience and beauty? What needs to be discarded in the compost bin?


Time to experiment – get dirty & adapt as necessary

I love selecting plants at the garden center and then placing them in the yard, still in their pots, to eyeball how they’ll really look vs. how I envisioned them in my mind’s eye at the garden center. My willingness to improvise and move them, while still considering nature’s conditions, means I’ll still get dirty digging, but will minimize the replanting, at least most of the time.

Life’s messy – it’s a lot like gardening. Are you willing to experiment and move things around – your expectations, inclinations, habits or plans – to minimize the stress, the dirt, the expense? Better yet, to transform it?


Time to wonder and trust – hold space for joy 

How will the plants perform? What surprises will the weather bring? How will I respond if summer’s a sauna or if it’s super cool? How will I protect what I’ve planted if birds or squirrels or slugs take a liking to my plants? While I can’t prevent any of these options, I still choose to have a garden of my own design.

Can you be curious and trusting as life unfolds? Trusting is a choice and as easy as holding life at bay, or worse, being suspicious about life’s inevitable changes. Choose wonder. Choose to nurture in yourself a garden that will survive, and maybe thrive, in unforetold conditions.

Mom and I enjoyed our trip, no doubt, and found ourselves refreshed. Seeking gardens, those creations that create space, connection, and openness, helped us to slow our pace, transform our stress, and reset our energy.

What will you tend to in your garden today? Reach out and tell me what you’ll grow in your literal garden or the garden of your life.


ABOUT THE CREATOR OF The Leadership Pause 

I’m Dr. Chris Johnson, psychologist, executive coach and author of The Leadership Pause: Sharpen Your Attention, Deepen Your Presence and Navigate the Future available on Barnes & Noble, Bookshelf, and Amazon

I drew content from my book in crafting Calm the Chaos for Busy Professionals, an online course, and Are You Willing to Go First: Conversational Keys to Leadership Success, two of my popular course offers.I publish The Leadership Pause newsletter bi-weekly on LinkedIn. If you’re not already subscribed, click the Subscribe button to follow me too!


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