Start Pruning Your Life: Cutting Back to Grow More

18 06 2009

It’s hard to argue that we are living in an over-stimulated society with an ever-increasing variety of distractions. It is these distractions, habits, and commitments that can detract from our growth, focus, and happiness, as well as sidetrack us from other opportunities. We need to be careful not to let things or people take time away from areas where we could better use our time, focus, and energy.

The Discipline of Pruning
Just as it is healthy to prune trees so that they may grow, we also need to prune our lives so that we can make way for new ideas, growth and opportunities. Pruning involves cutting off the superfluous branches in our lives. And pruning doesn’t just involve cutting off the dead branches—it involves cutting off some healthy branches as well.

Recently I was talking to the owner of a vineyard about pruning—he said that he often prunes the healthy vines from his trees because it allows for the other vines to grow even stronger and healthier—by having less branches, it allows for more minerals and nutrients to go to the grapes on the remaining branches, thus making better wine.

Not all the things in our lives that need to be pruned are obvious, or are even necessarily a bad thing. I have a friend who is involved in a variety of athletic activities that take up a lot of her time—one night it’s track practice, the next night it’s a kickball team, a few times a week it’s rowing practice. And while all these activities are ‘good’ activities—it takes time away from other areas of her life. She is spread so thin in many areas that she can’t concentrate on fully growing one single area.

Distractions aren’t always obvious. Many distractions are little things that don’t seem to take up to much time and may go unnoticed, but when we combine a lot of those little things over time it can make a huge difference in our lives.

Pruning gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate where we should be spending our time, and gives ourselves the space to open up to areas that can make a bigger and better difference in our lives. The Discipline of Pruning helps us cut back to grow more and create the results we most desire.

How to Prune
It is up to us to be aware of the distractions or obligations we schedule in our lives, and to decide which ones should be pruned.  Besides cutting out certain habits, activities, or obligations, one of the simplest ways to prune our lives is wisely using the words “yes” or “no.”

The book, The Power of a Positive No, says that if you learn how to say “no” skillfully and wisely, you can create what you want, protect what you value, and change what doesn’t work.

By saying “no” to competing demands for your time and energy, you can create the space for the people and activities that matter to you most.

What are you missing out on because of distractions in your life? What can you start pruning today? What could you say “no” to? How will these decisions change your life?

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Some Statistics about How Distractions Negatively Affect Us

  • 59% of Blackberry users check email the second it arrives, 83% check it while on vacation, and 53% even check it when they are in the bathroom.
  • A study at The British Institute of Psychiatry showed that checking your email while performing another creative task decreases your IQ in the moment 10 points. That is the equivalent of not sleeping for 36 hours—more than twice the impact of smoking marijuana.
  • Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distractions are a contributing factor in 8 out of every 10 police-reported traffic crashes, or an estimated 4 million crashes per year.