When it comes to setting and achieving goals, it’s often helpful to look how plants do it. In Chinese Five Element philosophy, all plant life is encompassed in the concept of the wood element. Each element has a connection with a certain sense organ; wood relates to the eyes and the vision that’s instrumental in setting a goal and making a plan.
If you’re interested in becoming more effective at making your goals a reality, first develop a clear vision of how you’d like your life to look. It needs to be a vision that hasn’t been dictated by your family or community, but comes instead from your own values and purpose, from what inspires and delights you.
In terms of the wood metaphor, this vision is something like the phenomenon of phototropism: the ability of plants to sense light and grow toward it. And it’s the vision born in every seed knowing where it’s headed (the sun) and the plan to get there. Plants are rooted in the earth and grow upward toward the sun; their lives abide by this plan and never waver. Human lives aren’t much different: We’re grounded in our bodies, our tangible surroundings and our material needs. And yet we grow and aspire toward something less tangible, toward our own source of light and accomplishment. That’s our version of following the plan.
Each element is also associated with a certain internal organ — in the case of wood, it’s the liver — and each organ has a position among the society of all our organs. The liver is considered the General. The General should be an expert planner and strategist, possessing keen vision and the ability to efficiently lead a campaign to victory. Here are 3 of the traits you need to achieve your goals:
When a plant is healthy and strong, it can break through frozen soil. It can get trampled, nibbled, even chopped to the ground and still rise up with new shoots. It knows where it wants to go and it’s determined to get there. When it encounters an obstacle, a healthy plant doesn’t break down and get upset about how the obstacle shouldn’t be there. It finds a way to grow around it. Don’t see obstacles as injustices; see them as a reason to grow.
The vision associated with the wood element provides the perspective to see clearly where we are, our destination and what’s in the way. Eventually, it’s like the perspective from the top of the tallest, oldest tree in the forest. This noble view, achieved through years of experience, lets us see our obstacles as part of the big picture of our life path, and helps us avoid needless suffering and confusion. It also shows us that our plan and everyone else’s can all coexist harmoniously.
The wind might blow it and snow might weigh on its branches, but a healthy plant bends without snapping, and in this way, it preserves its ability to pursue its plan. If you’re rigid around every detail, you become brittle and more apt to snap under life’s demands. Likewise, fixed attitudes and resistance are a clear indication that you’re fighting the organic nature of life rather than dancing with it. Flexibility around your plan allows you to stay light and loose, open to new possibilities and novel solutions.
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