What Rose Bushes Reveal About Focus and Creativity

According to gardener and writer Elizabeth Roth, “Roses that are left unpruned can become a tangled mess of old and new canes all competing for air and light.” If you don’t prune rose bushes they become a tangled mess of old and new canes all competing for light and air.

A fascinating article by Cameron Gott around how professionals with ADHD address the stresses of overwhelm got me thinking about the additional challenges for women in this situation. Global Creatives, as he calls them, can find it difficult to let go and ‘park’ tasks and projects when there is too much to do. This is because the metaphorical staircases they are climbing don’t have landings like most people’s and they fear that if they put anything down, even for a minute, it will roll away never to be found again. And that feels pretty disastrous because ‘it’, likened in this article to a melon, is probably a great idea and may well have evolved into something spectacular if it had been prevented from rolling away.

So imagine what it is like for Global Creatives managing melons at home as well as at work. Sometimes of course men find themselves in this position but usually it is women. And we know that women with ADHD and similar brain-wiring can be great at masking the effort they are putting into keeping order and making sure everyone else is on track. For many there is an additional complication – their children may have ADHD (it is statistically more likely if either or both of their parents do) which adds a whole extra layer of complexity and other people’s lives to manage. Even without these extra layers of complexity, if you are leading a world at work and a world at home, which sometimes also involves caring for elderly parents, it can feel pretty overwhelming.

So what has all this to do with pruning rose bushes?

Just as rose bushes need regular attention to ensure healthy growth, without pruning our lives can become a twisted knot of ideas, tasks, and projects competing for our limited time and energy. In order for the entire bush to flourish and live a healthy life, we have to choose the ones with the most potential and ensure there are enough resources to sustain them.

The prospect of eliminating projects from either work or home is hard for most people, but for Women Global Creatives can be especially tough because they see innovation everywhere and are excited by it. We know the rose buds could grow if they were given the chance. We know that developing this piece of technology has the potential to drive up customer engagement exponentially.  We know that getting involved in the Parent Teacher Association will mean you son or daughter will end up with better resources at school. The article we heard on the radio could be worth following up …. And it goes on.

Rose bush lessons

Here’s how I think the rose bush can help us, if we take time to consider:

  • Recognize your thinking patterns. Are you allowing too many branches to grow at any one time?
  • Are you giving your rose bush enough water and light? By this I mean are you even giving yourself the space to discern what is important? What are you doing to renew your energy and allow new perspectives?
  • What would happen if your best ideas had more of your attention and could truly benefit from your ability to connect up ideas and people in ways that others can’t? As an entrepreneur, perhaps you have five product lines that are profitable. Your business might grow by fourfold if you focus on all five, but which product line will grow 400 times if you put all of your energy into it?
  • How can you build landings to park those ideas that are getting in the way right now but which you have a hunch will be useful at some point in the future? Who could help you to decide what needs pruning and what doesn’t? Who could help hold you accountable and make sure you cut on cue?

Find out more about the work Clare McNamara does with leaders and their teams on influence and authenticity.

© Move Ahead Global 2016

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  • Islin Munisteri
    Posted at 05:51h, 08 March Reply

    Thank you so much Clare!! This post really reasonates with how my mind behaves.

    • Clare McNamara
      Posted at 08:10h, 08 March Reply

      Glad it was helpful Islin and thank you for posting. All minds are good if we recognize their unique ways of working.

  • Cameron Gott
    Posted at 13:38h, 18 March Reply

    Brilliant work, Clare! Your pruning metaphor is spot on and your interpretation of the concept of landings is completely accurate. The challenges presented to the professional woman are compounded because of the different sets of melons they must carry at home and at work. Also often at home there are no structures in place like the ones at work like titles, official roles and team initiatives. Also it’s refreshing how you normalize the ADHD experience. We need more of that. Happy to be the inspiration for this excellent content!

    • Clare McNamara
      Posted at 13:54h, 18 March Reply

      Yes, normalizing the experience is important because too often women doubt the value they bring to teams and families. Thank you for your comment Cameron.

  • Pete Evans
    Posted at 17:39h, 20 March Reply

    Clare. Great posting and it really resonates with me. I am guilty of growing too many rose bushes. I have been doing a lot of pruning recently. Sometimes it is the fear of losing something which prevents us from pruning our own rose bushes. i have found that by regular pruning, I am able to focus on gain the clarity I need.

    • Clare McNamara
      Posted at 17:59h, 20 March Reply

      Thanks for the comment Pete. Interesting perspective on the role of fear – I hear you. Glad to hear you are now pruning regularly!

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