The 4 elements to build a garden which you can grow best in

Soon Min Blog, On growth Leave a Comment

The concept of personal growth probably stemmed from the time I was 18 feeling really horrible after a heartbreak, and I stumbled on Tony Robbins’ book called Awaken the Giant Within. At that point, I had no idea what ‘self help’ was, but something (asides from the 10 Ringgit discount price tag) made me pick it up. I only finished the book years later, but what little I read at that point helped nudge me along life feeling a little better. 

One of the biggest concepts I absorbed from the book was the idea that people have the ability to build themselves a better life. This simple belief is a powerful one at its core, and is made even more so with another one that says ‘you are the sum of the 5 people around you’. While I don’t buy into its literal interpretation, I believe in its underlying truth that our growth is heavily influenced by key elements around us.

The garden of you

Have you ever seen a beautiful garden, where everything looks great? What many don’t see is the effort that’s taken to nurture it. I’m no gardener, but I get that it requires fertiliser, pruning, weeding,  watering, and the right environment for the right type of plants. Similarly, when we as people have the right elements combined, we allow for growth to happen in the best way possible. Here are the key elements that I think can be key to allowing accelerated growth.

The people around you

You might have heard of that saying before and loosely get that the people around us ‘somehow’ influence us. Where I specifically see and experience its effects are:

  1. Your state – Emotions are contagious. Surround yourself with optimistic, driven and hopeful people, and some of it is likely to rub off. It’s true inversely too. These seemingly temporary effects might not seem like a big deal, but once your state is affected, how you behave and react to your surroundings is thereby affected too.
  2. Ideas and inspiration – Are the people around you open to your ideas? Do they challenge yours? Do they bring to the table their own? People like these are invaluable because they facilitate new ideas and opportunities that you might not have thought off by yourself.
  3. Motivation – This is deeper than just a ‘state’. When you have people that you respect and admire around you, there’s a nudge that happens inside you to be better yourself. I credit many friends who have qualities that I admire that provided me with a drive to grow those qualities within me.

The material you consume

This element carries a double meaning. Firstly, it’s literally the things you consume as food. Most of us wind up as adults with crappy food habits and none the wiser. Not knowing any better, it’s challenging to see how a change in what you eat can really impact the way you feel, how you think and behave. Michael Pollan has summed up the perfect advice when it comes to diet into 7 words. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (I’m still working on that last point!)

The 2nd meaning is intellectual (including spiritual if you like). I don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble keeping up with the sheer amount of things to read, watch and listen to. The question is, how are you filtering it? How do you divide your time between entertainment and substance? Of those with ‘substance’, how do you find quality material? In 24 hours, you can only do so much, so finding that right balance and quality makes sense. Find the people that have grown the way you want to, then see what material they would recommend.

The actions you take

The old saying goes that ‘Knowledge is power’. I fall into the camp that believes in the extended version, ‘Knowledge is power only with action’. Learning and getting inspiration is really important, but you can only grow so much by reading or listening to podcasts. Taking action, even if it means failing, is the only way to grow further than theory.

By doing, you also unlock opportunities for growth more than you might expect. It’s like playing football. When you join a team and begin playing, at first it’s just learning the physical game. Only through taking part in it, you begin to learn areas such as teamwork, competitive pressure, rest and recovery, and even leadership.

If you’ve got something you’ve read about all this while, it’s time to get more doing done.

The habits you keep

Two of the things I constantly underestimate is how much it takes to really learn something, and how much goes into maintaining it. In the fitness world, it’s easier to see as prolonged breaks in your program really show. With my recent break from CrossFit these few months, I’m definitely seeing a drop in my strength, mobility and metabolic conditioning. It’s harder to notice when it comes to some other skills. Quit from an industry for too long, and you lose touch. Your mental knife becomes dull over time without sharpening.

This final principle applies across the board. From work related skills, soft skills, physical wellbeing, and even your mood. Only through consistent habits are you able to grow and maintain them. How have you added some structure to nurture what’s important?



Asides from the initial belief that we CAN grow, there’s one more thing to practice to make the 4 things work. It’s the ability to choose what to say yes to, and what to let go of. It’s a process that’s ongoing and one to be enjoyed as you discover more.

Soon MinThe 4 elements to build a garden which you can grow best in