Living the “Resilience Tree”​ – Pruning

I use the imagery of a tree in my Resilience Tree Model to help folks remember the components and apply them in their lives as it fits them. The more I share the model the more people are recognizing the many correlations and lessons we can learn from trees.

One colleague and friend sent me the featured photo from their garden. They shared the process, and sometimes challenge, of pruning (the act of intentionally cutting off a part of the tree with the intent to help it grow better) and thought that it could be translated to resilience lessons. They were right! The biggest lesson is in the choices: (1) whether or not to prune, then, (2) which fruit to prune.

To Prune or Not to Prune

They said that sometimes there are two fruit that bud on one branch. However, they have learned from experience that the tree can’t provide nutrition for both therefore there is a decision to be made — to prune or not to prune. If both fruits are left alone (1) they may both die and no fruit will bear to be enjoyed or (2) they will both be sour having not been able to be fully nourished as they needed to be.

In the Resilience Tree Model, BRANCHES represent people who believe in your potential and FRUIT represents not only the output that one produces and nurtures but also the realization that you have something to give. It is the moment when as you are giving to others (advice, perspective, expertise that has come from your experiences) that you also gain because you realize that you are adding value to someone else.

So, translating the garden scenario to women in leadership positions the two fruit could be representative of two opportunities. Often women of color burn out because they try to be everything to everyone. They have been programmed to nurture and to put others before themselves. However as with the tree example, when they try to choose both fruit it will end up with neither option working out as intended and sour the results for the very people you are trying to nourish. One of the many lessons here is, though it is difficult, it is best to choose one opportunity per branch and put all one’s energy and nutrients towards that to produce the sweetest fruit. Then the question becomes which fruit to choose?

Which Fruit to Prune?

The second gardening choice my friend shared with me was deciding which fruit to prune. Sometimes the decision is easy because one fruit already shows signs of not being able to withstand a season. Sometimes though, all characteristics and criteria that could be weighed are equal and a difficult choice has to be made — which fruit to prune?

So, again translating this garden scenario to a leadership position — sometimes there are two very different but great opportunities and the only wrong choice is not making a choice. Both opportunities could help your home community, could benefit your career, could increase your network or exposure, could provide monetary gains, etc. However, you only have so much time in a day, so much energy to spare, so much bandwidth to manage in addition to the full-time job, family/friend obligations, and self-care. Sadly, I know all to well that often the first thing to go when we try to fit it all in is self-care.

There are Seasons for a Reason

In the Resilience Tree Model, The ROOTS represent self-care. It is a person’s opportunity to refuel, to turn off work, to escape from pressures, to go towards spaces with people of similar identities, mindsets, or interests. Similar to the roots on a tree, this component is about being grounded and having a place to repeatedly come back to.

As I write about the fruit of a tree and the decisions about how best the sustain them it also is important for me to mention that there are times when a tree is not in season and therefore does not bear fruit. As professionals sometimes we forget to pause, to recenter, and collect ourselves in preparation for our giving season.

I want to hear from you! How are you experiencing and/or managing these decisions?