First, you plant radishes and pull weeds.
You start alone, with four planting beds, a broken down house and guest cottage, an empty chicken pen, and a whole lot of weeds, stumps, and rocks. Out back is a quarry and a woodlot.
Your goal is a renovated house and guest cottage, many more planting beds with orchards and vegetables in abundance, pens filled with chickens, geese, turkeys, black and white sheep, goats and cattle. In the end you hope to own a thriving business, with a truck stop, railway station, boat dock, sawmill, brick factory, canning factories, textile mills, dairies and bakeries. Your spouse and grandma and grandpa have arrived to help out.
But first, you plant radishes and pull weeds.
Start where you are, use what you have, and take one step at a time to a better future.
What holds true in the computer game Farm Up is surprisingly true in real life.
We can get overwhelmed with the mess. Income too low, expenses too high, the cupboard is filled with junk food that’s well past its expiration date, the basement and the living room and the office are filled with boxes of who-knows-what, and the mountain of dirty dishes wobbles and threatens to become an avalanche of pots and pans and broken plates with every footstep that passes.
So you eat out, and your waistline burgeons outward.
This is no hypothetical situation—it’s where I was just seven or eight short years ago.
I was hoping for a bit of magic.
A lottery win. A full time job. A fairy godmother.
Then I could afford to move into a bigger house, hire someone to sort through and organize my junk, pay off all my debts, and hire a personal trainer and a personal chef to help get my weight under control. Most importantly, I’d be able to hire someone to dust and vacuum and clean the cat litter and sort the garbage into the proper bins.
But I didn’t win the lottery, and my research has shown me that winning wouldn’t have done me any good. Most lottery winners end up right back where they were within seven years of winning. Many are worse off, because they’ve lost the support system that helped them when they were just barely getting by. Even people who earn lots of money don’t often keep hold of it—I’ve read that many professional football players declare bankruptcy within twelve years of retiring.
Winning the lottery doesn’t work for the same reason that crash diets and New Years’ resolutions don’t work.
The habits don’t change. The inner self doesn’t change. You can clean up the mess around the person, but unless the mess inside changes, the mess outside will reappear.
So you start where you are, and take it step-by-step, as I vowed to do seven years ago.
I started by taking out the garbage and doing the dishes. Little by little, my house became more peaceful. My financial situation improved. I started writing and painting and crafting again.
I have learned how to create lasting change in my life. Little by little, too, I have learned when to hire others or ask for help, and when I can go it alone.
I have a personal trainer, but I have become my own personal chef. My mom has moved in, and I have found ways for her to help out.
I don’t have the big business represented by the transportation hubs and the factories or even the vegetable gardens. Not yet. But they will come.
In the meantime, I have radishes to plant and weeds to pull.