A plant is “root bound” when its roots take up all the space in the pot, or nearly all the space. If left in a root bound state, the plant will eventually suffocate and die.
Symptoms of a Root Bound Plant
1 The plant has stopped growing. This means that no new shoots are forming, even though the plant may produce some new leaves.
2 The leaves wilt a relatively short period after the plant is watered.
3 Regardless of the fact that you are properly watering and fertilizing the plant, an inordinate amount of leaves are dying. No amount of adjustments to the amount of water or fertilizer seems to help.
This isn’t a gardening post. Plants instinctively want to grow — they somehow know they NEED to grow, or die. People on the other hand, have a choice. I’m very clear that I have a growth mindset:
But sometimes, like that root-bound plant, I get stuck. And if you stop growing, you start dying.
I’ve felt like this a few times in my life. After a period of flourishing, a great sprint or the end of a project or the financial year, something happens.
I have a tendency to go hard, especially where there is a specific objective. But with my eye on the outcome, I can become blind to patterns of self-neglect.
It has also manifest from beating my head against a brick wall for a period. You get kinda numb.
Either from intensity or frustration, the ‘leaves’ start getting a little dull. Brown around the edges. The sense of ‘pushing against’ where before there was wiggle room to forge a new path, even if it meant moving around or through some obstacles. Stretching up to catch some sunlight, but never quite getting there. Stuck. Like that root-bound plant. There is nothing else for it but to smash the pot.
5 or 6 years ago, I decided to leave a corporate job (where the aforementioned head and brick action was a feature) for a new adventure. To celebrate, I took myself off to do something I’d always wanted to do, but never got around to:Outward Bound. I thought it would be an awesome re-set, and I was right. I don’t want to give away too much, but maybe the least-held secret of the Outward Bound program is Solo. Following challenge, adventure, team work and discovery with your watchmates, Solo is two nights, alone, in the bush, with a couple of apples, a bag of peanuts, a ground sheet, sleeping bag and a fly. Oh yes, and a bucket. Just you.
It was my favourite part. And maybe you’ll think I’m a little strange. Two days, sitting there, all alone, looking. You aren’t allowed to wander. So I sat, looking. The stiller I was, and the deeper I looked, the more I saw. And suddenly, everything was possible again. The pot was well and truly smashed. The roots started moving again– curving, seeking, growing. I grew an extra millimetre — just enough to reach the sunlight and start the miraculous process of re-generation. I wrote this:
Squeezed up, mashed up, NO SPACE. Root-bound, paralyzed. Push until your strength abates--nowhere left to push. In this useless place.
But, in paralysis there is a stillness. Turn your consciousness outward. Sit. Watch. Look. Pay attention. Stillness is a SPACE CREATOR.
If you look hard enough, there is always a little opening. A speck of light. Or the inexplicable sense that the piece of wall you are staring it is not that thick; knowing that beyond it lies the chasm called potential. Tap on it. Scratch the surface. Sounds hollow! Close your eyes, and smash it down.
Now, as long as I pay attention, and notice, I can take preventative steps. Sit still. Be quiet. But every now and again, I still like to crack it wide open — just to see what happens. Growth is a Mindset. Growth is non-negotiable.