Lessons from a Houseplant
Have you ever noticed that if you move a plant outdoors after its lived indoors, it has a tendency to not do so well? I recently moved a plant outside that had been inside for the last 2 years and I noticed a few interesting things. When my plant got out in the real world, and was subjected to the elements, I realized how weak it was. The wind blew it around like a kite. It drooped after only a couple of hours of direct sunlight and some of the leaves turned brown and fell off. It required watering at least once a day.
After a couple of weeks of struggling, I noticed some major changes occurring in my plant. It required less and less frequent watering as its root system developed to better store and utilize water. Its stalks grew thicker and were able to bend with the wind but return to standing straight up. It’s stopped drooping even after many hours of direct Summer sunlight. Its leaves became rougher and bigger and had a stronger smell when rubbed- all allowing it to repel foreign creatures more effectively.
So what’s the point of all of these observations, besides making every botanist cringe at my lack of understanding of the complexity of plant health and behavior? Plants that grow inside, in relatively controlled environments, tend to be weaker plants. They have weaker stalks, weaker root systems, and weaker leaves. When placed outside, the plants are forced to adapt to increased stress or die. Along the way the plants undoubtedly will also develop some scars and imperfections, proof of their past trials and victories.
This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to plants. If fact, it’s a basic tenant of biology. Outside stressors that are placed on an organism cause that organism either to adapt and become stronger against that stressor, or become diseased and die. If those stressors aren’t present, the organism isn’t forced to be strong, and it ultimately ends up being less able to handle challenging environments and situations.
For us humans, the idea is that we become stronger if we have a varied environment. If we expose ourselves to a variety of environments and stimuli, both internal and external, we are forced to adapt, and more importantly, to become adaptable. We gain the ability to adapt against any future changes in environment and aren’t going to be thrown off mentally, physically, or emotionally when faced with challenging circumstances. The net result is not only a stronger body, but also a healthier body.
Unfortunately for us, becoming a strong and adaptable organism isn’t as easy as just being put outside and figuring it out. We have to do a little bit more work. We have to structure our surroundings and behaviors with specific intent. Suffering and being uncomfortable become key components. We have to learn to push ourselves and constantly create struggle and stress, but not go beyond our bodies’ ability to adapt to that stress. This can be a tricky process. It requires us to really know our body extensively and constantly be conscious of how we’re responding to the various stressors that we’re facing. Many times the only way that we develop this body awareness is through trial and error, test and retest.
We, as a culture, are used to being houseplants. We strive for comfort in every possible situation and the thought of voluntarily subjecting ourselves to uncomfortable or varying environments seems absurd to most. This mentality has made us weak mentally and physically and sets us up for a life of mediocrity, constantly forcing us to evade stressors that we won’t be able to deal with. This houseplant mentality is so prevalent today that our culture is actually adapting to accept physical/mental mediocrity by creating camaraderie in these behaviors and fiercely attacking those who critique them.
Even though mainstream culture promotes the houseplant lifestyle, the good news is that there are groups of human beings who are intent on going outside and reclaiming our natural strength and adaptability. There’s a community popping up of people who are pushing the boundaries of what human beings can achieve physically, mentally, and emotionally. And even more importantly, these trailblazing guinea pigs are sharing their experiences and paving the way for the rest of us to step outside as well.
We can transition back to the strong, adaptable creatures that our ancestors were while still finding a balance with, and enjoying, modern luxuries and health/performance advances. It just takes some effort. In our next series of posts, we’ll look at some specific areas where we can add adversity in our lives in order to make ourselves stronger and become the outside plants that we’re supposed to be. Stay tuned…
- Lessons from a Houseplant: Part II- Food
- Lessons from a Houseplant: Part III- Light
- Lessons from a Houseplant: Part IV- Temperature
Join Higher Performance Network!
Receive the latest news & exclusive content from HPN!