• Lizzie Shutt

Pruning Your Branches (Personal Action Plan Exercise)

A common notion I have heard from a variety of sources— podcasts, friends, social media— is that we are a combination of the five people we spend most of our time around. While thinking about this, I was reminded of how dogs always seem like their owners: maybe it’s because the owner is the main other being that they hang out with!


Doing my own personal research to see how true this idea of five was, I dug into my life history. I thought of times where I felt the most joy and times where I felt pain, and then paired these periods with people that consumed the majority of my time.



I don’t believe that it has to actually be the number five because at points in my life I have had more or less influential people. Being in a relationship, we spend a lot of time together, which has been an amazing experience for me because of the shared visions and passions we hold. Being able to spend majority of my time with someone who supports my dreams, pushes me to learn and be vulnerable, has really allowed me to grow so much over these past few months. This was only one person mentioned so don’t feel like you need to have five core people constantly. One or eight, a number is just what you make of it!


Also, I think these people don’t have to be in person with you; rather, online interactions and communicating on social media are major ways that people interact in this modern world. With this in mind I encourage you to be conscious when you’re scrolling through Instagram, or reading people’s Facebook updates or tweets because your mind and body are reacting to the content whether you notice it or not.


I started to think about the things that consumed my time and the ones that were not contributing to my growth. Personally, social media scrolling and having a million thoughts constantly running through my head were daily things I decided need to change. I wanted to make an effort to cut back— kind of like the principle of pruning with plants!


What is pruning? Pruning plants is the act of selectively cutting off growth (leaves, branches, buds, flowers) for plant manipulation. It sounds scary, but don’t worry, it’s not! Cutting back growth is very beneficial at certain stages of the plant’s life.


Reasons to Prune Plants:

  • Cut Off Diseased or Damaged Growth

  • Maintain or Develop Shape

  • Control Size

  • Emphasize Features (flowers or fruits)

  • Maintain Overall Plant Health and Air Circulation

Timing plays a major factor in pruning, specifically fruits and flowers (aka relationship, jobs, commitments) because if done incorrectly, the outcome can be highly detrimental (stay tuned for more information next week!). The plant and which type of pruning is needed determines the best time. Like plants, humans are all different with various things that may need to be pruned Depending on what it is (relationship, bad habits, processed junk food, material items, etc.) there will be various times to prune that are unique to you! For me with school starting again it will be essential to cut back on surfing so I can focus on important academic and health goals. Although this semester I may have to cut, I know next semester will allow plenty of time for exploring. #NewZealand #StudyAbroad #Horticulture


For plants, pruning to remove dead/diseased parts can be done at any time of the year. I see this type of pruning as getting rid of things in your life that you can chop off easily. For example, pruning a bad sleep habit can be accomplished by setting electronics on a nightly timer to turn off at a certain time, and choosing to read a book or meditate instead. With these types of cutting back, you have complete control because they are actions you take personally, not involving others (we’ll get to that next week). I chose sleep as an example because maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is essential to grow into a stronger “tree” because after a good night’s sleep, you show up in the world with more energy and a clear mind, ready to meet your challenges and achieve your goals. If you recognize daily habits that are deteriorating you, causing physical or emotional decay, I want you to address those as soon you can!


For the next five minutes, take out a journal or piece of paper to reflect on daily habits to identify anything needing to be pruned. This takes time, accountability, and strategy so I suggest keeping a log in a journal or your notes app on your smartphone/computer. This doesn't have to be a complete list right now because we'll talk about this more in next week’s blog, because after all changing habits, like pruning, is a process, not a one-time event.


Pruning The Branches: Personal Action Plans

  1. Write down three areas in your life that you want to improve. (I will use the sleeping example as mentioned)

  2. Think about the main factors that play into these areas, such as technology, artificial light, stress, diet, etc. This will help you come up with ways to prune the branches.

Better Sleep Example:

  1. Turning lights off for bed, but social scrolling for an hour → Leave your phone plugged in away from the bed.

  2. Using electronics → Reading (you’ll most likely fall asleep faster too)

  3. Late night talking to people → Explain you are trying to develop healthy sleep they should respect that and if not … that’s a talk for later.

  4. Eating late-night sugary snack→ Banana or glass of water.

  5. Regular exercise can result in better sleep quality!

  6. Set a time frame and a goal statement. *Goal: Low energy living → Full of life, well-rested, ready for the day!

I encourage you to adopt multiple changes to achieve the full effect. When the whole area of a tree is diseased you don’t just cut one branch; multiple are removed because multiple branches cause the problem. Human habits, too, have many factors, so you can’t just chop one. To get your best sleep experience you can’t just stop eating sugar at night and still be social scrolling and overstimulating your senses: Both need to be chopped, which will take time and effort.


There are often many branches to cut and it may feel overwhelming at first, so start where you can and remember that Rome was not built in a day.


Share your thoughts, progress and questions with me :) I would love to help you! You can comment directly on the blog post, share your process though Instagram, or email me lizzieshutt3@gmail.com so I can help fertilize your tree in any way I can!


"Live Dirty, Eat Clean & Green,"


Lizzie Shutt

@livewliz

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