Which Branch Are You Growing?

Everything you do is part of a project. At work, that’s pretty obvious. An email that’s meant to close a client is part of your Q2 sales goal. A sketch that’s due on Friday is needed to eventually launch a new wearable device. And so on. But everything you do outside of work is part of a project too.

Swiping on Tinder may happen randomly while sitting on the toilet, but it’s still part of “Project Dating,” which, in turn, eventually means “Project Family” for most of us — even if we want our family to consist of just two people. Breaking an egg is necessary to make your omelette, but if you think about it, food and cooking are part of “Project Health.” You can do that project well by cooking nutritious meals, or you can do it badly by eating takeout every day, but it’s a project you’re working on nonetheless.

Ultimately, most of the everyday tasks we complete are the equivalent of adding a tiny leaf on the very last twig of a big, sprawling branch of the tree we call life. The question is: Which branch are you growing?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re swimming in a sea of to-dos, and plenty of times, I have. You try to neatly group chores together and focus on only one sector at a time, but then reality hits, and suddenly, you find yourself rushing from A to B, not feeling like you’re really pushing anything forward in a meaningful way. Life will never be perfect. It rarely does us the favor of neatly lining up our ducks in a row. But even when days get messy, it helps to take a breath, stop, and think for a moment: “Which branch am I growing?”

It’s not ideal to call your grandma for 20 minutes between two meetings when, actually, you wanted to have a long chat and ask her all kinds of things about her past, but if you deliberately make that call because you’ve decided it’s time to add a leaf to the family-branch, not spending those 20 minutes on something else will still feel meaningful.

Whenever you feel lost and stressed at the same time, when you’re no longer sure why you’re doing all that you’re doing, remember: Everything you do is part of a project, and it only takes a few moments of thinking to figure out which high-level purpose you’re serving at any one time. You’re always growing, and every day, your tree of life keeps extending. The only question is which branch you’re tending to right now, and as long as you answer it, you can perform your gardener’s duties gracefully, even if you’re not 100% satisfied with your response.