Pruning: getting rid of the good to make room for the best


Boundaries author Henry Cloud uses pruning as an image to describe how we should practice self care in our lives.

Gardeners prune rosebushes to help them flourish. It involves cutting away healthy buds to give the best ones full access to the resources of the vine or bush.

How can you use this concept of pruning to live to your own highest potential?

It helps to view setting boundaries as a three-step process.

1. Garbage removal

In this stage, boundaries involve eliminating things from your life that serve little to no purpose.

When you first start setting boundaries, it’s easy to know what to snip away. You have so much in your life that’s not working for you.

You take years of toxic baggage to the curb. Slowly, removing things that don’t serve you helps you figure out your likes and dislikes.

You uncover who you are and what you value. And you begin to align your life with those things.

Now you’re in the second stage.

2. Re-organization

You’ve become a little more discerning. If you’re an introvert, for instance, you might decline to host a big event.

If you’re aiming for a house with less chaos you stop to consider every purchase before you make it.

You live by the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your homes that is not useful or beautiful.”

"Have nothing in your homes that is not useful or beautiful." Click To Tweet

With practice, these boundaries have become easier to set. They are now a matter of preference rather than life or death.

You reach a point where you’ve gotten rid of all the junk that took up space in your life. You’re beginning to look around and like what you see. But there’s still more work to do.

This is the third step where pruning or refinement comes in.

3. Refinement

You’ve removed all the garbage and re-organized what’s left. You look around at a pristine castle and wonder how you can make it better. The castle is you, by the way.

Now the decisions about what stays in your life and what goes are less obvious. It’s no longer a matter of bad vs. good but good vs. best.

You’ve got mostly good things in your life now. But if you want to fulfill your God-given potential you’ve got to make room for the best.

That’s why some people say, “New level, new devil.” The more personal growth you achieve, the harder it becomes to improve.

Now you look at the time you spend on certain activities. And even the people with whom you spend that time.

Instead of, “is this any good for me?” you ask, “is this the very best use of my talents and resources?”

You’ve cleared so much clutter from your head that you no longer react to life. Now, you make intentional choices to use your gifts for the greatest good.

Pruning in all areas of life

The pruning principle works in other areas of life as well. Take your children’s extracurricular activities, for example (if you have them).

Many parents want to expose their kids to as many opportunities as possible. But it’s impossible to excel at everything.

Helping your child pick his favorite activity will ensure he derives more satisfaction from it. He will be able to focus and improve when he’s not stretched thin over multiple commitments.

Pruning applies for weight loss if that’s an area you’re working on. If you’re overweight and decide to eat healthily the pounds come off quickly at first.

Then you reach the dreaded plateau. It’s always the last few that are the hardest to lose. New level, new devil.

Pruning to align with your values

It’s tough to face but even people fall into this category. Good people sometimes need to be pruned from our lives to make room for what’s best.

For example, when our values misalign or we outgrow each other. When I quit drinking I stopped spending time with certain people.

They weren’t bad. But friends whose social lives centered around drinking would never help me be my best self.

Time becomes more precious as we get older. As a result, we have to discern with whom it’s best spent.

If you want to reach your goals, surround yourself with people who understand and support those aims. Click To Tweet

If you want to reach your goals, it’s important to surround yourself with people who understand and support those aims.

Pruning takes self care to the next level. It challenges you to eliminate things in your life that might be good but not the best for you.

And give your attention and focus, like the rosebush’s resources, to growing a few buds to their glorious potential.

Share this