Many years ago, my mother gave me one of those little wall plaques that have a cutesy picture with a slogan. It took me some time to realize the message was an important lesson I needed to learn: “Bloom Where You are Planted.”
In my college years and after I did a lot of international travel, moving, and job changing. All of which is a good thing when you are young and trying to figure out who you are. I’d recommend studying and working abroad to anyone as a fundamental way of broadening your horizons. Plus, it becomes more difficult to travel as widely once you’ve acquired a spouse, mortgage and kids.
While it’s quite possible my mother was just wishing I’d stop leaving the country, the real message behind “Bloom Where You Are Planted” is to make the most of your current situation. It’s very easy to keep searching for the next big thing: the dream job, the ideal place to live, the winning lottery ticket, and so on. And we have to dream and have goals. At the same time, true happiness often comes from making the best of what is around you, right now. This means family, friends, community, and personally enriching activities you can enjoy without buying a plane ticket to somewhere exotic.
I live near Philadelphia, so I’m fortunate to be within a three hour drive of many of the nation’s top historical and cultural attractions, from Broadway shows in New York to the museums of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC to nearby Independence Hall. Yet, when I talk to friends and neighbors who have grown up in the area, I’m often astonished by how many who’ve admitted that they’ve never been to see the Liberty Bell, less than 45 minutes away by car or train. (And I don’t live in a low-income community where poverty blights opportunity.) Every community has something of interest to explore, whether it be outdoor activities, scenery, historical attractions, or quirky local pastimes.
Although I won’t be on an ecotour to the Galapagos Islands this year, I can still learn and be involved in amazing conservation work being done in my backyard. And my family has explored Philly, as well as making many day and weekend trips to New York and Washington, DC.
The same thing is true of the working world. My next job is likely to be mainly for the money, not because it’s my life’s passion. How many children dream of becoming a tax accountant or financial planner or IT project manager while growing up? Yet those are all good jobs that are likely to pay enough to allow enjoy fulfilling activities outside of work, as well as being high-status enough to provide a respected place in society.
And every job, no matter how humdrum, will provide the opportunity to seek satisfaction by doing your job well, helping and learning from the people you work with, and serving your customer. If you decide to enjoy your work, and do it well, chances are you’ll advance in your career, too. You’ll probably meet at least a few people you’ll enjoy on a social level, too, and perhaps the one who will help you in your next career move.
Most of my life’s most important and formative events came completely out of left field, from a chance to work in Japan, to meeting my husband on a vacation, to the first job that led to my career in financial services. I suspect this is true for many people. Therefore, if you can’t predict the future, make the most of the present. You never know which person you meet is going to provide you with a life-changing opportunity, either personal or professional. And whatever it is, you’ll have more chance of making the most of it if you’re putting your all into whatever you are doing, not grumbling about how it’s not where you want to be.
Make the most of your current job, or if you are unemployed, find some interests to cultivate you might not have had time for before. Make new friends, keep up with old friends, join local organizations you care about, volunteer, be a tourist in your current hometown, and find a creative way to pursue your passions now, rather than when you think the conditions will be more optimal.
Be open to the opportunities around you. Have goals that you are working towards, but Bloom Where You Are Planted.