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How to Thrive: 4 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Plants

Cultivate your best self with How to Grow, the July selection for Tonal’s official book club, Read Between the Reps.

How to Grow by Marcus Bridgewater on a Tonal accessory shelf

In one of his recent TikTok posts, Marcus Bridgewater—known on the platform as Garden Marcus—shows off a bud on his pomegranate tree, the first sign of fruit the tree has shown in the five years since he planted it. To Bridgewater, it’s not just a triumph that his tree is flourishing after surviving floods, frosts, and summers in the Texas heat. It’s an opportunity to share with his viewers the importance of not giving up when faced with obstacles even though, as he says, “you might not see the fruits of your labor for several years.” It’s this type of inspiring message, imparted over the lush imagery of his garden, that’s earned him more than 680,000 followers and over eight million likes. 

But Bridgewater is more than just a social media star. As the founder and CEO of the coaching business Choice Forward, he leads motivational talks and workshops to spread his philosophy of gardening as an analogy for personal growth and building community. 

Bridgewater breaks down those ideas in his first book, How to Grow, our July pick for Tonal’s book club, Read Between the Reps. Through stories from his past and anecdotes about his own garden successes and failures, he reveals how we can use these concepts to foster mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. 

Fortunately you don’t need a green thumb to benefit from the wisdom in the book. Bridgewater’s concepts will resonate even if you’ve never planted a single seed. 

4 Essential Lessons You’ll Learn from How to Grow

1. Environment fosters growth

“We can’t make anything grow, but we can foster environments where things want to grow,” says Bridgewater in an interview with Tonal. “Like plants, we are affected by where we grow and those growing around us.” Making positive changes in your life is easier in a supportive environment and with people who cheer on your goals. 

“Like plants, we are affected by where we grow and those growing around us.” - Marcus Bridgewater

Like choosing a sunny spot with fertile soil for planting, you’ll have a better chance of achieving personal growth if you set the stage for success. If you’re trying to work out more often, for example, this could mean laying your exercise clothes out the night before or making a plan to meet up with a workout buddy who will keep you accountable. You can also connect with other motivated Tonal members in the Official Tonal Community on Facebook for more support.  

2. Enjoy the process

A beautiful garden doesn’t sprout up overnight, and we shouldn’t expect our own growth to be instant, either. “Patience can feel like agony when we are entirely focused on results and overlook the process,” Bridgewater writes in the book. “But patience isn’t all hard work: we can enjoy the slowed pace and admire our seeds at every stage.” 

Trying to speed up progress can be counterproductive, as Bridgewater learned the first time he grew morning glories. He thought a weed was growing over the ground where he planted the morning glory seeds and pulled it out. It turned out the weed was actually the first sprouting of his flowers, and he’d disrupted the root system. You might experience something similar if you try to squeeze in an extra workout to get fit faster, but end up straining a muscle, setting yourself back. Similarly, if you’re overly focused on reaching a number on the scale, you’ll miss out on celebrating the strength you’re gaining in the process.

3. Value experimentation  

Learning how to garden takes lots of trial and error, and the same is true when it comes to personal growth. “Experimenting educates and empowers us, as success and failure affords opportunities to learn,” he writes. Along with giving you the chance to find what strategies work best for your own goals, he explains that experimenting can also be fun as it encourages you to try new things, play, and be curious.

To track the results of your experiments, he recommends keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. “When you use this tool to reflect, you’ll have a series of data points that you can pull from to help you see where you’ve lost peace, how to maintain peace in the future, and also how to pull lessons out of the negativity.” 

4. You have more choices than you think

As the founder of a company called Choice Forward, it’s not surprising that Bridgewater strongly believes in the power of choices. In the book, he frames these decisions as “dichotomies,” or contrasting paths that will lead you in different directions. “The more we’re conscious of our choices, the more we can move forward in a direction we truly desire,” he says.

One example Bridgewater describes is choosing between judgment and assessment when evaluating our own progress. A judgment is a harsh, final conclusion that leaves no room for growth, while an assessment is an objective observation that describes one moment in time and that may change in the future. Let’s say you fail to hit your goal time in a 5K: You can judge yourself and say, “I’m slow, I’ll never get faster,” which shuts down the potential for change; or assess yourself and say, “This is how I performed today, but let’s see how I do six months from now with more training under my belt.”

About the Book

In How to Grow, Marcus Bridgewater describes a path to mental, physical, and spiritual fulfillment through the metaphor of growing plants and flowers. He combines stories from his past with observations from his garden to explain this philosophy of self-improvement, and how you can use it to achieve your goals. 

About the Author 

Marcus Bridgewater is an educator, motivational speaker, and gardener. On TikTok as Garden Marcus, he demonstrates how the same principles for nurturing plants also apply to personal growth. He’s the founder and CEO of the coaching and consulting company Choice Forward. 

How to Join Read Between the Reps

  • Get a copy of How to Grow.
  • Join the Tonal Book Club on Facebook
  • Join us in the book club Zoom discussion with author Marcus Bridgewater on July 20 at 5 p.m., PT. Keep an eye on the Tonal Community board for more information.

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