The Art of Goal Cultivation

by John Salow

The other week, I met with one of my clients and I could see that there was something a little different with him.  So I said, “you look like you can take on the world, what’s different?”  In the previous session, I had asked him to complete an assignment.  He said  “Well, last week, when I completed my coaching assignment, I had an epiphany,”  “And now I know exactly how I need to move forward.”    He was beside himself with excitement.  I congratulated him and told him I was excited for him.  After all, when we met two weeks before, I could see his exasperation as he felt totally stuck in where he was in life.  “I just don’t know how it happened,” he said.  “It was like it came out of nowhere.”   “It wasn’t out of nowhere, I told him, it was because you took the time to cultivate your goal.”


I have a theory.  I feel like pursuing a goal is a little bit like cultivating a plant.   Let me explain.


When gardening, there are specific steps you must take in order to make your plant grow.  It just doesn’t grow on its own.  You must make a conscious effort to help your plant grow.  Your goals are a lot like this.  Let’s talk about it in more detail.


Laying the Fertile Ground


The first step to cultivating a plant occurs before you plant the seeds.  First, you must prepare the dirt to make sure it’s conducive to the plant.  This may include breaking the dirt up, adding plant food, and getting the dirt wet.


Like the plant, there are specific steps you must take to prepare.  These include steps like; identifying why you truly want the goal and making the plan.


Is the goal something that just sounds nice, or is it something you truly want?  When planting, you must dig the dirt to a certain level for specific plants to make sure they grow correctly.   If it’s a big plant, you may need to dig a little deeper.  Big goals also require you to dig a little deeper, so focusing on why you want to achieve the goal will give you a deep base if you experience challenges.


In addition, you must make a plan.  When planning your garden, you must follow best practices to make sure that the plant grows the best of its ability.  This might mean giving it more sun, or more shade based on what type of plant it is.   For goals, you also need to focus on best practices depending upon the goal.  Learn as much as you can about the goal, talk to people that have completed it before, and get a real understanding of what it’s going to take to complete it.


Integrate the plant into its new home


Once you’ve planned and prepared, it’s important to integrate the plant into its new home.  This includes carefully putting the plan into the dirt, including any plant food or nutrients it needs, and water the plant.


Like putting the plant into the ground, your goals also need to be carefully integrated into your life.  This includes carefully breaking your goal down into manageable milestones and tasks, assigning deadlines to goals, and integrating tasks into your daily life.


Regularly water the plant


In order for your plant to grow, you must water the plant on a regular basis.  Some plants require water on a daily basis, while others may only need to be watered a few times per week.  In addition, the amount of water the plant needs can greatly differ depending upon the plant’s size.


In goals, the water is your time and focus.  Some goals may only need to be focused on a few times per month, while others will need your daily attention.   Some will require just a few minutes, while others will take a great deal of time.  While planning, you should consider how much time you are willing to spend on your goal, and what you may be willing to give up to achieve if it takes a great deal of time.


Be Patient


Plants don’t grow overnight.  No matter how often you water them, no matter how much sunlight it gets, there’s nothing that you can do to make your plant grow faster. In fact, sometimes if you over water your plant, you kill it or stunt its growth.


Goals can sometimes be the same way. Sometimes you just need to be patient.  Sometimes when I’m working with clients, they are so focused on making an immediate change, they actually are impeding their progress. Instead, they may need to take a step back and allow time for the goal to happen.  This is especially true if your goal involves a result that is outside your immediate control.  To truly cultivate you must blend the activity with patience.


Cultivate growth


One day you’ll see your plant sprouting through the dirt.  This is an exciting time, but there may be some adjustments you need to make ton cultivate its growth. For example, there may be times that you need to adjust the watering schedule, give the plant a climbing frame, or move the planter to adjust its sunlight.

Like like the plant, sometimes you need to make adjustments along the way.  Don’t expect that your goal will always go exactly to plan.  There will be setbacks, there will be challenges, just focus on cultivating that goal the best you can, and adjust as necessary.




Finally!  The day has arrived when you can harvest the plant. This is truly a rewarding time. You can enjoy the plant, but that doesn’t mean you’re done!  You must make sure that you continually take care of the plant throughout the season. Like a fruiting plant, you’ll often get fruit from it the entire season if you continually take care of it.


Like a fruiting plant, your goal will continue to pay you dividends if take care of it.  The reward of achieving the goal is still there, but there also may be continual fruit that you can get from the goal.  This fruit is the lessons you have learned from it.  Take the time to think about what the goal did for you.  Also, think about how you can use what you learned from this goal in the future.




“I totally get it.”  my client said.   I could see that he felt more accomplished and proud of himself, knowing that he had cultivated this through the hours of hard and tireless work he had already completed.


The next time you pursue a goal, don’t think of it as a task that needs to be completed, think of it as a plant that needs to be cultivated.


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