Bonsai, literally translated means, 'planted in a container'. The Bonsai Empire website defines Bonsai as the art of growing ornamental, artificially dwarfed varieties of trees and shrubs in pots. It continues, saying, "this art form is derived from an ancient Chinese horticultural practice, part of which was then redeveloped under the influence of Japanese Zen Buddhism."
The first time I learnt about the Bonsai Tree was through the metaphor used by Muhammad Yunus. In his book "Three Zeros" he describes how every human is made of the same seeds. We appear with different potential based on the opportunities we have been provided and the beliefs we have been fed or are feeding ourselves.
Following article layers out on three levels, how limiting beliefs in oneself, limits our own potential, the potential of our companies' performance and the potential of our countries' progress.
Are you a Bonsai Person?
Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right. - Henry Ford
The HE Academy in UK argues, "Studies of self-efficacy have been pretty consistent in finding that it is associated with, and in many cases, predictive of, positive outcomes and performance. So our judgements and beliefs about our capabilities are important in real terms. It seems that judging yourself to be capable of success increases your chances of actual success, while judging yourself as not capable of success reduces your chances of actual success. Henry was right!"
And the same works for the other way around, as Muhammad Yunus observes in relation to poverty: "Poor people are like bonsai trees. These trees start from the same seeds as the full-sized pines or birch trees found in nature. But because they are kept in tiny planters and have access to small amounts of water and other nutrients, bonsai trees never grow to their destined height. Instead, they grow to be tiny replicas of the full-sized trees.
It's the same with poor people. They are bonsai people. They remain stunted, like the bonsai trees. There is nothing wrong with the seeds from which the poor people grow. But the system does not allow them the same opportunities that are given to the nonpoor. As a result, they cannot use their creativity and entrepreneurship to grow as others do."
The ultimate goal of growing a Bonsai is to create a miniaturized but realistic representation of nature in the form of a tree. The same principle is applicable to humans. Our minds have an enormous power to dictate how our lives are going to be. All of us humans are made from the same seed. Our minds gift us with the endless capacity and potential to be happy and serve our community for the better. If only we could get out of our own way.
Doubt, fear, concern, worry cloud our inner light. Our inner light reveals our passions, which brightens the path to our purpose on this planet. Doubt, fear and other emotions act like clouds covering the sun and the clear blue sky. We become unhappy and lost, only because we hold on to the clouds hovering over us. We hold on to the doubts, the worries, the fears, because they seem familiar to us. Even if these are meant to pass and to reveal the light. We are scared and are more comfortable in the victim role, than in the role of revealing our true self.
Deepak Chopra wisely said, that we are divine beings having a human experience.
This is part of our experience on this planet: to let go. Let go of the beliefs, that do not serve us. Let go of the beliefs, that hold us back. Let go of any "artificial" beliefs within us, and feel the light brighten within.
As Henry Ford said: Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right."
Is your Company a Bonsai?
Whether you think you can, you think you can't, you're right. - Henry Ford
Ancient Greek history talked of the Pygmalion Effect, which is laid out below.
Pygmalion's story is told by the Daily Art Magazine as follows: "The story of Pygmalion and Galatea is an enchanting myth about a Cypriot sculptor who fell in love with his own sculpture. He prays to goddess Aphrodite (aka Venus) to bring the sculpture to life, because he plans for it to be his wife. The goddess grants his wish, and as a result, Pygmalion and his creation lived happily ever after."
The story suggests how you, as a person can create your own reality. It was Pygmalion's imagination that created the "perfect woman" for him, in which he fell in love. Through prayer (to Aphrodite), belief and conviction Galatea was brought to life.
The Pygmalion effect shows the power of beliefs from the perspective of humans. The same applies for businesses. Businesses have the power and responsibility to transform society for the better, as they are governed by people.
I learnt recently that humans impact their circle of influence. Being in a business, you will impact the circle of your influence, which is the business. The business includes the employees, the stakeholders, shareholders, customers, suppliers, distributors or any other touchpoints any business might have.
What beliefs do you and your company have in relation to the current pandemic and the economic crisis it brings with it? In an article from the Board of Innovations, the authors examine the willingness of companies to innovate during crisis, reinvent themselves. Do you see the crisis as an opportunity or a limitation?
Limiting one's resources, believing in the limited capacity of one's actions, will result in an artificially small tree, even though the seed has the capacity to grow into a full grown tree.
Crisis is also a moment to reflect on the mission of your company. Maybe this is the moment to redefine your contribution to society. Feel free to read more about social businesses and its benefits towards our planet and our community.
Is your Country a Bonsai?
Whether you think you can, you think you can't, you're right. - Henry Ford
When I communicated my desire to one day join politics, due to my passion of creating a truly sustainable world in an economic, environmental and societal sense, many people had a response. The most common response, which was uttered by 100% of the people I shared my vision with, was this:
"Politics is dirty business."
"You have a good heart - you won't survive there. And if you will, you won't have a good heart anymore."
"To be in politics, you need to be ruthless."
Being opposed with such criticism, I wondered about the unanimity of this response. Why is it that literally everyone believes that? What is the power of this belief?
This god me thinking about the Bonsai Tree: We have a strong belief embedded in society, that politicians don't have honest intentions. We have the perception, which means, that we, as the voting society, have already made up our minds, on how this world is going to run.
What happens, if we have limiting beliefs in society, and they are so strong? Thinking of the Bonsai Tree and the Pygmalion Effect, they become true. Our beliefs become true.
Simon Sinek raised this question in an interview: Are our politicians a reflection of us? Are our politicians a mirror raised to us? Should we be the first to through stones? Or should we accept, that we get the politicians we deserve? And if we want them to change, maybe we need to change ourselves? Maybe we are the ones who are narcissistic? Maybe we are the ones who put our interests ahead of everyone else. Maybe instead of demanding that they change, maybe we should demand that we change.
Why do civilians think, that being in politics requires you to be ruthless, cold hearted, emotionless and rude? If we think that, guess what kind of people will be determined to join politics? Ruthless, manipulative and deceiving characters. Can we then blame politicians? Or do we need to look at ourselves?
It is so important that politicians are fully enlightened, as I like to call it, acting in line of their passion and having sincere intentions to better the world with their leadership skills. As already said, people impact their circle of influence. Politicians are humans as well, and they will impact their circle of influence. Their words matter. Their actions matter, because the entire country is watching.
To sum up
Whether you are responsible for yourself, for your business or for your country, know, that you impact your circle of influence. However big it is.
Limiting beliefs in yourself, within your business and in politics will turn to reality. Just like the Bonsai Tree tradition teaches us.
Forbes Magazine Article, written by Joy Burnford, collects five things we can do to shift limiting beliefs as follows:
Pause, stop and reflect If you feel fear or resistance about an activity, pause. Become aware that you’re in ‘low-mood thinking’.
Understand your thoughts are not the truth Write down your thoughts. Try and identify the stories or ‘lies’ you’re telling yourself. Understand that you created these ‘lies’ by giving meanings to events, but that they are not the truth about you.
Look for evidence Be aware that you have the power to turn your lies into truths by looking for evidence that is the opposite of your limiting beliefs.
Take back your power Stop blaming the outside world for your results. You alone are in command of your thoughts and your life. Feeling anxious or stressed is, simply the result of ‘low-mood thinking’. A thought is just a thought. A feeling is just a feeling. They are not the truth about you and they will pass.
Talk to someone about your limiting beliefs It may help to talk this through with someone else. If you want to change your old, limiting story and create new empowering beliefs about yourself, to live a life of flow and inspiration, seek out the help that you need to make this happen for you.
Do whatever is needed for you to be happy, for you to find your light. Do whatever is needed for you to understand the potential of your seed. And understand and be aware if you find yourself planting your seed in a small pot.
Don't be a Bonsai!
All the best to you!