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Sandy Says: Planting the Seeds of Change

May 7, 2014
This time of year, I’m often reminded that despite how things look, nothing is impossible to fix.

I'm a gardener. There honestly is nothing that makes me happier than being outside in the sunshine, digging in the dirt with my canine gardening assistants (aka "garden gnomes") sniffing around.

In February and March, I dream of springtime and the changes I’m going to make to the garden – things I’m going to move, give away, prune, plant. It's an exciting time for me, when I’m dreaming of the possibilities and can't wait to start working in the garden.

Then April comes, and I realize that plants have died, moved themselves, look like crap and are unrecognizable from last year. I find myself asking, is it a weed or a flower? I get depressed. Everything looks terrible, and I realize I have hours/days/weeks of work ahead of me. This is the depression stage, when I wonder why I thought it was a good idea to turn most of my yard into flower and herb beds. I spend a week or two sulking in the house, claiming it's too cold/windy/wet to go outside.

But right around the end of April, I start looking forward to working in the garden again. Little green shoots are coming up and I can recognize the plants and remember how much I enjoyed them the year before. Sure, spring cleanup is a lot of work, but I can see the results and, ultimately, the benefits.

This year, we had a brutal winter (near-record snowfall and cold). Everything looked dead and brown and lifeless, when it wasn't covered in a foot of snow. I lost a lot of plants. The best word to describe the garden was "dreary." That pretty much explains my attitude toward gardening as well.

Then, I sent an appeal out to my gardener friends and several of them offered to split their perennials like shasta daisies, lilies, irises, herbs and columbines; share seeds from unusual plants like blackberry lilies; and dig up "volunteer" lilac bushes, hydrangeas and raspberry bushes. My garden overfloweth!!

Once again, I'm happily digging in the dirt. Which is where I do some of my best thinking.

Yesterday, wrist-deep in dirt, I wondered how many safety and production projects have fallen by the wayside because the effort to start them seemed overwhelming. Too many moving parts, too great of a learning curve, too much money, too few resources … Whatever the reason, a lot of good ideas go nowhere because we're not sure how to cultivate them.

I know I’ve resisted projects that probably were good ideas because I didn't feel I was up to the task or because I already was feeling overwhelmed and couldn't imagine taking on one more responsibility.

How many have felt that way about an EHS project? It might be a good idea. It might be a great idea. But who has time for that, and where do you even start?

All too often, we allow ourselves to be stopped by seemingly impossible obstacles. Rather than source more creative versus more expensive ways to do something, we declare it a budget buster. Rather than look around to see who can implement a solution or new program, we claim we're too busy to do it. Rather than add a new project, we cling to timelines for existing projects, claiming there's no way to fit something new into the schedule.

I have to say, responding to new challenges that way makes our work life … dreary. Without new challenges and new projects, EHS programs and work in general becomes boring and lackluster. It's hard to work up enthusiasm in ourselves for it, let alone energize someone else.

Think of new initiatives and projects like I approached the flowers or vegetables in my garden. Some survived; some did not. Some I could do on my own; some required help from others. I had the resources for some; but some were given to me by others.

But new ideas are like gardens: You have to support them, feed them and encourage them. Eventually, you'll reap the benefits. Your world will be brighter, and your soul will be fed.

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