Permission to Flourish
It seemed poignant to me that I saw this sign whilst taking a walk in the bright winter sunshine of Boxing Day, the traditional day of giving a ‘Christmas box’ or present. It struck me, in particular, since it was about twenty-four hours since the death of George Michael, the latest in a long list of brilliantly talented people who have passed away this year and who have enriched the lives of millions by sharing their gifts.
I am not given to sentimentality usually, but the request not to pick the flowers got me thinking and making connections. What happens if we pick the flowers? The phrase ‘nip it in the bud’ came to mind. With its roots in horticulture, the term has come to mean the act of destroying or halting something in its early stages of development. That something is typically unwanted, so the potential problem is nipped in the bud before it fully develops.
I wonder though, how are we judging problem? If we think of this in terms of behaviour, by which book of rules are we classifying problem? Is it a problem simply because we cannot tolerate it, or because somehow it goes against societal norms? How do we know that what we see as a problem is not raw talent urgently trying to burst out? What happens if we nip that potential in the bud and prevent it blossoming?
I was reminded of an experience a few days earlier when I went to see Billy Elliot, a musical set against the harsh reality of the miner’s strike in the 1980’s, and celebrating the power of individuality. Billy, a young boy who wants to dance is forced to push against the culture of his upbringing to follow his passion. He succeeds with the help of a teacher who sees his potential, nurtures his enthusiasm and encourages him to focus his energy on pursuing his dream against constraining forces surrounding him.
What would have happened if David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood, Prince, Mohamed Ali, Caroline Ahern and Terry Wogan had not had their chance to flourish? What if their individuality had been nipped in the bud? The loss of these and others this year has been keenly felt by many and yet their legacy lives on.
Picking the flowers would have prevented that. There would be no legacy to inspire others. Nipping their talent in the bud would have prevented the potential for flowers in the future at all.
In her speech on Christmas Day, the Queen reminded us that we don’t need medals or celebrity to be special. It is the act of ordinary people that makes great things happen in the world every day. Everyone has great potential within them and yet it often goes unseen or is pushed down for fear of not being accepted or understood because its expression comes in a different shape than others. It takes courage to stand out and be yourself but it is a risk worth taking.
Whether you have a talent for thoughtfulness, for carefully deliberating all the risks before taking action, or an ability to feel what others feel or a gift for making things happen, embrace it. Most of all notice the difference in others, especially those that frustrate you. What you notice might just be raw talent trying to emerge. Resisting it or trying to nip what we don’t understand in the bud might cause potential brilliance to fade and wither, never having the chance to grow and thrive.
So, please don’t pick the flowers. Instead, get curious, seek understanding, celebrate and nurture the difference, whether it’s inside of you or in others. Give yourself and others permission to flourish. See what emerges. It might surprise you.