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There are very few things that can diminish one’s motivation more than putting in hard work and then seeing no results.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, bring up your grades, or gain some recognition in your career, when the results of your hard work are not apparent, it can be tempting to throw in the towel.
A lot of people are motivated by the results that they see, which means that making measurable progress helps push them to keep working hard.
This makes sense in our quick-fix society. We want instant solutions to complex problems. We’re accustomed to one-click purchases and same-day delivery—and getting what we want when we want it.
Quick fixes are immediately satisfying and noticing a difference right away makes us feel like we’re making progress.
Change is never easy. Signs of progress and personal growth can be slow, frustrating, and even unrewarding. But today, we are going to take a look at the parable of the Chinese bamboo tree, which can help restore patience, conviction, determination, and human potential.
In this article, we will start by summarizing the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree and then we will delve into 5 success lessons you can take away from this story.
Let’s get started.
Most seeds germinate within two weeks of planting them–and, when planted in the right conditions, they sprout within a month and can be enjoyed within one season. However, the Chinese bamboo tree grows a little differently.
Like other plants, this tree requires care– water, healthy soil, and sun. However, in its first year, there are no visible signs of growth. In fact, in the second year there are no visible signs of growth either. And in the fourth year, the one who planted the tree will still be looking for evidence of life.
This can leave someone wondering if their efforts to care for this plant are being wasted. One’s patience may be tested when the plant fails to sprout after so many years. But suddenly, in the fifth year of caring for this plant, something amazing happens–it grows up to 80 feet within just six weeks.
Some may wonder if the Chinese bamboo tree lays dormant before growing so much in a short period of time, but the truth is, if the person caring for the Chinese bamboo tree stopped nurturing it through all of those years, the roots of the tree would have died in the ground.
Without the foundation that the tree was growing throughout all of those years, it couldn’t have sustained life or grown into the solid plant that it becomes when it is mature.
This same principle is true when it comes to success. It takes a long time to develop character, overcome challenges, and establish the solid foundation that is required to attain success. It’s the work going on “behind the scenes” that strengthens us and prepares us to face hurdles down the road.
So let’s look at the relationship between the Chinese bamboo tree and success by reviewing 5 lessons you can take away from this story.
When it comes to being successful, people often prefer the path of least resistance. Get-rich-quick schemes are a part of our culture. But those who become truly successful–from famous athletes, CEOs, inventors, to scientists–have proven that success doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s important to understand that foundational work that leads to success takes time, and its influence is often invisible.
It takes many years of trial and error to achieve meaningful goals. Even when you dedicate a lot of time and hard work toward achieving your goals, it doesn’t mean that you will see results right away. Many work on their goals for a few days or weeks, and if they don’t see the results they want, they quit or move onto another project.
But if you aren’t dedicated to your work, time will pass and you won’t see any difference in your progress. It’s nearly impossible to create something perfect overnight or without some trial and error–and if this does happen, it’s probably due to luck. But you can’t rely on luck to achieve your goals.
You need to allow yourself time to make mistakes on your journey to success. As you navigate your mistakes, you’ll be getting closer and closer to success because you will be improving through the lessons you’ve learned.
It takes the Chinese bamboo tree four years to grow and develop its root system so it can ultimately stand strong and have the support it needs to hold the tree’s weight above ground once it sprouts.
The solid foundation gives the tree the strength, durability, and flexibility that is required for it to survive in harsh conditions for years to come. Without this foundation, the tree could grow from the beginning like other plants do, but it wouldn’t be able to grow as tall or live as long without the deep roots that flourish.
The same is true with life. In order to achieve long-term success, develop strong relationships, and get what you want out of life, you need to build a solid foundation first, which includes elements such as your values, character, and your vision for the future. With a strong infrastructure, you will be able to achieve what you want.
These foundational elements will be your guiding light when you’re facing hardships or uncertainty. You can reference your vision every day to make sure you’re always on the right track, and you can always trust your values to guide you in the right direction.
But how do you establish your foundation? You first need to discover your values, and then make the right choices when it comes to the most basic things in life, such as being trustworthy, keeping your promises, and aligning your values with your actions.
With this in mind, consider what you may need to stop doing or bad habits that you need to break. On the other hand, recognize your positive habits that you need to continue. Finally, contemplate some things that you may need to start doing to help nurture your success.
Foundational attributes that lead to long-term success include:
These factors are invisible–just as the roots are in the Chinese bamboo tree– and they have to be deliberately considered and constructed to establish a platform to drive your behaviors, habits, and decisions.
As the saying goes, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” When it comes to success, you can’t rush for results–you just need to be consistent.
Consistency leads to habits, which eventually has a big impact on your productivity and performance. Your life is shaped by the things you do on a regular basis, and the actions that you take will either lead you to success or hold you back.
Your daily habits are more important than the things you do once in a while. If you’re trying to lose weight, you won’t get the body you want by exercising once a week. You have to be consistent with your workout routine and exercise on a regular basis.
This is why consistency is important, and a lot of people don’t achieve their goals because they’re inconsistent with their efforts.
Without consistently nurturing the bamboo tree, it will never grow. You can’t just water the seed every now and then or whenever you feel like it–it won’t reach its potential and you will likely kill it.
So don’t stop working toward your goals on a regular basis. Keep putting in the consistent effort that is required to succeed. It is your daily actions that matter, not the things you do once in a while.
Because your hard work won’t pay off right away, trust is a huge factor in success. You need to trust that your consistency and dedication will pay off. If you keep doing the right thing, the results will eventually follow.
While there is no guarantee for success, as long as you stay on the right path and continue to work toward your goals, you will keep learning and improving. You need to be able to let go and have faith that things will work out in time.
Just like the bamboo tree, trust that your success will bloom and focus on creating process goals to help you get there. As long as you’re working hard, the future will pay off. The road to success requires faith, devotion, and discipline.
You have to invest in your success by nurturing it. Consider your goals to be living things. The process of pursuing your dreams is both active and engaging. Nurture your dreams as you would nurture the environment in which a Chinese bamboo tree would prosper.
If you start by planting your goals in a mind that is full of negativity and doubt, its roots won’t grow, just as a plant wouldn’t grow in an unhealthy environment. You must maintain a positive and healthy mindset to prepare yourself for the work ahead of you.
Just as a growing tree requires proper sun, water, and sustenance, your dreams have needs as well. In order to grow, you need inspiration, resources, motivation, determination, knowledge, accountability, and the right mindset.
You also need to surround yourself with positive and encouraging people who will support you in working towards accomplishing your goals.
Create a strategy and plan for success. Your mental environment needs to be devoid of distractions or other factors that aren’t helping you achieve the life that you want.
GIve your goals the room that they may need to grow. By focusing on growth and continuous learning, you will gain new ideas along the way and recognize ways that you can improve your strategy. You may need to spend some time weeding out anything that isn’t working the way you had planned.
By nurturing and caring for your dreams, they will eventually come to fruition.
The Chinese bamboo tree is the perfect metaphor for our experience with personal growth and success. While signs of progress can be slow, and evidence of personal growth may not be apparent, persistence makes success worth the wait, as your growth spurt may be on the horizon.
We all want the fastest, easiest ways to succeed. We want to find the pill, book, or program that will make everything right overnight. But these solutions are not sustainable, and often can only hold things together until a long-term solution is found.
Keep the lessons learned from the Chinese bamboo tree story in mind next time you’re feeling frustrated with your lack of apparent progress. And if you need some extra motivation along the way, check out this article on the science of achievement through motivation.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.