What I Learned While Mowing the Yard

What I Learned While Mowing the Yard - 4 principles for reaching goals

A few weeks ago, I decided to surprise my husband when he came home from work.

No, no. It was nothing romantic and didn’t even involve his favorite meal.

What brings a smile to my man’s face and a “Wow, honey!” to his lips?

Our yard—freshly cut.

That’s right. I mowed the yard.

Now, I’m no stranger to mowing the yard. I grew up on a farm where our yard was three huge grassy areas. I have mowed my share of yards. I have logged my time on mowers—both riding and push.

But it’s been oh, several years now that I’ve done yard work. And it’s sort of an understatement to say that I’m out of shape.

These realities did nothing, however, to quell my zest for getting work done! For surprising my hubby! For feeling productive!

The first half hour of mowing the yard in the 90 degree heat was riddled with pain and misery. I clobbered my ankle as I was retrieving the mower from its storage place. I pushed and pulled and heaved the mower through the backyard grass. Sweat poured down my forehead and started to sting my eyes. The mower died once. Twice. Three times. Oh, my goodness, what is wrong with this machine?

And then the world almost started spinning as my arms, legs, and back were aching from the unfamiliar twists and turns.

I turned off the mower and walked as quickly as possible into the house, afraid that I may pass out before I got inside. My heart was pounding in my ears, I was breathless, and hot and sweaty. I collapsed on the bed with a giant cup of ice water.

And I lay there guzzling water, wiping my brow, and breathing deeply. I know I’ve been out there for like an hour, I thought.

Uh, no. It had been all of 20 minutes.

So, I lay there and wondered what to do.

Quit? Yea, I should quit. But I didn’t feel like giving up just yet.

OK. I can at least finish the back yard. And I’ll rest here until I believe I’m ready.

Hey. I’ve got all day.

And so, the rest of the mowing went like that. Several rest and water breaks. As I worked, I set small goals for myself: I’ll finish this little patch and then I’ll rest. I thought of my 75 year-old neighbor who mows and landscapes several times a week. No way, I’m letting that old man beat me! I’ve got a master’s degree! I’ve birthed three children! I’ve survived post-partum depression! I can mow this yard!

I worked little by little, taking it slowly and pushing through the obstacles. I got sore arms, tired legs, and nasty blisters on my fingers. The heat was brutal, and I was soaking wet. The mower would die and I would revive it. Or I’d let it rest and come back later.

I discovered that early on I hadn’t been using the self-propelled feature (no wonder I was struggling), but once I learned my tool, the work became easier.

Oh, I even lost my sunglasses. But that didn’t deter me, either. I found an old hat and carried on.

And guess what?

I finished the yard!

And it was beautiful and my husband was surprised and pleased.

As I was thinking on this day, I realized that my lawn mowing experience is no different than any other goal we set:

  1. Obstacles will stand in our way of finishing what we start. Sometimes, you may need to rest, recalibrate,  or recharge. With a new perspective and renewed energy, confront them head on.
  2. You only fail if you quit. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re making progress. Every little bit contributes to the larger goal. Keep going. Take as long as you need.
  3. The more you work at your goal, the more you’ll learn about the tools with which you are working and the better you’ll become at using them. You’ll learn how to compensate and improvise when something goes wrong, doesn’t turn out as you expect, or distracts you from the task at hand.
  4. If a 75-year-old man can do it, so can you! You’re probably not the first to tackle what you’re after and you probably won’t be the last. In a real sense, it’s not rocket science. Others have blazed the trail. Learn from them, use them for motivation, and follow in their footsteps.

I’m not sure when I’ll be mowing the yard again. But I do know that I can do it.

And I know that it’s a great motivator for accomplishing other goals, too.

Photo Credit: GmanViz via Compfight cc