Your mind is like a garden

Your thoughts are the seeds

You can grow flowers

Or you can grow weeds

                                  – Unknown

At least three people have been given credit for the little poem above. To whomever said it first, I thank you. It’s both clever and wise, and makes a good point about caring for the mind. It takes only a little imagination to realize that the seeds are thoughts, the flowers are positive words and actions, and the weeds are negative words and actions.

As clever as the poem is, it leaves out two important elements of caring for the mind. First, where do the seeds (thoughts) come from? Are you putting in any old seeds that are available, seeds that someone else forces on you, or seeds that you’ve carefully selected? Thoughts don’t just happen. They’re the result of what you allow into your processor.

Secondly, even if you select the healthiest seeds possible, they need to be nourished regularly. And you have to keep the weeds (negative words and actions) out. This requires constant care. 

There’s another writer who compared the mind to a garden. His name was James Allen (1864-1912). His short book, As A Man Thinketh, written in 1903, is considered a classic. Popular authors of the past, such as Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking) and Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) were greatly influenced by Allen’s book. Many successful business leaders of the 20th Century praise Allen for his work. And modern-day success coach Tony Robbins claims it as his favorite and most influential book.

Allen wrote the book in what we call olde English. Notice that he said thinketh rather than thinks. I’ve read this little gem many times over the years, so I’m going to take the liberty to put his overall theme into modern-day English. Here are his main points:

• A person’s mind has some similarities with a garden.

• It can be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild.

• Whether cultivated or neglected it will produce results.

• If no useful seeds (positive information) are put into it, weeds (negative information) will take it over.

• You have to put good seeds in, nourish them on a regular basis, and keep the weeds out. It needs good care.

We reap what we sow

This is yet another way of saying GIGO, whether you’re referring to garbage or good. Let’s first clarify two more old-fashioned words. Sow means plant, or what you put in. Reap means harvest, or what you get later. Sow a good lemon seed, and care for it, you’ll reap a good lemon tree. Many people are familiar with it because it’s in the Bible. Actually, the concept of sowing and reaping goes back a lot further. It was considered to be a natural law of the universe, often called karma or the Tao. Ancient teachers like Buddha, Confucius, and others believed that being good puts us in harmony with nature. They taught that goodness leads to individual happiness and a peaceful society. 

I do believe reading positive, uplifting,

inspiring information every day has

made me a better person. Not better 

than another person, just better than 

I was before. It’s the opposite of my

professor’s admonition of “Garbage 

in, Garbage out.” philosophy.

                – Jennifer Ledet, Ledet Management

Anyone can broadcast happiness

      I learned that we are all broadcasters,

      and by changing the stories we transmit,

      we can create positive change. We do it

    by broadcasting happiness.

  – Michelle Gielan

    Author, Broadcasting Happiness

Michelle Gielan is another person who has conducted extensive research in the field of positive psychology. She was in the mainstream news media for five years. The bad news eventually wore her down. She’s now devoted to doing the opposite: spreading good news and helping others do the same. She urges people in all walks of life to share the positive, and believes strongly that anyone can do it.

Michelle suggests we start every kind of communication with something positive. Some of those different types of encounters are talking to a friend in person or on the phone, writing an email or text, starting any type of meeting, conversing with a customer of your business, talking to family members, meeting a person who is new to you, even writing a report. Getting things off to a positive start sets the tone for the conversation in each situation. 

Michelle says it all starts with changing our outlook. She calls it refocusing our attention. If we don’t see the good around us, it won’t be in our minds, and it won’t be what we talk about. If we let our natural tendencies rule us we’ll be far more likely to talk about what’s wrong instead of what’s right. What comes out of our mouths is usually the result what got our attention and landed in our minds. Look for the good. When you find it share it with someone.

Excerpts from The Power of Good News: FEEDING YOUR MIND WITH WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOUR HEART, Published by Berrett-Koehler. May 11, 2021


  • Hal Urban

    Teacher - Author - Speaker

    Hal was an award-winning teacher at both the high school and university levels for 36 years. He is the author of eight books and has spoken more than a thousand times in 44 states and Washington D.C. He has also made more than 40 international presentations. Hal's primary interests and speaking topics focus on good character, mental health, the impact of positive words, the power of good news, and great teaching.