How To Improve Your Life And Lives of Others Long-Term: The “Plant a Tree” Method

The question I am obsessed about is, “How can we live a life we love?”

Granted, the internet offers a plethora of tools and tips, ranging from the basic to the unconventional. But I am obsessed with creating a user-friendly system—a daily checklist of actions we can take to live a life we love. One of the things very high on the checklist is a method I call “Plant a Tree.”

While other actions are focused on improving your life now or in a short period, Plant a Tree uses the principle of compounding interest to create a massive change to your life or the lives of others in the long-term horizon. What is it, how it works, and—crucially—how can you harness the benefits of this method? Let’s find out.

How Planting a Tree Method Improves Our Lives

Did you ever—being caught in a storm—hid under a tree to shield yourself from the onslaught of pouring water?

First, it’s not the best idea, especially if the tree is the singular tall object in the vicinity, as it can attract lightning. That can be dangerous.

But that set apart, you harvested the benefit of the Plant a Tree method. If that tree hadn’t started growing years ago, you would have no tree to hide under. When the tree first started to grow, it was nothing to look at. It took years for it to grow into a size where you could not break it with bare hands anymore. And at that time, it still couldn’t give you sanctuary from rain or sunshine.

But years later, it all changed. If that tree wasn’t planted by you, you reaped a benefit from someone else’s job. If that tree was planted by you, you reaped the benefits of work you did decades ago. This, in a nutshell, is the idea behind the Plant a Tree method.

Do something today that will benefit you or others in 10-20 years’ time.

Creating something that will not benefit you in the moment but has the potential for an immense impact 10-20 years later might seem silly, especially as you get older. What is the point if you will not see any benefit for decades? Well, take a look at Majuli islander Jadav Payeng, known as the “Forest Man of India.”

The Man Who Planted Trees And Changed Lives

In 1979, Majuli, the world’s largest river island, faced a devastating future. Deforestation caused land erosion and threatened the lives of all. Jadav Payeng decided to change it. Starting with a single bamboo sapling, he began planting trees on barren sandbars along the Brahmaputra River. For thirty years, despite numerous challenges, he planted a tree after tree which led to the creation of the “Molai Forest,” covering over 1,360 acres. This lush ecosystem not only protects the island from erosion but also provides a home to diverse wildlife. His story was shared worldwide, inspiring environmental conservation efforts. A simple man, two hands, and a long-term vision changed the dire outlook into a vibrant life.

Jadav Payeng’s journey from a single sapling to a thriving forest stands as a testament to the impact of one person’s dedication. It shows that the actions we take today, whether they benefit us immediately or not, can shape a better future for ourselves and generations to come. That’s where the Plant a Tree method comes from.

The Plant a Tree Principle

The essence of the Plant a Tree method lies in doing something today that will improve life for you and/or others in 10-20 years’ time, and beyond.

It involves sowing the seeds of change today, knowing that growth takes time, and understanding that not every tree will flourish. Yet, those that do will yield tremendous benefits. Imagine planting a single tree like Jadav Payeng did. Initially, it may seem insignificant, much like any daily action that doesn’t yield immediate results. However, over time, these individual actions accumulate, much like the growth of a forest or an orchard.

The principle here is encapsulated in the Biblical verse:

“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well”
Ecclesiastes 11:6 NIV

Build a Legacy for Future Generations

We live in an age where we’re constantly bombarded with messages of “Me, me, me,” often forgetting the value of “we” and the generational, long-term approach. Incorporating the “Plant a Tree” method into our day-to-day life shifts our perspective and not only enhances our own well-being but also leaves a lasting legacy. You may not ever reap the harvest or sit in the shadow of the tree you planted, but you may rest assured that someone else will.

Your actions today will affect other people long time after you’re gone.
Would they affect them positively?

Balancing Immediate and Long-Term Actions for Best Impact

While the Plant a Tree method encourages long-term thinking, it’s important to strike a balance in life by also focusing on

actions with immediate and short-term results. Every tree planted represents an investment in the future, but it should complement the actions you take to improve your life today. Incorporating the Plant a Tree method into your life means embracing a mindset that values the continuity of life, recognizing the significance of actions that may not bear fruit today but will grow into something extraordinary over time. It is not intended to replace the focus on addressing today’s challenges; instead, it complements them.

So, as you outline your daily actions and establish your goals, remember to incorporate actions with immediate impact, but also bear in mind the wisdom of planting a tree—it’s the forest, the orchard, the cumulative effect of repeated actions that truly creates long-lasting results beyond imagination. To discover more on this topic you can check out an article How To Set a Balance Between Different Types of Actions Across All Life Areas.

How you can use the Plant a Tree method to improve your life or the lives of others

Since I am not an expert on your life, I cannot give you an exact blueprint. You have to decide what is the best “tree” for you to plant based on your circumstances. But based on my own example, I can show you what to think about when you make your decision.

The crucial ingredient for making a sound decision is having a life vision—knowing yourself, your purpose, your values, and your mission.

Jadav Payeng’s vision was to save his island from erosion damage. That’s why he started planting the trees.
For me, the life vision is to live the life I love and to help other people do the same. That’s why I started the Tree of Life Quest.

And that’s why I made my commitment to write an article for the ToLQ website every day. It may not yield instant rewards, but they will bear fruit over time. In my case, six years of writing until 2030 will result in 2,190 articles—a digital orchard of resources that will bring benefits to hundreds of thousands of people year after year long after I will be gone.

The ‘Plant a Tree’ action I’ve chosen—writing an article every day—aligns with my identity, it’s something I love to do, it gives me energy, and it’s aligned with my mission to help people unlock their true potential and live an authentic life. That’s what you should look for when selecting your own “tree to plant.” The action you decide to take should:

  • express who you are,
  • be something you like to do,
  • be aligned with your values and mission,
  • and the process and the goal should give you energy.

What is it going to be? Comment below; I would love to hear it.

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