Our family enjoys a beautiful indoor potted plant that has been with us for over three decades. It has accompanied us through tough years and good times. It has lived with us in six different communities. Some days I think it may live forever, but it once died.
The plant did well for about twenty years, but then began to sag and discolor. We watered it. We fed it. We coddled it. We even talked to it. But leaves and branches drooped lower each day as its life slowly ebbed away. We finally plucked a few half-dead leaves, re-rooted them in a jar of water and planted them in a small pot.
The new small plant grew strong and healthy. But the original finally died. When we dug it out of its ceramic pot we could see why – its roots were a tangle of knots. They had grown so massive they threatened to burst the sides of the pot that held them in. Our once-beautiful plant died because it outgrew its environment – it became root-bound.
People, too, can become root-bound. When they are committed to personal growth and development, when they make the kinds of changes in their lives that lead to greater fulfillment and happiness, they often discover they have outgrown their environment.
I know of a man who was offered a job at a salary higher than he had ever made in his life. But after careful consideration, he declined the position.
His would-be employer was amazed that he turned down the offer. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Isn’t the salary big enough?”
“The salary is fine,” the man said. “It’s the job that’s not big enough.”
At one time he could have happily done the work and enjoyed the money. But he knew now the job would not challenge him and he’d eventually become dissatisfied. He would feel root-bound.
The problem was that he had changed. He had out-grown the job that was offered.
People interested in change and personal development need larger and larger environments in which to live. Their views expand. Their perspectives broaden. Their interests change. They seek bigger challenges. And they need people in their lives who will make room for their growth.
As you grow in these ways, you may discover that you’ve become root-bound. As Bob Dylan sings, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” My plant was busy dying. If your new-found growth causes you to push against the old ways, you may need to realize you are bigger now and accommodate those changes.
It’s not uncommon to become root-bound. It happens when you’re busy being born. It just means it’s time for a new pot.