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The Best Time to Plant a Tree

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

We all know the benefits of trees… they give us oxygen, provide food, look beautiful and they absorb those pesky greenhouse gasses. With this knowledge you’d expect everyone to be planting trees wherever they could, but we don’t. So, what’s stopping us?

Common responses might sound like; “I don’t have time”, “It takes effort”, “I’ve tried before and failed” or “I wouldn’t know where to start”. You might think these are valid excuses for a tree, but would you let these reasons stand between yourself and a goal you wanted to achieve?

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

Trees are often used as a metaphor for life, but this quote particularly emphasises the importance of motivation and being proactive.

An established tree that's been planted.

Take yourself back to 2002. How did you dream your life would look like today? Do you find yourself wishing that you’d done things differently? Applied for that promotion? Remained calmer in a conflict? It is easy to give undue attention to the missed opportunities and find yourself wallowing in self-pity but you still have time. So, bring yourself back to today. How do you imagine your situation will look like in 10 years time? What can you do to achieve that? And why aren’t you starting now?

Perhaps there is a legitimate reason that now isn’t the right time. After all, planting seeds in May can cause the tree to topple over, as the stems start growing before the plant’s roots are strong enough to support it, preventing it from reaching its’ full potential. The good news is your goal (probably) isn’t a real plant! If the opportunity isn’t available right now, use this time to plan so you can have strong roots when the time comes. Help yourself by:

1) Discussing your goals with others

You are more likely to plant that seed if you discuss your goal with people you respect. (1) Furthermore, they may have useful ideas to help you achieve them so allow others to share their opinion and contribute to your success.

2) Creating the right environment

Plants can’t grow without sunshine so practice mindfulness and be kind to yourself, particularly when tackling setbacks. You’ll inevitably encounter challenges along the way so try and anticipate them in advance so you can be more prepared.

3) Maintaining Motivation

You can’t water your plant once and expect it to thrive, find what will help you grow and practice this regularly. Review your goals and progress frequently, this is a great motivator and can help you smoothly adapt to changes.

4) Rewarding yourself

Enjoy the fruits of your labour! You can train the subconscious mind to increase persistence in long term goals by rewarding smaller achievements. (2) When you complete your goal, look back and delight in the satisfaction that success brings.

“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.” — William Wordsworth

You can control your future, so dream big! The sooner you plant the tree the sooner it can blossom.


Woolley, K. and Fishbach, A., 2016. For the fun of it: Harnessing immediate rewards to increase persistence in long-term goals. Journal of Consumer Research, 42(6), pp.952-966.

Klein, H. J., Lount, R. B., Jr., Park, H. M., & Linford, B. J. (2020). When goals are known: The effects of audience relative status on goal commitment and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(4), pp.372–389.


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