An Idea for Tu B’Shevat – Maybe Even an Original One?

Posted on March 1, 2012


I’ve just finished writing a lengthy email to a friend about a project we are working on. It’s hitting a rough spot at the moment. Of course, that moment is an inopportune time. That’s how life seems to work. But it got me thinking about goals and dreams and how to keep track of them over time.
So today is Tu B’Shevat. The Jewish holiday of trees. There are plenty of traditions surrounding this holiday, as there are for all Jewish holidays. But since I’m not well versed in most of them, I’m proposing a new one. Or maybe it’s just new to me. I can live with that.

Oh…and there is no requirement to be Jewish or to even start today. Here it goes:

We all have a dream of what our life will be. That dream or vision changes as time passes. And while we are aware of time passing, it is often because of what we witness around us, and not because we feel any differently or because we see the world in a radically different way.

Parents of teenagers know this all too well. For the first time in their lives or ours, we can look them straight in the eyes. Some of us have to look up at them! But they are still our little kids. Look back at photos from two years ago and you’ll be reminded of their cute soft faces. How has time moved to quickly? But even worse…I only have another year or two until they graduate high school? Where did the time go?

Unlike children, trees tend to stay in one place for a very long time. They too grow at a seemingly imperceptible rate. But every now and again you notice that they are much larger than you remember them being just last year.

Since we can count on trees to stay in one place, they seem ideal to help us monitor our goals and dreams. Here’s how.
Go out and buy a tree. I recommend a fruit tree, but so long as it has a multiple main branches, it will be fine. Plant it in a place where it will be able to grow and mature and where you will be able to notice it on a regular basis. Once in the ground, have a picture taken of you and your tree–no selfies. Be creative! You can hug it, if that’s your style.

Make a list of your most important goals and dreams. What are some of the key steps you need to take to make them happen? Write them down too.

Buy yourself a bunch of plastic (or metal) tags that you can attach to your tree. They can all be the same style and size, but again…be creative! Write each goal on its own tag. Then write the major steps you will need to take to make that goal or dream come true on additional tags. Use one tag per step. Put today’s date on the goal tag, and the date you expect to meet each step on the associated tag. If you don’t know the individual steps to take, don’t’ worry about it. Just make a tag for the goal.

Attach each goal tag to a different main branch of your tree. Put the step tags on the smaller branches that are growing off the main branches. When you are done, each dream or goal will have its own branch.

Over time you will want to check on your goals and your tree. Some of the branches will grow faster than others. Some will need to be pruned back or be damaged by the weather, disease, or kids climbing on them. That’s life.

Every year on Tu B’Shevat, take a picture with your tree. Pay attention to how it has grown. Check up on your goals and dreams. See which branches have grown out of reach, and which are producing fruit or flowers. Maybe you’ll find that some goals have been accomplished, while others don’t seem nearly as important. But there will likely be those you wish you had the opportunity to tend to a bit more. Try to do so before next year. Or the next year…or whenever you can.