As the twig is bent the tree inclines. – Virgil
What does that mean?
This quote is about the path one takes in life. Lessons learned early, when we are but twigs, will impact our future, or how the tree inclines. Another way to look at it is in terms of trajectory.
Absent any wind, once you launch a rock or an arrow, it will fly on the course set at the beginning. The biggest changes in the path it follows will be set at the very beginning.
Even things with guidance, like airplanes or rockets, start out in a particular direction. The longer they go in one direction, the more difficult it is to change the ultimate destination.
Ultimately, this quote is about children, and how they are raised. If they are raised “correctly,” they will do well in their society. If they are allowed to misbehave from the beginning, it will be much harder to correct their behavior later in life.
Why is early correction important?
The obvious answer is that the longer you wait, the tougher it is to get to where you are going. As an example, if you are heading exactly away from where you want to go, the longer you wait, the longer it will take to get back to the start, much less to your destination.
If you are in school, when should you start working on a project? Should you wait until the night before, and risk doing it wrong, or should you start before that, and get a course correction by talking to the teacher? It’s easier to change course early in the project, right?
Similarly, the quote implies, it’s easier to break a small child of the habit of lying than it would be if you waited until they were a teen or an adult. The patterns they form early on in their life will be the pattern they will follow the rest of their life.
It is always possible to change course, but it takes more effort the longer it is left to grow in the bent form. Have you ever seen a young tree which had blown over, then regrown? We have one in our front yard. It is a mess, having grown from the leaned-over state. Not good, but it’s too late to fix it now.
Where can I apply this in my life?
While the quote is specifically about children, it can be applied to almost anything in our lives. Is your present job all that you wanted? When would be a good time to correct that? What about your vacation? Were you on the correct road headed the correct direction? Or did you need to correct it?
The more important things are life-long activities. Where do you stand regarding the virtues of your culture or region? How difficult would it be to change your path, to un-bend the tree? How much easier would it have been to make that change when you were just a twig?
Our jobs, or careers, is another place where sooner is better than later when fixing our path. What about a bad personal relationship? When would be a good time to change your path and get out? Would sooner be better than later? This would include romantic mismatches as well, right?
Where in your life do you feel you are headed a little (or even a lot) off course? Where are you bent and leaning the wrong direction? What happened? Take a moment and thing through a few of these parts of your life. It might not be pleasant, but it won’t get better without effort, right?
The realization that you aren’t getting where you want is only part of the issue. You need to figure out why you are reluctant to change course, to try something else, or to otherwise straighten your tree. Is there fear, or is your reluctance based on something else? If so, what is it?
Simply trying to change by willpower is a noble effort, but rather likely to fail. As soon as your energy or will drops, that void will be filled by the same things which are holding you back right now. And as you may have noticed, they’re not the easiest things to be rid of, or you would have done so already.
Take one issue in your life, and think it through. Brainstorm what you can do to find a path which leads you back towards your goal. What can you do to straighten out the tree? It is possible, even if it may be difficult. But you have to believe you can do it, and that it is worth the effort.
And please take a moment to consider what you will do the next time you have a decision to make. Every decision bends the tree a little bit. If you start making decisions which bend you back towards where you want to be, you will get closer. And that’s a good start.
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/v/virgil121127.html
Photo by Stuart Heath
- The Battered Tree (unlockingthesoul.wordpress.com)
- Understanding and Loving our Children – Quote from Thich Nhat Hanh (transitionstande.wordpress.com)
- Rich McGourty and Catherine Savage: On Professional Development – “As the Twig is Bent” (vantageleadership.wordpress.com)
- If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree. (philosiblog.com)