We are very inexperienced gardeners over here but we recently grew Golden Arch Zucchinis in our back yard (see photo). Experimenting and learning along the way has brought as much joy as the vegies themselves. These zucchinis were planted from seeds and as we watered and watched and watered and watched they grew, and grew. Temptation and impatience saw us pick a few fabulous, tasty specimens early on but the rest we patiently waited for. When we thought they looked as though they had reached full maturity my children harvested with glee. All washed and proud they sat on the kitchen bench as we began the preparations for a big zucchini bake off.

For the more experienced gardener, one look at the photo above and you can probably already see our fate. The big beautiful golden arches were virtually inedible. Unlike our delicate early pickings, these were more like pumpkins than zucchinis – woody and seedy at their core with a very tough skin. So despite our tender efforts we learned a very valuable gardening lesson. Bigger is not necessarily better.

And that got me thinking about life and some other little lessons I have been pondering lately…

I recently spoke with a client who landed a huge business deal – something he had worked long and hard to achieve, and when I asked if he was pleased that it was now all in the bag his response surprised me, and yet didn’t. He expressed feeling pleased for having won the hard earned deal and yet somewhat apprehensive about now having to actually do the work as an outcome.

Now global business deals are not my specialty but I have certainly experienced my own humble version of this scenario and I understand what it is like to feel overwhelmed and even unsure by a project coming to fruition. For my client, thinking big and aiming high is a well trodden path that has brought him much success.He has developed a sturdy resilience to the stress that comes with facing risk and making big decisions. However for many the stress of aiming high and swallowing the consequences may cost us our health as we see with the rising rate of autoimmune diseases, obesity and mood disorders. So can we consider not striving for the stars? Do we always need to live BIG or can we allow ourselves to be satisfied with a quieter life, at least some of the time? Do we always need to follow through on a great idea? Do we owe this to the world? And what do we owe ourselves?

To my mind these are complicated and personal questions, though I am sure there are some goal mentors or accountability buddies out there who feel differently. I think this questioning is worthwhile. Being goal driven and success oriented is potentially creating more anxiety than happiness and our health and wellbeing are being adversely affected as a consequence. It is not that I believe in avoiding stress at all costs. Not at all. I do however believe that we need to be selective about how we spend our life energy and resources, and we need to know when to slow down rather than power ahead.

So if you feel life is getting too big and becoming unruly, beware. Some large, overindulged zucchinis once taught me that more is not always more, and bigger on the outside is not always better on the inside. Life is about the quality of the experience and not about the size of our achievements. We need to stay mindful of our internal state as we take on challenges, and remain sensitive to signs of conflict within. Should you keep striving regardless and ignore these warning signs you may find that your life ends up with a tough skin, an abundance of yellow warts and a woody interior that can only produce soup with so many little hard bits that you can’t enjoy it.