What's Your Sweet Spot?

"An Ant on the move does more than a dozing Ox" - Lao Tzu
The ants go marching on and on

One of my favorite jaunts every morning is to wander around my garden enjoying the dew and sweet smell of the plants. The flowers are fresh and shimmering in the early sun.  Everything is slowly coming alive and ready to face the day. Mornings are also the best time for me to hunt for bugs or rodents that have busy over the nighttime hours.
This week during my wanderings, I was taken aback by the hoard of tiny marching ants on one of my weeping white pines. It was apparent that it was a party that I hadn’t been invited to. Usually the ants are in the hundreds of ant hills hidden on our sandy ground or lounging on my Peony plants. I quickly discovered that the star of the party was two hanging pine cones dripping with sweet sticky sap. The ants had found their “sweet spot” 

When most of us think about ants on the plants we think of beautiful Peony plants that open with a large display of color. Ants are notorious for scrambling all over the flower buds and there’s an active myth out there that the Peony flowers need ants in order to open and bloom. Not true by the way. The ants are there for the sugar high that they receive from the sticky nectar on the buds. Ants crawling on flower buds are probably beneficial because no other bugs will visit and the ants don’t do any harm. Once the Peonies open, the ants move on because the nectar on the flower disappears. 

 Many plants like Peonies and tropical plants have rectory glands. These glands are an organ on flowers or a leaf of a stem (Webster). The nectory secretes nectar that ants love to munch on. Ants are also drawn to plants because of Aphids. Aphids are small orangish sucking bugs that attack plants. They don’t kill plants, but they are a nuisance and you should spray a strong shot of water at them to knock them off. As they attack, the aphids secrete honeydew which quickly brings ants to the party to eat.  

You would think that since ants are little nectar eating factories that they would be great pollinators as they move from plant to plant. They aren’t. They can’t fly and they only have their little legs to get them around. Surprisingly, some ants secrete a natural substance that acts as an antibiotic. The antibiotic protects the ants from bacterial and fungal infections. Unfortunately, this substance also quickly kills any pollen grains and so there can’t be any pollination. US Forestry Service 

Ultimately, most ants on your plants won’t do any harm. They are just doing what they do best – looking for a great sugar high and some plants are more generous than others. Unless they are driving you crazy or you just plain hate ants,  you don’t need to do anything. Ants are actually beneficial insects because they can help clear your garden of Aphids or other pests during their sugar journeys.  Maybe the ants are even smarter than a lot of us. They are very effective in finding their “sweet spot”.

As I thought more about the ants, I become a bit jealous. Think about it. They are programmed to seek out and find their sweet spot. Moreover, they find it. How many of us are still wandering around every day in a fog?  We go to jobs that we can’t tolerate or even hate. Some people just show up and give enough to keep their job and collect a paycheck. They live for weekends and work makes them physically sick. Then there are those of us who are challenged, energized, and engaged at work every day. We love coming in to learn something new, have an impact, feel fulfilled, and ultimately make a difference. I’m fortunate that like the ants, I have found the nectar and my “sweet spot”. I’m one of the lucky ones that have been able to sip from the nectar where my interests, skills, and a great opportunity have merged. Are you still looking for your “sweet spot”?

“People are most successful when they are in their sweet spot. Your sweet spot is the intersection of where your passion meets your greatest strengths” – Ken Coleman 

Do you need to go on a journey to find your sweet spot? Maybe this will help:

·         Take a close look at your genuine interests. What really lights you on fire and makes you glow? Follow the light and stay interested.

·         Know thyself.

·         Take risks.

·         Know what your passion is. Find it now.

·         List your key skills and stay away from your weaknesses. Keep your gifts close and use them every day.

·         Have a personal vision, identify your goals, and live your values every day.

·         Develop your own style. Don’t let anyone steal it or squelch it.

·         Do something that will bring you joy every day.

·         Know what culture that you need in order to grow and the type of people that make you light up with vigor.

·         Make life and work balance a priority.

·         Run from anything that bores you or saps your energy.

·         Build strong relationships and network to see what is out there and who can help you.

·         Find a job or life coach to find what you need, where you need it.

·         Have fun!

·         What will people pay you for that you love doing?

·         I s money really more than sipping sweet nectar?

·         Never settle.

Life is too short to NOT follow the path to finding your own “sweet spot’.  If you are in a job that you hate or you are drained every day only you can change it. Start your journey right now. Get your little legs moving and seek out some nectar. You CAN find your “sweet spot!”