Forests and Fields

How many times have you heard the saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees” and wondered exactly what it means? Perhaps you’ve wondered where the saying originated?

Even in the 1500’s this was an expression used in common conversation. It carried the same meaning as it does today; the idea that a person is so engrossed with details and particulars that they are missing the greater perspective all around them, like a man seeing a specific tree without recognizing the immense forest surrounding the tree.

This saying is sometimes credited to the English writer John Heywood who wrote a collection of proverbs in 1546 which included the saying. The truth is the origin is unknown, as it was in use before this work.

Regardless of the origin, it’s evident that for some time now man has found himself in this position.

I imagine we each daily get so caught up in the responsibilities of careers or home life, that we are missing the greater picture of what is all around us.


It’s so easy to be worried about cooking dinner for the family, that we fail to think about the people you are making the dinner for.

What did your children do at school that day? How do they feel about their lives? How do they feel about their place in your life?

Every day at the office we face tasks, projects, assignments, or obligations which often monopolize our minds and make us forget about the reason we are working so hard in the first place. We do not work for fun. We don’t work out of boredom.

You may be working for a family you are proud to support. Perhaps you are preparing for a brighter future. Maybe your reason is fulfilling your childhood dreams. Whatever the reason, you have a reason, and that should matter.

By being so caught up in the details of our lives, we tend to miss the grander design of the lives we are living.

We need to regularly step back away from the tree. But not just back a little. It would be wise to back all the way out into the field leading up to the forest.

Only with this clearer, broader perspective will we be able to see the wonder and immensity of the great life we have been given to live.

From that position, out in the field, away from the details that so easily engulf us, we can begin to see that the tree we once thought was so important is little more than a pencil thin line of detail in the brushstrokes that make up the picture perfect image of the forest. It’s but a tiny aspect of our lives.

Don’t let today pass without stopping and stepping back. Give yourself the chance to see things with a clarity that you likely have been missing. Only then will you remember why you are doing all that you do in the first place.

Trees… Forests…. Fields.


Question: When have you realized you were missing the point of life, and made a change? What changed? Leave a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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