Growing Flowers in the Desert

A scientist’s dream blooms brightly.

What if you want to change your life? How do you go about achieving your goals? Here’s the story of one woman’s dream and how she achieved it.



Susan Nichols and Stephen Garretson set out to live their “later in life” dream, on the side of a red rock mountain in the high desert of New Mexico. They had a dream of self-sufficiency with beauty and comfort, and they wanted to have a business together that didn’t require them going down the hill (very often).

1. Set your big goal

Nichols and Garretson chose to establish a flower and herb farm, in a place with extreme climate, poor soil and scarce water. For success in reaching your goals, it is essential not to be bound by limitations of your own making or commonly held beliefs that may not be accurate. Many locals in the valley asked, “Have you heard of those crazy people who are starting a flower farm in the Red Rocks?” But Nichols and Garretson saw the magic, and used their expertise to help it unfold around them.

2. Develop a strong plan

From years of being involved in integrative medicine, Nichols understood the necessity of the scientific process. She also was able to think in concepts to develop the big picture. They also had some other advantages going into their plan. Garretson had a background in business and amazing people skills, and Nichols was a master herbalist. Their work began with applying skills to doing research on plant requirements, soil solutions and formulation of products.

3. Develop a strategy

Nichols and Garretson’s strategy involved setting specific goals, charting progress and trial and error and—very importantly—charting their successes. Their vision and their strategy began to transform the tough landscape into a beautiful and very productive one. Four years later, they grow more than 200 varieties, from chamomile to calendula and from lilies to wood violets.

The plants have individual requirements that need to be met in order for them to flourish. But the great benefit of growing plants with lots of sun and wind is that the plants produce more volatile oils in order to protect themselves from dehydration and damage. These oils are more powerful than what’s generally available in the marketplace, and so their efficacy is greater in the skincare products offered by Nichols’ and Garretson’s company, maxandjane. The products, formulated to help skin heal and protect itself from aging and sun damage, are now sold in three countries. In the crowded market for skincare products, maxandjane has flourished thanks to the products’ distinctive purity and scientific formulation.

Nichols and Garretson used their knowledge and strategy to take advantage of adverse conditions and achieve what seemed to be “near-to-impossible” goals.

4. Track your progress

Once they set their goals and put their strategy into action, Nichols and Garretson kept track of what worked and what didn’t—as well as the unexpected. Nichols recounts that when they dug and filled the farm’s pond, they were surprised one evening by the sound of toads singing. They discovered that they had created a habitat for Mexican Digging Toads, who burrow into damp soil where they remain until enough moisture is present for them to emerge and lay eggs. “The tadpole stage is extremely short and then baby toads are everywhere,” serenading the farm after dark, she says.

Tracking is best done in a journal or charts that speak to the type of work you are doing. Even when the progress isn’t as fast or doesn’t exist at all, tracking gives you valuable insight and the opportunity to refine your strategy. It also keeps you focused on your goal.

5. Use trial and error

Trial and error can be painful, but Nichols and Garretson found that elements of their strategy that became overly difficult, expensive or time-consuming were signs to look for a better way.

Tracking what works and what doesn’t also presents an opportunity to recognize unexpected results. Paying close attention to what is around us can reveal ways to make life easier for ourselves, and perhaps for other people.

6. Celebrate success!

Susan and Steve celebrate often when they get together with others. Nichols says it makes them feel connected and positive as they see people’s minds open to new possibilities. They truly appreciate hearing how people benefit from their skincare products, and connecting with like-minded individuals.

Meditation Practice for Checking Your Progress Having a sound strategy is important whether you’re building a company, a house, training for a marathon, or trying to better your health habits. The same system applies: set a goal, develop a plan and strategy, track your progress, use trial and error, and celebrate your success. Using your EMYoga practices so far, you’ve already gotten a few things down in your journal this year. That journal is your place to record your strategy for your own goals. In month 1 you started to do the Wake Up practice every day. In month 2, you found what it is you wanted to manifest, and started doing some tapping exercises to help you achieve that. Now in month 3, before spring fully arrives, it’s time to check out your progress so far and tweak your goals to make sure they still fit with your overall vision for the year. A great way to do this is in a simple meditation practice. Have your journal nearby. – Get into a comfortable, supported seat, with your spine straight. – Bring your left hand into your lap with the palm facing up, and wrap your right hand around your left inner wrist. – Hold your wrist lightly as you sit for five to 10 minutes with these questions clearly in mind: and ask yourself: Am I on track? Is there anything I need to change/add to my goals for this year? You are holding points that bring energy directly to your heart, pericardium and lungs. This helps you stay in heart coherence and alignment, as your questions steep in your unconscious. – Notice any information or insights that come to you. When you feel you’ve finished your meditation, open your eyes and write down your thoughts. Write in a stream-of-consciousness way, without editing or stopping. Just write whatever flows through your mind, even if it seems strange. – Later, go back and read what you wrote, and circle words that pop out at you. These bits of information may be important for you, as they came from your deepest mind.

You can find out more about Nichols and Garretson’s company and products at, where 24Life readers can receive a 15 percent discount on orders with the code: EMYoga.

Photo credit: maxandjane