I often contemplate the importance of ‘roots and wings’. As I bounce from work to the meditation cushion,  travel and return home. Or in more recent times, as I witness feelings of being settled, or having ones wings clipped.  And then there are those that stay. And those that go.

Roots and Wings.

At any time

It seems that we are cultivating or challenging one or the other at any particular time. We see it in the news and in our own lives.

Whilst in Rwanda,  I remembered Obama’s parting comment to African leaders that the continent will not advance if its leaders refuse to step down when their terms end.  It was prompted by reading in The EastAfrican, that President Yoweri Museveni who has ruled Uganda since 1986 was standing again, and there was a constitutional challenge made to his term and age limit.

And there is those who are joyfully choosing to migrate, whilst others are being forced from their homes.  Every day on social media we see a constant flow of people taking on new roles and offering new ideas.  Much of my coaching and facilitation of leaders is helping them to look within or up and out, mostly both. At a personal level, I am noticing my niece is relishing our hellos and hating our goodbyes.  And I am seeing friends who are settling down or leaving for new pastures.

Roots and Wings.

Our roots

These are our connection with ourselves, others and our world.  Cultivating them gives us a sense of identity, of belonging, of ‘coming home to who we are’.  They are the foundations which keep us grounded. And connected and contributing.  They are the relationships with those we love. And with the complex and supportive fabric which nourish our inner core. They give us security and stability.

Our wings

These give us the ability to reach out far and wide. With them we expand our horizons and venture into new territories.  They express our innate curiosity and our sense of adventure. We use them to explore and discover new ideas and opportunities. They are the means for which we allow our independence and initiative to flourish. Gifting us flexibility and freedom, we expand.

Balancing them

Arguably a balance between the two enables us to fulfil the depth and breadth of our potential.  If we get too focused on our roots, they can constrict and bind us.  Sometimes we just need to uproot and go to new places. Whether that be in our mind or literally, in order to survive and thrive.  To create a new life. Gain new perspectives.  With too much focus on our wings, we can exhaust ourselves floating around. We become disorientated, unfocussed and isolated.

Attempting a balance may be something we do in the moment. Or it may be stretched over longer periods. We may find ourselves giving priority to either one, over days, weeks, months or years.

Our preferences and work

Some of us have a personality preference for one or the other. I find myself making generalisations about national cultural differences.  Such as flying independent-travelling New Zealanders. Whilst ironically acknowledging that our national treasure and icon, the kiwi, evolved into a flightless bird. As a result of having no enemies it decided it had no need to fly so lost its ability to do so.

More broadly, perhaps we can also draw on the difference between eastern and western philosophies.  In the east, we are already ‘here’.  That is, what we need is within us. The western perspective however, is where we are driven to look externally. To go out in order to get ‘here’ fully.

In integrating the two, we balance stillness with movement.  And being with doing, activity with meditation. Solitude with company and Introversion with extroversion…

As David Richo said “In short, we need to get up and go, but we also need to sit and stay”.        

We can notice our situation and preferences, our focus and patterns to help us make those choices more consciously. As opposed to doing it automatically from a place of habit or fear.  Therefore we can ask ourselves what serves us best.  Realising that sometimes, it is about doing the opposite of what we would prefer to do.

What is your priority at the moment?  Roots or Wings?



  • Richo, D, (2002), How To Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boston, Massachusetts p. 4
  • Thanks to Jennifer who first introduced me to the concept of ‘roots and wings’, as passed on from Buster whose Mum might have heard it from the quote by Hodding Carter “there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other, wings” which according to Wikipedia, was borrowed from Henry Ward Beecher
  • Anami, L (2020), Age-limit case agains Museveni to proceed, The EastAfrican, Feb 22-Feb 28, 2020
  • A version of this article was also gifted to www.impactinternational.com
  • Photo by Jason Weingardt on Unsplash
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