Thinking about Acorns and the Extraordinary

A Reflection on my Journey of Personal Growth

What kind of acorn are you?

One of my favorite memories from childhood is of warm summer days spent in the woods and fields of Oxfordshire, UK.

I loved the open spaces, the hedgerows full of wildlife, and every shade of green imaginable on the leaves of the trees. Happy days.

I haven’t seen a big old oak tree for a couple of years now, but there’s an acorn rolling around in the side-pocket of my car door. I think one of my kids must have picked it up when we were out walking, because here on the Mediterranean coast of Spain there are a lot of scrub oaks, small bushy shrubs that only grow a couple of meters tall and shed acorns all over the ground.

It’s intriguing to me that these little plants, thriving in the dry, rocky coastal soil of Spain, can have something on common with the tall, majestic oak trees I admired so much back in rural England.

To my untrained eye these acorns from the scrub oak look identical to those of the trees I’m familiar with, and it got me thinking: I used to be so much like one of those little shrubs, living in survival mode clinging to a rocky promontory with the harsh sun and the wind from the sea making life hard.

It was only after I turned 40, maybe a couple of years after, when I began to question things. Was there more? Could I be more?

There’s a lot going on in those 40 something years — family, career, friends, mortgages, credit cards, pensions to name a few. We have busy, full lives, and most of it at this stage feels like it could run on automatic.

I knew my marriage could be better, I knew I could spend more time with my three children, I knew I could work on my friendships more. But the big one for me was what I spent most of my time between 9AM and 6PM doing.

And that was where the hole was.

If I carried on going down the same old road working at something that didn’t require anything extraordinary from me, it could only end in regrets & misery.

Misery could so easily lead to despair. Despair was not a path I wanted to walk.

Time for change. Big, life-changing change! And it started in my mind.

Slowly but surely I began to wake up to the fact that I wasn’t living up to my potential, that I wasn’t growing as a person, that I wasn’t aiming for anything except to pay the next bill, get through another month.

I began to imagine that I could possibly live a bigger life. I began to dream of something better, and dare to believe that I could turn things around.

I began to believe that one day I could be a little more like one of those tall green oak trees than a shrub, that I would be able to reach higher, see further and play a bigger role.

I wanted more extra in my ordinary, and I wasn’t happy to wait around for things to get better. I think I’d had enough of waiting and hoping. There was only one thing standing in my way — me!

I knew it was time to take action, to finally do something that would begin to cause a change in me, and so begin to change my life.

It’s amazing to be able to look back and see where I’ve come from, the twists and turns in my personal growth journey, the surprises, the people I’ve met. If I’d known back then what life could hold for me, I’d have taken more risks and thrown myself into the cycle of change with a lot more confidence.

But of course, we just don’t know. It could have gone differently and there have been times when I’ve wondered if I made the right choices.

Certainly I’ve made mistakes. Part of the process, for sure. When we dare to step out into the unknown we are bound to come up against situations and circumstances that stir up whole new emotions, as well as the old familiar ones such as fear and uncertainty.

In my book “Turn This Ship Around!” I talk a lot about what it took for me to…well, turn my ship around!

Part of the process I went through was actually arriving at a place where I could convey to others what I was going through, how I was coping with mid-life crisis (and how to see that as a positive thing) and the action I was taking to make things happen.

At the end of the day, there’s one thing I’m certain of if you’re going to live a bigger life — you have to believe in something enough to take intentional action.

So whether it’s a dream of better, or a compelling reason to change, get started on it today and begin to see the extraordinary coming into your life.

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