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Everything was changed.
Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was now blowing, laden with scents.”

Jean Giono, The Man Who Planted Trees

Acorns and my brain

Rob Porter  |  5 min read 

After a conversation with an awesome therapist in 2018, I became aware that I had developed a 'goodness deficiency.'

I had been focusing for too long and for much of each day on things in my life that were not what I had imagined or desired, nothing seemed good enough. 

I needed an upgrade.

One suggestion was to spend a few minutes each evening with my journal, jotting down something good or positive that had happened. The invitation was to begin to practise recalling, focussing on and remembering something that was good about each day. It could be something very simple, or larger, more meaningful things, such as…

  • Noticing someone smiling at you

  • A great conversation with a friend

  • Your child gave you a drawing

  • You gave a gift to someone

  • A positive emotion or feeling you had about something

  • Being grateful for provision…

Having done this for over 3 years now, I have several journals full of evidenced goodness that I can look back on and remember. Evidence that no matter how I feel at any given moment on any given day, there is more good going on than I'm sometimes led to believe.

What I found interesting about this experiment, is that I haven't needed to look back at those journals yet. I believe this is because the repetition of remembering good has been rewiring my brain's pattern of behaviour to notice and pay more attention to that which is good.


The important part was practising, noticing and being aware of good things. The less important part was what I actually wrote down.

During the 3 years of doing this practice, I was recommended a book called: The Man Who Planted Trees by author Jean Giono. The story centres around an imaginary yet believable shepherd named Elzeard Bouffier, and his stunning relationship with the natural world around him. He set about planting acorn trees all over the surrounding environment to bring restoration and make the world a better place. It’s a powerful and heart-provoking story and I highly recommend it, it's one I come back to time again.

What would it look like to 'plant ’my own acorns and invest them into who I'm becoming?

The idea was simple...

  1. To collect acorns

  2. Write 1% on each acorn (To remind me that even adding 1% over time will move me towards a large return in the right direction)

  3. Decide on the kind of choices/habits I wanted to pursue (based on Who is Rob becoming?)

  4. Place an acorn into a jar every time I make a choice that aligns with who I'm becoming and what I believe is most important

Being a visual learner, seeing an acorn drop into the jar encourages and reminds me of who I'm becoming.

What kind of things do I do to put an acorn in the jar...

Who am I becoming?

"I am a man who puts his resources, time and energy toward what’s most important."

Image: Illustrating one example where I moved a work meeting in my calendar so that I could take my daughter swimming.

An acorn goes into the jar!

Who am I becoming?

"I am a man who takes soul care seriously so that he can look after those in his care well"

Image: Illustrating one example where I take the time to invest in my internal life so that I can continue to learn how to look after others well. Sitting around a fire is like a cool refreshing balm to my soul.

An acorn goes into the jar!

The small, daily move toward the person I want to become is transforming my mind in a way that slowly and steadily over time, enables me to make better choices in my day. Choices toward what's most important.

"What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

“To change your behaviour for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

A few questions to think over...

  1. How or where do you practise moving toward the person you want to become?

  2. Do you know who you want to become?

  3. Take some time in the coming weeks to reflect on who you are becoming, and do the habits and choices in your life align to that version of yourself?

The below books (in particular) that invited me into new areas of curiosity about my life and who I'm choosing to become...


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