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  • Writer's pictureMarc Roudebush

Anatomy of an "Aha" Moment

A client once asked me how I could stand to listen to people complain all day. I said  “I don’t hear much complaining… I don't listen for that.”

The truth is that witnessing "aha" moments is an awesome privilege. It's not just “smelling the roses;" it's more like seeing one blossom.

“Yes, that’s it!” one client recently exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to get my boss to agree with every step I take.” This was no academic conclusion for Bob. His dilemma was one that many of us can relate to: “I would like to be authentic at work, but that seems politically dangerous”. Bob resolved this dilemma when he saw that external conditions—his sales results, the economic climate, what his boss thought—could not prevent him from making his own assessment of what was realistic or not... and making his own choices about how to respond. Specifically, he saw that "realistic" did not have to mean "I know for certain my boss will approve."

This opened up a whole new set of options for Bob, and led him to see clearly what he wanted to do next: lead an effort (mostly on his own time) to test his hypothesis that a new marketing approach would work, and then present the evidence to his boss. In a few minutes, he had gone from being stuck to being psyched.

All three components of an “aha” moment were present: awareness, choice, and action (technically, the action was yet to come, but what is critical is that he was already action-oriented). To be sure, action is the bottom line: no “aha” gets traction in our lives without a change of behavior. But here is the paradox: what freed Bob to change and learn, was a shift from focusing on “doing” (what should I do to win my boss's approval so that I can have what I want?) to focusing on “being” (how can I “be”—creative, courageous, respectful—such that, whatever the outcome, I say true to my values and aspirations).

Eckhardt Tolle offers a similar insight in The Power of Now. The actions that flow from "being" in the present moment are much more powerful than those that flow from constant mental calculations about what we will get or have if we do this versus that.

But Bob did not find his insight by reading Echhardt Tolle (or listening to a lecture by his coach). He found it by examining his own life situation, and seeing how he was shaping it.

If you have had a freeing insight lately, please share it below!

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