There’s a lot written about the “aha” moment; that superlative situation when – ping – the figurative light bulb appears above a person’s head and – bang – an invention or brilliant idea apparently materialises.
The anxiety of being stuck
It’s the backwards-looking-forward moment. You are stuck in a bog of your own making, perhaps, or a bog caused by others. The wheels are whirring but you don’t move. Your anxiety grows: “how did I get here?” Does the angel of revelation alight in the midst of all that frustration? It might, but first you have to go recognise your bog or fog. There’s lots of upset, effort and maybe tears as things are going wrong. You pause, rest, breathe… Then along comes that idea, or that saving strategy, if you’re open and receptive.
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At other times, the moment is more to do with what’s really going on at a subconscious level. Your deeper personality may be fighting its way to the surface, or a dormant interest. Even so, nothing might happen, except that a circumstance or bolt of life’s lightning hits and you walk forth with a new purpose in life or a breakthrough decision or solution, or eye opening realisation.
Where does this take place? For many this takes place in the shower, in a half awake state in bed or on the toilet! Yes – the few places left in life where we are likely having time out without being online and connected!
Brilliant aha moments in history
The key is to be aware and ready for opportunity when it strikes. I didn’t say poised rigid with expectation; inspiration doesn’t work that way. The apocryphal story about Isaac Newton and the apple falling to the ground or onto his head might have been the aha moment, but Newton had been considering gravity for some time.
Or consider Bette Nesmith Graham (mother of Monkee Mike) who invented liquid paper and made a fortune. The correction fluid’s origins lay in the fact that she made mistakes when typing and didn’t want to start over again. She knew that artists painted over their mistakes, and being an efficient type who liked her work to look good, she experimented with white paint. Soon her colleagues began asking for “Mistake Out” but it wasn’t until she was fired that she began to make money with her invention.
Creating a pathway to aha
There are countless similar stories throughout history – all fascinating – but what about garden variety 99%, the rest of us?
Discoveries and revelations do not have to be earth-shattering or benefit humanity as a whole. The trick to more of these moments is to be open to problems you face or others around you face. Think: Obstacles can be opportunities. So next time you feel distraught, upset, worried, depressed, spare some time to step aside and take a detached interest in the situation (not easy, sometimes). What’s really going on here? Meanwhile get moving to calm yourself. Do something mundane and get it done properly. Then another, and another. Yes, the wheels are beginning to turn. Is there more to it than you initially thought? Or are you discerning inner promptings to look elsewhere? Is it time to track something entirely different and pursue it? Delve deeper into a current nagging concern or notion that’s bobbing around the periphery of your (inner) vision.
Use your senses – all of them. Listen, look, absorb, feel. Feeling stuck? Do something else for a while. All of these approaches increase the likelihood of such pivotal moments.
Find a person you admire or someone to challenge you. Talk about issues, discuss your ideas… you may do the duo-aha. Throw yourself into something very different next weekend, something you normally would not do – go dancing, do a three hour hike, cook a remarkable meal, see a great movie, do a painting class. Open your mind to experiment.
Or choose a bad habit you have and develop an aha way to change. Have a breakthrough!
Best of all, it is never too late. Irrespective of your age, material status or culture, think about your life, interests, pursuits; seeming career deserts with little water. Consider it all with the mind of a novelist, the ear of a musician, the eye of a painter. Stand back. Life sometimes forces people into a brand new perspective, but it is still the choices one makes that define what comes after.
Don’t miss an opportunity to make a difference to you or others. Do it now!
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.