We all have moments of extreme realization. Moments when simple things in life become so apparently clear that we stop, drift off into space, and dwell on the moment of clarity. For many the moment comes and goes. For others, it creates an unexpected fork in the road from which we choose to travel.
These are the moments change us forever. They changes how we perceive life, the world and the people who inhabit it.
I’ve had several profound moments of realization in my life. Among other things, I am who I am because of these moments.
I imagine many of us share some of the same moments of realization. We met someone, heard someone speak, witnessed an event, or experienced a situation that changed us forever. Never the less, they happened.
These are the 10 Moments of Powerful Realization
1. The Moment You Realize Self-Awareness
Not until recently did I fully understand my impact on the world. I was walking down a busy city street when I heard a long obnoxious honk. This honk went on for at least 10-15 seconds. Multiple pedestrians stopped and turned around. People were poking their heads out of windows to see the commotion. One lady continued walking and just put both hands over her ears. It was loud, long and obnoxious.
I finally saw the guy who was doing it. I just stared at him and my moment of realization occurred. This guy had no idea how negatively he was impacting the entire neighborhood around him. He had zero self-awareness. His only concern was getting through the meaningless traffic light in-front of him.
After that incident, and a few others like it, I began to fully understand the enormous impact my actions had on other people around me.
I became more self-aware.
2. The Moment You Take Responsibility
A few years back, I had a team of 30 people working at my agency startup. Mostly entry-level employees in their mid to late twenties. Some fresh out of college.
Like any company, we faced countless hurdles and challenges. After missing one too many deadlines, I sat my entire team down in the conference room to discuss “taking responsibility”. As I was speaking my moment of realization occurred.
Taking responsibility gives you all the power and control over any situation. By blaming others you are unwittingly giving them all the power and control to change.
Think about that. Taking responsibility gives you all the power and control over the situation.
Why would you want to give that power away?
From that moment on, I made sure took personal responsibility for everything in my life.
3. The Moment You Realize Happiness is a Choice
About 2 years ago I read something Einstein once said. “The most important question you can ever ask is if the world is a friendly place.”
Reading that question was a wakeup call. Happiness was a choice, and it was my choice. You’ve heard the cliche question, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”
…is the guy excessively honking because he’s a jerk, or is he probably a nice guy who’s overly exhausted from long day at work?
Einstein believed that how you answer that question determines your happiness in life.
4. The Moment You Realize You’re Not the Only One With Problems
Guess what? You’re not the only one with problems.
So, don’t be the person who comes to work and dumps all of your problems on the table. Because the brutal truth is that nobody truly gives a shit.
We all have problems.
We know. Your dog died. Your Aunt has cancer. You couldn’t sleep last night. Your kid is sick. We know, because we all have those same problems.
Realize you’re not the only one.
5. The Moment You Realize the Comfort of Acceptance
In college I developed terrible anxiety about my inevitable death from some type of horrible disease. It was super debilitating. I couldn’t sleep, go to class, or even workout out from fear that I would drop dead from a heart attack.
This went on for a year or so. It was horrible because if you knew me, you’d know I’m a super active person. I need to be moving at all times, burning my endless energy.
Then one day this happened. I remember sitting at a job I had and staring off into space. I was about to explode with stress could by my stress. I was so done. I remember thinking, “If I die, FUCK IT!” and literally got up and started running. I just ran out the door.
I ran for a mile or two. It was the first time I ran in over a year.
In that moment I decided to accept death and all the other bad things in life. I was no longer willing to fight and be afraid of it. Soon after, my anxiety began to subside, and eventually I had it 100% under control.
6. The Moment You Feel the Relief of Minimalism
Take a moment and look at all the things in your home. Look at your clothes, your furniture, your dishes, your pictures, your TV, even your car. Now picture all of those things piled up on your shoulders as you walk through life.
I learned that trick last year when I watched a documentary called Minimalism.
It was in that moment I truly realized the power of minimalism.
This isn’t a new thing. Buddhism teaches us that people suffer only because of they are attachment to things, and detachment from those things is the key to end one’s suffering.
7. The Moment You Discover the Paradox of Giving
This moment usually occurs somewhere between being a kid and becoming an adult. As a child, we can’t help the amazing feeling we get when we receive a gift. Nothing is more exciting. Then you become an adult, and one day you realize that giving the gift is just as exciting and it gives you the same exciting feeling.
8. The Moment You Realize This Will All Be Dust One day
Back in my agency days, part of the job as CEO and as a leader was calming people down. I saw a lot of upset employees who were overstressed and taking work way too seriously.
On a day like many others, an employee came to my office in tears. She was upset about irate client who was never happy.
This moment happened while trying to calm her down. I told her to take a few breaths and look around. Look at the desk, the chairs, our computers, the walls, and everything else. “This will all be dust one day.”
Yes, that’s exactly what I said.
I explained that we’re just a rock flying through space and all this shit is meaningless. So just enjoy the ride.
It worked. She smiled and even laughed a little, and soon went back to work.
That’s a moment that helped me to remember not to take life too seriously, we’re just a rock flying through space.
9. The Moment You Understand Semantics
I had this moment of realization while in an endless argument about politics. I realized that there are relatively very few facts in this world, and endless opinions.
Most of our argument was over our own perceptions and opinions. Facts very rarely, if ever, entered the discussion.
After that moment, I began analyzing every argument or disagreement I had.
You said it’s warm outside, I said it’s cold. We’re not disagreeing, we just have different definitions or “warm” and ‘cold”. To you it’s warm, but to me it’s cold.
That’s semantics. It happens in almost every single argument or disagreement.
Once you understand semantics, you can start seeking truth, and stop seeking to be right.
10. The Moment You Learn the Power of Asking Questions
This moment came to me in my late twenties, while reading Dale Carnegie’s, “How To Win Friends and Influence People”. It’s the thing I remember most about this popular book.
People’s favorite subject is themselves, so just ask a lot of questions.
You can master the art of conversation and apply this power to so many parts of life. When you’re too nervous to talk to a girl, ask questions. When you’re standing in a quiet circle of people at a cocktail party, ask questions. When standing in awkward elevator silence with a neighbor, ask questions.
I only wish I had this moment earlier, maybe in high school (wink).
BONUS: The Moment You Realize the Power of Checklists
in 2012, I picked up this book called, “The Checklist Manifesto“. I’m not a huge reader, but for some reason I read the first chapter. Then the second one, and the third, fourth, fifth. I couldn’t put it down.
The science and case studies around making a simple checklist blew my mind.
Did you know that you can’t take off in a commercial airliner, or have routine surgery without a mandatory checklist?
“The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.” ~ Atul Gawande, Author of The Checklist Manifesto
In other words, there’s too much to remember in today’s world. We need a plugin for the mind to help us remember to read all those books, do all that homework, finish our chores, and visit all those places. The checklist is the perfect plugin.
Since reading that book, I’ve made or used a checklist almost every single day of my life.
It was such powerful moment, I wanted to share that moment with the world.
So, I built Checkli.
Please share your moments of powerful realization in the comments below.