7 Ways to Get the ‘A-Ha!’ Moment You Need Right Now

woman thinkingWe often treat “a-ha!” moments as if they happened passively, outside of our control.

We say things like:

And then it hit me.

It just came to me out of the blue.

Suddenly, my eyes were opened.

These forms of expression suggest a passive relationship to the event. In other words, something happened, something was done to me.

What if we approached a-ha moments as if we actively created them? It might not guarantee a new realization at any given time, but an active approach might very well lead to a significant increase in self-created insight.

Toward that end, I’ve put together seven simple ways to encourage active participation in our own a-ha moments. They require conscious awareness and effort. The alternative, of course, is living on autopilot, hoping that the right insights appear at the right time, yet feeling that you have no control over the process.

The following methods are more than worth the investment!

1. Connect the Dots Between Your Behavior and the Results

Ask yourself, “How did I put myself in this situation?” More than likely, the truth is that you do put yourself into situations that cause problems. How do you do it?

If you are in the midst of an argument, how did you get there? How could you have avoided going there? What specific actions did you take or refuse to take that led you to a heated battle? Trace your behavior back. Identify choice points. Each of these choice points could be the a-ha you are looking for.

2. Ask: How Am I Fooling Myself Right Now?

We fool ourselves often enough that you might as well ask yourself directly. Are you doing it right now?

Here are ways you might be:

  • Making assumptions about what other people want or need.
  • Telling yourself that you can’t do something when you actually can.
  • Pretending that something is more difficult or disastrous than it is.
  • Blaming yourself for something that isn’t your fault.
  • Blaming others for something that is your responsibility.

3. Get Some Mental Distance—It’s Easy!

Studies show that viewing problems from a distance is beneficial. It reduces stress. Taking a distant perspective on any issue also opens you to insights that were not possible before.

For example, if you view yourself in relationship to another person, you’ll discover what a neutral observer might see, as opposed to your more narrow perspective.

Try it. Remember a discussion or even an argument you had recently. Now, imagine you can see yourself and the other person from the other side of the room, or from an appropriate distance. What do you notice about your behavior from this perspective?

4. Assume You Are Seeking What You Get

It might not always be true. You aren’t necessarily seeking the negative results in your life. Sometimes things just happen. We get bad news. It rains on our picnic. Someone crashes into us.

Yet, much of the time we walk right into problems that could simply be avoided.

  • You underperform at work, and then you get reprimanded.
  • You eat too much and exercise too little, so you gain weight.
  • You interrupt people consistently, and soon they don’t like talking to you.
  • You act like a know-it-all, and people shy away from you.
  • You don’t say no or draw clear boundaries, and people take advantage of you.

Most of the time, we can trace problems to our own behaviors. If our own behaviors are creating issues, are we not seeking—on some level—those issues?

What are you seeking that you (consciously) wish you could never find again?

5. Ask Yourself If You Fear Happiness

Nathaniel Branden called it happiness anxiety. According to Branden, when you are raised with little happiness, you get used to it. In fact, happiness becomes a foreign concept. And we typically fear most things foreign.

As a result, when you do bump into happiness, you somehow find a way to get away from it as soon as possible.

For example, you might:

  • Tell yourself that it can never last.
  • Convince yourself that something bad is bound to come along to ruin it.
  • Tell yourself that you don’t deserve it.

Realizing how you fear happiness—how you respond to it—may be an a-ha moment that leads to learning to tolerate more happiness, slowly but surely.

6. Interview Your Trusted Friends

Want to know where your blind spots are? Ask your friends. They know. Most of us spend a fair amount of time defending ourselves against feedback from people who are invested in a relationship with us. In that process of resistance, we lose an enormous amount of a-ha potential.

Ask your trusted friends, “Hey, where are my personal blind spots? How do I bring trouble upon myself? What do I do that is a consistent problem for you?”

You’ll learn a lot if you are open to it. Friends may be one of the most underutilized sources of personal insight ever.

7. Do Some Sentence-Completion Exercises

Sentence-completion exercises can give you access to thoughts that might not have come naturally.

For example, complete the following sentences with the first answer that comes to mind.

My greatest fear is …

The bad thing about being successful is …

The thing about me that makes me most uncomfortable is …

The people I really should be avoiding are …

If I were more honest, I’d …

And, of course, the options are unlimited. You can create your own sentence starts to complete. You never know what your mind will deliver with these prompts!

Perhaps the most valuable lesson to learn is that we can actively seek a-ha moments. If you’re seeking them consciously, the number of aha moments is bound to increase.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mike Bundrant, iNLP Center Co-Founder

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Moe

    August 12th, 2014 at 10:25 AM

    hmmm to get that aha moment then the long and short of it is that you have to be willing to be in touch with your thoughts and feelings and then it will naturally occur. I do very strongly believe that this is correct!

  • Rayne

    August 12th, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    A good way to actually see how those dots connect is to journal the behaviors and then also worite down the results that you are seeing.

    There are times when if you see something written down in black and white it helps you make those connections that could have been missing for you before. You might be able to better edvise a plan for success if there is actually something that you can look to that shows cause and effect.

  • Leila

    August 13th, 2014 at 4:12 PM

    I get so tired of hearing other people blame other people in their lives for all of the things that are currently wrong for them. What good does blaming other people do when you knwo that you and you alone are the only one who can affect real and lasting change in your life? I get it that it is a lot easier to blame someone else than it is to own up and take responsibility for your acttions… but at the end of the day, you only have to look in the mirror to discover the true source for change and meaning in your own life. It might hurt, a lot, to make those changes, but most people I think feel better when they stand up and finally decide that this is the moment when they are ready to make real things happen.

  • Cassie

    August 14th, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Sad but true fact that there are a whole lot of us walking around claiming that all we want is to find real happiness when in reality all we ever do is shoot ourselves in the foot- intentionally! I don’t know what it is but there are a whole lot of people whom I think that happiness doesn’t come very easily for and therefore they don’t think that they deserve that. I think that a real eye opening experience for many of them would just be to see life from the perspective that they DO deserve this as much as the next guy. Realizing this can make a huge impact on how you view yourself, your life, and the chances to succeed that you are being given.

  • augusta r.

    August 16th, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Getting the space that you need both physically and emotionally away from something can very much help you out things into perspective to allow you to make a more balanced and informed decision than you may have otherwise been able to do.
    That distance and that space can be crusiial and allow you to look at things through new eyes and can help you appreciate both the things that are good as well as the things that are not so good. It is at least worth giving this a try if you feel that something in life is definitely holding you back.
    Take a little time and give yourself a little space and I think that you will see things from a totally different perspective.

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