We 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!
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.
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