Reclaiming the Aha Moment

Since I was young, the F-word has been what I called my “reserve word.” If you heard me say it you knew one of two things: I was either royally pissed or I’d had too much to drink, and either way, you should probably take me home. In the past few years of living in a pandemic and with social and political unrest, I’ve said that word often enough it’s lost a bit of its power. My husband no longer flinches when it comes out of my mouth, although he still takes note.

Lately, I’ve been thinking the same thing about the expression “aha moment,” which was popularized by Oprah Winfrey. Though some linguists can trace the term to times before Oprah’s influence, it was she who insisted an “aha moment” didn’t just mean something you realized. It meant something you realized that you somehow already knew inside but had forgotten. It’s not just a moment of insight. It’s a moment of seeing into yourself. It might be prompted by something that happens, or something someone says, or even something that just “comes” to you while reading or meditating or praying.

In the past week, thanks to conversations with a few wise and intuitive friends, I’ve had several aha moments. Interestingly, they built on each other to lead toward a major shift in my thinking, but a shift that feels like a return to something in an exciting and comforting way. A return to what? My child self? My core being? A more honest awareness of who I really am once you strip away the roles, responsibilities, pressures, and expectations that attached themselves to my journey?

What makes an aha moment different to me than an epiphany, insight, realization, or even come-to-Jesus moment is the feeling of joy and liberation that comes along with it. But a familiar joy. A joy of returning to a beloved place. When you feel those things, you know that’s a true aha moment.

So maybe we need to reclaim the power of that term. Stop ending every one-hour meeting or half-day conference with the suggestion that people write down their “aha moments.” Stop asking at the dinner table, “What was your aha moment today?”  Stop trying to teach us how to have an aha moment in seminars and workshops. Stop equating aha moments with solutions. That great idea you got to improve your art or business is what I call a “burst of brilliance,” which also feels joyful and liberating, but not even that is an aha moment.

Let’s get back to a place where we don’t turn an aha moment into an objective and instead let it arise from curiosity, investigation, and deep, meaningful conversations. Let’s accept and celebrate that an aha moment doesn’t always have to be “the answer,” but it can be a step in that direction, which is just as powerful. An aha moment is not a mundane experience, it’s divine, however you define that word. Let’s allow it to be that way.

By Teresa R. Funke

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