There are some thoughts, feelings, perspectives which simply cannot be understood without experiencing them ourselves first hand. While we can empathize, imagine, visualize or be moved by hearing someone else's experience, there’s an altering of self that happens at a different level when it’s us in it, really getting it.
We call them life experiences.
Transformative moments = where something shifts in such a way that we suddenly view the world, define things, and understand ourselves differently from that moment forward...
Experiencing true love.
Realizing you've made it through something you know could've taken you down.
Watching the birth of a baby.
Watching a person die.
Standing in a place where atrocity happened, and feeling the energy of it, still there.
Feeling someone give to you unconditionally with no expectation of reciprocation.
Feeling true heartbreak.
Becoming a parent.
Having to bury someone you love.
Seeing true talent or beauty in yourself you’ve never been able to see before.
Running to a bomb shelter as an incoming rocket approaches.
True, deep connection with another person.
Confronting a crippling fear.
Going full out to your limit, then pushing beyond it, more than what you thought you had in you.
Being diagnosed with cancer.
Looking out above the cloud line and the world, from a mountain you just climbed.
Having a life-or-death near miss.
I’ve experienced most of these, and those I haven’t, people way too close to me have. While I haven't had to run for for my life, taking cover from a rocket, recently, with heart racing, I sent loved ones strength as they did halfway across the world. I can't feel what they felt, in it... they'll never see their own lifestyle’s peace the same way again. Yet, while they will actually feel that contrast for the rest of their lives, the empathy that allows me to attempt that understanding is what ultimately connects us as humanity.
I do not have cancer now, yet my life reracked itself when I did get diagnosed with it. Contained to a tumor, I had ten weeks leading up to my surgery to get my head around it. I continued to focus on the positive and possible (as I do) in my work, choices and interactions- clearer and more focused than ever before about the impact I’m making, suddenly more urgent. I experienced emotions I’d never felt before. I undertook a very internal process of definition, redefinition and brutally-awake consciousness about every part of my life. It was scary and intense... and completely clarifying. By the time I headed to surgery I was clear, strong, grateful and certain I'd gotten learning I needed to get, having reached a level of deep self-clarity in those 10 weeks that only going through a transformative, reflective process can bring. I wasn’t concerned, certain that I was done with it, that cancer was not going to be part of my life or definition. In the end, that tumor was benign. As the surgeon told me the news two days after surgery, it was anti-climactic. Not because I wasn’t grateful to be cancer-free (I was and am), but because I had already been changed by it, gotten the shift, gone through the process and was on my way forward, different.
Seemingly opposite, yet similarly, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro changed the way I see myself in relation to the world. More about that here; it will forever be with me in the way I look at our human strength and fragility, our place in the universe, and what happens when we are fully present.
I could elaborate similarly with the long version of every experience in that list above, and I'm happy to share any of them with you next time we meet. I'll ask you about yours, too, because in both the telling and listening of them, we start to truly understand the layers of ourselves and one another.
Each life experience holds a power beyond the way we see things just in those moments... they change the scaffolding of our thinking and feeling, permeate how our reality is created, how our thoughts connect and how our meaning is made. The world we experience is actually different, because we are different in it. The lens through which we see everything is colored by it, and, like wearing sunglasses for a long time, we don’t even notice the tint after awhile.
While these experiences range from devastating to truly inspiring, and somewhat minor to stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks major, they represent the whole spectrum of living fully. I believe there are no accidents in my own life or any of our lives... not because I believe it’s all predetermined, but rather that it’s all cumulative. All that happens is a setup for everything else; how we got to here- seeing, hearing, feeling and interpreting the world the way we uniquely do. Everything I’ve experienced up until this moment defines how I take on, fully experience, or altogether miss the next moment after it. If I’m paying attention, that definition can be enlighteningly profound along the way. If I’m not, I might not see the nuances of impact until years later when I reflect on the patterns of my life or miss them completely as many do.
I’m convinced that capturing, learning from and calling back these moments of our definition is literally what makes the meaning of life. It’s the difference between being a passenger on the ride or actually defining the path.
I live, think, coach, teach, advise and facilitate in the world calling attention and bringing perspective to moments, shifts, experiences as learning to define ourselves forward. There are so many more moments of shift possible (or even occurring) than we acknowledge. While I admittedly look for them all the time and often find the most insight in the least-obvious moments of life... I believe there’s an opportunity here for most of us to be paying more attention.
While big news and big life experiences are dramatic and get our attention, are we getting the meaning in them, let alone the smaller ones occurring every day? Rather than plowing through them to get to the other side (especially tempting if they're high in adrenaline or discomfort)- how can we really get what's possible from them to grow forward with awareness?
More moments than we think, could mean something. Each one could further define who we are, and life as we know it. Each one shared or truly heard is an opportunity to truly connect. Let's.
Here are some key ways to tune in, capture and really get to the meaning in your moments…
Give yourself space.
There’s enormous power in perspective, which is hard to get when you’re fully immersed in it. Pull yourself up and out for a few precious minutes or an hour or a regular practice. Like looking back down on the earth from an airplane window, it’s amazing how you can see it all with just a little space between you and it. This happens in just being still without input or noise or screens or interaction, in meditation, in just stepping away from the fray for awhile.
If you don’t have an airplane window nearby, try this:
https://www.headspace.com/ Andy Puddicome has brilliantly created a way for you to understand, try and even develop a simple practice of meditating that anyone can do anywhere. It's very straightforward yet casual, it only takes 10 minutes, and his animations of how/why meditation really works demystify it better than any I've seen. And- the phone app is awesome- I use it all the time.
Reflect on it.
Go back over it, allowing yourself to feel, think, respond and ultimately grow from it. What happened? What did you see? What feelings came up? What can you learn from it? What do you want to do with it going forward.
Create planned, deliberate pauses at the ends of time blocks to debrief and process the growth you can't see when you're in it every day. Your birthday, a new year, a work anniversary, your kids' birthday, quarterly, monthly, etc.
My favorite reflective process- it only happens once a year, but can get you mega-started:
http://www.doyou10q.com/ This awesome process only happens yearly, but is worth the wait. It gives you one big question per day for ten consecutive days to answer- about you and your last year. You can store your answers in their vault, completely private or share them out. Either way, they send those answers BACK to you a year later, when you do the process again. Definitely get going with your own reflection process meanwhile, but do this one as well!
This is not about being a writer or even writing every day, unless it’s helpful to you. It is about just capturing whatever’s there in your head, heart and experience so you don’t lose it. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else, and can just be notes. Whatever you’re feeling, thinking, noticing, wondering- capture it. If you know that writing is actually an outlet for your, give yourself the necessary time and space to just write, regularly. Either way, you’ll find that thoughts made concrete into words on a screen or page will find their way to meaning and your growth in a way they just can’t swirling around in your head.
My favorite tools:
http://www.ommwriter.com/ is a great app which gets rid of all distraction as you write. You can pick from a couple of cool background sounds, screens and typefaces, and it brings you into your own private world in which to write. I've productively lost myself there for long stretches. :)
http://280daily.com/ is awesome because it takes all the pressure off- no need to write a big long entry. In fact you have to pay a little monthly to have your entries go over 280 characters (worth it to me). It's great for capturing where you are, the essence of your experience or musings which you're not ready to write out into a whole piece. One of my favorite features is being able to look at my last several entries in a cloud format- sort of a mind map of one's mind.
Working through my own experiences, challenges and musings toward clarity- via true process with my own coach/es is an invaluable piece of it all to me. Of course I'm biased as a coach myself, yet I truly believe it's the best investment a person can make in personal health and growth. No matter how evolved we become, there is still nothing more powerful than someone outside our own heads who can get it, see the openings and meaning we can’t and help facilitate the path forward.
Of course I'd love to work with you if I'm not already, so here's that link. Or, here are some more resources for my own coaches (all a bit different than my coaching approach) and their process which have made all the difference:
http://theclearingsight.com OR http://aclc.us Both of these sites are resources for clearing work, which I have found to be clutch with two of the coaches you'll find there- Jayne Johnson and Ceil Stanford. Any problem or challenge will resolve when you see it fully and clearly, and Clearing is a process that allows you to look objectively so that the answers, within you already, come to you easily and quickly. It is not a technique to help you manage, control or cope- clearing work clears the issue out fully and permanently.
http://www.blairsinger.com is a master. He has inspired and coached hundreds of thousands of people past the little voices in our heads, past what we thought was possible to true greatness, full-out mastery and remarkable impact in the world. He has been my mentor, coach and most pivotal influence to growth for most of my life. Put yourself in one of his programs and take yourself on. And follow him leading groups up Kili!
http://thinkwellbewell.com/coaching/ Whitney Demorest is expert in reading energy, and helping people get to a place of emotional clarity. She practices and teaches EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which is an great method for alleviating emotional blocks.
http://www.integratedcoaching.org/?p=1970 Dr. MJ Jiaras brings an awesome background as a clinical psychologist AND a coach, getting leaders to their core strengths and impact. He and his team are stellar.
This is where we get to chance to have that deep true connection with people. We spend so much energy on how different we are from one another, and can be splintered from it. Yet we are truly moved in the moments when we can connect with one another as so very much the same, as feeling, thinking, reacting humans. We’re all seeking connection at some level. This is where it begins. Start to truly share where you are, the moments that count, and what life stirs in you... and you’ll quickly find the people who you can connect with in a true, meaningful way. This is easy for some and hard for others, yet the very portal for understanding and human connection. Push yourself to actually go there.
As you head back into your life from reading this piece, look, listen, feel and share with a different awareness. Big and small, your moments are happening, and could be the very catalysts for your next trajectory, big insight or ignited relationship. Skip the smalltalk, and go for the layers.
There is the meaning.
The original version of this post was written in 2014, and it's just been updated 6/19/18. While the list has shifted a bit, and more insights added, the lessons are timeless and maybe even more poignant right now than ever before. I welcome your thoughts, your feedback, and YOUR moments of shift.