We've all had aha moments ... that sudden thrill of something you hadn't understood before, the glimpse of a possibility, the sudden bout of confidence, that moment when you finally "get it." Merriam-Webster added the term to its famous dictionary in 2012, and defines it as: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.
Such a moment is often exciting or uplifting, as your brain is highly stimulated by finding useful meaning in a new discovery, and some aha moments can be very valuable if you know what to do with them.
The thrill factor probably had something to do with survival in our evolutionary past. A caveman suddenly realizes that wolves are afraid of fire. Wow, this could be big! But the lasting value of this realization depends on what he does with it. If he keeps the fire going, he stays alive. If he forgets about it, he's wolf chow.
The thrill factor also helps him remember better and remembering and following through are the really big parts of aha moments. Today's aha moments may not have much to do with survival, but they can still be valuable. Here are four things you should do with an aha moment:
1. Write it down.
The thrill factor may not be enough to keep it alive in your memory long enough to figure out what to do with it. We have a lot of distractions in our lives and new ideas have not been reinforced by years of repetition like old habits. So the new connection you've made can be quickly forgotten and hard to retrieve.
2. Think about what you can do differently as a result of this new discovery.
The one thing we each have more control over than anything else is our own behavioral choices. If I want to change something, the first thing I have to change is my own actions. As Albert Einstein once said, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." But changing habits of behavior is not easy.
You will be more successful in turning your epiphany into a change if you have a plan. And a plan starts with a ponder. What can you do that is different, as a result of your new inspiration?
Let's say you discover that your lover really likes to hear you moan when you are making love, but you are generally quiet. You have a choice to keep doing what is normal for you or you can try a little moaning and see what happens.You might discover that it's fun for you as well as your partner. If you decide to try something different, that's a plan.
3. Tweak the plan.
Gather information from experimenting or from others. Evaluate the results and keep experimenting until you are confident that you have a plan you are satisfied with.
4. Practice, practice and practice.
A new behavior won't become a new habit unless it is repeated over and over. You will also get the results you want over and over; it becomes self reinforcing.
The important takeaway here is: don't let those aha moments go to waste. If they can be converted into a new habit that gets you better results, work those inspirations. Write them down, brainstorm, make a plan and practice, practice, practice. How do you think Oprah got to be as successful as she is?