Realizations are extremely important moments in the human life.
If you’re ever heading down a path that will bring you unhappiness, a realization can help you suddenly become more fully aware of who you actually are so that you can correct your course.
Realizations help you to make better choices in the future.
Which of these Realizations Have You Already Had?
There are moments in life — unexpected and pivotal — that somehow change you forever.
Even though some epiphanies can be painful at the moment, if they bring you closer to the truth of who you are, then — in the long run — they will prove enormously helpful in daily life.
Realizations can save you from a 5-year detour – getting lost down a side trail that might lead you away from your life purpose.
Last year, I witnessed a dear friend have an accident.
It’s always challenging to take a mind-blowing experience and then try to reduce it into words others might understand. Even so, here are the 12 most shocking realizations I had immediately following the accident.
1. Among the Biggest Realizations: People Are Inherently Lovable
I realized that I adore people. Even with all of our wounds and fractures, our abrasive edges, and acting out – each of us, at our core, is made from the stuff of love.
I realized that it’s almost always possible to see past someone’s bad behavior and into their inherent lovability.
That people are basically lovable at their core, can be one of life’s biggest realizations.
2. People either Enhance Your Energy or Drain It
I once heard Caroline Myss calmly state that people either enhance your energy or drain it. “It can be no other way,” she explained. After the accident, I could see clearly that this is indeed the case.
3. It Takes Strong Hands to Hold a Paradox
Just because I love people doesn’t mean I have to welcome every person into my environment — this is what I realized.
I don’t have to solve the mystery of how I can like someone yet still identify them as someone who is not a good match for me.
A paradox is when two seemingly contradictory ideas are each true.
Not every paradox needs to be solved.
We can accept the mystery of it with grace and ease and move on.
4. Among the Biggest Realizations: We Live in Peculiar Times
Do you know that analogy of the frog in the pot of water? The water heats up so slowly that the frog doesn’t notice it, so he doesn’t bother to hop out of the pot once it reaches a boil.
After the accident, I could see things about our culture that I couldn’t see as clearly before the accident.
The world is changing faster than we can process it.
We are like the frog.
5. Our Context is First-World
I began noticing that many people cannot sustain a deep and authentic interest in other people’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Then I wondered, is this just because I’m American? Or, even more specifically, because I was born and raised in California?
“…conversations seem to now require an odd concision that often dissolves the joy of conversing in the first place”
For generations, people have migrated to California in the hope of a better life – but often, it’s really ourselves we’re trying to outrun.
It’s in the gene pool here.
You can see this in conversations. If someone starts to speak, the other person immediately thinks of what he will say next – instead of being fully present and actively listening.
Increasingly in conversations, people seem to listen only long enough to hear a “keyword,” after which their brain pings and references a memory from that keyword, and they begin their own free association – often missing the subtext of the communication.
For example, Mary tells Alice that she enjoyed the blueberry pancakes she had for breakfast, but now she feels bloated and tired. Alice responds that she found some amazing blueberries at the farmer’s market last week and hopes the same vendor will be there this week so she can pick up some more.
On the surface, Alice seems to be on-point, but somehow an opportunity has been lost.
Our minds have become so chattery, and we believe ourselves to be so time-constrained, that our ability to simply listen has been compromised.
Conversations seem to require now an odd concision that often defeats the entire purpose of conversing.
After the accident, I often found myself about to communicate some vital information to someone else, only to realize in the same moment that I was unwilling to boil it down into catchy bullet points as if I were introducing a segment on Entertainment Tonight.
That healthy boundaries must be established in a narcissistic culture is among life’s biggest realizations.
6. Among the Biggest Realizations: It’s Okay to Enjoy Solitude
After the accident, I accepted that I’m an introvert and that that’s okay.
While extroverts get their energy from being around other people, I recharge my batteries by being alone as an introvert. Even though relationships matter most to me, I’d rather have depth and quality than quantity.
Everyone has a different brain style. Each of us processes moment-to-moment information differently. That brain diversity truly exists is among life’s biggest realizations.
7. Everyone Has a Big Secret that They Keep from Themselves
This is one of the dynamics I saw so clearly after the accident. Almost everyone has at least one big secret they are actively keeping from themselves (and sometimes, entire families collude, unconsciously, to keep one big secret from themselves and each other).
That each of us has at least one secret we keep from ourselves is among life’s biggest realizations.
8. It’s Okay to Let Reality In, in Small Manageable Doses
Anxiety is the big game of life.
We all have different ways of managing anxiety, and hopefully, as life progresses, we’re able to discover healthier ways for metabolizing life’s low-level, everyday anxiety (and over time, we can substitute those healthier methods for the less healthy ones);
- if we were to let reality rush in on our minds all at once, our psyches would snap;
- we let reality in, in small doses, so we have time to process it and get stronger before letting in the next small dose.
Movement is progress. Even in small steps, we’re actively growing and exploring our internal worlds.
On the other hand, unfortunately, complete repression doesn’t work; when you repress something completely and for too long, you activate it in the unconscious, which often leads to acting out and can produce adverse side effects.
So, I realized that on the journey of personal growth, we could all pace ourselves according to our individual needs and unique trajectories.
9. You Don’t Have to Squeeze 300 Lives into One Lifetime
Because the spouse and I chose not to adopt children, we’ve been able to move around and try different careers and adventures.
We tend to follow opportunity and our own curiosity.
But even though we enjoy more freedom than couples with kids and pets, after the accident, I realized that I no longer needed to experience every single adventure in this one lifetime.
This particular realization was very calming for me: I’ll never get it all done. And that’s okay.
10. It’s Between You and Something Higher
I know this is kind of an intense thing to say, but after the accident, I realized that the standard American adult friendship doesn’t really meet my relational needs.
I mean, it doesn’t even come close.
I love my friends – in fact, I like people even more now than I ever have before – but the fact is I have an extremely rich internal world with more material than any one person could ever bear thoughtful witness to.
The way our culture operates on the day-to-day level, it’s difficult to establish (over the occasional cup of coffee or phone call) true intimacy and that quiet confidence that a deep friendship and a hundred lazy hangouts create. After the accident, I was able to accept this calmly.
Now, I get my strokes from nature.
I like going for long walks by myself and appreciating the simple brilliance of Earth’s natural physical environment.
And I have an active dialogue with a power that is higher than me.
Call it divine energy – I don’t want to offend anybody; I’m just saying that I depend on my spiritual relationship with what I imagine to be an Infinite Field of love, intelligence, creativity, and compassion.
11. Setting Healthy Boundaries is an Essential Life Skill
Before the accident, I used sometimes to offer people constructive feedback. After the accident, I focus mostly on keeping my own side of the street clean.
Underneath it all, I’ve always been deeply interested in other people. I could listen – rapt – to someone talk about what they had for breakfast, or what they dreamed about the night before, or their secret hopes and fears, or their favorite movie… anything.
Since the accident, however, I cannot endure listening to anyone talk about themselves unless I feel certain they can sustain curiosity and interest in my life (as I can in theirs).
Otherwise, the exchange of energy is inequitable and, therefore, unhealthy.
12. Among the Biggest Realizations: Enjoying Life is a Good Thing
Man oh man, do I love to laugh.
My spouse and I spend much of the day figuring out goofy ways to make the other laugh.
At night, after dinner, we watch comedies. Good ones, bad ones, romantic ones, silly ones – I’ll give any comedy a chance because I know that laughter is, quite literally, good for one’s body and brain.
Since the accident, I don’t follow any televised news shows (and I generally avoid crime procedurals, except for some British ones).
“If you had one goal, and that was to feel good, you would never again need to hear another word from anyone. You would live successfully and happily and in a way of fulfilling your life’s purpose ever after.” — Abraham-Hicks
I’m no longer afraid of being ordinary. I’m influential in my own particular way. I vote. I spend at local mom-n-pops (when possible). I create a job (when the budget allows for it). More important than all of the above: it’s how I treat people when I leave the house each day.
I don’t honk my car horn or treat the grocery cashier like a robot.
The older I get, the more I realize it’s up to me to demonstrate kindness and grace (I have a lot to make up for: I was a wild youth!).
One of my friends was a Zen monk in a remote mountaintop monastery for two years.
He explained that he had many questions about life before entering the monastery. When he left two years later, he still had those same questions, but the difference, he says, is that he’s okay with the not-knowing.
He can now more joyfully hold the space for the mystery of life. He permits himself to enjoy a basic moment within a basic day, minus the neurosis.
Today, when he has an hour break between clients, he runs down to the beach, and – if no one is around – he rips off his clothes and jumps into the waves! He’s one of the happiest guys I know.
Bonus Realization: Joy Modules Can Be “Stacked”
Sometimes daily life seems to be a process of trying to make the unconscious, conscious.
The twist is: we’re often ambivalent about the pace of that process – we’re always trying to speed it up or slow it down, depending on our moment-to-moment anxiety.
In the movies, life-changing moments are often cinematic and laden with computer-generated images and dramatic sweeps of music.
In real life, seemingly mundane occurrences often inspire the most powerful realizations.
For example, on two separate occasions, I saw someone simply walk in front of me and had an instant epiphany that improved the way I saw and experienced my life from that point forward.
Sometimes, though, life-changing moments can occur from startling external events.
Though the details of my friend’s accident are not the point of this particular article, I will say that it was an accident that could happen to anyone and yet was still quite unexpected.
I find it a bit irksome to even refer to it as an “accident,” as it was more of a growing opportunity.
In the days following the accident, all of these ideas that I had been flirting with for a few years crystallized and became deeply and profoundly real.
In other words, what had been a slow-burning intellectual and philosophical awareness before the accident, transformed – almost overnight – into an integrated part of my psyche after the accident.
I share these realizations with the hope that they might offer you increased clarity and direction in your own life.
I encourage you to use the realizations that seem helpful or illuminating and leave behind those that seem not to fit your life’s unique trajectory.
I believe passionately that we need these sorts of insights to keep on our life path so that we can fulfill our purpose.
After the accident, I could see – with crystal clarity – that I had been overcomplicating my daily life.
Fit as many joyful activities into your day (or, at least: your week) as possible.
This is a recipe for inner peace and a way to make your life more delightful – and meaningful.