Updated on 05.19.10

The Moment That Changes Everything

Trent Hamm

Else stood this stone a fragment and defaced,
with lucent body from the shoulders falling,
too short, not gleaming like a lion’s fell;
nor would this star have shaken the shackles off,
bursting with light, until there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Torso of an Archaic Apollo, translated by C. F. MacIntyre

Every once in a while, something happens in your life that completely changes the rules of what is possible. It makes you rethink your direction in life and all of the things you’re doing.

Sometimes, it can be something as simple as viewing a piece of art (as Rilke describes above). It might be the death of a family member or a serious illness of your own. It might simply be a thought that leaves you gobsmacked. It might be the arrival of a child or the arrival of the love of your life. It might be a passage in a book. It might be something like my own epiphany.

Those are the most important moments of your life. Those moments convince you to change everything: your spending, your health choices, your career, where you live, what you’re doing with your time. They inspire you far more than anything else to make genuine changes in your life.

Most people don’t seek out those moments. They just go through their lives and, every once in a while, such a moment just falls on their lap.

Seek out those moments. Almost always, they push you on to a better path in life, one that leads to more happiness, more money, a better career, and better relationships.

Here are some ways to integrate such moments into your life.

Read. Read some more. Read things far outside what you would normally read. Read poetry. Read some challenging nonfiction – or some challenging fiction. Every once in a while, a book will completely change how you see the world and can often change your subsequent behavior. (A great example of this in my own life is my life-changing experience with Getting Things Done).

Try to engage in something new every week. Or, better yet, more often than that. Visit a new place in your community that you’ve never visited. Try out a new activity that you can do at home – knitting or gardening or any number of things. Expose yourself to these things – it may uncover new passions or teach you new things about yourself.

Start a conversation with someone new every day. When we’re locked into a routine, we talk to the same people every day and only have minor interactions with people outside of that routine. Shake it up a bit. Have a genuine conversation with someone new every day. The best way to do it is always to ask someone about themselves – people are always happy to talk about themselves. You might find the beginnings of a new valuable friendship.

Do things solely for the benefit of others. Volunteer to work for a charity. Spend half an hour helping out an elderly person that you know. Do it without expecting anything in return. What happens when you do this? You feel better about yourself. Others feel better about you. The world becomes a better place.

Make your life as fertile as you can for those life-changing moments and you’ll find that they happen more often, motivating you to great things.

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  1. MikeTheRed says:

    I couldn’t agree more! In my relatively short life (28) I’ve been very fortunate to find these moments of opportunity, and was smart enough to take advantage of them.

    In 2006, I left a “secure” job at an insurance company to move to the midwest and a job at a small computer game development studio. I sacrificed pure salary but gained much more in job satisfaction, met amazing people who are now life-long friends and have had my life enriched in so many other ways it’s impossible to list them all. And at the time everyone I knew told me it was a mistake to leave a secure job with a higher pay for something so risky.

    I think an additional point for your post should be “Listen to Your Heart” and not let other people project their own fears and risk-averse attitudes on your opportunities. Even people who seem to have your best intentions in mind can be obstacles to change if it’s a drastic enough one. If you know it’s the right move for you, don’t let others talk you out of it.

  2. I’ll second the idea of starting a conversation with someone new everyday.
    It’s amazing how often we see the same people during our daily routines. Commute to work, walking the dog, taking the kids to the park etc. And, yet, we often don’t engage in conversation with them.
    Why not?
    I know I’m guilty of this. Something I know I need to work on.

  3. Mol says:

    Mine is the broadway musical RENT. Has changed my life at least a few times. It has the ability to restimulate my drive. :)

    TSD is also a steady motivator for me to seek out opprotunities to grow.

  4. Crystal says:

    I’m a big fan of volunteering…it’s a special kind of happy…

    Music helps my husband and I feel re-energized. Listening to Aerosmith’s “Dream On” or anything on Pink’s Funhouse album makes me feel awesome…

  5. Kate says:

    Travel is mind-expanding to me. I started with major US cities and am now aiming for major international cities.

    To see how people in other areas handle things always makes me question how things could be made better where I am.

  6. Nick says:

    Solid choice of poem to quote. Kudos.

  7. Alyson says:

    This is a comment not on the subject matter, but the ad at the bottom of my e-mail. It’s the ridiculous one from the Republican Governors’ Association blasting Timothy Cahill (who is running for Governor of MA – where I live). I don’t know how closely you vet your ads – but this is one with an obvious negative political spin that you may want to look into. Also: how in tarnation do they know where I live?????

    I thought the article itself was insightful, as I do with most articles (but not all :-)

  8. Laura says:

    I read the book The Element by Ken Robinson. I highly recommend it.

  9. Suzanne says:

    These are all great ways to stop and appreciate what you have. Reading is definately my escape-it sharpens my senses and prepares me for life’s unexpected situations in mysterious ways. Great post!
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  10. Melanie says:

    @ Tyler “It’s amazing how often we see the same people during our daily routines.”

    Tyler is spot on with this one. I see the same people every morning on 10 minute commute to work. “Walking Guy” “Bike Girl” “The Professor” “Bus Stop Family” “Jeep Lady” Reminds me of the scene in The Truman Show where the cars circle the block every 5 minutes.

    I’ve started waving to them, they are probably thinking “There goes crazy woman”…

  11. Georgia says:

    I am a talker. I talk to anyone who will listen. My kids lecture me about talking to strangers. I inform them there is no such thing as a stranger – just someone I haven’t talked to yet. I do use normal precautions, but barge full steam ahead. My life’s motto, “People are the best things God ever made and onions come second.”

    When asked if I am prejudiced, I say I can’t afford to be. I would lose 3/4 of the human race to talk to. I learned this early, from Sunday School. Remember the little song, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight.”

    Oh, another strange thought. Maybe I am prejudiced. My motto above says “people are the best things God ever made.” How do I know that? I am prejudging them on all the wonderful people I have met and talked to. But, I haven’t met “all” of them, have I? I’ll have to spend a little time thinking that one through.

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