The Moment That Changes Everything

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.