Oprah talks frequently about “a ha” moments, a concept that’s always resonated with me. I was thinking about this concept and recalled three very distinct moments where I had an epiphany, a realization – an “a ha” moment. Interestingly enough, all three moments are related to professional realizations.

The first “a ha” moment occurred when I was very unhappy in a job many years ago. I was sitting at a VIP event table (hosted by my boss) with a variety of people – colleagues, guests of colleagues, etc.

One gal (whom I’d never met before) asked me to describe for her my job. I told her where I worked and what I do there. She smiled and responded with, “And do you just love it?!” My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “No, I’m miserable.” But immediately after she uttered those words, something clicked inside me and I had my “a ha” moment. I didn’t love it and I needed to stop lying that I did. And that “a ha” moment was my cue to move on.

“A ha” moment #2 came when I was struggling with a colleague who was draining me emotionally and mentally. Things went from bad to worse when my supervisor at the time began sympathizing with said colleague. After a particularly bad day, I was lamenting my situation to someone I hoped had a sympathetic ear. Yet all that person said to me was, “You’ll have to deal with people like that all the time in your job; get used to it.”

The “a ha” moment came after those words were uttered, and I said to myself, But I don’t want to deal with that for the rest of my working life. While I’m not naïve enough to think I’ll never encounter difficult people in the workplace, that moment changed me. That’s when I realized I didn’t want to live my career jaded, angry, and dealing with difficult people all the time. I was in the wrong role and I needed to find a better fit for me.

And finally, my third “a ha” moment came when a former supervisor made a confusing decision that affected me greatly. I was hurt and didn’t understand why the choice was made (I still don’t, for that matter). The “a ha” moment came, however, when I finally came to an acceptance and realization that said supervisor actually did me a favor. I may never have looked beyond that workplace and may not be where I am today, which is a much better place – professionally and emotionally.

I love experiencing “a ha” moments because they help me focus on change and they provoke a positive response to what is usually a very challenging situation. And I guess it’s not surprising that so many “a ha” moments happen at work. After all, we spend 8 – 10 hours a day – five days a week – at any given job. Aside from our romantic partnerships and children (and pets), it’s probably the one other place that gets the most of our attention and energy.

One of my favorite lines in The Sound of Music is, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” Those “a ha” moments have become my windows where I’ve seen sunlight and brightness beyond the dark.

26 Responses

  1. Love this Leah. I found myself reflecting upon some of my own “aha” moments, and the resulting changes – for the better – in my life. Life is filled with so many blessings! Once again your post reminds me of the many ways the blessings fall into our lives!

  2. I know how you feel. Many times I found myself “stuck” at jobs that had to deal with so many negative people (aka working at a bank). I then realized that I was unhappy because my job was an unhappy one. like you mentioned, it’s inevitable not to run into a bad customer/client, but it is my power to filter them out as I choose.

    1. Exactly! That’s when you realize you have a choice as to whether to deal with the bad people/situations or not. It feels so freeing to be “unstuck.” Thanks for commenting.

  3. I love this! Sometimes we all get so caught up in our daily lives that we may often miss these ah ha moments when they happen. It’s wonderful that you were/are able to see them now. I’ve had several of them professionally also, not all of which resulted in me doing anything about them, which I regret, but in the future I am trying to be mindful and willful to act when they do happen. I think we all need to be a little more present so when moments like these occur, we realize it and act. Your post was a wonderful reminder!

    Have a great weekend Leah!

    1. Thanks so much, Lena! It’s scary to actually do something about those “a ha” moments. The change I made after the third situation I described didn’t happen immediately after the situation occured. It took a lot of pain and contemplation before I was able to make that realization. But I do try to learn from the situations, no matter how bad they seem at the time.

  4. A lot of times, I think hugely emotional situations in our lives can create those ‘ah-ha’ moments for us. When my sister-in-law passed at only age 40 from breast cancer, it was my ah-ha, kick-in-the-seat-0f-my-pants moment to stop “talking” about doing things – like starting a freelance career/business. Months after her passing, I walked into my boss’s office and just did it without really thinking about what I’d done. Just like that. Best decision I ever made. And even tough I was wracked with sadness and still miss her dearly, my sister-in-law’s death was a reminder that life is too damn short (another reason NOT to stay in crappy jobs with crappy people.)

    1. That’s poweful, Melissa. Wow! I try to think that we always have something to learn from a bad situation. So perhaps your sister-in-law was – in a way – helping you out of the bad job. Good for you! And thanks for sharing your “a ha” moment.

  5. My aha! moment came via a stranger. I was chatting with a fellow juror, and, as we tend to do when we think we’ll never see someone again, I was liberal with details on my resentment toward someone I had considered a friend. I felt my friend had given me bad advice about how to handle a miserable work situation. I had trusted her, but taking her advice had aggravated the situation—to the point of my getting fired.

    The stranger reflected, “I think your friend did you a great service. Listening to you, I can tell you were quite unhappy at that job. Your friend led you toward releasing yourself from that situation.”

    I’d never thought of it like that!

    1. Wow, that is powerful! Isn’t it amazing what a total stranger can tell that we can’t or have been unable to recognize? I’m glad you had that moment. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I was a graduate student studying intensive Russian. Our teacher was a drill sargent, and the intensity of the program had reached a peak. On this particular day, one of the students began to cry. Then another. And another. My “aha” moment came when I realized that while my class was important, nothing was worth this amount of stress.

    1. It’s so true when you get to the point when you realize the stress isn’t worth it. Thanks for sharing your “a ha” moment.

  7. I’ve had several work-related aha moments as well — usually revolving around difficult people or situations I did not want to be involved with. However, my aha moments were *after* I left the situation; that is, when I felt like there was something wrong with me because I should have been able to resolve things. My aha moment involves the realization that some things/people are 1) out of my control, and 2) I am giving them way too much power/control over me. My aha moment is this: no one can make me feel bad about myself if I don’t let them. It sounds so simple and trite, I know, but I’ve really struggled with this until very recently (I still do but at least I understand now).

  8. Wow, Leah, you really evoked a lot of aha moments from people, including myself. Like you, I had an experience in dealing with a difficult business colleague who was just draining me. My aha moment came when a dear friend advised me to look at this difficult person as a gift, because she was the push I needed to leave the job and venture out on my own, doing what I do now and loving it! Every time this person pushed my buttons, I would say to myself “thank you, so and so” because she really was a gift to myself. Thanks, Leah, for taking the time to help us all stop and reflect!

  9. I tend to have ‘oh yeah’ moments. Usually people realised the ‘a-ha!’, point it out to me, and I’ll respond with ‘…oh yeah’. My brain isn’t always the quickest.

  10. I like this post, but I have to tell you something I find humorous. I had an “aha” moment of my own and realized that I greatly dislike Oprah. I don’t truly dislike her, but I dislike the way she gave Obama the nod on her show and suddenly he’s president. It seems like people will do whatever she encourages them to do without so much as researching it. BTW, Obama is just one example, but it’s a pretty good one. I don’t watch her show anymore, no magazine (used to subscribe) and no book recommendations. No thanks.

    I’m Oprahed out.

    I’m not Leahed out though. : )

  11. My ah-ha moment was the approach of a certain birthday (which shall go unspecified 🙂 ). I had the realization that life and time were passing and if I didn’t sit down and write my novel(s) they would very likely go to the grave with me and never be told, since only I can tell them.
    Sounds morbid. But it made me sit down and write. So I’m grateful.

  12. Funny, as many of my “ah ha” moment have come through work, too. However, I couldn’t help but relate your “ah ha” moments to character development in a story. Imagine if we could take an “ah ha” moment for our protagonist, develop a story around it, and build to it throughout the book. Imagine the climax that might build around such an “ah ha” moment.

    You got me to think of my own “ah ha” moments in life, and how such profound thoughts could relate to my character. It adds such new dimension to any character development. What a tool! Thanks Leah. 🙂


  13. Your supervisors, bosses and fellow employees sound very similar to mine as a dental hygienist. I quit that career after doing it for 39 years. I simply lost the desire to work for a dentist and tired of the backstabbing.

  14. Great post and congratulations on the BlogHer mention! I have been trying to ignore a similar “a ha” professional realization myself recently, but I know we get those nagging gut feelings for a reason. Thanks for providing some hope that listening to your instincts can pay off long-term!

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