Life Rarely Changes With An Epiphany
The hopeless romantic in me suggests that this is true. But to indulge in it would most likely leave me disillusioned, bitter, and resentful.
We like entertaining stories about the addict, the alcoholic, the unlawful individual, the underdog — people who begin their journeys at rock bottom and begin a Herculean ascent to fulfill their forgotten potential.
It feels good to believe that change comes suddenly, and it happens in a linear fashion. While we might explicitly deny believing in this notion, we secretly harbor a hope that this may happen to us.
We implicitly believe in a force, influenced by external or internal occurrences, that allows us to finally see through the fog, to make clear of the unclear.
We like to believe that there is an external agent that usually points the way forward.
Whether it be a powerful pill that unlocks the brain’s full potential (The Movie Limitless), an omniscient Being that beckons individuals to adventure (Biblical Abraham), or an old man that starts us on a quest to save the damsel in distress from a powerful villain (Zelda), the idea that we are thrust into a journey is implied:
We are passive entities until something or someone comes along to start the course of our lives.
This idea is alluring because it removes responsibility from us as sovereign individuals capable of making choices to change the course of our lives. It implies that each person has a “destiny” — that we can continue to live life passively until we are called to adventure by a random and sudden encounter.
And perhaps this trope is persistent across time because there is truth in it.
Even if we’d like to think that we can dictate how our lives will go, even if we’d like to think that we can seize life by the horns and pave our own paths, defeating every resistance and overcoming every obstacle, seldom do we find that we have the motivation to trudge down such a demanding and difficult path through sheer willpower.
So maybe we fool ourselves to believe that we must wait for an epiphany, an illuminating thought or realization, to finally give us an infinite pool of motivation and energy that we can utilize to live the lives we’ve always wanted to live, reach our full potential as individuals, and achieve great things in life.
Maybe we fool ourselves that patience is a virtue — that everything in our lives will come together and make sense, that the missing vertical Tetris piece that we desperately needed would fall from the sky and fit perfectly to erase four rows in one move.
But what if we were living in a dream and convinced ourselves that it was reality? Maybe the dream was so good that we refused to wake up. Maybe we lost our grasp on reality and persistently held on to a distorted view of reality — one that would leave us stagnant and depressed but convinced us of its bright future.
What if we removed all certainty of this old dream and started a new one?
One that removed the idea that epiphanies are necessary for change, and promoted the idea that conscious, active decision and incremental improvement is the better model for consistent growth?
We underestimate the power of one small step. Only when a child completes his first stable step and learns to find balance is he able to focus on making the next step.
We like to believe that as adults, we must make big strides without falling on our faces. We know it hurts to fall, and we know it’s embarrassing to fall — especially when we’ve refrained from tripping and falling throughout life.
But we think of falling as a tragic, permanent state of being.
We think if we fail, people will ignore us and walk away, or even worse, crowd around us and laugh at our incompetence and clumsiness.
We think we will never get up again and instead put our faces to the ground in shame, never daring to stand and try again lest the same thing happens and we find ourselves subject to humiliation again.
But what is the reality? For all the faults that human beings have, one trait is commendable — the ability to rise again, to persist, to resist when life pummels us, to fight.
Some children have an innate drive within them to pick themselves up.
Other children need a little more encouragement from their parents to get back up. The fact that their parents are always there to lend their strength and sympathy, to blow on the cuts and bruises sustained from falls, to hug and console the troubled child, shows us that the reality of us being laughed at or ignored is rarely true.
There are many occurrences throughout life where many people rush to help a fallen person.
The desire to help another in distress is innate. Humans are emotionally affected when another is hurt, and will move to help when they can.
While it may not be true all the time, we only need one occurrence of kindness and sympathy, one person offering a hand when another finds themself down on the ground, to disprove the negative outlook.
Either way, they still know the implicit lesson that is permanent in human beings: We can always choose to rise after we fall.
We shouldn’t be afraid to fail, because through our failures, we learn key information that will bring us closer to success.
We need to learn to progress incrementally, rather than dramatically. If we hold the latter to be true, we will only face disappointment. We will set our bars too high and when we inevitably fail to meet our overshot expectations, we will criticize ourselves harshly and abandon our endeavors prematurely.