The Trouble with Epiphanies 

As humans, it’s in our nature to ask for input from those we trust. We might ask for advice about something they’re experienced in or just for their insights into whether an uncharted path is right for us, given how well they know us. Like I discussed in Guide versus Lead: Are They One and the Same?, everyone reacts to direction differently, so we often elicit counsel from the ones who give us feedback the way we need.

While we all seek out advice, we also choose not to follow it from time to time. It can be administered from the best source in the best way and with the best intentions, but we usually have our own idea and probably wasted our breath—and theirs—by even asking. In such cases, our heart can get in the way and cloud our judgement. In some instances, following our instincts can prove to be the right call, but conversely, it can also lead us to learn our lesson the proverbial hard way.

I recently came across this quote by author Jodi Picoult: “Some lessons can’t be taught; they simply have to be learned.” We attest to this fact from the time we can start acting for ourselves. Our parents tell us not to do something because of the consequences we’ll suffer, but if you have your heart set on it, you’ll disobey their caution eventually and discover the logic in their warnings. On the bright side, you typically remember the lesson long afterward.

Once in a while, though, you’re struck with an epiphany out of nowhere, which spares you the aftereffects of hard-learned lessons. This happened to me as a young teenager. I always planned to get my driver’s license despite my limitations inflicted by Cerebral Palsy. In fact, my disability fed my hunger for independence. Truth be known, I never dared to ask for my parents’ thoughts on it, but they never discouraged it, either.

Over a year before I could pursue it, though, I just woke up one morning, and to my surprise, I resolved that I wasn’t going to attempt to get a license. To this day, I don’t know what triggered the conclusion, especially since we hadn’t been discussing it at all and because I had such a drive—pun intended—to have that freedom. Yet, my veil of desire suddenly lifted, allowing me to realize how my challenges could affect my skills, and I accepted it. I never looked back or tried to talk myself into it again, either.

Those kinds of epiphanies are so liberating. They give you more peace than a decision you make after hours of debate. You’re left with the conviction you made all on your own, sparing you the grappling you might do if you acquiesce to someone else’s logic. For my part, I have a stubborn streak and fight back when people tell me I can’t do something. I probably would’ve resisted if my family tried to steer me—again, pun intended—away from driving. This way, however, my choice gave me solace instead of scorn or even disappointment.

Unfortunately, these out-of-the-blue revelations are rare, at least for me. At times, we might try to force them, particularly when it comes to matters we’ve mulled over for an extended period. Our own experiences or those of others may prompt us to think with our heads that we should make a certain call, but our hearts don’t comply.

When that happens, we need to be patient with ourselves and those who want to help us. We’ll likely come to the right decision with time. It may not pop out of nowhere like we probably wish, but counsel or circumstances can slowly illuminate the best course that will bring us success and contentment.

Epiphanies are tricky, illusive things, but understanding them can benefit us and others. Regardless of how or when they hit us, they have to come from within, so we can’t expect somebody to give them to us. Likewise, we have to accept that we can’t make one for another person, even if we have a clear picture on what we feel they should do. Life is one big learning project that often has tough problems and few solutions, but working together to find them can enrich the process a great deal.

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