The Definition of an Epiphany is… August 30, 2012
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me what my definition of an epiphany is.
My definition of an epiphany for the purposes of this project is: a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes your life in some way.
Everyone usually has their own idea and definition of an epiphany, so when I interview people about their greatest epiphanies in life I usually ask what their definition of an epiphany is. What’s so interesting about this is that there are all these variations on what these moments are by definition to people, but they’re all accurate in their own unique ways.
I want to encourage you to think about how you would define an epiphany and how you would specifically define the ones you have had. To think about this and then, better yet, writing it down,
is very powerful. Try it. You’ll see.
So the other day, my friend, wonderful life coach, and the host and creator of The New Man Podcast, Tripp Lanier, contacted me. (You can check out his interview with me about epiphanies and our personal epiphany stories HERE.) He wanted me to check out Steven Pressfield’s book, Turning Pro: Tap Into Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work because he specifically had some musings on epiphanies that he thought I’d find interesting. I have read Pressfield’s The War of Art, which I highly recommend if you are a professional procrastinator like me. (I’m thinking of writing a new book called The Procrastination Process – it could be prize-winning, I’m so brilliant and top of the game at procrastination methods.) I took Tripp’s advice and got Turning Pro.
Here is what Mr. Pressfield had to say about epiphanies primarily in the context of artists’ breakthrough epiphanies regarding their work, which usually equals their lives:
“We usually think of breakthroughs as ecstatic moments that elevate us from a lower level to a higher. And they do. But there’s a paradox. In the moment, an epiphany feels like hell. Like Rosanne Cash’s dream, an epiphany trashes us. It exposes us and leaves us naked. We see ourselves plain, and it’s not a pretty picture. The essence of epiphanies is the stripping away of self-delusion. We thought we were X. Now suddenly we see we’re minus-X. We’re X divided by infinity.
There is great power in this moment. We’ve lost something, yes. A cherished self-delusion must be abandoned, and this hurts.
But what we have gained is the truth. Our bullshit falls away. The scales drop from our eyes. In that moment we have 2 options:
We can reconstruct our bullshit.
Or we can turn pro.” p. 85
Then he says:
“Epiphanies hurt. There’s no glory to them. They only make good stories at AA meetings or late at night among other foot soldiers in the trenches. These soldiers know. Each has his own story, of that ghastly, hideous, excruciating moment when it all turned around for him.” p. 86
These definitions and descriptions of epiphanies are different in tone than what I discuss in my book, but they are also accurate. I love epiphanies for this very reason – they are very different for all of us, yet there are always elements to them that we can all relate to.
And guess who just got added to my WISH LIST of people to interview?
* If you’d like to send in your definition(s) of an epiphany or a wish list candidate, please put them on our Fan Page or Share them here! To read some of the definitions of epiphanies from my book, you can read an excerpt HERE and for an more thorough article on the History and Definitions of an Epiphany, you can go to my Psychology Today Blog HERE, or you can just see me TALK about it HERE!)