This is what I have been asking people from all walks of life – everyone from world-renowned figures such as Dr. Oz, Deepak Chopra, Maya Angelou and Barry Manilow to people like my fifth grade teacher, an ex-convict, stay-at-home moms, and a waiter in Tanzania.
By definition, an epiphany is “a moment of sudden or great revelation.” Therefore, an epiphany in itself does not necessarily change your life. But whenever people answer this question about their greatest epiphanies in life, they always seem to go to events that actually made a profound and powerful difference. Every single person I have interviewed who had an epiphany said it led to great positive change. So in my un-scientific way, I’ve discerned a pattern of four characteristics that accompanied each life-changing epiphany a person reported to me.
4 Characteristics of Life-Changing Epiphanies
1. LISTENING. Whether they were calmly contemplating the sky, meditating or praying, clinging to hope in a crisis, desperate to heal, or searching for an answer, people were listening and paying attention to signs and what was going on around them. I say “listening” rather than “looking” because many of the epiphanies, especially the more miraculous ones, almost all had to do with hearing a voice, either of another person, an inner voice or one from a Higher Power.
2. BELIEF. When people had an epiphany, they never doubted for one instant that whatever happened was real for them. They had absolute faith and trust in their experience, knowing the action they felt compelled to take because of their epiphany was right for them, regardless of what anyone else thought.
3. ACTION. Every single person whose epiphany positively changed his or her life took action on their belief in their epiphany and what they felt was true for them. Each of them took the first step toward whatever the epiphany compelled them to do, even if they had no idea what would happen after that.
4. SERENDIPITY. After people began to take action on their epiphanies, circumstances seemed to fall into place so that they could take the next step. It is as if the world conspires to support your decisions and actions, to confirm that you are on the right track. Many of the people I talked to felt the hand of God or some other mysterious, benevolent force in their lives after their epiphanies.
So Can We Induce A Life-Changing Epiphany?
People keep asking me “How can I have an epiphany? Can you induce them?” From everything I have read and heard, we cannot really induce these personal, life-changing moments. They are, in essence, mysterious. There is some research out there that I found about “aha moments,” but it’s not at all extensive. Scientists are pinpointing the area of the brain that is active when these realizations occur, but they have not been able to induce the personal, life-changing moments in the lab to truly study them scientifically. In fact, one of the constants uniting the epiphanies I have learned about is that they are experienced as somehow mysterious, seemingly uncaused—and as a result, those who undergo them treat them with reverence.
So though we can’t necessarily provoke or force epiphanies, because of the four conditions that accompany life-changing epiphanies, I do believe we can prepare and be open to these moments of revelation.
4 Steps to Prepare for Epiphanies
1.) Find ways to quiet the mind and live in the state of “listening” where they occur. Some people think that epiphanies only happen when you’re going through a crisis, a time when we are compelled to be more acutely aware of our life and its meaning. But that doesn’t have to be the case. We can live our everyday lives in a state of attentive listening, whether that be through meditation, prayer, walking, being in nature or whatever works for us to get us in the place of mindfulness and a quiet state. If you aren’t listening and paying attention, it is much harder to notice and honor these moments when they come.
2.) We can cultivate faith and belief in ourselves, so that when one of these moments occurs, we embrace, acknowledge, and respect it. This might mean having to do deep inner work on ourselves through therapy, life coaching, classes, reading, study, surrounding ourselves with people who better us and support us – however you are cultivating and building faith in yourself and in what you are doing and pursuing in life.
3.) Most importantly, take action on your instincts, insights and epiphanies – no matter how big or small. You can start with baby steps. Just move one step in the direction your epiphany is sending you. Then the second step usually reveals itself, then the third step, fourth step, and pretty soon you’re running. It’s through taking action that serendipity is encountered – the fact that the world seems to be arranging itself to urge you on in the right direction.
4.) When you experience serendipity, make sure to notice and trust it and your intuition. If you feel good about the actions you’re taking, and life seems to be “in flow” then you’re probably on the right track. “If it’s flowing, keep going!”
By always remaining open to the insights that life is offering us and listening, believing, and taking action on them, and then noticing and appreciating the support that appears, we get practiced at the process and can start experiencing epiphanies all the time, from very tiny ones to life-transforming ones . . . and life tends to get extremely exciting and interesting when we do.
To read, see, learn more about epiphanies and the incredible inspirations people are sharing and to share your epiphany stories, please visit EpiphanyChannel.com.
Elise Ballard is an actress, independent filmmaker and producer, the creator of EpiphanyChannel.com, and now, an author. Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage and Transform is her first book. She started her career in entertainment working as an actress in New York, Austin, TX and Los Angeles, and moved into producing in Los Angeles as a partner in a production company that produced films distributed by Lionsgate and Monarch Entertainment. Her critically acclaimed directorial debut, Lord of the Wiens: A Dachumentary, a movie about the annual Wiener Dog Races in Buda, TX, became a cult hit, receiving considerable national press coverage, playing film festival circuits and PBS, and is still selling to lovely dachshund fans worldwide. Since then, she has created, directed and produced numerous projects including BackStage: Behind the Scenes segments for Time Warner cable’s Publik Music channel; FitPack, a series of short exercise regimens and viral ads by NYC celebrity trainer Joel Harper, and the YOU DVDs accompanying the YOU book series by world-renowned, bestselling authors, Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen. She is currently in development on several projects, including more for EpiphanyChannel.com, film and television versions of the project, and future books for the Epiphany series.
To view a short clip of Elise working behind the scenes, you can go here.