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Make Moments of Clarity Turning Points for Your Life

Their messages can help you become more fulfilled professionally and personally

By Marc Miller

We’ve all had it happen. Some major shift happens in life, maybe someone dies or becomes ill, you lose a job or you get a divorce. Alternatively, the event could be something positive like the first day of your dream job. Either way, it completely alters your perspective on life for a moment.

The future you saw for yourself changes and suddenly you can’t believe that the niggling issues that have been plaguing you – the ding on your car, your annoying co-worker – bothered you so much.

What Moments of Clarity Teach Us

I call these times Moments of Clarity. For a brief period, you see what’s really important in life. You may even resolve to change your habits or thinking to reflect your newfound perspective.

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Trouble is, many people let these moments fade. When that happens, your former concerns reassert themselves and once again you get preoccupied by the ding on your car.

But if you instead embrace your light-bulb moments and commit yourself to learn from them, even years after the actual perspective shift takes place, the result can be life changing. You may find yourself at the cusp of an entirely new career. 

A Bike Crash Was a Moment of Clarity for Me

One of my biggest moments of clarity came after I had a near-fatal bicycle accident in 2002, crashing into a Toyota Corolla. The chances of surviving were only 10 percent. I was fortunate, spending several days in a trauma center and walking away with only a few broken bones.

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The accident caused me to seriously re-evaluate my life. A year later I walked away from a lucrative job, training people to design telecommunications equipment, and began searching for a new career – one with more purpose.

The underlying message from my moment of clarity: Life was too short to work eight-plus hours a day just for money.

How the Accident Transformed My Life

I ended up becoming a math teacher in an inner-city school, then worked for a nonprofit and followed that up assisting a couple of startups. With each job switch, people kept asking me: “How do you do that? How do you get unstuck in your career?”

After many coffees and impromptu conversations about the journey I’d taken, I realized the career I was looking for – the one that would let me use my skills and make an impact – would be helping other boomers design their careers.

That’s what I’ve been doing for nearly the past three years, as a career coach and the author of the new book, Repurpose Your Career.

How to Turn Your Moment of Clarity Into Change

My advice is to think back on your big moment of clarity, identify its underlying message to you and ignite the spark to produce a meaningful change in your life.

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Here’s how:

  • Write down the circumstance that prompted the moment of clarity and what you told yourself you’d do as a result of it (but never did).
  • Jot down the obstacles you see to pursuing that life change now.
  • Brainstorm, either alone or with friends or family members, strategies for overcoming those obstacles. This may require pushing yourself into changing longtime habits you previously felt were implacable.
  • Make the message you received a priority and look for ways to integrate action about your new goal into your life just as you would with any habit you’re trying to cultivate, like exercising.

A Career Worksheet That Could Help

When I work with boomers looking to embark on new careers, I use a Career Reflection Worksheet as a filter to create clarity. You might find it useful, too.

In this worksheet, I ask questions like these to make them more aware of their moment of clarity messages:

  • Who was your favorite boss and why?
  • What do you consider respectful treatment at work?
  • When did you feel most valued at work and why?

Creating Clarity From Personal Moments

You can also use the concept behind the worksheet to determine which non-career-related aspects of your life have brought you the most satisfaction, then use your moments of clarity to make a change for personal, rather than professional reasons.

Ask yourself things like: When was I the happiest? What was my most fulfilling period and why?

Stoking the New Fire in Your Life

I know that change is hard, especially when it’s something big, like reinventing your career or adopting a wholly different lifestyle.

To keep your vision for yourself alive:

  • Work at it every day.
  • Feed yourself a diet of books that will reinforce and bolster your new perspective.
  • Post quotes on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator or desk that remind you of your new goals.
  • Eliminate habits that reflect or immerse you in old ways of thinking.

Don’t regret the things you didn’t try and don’t worry about failing at trying them. Most important: Don’t wait for another moment of clarity to jolt you into creating your best life.

Marc Miller Marc Miller’s career journey has included 22 years at IBM; several tech startups; a painful stint as a high school teacher; raising funds for the Jewish Community Association of Austin, Texas; training employees in 35 countries and a near fatal bicycle accident that changed his perspective forever. Miller now works as a career design expert for boomers and is the author of the new book, Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers. Read More
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