Let’s start with the obvious: what the heck is an epiphany? An epiphany is usually defined as a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential meaning or nature of something. The simple version is a sudden insight which gives us a deeper understanding of some topic.
I find that as we enter the holiday season, many people tell me they have had epiphanies and they are really going to think, feel or act differently because of those epiphanies. And I am sincerely supportive of them and glad that they have had whatever revelation it is. Then we wait to see what happens.
What I have found over the last several decades is that there is a short-term change. The person really does seem to think, feel or act differently. Then, after a few weeks, I notice that most people have gone back to how they thought, felt or acted before they had the epiphany and will become very defensive if you ask them why they changed again. Some will justify returning to the old ways by saying that the epiphany was wrong and they were ok the way they were before. Some will look surprised and act like they have no idea what I am talking about and change the subject. And some will just look at me and simply say, “I don’t know.” That last group will acknowledge that they felt better or like the way things were going, yet over time they just returned to the previous way of being. So, the question is, do epiphanies really matter?
My answer to that is yes!!! While a single moment of insight may not make a long lasting change, it is a start. We can’t suddenly not understand anymore, we can ignore that understanding for a period of time. And one single epiphany, unless it is monumental, isn’t enough to create serious, long-lasting change. It is, however, a good start.
Our brains have spent our entire lives wiring and re-wiring depending on our thoughts, feelings and actions. This is great news because it means that we can rewire them and make lasting change! But, slow down a moment because it isn’t quite that easy. New thoughts, feelings and actions will create new wiring, but the old wiring is still sitting there and it is more deeply ingrained than the new stuff. So we have to realize that we still have the old wiring (habits, feelings, etc.) and we have to practice the new stuff until it gets easier to override the old stuff. That’s the hard part and why it is so easy to slide back into old patterns even when we genuinely want to change them.
Epiphanies are very important because they start the process and when we begin to have more of them, it keeps the process going. The first epiphany is what gets the party started and then when more of them come, we keep moving in a new direction. The epiphany is the start, but we have to fuel them to keep things moving.
I hope if you have an epiphany this holiday season, that you give it some thought, effort and energy and just see where it takes you. Mine have helped me shape who I am and allow me to be who I want to be, not who someone else wants me to be and for that I am grateful. Happy Holidays!