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August 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

A pivotal “aha” moment put Sally Ride on a path that would send her into space

Sally Ride was in high school with a comment by her father sparked a life-changing aha momentThirty years ago this summer, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space. As she prepared for the flight, she fielded some bizarre questions from reporters. Would she wear make up while on  the mission? Would she wear a bra under her NASA uniform? Did she ever cry at work? Whew, I’m grateful that the view of women at work has changed, and that Sally took steps to break down the barriers for us!

Sally was still a student when a comment by her father sparked a pivotal “aha” moment that  put her on a path to space, even though it would be years before the thought of becoming an astronaut even crossed her mind. She described her AHA! and its impact on her life in a 2002 book of transformational stories collected by Marlo Thomas titled The Right Words at the Right Time.

Teenaged Sally had come home from high school one day feeling blue. It wasn’t because kids were picking on her. They weren’t. The problem was her friends. Sally saw how smart they were and was convinced she’d never measure up.

Sally didn’t say anything to her father about her insecure feelings, but somehow he knew. “You’ve got to reach for the stars,” he told her that evening. He had always cheered her on and encouraged her to have big aspirations. But for some reason those words that night sparked a profound realization for Sally. Suddenly she saw how important it was to believe in herself, to set her goals high, and to work relentlessly to achieve them.

After her insight, Sally focused on becoming a professional tennis player. She loved the sport and was already playing on the U.S. junior circuit. She gave tennis everything she had but eventually saw that it wasn’t her path to the top.

Sally went back to college. She was close to earning a Ph.D. in astrophysics and was beginning to think about life after school when she noticed a NASA ad in the student newspaper. The agency had just opened the door for women to become astronauts. The rest, as they say, is history.


AHA! Tip: Hear what the VIPs (Very Important People) in your life are saying. Their words might spark a moment of clarity that will stay with you and change the course of your life.


Would you like to learn what you can do — the steps you can take — to prime yourself for life-changing insights like the one that Sally and so many others have experienced? The AHA! Handbook: How to spark the insights that will transform your life and career draws from more than a decade of research and describes the steps you can take now to generate powerful and life-altering realizations in your life and career.

AHA! Stories, AHA! Tips, Enhanced Career Focus and Success Tags: , ,

July 25, 2013 at 1:37 am

A spiritual “aha” moment

DSC00480Summer wouldn’t be complete for me without a trip (or two) to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. I love the waterfront cottages, the crystal clear water, and the warm breezes. And I love the drive there almost as much. The road weaves through rolling hills as it passes small towns, vineyards, and farms.

I was reminded of the beauty of the Finger Lakes when I picked up this month’s issue of Guideposts magazine.  In it was an article written by Pauline Weaver of Penn Yan, New York—a town in the heart of the region.

Unfortunately, Pauline wasn’t focused in the article on the beauty of her surroundings. Instead she described how she and her husband, Kenny, had struggled to make a go of their 120 acre dairy farm. Drought on their land had withered their crops and dried up their water supply. Sickness in their herd reduced the number of productive cows by close to half. A high bacteria count in the milk meant that Pauline and Kenny lost their contract to sell it.

Pauline also described how she and Kenny saw their situation very differently. Throughout it all, Kenny had kept a positive outlook. His faith was strong and he believed that God would bless their farm. Pauline thought Kenny could use a dose of realism.

Then in a flash of clarity Pauline saw her husband in a new light. Suddenly she saw his faith as a virtue, and as a result she had faith too—a faith that would sustain her in the months and years to come.

(Click here to read Pauline’s story of her spiritual “aha” moment.)

Deepened Spiritual Life Tags: , ,

July 24, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Dealing with a boss who micromanages. Tips collected by Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli

Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli collects tips for dealing with a micromanaging bossThe pressure of working for a micromanaging boss can be intense. If you’re living with one, check out these tips collected by Janet Scarborough Civitelli.


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July 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

A Big Bang! Penny has an epiphany.

Big Bang's Penny had a life-changing "aha" moment.The sitcom The Big Bang Theory is very popular with certain members of my family, namely my husband. (David worked for a while on the Caltech campus in Pasadena and appreciates geeky.)

David was catching up on reruns last week when he saw The Closure Alternative from last six. In this episode Penny (the aspiring actress, girlfriend of experimental physicist Leonard, and neighbor of theoretical physicist Sheldon) experienced an epiphany.

OK. I know that Penny is just a sitcom character. And I know that sitcom characters don’t have epiphanies, unless of course the writers write them into the script. That said, I found Penny’s realization insightful and thought you might too.

Penny had noticed the passion that her friends on the show felt for life — passion for television shows, for science, for technology. Penny wished she could experience the same enthusiasm in her life, but she couldn’t even muster enough excitement to go look for it.

Over dinner one evening, Penny explained to Leonard that she had experienced an epiphany. She realized that there was something that she was passionate about — her friends. “I’ve always had these plans. I’m going to be in movies and live this glamorous life and anything less than that wasn’t worth getting excited about,” she explained. But the insight delivered a new perspective. “I shouldn’t wait. I’ve got you. I’ve got Sheldon. These wonderful friends. My life is exciting right now.”

How true. How often do we lose sight of the excitement right in front of our noses because we’re so focused on something else somewhere else? I know I do. Thanks, Penny, for sharing your epiphany.


July 4, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Can a tape measure spark a life-changing “aha” moment? Just ask Amy Boyle.

How a conversation sparked a life-changing aha moment for Amy Boyle

Photo by Alessandro Paiva

I remember as a kid playing with my dad’s retractable tape measure. I’d pull the tape all the way out, lock it into place, and then with a careful flick of my thumb release the lock and watch as the full length careened back inside the casing in no time flat.

For me a tape measure was a toy. For Amy Boyle, it was the catalyst for a life-changing “aha” moment, one that she would recall years later in a letter to the Edmonton Journal.

Life was nothing but problems stacked upon problems. At seventeen years old, Amy was certain of it.

One day she shared her troubles, all of them, with her dad’s business partner. “Life’s too short to have complaints and problems,” he told Amy and encouraged her to think about the people who hadn’t had the privilege of living long enough to experience life’s challenges.

Amy didn’t buy it. Instead, she asked for proof.

The man pointed to a retractable measuring tape. He told Amy to extend the tape its full length and then to lock it into place. He instructed her to find her age on the ruler and, then, to look down the length to 70″ or 75,” a person’s average life span.

In an emotional flash of clarity Amy got the message. “Ever since then I have never taken anything for granted,” she wrote.

Increased Health and Well-Being Tags: , ,

June 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Survey says…The top tips for the high school graduating class of 2013

My husband and I were in Virginia Beach last weekend for our nephew’s high school graduation. (Congratulations again, Cuyler!) My hometown of East Aurora, New York, will hold its ceremony this weekend. Some graduates turned their tassels almost a month ago.

Thank you again to all who responded to my one-question survey: As you think back to the “aha” moments you’ve had since graduating from high school, what is your top tip for the class of 2013?

Tips for the 2013 high school graduation class from the "aha" moments of prior graduates - a survey conducted by Donna Hartney, author of "aha" moment self-help bookDrum roll please. Here are the top three most frequent tips in a survey of more than 200 contacts and colleagues, ranging from recent grads to those who had been out of school for decades. As a bonus I’ve thrown in the most poignant tip and the laugh out loud funniest tip.

Let’s do this the David Letterman way. Shall we?

Tip #3 – Focus on your connections

As Anne Rogers (class of 1981) put it, “Always CONNECT with the people in your life!  Whether it is university professors, cafeteria servers, people in your dorm, or the provost, learn their name and make sure they learn yours.  We are all human, we are in this together, EVERYONE needs to connect.”

Tip #2 – Do what you love

“If I had a time machine to bring me back to the day I graduated high school, the one tip I would give to my younger self is do what makes you happy,” wrote Kelly (class of 2001). “Life is too short to live it the way you think you have to or the way society tells you. If you are not doing what makes you happy, inevitably you will live a mediocre life. You are only as rich as you are happy and now as an adult I have truly realized the meaning in that.”

Tip #1 – Be a learner

Ronni Price (class of 1987) summed it up, “Even though you’re graduating, don’t stop being a student.  Become a learner for life. Take each day or year as an opportunity to grow. Seek, discover and engage in something new; learn from an experience.  If you make the effort to do this, life rarely (if ever) gets boring and you’ll most likely always have something to look forward to.”

The most poignant response came from Nancy Maloney (class of 1977 and winner of the random drawing for a $25 gift card).

“When my former CEO,  who had devoted his life to his job (running through multiple marriages, always working, being thrown out by the Board after executing the most successful area merger) died of a heart attack at age 51, I thought, ‘Life is too short. I’ll never again give up the ones I love, the things I love, for a job. I’m going to do what makes me happy, not necessarily what I’m good at.’ I went back to school and became a master cabinet and furniture maker.”

The funniest response came from Mark (class of 1972). He wrote, “Check with your wife before doing something stupid.” Lol! OK, in fairness to Mark, here’s his complete list:

1) If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

2) Your attitude is the most important choice you make every morning.

3) Be thankful in all situations.

4) Check with your wife before doing something stupid.

5) Be on the lookout for opportunities to show kindness.

Thanks again, everyone, and best wishes to the class of 2013!



AHA! Observations Tags: ,

June 13, 2013 at 1:52 am

AHA! Creating change through the power of insight

If you’re in the Buffalo area on Friday, June 14th, I hope that you’ll stop by the ODN meeting. Click here for meeting details.

 Donna Hartney, Ph.D., author of aha moment self-help book will speak to the ODN of Western New York


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June 4, 2013 at 12:40 am

How did Brad Pitt land in Hollywood? In the flash of an “aha” moment

22-year old Brad Pitt experienced a pivotal "aha" moment that prompted him to move to Los Angeles.

I just bought my first copy of Esquire magazine. (It’s probably no surprise to anyone that it’s my first copy. I’m not, after all, a member of the magazine’s target demographic.) On its pages I found a new and curious world of humor, language, pictures, and scents—although I could have happily done without the men’s fragrance samples.

Why buy a copy of the June/July 2013 issue? I had received a tip last week from Google Alerts that in it would be an interview Brad Pitt in which he discussed a life-changing epiphany, one that he experienced about the time he turned 40. That’s something I can’t pass up! I’m always on the look out for stories of defining moments. Was or wasn’t it a profound “aha” moment for him? That was my question.

Well, I can’t answer that question. Not yet anyway. I was so excited to read about a different AHA! (the one took Brad to Hollywood in the first place) that I haven’t read the rest of the interview.

Brad was a senior at the University of Missouri with graduation was just a few weeks away. Write one more paper. That’s all he had to do before a journalism degree would be his. Then a flash of clarity propelled Brad out into the world, far beyond his Missouri home.

“Then it occurred to me, literally two weeks before graduation: If the opportunity isn’t there, I’ll go to it. So simple. But it had never occurred to me. I’ll just go to it,” Brad recounted his pivotal realization to Tom Junod in the Esquire interview.

After the insight, 22-year old Brad stopped what he was doing, went home to Springfield, and focused on earning money. Soon he had saved up enough to drive his Datsun 200SX 1,600 miles west to Los Angeles.

Wow. What a great story. It has all the markers of an AHA!. In a flash of clarity, Brad gained a new understanding of the way the world works, one that was so convincing that it gave him all the focus, motivation, and determination he needed to change course immediately.

And, I love that Brad said, “So simple. But it had never occurred to me.” That’s the beauty of a transforming “aha” moment. Once you’ve had one, it all seems so simple.

Enhanced Career Focus and Success Tags: , ,

May 31, 2013 at 3:07 am

Noticing – A critical skill when it comes to priming yourself for a life-changing “aha” moment

Noticing is a key skill in priming yourself for a life-changing "aha" moment.ning yourself for a life-changing "aha" moment.




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May 28, 2013 at 1:18 am

A Complimentary Summertime Checklist – Prime yourself for a pivotal “aha” moment to make this the best summer ever!

A Summertime Checklist -- A pivotal "aha" moment could make this your best summer ever

 Summer is here. Hooray! Click on the filename to download the quiz: A Summertime Checklist

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