Intellectual belief is something a lot of people seem to worship, in a way. They need the proof, the numbers, the stats, the case studies. For them to believe it — it must be field-tested and cited by experts.
My dad smoked multiple packs of cigarettes from age 20-ish until he was in his mid-50’s. Mind you, he was a ‘smart’ man. Very analytical. Shrewdly so, in fact.
He knew the numbers. He saw the TV programs about people dying of lung cancer and all kinds of other cancer. He saw his own relatives and friends become diagnosed with all kinds of horrible ailments from smoking. He heard the pleas from loved ones urging him to stop.
But he kept on doing it. For years and years.
Until one day… He stopped. Just like that.
Why? After all the years of staring at the proof in the pudding — what made him slam the brakes on his horrible habit (and why did it take him so long)?
The way I see it, through the decades prior to quitting, my dad went off of intellectual understanding. But even with the loads and loads of evidence saying that what he was doing was incredibly unhealthy — it might have changed his mind (he wanted to stop), but it didn’t change him. It didn’t change his heart.
What got him was an epiphany. A moment in time where insight sprang up from within him. All of a sudden, it became his idea to stop.
I remember the day. I was about 20 years old. He came out to the golf course (this was during my golf instructor years) and was filming my swing from the golf cart. It was a rare occasion to get him out there. Since he didn’t play the game, filming me gave him a reason to be there. We had a nice time.
We went home, popped the tape in the VCR (yep, I said it, V-C-R), watched it, and all of a sudden, it hit him…
Throughout the video was his breathing. His heavy, congested, cigarette smoke-stunted breathing. He got to see for himself how overwhelmingly horrid he sounded — something he’d never observed before.
I didn’t even think of it. I was around it my whole life. His breathing was just… his breathing. But he saw it. And that’s all he needed to stop cold-turkey that night.
Decades of intellectual understanding have absolutely nothing on one moment of insight.
Advice is fun. It can help. Getting it is nice and giving it is enjoyable too (shameless plug: In case you’ve missed it, I give little bits and pieces of advice every week in my YouTube series, Off the Cuff).
With a lot of coaches — all they do is give advice. Which is helpful. But as with my dad’s case study above, dealing solely at the intellectual level with advice is severely limited.
I prefer grooming a space where epiphany can happen.
I can’t engineer insight/epiphany on-demand (I’m not THAT good). But what I can do is point the way to where what I call the bus stop of epiphany is. I can help someone find the space where they can have their own insights. Where they can come up with the idea themselves (which, from what I’ve experienced, is the only way real change happens — a’la my dad).
The bus stop epiphany is where we sit in the presence of the unknown. The hasn’t-happened-yet. We open ourselves to the new (and we don’t wait for life to bring us to our knees before heading here).
Thing is — there is no schedule at the bus stop of epiphany. We’re never quite sure when the bus will stop. But it runs constantly. And it seems that, the more we show up there, the more it gets used to our schedule.