What Drives Those Wonderful Aha Moments? – By Sally Stacey

Have you ever tied yourself in knots trying to think of how to resolve a problem, then slept on it and woken knowing exactly what needed to be done?

Or have you prayed for guidance in a situation and had the answer suddenly appear out of the blue by way of a thought, a nudge or a person? A God moment or a God shot perhaps?

What about reading or hearing a concept that didn’t quite gel until you saw it in action or you experienced it…and then the penny dropped?

Has exasperation ever been etched across your face as you searched the recesses of your brain for the name of a familiar song you’ve just heard but can’t remember…only for it to hit you between the eyes a couple of hours later?

And what about anxiously wrestling with a delicate situation regarding someone…a child or a parent perhaps…only for the solution to make itself known whilst you’re singing in the shower or doing some other equally mundane activity?

Or have you found yourself waving a white flag and giving up altogether on trying to find a solution to something only for the lightbulb to go on at some later point..spotlighting the answer that you had missed?

These wonderful happenings and others are often referred to as Aha moments (or epiphanies).

Some famous examples of Aha moments include that of Bill Gates when he realised he would have to sell his product before he could even make it. Another example involves Sir Paul McCartney when the tune for the song, “Yesterday,” came to him fully developed in 1964 as he woke up one morning. And Percy Spencer is another who was working on radar technology when a chocolate bar melted in his pocket and he went on to invent the microwave. Then there’s Oprah who has catalogued many of her Aha moments including that of reading a book which led to her understanding just how the power of intention had played out in her life…that she’d played a major role in setting up every one of her life circumstances.

Aha moments appear to have value whether big or small in nature…they are moments of sudden insight, inspiration, recognition or comprehension. Clarity arrives and solutions to problems or significant realisations can occur. For many, they can happen anywhere at anytime, under varying conditions.

But what do you think generates them? Are they divinely inspired, or the result of a calm and uncluttered mind, or an intuitive thought…or something else perhaps? Can the scene be set to increase their likelihood of occurring….for example, by way of prayer, meditation, heading to the quiet of nature to seek undisturbed solitude or by journaling or introspective analysis? Or are they simply random happenings that need to unfold at their own pace?

Interesting to reflect on. Curious to your thoughts regarding the slightly mysterious but wonderful Aha moments that can occur and also to your experiences of them if you’ve had any.

Sally S

About Sally S

Born in Yorkshire, raised on the little Island of Guernsey...I’ve always been a curious type of person. A bit of a nurturer...fascinated by people, cultures, nature and the world at large. My mother tells me my most frequently uttered word as a young child was “why?” and I was that kid on the beach that never lay on a towel catching rays but would spend my time turning over stones in rock pools to see what lived underneath. Having lived in a few countries and explored many more..I’m always humbled and perhaps oddly comforted by knowing that I’m just a tiny dot in a vast world of interconnected life. Forever evolving, forever changing. Addiction is a large part of my adult life..when active, it was a destructive force but the existential crisis it eventually led to is something I am now truly grateful for. I don’t know what lies around the corner but one thing I’m pretty sure of, life in recovery is for living
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  1. Thanks for the read!! I really enjoyed post.

  2. i think it is any &/or every one of the examples…something higher at work, uncluttered mind, intuition, a glimpse into a higher consciousness we tap into…i have noticed when i can’t think of a word i know the answer to but it’s on the tip of my brain to just forget it & the answer almost always comes, sometimes in a minute, sometimes quite a while or days later….i kill at Jeopardy. some of the answers i actually know but a lot of them are an intuitive guess…ppl who know me well, wether it’s my kids’ friends or highly educated family members (i have 9th grade education) watch me with mouths agape LOL…(tho i can’t remember what i walked in the room for LOL)…

    i just met a lady online & she happens to be from my neck of the woods in FL & we have SO much in common that it is astounding! she is a widow, we both just started painting & drawing again, past traumas, drug experiences, we both just started reconnecting with old friends, our kids are similar, the list goes on…

    maybe there are no coincidences, just little miracles ~~ great topic!! xoxo

  3. I am an imperfect being attempting to understand perfection. I often wonder throughout the day just how many of these ‘aha’ moment I miss, or how many I have gotten in. The act of recognizing these manifestations from beyond and taking action on it I think complete the equation.

    I guess for me the realization is two fold one to fully consciously recognize these ‘aha’ moments but to also take the -correct- action based upon it.

    Great topic and share thank you Sally.

  4. Mmm…I think the simpler ‘aha’ moments – like finally remembering the name of a song – by and large come from a questioning mind (and the more dogmatic that mind, the higher the rate of ‘aha’s!).

    However, for me, an epiphany – in the truest sense of the word – is a moment of fundamental enlightenment, something that will actually change a person’s behaviour. And for that to happen, the realisation has to be a big old leap of consciousness – normally only possible when the mind is alert and receptive. So, in answer to your question Sal, I reckon that epiphanies are more likely to happen in sobriety and when the mind is OPEN to the world and its beings 🙂

    As for examples, well, yes I’ve had epiphanies, but my memory is so poor I genuinely can’t recollect them. Perhaps I’ll have an ‘aha’ moment in the middle of the night!

  5. Aha moments, I have many. I seem to have more aha moments than most people I know. The most recent one is when I realize maybe the number of aha moments one has is inversely proportional to one’s smartness…..Sad!

  6. I call them my “A-HA! (duh!)” moments. 🙂 I feel they are resting in our subconscious mind, waiting for the conscious mind to take a break from all the jibber jabber so it can surface. 🙂

    Love your writing, Sally.

  7. Thanks Sally!

    I have read this article a couple of days ago and my first thought was ~ yep, been there had those aha moments.

    Ive been pondering it more … the lightbulb, the moment of clarity, even the cry eureka at suddenly figuring something out.

    My college had a course that touched on sparking these eureka moments in yourself and peers. The premise was based on the the 4 stages of the creative process preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.

    Aha, aka uereka, came in the illumination phase.. ironic to the term “lightbulb” going off.

    I dont question why these happen, but am grateful when they do.

    I think it the fruit of hard work – put in the time to gather facts, study and review options, and often sleep on it.

    Our brains are amazing ~ science does not fully comprehend what goes on most of the time.

    Maybe I will ponder this some more, and see what other AHA moments it creates.

  8. Hello,
    Mrs. Sally
    I am very glad I have found your blog and read this specific post “What Drives Those Wonderful Aha Moments?”
    As I was reading I realized how many times I also had my Aha moments throughout my life so far. I don’t believe there is someone that hadn’t his/her “Aha” moments in his/her life. The important part though is what you do with these moments God gives us. Sometimes we don’t even recognize them and let them slip from our hands. When we do that our life can go on the wrong path. If I hadn’t recognized my “Aha” moments especially when I was still an addict I may have even ended up dead. I believe God wanted to give me the chance to be fully alive again and had sent me these “Aha” moments. I hope everyone that will read your post will realize them as well, utilize them, be grateful and change their lives for the better. I thank you for giving me the chance to remember and feel grateful to our god once again. Keep up the good work inspiring all of us.
    Kind regards
    Michael Surdyka

  9. Gotta love the ahah moments. We have so much stored in our memory which surfaces and humans have problem solving capabilities. I also can have thoughts that I wish did not surface, nagging really. But my ahah moment was to pay attention to the thought even if just for a moment to acknowledge and if it does not serve me well I tell my ego thankyou but this info is no longer needed. Egos job self preservation and so I believe is the basis of thinking constantly. Thx for the discussion topic Sally.

    • The Higher Power of Suffering had brought me to my knees. And that power began the process of healing. In the Buddha’s first discourse, the first truth that he defines is the Noble Truth of Suffering. He says that if we are going to solve the essential problems of being a human being, we’re first going to have to see this truth clearly. And it’s this truth that alcoholics and addicts don’t want to face. Our goal is, in fact, the opposite of this, to avoid suffering. We certainly don’t want to look at it or think about it. This avoidance is how addiction begins and what sustains it. But, as the Buddha points out, suffering is too powerful to avoid.

      Griffin, Kevin. A Burning Desire (p. 44). Hay House. Kindle Edition.

      This has to be one of the best ahha moments for me.

  10. What a lot of great examples of how insights come, or not…, what can sometimes block them, and ways to unlock them.
    For me another is to just take some good deep breaths. Even if answers don’t come, at least you’ve well oxygenated your brain and reduced momentary anxiety.
    Sometimes beginning at the beginning helps; ie, I was having trouble believing that Percy Sledge invented the microwave? I had left a period or two out, made an assumption due to thinking of music due to “Yesterday” reference, coupled with the date 1964 and thinking Percy did “When a Man Loves a Woman” a couple of years prior… lol, I guess maybe that’s ‘cross-contamination of facts. Thus, start over 😉
    And as often happens with me, I can get so far off topic I confuse myself…
    With a good nights sleep and refreshed mind, often revelation comes. And on that note, sometimes even in a dream for whatever reason; maybe subconscious is more free to roam.
    Sometimes answers come through meditation, with an uncluttered mind; whether it be something current or something you’d forgotten you were even vexed over.
    As usual your writings, musings and questions are challenging, thought provoking as well as entertaining while at the same time educational.
    Thank you yet again Sally 🙂

  11. I’ve had so many of these ah ha moments that I can’t imagine life without them. And they always come when I let go of pay attention to something else. They never happen when I’m worried about what to do.

    I don’t remember these happening before sobriety, they could have, but I was so foggy most of them time I doubt I’d notice them.

    Good stuff Sally.

  12. I have pondered most of the day on this topic. Off and On of course. I was a bit undecided about whether or not to mention what had occurred to me.
    To begin with, I found myself trying to figure out why it seemed I didn`t really have the Aha moments these days and thought that it was peculiar because they seemed to happen so frequently in the past.
    I had bright ideas day in and day out. Like 24/7. I was the man that thought outside the box. When conventional wisdom didn`t cut it, Go ask Andy.
    After a few moments, it occurred to me, Aha! I quit getting High. I thought well I can`t send that kind of reply. And it was odd to recall how exciting it was to have so many high ideas that seemed so exciting at the time until the day I had that realization moment. That`s right! Aha! Could it be all these bright ideas are why I have so many unfinished projects cluttering up my life and stealing my attention away from my responsibilities?
    So I truly had a head-smacking moment and of course, realized that`s been the problem all along. When I was much younger those Marijuana induced Aha moments yielded better results more often than not and through the years my hit and miss ratio got worse. Being high had become far more trouble than it`s worth.
    Even though the “Light Bulb” doesn`t go off as much these days, it is far more likely to yield better results.
    Thanks, Sally and please think of more bright idea topics for us. It`s been fun.

  13. Pete,

    You’re right, here’s a little bit of info on it that I found when writing up the topic:-

    Sir Paul McCartney 
The tune for McCartney’s most successful song came to him fully developed in 1964. “I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and thought, ‘Hey, I don’t know this tune – or do I?’”

    Friends and colleagues eventually convinced the 21-year-old Beatle that the tune wasn’t a known jazz melody, as he suspected. It was something new. In The Beatles Anthology, McCartney reveals that for several weeks the working title was “Scrambled Eggs.” The lyrics: “Scrambled eggs, oh, my baby, how I love your legs – diddle diddle – I believe in scrambled eggs.” With its new title, “Yesterday,” and much-improved lyrics, it has become the most-recorded song in history.

  14. Wasn’t “Yesterday” originally entitled “Scrambled Eggs?”

  15. Lets see.. aha/light-bulb/shouda had a V8, moments.. that forehead smack.. so aha or should have known better? hmmm.. what an array of thoughts I have here. the AHA for me is probably the V8 smack as in “should have known better”.. those are aha afterthought moments I suppose.. there are light-bulb moments when all the sudden I will realize things such as why a word is spelled a certain way or where it’s derived from..that’s always fun.. or, when I realize how myths became myths.. lately the aha moments however are sad.. which I will not go into because people don’t really care..but rather are just nosy.. sad when respect is not given and when respect is lost.. aha.. in your face aha moments..when you can’t help it because it slaps you, and you hear it, or read it, or see it..so what are these? aha? all i know is the V8 concept of ‘I shoulda known better’ is very much in play these days.. thanks once again for the very thought provoking topic Sally

  16. Hi all. To begin, let me say that I am not tying offend, so – sorry if you are offended. It is not my intent.

    For me? There is no real “aha” moment beyond basic thought, and the recognition that some of those thoughts are pretty damned good.

    An Aha moment, for me, is the focus on an individual thought that is standing out as having merit.

    I do not believe that there is anything divine or even all that special about this kind of thought. There are too many “aha thoughts” that are simply, and unfortunately garbage. “Aha! This is … a bad idea! Aha!”

    Yeah – there has been a lot of time and money lost to these epiphanies.

    For me, an “Aha Moment” is a moment that may jump out and say to me, “Hey! What about *this*???” – which in and of itself is an important thing – as long as we don’t associate it with anything more than it being an idea. As soon as we attach any other superior meaning to it? It becomes dangerous.

    So. An Epiphany? An insight? A thought that matters? Let’s pay some attention. But let’s not assign anything more than just that to whatever idea we might have. To me, it’s simply a safer way to live.

  17. Not sure if I can explain Aha moments! I just know they occur! And when they happen, I’m the better for the experience!

  18. What I failed to say directly in my comment is that ‘aha moments’ are the seepage of already stored information and processes into the conscious and aware part of the brain. Yeah, needed that sentence.

  19. The actual capacity of the brain is very limited as I’m sure most know; scientists conclude we use less than 10% of the brain’s available circuitry. I see the unused majority as the brain’s potential. Within its billions of cells of unused potential, there’s an immense capability to assemble information we already have in a way that solves problems, fuels invention, and brings enlightenment. Humans will self-destruct before it happens, but if we would learn to access the unused, and unconscious areas that contain this available resource, we would be flying around the galaxy without problems like world hunger and yes, even addiction. (Actually, I believe we already have the technology to cure addiction, but there’s too much money to be made in the industries of pharmacology , treatment and perpetuating addiction in the first place. There’s no financial incentive in being clean and sober on a corporate, macro-economic level.)
    Thanks for provoking thoughts and generating discussion Sally.

  20. Sally, such a great blog to bring me to deep thought. I ran into a really awesome quote: “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.”-Albert Einstein
    My thoughts on a moment of clarity was that I would be thinking in order to come up with it. Perhaps I should start relying on my “gut instinct” more often. Last time I did that it proved to be substantially right and I made a life long huge change because of it. I’m much happier now even though it was difficult to carry out.
    Thank you as always for the thought provoking and wonderful blog!

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