Painting, Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog

Our Impatience for Personal Growth

In my own efforts in personal growth/development, I confess that like many I’m impatient.

It’s those perfect moments where life suddenly changes that I’m enamoured with. How I have longed for those moments because I can’t bear to live as I am, I want to change and change fast!

This desire for Pivotal Moments as I call them comes in different forms. But first up what is Pivotal Moment?

I call them Pivotal Moments because they are moments of significance.

  • Instances where our life turns in a new direction. A cataclysm, a sudden reversal or upheaval. (turning point)
  • Epiphanies, exquisite moments when you give up long-held ideas or beliefs, a change in perception and understanding (Pure clarity)
  • Moments when you feel connected to life, the world around you (Pure bliss)
  • Moments of loss when you give up on something or say goodbye. Of letting go and surrender (Catharsis)
  • Moments of growth when you overcome a problem and realise you have become more than you thought you could be (Power)

Those singular moments that redefine and reaffirm your place in the world.

It’s these moments we often live for, and we often see them in the stories we read and watch. So why the desire for them?

Instant success

As I said in the intro there’s a need by many of us who want success now. We don’t want to wait. We want that thing, that need, to be fulfilled in an instant, and to know our lives will never be the same again.

It’s like love-at-first-sight, we want our loneliness to be dispelled in a single momentous burst of connection between two people. The moment of attraction, empathy the rush of desire but above all else recognition.

In work, it’s the same. We want the interview where we nail that dream job. Or it’s that dream client, that will propel us to more recognition, more reach, more success.

Or maybe it’s an idea, the sudden transformative thought that upends our thinking and perception of the world. Where the illusions of the past fall away and we see with perfect clarity. A Eureka moment of A-ha!

The reason for this desire is our impatience to get things done, and our fixation on the goal. We want it all to happen now because we know there’s only so much time left, and we want to avoid all the hard work that goes into making something great.

But we forget that building anything often takes time. Like a house, it has to go brick by brick. Building up over an extended period a grand construction.

Growth isn’t always easy, often is the opposite, a difficult struggle. We need to accept that this is how it happens for many great accomplishments. Little incremental steps, with each step building on those that came before it.

There’s a Japanese word, Kaizen, that sums up his attitude. It’s a process of continuous incremental improvement. Small steps creating great change.

Sudden moments of clarity are rare, it’s more the case of dawning realization that overtakes us, and we gradually change our thinking.

The lesson here is we need to learn patience and make sure we work on our projects every day, as a habit. Little bit by little bit.

Because it’s the journey that matters more than the end. How we work matters more than how we triumph.

But we also need to be able to recognise when these Pivotal Moments are happening, so we can seize the opportunity when it arises.

A New Life, a New Dawn

Our desire for these special moments is also because we think our lives will be radically different afterwards. We want these moments to be ‘where our lives will never be the same again’.

A massive transformative moment and it all fits into place.

The trouble is these moments are not necessarily transformative, at least not in the way we think.

There’s a saying in Buddhism, ‘Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water, after enlightenment chop wood, carry water’.

It means that even after moments like this the bills still need to be paid, the housework needs to be done, our day to day routine needs to be followed. Just because you’ve found new insight doesn’t remove you from this existence and the job of living.

Not all change comes in the packaging of grand life-changing events. Sometimes it’s just our perceptions that make a difference.


The reason why we think change happens suddenly is also that we like clearly defined beginnings and endings. We want things to be simple and easy to understand.  Our work towards a better future can only take place if we can learn from our past. We don’t like complexity and ambiguity because it makes it difficult to pick out any lessons. A good story to tell others has to be simple enough to put into words.


Which brings me to our need for significance. We want our existence to be remembered, our lives to be impressive and remarkable.  Rapid growth through these pivotal moments suggests that we’ve lead an adventurous life.  We want recognition so we can leave behind a legacy to prove we existed. We want to be unforgettable.

It’s why so many of us post up these moments on social media. As a record or evidence that we are ‘living the dream’.

The reality is far less glamorous and straightforward. A successful business, a new relationship is messier and less interesting than the stories we watch and read.

Credit Control

Another reason why we strive for these historic moments is that we want to take credit for our growth and success. We want to claim that we made it happen. Yet these moments are like creativity or spontaneity. You can’t compel or force them, they just arrive.

The best you can do is create the conditions for their arrival. This reality is hard to accept because it means we’re not in control and without control how can we claim we’re responsible for our success?

Our desire for these moments is our need to be in charge of our lives, even if it is an illusion.


Our longing for these Pivotal Moments is where Romanticism meets self-development. Of brave deeds, struggle, adventure, sacrifice, pivot points, the whole Hero’s Journey thing. We want our lives to be like the stories.

This idealism has to be tempered with realism because reality is a lot different. It all seems to take longer, is far less newsworthy. Often things just happen and we don’t really understand why.

All we can do is play our part, small incremental steps. Work towards our goals with dogged determination and persistence action and let the rest be in the hands of the Gods.

We need to let go a little of the idea that change can only come through heroic deeds, passionate struggle and glorious moments. Our desperation for growth can mean we enjoy it far less when it does arrive.

If we let life flow, these moments can find us. Life will seem less of a struggle and more like playing.