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Personal Change through Lightning Bolt Moments

Inspiration can hit us in many different ways.

Sometimes, it’s something a friend or loved one says. Other times, it’s something we read in a book (or on a blog!). Sometimes, it’s the result of long periods of reflection, or even longer periods of dissatisfaction or unhappiness.

And sometimes, it just hits you like a lightning bolt.

My lightning bolt moment

Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Europe with my wife and some of our friends. We visited Poland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic—beautiful places full of history, culture, and tradition.

It was a great trip in every way…except one.

When you’re a tourist in Europe, you walk. A lot. There are a lot of winding roads, a lot of staircases, and a lot of sites to explore. It’s not easy on the legs and feet, that’s for sure—especially when you’re overweight.

Which I was.

In fact, I was at my all-time highest weight during that trip, and it became very apparent, very quickly, that I was going to be the “slow one” in our group. Everywhere we went, I held everyone up. I couldn’t walk as quickly as everyone else, or for extended periods of time without needing a break. 

Of course I noticed it during the trip, but it wasn’t until later, looking at the pictures, that I had my lightning bolt moment. 

I looked at that picture of me on the trip and saw someone who was unhealthy and unable to live the way he wanted to—even when he was on the the trip of a lifetime!

In that moment, I knew: something had to change. It had to change now, and it had to change for good. 

And so I changed it.

Starting with the end in mind, I designed a strategy that would help me lose the weight and keep it off. What I ate and drank changed, when I ate changed, the amount I ate changed. What I did to exercise changed, including doing it regularly and with the perfect coach.

That was three months ago. I’m down 43 pounds and plan to lose 10-15 more.

All because of that lightning bolt moment.

(For another example of a lightning bolt moment, watch Gretchen Rubin’s video on this page. She’s a fellow believer in lightning bolts!)

Why lightning works

Change doesn’t happen overnight.

But it can happen in an instant.

Lightning bolts instantly take you from one mental place to another. In a flash, you can go from:

  • Thinking you can’t…to knowing you can
  • Denying the problem…to attacking the problem
  • Feeling stuck…to feeling free
  • Confusion…to clarity
  • Fear…to love

Here’s what I’ve come to appreciate about lightning bolt moments:

They get you started.

Nothing like a little (or big) zap to get you moving! A lightning bolt is bound to take you from a place of stagnation to a place of action.

They are unavoidable.

Lightning is a powerful force. When a lightning bolt moment hits, it’s impossible to ignore. Try getting hit by lightning and then convincing yourself it never happened. Let me know how that goes.

They initiate quick change.

There is nothing gradual about lightning. Once my lightning bolt hit, keeping the weight on for one day longer than I had to was no longer an option. One moment I accepted my weight, and the next, I knew I would never accept that weight again. It was a fast mental shift, but a complete one.

They hit hard.

My lightning bolt moment was so powerful, and it hit me so hard, that I decided I didn’t really want to experience it again. Sometimes, remembering how painful that moment was is enough to keep me going.

They keep you going.

One of the greatest things about lightning bolt moments is that even though the moment itself is over quickly, the feeling the moment evokes stays with you for a long time. Think of it like an actual bolt of lightning starting a wildfire. That single moment can start a fire in you that will keep burning until you put it out.

For all these reasons, lightning bolt moments can lead you to lasting change, as long as you can “bottle that lightning,” so to speak, and use it as motivation to keep pushing toward your goal.

The problem with lightning bolts

As great as lightning bolt moments are for helping spark personal change and development, they also have one major flaw: you don’t find them, they find you.

Just as you can’t call a lightning bolt down from the sky when you need it (wouldn’t that be handy?), you also can’t create a lightning bolt moment for yourself. Lightning bolt moments aren’t invoked; they just happen.

That said, you still play a part in the lightning bolt process. For one thing, you can create opportunities for lightning to strike. The more open you are to new ideas, the more new information you take in, the more you research and explore and try something different and listen to someone you’ve never listened to before—the more likely you are to invite a lightning bolt moment to come to you.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Jack London

On the other side of inviting inspiration is being ready for it when it comes. Even the strongest lightning bolt moment won’t do anything for you if you don’t harness the energy and use it to create positive change in your life. If you’re lucky enough to be blessed with a lightning bolt moment, make the most of it. Act fast, write it down, capture the feeling; that will give you the best chance of being able to use that energy to your advantage.


Wherever you are on the Design.org Egg (the framework that helps you progress from Hope to Meaning), a lightning bolt moment can help you move forward toward a more fulfilling life and a happier you.

Lightning bolts can inspire hope, instill belief, spark action, reveal purpose, and drive meaning. Once you’ve taken our free assessment to determine where you’re at in the Egg, sign up to receive our free daily messages. Who knows—one of those messages might just be the lightning bolt you’re waiting for.

A lightning bolt changed my life.

If you want, one can change yours, too.