Light Bulb Moments

You know what I mean by a light bulb moment, right?

It’s that point in time when something unexpectedly clicks – like when the solution to a previously unsolvable problem jumps into your head. Or you see how things in your life link up in ways you’d never seen before. Or you realise that a question which seemed very complex is actually quite simple. It’s as if someone flicked a switch (hence the name – the light bulb is suddenly ON), part of your life is illuminated and you can see clearly again.

Witnessing clients’ light bulb moments is one of the things I absolutely LOVE about coaching. Being able to help facilitate this feels very meaningful. Hearing and/or seeing people have something big make sense or fall into place is a huge privilege. It’s often those moments which people hold onto and which bring about change in their lives – it feels like such an honour to be part of those pivotal points in time.

Recently I had a lightbulb moment of my own. Literally.

I debated with myself long and hard before deciding to share this in a conference talk I was giving about how to deal with distractions, disturbances and pesky habits which stop us from getting work done. This story’s pretty embarrassing, given that I call myself (among other things) an efficiency coach. But afterwards it was the thing most people came up to me to talk about – to confess their own versions of similar stories, and to laugh about them. Maybe it applies to you too, so here goes…

Preface: I once read that we should all have one sensational meal we can cook that delights anyone who comes for dinner (still haven’t figured out what this is because – dietary requirements!), one decent party trick we can perform (mine’s juggling but it’s fairly average so it only impresses small-to-medium sized children), and one reliable joke to tell. I have plenty of funny stories but this is the only official ‘joke’ I can ever remember (possibly funnier if you know that I’m a psychologist as well as a coach):

Q: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: One. But the light bulb’s got to want to change.

Keep that in mind. So…actual light bulb moment story. In the previous house my wife and I lived in, the bathroom had a three-way electrical switch – one for a regular light, one for a heat lamp, one for a fan. If a light bulb blew it was a right pain to change it – the ceiling was high, the cover of the fixture was fiddly to remove and replace, and the bulbs were fancy-pants ones which had to be handled like diamonds and were tricky to install. We groaned whenever we needed to change the bulb and quibbled over whose job it was.

Then we moved into our current house, where the bathroom has a similar-looking fitting. Sure enough, we’d been in the house approximately twenty minutes when the regular bathroom light bulb stopped working. We muttered and complained and studiously ignored it, getting used to using the heat lamp rather than the regular light.

Last summer, on one of those sweltering (what has happened to Dunedin summers? It can’t be good, but I like it) summer nights, my wife said “WHY are we still using the heat lamp? We could actually just change the other bulb”. Revelation! I’d genuinely forgotten that was a possibility.

So the next day I located the stepladder, climbed up, took off the cover. Huh – surprise! – it came off easily. Manoeuvred through the dust bunnies, found the offending light bulb, removed it. Double huh – and triple surprise! – COMPLETELY NORMAL LIGHT BULB. We had about five of them in the cupboard, waiting to be used. Replaced it, put the cover back on, tidied the step ladder away. The whole process took two minutes, tops. I spent longer sweeping the dust away than changing the actual bulb. I then felt ridiculously lazy because, what I haven’t told you, my friend, is this:

The time between when the light bulb stopped working and when I changed it was (and I can be prone to exaggeration but this is a conservative estimate): SEVEN YEARS.

Yep, seven.

Light bulb moment: change the freaking light bulb sooner. Sometimes the thing which seems hard isn’t hard at all, and we can invest more energy NOT doing it, AND thinking about not doing it, than just getting on with things. (And oh, the relief when it’s done.)

While I freely admit this is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ scenario, I’m putting it out there because it’s quite possible you have one of these skeletons in your closet too (it may or may not be of seven years duration – I’m gifted like that.) We’re all in this together people. So let’s hear it in the comments – what’s your should-have-been-sorted-months/years-ago ogre of a task? Tell me about it, and then get on and do it. (If you want to…or wait basically forever. Entirely up to you.)

PS. While I think we’ve already established that I don’t attend to household tasks with great haste, I’m very good at talking with groups and organisations about how people can get their important work done, while living the lives they want. If you’d like me to talk at your event, click here. I may be sitting in the dark but it won’t take me seven years to reply, I promise.

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