Defining Moment Life

The Defining Moment, Part 14: the big question

Encore! Or not.

By now, if you’re following the whole lineup of the Defining Moment, you’ve got a folder of papers, or perhaps an entire notebook, filled with first your analysis of what you want to do, and then all kinds of things about it. You’ve predicted risks and consequences and then checked the accuracy of your predictions; you’ve made a plan for the Moment itself and then done a kind of post mortem (I know, not the most pleasant metaphor, but it sticks), taking a look at the effectiveness of the plan.

Take a moment to reflect on that wealth of data. In some presentations where I do this whole exercise with one lucky volunteer, I have the luxury of several whiteboards. It is a majestic and humbling experience to see someone’s dreams laid out in permanent marker across the wall, seeing all the connections and fears and hopes in one gigantic gestampkunstwerk.

But then, at a certain point, you need to step back. You need to weigh all of the pros and cons and implications and risks in one holistic view and ask yourself the Big Question:

Do I want to do it again?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: you don’t have to. You’ve done that thing once, and it’s entirely possible that the conclusion of your discovery was: Ok, that was not worth the trouble. There are all kinds of things – the Marines, having children, even marriage – that I personally am very glad I did but would never do again.

On the other hand, you may have this strange sense that you didn’t quite do it right the first time. That you or the other elements of the event could have somehow been better, or gotten a different outcome with a different approach. Think of it as trying a different route up the same mountain – the view at the summit may be the same, but the one viewing it will be different for the changed experience.

On the Brighter Side

Then again, you may be so happy that you decide you absolutely want to do it again – as soon as possible! It’s important to remember something about that, though: it won’t be the same. It can be good, it can be better, but it won’t be the first time, and so you are running the risk of comparison. In fact, that can be a completely valid reason for trying something only once: so that the magic of that first time is the only memory you’ll have of it.

You may want to be careful also with that impulse of I want to do it again! One of the risks of doing something that you you’ve always dreamed of is that when your dream becomes reality, reality requires your dream. Chris Guillebeau, in his upcoming book The Happiness of Pursuit, talks about John Francis, aka “Planet Walker“. On an impulse he decided that he was going to start walking everywhere – but people got tired of hearing about it, so he (again on impulse) gave them the gift of his silence. Both of those ended up feeling so good that he kept it up for twenty-two years of walking and seventeen years of silence.

His Defining Moment snuck up on him, but once it was there, it pounced and would not let go. Chris talks in his book about how there were a lot of hard times and hurt feelings and anger from people when John Francis started his work. It’s possible – not guaranteed, but possible – that with a little planning and foresight you can have just as life-changing an event as Mr. Francis, but with less disruption of the rest of your life and loved ones.

It all could be moot, though, because you still have to answer that question from within:

Again? Or not?

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