CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When I realized this column would be published on Sept. 11, I immediately thought of the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93. While much has been written about this topic (and necessarily so), my mind took another turn around these events.
Sept. 11, 2001, was a defining moment for our country. And it got me thinking about defining moments in our individual lives.
A defining moment is described as "a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, etc., is revealed or identified." According to the book "Self Matters," there have been moments, both positive and negative, in every person's life that have defined or redefined who he or she is. Author and psychologist Phil McGraw explains that these events entered your consciousness with such power they changed the very core of who and what you thought you were. Here are a few examples:
I often say things happen in our lives -- and "we wouldn't have scripted them this way." Yet, that turning point may have been the very thing we needed to propel a necessary change in our lives. I'm not talking about senseless tragedies that don't seem to have any explanation. I'm focusing more on those things that give us the momentum to get out of our comfort zones and into action.
Many times these can be sudden, devastating events. And they require us to stop our lives in their tracks. They can even give us "permission" to make wide, sweeping changes that we would not normally have the courage or willingness to do.
A friend of mine admitted this when she got her cancer diagnosis. She immediately quit her job and uprooted her family to travel with her for aggressive in-hospital treatments for the next year. Nobody saw this coming. Within 24 hours their whole world -- and that of their extended families -- had changed. As she put it, "the C-card trumped everything else" and gave her permission to focus solely on herself and her health, while learning to be vulnerable and to receive anything and everything from others.
Thankfully she recovered and has been in remission for several years, having made lifestyle changes along the way. We've talked about her insight of external permission to make such changes. It sounds strange, although it's not so easy to make wholesale changes in our lives without some pivotal point.
I realize this is not the case with everyone, and I'm certainly not saying there's always a silver lining. Every situation is different. I'm reminded of one reader's comment that "cancer is an insidious disease and is certainly not a gift." Obviously, I respect everyone's perspective. There's no right or wrong way to look at these situations. They're all personal journeys, and it's not up to any of us to judge another person's experience.
My research turned up an interesting resource. At www.definingmoment.tv, you can find videos on such topics as defining moments around healing, marriage and family, social issues, education, youth-at-risk, leadership, smart ideas and world peace, among others.
On a somewhat lighter note, I ran across a list of cultural defining moments. See if you agree.
Defining moments of the 2000s