Our defining moments tend to be those places when we are called to step into something bigger than we are.
What Defines a Defining Moment?
The Hebrew word hineini literally translates to “here I am,” but it carries a much deeper meaning. This is the word used by some of the great prophets in biblical times to respond to the Divine call.
Rabbi George Gittleman talks about “Hineini Moments,”, the moments when we feel that internal stirring of a calling to action.
As Rabbi Gittleman explains, Hineini moments are the moments when we feel
drawn to act, pulled up from the inside out by something bigger than yourself… hineini moments are available to all of us all the time, if we are open to both “hearing” and responding.
Common Hineini Moments
Even if you don’t feel a connection to God, the Divine, spirit, nature or any type of higher force, you’ve likely experienced Hineini Moments. They often come in the form of opportunities, invitations, offers, or calls to action that feel a little beyond what we believe is possible for us.
Some examples from my life have included:
- an opportunity to take on a bigger role on a high-profile case when I was a junior law firm associate
- a new job offer that set my career on a different path
- the first time I tried flying trapeze
- the first time I was hired as a paid speaker (I was also the only speaker at the event, so it was a double defining moment)
- committing to fly across the country for a multi-day seminar without really understanding anything about what would happen there
5 Attributes of a Hineini Moment
As I reflected on my Hineini Moments — the defining moments of my life — I identified 5 elements that are virtually always present in these defining moments:
- the opportunity is something I desire
- the thought of stepping into this opportunity provokes some fear or discomfort
- accepting the invitation will cause me to stretch myself
- despite the fear, I feel pulled to it — I cannot NOT do it
- I have doubts about whether I am ready or capable
There is an obvious tension among these elements that manifests in the physical body; it is this tension that tells me I’m at the threshold of growth.
Hineini Moments force us to stretch our comfort zone.
How We Respond In Our Defining Moments
Rabbi Gittleman observes that each time hineini is used in the Torah, it marks a pivotal moment in the narrative.
This is true in our lives, too. Hineini Moments often catapult us to a new level; sometimes they even change the trajectory of our life path. We often don’t feel ready to step into the bigger version of ourselves or embrace the inevitable change that follows.
I like to think of hineni as a statement of willingness. I chose this word as my mantra this year to remind myself, in these moments, that
You don’t have to be ready, you just have to be willing.
As I shared elsewhere, hineini speaks to three things we must be willing to do: Listen, Trust and Act.
The Linchpin: Trust
Our willingness to listen to the call is crucial, but it’s not enough. Many times, we may hear the call and choose to ignore it because it presents us with a task that is uncomfortable, challenging, or scary. This was true for the great prophets and it is true for us today.
The fear can paralyze us, leaving action impossible. The antidote to fear is faith. Our willingness to trust empowers our actions and defines our defining moments.
What other elements define our defining moments? I would love to hear your thoughts and insights. Please share in the comments.