On The Verge Of Breakthrough

That’s what pop culture tells us a breakthrough is supposed to be. But that moment is not one that the field of psychology singles out as most important, and neither do experts in training and coaching. 24Life asked several experts with practical experience for their perspective on breakthrough. They said it’s unpredictable, messy, and something that you can’t force to happen.

Our panel also agreed on the possibility of recognizing the signs of breakthrough, and the importance of creating conditions for breakthrough, taking action and finding support. According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, creator of Emotional Mastery, co-author of “Mean Girls, Meaner Women” and author of the forthcoming “90 Seconds to a Life You Love,” the conditions for breakthrough — curiosity, openness, willingness, inquisitive in nature, wonder — are largely internal, but not exclusively so. She also cites the importance of opportunities to do some of your dreaming and imagining when you’re at rest.

Having studied multiple coaching disciplines in addition to her degree in psychology, intuitive results coach Alexandra Joy Smith believes that breakthroughs are not tied to one spiritual or transformational discipline. Over the course of 25 years’ focus on health, wellness and fitness with her clients, she has found breakthroughs can happen within any framework or opportunity for insight that her clients create for themselves — even a long walk in nature. “The point is to create opportunities for breakthrough.”


Robert Cappuccio, Director of Coaching at 24 Hour Fitness and a veteran in the field of trainer education, says breakthrough is often preceded by “a shift in internal or interpersonal dialogue, from a focus on limitations and fears, to resources we have at our disposal and the possibilities that opens up for us.”

From Smith’s perspective and experience, a breakthrough “causes a shift in your energetic state, transforming your experience of what you are dealing with and feelings associated with what you are dealing with based on an insight that has touched you, moved you, inspired you, lifted your awareness in such a way that everything transforms in your life.” You may not see it coming, but Smith says you’ll sense you have solved a very big problem, but more important, she emphasizes that a breakthrough does not happen from having insights alone. The action that follows is the proof of powerful breakthroughs.


Action is essential — because, as Cappuccio explains, breakthroughs are a split not only with our inner beliefs, but also the external conditions that tie us to those limiting beliefs, “rather than elevating us to who we are capable of being.”

Action includes what Cappuccio calls affiliation. “Who do you know that values you enough,


unconditionally, to be a source of support, a voice of encouragement? If you can’t find someone like this in your immediate circle of influence, create it. If your outer world doesn’t match the changes in your inner world, that alone can be enough to prevent a breakthrough.”

Smith advises action that can include articulation (verbally or in writing) — sharing an insight you have had with someone you love who then reminds you of it when you forget. Making plans, journaling, creating systems via to-do lists, making promises to yourself and others and keeping them are more of Smith’s examples of how the physical manifestation of a breakthrough arises in language. She goes on to qualify inspired action as action that includes accountability: Not just making lists, but adding those actions to your calendar with dates for completion, to ensure breakthroughs turn into results.

If it all sounds straightforward, even easy, Smith explains that the conditions for breakthroughs require authentic desire: Wanting it so deeply that you’re not only open to discovering new things, but willing to “not know” and to be vulnerable to mistakes and needing help, in the process. Learning to ride a bike, she says, means you have to be willing to fall — and if you really want to learn to ride, you are open to that possibility.

“The cool thing about breakthroughs is once you have them, they are with you forever.”
Smith gives a personal example highlighting the fact that we sometimes forget and need to remember breakthroughs, as well. “There was a period in my late 20s and 30s when I was very self-involved, and used all of my spiritual and transformational insights to create a great life with lots of great ‘things’ in it. But in my 40s, I hit somewhat of a spiritual crisis in the journey. I realized that I had forgotten that true fulfillment and joy came from being ‘all used up’ by living dedicated to something bigger than oneself. That was the powerful insight and subsequent breakthrough that I had had at 18, but it’s easy to get lost on the path of living and ‘getting stuff.’

“There’s nothing wrong with that, except when you ask yourself if you are really fulfilled and full of joy, or ask yourself ‘what is my life being used up by?’ It was that authentic facing of my life and whether I was contributing on a greater level that I had to authentically answer — ‘no,’” Smith says.

Here’s the important part of Smith’s bike riding analogy: sometimes we forget our breakthroughs, but we can return to them — like getting back on a bicycle, wobbly at first, but eventually skilled at riding again. Of her breakthrough in her 40s, she says, “I had and have all a girl could want, except I was not contributing to the world from the highest level of my heart and soul, or listening to what my true essence had to say about life and living. Through that breakthrough, I realized that contributing to the work of transformation was and is my highest purpose. That was something I saw at 18 and forgot along the way.”

Quite simply, to maintain your breakthrough, Dr. Joan Rosenberg says repetition and action are necessary, not just emotionally but also physiologically: “It’s necessary to repeat and practice and take actions consistent with the new attitude or perception or shift, so that one builds the neural memory or the neuromuscular memory.”


Alexandra Joy Smith says there are five critical elements to breakthrough: dreaming, discovering, defining, determining and doing. She uses this step-by-step process in her video course “Breakthrough to Your Purpose.” Find more on breakthrough at http://www.alexandrajoycoach.com