Can positive experiences be life changing?

I will soon be embarking on a trip to Nigeria as part of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program ( Lots of folks who have been through the program have blogged about their experience as life changing. And this got me thinking – Will my trip be life altering too? My guess – probably not. And here is why – I cannot think of one event in my life where my perspective and principles (if I had any :)) has changed dramatically. Yes, there might have been tweaks here and there, but not diametrically opposite view.

When my daughter was born, I was obviously elated, but I did not have that ‘aha’ moment where I looked at my daughter’s eyes for the first time and everything changed. When people say things change for them in such a moment, I cannot grasp what that change could be.  I love my daughter to death and yes certain things changed in my life when she was born (like it does with marriage etc.), but my outlook towards life and for the most part perspectives remained mostly the same.

Recently, my classmate lost his wife and son to a tragic accident and it got me thinking more about my own family and daughter. Is it that for some people it is only negative experiences that can be life altering.  You do not realize what you have unless it is gone and only then does it have an impact?

Or is that I am just a cold hearted person and wired differently?


  1. Quote


    Hearty Congrats. It must be a very rare and unique opportunity for you. All the best.

    Certain positive events will be life changing. For example, an idea/ set of ideas that gets incubated might change one person from a 9-5 employee to an entrepreneur. Dont you think such things happen?

    May be you want to do a follow up of this post once you complete the program.

  2. Quote
    Kumaran said May 23, 2010, 11:39 pm:


    I can understand how you feel. I think the fact that you can observe yourself thinking/feeling in a particular manner is a clear indicator that you are not cold hearted. Wired differently may be.

    The more you experience and see things differently it happens.When my kids were born I also did not have any “Aha” moment.When friends used to ask me you are going to have a kid aren’t you worried/excited. My thought in my mind – “In India the only thing we are really good at for past so many generations is having kids”. I really was not worried about if going through smoothly or any great sense of achievement or change.

    Yes we do realize things after it is gone mostly. But sometimes we cross certain level when things dont excite you. “Balli mittai” ( the sugar-coated jeera colurful use to send my pulse racing when I was 5 years. I used to save it for 1 whole week eating 2 pieces at a time. It was rationed for me and I used to treat it as a treasure, but not any more. Sometimes we grow up and that is scary also.

    Dont if you feel as above. These are my thoughts.


  3. Quote

    Isn’t it something related to how we ‘held’ our opinions / principals / perspective ? weakly held vs strongly held. I think i read it here couple of years ago.

  4. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said May 25, 2010, 6:56 am:

    Good luck with your Nigeria trip. I am sure it will be enriching. We will eagerly await your post after the trip.

    You have started an extremely interesting discussion. Vamsi, Kumaran and Subba, all three have provided some great perspective.

    In my experience, i have gone through one major revamping of my personality – i would have to say in retrospect, life changing to the core. I was going through some major difficulties in my work spot and i had to undergo major league changes to overcome them. I have written on our internal blog system about this because it includes some client confidential information. I will see if i can rewrite that post on this blog without the client confidential elements.

    You could say my life altering change was caused by a negative set of circumstances, but they were orders of magnitude less negative compared to what our class mate has met with.

    To me another life changing experience has been after i came back to India. This one has been borne entirely out of positive experiences. My perspectives on India’s youth has changed dramatically imbuing me with a new kind of hope and optimism that i didn’t have earlier about our country.

    I don’t think you should beat yourself up. Generally, comparing notes with people, life changing experiences do seem to be extremely rare.

  5. Quote

    Insightful post Ganesh.

    I’ve often felt that values and viewpoints are permanent and experiences (positive or negative) are temporary. Sometimes I tend to think the values of people who drastically change it with merely one or two experiences, are shallow to begin with.

    On that count, it is natural to doubt if we are cold-hearted. I don’t think that is the case.

    In any case, I think it is most important to have open mind – game-changing events migt happen.

  6. Quote
    Arvind said May 26, 2010, 12:01 am:

    Nice post, Ganesh….never thought about this part….always thought that negative experiences change you more…

    Looking back, I think positive experiences can also be life changing…like having a supportive family when you go against convention…when you expect a reprimand and get something positive instead, i guess thats life changing or maybe better put as life enriching….

    All the best for your trip…hope you enjoy yourself!

  7. Quote

    Nice post, Ganesh. To me personally, motherhood was such a sudden life changing experience. For the first time I truly understood what it really means to love someone more than yourself. It made me a more accepting, understanding and a less judgemental person.

    Have a great trip.

  8. Quote


    Experiences have no Fixed or static beneficial values, like positive and negative.. Experiences has only emotional values.. ie, pleasant/unpleasant, joyous/sorrow etc..

    Whether an experience is positive or negative, depends on how it affects the situation later on in our life.. or probably the same experience may be positive at some time, and negative at some other time.. or some may appear positive now, but can be a negative one later on or vice versa..

    On the question of life changing experiences, mostly sorrow, unpleasant experiences impact us more than joyous one.

    But one thing is sure for most people.. Marriage could be a life changing experience for many 🙂 .. bcoz, we cease to be 100% ourselves, when we start sharing our personal life with another person. ( i am not married and hence my opinion may be wrong here )

  9. Quote

    Nice introspective post Ganesh. I agree with Senthil. For me, marriage was a life changing experience. Responsibilities increased many folds, attitude adjustments, priority changes and many more I can think of that I had to do in a short time. From my experience, having children does not alter you right away. Wait for 20 years, then you think back, it would have changed you completely! It is incremental life change and not an immediate one! You would not realize you are changing!
    Again, I think when we retire, it will be a life changing one as well.

  10. Quote
    Ganesh said June 1, 2010, 9:36 am:


    Thanks for your comments. I dd not think about long brewing ideas when I was thinking about experiences and their impact. I understand I did not make it clear. I ws talking about incidents that have life changing experiences. But nevertheless, you bring up a new dimension.


    Thanks. From your post, the idea of rationing balli mittai – I equated that to the urge to bottle up our emotions or perhaps expand our (joyous) experience to a longer period of time.

  11. Quote
    Ganesh said June 2, 2010, 2:22 am:


    Can you elaborate on weakly and strongly held beliefs a bit and how it pertains to positive and negative experiences?


    Thanks for your comments. Was it the case that the negative experience almost had an immediate effect while the poostive experience was more like a series of events that led to you forming a conclusion? I am trying to see if one or 2 negative experiences are enough to reinforce of change an idea, while it takes more number of positive ones to have a changing effect.


    Thanks for your comments. I would ask you the same question I asked Sukumar. You seem to say that reinforcement of values or changing of principles happen over a sequence of incidents. Was wondering if quantity mattered or if it is just quality.


  12. Quote
    Ganesh said June 2, 2010, 6:53 am:

    Thanks Arvind and MD.


    Nice to see you back!!


    The emotional value that experiences bring in does have a positive or negative impact and we seem to be on agreement with that. Interesting point you raise about the impact of experience changing over a period of time. Would you care to given an example? Thanks for your comments.

  13. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said June 6, 2010, 9:01 pm:

    I made a big change to a negative experience, but it is the ongoing success that i derived out of it (forms the positive reinforcement) that helped convince me that the change i made is good and allowed me to improve further.

    In other words, whenever a change is made – either due to positive or negative circumstances, you will still need positive reinforcement to preserve the change.

    I had written earlier about the ABC theory which helps understand how to make changes to human behavior. You may want to read it when you have the time. It is here:

  14. Quote

    Hi Ganesh

    Nice article ! My 2 cents :
    It’s mostly negative experiences that become life changing cos when we are hit by positive ones, we become happy..sometimes extremely happy, celebrate the incident & then forget about it. This doesn’t mean positive incidents can’t be life changing, they can still be..just lesser probability.
    On the other hand, extreme negative experiences tend to stretch our brains in all directions in trying to figure out solutions to the problem and lead ourselves back into our previous state of happiness or a higher state of happiness.
    And as some learned man once said…the human brain, once stretched by the power of an idea will never return back to it’s orginal dimensions. That stretched brain would obviously make us think in a different fashion post that incident & result in a major change in the way we live – life changing !

Leave a Comment



Formatting Your Comment

The following XHTML tags are available for use:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

URLs are automatically converted to hyperlinks.