Crucial Moments


In my previous post, I talked about Vital Behaviors, which I learned about in my Influencer Training.  I’m elaborating here on Crucial Moments because they are one of the key ways to help you find Vital Behaviors.  A Crucial Moment is the point in time where you have a critical choice to make.  It’s the event or trigger where, depending on how you respond, you can positively or negatively impact results in a significant way.  For example, a critical moment is when your alarm goes off in the morning.  You can do your workout routine or you can hit the snooze alarm and put it off another day.  It’s the moment of temptation when you wonder whether to take the off ramp and spiral down, or take the on ramp and accelerate toward your results.

The Power of Crucial Moments
Crucial Moments are powerful because if you do the right behaviors, you can prevent a host of downstream issues.  They mark the beginning of a domino effect.  They are critical choice points where your actions will shape the outcomes either positively or negatively.  They help you find and test Vital Behaviors because you can find the root cause of the results you’re getting.  Changing the actions at Crucial Moments changes your results.

Finding Crucial Moments
Here are a few ways to find Crucial Moments:

  • Walk the process or flow and find where the key decisions are.
  • Identify events or triggers that start a chain of events.
  • Work backwards from a result and trace the actions that got you there.  Note the key decision points along the way.

Example of Crucial Moments in a Project Cycle
Here is an example we used during our training.  It’s a list of crucial moments for a project cycle:

  1. Fact-free planning – planning without all the stakeholders present.
  2. Leaders pretend to involve others.
  3. Leaders propose an impossible plan.
  4. Team members face conflicting priorities.

In each of these situations, you can imagine how actions influence the outcome.  I’ve seen many projects fail because of  failure to push back on fact-free planning or impossible plans.  When leaders pretend to involve others, they lose trust and credibility.  If you don’t resolve conflicting priorities, projects can die a slow death, or succeed only through heroic efforts.  In each of these cases, you can identify the Vital Behaviors for these Crucial Moments that lead toward successful outcomes.

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Photo by Smiles Are Free.


  1. Hey!
    Nice blog you have here, found it through a comment you left on dreamin the life blog by karen.

    It’s nice to read posts by bloggers about personal development, there are so many ways that people can better themselves.
    Hope to read more great posts of yours soon

  2. I like the way this gets you thinking about the entire process. I’ve pulled folks together and run disaster checks, especially before launches, to brainstorm things we never thought could possibly happen, but what if they did. Almost every time these meetings uncover a few ‘critical moments’ like you mention that we leave the meeting watching a bit more closely and developing plans for.

  3. Hi J.D.,

    I love the concept of a crucial moment because we truly have the power of choice in whatever situation we are in at any given moment. I have found that the more we develop the positive choice, the more it becomes a habit when confronted with a crucial moment. It is like a muscle, the more you develop it, the more routine it becomes.

  4. Loved “finding the crucial moments” distillation.
    In fact i use it massively with customers – this is how i “sell” the idea of modeling exercises – threat modeling and perf modeling, i tell them “let’s do pen testing for your design”, or “let’s do stress testing for your architecture blueprint.” At first it confuses – how on earth can you conduct pen testing for a system that does not exist? But then I explain that that’s exactly the point – let’s try to identify weakest chains before investing tons of energy in creating it. The the bell starts to ring and i get my buy-in 😉

  5. I can see a few of this points in the project I’m on now where I’ve had to work the past 4 weekends in a row. I’m documenting a develop solution.

    The points here
    – Choice to use a specific tool to build, which has caused a host of problem. Used on recommendation vs through actual testing.

    – Choices to include content that now has become “essential” when previously it was a nice to have. This ripples to having to maintain, debug, edit and build the content. Just a small inclusion can have a large cost.

    -Choices that I’ve made to ask for help. Had I not and tried to do it all myself out of pride, I’d have completely failed.

    -Choices about how to get information from the developer. How people told me to do it didn’t work. I had to try other methods and even now I know I could have done better.

    Sometimes I call these the “waterskiing” choices to give me a simple analogy to remember. For anyone who has ever been dragged on skiis or a tube behind a boat, you know that some small inputs from the driver can make a huge difference in where you go. It gets amplified and you can be whipped to the outside going 2x as fast as the boat it. To the extent you can steer, the more control you have when things go awry. With a tube, you have to steer early or forget it. There are those crucial times you learn from experience. Same here.



  6. There are crucial moments in every person’s day, whether we like to accept this or not. I like to think of this as the Y split. You can go in a positive or negative direction. One decision will be healthy like exercise or less healthy like sleeping in when you got enough sleep. It’s at this split that like you said we need to find a trigger to motivate ourselves to make the better choice.

    I’m not saying I’m perfect or even good at this, but I’m working on it. I’m practicing on building on top of thoughts that will spur me to make the healthier choice.

  7. Good post – very precise and informative.
    I think crucial moments are vital in the evaluation of a situation, I like the idea of backing up from the results and looking at where the moments occurred either in your planning or your virtual modeling.

    Also I think managers pretending to be involved or interested is another insight into the financial crisis here today. Also I think of advertisers and their hoped for results and how they talk out of the side of the mouth with optimism

  8. Hi J.D.

    I like the title of this post Crucial Moments. I think every moment is crucial, so we must make the most out of every minutes.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  9. @ Diggy

    Thank you. I’m on a path of sharing the best of the best.

    @ Fred

    It really is about the entire process. There are so many opportunities for leverage or friction along the way.

    @ Nadia

    The power of choice is a powerful one. I like your muscle metaphor and it does get stronger the more we flex it.

    @ Alik

    Identifyin the weakest links really does reveal opportunities.

    @ Rob

    You’re really shown a good example of how choices have a domino and ripple effect.

    I like your waterskiing metaphor and I can relate from the few times I went waterskiing.

    @ Karl

    I like the Y split – it’s a nice, quick way to think about spiraling up or down from your results.

    @ Patricia

    Thank you. It’s the choices in the moments that really make a difference. It also helps us see how we go from powerless to powerful.

    @ Giovanna

    I’m a fan of making the most of every moment or making the best play I can. The idea behind Crucial Moments is identifying where that first domino or link in a chain really is.

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