When Cheryl Sutherland found herself at a professional crossroads and unsure of what she wanted to do next, she did what any reasonable person would: She made a list. (And if 鈥 like 75 percent of 25- to 33-year-olds 鈥 you鈥檝e experienced a quarter-life crisis, we鈥檙e willing to bet you鈥檝e probably done the same thing at some point.)

鈥淚 had no idea what I wanted to do for work, so I wrote down a bunch of aspects that I wanted,鈥 Sutherland tells us. 鈥淚 wanted it to be a product, something that I could do on a laptop at the side of the pool, something that helped people [feel] happy and made me happy.鈥 What happened next was what Sutherland calls her 鈥渇avorite lightbulb moment,鈥 during which she stumbled on the spark that would become PleaseNotes. Today, PleaseNotes offers a range of affirmation-filled products 鈥 just like the ones that Sutherland craved during her own period of uncertainty 鈥 designed specifically with women of color in mind.

Spotting the Lightbulb

A woman thinks about a new idea

鈥淩ight before I actually got the idea, I thought to myself, 鈥業 wish there were a way I could have affirmations everywhere, like on a sticky note,鈥 and that鈥檚 when it clicked,鈥 Sutherland says. 鈥淎ngels sang, doves flew, and PleaseNotes was born. It was a magical moment.鈥 With a description like that, it should come as no surprise that Sutherland is a big believer in the power of lightbulb moments and what they can lead to. But figuring out whether you鈥檙e experiencing a real-deal lightbulb moment or are simply in the midst of a good idea? Well, that鈥檚 not necessarily clear-cut.

鈥淚t鈥檚 like falling in love,鈥 Sutherland observes when asked how to identify this sort of mental crossroads. 鈥淵ou only know when you鈥檙e in love when it hits you.鈥 (As if we weren鈥檛 already inspired enough by Sutherland鈥檚 personal experience with a lightbulb moment, that romantic analogy has us positively craving one of our own.)

Lightbulb moments are critical for anyone pursuing new creative or professional goals because, according to Sutherland, they鈥檙e the turning points that make it nearly impossible for you to 鈥渞evert back to the previous version of yourself.鈥 As soon as she experienced her own 鈥渁-ha!鈥 about PleaseNotes, for example, Sutherland jumped into action, starting the research phase that would give her the resources she ultimately needed to turn the journals, sticky notes, affirmation decals, and more from a dream to reality.

Harnessing the Moment

A woman carries blueprints

If you have a sneaking suspicion that you鈥檝e experienced the head-over-heels, no-turning-back moment that means the creative lightbulb is officially on, Sutherland has some advice for you. Here are six things you should do after your own lightbulb moment.

1. Start quickly, but don鈥檛 rush. 鈥淚 think it鈥檚 better to act quickly in a way that feels right and not panicky,鈥 encourages Sutherland. 鈥淵ou usually feel in flow when you act.鈥

2. Acknowledge it. They say that admitting that there鈥檚 a problem is half of its solution鈥 but what about admitting that you鈥檝e had a revelation? That鈥檚 important too. Own that moment of inspiration and resist the urge to brush it off as a passing whim.

3. Expand on it. Write it down! Put pen to paper with your idea, and see how you might be able to grow it even further with a little more thought. At this stage, Sutherland recommends keeping it on the DL. People might be quick to shoot down an idea if it鈥檚 still in its earliest stages 鈥 and we don鈥檛 have time for that kind of negativity.

4. Take proper action. Start with research or 鈥攊f you鈥檙e feeling ready for it 鈥 establish a work flow that will fit into your existing routine and allow you to get the ball rolling with your idea right away.

5. Allow it to happen. 鈥淵ou might have a moment when you doubt yourself, feel like you鈥檙e not doing it right, or get down on yourself,鈥 Sutherland admits. 鈥淕o back to what you wrote about your initial realization and get back into that feeling of clarity.鈥

6. Create a support system. Surround yourself with people who will respect your lightbulb moment and encourage you to act on it. Positive vibes only!

Have you ever had a lightbulb moment of your own? Tell us more! Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)