Turning points are critical moments of change that are beneficial. They may involve a choice at a crossroad in life (e.g. a career choice to be an entrepreneur rather than an academic that brings you more freedom), a sudden opportunity (e.g. an incidental television appearance that leads to a big show), a moment of truth (e.g. realizing that your marriage is not working and that you must seek a better alternative), a crisis (e.g. being fired and moving to another state only to find your dream job) or an epiphany (e.g. a sudden business idea that brings huge success). Most people experience turning points as happening to them, yet there is often been a long and arduous path with a build-up of capability, desire, faith and creativity that make turning points more likely.
Many people lived ordinary lives prior to the turning points that led to their success. At age 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school. At age 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare and was rejected by over a dozen publishers before a small British press called Bloomsbury said yes four years later. At age 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker and wrote her first book at the age of 41 that led to her subsequent fame. Julia Child released her first cookbook at 49. And Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at age 52.
Looking back, turning points may seem to be serendipitous, but in those who examine them, there is a psychological hive of activity that appears to have led to their success. From my experience as a therapist and executive coach, there are several principles that underlie the psychology of people whose lives have been punctuated by turning points. Below is a description of each principle and suggested action that you might take to make a turning point more likely.
You can’t have a turning point if you keep doing what you’re doing—Prepare your brain to change course: In my book, Tinker Dabble Doodle Try I describe many people whose careers started at one point and ended up completely differently (Ryan Seacrest, Vik Muniz, Jeff Bezos). Don’t be afraid to explore a viable career, even if it is not obviously related to what you are doing. You can’t anticipate that a stockbroker will become a famous television personality, but if you are open to what you desire and pursue opportunities in accordance with this, you are likely to find that turning point.
Action: What one other career would you consider tight now? Look up related jobs online. Imagine what it would take to change or move.
You have to have the courage to see a turning point staring you in the face: Change is frightening, so much so, that many people ignore potential turning points in their lives. Blind to new opportunities, they just keep going with their noses to the grindstone, hoping that their focus will bring them the rewards they want. While this may be the case, focus is often a formula for missed opportunities. You have to be able to disengage your focused brain to look more deeply at other opportunities.
Action: Of the many conversations you have had recently, which one may turn into an opportunity? Call up a related person and keep the conversation alive. Ask for introductions to other people.
Take time out for creative motivation: Sometimes, a turning point is not obvious. It requires a creative mind to see it. Such insights occur when your brain is not preoccupied with busy work all the time. Go for a walk outside, preferably on a meandering path. It will stimulate creative ideas and allow you to see the opportunities in your life differently.
Action: After lunch or at time of day that suits you, go for a meandering walk every day.
Use possibility thinking: Often, we are stuck in habit pathways. And having a one-track mind won’t get you to a turning point. We have to consider possibilities for our brains to attend to them. If you don’t expect to pick any apples, you won’t carry a basket. Similarly, if you don’t expect something to come your way, you won’t prepare for it. Possibility thinking (a growth mindset) makes your brain more rewarded, relaxed, and receptive.
Action: Forget about your current reality. What do you want? And why is it possible? Research people online like you who have achieved what they wanted despite their adversities. For example, search for “celebrities who married later in life” or “people who became successful after age 40”. This will feed your brain with possibilities.
These methods will likely jumpstart your brain so that turning points are more likely. In the same way that you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t experience a turning point if you don’t do all that you can to make it happen.
To learn more about how to prepare yourself for turning points, get a copy of my latest book Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind (Ballantine Books, 2017)