Turning Points


A few weeks ago I was with two friends, one of whom very abruptly became angry with the other over something that seemed to me quite small. A difference of opinion, as it turned out, about a political matter. Very angry and very small, at least in the sense that the issue wasn’t important to their well-being or anything that was in their control. It was triggered by an everyday observation about the behavior of one particular politician. You’ve probably heard or made similar comments yourself.

To me, however, it was stunning. Why? Because, in that moment, I saw something that I sometimes do: make a fuss with my wife over a subject of no real consequence, even though it tends not to be about politics. And, I’ll tell you what, what I saw wasn’t pretty. I’m sure it is every bit as unfortunate when I do it as when it happens between these two friends. For me it was a turning point. I have been much different since that day. More than once I’ve replayed in my head what I saw happening in front of me. I’m hoping that the change in me lasts and am writing this to keep myself on target.

I imagine that when most of us think of the idea of a personal turning point, we conjure up a more operatic circumstance. Something about death or winning (or losing) the presidency or falling in love, to name just a few possibilities. But, sometimes a turning point can be as unremarkable as the very personal one I just described. The kind of event that is inwardly dramatic, but not outwardly dramatic. The kind that has to do with an “aha” moment, the self-knowledge it brings, and a change in behavior because of it.

Put differently, turning points involve both what you experience and how you reflect on that experience. Moreover, that self-reflection must lead to a permanent change in conduct. Yet the trigger needn’t be theatrical. The event I just mentioned was compelling only because of the meaning I gave it. To anyone else watching, it would have been soon forgotten.

Here is a rather different kind of turning point, quite a contrast to the one I just portrayed. It is outwardly dramatic as well as inwardly dramatic. It changed how a teenager led the remaining 55 years of his life. Just reading this brief account might change yours: Turning Point.

The image above is a Korean Traffic “U-turn” Sign by P.Ctnt, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

6 thoughts on “Turning Points

  1. Dr.Stein what an incredible story!
    What a moment it must have been for
    Dr.Katz. He was able to find meaning
    in his horrific encounter in this incident
    Perhaps in those incredible pauses of
    life be they dramatic or just a whisper in
    our hearts we are called to find meaning
    and bring about a shift in ourselves. It took me many years to have my first “ah moment”. When I experienced it for the first time,my path was a little easier to follow. It gave me direction and meaning and was all over a bowling
    party being cancelled. My reaction to this incident brought me self clarity. It was not dramatic but it was self changing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts I really appreciate your good words


  2. Well said. Yes, it doesn’t have to be something big to change your life. In Jerry’s case, I have no personal analogue for the drama of what he experienced. But I have heard war veterans say that, as awful as the experience was, nothing thereafter approached the intensity of their life in the armed services. Many thanks for your comment.


  3. I had such a turning point moment last year that resulted in a dramatic change in my life.


  4. It would be interesting to know how many people can precisely identify such a moment. I wonder if someone has done a dissertation on the subject? Thank you for reading and commenting, Rosaliene.


  5. The ironic phone is ringing. I read your post about your friends right after I got done attending my anger management class! Gave me an opportunity to practice, “how could this have been handled better?” 🙂

    Great story about your colleague. Your writing is always as pleasant as a cool breeze on a warm day. 🙂


    • The sage who said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery probably didn’t have this in mind! Seriously, good luck with it, Harry. Sounds like you are on the right track.


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