When you look back, when you analize your life as if you were an external viewer, you see turning points that led you to radically opposite ways or, conversely, you see smooth transitions that have led you from one place to another without major changes?
It is not merely a terminological digression. In fact, a research conducted at the Lafayette College and the University of New Hampshire, revealed the role of both concepts in our autobiographical memory.
What are transitions and turning points?
Look back and remember the first major changes that took place in your life, maybe the admission to college, the university career, when you went to live alone or when you first declared to your partner...
These psychologists asked these questions to people between 30 and 64 years old. They should describe the most important events of their life and catalog them as “transitions” or “turning points”.
Interestingly, they found that people used the term “transition” for those little changes, which someway, were determined by external circumstances or other people. On the contrary, the “turning points” were those in which they had a greater decisional power, like choosing the university.
In addition, they also revealed that in many cases they didn’t notice these turning points immediately as changes from the emotional or attitudinal point of view were appreciated only after, with the time.
What role both memories have in our autobiographical memory?
Our autobiographical memory is a kind of fiction story, a novel that has a thread in which many scenes and characters appear. However, when we tell the story of our life we usually keep a logical order, we give it some consistency. In that sense, transitions help us to realize that organization. If asked to summarize the story of our life, we often refer to events cataloged as “transitional changes”.
On the contrary, the turning points are the most significant points in our history. Often we don’t mention them in the resume, but if we’re asked what facts have marked our destiny will be those turning points that will come to mind, because are the most important core memories that changed us.
Little by little transitions become a kind of context in which we organize our memories, as if they were the background of a landscape without which nothing would make sense. However, the turning points are the most outstanding features, without which this landscape wouldn’t be unique and special.
Make sure you have turning points in your life
Transitional changes are important, and many of them are inevitable, as entering primary school. However, if you really want your life has a unique flavor, if you don’t want to have regrets over the years, you should also have turning points.
Turning points are achieved when:
- You live fully and let yourself be led by emotions
- You take control of your life and decide what you want to do
- You leave behind fear and venture to discover new things
In fact, turning points lead us to a momentous change, either in the way of seeing life or the way we relate to ourselves. Thanks to them, we expand a bit much our “self”.
Of course, sometimes these inflection points are painful, especially since we must leave behind behaviours or things that we like, because they represent a break with the past. However, the potential they open to us make it worthwhile.
Enz, K. & Talarico, J. (2015) Forks in the Road: Memories of Turning Points and Transitions. Applied Cognitive Psychology.
Your life is full of transitions or turning points?Jennifer Delgado