As someone who has written screenplays, I was always intrigued by the “plot points” they include. According to Syd Field, one of the most celebrated teachers of screenplay writing, every film includes two plot points—scenes or moments in the story that spin the action in an entirely new direction. Something happens that seems to change everything.
I think there are plot points in life, too. More commonly, my clients identify them as “pivot points.” As in screenplays, pivot points come up in a person’s life that either makes the narrative move in an entirely new direction or offers the chance for it to. Not every pivot point, in other words, is a fait accompli, automatically altering the trajectory of one’s existence. Sometimes, it offers the opportunity for such transformational change.
Pivot points can be “positive” or “negative.” One of the main messages I want to share is that either can offer massive opportunity. What seems like a calamity can pave the way for the best years of one’s life—if reimagined as an opportunity.
Some of the common pivot points in life include the sale of one’s company, a promotion, job loss, divorce, the sale of one’s business, the first steps toward actualizing one’s creative vision (as an entrepreneur or artist or anything else). Others include meeting a powerful mentor, having a falling out with a business partner or, for that matter, chaos erupting in the world. Positive or negative, pivot points destabilize the status quo to such an extent that the “building” that represents one’s life is shaken. And the bricks that fall to the ground can be used to rebuild a very different structure—and one that may be a vast improvement over the prior one.
A big part of taking advantage of pivot points, instead of being paralyzed by them or missing them, entirely, is understanding that good things—even great things—can come from them, even when they are initially very painful. And having the expectation of a positive outcome, ultimately, actually vastly enhances the likelihood of one.
The late Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, put it this way:
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.
Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
Dr. Keith Ablow