In mathematics, there is a concept referred to as inflection. We’re most accustomed to hearing this word refer to speech, in which it deals with the rising and falling of our voice. Its application in math is similar- it is the process of changing direction. Whenever graphical analysis is done in numerous fields, one of the first things searched for is an inflection point, or points. This is exact moment when direction changes. If you toss a penny upwards, the split second where it is floating seamlessly in the air, just before it begins to fall, is its inflection point. We see them all of the time, but we don’t always notice them. Indeed, just like marketers studying purchasing habits or biologists studying bacterial data, inflection points must be searched out. They aren’t always immediately obvious.
Life is full of inflection points, but they are often difficult to see. This is because inflection is a process, leading up to a point. A graph is still heading in the same direction before it hits its point of change, but it is accelerating in a negative direction. In layman’s terms, we might say that it is slowing down, but this isn’t entirely correct. Those familiar with physics understand the subtleties of vectors being used to describe inflection instead of simply “slowing down” or “speeding up.” This is because there is a competing force pushing in another direction; process isn’t just slowing down, something is pushing it another way. Then, all of the sudden, its direction is the opposite of what it once was. A trend reverses, a course diverts, and a person is unrecognizable. You’ve likely seen it in yourself, and you’ve certainly seen it in others.
I don’t know all of the inflection points in my life. I know a few of them. I know who I once was, several turns ago, and I know somewhat who I am now. I don’t know where the next change will occur. I know that choosing to wrestle in high school changed the direction of my life. I know that choosing to follow Christ in my life has certainly changed my direction. Choosing to become a writer instead of using my business degree in a more traditional fashion qualifies as well. I could list obvious life events such as choosing to attend the University of Southern California or staying in Los Angeles after graduation, but I think that these events, just like many of the obvious times we would point to in a search for defining moments- were actually just extensions of the path I was already on. True moments of change are often less visible, I think. A small choice in a situation where no one is watching, embracing a thought or a way of thinking when problems arise, making oneself comfortable -or uncomfortable- I think these are more often where competing forces begin to change our direction in life.
It’s often said that people don’t change. I would ask the person who claims this if they’ve ever met another person. People often don’t change in the ways we want, but they certainly change, for better or for worse.
I don’t know exactly where I’m headed. I have a few ideas, but I’m no fortune teller. But what I do know is what kind of man I want to be, and I think that whenever that was determined was itself a point of change. I’m mostly speculating, but I would guess that for the person who decides where he wants to go beforehand, his inflection points are on purpose. And though we always choose for ourselves how to respond to a situation, I think this makes all of the difference. For those who have no accepted purpose, I think that their moments of true change are less deliberate and more subject to the blowing of the wind.
But if others are subject to the blowing of the wind, I know that either I am also, or I have the potential to become subject to it. So I cling to my purpose.