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Looking for change? Make a ‘you turn’

  • Orange County Register
  • Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Are you one of the 84 million Baby Boomers approaching retirement and suddenly find you need to jump-start your life in a new direction?

“This is the time to turn it all around, to please yourself, to make your own choices and to create what you want,” says Nancy Irwin. “All you need is a ‘you-turn.’ ”

Irwin is a Los Angeles-based psychologist who pushes that envelope in her book “You-Turn, Changing Direction at Midlife,” which combines the stories of more than 40 people who have wanted to change their lives, and did.

Irwin begins by setting out a series of questions the “You-Turners” need to ask, including “What are your strengths and limitations?” and “What is the worst possible outcome you can imagine?”

She encourages “changers” to list their most important values, the moments in their lives that make them proud, even “what three adjectives would those closest to you use to describe you?”

Change does not require fearlessness, but it does require courage, she says. And she reminds, “Without fear, there’d be no courage.”

“Late bloomers smell just as sweet as early or on-time bloomers,” she says. “Trust your own bud to blossom in its own time.”

In today’s changing economy, career paths also need to twist and turn.

“Most skills are transferable,” Irwin advises. And she notes that, “many people do know what they’d rather be doing but are simply afraid to make the change. Start by making a list of all the steps of action that would be required if you had the courage to proceed.”

Afraid to make that first contact call for change? Write a script first, she suggests.

Irwin’s suggestions might sound simplistic, but they combine the values and talents needed to “You-Turn” today.

Take for example one of the true stories in her book by Jan Bartlett. She was a medical technologist for many years before entering TV and radio broadcasting. Then after 15 years in show business, the Screen Actors Guild went on strike and she found herself without work.

“To make ends meet, I began working as an elementary school substitute teacher,” she explains in the book. “I found myself drawn to early education because I wanted the chance to make a real difference in children’s lives. … I soon came to the eye-opening realization that substitute teaching to subsidize my movie and TV career wasn’t enough. I decided, at age 50, to get my credentials and teach full time.”

Bartlett describes how she struggled to get these credentials and how she successfully began her new career.

Irwin suggests creating your own mission statement. She tells readers to set short-term goals, check your progress periodically and realize that, “It is human nature to always yearn for something, even if it is simply rest and reflection.”

Many who set up goals in their youth don’t know how to function after these goals are achieved, she says.

“Great people keep expanding.”

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