INsight/ Lost In Transition

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash


Manila, 19 June 2019 — Not sure where you’re going? Then it’s easy to get lost in transition.

Have you seen the movie Lost in Translation (2003), where a man experiences feelings of being lost in a city where he doesn’t speak the language, is lost for orientation, and doesn’t understand how business is done?

Feeling Lost

It is a challenge to be confronted by unexpected circumstances to question where you are in your life, without your usual bearings and certainties. What that looks like, as shown in the movie, can be unsettling, to say the least.

As it happened, the actor, actress, and director were all experiencing an uncertain stage in their careers at the time the movie was made: they were lost in transition, we could say.

Feeling lost can bring stress, upsets, guilt, unexpected emotions, lack of balance, general malaise, anxiety and depression, with their associated health impacts. No leader is immune from exposure to such experiences during their career and life.

So when you’re going through a tough or uncertain time, when you have a sense of feeling lost in transition, getting support is the way to go. Career and life coaching can help you discover a healthy and productive way forward.

In my coaching experience, I have often encountered three conditions that cause leaders to get stuck where they are and to loose their healthy sense of direction. I call them the traps of The Fatal Attraction, Pandora’s Box Confusion, and Dearth of Passion.

Let’s look at each of these traps in turn.

The Fatal Attraction

This trap has to do with your choice of ladder to climb in your career and life. If you value form over function, it’s easy to get stuck on seeking promotions into positions of executive authority. It is a choice that can lead to much stress and unhappiness.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being in a position of executive authority. The question is what you value the most, and how that influences the way you work and live your life. Scrutiny is advised.

In The Promotion Curse in The Economist of June 17th, 2019, columnist Bartleby examines commonly held views such as The Peter principle, which states that “workers get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence,” and the Dilbert principle, which suggests that the least competent people get promoted “because these are the people you don’t want to do the actual work.”

To these, he added the Bartleby curse, capturing what he observed about people getting promoted “until they reach a level when they stop enjoying their jobs.”

Bartleby’s advice, like what Steve Jobs said long before him in his well-known Stanford commencement address, suggests that you avoid this curse by choosing to stick to work that you love doing, which you are likely very good at, and thereby release yourself from being turned “into a supplicant, endlessly in search of favorable feedback from the higher corporate ranks.”

Beware of the curse of promotions, Bartleby warns, with the overwork and dissatisfaction that often comes with it. Sage advice, in my experience.

What ladder have you decided to climb in your career in life?

Rather than blindly choosing form over function, why not go for fun and function? I was reminded of this perspective when I thought of the brand of my beloved windsurfing board, many years ago: F2, standing for Fun and Function.

Pandora’s Box Confusion

The second trap is where you realize that you have lost—or haven’t yet discovered—your sweet spot between what you are trained to do, what you are passionate about, and what you want to contribute in society. That leads to confusion. Leaders I support learn how to work this out through the Three S Challenge.

Because life is a moving feast, with constant changes in yourself, your work, and the circumstances and expectations from your environment, it’s common to loose your sweet spot, and find yourself wondering where it has moved and where you should rediscover it.

Once out of balance, it can seem like the proverbial Pandora’s Box has opened, and you stress over how to find a new alignment to get your career and life under control again.

Deciding on change is rarely easy and neither is putting it into action.

For example, you might discover that it’s time for you to pursue further studies to add a second disciplinary knowledge pillar into your T-shaped competency profile, together with improved communication, leadership, and organization skills. A lot of work and disruption to get this going and done.

To recognize what the necessary alignments are for you, all by yourself, is a tall order. Getting feedback and input from your peers, mentor and coach is the better way to get out of this trap.

Is your Pandora’s Box making troubling noises? Have you already decided to take a look? Then do go all the way to allow for making major alignments to your knowledge, attitude, and skills. You may feel like you’re trapped, yet you can get through that to emerge a better leader.

Dearth of Passion

You are meant to discover your own passion in life—sometimes referred to as your calling—and make a conscious choice to follow it, ensuring that its flame burns brightly and warmly to power you up and let our best come out.

What if that flame of passion hasn’t been lit yet, or if you have let it die or dwindle to a tiny size? With a dearth of passion, life can look and feel bleak indeed. And it becomes so much harder to find the energy to empower yourself out of this trap.

Living with the flame of your passion does not happen automatically or easily, and you can miss out on passion altogether depending on choices you make.

Like what I learned when I asked the doctor supervising my treadmill test about her passion in life (coaches are known to ask unusual questions).

After a lengthy pause, she confided that her passion would have been to work in a museum, rather than becoming a doctor. Her career choice for medicine—influenced by her parents—had moved her away from what what she knew could have become her life passion.

Among the professionals I have coached for leadership, many expressed how they felt severely ‘dented’ by adverse experiences in their careers at work, which they often shared in the form of stories about a lack of appreciation and support from bosses. A dearth of passion resulted, and only after turning that around were they able to re-engage in work and life with a bright spark in their eyes.

Other professionals told me stories how special it felt when they were finally able to recognize and pull up their passion in life when they discovered what they felt deeply about. Hugot is a Filippino term for that experience.

Finding your hugot will help you transition out of the trap of a dearth of passion, and establish what your personal index of deep happiness and passion looks like.

Lost in Transition - Three Traps.jpg

In the diagram above, you can see how these three traps are connected with your work in the main three arenas of your leadership, that is, Direction in your Observed World, Alignment in your Personal World, and Commitment in your Social World.

The first step to avoid staying lost in transition—and move out of one or more traps you’re finding yourself in—is to realize that you are in a transition. That can be a hugely empowering realization.

The key questions then become what your transition is all about, where it should lead you, and how you can climb into the driver’s seat to take charge of the transition.

Contact me if this post strikes a chord with you, and you want to benefit from Leader in Transition Coaching. We can start with a call to discuss where you are at, and which of these three (or other) traps you want to move out of.

Set up a call to discuss this, and how you can learn more about growing your leadership. 

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