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Where Are You Going?

The Dreaded Question for Those in Transition

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When I first lived in Bali in 2009, “Where are you going?” quickly became my least favorite question. I would see someone in the street and they would ask “Where are you going?”It drove me nuts! It was none of their business where I was going! Why would they want to know? 

I quickly learned that the source of my irritation was a translation issue. The greeting for good morning translates as “where are you going?” They were just saying hi and had no interest in knowing where I was literally going! And so I learned to reply “Jalan jalan”, walking walking… That’s the best answer you can give, just walking with no destination in mind means you’re doing well. 

I share this because a few days ago, I was the one asking “Where are you going?” And I know it drove the person on the receiving end of the question… nuts! This client was getting annoyed because they were trying to get somewhere but I helped them see that since they didn’t know where they were going, how did they expect to get there? They were fixated on the destination. 

Transitions are not a linear process.

When we are in transition, we usually go through different phases: First, the loss of the old situation (a relationship, a job, a place that we left), we take some time to go within to see what is meaningful to us, and finally we come back to the world, ready to rock and create a new situation. This process is not linear of course and we go back and forth between those phases, dancing in the moment and learning to adapt as we go along.

Today, I want to focus on the last part: The moment when we come out of hibernation, ready to rebuild ourselves, full of optimism and impatience, wiser and more attuned to our desires. In that moment, we focus our efforts on getting to the new destination: “I want to find my next partner!” or “I want to start my dream job!” We are determined to put in all our best efforts to get there. 

Exploration vs Destination 

For many of us, the problem is that we don’t know where “there” is. And so we run in one direction or another spending much of our energy getting even more lost and frustrated as we try to get to a location for which we do not have the address. 

In that moment, the most judicious move is to shift our focus from trying to get somewhere to understanding where that somewhere is. Before you can map your route, you need to know your starting point and your destination. Hence the question “Where are you going?” 

Exploration is a key part of finding the destination: For instance, we might start dating again and learn what we do and do not want in our next partner, we might decide to live somewhere new for a month or two to see if we like it before settling there. Similarly when we are looking for a career change – we explore through understanding our strengths, reflecting on what is meaningful to us in a career and much more. 

When we explore, we approach the next step with openness and without attachment to the outcome: “Jalan jalan”. It’s very different from trying to get to a destination. What is crucial is how we frame the situation: being an explorer, with the freedom to get nowhere vs. being a racer, trying to get to the end as fast as possible. By framing the exploration phase as a learning phase helps to let go of the pressure we put on ourselves and the expectations others might have of us.

Finding the destination

Have you ever said or heard someone say “Once I knew what I wanted, it was so much easier to get it!” Once we’ve been down a few paths that led to nowhere (and that’s ok, we knew we were just exploring!), and learned the lessons we needed to learn, we start to say no a lot more. We don’t go on a date if there’s a red flag. We don’t entertain the idea of a job with a team we don’t like. Instead, we focus on the paths that help us define what we want and our vision starts to narrow. We might even start to make out the destination, far in the distance. This is when we can start to plan the route. We can focus on what’s next and make moves to get there.

Keep moving

Might you, at some point, think that you have found the answer to “there”, go for it, and realize that it wasn’t, in fact “it”? YES. 100%. ABSOLUTELY. What happens next is key: Learn the lesson, accept that this was another path to help you learn and move on. It’s not a mistake, it’s not a failure and it certainly isn’t the end of the road. Make a different turn, explore some more and keep moving.

Might you, at some point, think that you have found the answer to “there”, go for it, and realize that it was right? YES. 100%. ABSOLUTELY.  What happens next is key: Learn the lesson, enjoy being “there”, thrive, master, teach even and then… Continue to learn, explore some more and keep moving.

The thing is, there is no “there”, my friend. There is no destination. Along the way, you’ll find places where you want to spend some time and then, you’ll start moving again, looking for the next spot. Jalan, jalan… 

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