Losing Landmarks: metaphors of transition

Are you at a crossroads in your professional life? Would you appreciate a map?

And have you ever stopped to wonder why transition is a journey?

When we experience periods of change we often adopt this conceptual metaphor which structures how we think, talk, and even act.

Map - losing landmarksFrom a cultural perspective it makes sense for us to understand transition in terms of a journey: we are moving from one point to another, and we have a destination to reach. Assuming the destination is in sight. We are inevitably leaving something behind, and we might get lost on the way. There are decisions to make, routes to choose, and people to meet (sometimes to seek directions).

It is unlikely we have made this journey before, and the element of the unknown is evident as we sail unchartered waters or take the road less travelled. It can be a solitary experience, and perhaps a little turbulent.

Movement and momentum are central to the journey but, paradoxically, being ‘stuck’ – perhaps at a fork in the road – belongs within the transition as a journey metaphor, as being ‘stuck’ implies that motion is restricted (and your journey has been interrupted). Fully experiencing being ‘stuck’ is the first stage to rediscovering momentum.

Frequently, a period of transition is marked by a physical as well as metaphorical journey, and the two realities co-exist. Losing landmarks – shared by a client – beautifully describes the geographical as well as the social and emotional experience arising in response to (dis)orientation and unfamiliar terrain.

If the concept transition as a journey structures our understanding and experience of transition, what happens when we take full ownership of our metaphor? If we deliberately edit the context, the terrain, or even our mode of travel?

To what extent can we intervene and instigate our own paradigm shift?

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