One of our most common metaphors is that of the journey (Inkson, 2004). Journeys, of course, can take many forms. There can be movement from one place to another by land, sea or by air. Also, one can talk about movement at a more abstract level, considering changes in ideas, emotions or perspectives. Movement is rarely in a straight line, but rather a series of twists and turns and a need to make adjustments along the way.

A number of authors have explored the process of journeying (Pryor & Bright, 2008; Prochaska, DiClement & Norcross, 1982). Despite the irregular nature of most journeys, there are some predictable phases (Amundson, 2010). It usually will start with the acknowledgement of a need for movement or change. There is then a point at which the person commits to an action. The third phase is the process of preparation for the journey ahead. Following preparation there is movement towards specific action steps, ongoing assessment, and adaptation. As mentioned earlier there can be many twists and turns and sometimes pulling back to move in a completely different direction. New obstacles can arise and this can create frustration and challenge. At certain junctures there may be a need to rest and rebuild energy. These moments of inaction help to provide an opportunity for reflection and recommitment to what lies ahead. And finally, there is celebration when goals are reached and in some cases, a desire to continue the journey towards a set of new goals.

The third age may carry with it an opportunity to act courageously and begin that new journey. Gelatt (1989) suggests journeying be undertaken with an attitude of ‘positive uncertainty’ as people step forward with confidence, at the same time aware that there may be unexpected obstacles and challenges. There is joy to be found in the journey itself and also in the goals that are achieved along the way.

Creating a positive momentum can also result in the emergence of new opportunities. Mitchell, Levin & Krumboltz (1999) use the term ‘planned happenstance’ to account for the paradox of planning and at the same time being open to opportunities that arise through chance or happenstance. This openness is supported through the following skills and personal qualities: a. curiosity – exploring new learning opportunities; b. persistence – exerting effort despite setbacks; c. flexibility – willingness to change; d. optimism – viewing new options as possible and attainable; and e. risk taking – taking action in the face of uncertain outcomes. The planned happenstance approach emphasizes the importance of imagination and learning, and encourages the development of skills and attitudes that positions people to create and take advantage of new opportunities.


Amundson, N.E. (2010). Metaphor making: Your career, your life, your way. Richmond, B.C.: Ergon Communications.

Gelatt, H.B. (1989). Positive uncertainty: A new decision-making framework for counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 33, 252-256.

Inkson, K. (2004). Images of career: Nine key metaphors. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65, 96-111.

Mitchell, K.E., Levin, A.S. & Krumboltz, J.D. (1999). Planned happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of Counseling & Development, 77, 115-124.

Prochaska, J.O., DiClement, C. & Norcross, J. (1982). Trans-Theoretical therapy: Toward a more integrated model of change. Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice, 19, 276-288.

Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J.E.H. (2008). Archetypal narratives in career counselling: A chaos theory application. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 8/2, 71-82.