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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

When you feel lost (and 14 ways to feel found again)

Update: Thank you to those who attended the second Leaders Circle yesterday. We had meditation, busting negative thinking, body-based stress reduction and heartfelt sharing. It was "powerful and enlightening" and "a hugely supportive and positive experience" according to the extraordinary women who attended.

In fact, it was exciting for me to notice the difference in self-awareness, resilience and creative problem-solving between those who had worked with me as their coach and others.

If you’re ready to devote some time and space to consider your career and life decisions more strategically and wisely, join me at the next Leaders Circle*.

Sign up here ( for further information (it will help me to create a small list of people who are ready and willing to participate, and give priority to.)

* It's for you if you're a highly analytical professional and want to upgrade your performance to a more effective and less stressful approach that will help you navigate career and life decisions with more ease and clarity.

* It's not for you if you're looking for a cookie-cutter formula for success!

With gratitude to those who came and Dr Mamdouh Barakat for sponsoring the venue.


“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle

My sense of direction isn’t my main strength…I can get lost in a lift.

When I spent time in Havana, as a medical student in 2002, I made a point of exploring the city outside the restrictions put on us as tourists…I’d gone all the way to Cuba understand the health system after alI!

For my troubles, I discovered some very interesting things as well as getting lost a few times!

I also found that getting frustrated, angry or doubling my efforts to work out the route didn’t help very much.

What did help was to relax, enjoy the incredible sights and sounds of the city, ask for directions while engaging in various conversations and trust my intuition.

I always made it back to the National School of Public Health (where I was staying) having enjoyed a few adventures e.g. dancing a little impromptu salsa on the streets; stumbling into a maternity home and discovering a whole new experience in the Cuban health system; and meeting someone who helped me acquire a bicycle (that led to a whole other set of adventures!)

Fun at a Hogar Materno, Cuba.

I always found my way back home.

And so it is with life. If we can embrace it…as it is…and create from there - doing what we can with what we have wherever we are.


The challenge if you have a good analytical brain is that your weapon of choice in dealing with life is your intellect. I don’t use the term “weapon” lightly but in full knowledge of how the intellect can build walls everywhere: between us and our intuition, us and others, us and the process of life (including its impermanence and uncertainty).

In fact, Freud put “intellectualisation” in the category of defence mechanisms.

It doesn’t help that we live in a knowledge economy, and those with strong analytical skills get paid for developing and exercising them, what might be a defence mechanism is rewarded in status, connections and money! Quite a payoff, no?

The cost of having this sharp weapon is a number of uncomfortable quandaries. Some are existential (e.g. Who am I if I’m not this highly intelligent, rational being who can solve problems? What makes me valuable as a person?) and others are more down to earth (e.g. What is a feeling? What are these things rolling down my face?)

The feeling of being lost is linked to being overly reliant on intellect to navigate life.


Because our emotions are an internal-guidance system and you can’t feel an emotion with your intellect.

Our emotions are a signal, a message that a gap exists between where we are and where we think we should be. But the solution isn’t always to go for the goal. It may be to understand the constellation of assumptions, beliefs and values that give rise to that emotion and make a real choice. The problem is you can only get to that state of true freedom of choice by going through the emotion…


In partnership with our emotions, the analytical mind, can work wonders and formulate the answers we need. Divorced from the reality of our emotional experience and left to its own whims, the analytical mind leads us to noisy mental chaos, overwhelm and a feeling of not being quite in the here and now – leaving us totally ineffective at turning ideas into action.

A simple way to begin the journey back home (to yourself) is to ground yourself. What does that mean? Essentially, it is reconnecting with the part of you that exists below the shoulders and feeling what it is like to be alive; perceiving through your senses (literally coming back to your senses!)

It’s not even that feeling lost is a bad thing in the absolute (if you were on acid, you would call it tripping). But because we live in a world where we’re trying to get stuff done, it feels frustrating.

In any case, spending too much time lost in our minds (whether through over-intellectualisation or a drug-induced fantasy) is unnecessary for a happy, healthy and productive life.


These are grouped under different headings:

Use your body

1) Change what you are doing with your body:

How long do you spend sitting at a computer every day? Notice tension in the shoulders and weak core muscles? It’s the result of a sedentary lifestyle. So if you start to feel overwhelmed or lost, it’s time to take a break. A few deep breaths, stretches, looking outside the window and daydreaming for a few moments can help to reset your mind and body to feel more relaxed, alert and fresh.

2) Change your environment:

How many great ideas have you had in a shower, in nature or while on holiday? What would the world be like if, like Google, organisations and individuals valued play, connection and inspiration time when they felt stuck, rather than doubling up on thinking and hard work. When you’re stuck you need less thinking not more! So go for a walk, go on a trip, go visit someone, which brings us to number 3:

3) Change the way you are relating:

There’s nothing like someone giving you a good hug to feel more relaxed. The endorphins and oxytocin will give you a high that will help you relax into the present moment and cut the negative thinking spiral. This is why talking to someone feels good too. If they’re listening to you without judgement and without trying to fix you, you will feel loved. Be brave and ask someone clearly to do this for you e.g. “I’d love it if I could just vent for 10 minutes. I don’t need you to give me a solution and I would really appreciate it if you could just lend me your ear.” Another way of putting this is to ask them to be more like a coach (using active listening and curiosity) and less like a consultant (dishing out solutions and the steps they think you need to take).

Diversify your daily experience by reconnecting with a range of emotions

  1. Activities that help you relax e.g. a long bath or massage

  2. Activities that bring you joy

  3. Activities that connect you to your fun, playful side

  4. Activities that connect you to your creative side e.g. painting, drawing, singing.

  5. Activities that challenge you to your current limits by taking you outside your comfort zone e.g. something you’ve always been scared of doing

  6. Activities that allow you to cry (and release emotions that society sees as largely taboo like sadness or grief) e.g. watching a sad movie, going to a memorial.

  7. Activities that inspire you e.g. reading an inspiring book / going to a lecture / listening to an audio

Yoga covers many of these and is designed to encourage flexibility and therefore resilience of the body and mind.

Have a stabilising practice:

  1. Meditation

  2. Journaling

  3. Coaching and other transformational partnerships.

Ask yourself powerful questions

Finally, if you do nothing else, at least make sure that your mental efforts are channelled into powerful questions (rather than noisy chatter). At the Leaders Circle we went through the hierarchy of questions. A tool one of my coaches taught me:

Weak questions

Why? E.g. Why does this always happen to me? Why do I have to deal with this?

How? How do I do X? Usually has either a victimised flavour (e.g. this is so hard, I could never get this done) or a warrior flavour (e.g. I’ll kill myself to get this goal done and destroy anything that gets in my way)

Ask powerful questions:

What? Here, try Tony Robbins' powerful questions for problem-solving:

  1. What can I learn from this problem?

  2. What is great about this problem?

  3. What is it that makes the situation not perfect, yet?

  4. What am I willing to do to make things the way I want them?

  5. What am I willing not to do to make things the way I want them?

  6. What can I do to enjoy the process?

  7. What’s my next step?

Who? This is the most powerful question of all. This is where you can reshape your identity or self-image so that the action you need to take to achieve a goal becomes easy (because it is congruent with who you believe yourself to be). Who do you need to be for this problem to become an opportunity filled with possibilities? Here you can reconnect with your deepest values and refer to role-models (and anti-role models i.e. who represent qualities/values you don’t want).

Practice powerful goal-setting

Most people focus on action (what to do, rather than creating conditions for the action to be done effortlessly. The other problem with focusing on action (without time, space and energy) is that you’ll default to habits and any goal worth pursuing will require you to grow beyond your habits and that requires the following three foundations:


Creating space or “a clearing” in your calendar and tracking your activities. Yes, you may have to cut out some things and prioritise. Everyone likes being effective but nobody likes making choices…Time to leave La La Land and join the human experience by prioritising.

2) Energy:

Eating, sleeping, exercising and cutting out things that drain you unnecessarily.

3) Inspiration

This should be taken care of in your emotion-based practices above.

(For more on these foundations, see the blog on this)

Pick something, commit to it and give yourself time to conjure up solutions. You’ll be surprised how fast you’ll start feeling better again…and stumble upon the best possible answer at the right time.

Have a good week,


Join the free webinar I’m co-hosting with ex-lawyer and colleague life change specialist Bryce Kennedy on how to find your passion (or let it find you).

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