Exploring Transitions

Change-Making at Solstice— How the Light Gets In


This post is a reprint from December 2016

Building Connection, Creating Community, Holding Presence

Now, on the shortest day of the year, with even northern California cold enough to wear hats, scarves, and gloves, I'm reflecting on the seeming polarities like light and dark, love and fear, that have swung us back and forth over our political and personal landscapes this past year. For me, the experience has been like standing on rock cliffs, being battered and splintered by an ongoing series of huge waves under the low-hanging clouds of a storm.

One such wave was the result of the presidential election in the United States. For myself and the majority of the electorate there is now the fear of having a president, a Congress, and a Supreme Court that will actively work against what we hold dear for our society— a healthy environment, health care access for all, up-to-date public education, and fundamental equal rights for all— so that we may have work and build lives in connection with our authentic desires, our relationships, and our world.

At such times, it seems that there are only the polarities of storm or calm, vitriol or caring, hate or love, dark or light. When people are able to stand steady in the heart of the storm, grounded in awareness of the connectedness of life, there are ways to bring oppositional forces into calm and wholeness. And it is in this place of wholeness and connection that positive change can emerge.

Recently, for example, I heard the story about the brilliant poet, songwriter, and singer, Leonard Cohen, who just died this year, and how he quelled a riot at the 1970 Isle of Wight rock concert in England. I was there, too, one of 600,000 in the passionate, free-flowing audience, many of whom were upset about political, economic, and social injustices of that time, including the Vietnam War. However, since the concert went on day and night, I seemed to have slept through Cohen's 4 AM performance on the last night of the festival that followed a literally blazing Jimi Hendrix set.

This was what I missed. Apparently, on that dark, rainy night, the audience was cold and restive and trashed the stage. Cohen, awoken at 2 AM after Hendrix played, was only bothered because the organizers couldn't locate a piano and organ for his musicians. "I'll come out when you find them," he said, and did, two hours later. As film reviewer Mike Springer wrote, "Perhaps the most moving moment [was] at the beginning, when Cohen [brought] the massive crowd together by asking a favor: 'Can I ask each of you to light a match, so I can see where you all are?'" In this way, he gathered that huge group of disparate, upset people in a cold, damp, inhospitable place into one whole, and soothed them into listening with his calm and deeply centered presence.

Fast forward to 2008, to Leonard Cohen's concert in London at a time of world-wide economic depression. I was very moved by what he said before performing his famous song, "Anthem," to the people in his audience. Again, he brought them together by speaking to their feelings of fear, anger, and upset with lovingkindness— "Thank you so much, friends. We're so privileged to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos."

And then he sang:

"So ring the bells

that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That's how the light gets in."

In our lives, it's not so imperative to seek perfection as to embrace our wholeness.  This includes our stormy encounters, as well as the thin band of light we see on the horizon. When we put our attention on this light, we can see it radiating outward, reflected on the waves of the sea, reaching and opening our hearts.

So try this— when you find yourself in a difficult work situation, relationship, or political landscape, focus on whatever you can that is beautiful or inspiring in the midst of that challenge. Find that crack where the light gets in, whether it's a compassionate glance from a colleague, a memory of a loving moment, or a song that opens your heart. In this way, allow the change you long to make begin from within.

As poet and inspirational speaker, Mark Nepo, wrote in his book, The One Life We're Given: "When we can keep breaking through what has hardened and keep what is alive soft, the cracks turned into openings fill us with an undying light." In this season's darkest days, may we celebrate the beauty of the light and love within us as we move forward into the challenges and changes of the new year.

Re-negotiating Time-- Creating Refuge for Change

We do not gauge the value of the seasons by how quickly they progress from one to the next.
Every season brings forth its bounty in its own time, and our life is richer when we can take time to savor the fruit of each.   — from Sabbath by Wayne Muller

My clients who have made significant changes in their careers and lives have learned the value of taking periodic refuge in a timeless place of not-knowing, where the big questions arise— What is the meaning of my existence? What is my purpose? What am I offering to the world? This is a vital part of the process of making conscious changes as we discover what is meaningful to us and how we want to live. Time may seem to stand still or move very slowly. It may feel as if you're treading water. What will it take to know what I really want to move toward next? Finally, however, we acknowledge the need to allow time for timelessness to guide us towards the next opening in our lives.

Transitions that lead to deeply satisfying changes come from making time to watch cloud patterns shifting in the sky, from moving with no fixed direction— and letting our thoughts, feelings, and dreams drift up naturally into our consciousness. The experience of slowing down, internally and externally, is not only helpful, but absolutely necessary to reach a safe place, a refuge, to gain confidence in our own authentic choices and directions in life.

From this refuge arises the question, "What is it that wants to unfold in my life now?"

Last year I had surgery for a potentially life-threatening condition where part of my right lung was removed. The large organ protected by my ribs that makes the breath of life possible was disarranged. My life, too, felt disarranged.

As I came out of surgery and for many weeks afterwards, I felt as if time had slowed down, as if I were drifting and without the defined goals that had characterized the way I worked and led my life before the diagnosis and the surgery. Even as my body continued to heal, I felt the structure of my life was loose and permeable, like trying to walk without gravity.

Sometimes I just followed the movement of my gradually expanding breathing, and that was enough. Talking with my life coach, Ian White, I said, "I feel as if my life is moving along without any direction from me, as if something inside were re-negotiating my relationship with time. I don't know where I'm going, and I don't know what I need to be doing."

In subsequent coaching sessions with Ian, I identified two aspects to this re-negotiating and slowing down of time as my body healed and my life re-integrated—

"Drifting" — A timeless space where you feel undefined by what you're doing, without a focus on the future. In slowing down, you create refuge for yourself, a safe place where you can wander and meditate without goals or direction. You can explore uncertainty and the loosening of old attachments. Support from a trusted other is helpful in holding this very open, unstructured space.

"Allowing"— Emerges from the process of "drifting." It also has a slow tempo, but is more intentional and leads effortlessly to intuitive knowing of what you want. Your hand is off the tiller, and you relax with wherever the current is taking you. As you allow change to happen, you open to new possibilities without pushing and striving. You're in the flow, consciously attuned to signs and synchronicities.

Eventually, I began working and engaging in my whole life again. In allowing myself more time for working out, hiking/biking in nature, and getting together with friends and family (in person, not just the internet or phone), I found I was putting my energy where it really mattered to me. My coaching, too, gained in depth and fearlessness.

I saw more clearly that following my passion and making conscious choices based on the energy of that passion affirmed for me my authentic path as a whole person. Living in this way has meaning and purpose for me, and is spiritually nurturing.

In her warm, engaging book, My Grandfather's Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., shares stories about heart-opening encounters she's had with people on the edge of some of life's deepest mysteries. One story is about a young doctor who's always been aware of the suffering of others. Feeling this way was such a strain on her that she takes a timeout from her busy life to be in a spiritual retreat for doctors facilitated by Remen. During a walk there, the woman picks up a pine cone that's split in half, and feels it is a sign. She shares it with the group and says that's how her heart feels. She doesn't know why people come to her with their suffering, wanting healing from her when her heart feels so broken.

Later, allowing herself time to walk a meditational labyrinth, she recognizes the split pine cone in her upturned hands as a sign that her wounded heart can be transformed into an open heart. "Suddenly she understood why others had come to her for refuge since her childhood. The suffering she was able to feel had made her trustworthy." It is literally in her own hands, to accept the gift she was born with and allow her larger dream as a healer to unfold.

What is it that wants to unfold in your life now?

Transitions-- the Art of Spontaneous Presence

Sometimes we are presented with words or an intuitive hit or a light on the path that seems exactly the right clue you need to answer a pressing question in your life. Reading the latest blog post, "Transition," of environmentalist, poet, and Buddhist practitioner Gary Horvitz, I found another perspective on questions that come up for so many people I've coached who are in the process of making important career and other life changes— also known as a transitional time, or simply, a "transition."

"What is a transition?"

"I think I'm in one now— what do I do?"

"How does the disorientation and confusion of my transition lead to the change
I want to make?"

Notice in the part of Gary's post below what he has to say about the "being" part of a transition that comes from a deep, inner place where "poetry arises," too. I'm guessing that Gary probably wrote a lot of poetry during this period of internal not-knowing, gradually finding words to bring together tantalizing wisps of intuition, feelings, and uncertainty. As his path gradually clarified for him, he decided to live in Thailand for a time and try cultivating in himself what Buddhism calls "spontaneous presence," or appreciating life fully, in the moment.

Living in this more unsettled and unknown way, Gary found that transitions arise naturally, are as much about being as doing, and have moments of feeling timeless and boundless. Therefore, they are "generative," energizing, and the stuff from which quality changes in our lives can arise if we approach this part of our journey with curiosity and awareness.

As Gary writes—

"I'll just step right out on a limb here and say that poetry arises out of transition. Or at least that's where mine seems to come from. It is that instant, or a succession of instants, in which the mind and body become free for an instant, in which I sense being without moorings, my attention drifting into the larger picture, the larger questions and uncertainties of the moment.

There isn't merely a single one of those instants that beckons for resolution, that nags like a thorn in the side, even in sleep. It's the ongoing state. Oh, a sense of being uncoupled may be a persistent sensation of being in the world as it is unfolding today. But no, I mean there isn't a simple short term resolution that settles the question of how to be in this world.

If I looked closely, I could find a measure of transition in every day, in every encounter, in every waking moment. But that's not exactly what I am sensing now. I am referring to something inside that realizes the more essential uncertainty of life, that revels and yearns for the vitality and unceasing generative nature of it and also for a more settled sense of having made my choices, arriving at some clarity about my intentions and mission even in that context of uncertainty."

NOW . . .

Consider a major change that you've made that was really important to you. What did you experience in the way of drifting, uncertainty, feelings or not-knowing before coming to clarity and the readiness to make that change?

What new understanding do you have about transitions from Gary's experience
that you can apply to your own?

When "Life Happens"— Accepting Not-Knowing in the Change Process

When my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance-- came to its day of birth into the world in March 2013, I wrote that its true genesis had been my lifelong drive to live a life where I could do the work that really called to me while being the person I really am. I found that fulfillment in being a life coach over that past nine years.

Now, two months after surgery that removed part of my right lung and successfully left me cancer free, I'm re-examining where I am in my life at this time, while re-integrating the inner movement of my breathing with my outer movement in the world. When you have to think about a part of yourself that's as automatic as breathing, you know something has changed. In my case, I will regain almost full breathing capacity. However, this unexpected life change and the process of coming back to full living fully again, has been a deep transitional experience for me.

Recently, I acknowledged to my own coach that "I feel I'm really in a transition and grappling with the unknown. Why didn't I expect this?" This visceral awareness of made me aware at a deeper level about how hard it is for my coaching clients who must grapple with events beyond their control that bring the need for change into their lives. When your life gets muddied with unexpected and unwelcome events, it's easy to feel lost and without the ability to navigate.

In Success with Soul, I write: What . . . I call the “chaos zone” is a difficult state to tolerate in our western society, because, in general, we don’t value emptiness, non-productivity, and alone time (alone without the Internet, that is). Yet, career and other life transitions that lead to deeply satisfying changes require this alone time to do nothing much but be with the discomfort and fear of not knowing which way to go.

In letting myself go deeper into the sensory, emotional, and existential currents that are carrying me now, I give myself the gift of spaciousness without the demand for immediate solutions. Some of the questions that have come up for me during this transitional time in the aftermath of my surgery are— What do I want to do with my life after such a significant health challenge? What do I feel is changing about the nature and depth of my work? How do I stay with the discomfort of not knowing where I'm going at this time? How can I honor what is changing inside of me? How do I make space for what wants to fill me now?

I've been cut open, in my psyche as well as, literally, my body. If I choose, I can see a purpose within this experience. I can hold two truths at the same time— I love my work as a coach— AND something inside me has responded to this change in my life by shifting gears in how I want to work and how I want to live fully in my life. For this period of time, I'm less on the computer making online connections— and more often outside, walking, gardening, watching clouds, and yes, coaching. I'm enjoying making more time to talk (rather than email) with friends and colleagues, as well as taking in summer by biking in new places with the scent of eucalyptus trees in the air. Like a child, I savor the cool smoothness of vanilla ice cream at the end of a hot afternoon, while it some of it melts and dribbles down my chin.

As William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, notes, transformation to a new state of awareness requires taking time out from a familiar way of life to empty out and let what is calling you from within to emerge organically, in its own time. With new vision based on healing from a serious illness, I'm feeling my way through the emptiness with no GPS, getting past the fear of flying, and letting new signposts emerge as they will.

However, I'm doing this knowing I have the support of my coach, my friends, my family, and my colleagues whenever I'm ready to shift my attention from deeply inner to the next steps on my emerging path. At this point, I have only questions, feelings, and sensations. But in my experience as a life coach, I know that the more I pay attention to these signals from "life happening," the more likely it is that whatever change emerges will be fulfilling and enduring (at least, until the next changes signals come forth!).

Into the Woods-- Finding Possibilities in Hard Choices

I recently saw the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods”-- a re-creation and intersection of well-known fairytales-- and was struck by this image of going deeper into the unknown to find the path to yourself and your true desires.

Into the woods
To get the thing
That makes it worth
The journeying.
Into the woods....

Sondheim’s Cinderella finds herself running away into the woods-- ball dress, golden slippers and all-- from the prince she thought she wanted to marry.  Intuitively, she knows she wants something different both from her current life of drudgery and from being swept up into another of which she knows nothing.  At some deep level, she knows there is no escape from being the person she really is.   

So she sits in the woods, not knowing what to do, and seems to do nothing.  But is she really doing nothing?

In my book, Success with Soul, I look at different ways in which clients of mine, other people I admire-- and myself, as well-- have had to learn about the process of change, otherwise known as “transitions.”  To make changes that feel right and rewarding for you, you must spend some time in the free-floating “formless form” between one way of working and living, and the next.  In this zone, you will connect with what your soul really longs for-- and this will be the foundation for your change into work you love or a way of living that resonates with who you are becoming:

If you stay aware and receptive with this unexpected gift of time between an ending of something no longer satisfying to you and a new beginning, you can learn to navigate the chaos of not-knowing by surrendering the need for action or definition.  Finally, you will begin to feel the knowing from within yourself arising as your whole self prepares for action . . . When you go through the inner experience of transitioning from an outgrown way of working, relating, or creating, to one that opens your possibilities and your heart, you begin to understand the meaning and power of “transformation.”  

Or, as Ruth Chang, professor of philosophy at Rutgers University, said in her recent TED talk about making hard choices:

Far from being sources of agony and dread, hard choices are precious opportunities for us to celebrate what is special about the the human condition, that the reasons that govern our choices as correct or incorrect sometimes run out, and it is here, in the space of hard choices, that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are.

What I’m interested in here is what Chang calls “the space of hard choices” in which yourun out of “reasons” for how to make a challenging choice.  Often, you must go deeper, “through the inner experience of transitioning from an outgrown way of working, relating, creating.”  You must go back “into the woods” on your journey towards understanding of who you really are before you can take action.  

This is the place where rationality does not hold sway, where you must find your new bearings through feelings, creative impulses, silence, and intuitive awareness that pierce your defense against change and let you emerge into a new form of being. This is the discovery that will let you come back and make what may be a hard choice, but is the right one for the direction you are called to now.

Learning to listen to your deep intuitive knowing is a good practice, because as you grow and develop lifelong, the opportunities for making new, challenging choices will reliably keep coming your way!


Into the woods,
It's always when
You think at last
You're through, and then
Into the woods you go again
To take another journey....

  -- Stephen Sondheim

What Is It to Really Want What You Really Need?

Recently, I saw a wonderful cartoon in The New Yorker magazine (May 26, 2014) that immediately caught my professional eye as a life coach.  In it a beautiful, long-legged butterfly is standing on a tiny chair in a small office on the branch of a tree.  On a couple of twigs behind it are miniature framed diplomas, no doubt attesting to the butterfly’s professional excellence.  In front of the butterfly is a small caterpillar stretched out on a couch, head up, listening raptly to the butterfly expounding as it waves its forelegs.

What is the punchline, what is the butterfly saying?  “The thing is, you have to really want to change.”      

So here we have two realities.  First, it’s absolutely true that to benefit from coaching and be able to make powerful changes you must want to make those changes.  It’s unlikely that you will be find yourself making a rewarding career or other change in your life if you don’t have a strong desire, a clear vision, and the pro-activity to go forward and do so.

On the other hand, does a caterpillar “want” to change into a butterfly?  Isn’t it just a drive, a need, a blind instinct, that begins its cocooning process and that transforms it, finally, into a winged creature of beauty and light?

What is our drive, as human beings, to create transformative changes in our lives, in ourselves?  As with caterpillars, there is an inward thrust as well as an outer one in making powerful changes.  While we are more likely to change our conditions rather than our forms, there is still a deep need within that almost everyone feels at some point in their lives that comes forward as a deep desire to change something in our lives or in ourselves.  

In my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I mention how most clients come for coaching because they want to make changes that matter in how they work and the overall quality of their lives.  Because, in our work together, we go deeply into their true desires, they are free to go more deeply into themselves, into the cocoon where they connect with the need of their spirit-- and then move forward towards their dream from this inner awareness:

What I often notice in the first place with coaching clients wanting to make career or other life changes, is a natural wish to make a quick leap as soon as possible from an unsatisfying place to the start of a new job, a new relationship, a new plan for the future.  Once we begin exploring what they’re really wanting from their lives, however, they begin to notice that their initial goals seem limited-- a way of getting from here to there without noticing the context of their whole lives....

To find this wholeness requires giving yourself to the process of feeling the inner heat of transformation in the alchemists’ sealed vessel.  William Bridges, author of the seminal book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, calls this taking time from your daily life to empty out and go into what is calling you from within....

This is what Karen Kimsey-House, co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), calls “transformative change” or “change that occurs at the level of identity or being.”  When you go through the inner experience of transitioning from an outgrown way of working, relating, or creating, to one that opens your possibilities and your heart, you begin to understand the meaning and power of “transformation.”  

What is it, then, to really want what you really need?  Perhaps it is what performance artist Kim Rosen writes about our very human alchemical power to meld need and desire:

in impossible darkness
the sheer
of wings.

  (from “In Impossible Darkness”)

Beyond Magic-- The Journey of Transformative Change

Now and again I get questions about the phrase “transformative change” and what it means in my work as a career and life transitions coach.  Does it imply a “magical” change-- something way out of the ordinary and, more importantly, done to us-- as in one of the Oz books where a witch in the land of Oz “transforms” a young boy into a green monkey?  Or-- in what ways do we have a voice, or personal agency, in the transformative changes of our lives?

As I see it, “trans-formation” is not a passive state of becoming something you are not, but rather a conscious journey towards becoming more and more who you really are.  Transforming your life is neither a magical process (though it may seem so), nor a planned strategy.  Like happiness, it is a possible and desirable by-product of going towards what we feel called to do, inwardly and outwardly, during the transitional change times of our lives.

As William Bridges says in his exquisitely wise book drawn from his own personal and professional journeys, The Way of Transition:

Transformation is the true destination of transition . . . How transition does that is a mystery, but it somehow involves . . . [spending] time near a boundary between . . . one life-phase and the next.  The borders of Oz [the place of awakening to new possibilities] are everywhere, although the price of passage to the other side is often nothing less than your life-- at least your life as you have known it.

In my own book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I offer my own interpretation of the journey of transformative change in this way:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

— Jelaluddin Rumi, from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

I love this poem by the Sufi spiritual master and poet, Jelaluddin Rumi, for the beauty of his words and images — and for the eloquence with which he expresses this movement from habitual acts to transformative action. This is what I love, too, about doing life coaching — helping people blossom with the joy of self-discovery as they create the changes that really matter to them in their careers and lives.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” The wake-up call — it’s time to stop settling for less than our authentic calling and go for “the beauty we love” in our lives. What is it that we really want? What is it that we are ready to put all our heart, energy, and passion into now? How do we really want to contribute to the world, to our families, to ourselves? What is the “beauty” that feeds our souls and frees us to move forward to where we feel fulfilled?

We all have had some experience of “waking up empty and frightened” — of losing what is important to ourselves, of not expressing our true selves in some way, of dying without having lived fulfilled.

The key is not to go back to the old habits, not just to “begin reading” — but to step past our fears onto a new path that may feel radical. “Take down a musical instrument,” sing with your authentic voice, and follow the unknown songs and sounds that emerge to new opportunities that free you to be yourself!

          What do you notice about your own journey of transformative change?

Creating Space for Action-- One Step at a Time!

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Tuscany with my extended family of friends from Sweden and England, including my two goddaughters, all living together in an old country house a little north of Pisa. Living together for a couple of weeks in a relaxed style in the foothills of the Alps brought home to me the great quality about vacations, which is-- no matter how easy-going or strenuous they are, they let you live fulfilled while doing just one thing at a time. You may be mountain climbing, sightseeing, writing a novel, or cooking pizzas in an Italian bread oven, but whatever you’re doing, that’s it. Just one thing at a time. 

            This is a pattern I keep noticing in every aspect of life where you want to act more effectively, confidently, and with more ease. Give yourself some space so that you deeply relax inside. From this place choose one step or one direction in which to move forward, and you will do it with a sense of purpose and power.

            I was working with a man in his 50’s who was in transition from his engineering career and struggling with all he had to do, as he saw it, to get his new business under way. He felt tense and exhausted, seeing no end to his to-do list-- and no way to relax either, have an intimate relationship, recreation, or just time off for himself. 

            So I challenged him to put on the back burner five items from his list for a month. For a few minutes, he was appalled, feeling that his life now would have no structure and that everything would simply fall apart.  Then he re-examined his list and noticed that he didn’t really need to create a new page for his website or even start a blog. What he really wanted to do was take the time to establish some new connections with possible partners for his business venture. Suddenly, he felt energy rush through his body and a sense of possibility! He also felt renewed enthusiasm for reaching out for a relationship on an e-dating site.

            All of which brings me to a post, “Just One Thing,” that I receive from Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Creating a Buddha Brain: One Step at a Time. I love his ongoing suggestion that we can make powerful, positive changes to our outlook on life and in the actions we take by approaching every challenge one step at a time. I know now, from my own experience and that of others, that this approach really works!

            For those of you who’d like to be more effective in making a career or life change that matters to you, please join me for my free teleclass-- “Creating Space for Action-- One Thing at a Time!”-- on Wednesday, December 7th, 9 - 10 AM Pacific Time. Click here to register for this free teleclass now!

Shaping Your Retirement-- Creating Structure to Live out Your Dreams

Retirement from work isn’t at the top of everybody’s mind, but one way or another, it will happen.  But when?  Under what circumstances?  And then what?  Are you retiring from one career path in mid-life and starting another?  Or are you older and considering ending your paid career in order to live in a very different way-- one that perhaps more fully realizes the dreams you have and the person you’ve become at this stage in your life?

This month I’ve worked with two people going through the process of retirement at the traditional time in their mid-60‘s.  Both of these people-- a man, George, and a woman, Pat-- have gone through their financial and insurance planning in preparation for the next step.  They recognize, though, that more is at stake than finances.  For them, this is a major life transition encompassing life purpose questions, concerns around aging and energy, and at the most basic level, the shape of one’s social and personal lives when an outer job structure is gone.

For George, the process of giving up his secure government job became easier as he spent some months in our coaching exploring his “artist and performer” self-- the part of him that was vibrant, colorful, and alive to the beauty of painting and photography.  He developed and led walking tours to highlight the art and architecture of city neighborhoods, photographing the tours, and creating a website to advertise them.  As his calling became clearer, he envisioned a way of life and a weekly structure to his time in retirement that gave 50% of the energy he’d put into his job into being the artist and performer he’d always longed to be.

Pat, on the other hand, had developed no particular vision of how she wanted to live in retirement.  She was ready to leave her corporate management position and felt she wanted time to explore cultural and volunteer possibilities in her community.  Within three months of leaving her job, Pat felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities she’d assumed in taking on two volunteer positions.  As an experienced manager, she’d naturally gravitated towards management positions, even as a volunteer, but with them came the claims on her time from which she had just decided to retire!

Exploring her feelings of overwhelm in coaching, she began to understand that she really needed some time and space to experience what it was like to have freedom from over-scheduling her life.  In order to do that, however, Pat realized that she needed to pull back on her volunteer time commitments, even if she felt insecure for awhile without the sense of structure they provided.  Paradoxically, her new structure needed to be more flexible and more open to feeling what was important to her before she could make new choices about what to do.

At any age and stage, retirement is a process, with new considerations about the quality and direction of life.  If you’re older (or very fortunate), and making money is no longer a criteria determining your choices, what would you want to do with your life? How would you like to feel during the day?  How much time, space, and energy do you need?  How will you claim that?

Career & Life Transitions-- Following Your Intuition Towards Fulfillment!

A few weeks ago I read a blog post on the Stanford Alumni LinkedIn group about Steve Jobs‘ inspirational commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005.  Listening to it on YouTube, I was really taken by Jobs‘ awareness of what it means to live out fully one’s career and life transitions.

By transitions, I refer to William Bridges‘ definition from his book, Transitions-- Making Sense of Life’s Changes, where he says:  “. . . Change is situational.  Transition, on the other hand, is psychological.  It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life . . . Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t “take.”

Returning to Steve Jobs‘ talk to graduating students, he mentions a huge transitional time for him when he was 30, had set up the wildly innovative and successful company, Apple computers-- and then was fired by the Apple board, who felt he was no longer the right person to lead the company.   He was devastated and blindsided.  As he said, “I felt ashamed, I didn’t know what to do.  I’d been rejected, but I was still in love.”

During his dark night of the soul-- the necessary, psychological “chaos” period during this major career-life transition (because his life was so connected with his work)-- his lifeline was discovering deep inside himself that no matter what, “I loved what I did.”  Not knowing what else to do, he followed his intuition using “beginner’s mind,” and started Next, still doing what he loved to do.  And Apple rehired him, with Next technology becoming “the heart of the Apple renaissance.”

One thing especially stands out for me in his talk, when he says-- “You have to trust in something-- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  Believing the dots will connect down the road will give you the heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path.  And that will make all the difference.”

As a career & life coach, I often work with people who have a heart-felt intuition that they’re ready to take a leap off the well-worn path of how they’ve been working or the style of life they’ve been leading.  Often in our coaching work, we spend time together holding the space for that intuition to ripen into an inner knowing that carries them forward towards where and who they really want to be.

As Jobs says, “It’s impossible to connect the dots going forward.”  So you have to have a way to hold the faith that your intuition has the seeds of who you are becoming and what you need to do in this life.  This is my joy as a career & life coach-- seeing how people blossom and are fulfilled when they are supported in going through inner chaos to personal and professional fulfillment!