How Can Coaching Help You To Navigate Times of Transition?

Photo by Tobias Mockenhaupt on Unsplash

Bruce Feiler, one of my favorite authors, wrote a wonderful book called Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age. His main point was that our lives are defined by how we navigate transitions, noting that they are rarely predictable or smooth. He illustrates this through stories ranging from easy and choiceful ones about relocations and career switches to more dramatic ones about changes in relationship status, health issues and even death. Feiler contrasts his ideas with those Gail Sheehy shared in Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. In that book written many years before his, the main idea is that we go through life in neat, predictable and understandable passages from young adult, to adult, senior etc.

I’m firmly in Feiler’s camp. In fact, right now I’m in a moment of multiple transitions I couldn’t have predicted. After nearly six years of living in Florida, my wife and I have recently moved back to New York City. My wife was confident she’d achieved what she set out to do in her role that brought us to Florida and was ready to move on to her next chapter. I’m glad she’ll have some interim time to spend with her Dad who has been experiencing some health challenges. My Mom is in a similar space which was another reason we were eager to head back north.

I wish I could say I’ve managed these changes like a champ but I’d be lying. I had moments (sometimes hours!) of frustration with the process of selling our home. I’ve had plenty ups and downs dealing with challenges in my own work. And despite having managed our finances wisely, I struggle with worrying and trying to adopt an abundance as opposed to a scarcity mentality. I’m getting there but it’s not a one and done thing.

This is where coaching has proven invaluable. I believe that coaching from a place of strength is optimal; however, being coached during transitional times can be equally powerful. A coach can do the following to help you navigate a time of transition:

Ground your assessments and value assertions: They can help move you from your story to the truth of a situation. For example, after the second offer on our house went south, I was frustrated with our broker, their management of my expectations and the process. My coach suggested researching the facts around sales in our area including length of time on the market, number of offers to close and pricing. Remember, a great coach doesn’t need to be an expert on your topic i.e. real estate. Rather, they simply need to ask powerful questions about your relationship with the topic. Her questions helped me realize the truth, which was that we were comfortably in the timing ranges. My coach gently but persuasisvely reminded me that my assessments were simply snap judgements with no historical perspective.

Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

Slow down when your transition seems like a fast moving train: This has also been a transitional time in my work life. I’m grateful to work at the intersection of two fields I love: fundraising for nonprofits and coaching their leaders. Over the past several months, opportunities have surfaced that had me thinking I had to choose between the two. In fact, I had begun to put pressure on myself about drawing that line in the sand. My coach reminded me to slow down, reflect and realize that no one was actually demanding this decision. Not only that, my coach knows me so well that she emphasized her point with a line from my favorite James Bond movie: “You have all the time in the world.” (Bonus points if you know which movie that’s from — I’d love to get some replies on that one!)

Photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash

Remember that your thoughts and thinking are just that: One of the most important roles a coach can play is reminding you about the role of our own thinking and thoughts. This is even more pronounced during a time of transition. As I shared, I’ve wrestled with money issues due to early struggles I had post-college. Nevertheless, the thinking from that short period comes back to haunt me when opportunities avail themselves. My thoughts will include greatest hits such as: You’re sure to fail. Then you’ll be broke. Then you’ll be on the streets. Then, then, then. My coach constantly reminds me that thoughts are fleeting signals your brain sends out to keep you safe. And she’ll tell me this as often as necessary. In my more relaxed moments, I realize what Dr. Amy Johnson often says is so true: The thoughts we experience are just our brains doing what brains do. A coach can help you decipher what your brain is telling you and whether it’s worth listening to..or not.

Robert Grabel is committed to serving and does so through his practice Nonprofit Now! Learn about him at



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Robert Grabel

Robert Grabel

Robert Grabel is committed to serving and does so through his practice Nonprofit Now! Learn about him at