Posted by: transitionmaven | January 28, 2013

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Remember all of those “above average” temperatures that we had in Virginia during November, December and the first two weeks of January? Well, they really sucked us in, didn’t they? Saturday was the first day that our high was above freezing in four days, although it seemed like forever. Sure, we were warned, and the temperatures didn’t plummet overnight. Nevertheless, this teasing has got to stop. Even now, they’re talking about highs in the 60s by Wednesday, then back into the 30s for the weekend. Transitions are not supposed to be this way! We’re supposed to work our way through a transition, then come out on the other side. None of this back and forth stuff! Remember? Loss-neutral zone-new beginning. Is this what happens when you don’t successfully navigate through the phases? Is it one step forward, two steps back?

We interrupt this article for breaking news! Great Transitions is offering a six week on-line/teleseminar program “DIRECT Your Career!” This program is designed for those of you who recognize that your current job or career is not the one in which you want to spend the rest of your life. You also realize that you don’t know exactly how to begin the process of discovering a job or career that will bring you satisfaction and fulfillment. “DIRECT Your Career!” can do just that. Through a combination of lectures, Q&As and written exercises, you will work through eight factors: purpose, values, motivators and interests, skills, abilities and work experience, career/job targets, work environment and business reality to find a career that meets your needs.

This workshop begins February 4th so there isn’t much time to register. It is also limited to twelve participants; once it’s filled, the program closes. For more information and to register for this program

You may now return to your regularly scheduled article, already in progress.

Working through the “neutral zone” takes time and effort. Even after you’ve acknowledged the loss that comes from a change of job or position, the merger of two organizations, or the reorganization of a department or team, there is still work to be done. This is when neither the old ways nor the new ways work satisfactorily. You may be caught between conflicting systems or be in the middle of a systems breakdown. According to William Bridges, “Forward motion seems to stop while you hang suspended between was and will be.” As a result, you may, at times, want to go back to the old ways, even as the new ways are being put into place. However, by allowing the process to move forward and acknowledging the discomfort, eventually you will end up in the new beginning. Spring will come, the colder days will be fewer and those hints of summer will tease us before the blistering days of July and August make us wish for cold weather again. And so it goes.

Posted by: transitionmaven | January 21, 2013

What Will Your College Graduate Do Next?

As you may know, my coaching specialty deals with mid-life career transition, retirement transition and transition in general.  Many of you fall into the Baby Boomer generation, making these topics timely and, hopefully, of use.  However, what about your children or grandchildren?  What about the young adults getting ready to graduate who don’t know what it is they want to do career-wise, or the ones that have graduated and moved back home with no job prospects?  What makes them any different from those of us who have decided to change careers after ten, twenty or thirty years in the job market?  The answer is Nothing! 

College students and recent graduates ask all of the same questions about career choice, life purpose, values, and work culture that we do.  Yes, they have access to school career centers which may help them to determine their skill sets, their strengths and weaknesses.  But do these centers have the time or ability to work with students to probe and question where their passion lies, what interests, causes or experiences they would like to pursue, and what kind of work environment they envision?  If not, then these twenty-somethings are missing out on the kind of discovery process that we, as adults have, or are going through, in deciding whether to pursue a new career; one that fulfills our passion and our purpose, one that might actually make a difference in the larger scheme of things.  Or, the inner-searching that we must take on to create a retirement plan that allows us follow our passions.  The process is the same, the results are the same; find your purpose and figure out how to pursue it, either in your job or in some other aspect of your life.

 If you know a graduating senior or a “boomerang” child who is still searching for their career path, consider offering them a coaching program.  The monetary cost is so much less than the emotional cost of watching them struggle, perhaps become defeated, and maybe even give up.  And, it’s so much less than supporting them for the next however many years!

If you would like more information on career coaching opportunities, go to

Posted by: transitionmaven | June 18, 2012

Not our Fathers’ Retirement

Do you remember our parents’ and grandparents’ retirement plans? Retire at 65 with a full pension, house paid off, social security benefits and a relaxed lifestyle. I still have the article written by the local Newton, North Carolina paper about my grandfather’s retirement from the U.S. Postal Service. With the article is a picture of my grandfather, feet propped up on a desk, hands behind his head, smiling at the thought of what life would bring now that he was retiring.

However, retirement for Baby Boomers will reflect an entirely different picture. And the first part of it may be that Boomers may not be able to retire successfully at the age of 65. Some reports indicate that we will have to work until 70 if we hope to enjoy a financially secure retirement. Some of the reasons for this are, according to a 2009 report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College:
• The financial crisis
• Our inheritances won’t be as large
• Defined pension benefits are phasing out
• The Boomers’ shop-till-you-drop philosophy has resulted in not saving enough to last through retirement

According to the report, in 2009, 51% of households were at risk of being unable to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living at age 65.

Of course, we would like to blame our current situation completely on the financial crisis. However, this report also indicates that we weren’t prepared even before the crisis. In 2007, 37% of early Boomers and 43% of late Boomers were at the same risk.

What’s even more frightening is that, in 2009, the median 401(k) and IRA balance for those near retirement was $78,000.00. A sizeable group of the population hasn’t even thought about retirement with the result being that a lot of people are approaching retirement without any preparation. Don’t forget that retirement preparation includes more than the amount of money you have saved. Much will depend on what it is you want to do in retirement.

Where are you in your retirement planning? Great Transitions offers an on-line retirement preparation assessment that will give you an idea of how prepared you think you are for the next phase of your life and where your priorities lie. Once you know what’s important to you in terms of the way you would like to live the next 25 plus years, you can then work with a financial planner to determine how best to achieve those goals. Email me at for more information.

Posted by: transitionmaven | March 26, 2012

Who Are You Really Judging?

How often do we judge others? As you walk down the street, attend meetings or events, talk on the phone or sit in traffic, do you find yourself making assumptions about the people you see or interact with? I am so very guilty of this. If traffic is gridlocked at an intersection, you don’t want to know what I’m thinking! If I see someone who is dressed differently than I would, I wonder why they are wearing what they’re wearing.  I sometimes assume something based on what I hear them say.  What I learned from a book a few years ago is that, the things you criticize or judge in others are the things that you criticize or judge about yourself!  What a revelation that was! Everytime I silently questioned something about another person, I was actually looking at my own insecurities. The other part of the equation is the fact that I have no idea about the circumstances of that person; what they are thinking or why they are taking a particular action. By jumping to a conclusion, I eliminate the ability to consider another possibility. It appears that I’m not the onlly one who does this.  A perfect example is the recent “Britain’s Got Talent” audition by Jonathan Antoine. This 17 year old weighs 280 pounds and has been bullied throughout school. Simon Cowell rolled his eyes and made a comment to his fellow judge as the somewhat disheveled, long-haired young man walked on stage with his duo partner. However, when he opened his mouth and began to sing, there wascomplete astonishment on Simon’s face, the crowds went wild and he got a standing ovation. I cried as I watched the audition on U-tube. It was another Susan Boyle moment. See how easily we can jump to assumptions that are so off the mark?

So, the next time you find yourself judging someone, even if it’s just to yourself, pause and consider what else could be going on. Consider another way to look at a situation or person. What don’t you know about them or the circumstances of their lives? And look at what it is about yourself that you find lacking.


Posted by: transitionmaven | January 16, 2012

SMART New Year Resolutions, Part III

When last we met, you were thinking about an interim or stretch goal that will ultimately lead you to attainment of your New Year Resolution.  My resolution is “I act upon work obligations in a timely manner “.  My “Acceptable Minimum goal” was to list all action items related to work and add to it as needed.  My interim goal is to now set a “no later than” or “due date” for each action item by January 18, 2012.   This may sound easy, but there is a lot of “stuff” involved in taking that step: primarily, a commitment to actually complete each item within the time frame established.  Therefore, I will run this interim step through the SMART goal process.

S-Specific- what is the very first step to achieve my interim goal?  Review my list and establish realistic, reasonable due dates.

M-Measurable-will I know when I’ve achieved it-is it quantifiable or qualifiable?  Yes, I have the list and I will enter dates for each item on the list.

A-Achievable-is this step possible to achieve?  Yes.  It is not idealistic; it is a concrete step.

R-Reasonable-how reasonable is it that what I plan to do can be done at this time?  This action is reasonable and doable.

T-Time-oriented-when will I complete this step?  January  18, 2012

By running your first step through this process, you can determine two things:  is this actually the first step or is there something you have to do before this step, and the reality of completing this step based on the specificity of the step, the reality of the timing and the ability to determine when you have completed the step.

Once you complete this step, this becomes your “Acceptable Minimum” goal and you then determine the next step toward your ultimate goal.  As you complete each interim goal, you experience success.  You also don’t feel overwhelmed by the ultimate goal.  It is now manageable and something that you can accomplish and then maintain.

Good luck as you pursue your resolution and let me know how it goes!

Posted by: transitionmaven | January 9, 2012

SMART New Year Resolutions (Part II)

Ok, so perhaps my resolution should be “I will not procrastinate“! I promised a second part to my New Year Resolution blog on January 1st and it is now January 9th. Let’s use “I will not procrastinate” as an example of how to make resolutions that we can actually achieve.

“I will not procrastinate ” is a very lofty goal. And I certainly have good reasons for wanting to attain that goal, as seen by the infrequency of my blog posts. Unfortunately, there are three problems with this type of goal. First, it’s a negative goal-which already sets me up to fail-it gives me the impression that I’m lacking even before I start. Second, how will I know when I’m no longer procrastinating? What is my definition of procrastination? Third, how do I begin to pursue it without being overwhelmed and giving up? If I intend to apply this goal to all aspects of my life, in which area do I start? Without narrowing the goal to something specific, we have nowhere to begin and no way to measure our progress . Instead of setting a resolution of “I will not procrastinate”, what if I say “I will act upon work obligations in a timely manner”? I’ve created a positive resolution and narrowed it, for the time being, to my work responsibilities. What if I make it an affirmation, indicating that I am already achieving this goal-“I act upon work obligations in a timely manner”? Can you feel the difference between that and “I will not procrastinate”?

Using a SMART goal process allows us to set interim action steps that eventually take us to our ultimate goal. AIM SMART is a specific type of SMART goal process. It adds the umbrella of the ultimate goal and establishes interim goals that, when met, will eventually accomplish the ultimate goal.
A-this is the acceptable minimum step you can take right now to get started
I-this is the ultimate or ideal goal
M-this is a realistic stretch or interim goal needed to reach the ideal goal
Once you’ve determined the Ideal goal-“I act upon work responsibilities in a timely manner”, determine the minimum step you could take or are taking right now to work toward that goal. My acceptable, minimum step is to make a list of work obligations and add to it as needed. This is something I already do and can continue to perform.  It is doable and I can feel satisfaction from achieving this step.

My next blog will discuss how to set an interim goal and determine the first steps needed to achieve it. Be thinking about what your interim goal might be. In the meantime, look at what SMART stands for. We’ll use that part of the process next.

Posted by: transitionmaven | December 31, 2011

The SMART New Year’s Resolution-Part I

So, here it is, December 31st-when we all make those new year resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, travel more or less, ask for a raise or promotion, look for a new job or career, or transition into a new phase of life. And how many of us ever actually accomplish the goals we so optimistically set at the beginning of each year? We start out with such great intentions and motivations, but soon we lose interest, get discouraged, get distracted or realize that we don’t really need or want to meet those goals. So, what can you do to actually achieve what it is that you want to accomplish in 2012?

The first step is to determine specifically what your ultimate goal is and the reason for reaching it. For example, if I want to lose ten pounds, that’s a very specific goal. But why do I want to lose those pounds? What is my motivation? Is it an internal one or an external one? What do I hope to accomplish by losing those ten pounds? By looking at these questions and understanding your motivations, you are more likely to stick with the plan you ultimately create to meet the end result. If my reason for losing ten pounds is to feel better about myself, to improve my overall health or to reduce a specific health risk, these are internal reasons. If I’m doing it because of pressure from others to lose weight (other than your doctor), then will I be as motivated to stick to my diet/exercise plan? Finally, if my thought process is such that if I lose weight I will be happy, meet the perfect partner, and have the perfect life, I need to ask myself why losing weight would solve all of those issues, and what can I do now to achieve those same results. Also, are those goals and issues that need to be addressed independently of weight loss?

So, today, sit down and really think about your resolutions, and the ultimate goal you will obtain by following through on them. Then, tomorrow, we can discuss how to set SMART goals to help you get the results you want.

Happy New Year!

Posted by: transitionmaven | November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving in December

With Thanksgiving behind us, we are now firmly ensconced in the holiday season.  Gone are the lazy days of summer vacations, the anticipation of the new school year, and the frivolity of Halloween.  Beginning November 25th, it is nonstop planning, shopping, eating and traveling until January 1st, when we collapse on the nearest horizontal piece of furniture to vegetate, digest and recover until Valentine’s Day.

This time of year can be a time of fun, anticipation, and bonding with family and friends.  However, it can also be fraught with stress.  Although Thanksgiving brings certain anxieties:  the Wednesday before Thanksgiving travel, hosting 20 people for dinner, intra- and inter-family dynamics, Thanksgiving often provides a more positive feeling of bon homme and closeness than the Christmas/Hanukkah season.  What is it that changes the dynamics between these two major holidays?

I think a large difference is the expectations we create for Christmas and Hanukkah.  In spite of the obvious theory that Christmas and Hanukkah are about giving, we actually give more and expect less from others at Thanksgiving.  At Thanksgiving, there is no expectation of gifts, of giving AND receiving, no expectation of the perfect gift or worries of the wrong gift, of the professional benefits of attending or not attending an event, party, or religious service.  There is no concern about giving less than we receive or of the need to reciprocate.

With Thanksgiving, it’s all about giving and giving thanks.  It is a time of gathering, sharing, communicating, reuniting, loving, maybe even arguing.  But there is no expectation of something in return, there is no shopping frenzy looking for last-minute proof of our love and attention.  Instead, we get together with family and/or friends because we want to.  We indulge in a time of visiting and catching up.  No other expectations.

So, what if we could keep this same feeling of community and connection in December that we generate in November?  What if we could concentrate on the emotional gifts we give and receive, and less on the physical ones?  What kind of difference would that make to our enjoyment of the season?  I, for one, will have much more fun decorating the house, baking goodies, and attending parties, if I am doing these things because I want to, not because I feel obligated or that it is expected of me.  My self-test will be that if I feel that I “have to”, “should” or “am expected to” do anything, then I will give it a second and third look.  I will participate in only those things that I want to do and from which I will derive enjoyment, not guilt or obligation.

So this year, let’s try to approach this season of giving as we do Thanksgiving.  Let’s freely give of ourselves because we want to and let’s relish the emotional gifts that we receive from those around us.


Posted by: transitionmaven | August 23, 2011

An Earthquake in DC-and it wasn’t caused by Congress!

I just experienced my first earthquake! Around 2:00 PM EDT, DC felt the effects of a 5.9 earthquake that was centered around 80 miles outside of Richmond. It only lasted around ten seconds or so, and it took me half of that time to figure out what was going on. Never having been in an earthquake, my first thought was a construction blast. Of course, I don’t recall hearing a big bang which would have made my thought more probable, but I accept the fact that I don’t always follow a logical path in my thinking. By the time I decided that it may have been an earthquake, it was over. Now I know that you’re supposed to go outside in such an event in order to avoid being crushed inside a building-although the idea of having a building fall on me doesn’t exactly sound like a great alternative. I, however, immediately went outside in order to find confirmation from someone else that something had indeed happened and that I wasn’t suffering a complete break from reality. Apparently, others on my street had the same thought. As a result, I had a nice visit with several neighbors and met two people that I hadn’t met before. Who knew that an earthquake could be such a bonding experience.

Thankfully, no one was hurt, none of the houses were damaged and it was a beautiful day to stand around outside and commune with nature and neighbors.
And, as my mail deliverer stated, “Well, now I can take that off of my bucket list”!

Posted by: transitionmaven | August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday mom!

It’s been two years since my mother passed away. She had previously been diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer, had surgery to remove the tumor and was considered cancer-free. However, she never seemed to recover from the surgery itself. She slept most of the day,declined to do exercises to regain her strength, and was uninvolved in daily activities. She had cataract surgery on both eyes, but wasn’t interested in reading, a past time she used to love. Finally, my dad took her to a neurologist who immediately recommended an MRI to determine if she had suffered a minor stroke in the recent past. Before the appointment could be met, however, my mom suffered a massive stroke. All cognitive abilities were gone. The family decided to abide by her previously-stated wishes and brought her home. She passed away a week later. It was subsequently determined that she had, indeed, suffered a minor stroke, probably prior to her surgery.  The problem was that the after-effects of the stroke were surprisingly similar to the after-effects of chemo and radiation, both of which she had gone through.   If we had only known, steps could have been taken that might have prevented her premature death.  There was no paralysis or weakness.  The only real clue we had was that she once mentioned that sometimes the words she was reading didn’t make sense.  Not enough of a clue for us at the time, but very clear afterwards.

The anniversary of my mom’s death was last Friday, August 13th. And I didn’t remember it at all. I knew that she died in August, but I never even wrote down the date of death. I do know, however, that her birthday is this Sunday. I realize that I don’t celebrate deaths, I celebrate birthdays and lives. That’s just the way I am. I don’t want to remember my mother in that last week. I’d rather remember that her birthday is one week before my youngest sister and there will be flowers at church this Sunday to honor her birthday and her memory. Happy Birthday mom! I love you.

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