Managing Life’s Transitions
You don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from a
coach’s advice. Whether you’re facing a transition in
life or just want to function better, you too may benefit
from working with a coach — a life coach.
When Joe Martinez started to transition
the management responsibilities at his
company to his oldest daughter, he
made a discovery: He suddenly had free time and
had no idea how to spend it. Martinez had spent the
past 25 years focused on helping the company grow.
He had little time to devote to anything outside his
family and his business, and now that was changing.
With his wealth transfer plan in place, his investments
in order and his family’s financial future
secure, Martinez realized he stood at the threshold of
a new stage in his life, and wasn’t sure which direction
he wanted to go. To explore his options,
Martinez decided to work with a life coach.
Thriving in Times of Change
Life coaches are professionals who work with
clients to help them determine and achieve their
personal goals. Many people consult with life
coaches during transitional periods because the
choices at those times are overwhelming, says
Patrick Williams, Ed.D., founder of the Institute for
Life Coach Training in Plano, Texas. He makes the
distinction between “unchosen changes,” such as
having to address the aftermath of an accident or
the death of a spouse, with “chosen changes,” such
as deciding to sell your business or exploring new
career opportunities. Not surprisingly, Williams says
an unchosen change is harder to deal with because
“we didn’t choose it or predict it or want it.”
As Joe Martinez discovered, even change of
your choosing can be disconcerting. Martinez
likened facing retirement to staring at a blank canvas:
The possibilities are limitless, but without a
point of reference, inspiration can be difficult to
Martinez knew he wanted to spend the next
phase of his life doing more than simply relaxing
and playing golf. Working with a life coach,
Martinez discovered he had a strong desire to give
something back to the community and to share the
knowledge he had accumulated during his years
as a successful entrepreneur.
He was able to identify a mentoring program that
would allow him to help other entrepreneurs learn
how to be successful in the business world. Martinez
also worked with his financial advisors to set up a
fund that would provide grants to entrepreneurs trying
to get their businesses off the ground.
Having articulated his vision and created a
plan, Martinez was able to face this new life stage
Simplifying Your Life
Alexandra Kelemen, a certified life coach with a private
practice in Greenwich, Conn., says many clients
experiencing life-changing events are paralyzed by
the fear of making mistakes. “They overthink and
then take no action,” she says, adding that coaching
can help clients express their true needs.
Kelemen gives an example of a couple who
wanted to simplify their lives now that their children
were grown and established in successful
careers of their own. They felt they had too many
commitments and were not enjoying life as much as
they would like. One change they considered was
downsizing their home. The couple traveled extensively
and wanted to be free of the responsibility of
such a large piece of property, but they were having
a hard time letting it go. While discussing the
situation with their coach, the couple admitted they
loved that their home served as a holiday gathering
place for family and friends.
Once they understood the source of their reluctance
more clearly, the couple was in a better
position to make a decision, says Kelemen. They
realized their role at the center of family gatherings
was conflicting with their desire to travel freely.
Restoring balance is key, she says.
“Transitional periods often center around money and finances.”
— Gregg Yaeger, director of financial planning at Northern Trust
Achieving Financial Balance
“Transitional periods often center around money
and finances,” says Gregg Yaeger, director of financial
planning at Northern Trust. “Although some
people have achieved their retirement goals and
acquired healthy nest eggs, they often haven’t considered
other aspects of their financial lives.” What
his clients predominantly want to know is how to
create a healthy cash flow from the wealth they’ve
already accumulated. And, he says, they often don’t
realize the true effect of transferring wealth to their
heirs or charities. Posing questions helps.
Yaeger gives an example of a couple who
funded trusts for their children with shares of their
business. Over the years, the business became very
successful, which had a positive effect on the children’s
trusts. With the children’s financial futures
secured, the couple was ready to explore charitable
giving, and turned to Yaeger for help. They knew
they wanted to make a difference in the lives of
local children, but weren’t sure how to begin finding
the right organization or way to make their gift.
Yaeger’s team arranged for visits to several
organizations the couple was considering funding,
and found volunteer opportunities for them to experience
first-hand what their gift might help accomplish.
“Many people want to see the material significance
of their donation,” Yeager explains. “It helps
them solidify the decision-making process.”
Making Changes Within
Coaches don’t only find themselves working with
people who are facing an external change.
Sometimes the client is confronting an internal
change. For instance, Yaeger has helped clients see
how their frugality
was interfering with
their enjoyment of
life, and discover
how to become comfortable
letting go of
their money worries.
“We have been able, by presenting projected
cash flows, to help assure clients that they can
change their pattern of spending without affecting
their financial independence.” This security enables
them to make better personal decisions, he says.
Finding Life’s Balance
Many people who work with a life coach want to
close the gap between their life now and their vision
for the future. Whether they are facing a change,
want to simplify their lives or are pursuing a new
goal, Kelemen notes that people often go to a life
coach because “they just want to function bigger
FINDING A COACH
Working with a coach can provide valuable insight and a fresh
perspective when you are facing a transition time in your life. But
remember, although they are highly trained and experienced,
professional life coaches should not to be confused with therapists.
Rather, life coaches can provide an objective perspective and help
you see options that may not otherwise have occurred to you.
If you’d like to work with a coach, a good place to start is the
International Coach Federation (coachfederation.org), a professional
membership association of coaches. The ICF also provides a
list of IFC-credentialed coaches, many with specialties and some of
whom have attained master-coach level. Because anyone can call
themselves a “coach,” experts advise carefully researching the
credentials of the person you’re considering. Ann Belcher, a
spokesperson for the ICF, advises consumers to interview multiple
coaches, ask for references and request a free introductory session.