Why is it that so much of coaching involves working through transitional points? What leads us to feel so stuck or hesitate to make the move to the next level?
Often when thinking about transitions, we have a mix of feelings and emotions. We are often excited for the opportunity, honored and proud to be recognized for our potential or our present success, and anticipating what success will bring. At the same time, we may also be feeling anxious or nervous about the challenge. And of course, that negative internal voice may be speaking up loud and clear: “You’re not qualified” “You’re an Imposter” or even more gloomy: “You’re going to fail” “You can’t do this”. Coaching can help us examine those voices (what some coaches call Gremlins).
As we work together to bring those negative thoughts and feelings into the light, we find that by giving voice to them and critically examining them we can often take away their power. A coach can help you verbalize those thoughts and evaluate the veracity of them. There is often some nugget of truth in there, but also whole bunch of doom and gloom that is simply not true. In talking through this, the coachee can decide what is real. For the valid concerns, we can work to develop a plan or strategy to alleviate the risks. As we examine the concerns that are invalid and arise primarily from our own negative thoughts, we can choose to dismiss them. As you develop awareness of when those negative thoughts arise and the sensations they bring with them, you become better able to recognize them and dismiss them.
I am reminded of the apocryphal story that the Chinese word for Crisis* is made of the combination of the characters for danger and opportunity. Although it is a myth, it is a good reminder of how we should approach transitions. By working with a coach as your thinking partner, you have free reign to explore both the dangers and opportunities that lie within transitions. Developing a clear perspective on the opportunities and developing strategies to accomplish those opportunities can ensure the success and increase the benefits of the transition. Similarly, by working with your coach you can identify potential pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead in the transitions you are approaching. Once you identify potential dangers, you and your coach can develop strategies to abate the risks.
Sometimes as a transition approaches, we may not even recognize that the transition is behind our feelings of unease. The worries/concerns over the transition is still beneath the surface. We may not be aware that a transition is on the horizon. I see this most often in physicians at two stages in their career. First, in those physicians that are 8-12 years into their career, and again later when they are nearing the 20-year milestone.
For the early career physicians, they have finished the treadmill of pre-med, medical school, residency, and learning to practice, but now that the next step is not immediately clear we can feel unsteady. As we progress through training, there is always a clear next step: get into medical school, get into residency, get a job, but then what? How do you want to spend the next 30 years of your life (or even the next 5)? This early phase is a great place to work with a coach and reflect on what is important to you, how your values align with your opportunities, and what you might want your legacy to look like. Through coaching, we can explore your “why” to help you see a clear path forward.
For the second group, the mid-career physicians (maybe even approaching late-career), we have built a practice, developed our expertise, and are comfortable in our role. But there is more, maybe we feel like we want to grow, we want a new challenge, or we have been asked to step into a new role as a leader. Or maybe we are not sure what is next, but we just have a vague feeling that something is not right or feeling restless. This is a great time to work with a coach as a thinking partner to find clarity and reconnect with your purpose. By reflecting on where you have been and where you might like to go, we can help gain clarity and a renewed sense of purpose.