Coaching Clients In Transition

Transition Labyrinth



It is a sense of personal significance that sustains a sense of meaning. We are meaning making all the days of our lives.

When a sense of personal significance is threatened it is because a way of making meaning in life no longer works to provide that sense of significance.

NeuroPositive Coaching builds a sense of meaning and personal significance in every client.

The NeuroPositive Method is a brain-based template for well-being at every stage of life.

One of the 7 steps of this method is goal-setting, what we call the “FuturePac.”

The issue that underlies the formation of goals is meaning-making. How do we make meaning? What are the constructs of meaning-making that provide a sense of personal significance? These “meanings” are different at different times in our lives, so a knowledge of developmental issues is important.

There are stages in life with different kinds of meaning attached to them, related to getting one’s needs met, having relationships, a sense of personal power and self, and finally transcendence of some sort or another that represents the attempt to encounter “oneness.”

As important as stages of development are, what’s perhaps even more important are the transitions between them. People who are solidly established in a stage of their development of meaning are not likely to seek coaching.

At least they are not as likely as someone whose life is blowing up and whose sense of meaning is disintegrating because they are in a transition between the stages of making sense of their life and their world.

We need to know how people are making meaning before we believe that their goals are real representations of something that will give them any kind of lasting value, if they, in fact, don’t just fizzle and are ever accomplished.

We especially need to know if a person is going through a life transition that is causing them to question meaning in their lives before we agree to assist them in attempting to put great effort into pursuing goals that will be fleeting, in either accomplishing them or in feeling any sense of fulfillment in having done so.

Every stage of life has its unique challenges in sustaining enough of an UpSpiral to do creative problem-solving, to create meaning, and to experience personal significance.

When this sense of personal significance wanes, so do eagerness, anticipation, and openness to experiencing life.

How we make meaning in our lives changes developmentally as we grow a more NeuroPositive brain.

Meaning Perspective

NeuroPositive Coaching gives clients the tools to successfully navigate the transitions of meaning making in every stage of life.

Each unfolding major life transition in adulthood has within it the potential of bringing greater wholeness.

These opportunities are often missed because they are diagnosed as mental illness, which can simply be a symptom of the poorly navigated transitions.

The brain in transition, changing its very structures of reasoning and meaning-making, is most at risk, but also most alive with potential.

Having the insight and vision to navigate these transitions is a highly developed coaching skill set, and a deeply significant time of education and guidance.

© Dr. William K. Larkin 



About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • James Beeman

    NeuroPositive coaching gives clients the tools to successfully navigate the transitions of meaning making in every stage of life. In fact, I would go beyond this and say that the NeuroPositive coach training uniquely equips coaches with the lenses through which to see these transitions in a completely new and crystal clear light.

    These lenses enable a coach to partner with a client as they transition their meaning-making machine, including their brain, to attach to the new and leave the old behind. These lenses help a coach experience the view that their client’s are experiencing without buying into the movie that’s playing on TV screen of life for the client. These lenses also enable the coach to spot the strengths, thinking, emotions, and place of safety that is natural for the client and empower the client to push deeper into those experiences.

    The beauty of the NeuroPositive coaching method is that it addresses everything that is connected to meaning making before exploring goals. All to often, in coaching partnerships, the client states what he hopes to accomplish and the results he wants to experience as a result. The problem with solely taking this approach is that the underlying meaning-making centers are not understood and so the client will take the same thinking, feeling, and responding and attempt to accomplish new goals. Ultimately, the coaching partnership will fail, because only mechanics were employed, not mindset shifts.

    Because as coaches who are applying NeuroPositive methods, we understand that for transformational changes to occur, deeply embedded patterns must change and to do that requires not only brain changes, but physiological changes as well. It requires helping clients change the chemical addictions they have – addictions to cortisol and adrenaline must be changed to oxytocin and serotonin. This is the beauty of the NeuroPositive method and work – it guarantees that when you get addicted to feeling good, your life will change for the better.

    It’s only a matter of time! What are you waiting for?

  • Mary Garvey Horst

    I have keyed into the following statement from this blog: “How we make meaning in our lives changes developmentally as we grow a more NeuroPositive brain.” As one who has been involved in growing a more NeuroPositive brain for some time now, I am experiencing my own brain in transition. Currently, I am more focused on what is occurring internally within me and less interested in goings on of the outside world. When I initially began practicing the Emotional Gym, I was pulsing the emotions of peace, love, gratitude, joy, and hope as a means to bringing those emotional states into my experience. I would practice the Emotional Gym throughout the day, however, most frequently when challenged by some outside stressor. Little by little, those emotions increasingly began to move from outer states that I called upon into inner states from which I lived. The shift that is occurring currently feels disruptive when the outer environment does not mirror my inner state. I am aware that my inner state is not dependent on what is happening outside of myself, yet the disconnect is happening. I see this as my brain in transition with its very structure of reasoning changing, as well as a part of my meaning-making system changing.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I think it is normal to question what has meaning in our lives when we are going through
    transition. In some ways, if we are truly evolving and developing, we are
    always in a sort of flux or transition. Stagnation is not good for us. Comfort
    can be a killer. Getting too comfortable in a relationship or a job can be the
    beginning of deterioration.
    To engage in a state of Flow, we need to engage in something that is just beyond our comfort zone. To become a better tennis player, or in my case Pickleball player, you
    want to play with better players – they “up” our game. It’s one of the reasons
    that I create or recreate an outline and handouts for the workshops that I do.
    I may start with a previous outline, but as I consider the participants, I tweak
    the agenda to best suit their interests and needs. I’ve never done “canned”
    programs – they don’t get my creative juices flowing.
    What gives your life meaning and personal significance? A lot of my clients have to really
    ponder this question. The answer or answers are not always easy to articulate.
    They also shift in our lives. What gives our life meaning when we are raising
    young children may be very different from those we face as empty nesters. What
    gives our lives meaning when we are thriving in our careers can be very
    different when we begin to face retirement. Statistics show that depression and
    declining health often become issues when people first retire. One of the clues
    may be that they are not able to find meaning without their work.
    In one of my contracts with a county government, they were facing a large number of
    executives who were quickly reaching retirement age. One of the first things
    that I introduced was for them to become mentors – not doers. Some of them had
    great difficulty letting go of the daily activities. It drew on another skill
    set to become mentors and teachers. I also encouraged them to begin to cut back
    on their hours. As they moved to 4-day work weeks, then 3-day work weeks, we
    spent a lot of time facilitating what would give their life meaning when they
    retired. Some had no hobbies or interest outside of work. In the beginning there
    was a lot of resistance. As the program progressed and retirement due near, the
    positive comments grew. One person said, “You know, this program may have saved
    my life and my marriage. Honestly I hadn’t thought about what gave my life
    meaning outside of work. I’m glad you encouraged and even ‘made’ us look ahead.
    I thank you and my wife thanks you.” It’s never too late to look ahead – for meaning
    and personal significance!

  • Sandra Lintz

    Been there! Doing that! Transitioning that is! I don’t know if I could help someone else with a transition or not. I stand on the shoreline of so much potential but I don’t have a feeling for it. I have hope and trust that the tools I’ve learned will work eventually but until I find my way through this transition I hesitate to attempt to coach anyone else. (Although in the past I have successfully helped people, mentoring professional employees and working with special education children, identifying and developing their strengths.) I am thankful that I’ve found this training because I know it is helping me but, until I have used it and helped myself successfully in this transition, I don’t feel I can coach anyone. I could teach the tools I’ve learned and say there is such a thing as hope and that I have hope for myself and I have hope for the client, but that is it. If we’re in the same boat I am not sure about how much help I am to the client.

    I can see how missed opportunities for transition can cause associated frustrations, anxiety and depression and can be diagnosed as mental illness. Even I have experienced these feelings and someone could easily believe I have been or am mentally ill. People don’t know a lot about mental illness anyway. Most mental illness diagnosis list symptoms of malaise, anxiety, depression, down spiral mood, sense of hopelessness and reduced interest in life. The decision to choose the UpSpiral is critical for survival. Ultimately that is the bottom line. I can’t say enough good about the UpSpiral, the Positivity Ratio, VibeCore, the concepts of attachment and detachment and the neuropositive mind. Life and this training have brought be to a very fine spot but they have not seen me through this transition yet. I am grateful for this experience because if I am ever able to coach, I will know a lot more about what my client may be experiencing.

  • jeris hollander

    The gradual transformation that occurs through applying the tools necessary to build neuroplasticity is nothing short of remarkable. As our upspiral ascends, our strengths become understood and utilized, our perspective broadens and builds, and clarity arises out our deep desires giving way for our highest purpose to become our reality. Throughout this process, developing a deep understanding of the concept of meaning making, the various life stages, and their transitions have been tremendously impactful for me, as I have gained much clarity as to my own current transitional period. Until now, I was not able to clearly identify why I was struggling to enter the next stage of my life.

    Intuitively, I knew this quote to be true, but did not have to tools to properly navigate this messy transition in which I have been hauling much baggage – “when a sense of personal significance is threatened it is because a way of making meaning in life no longer works to provide that sense of significance.” It is becoming more apparent to me now that in my mid-twenties, I was transitioning from the “I am my relationships” stage to the “I am myself” stage of my life as I began to settle into my career path in behavioral neuroscience. Post undergrad, I worked in a neuroendocrinology lab for several years, was loving my job and began studying for the GRE in hopes of pursuing a Phd in neuropsychology. Long story short, I became engaged around that same time period and once I was married, my husband and I came to the joint decision that I would not go back to school, but keep working until we had kids, at which time I would stay home and raise them during their early years. This was a difficult decision for me, as I felt I was giving up a major part of my life and myself. However, I felt grateful to be in a position to have the choice to stay home with the kids, and felt at the time it was in the best interest of the family. What I didn’t realize at the time was that over the next 7 years of raising children, my meaning making and personal significance would be slowly changing and deteriorating. I now realize that because I did not have the tools to successfully navigate this transition, I, in many ways, regressed back to the “I am my relationships” stage. However, this stage no longer satisfied my evolving sense of personal significance. I was also evolving spritually, so part of me was deeply yearning to move straight into the “I am self” stage and skip all rest. Unfortunately, its not that simple. Transitions are messy, and the baggage from each stage will continue to accumulate until it is understood and navigated successfully. Only then can we truly let go, evolve and grow to the next stage.

    It is difficult to coach others in transition when you do not understand your own personal experience. This work is teaching me how to understand my own stages, transitions and meaning making systems, which is of the greatest value and significance in successfully coaching others through these periods in their own lives.

  • Audrey Sloofman

    I have an executive coaching client who, I think, has a lot of unfinished business from previous transitions. She is 70 years old, very accomplished with an advanced degree and a distinguished career. If I understand the the Stages of Meaning Making and Transition concepts correctly, I believe I see the following in her.

    Ellen appears to have made it through stage one without and evident transitionary leftovers, but she is very much her needs and she has a firm belief that what is good for her is good for her team (“I work late every night and work weekends. That’s how things are these days. I expect my team to do the same!”) Before I began coaching her, she had been given some very honest, blunt and critical feedback about her style of managing her team. She was totally shocked and insulted and proceeded to do an inquisition on everyone she could corner to try to find out “who said these awful things?!” She has since told me many times that she has never received anything but great feedback from everyone she has led, mentored or coached and that that feedback was wrong, unfair and cruel. Her Stage 2 Transition appears to be incomplete as there is much evidence that she needs to prove she is significant.

    I also see signs of Stage 3 Transition leftovers. The above examples can also be signs of struggle between “I am good/ I am flawed”. And she is very concerned with her relationships. She is said to have multiple conversations with her daughters (who are in their 40s) every day. She comes into her direct reports offices on a regular basis and involves them in any drama she has going on in her personal life or with her clients. Her problems regularly become her teams problems, no matter what important things they may be working on, they have to stop and help her out, or at least listen and show compassion.

    I see her struggling at this stage with a stage 4 Transition as well. She has been suffering from a severe autoimmune disorder and has been asked by her doctors to stop working or to slow down. I have worked with her on stopping to be present, to take a breath, to take time to relax, even to pulse, but she insists that here work is too important and that she always has too much to do. She has mentioned that she would like to see how she could move into retirement, but does not want to do so until she can figure out how to do so without losing the significance of what she has built for this company.

    Seeing her through the lens of these Meaning Making Stages and Transitions and the unfinished work she has is a helpful tool in determining a strategy for her. This tool is providing a more meaningful strategy and supporting me in not relying on simple techniques and tactics for making her a better leader and a more peaceful human being.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute