Transitions, in the broadest sense, (and the one I am discussing here), are generally understood to be the processes and/or periods of time that involve changing from one state or condition to another. While transitions can be experienced by a diverse array of entities, my interest lies primarily in human transitions. As I experience them, they are the explicit inevitable shifts that accompany human growth and self-actualization. My favorite example is the transition from crawling to walking…

Professional coaches are trained to be and often are partners to humans during transitions. Coaches partner in sorting through the current state of affairs, discovering emergent options and devising viable action plans that optimize desired transition outcomes. In many ways, it is my favorite activity as a professional coach.

I have felt comfortable exploring transitions with others and believed this was in part a function of my many life transitions. I do not find transitions easy or comfortable, but do not pretend they can be avoided. I have always seen transitions as inevitable, part of a life journey that must be engaged. I am repeatedly startled at the gyrations people initiate to avoid a transition that has obviously arrived and is asserting itself. These avoidance tactics, sometimes spanning a lifetime, have seemed fairly futile and self-delimiting to me. Often, they are tragic.

With these perceptions in place, I recently started the familiar process of a new life transition, moving from Ohio back to California, or more accurately, back to the Pacific Ocean and snow free weather. I mapped out the next year for the transition. Options, planning, deciding emerged in familiar ways, with well-established personal patterns. All the noisy fears introduced themselves, all the dogged commitment to self-fulfillment asserted itself. I sketched out my desired outcomes…and a new realization burgeoned! A potential new outcome: Death. I suddenly realized that I was planning out a range of actions that concluded with “until I die”.

Objectively, death was a potential outcome in all my prior transitions. Indeed, I believe many human fears are veiled fears of death, so these are often lurking. Nonetheless, this transition would be bookending my 80th birthday. Obviously, I may live another 20 years and have one, two or five more transitions, however my perception now is they all have this “until I die” dimension as a given. Never in my prior transitions was death so obviously a likely outcome. Everything, it seemed, was different, and because I am curious, actually kind of interesting.

My prior patterns of just packing everything, taking it along and seeing how it fits in the new space seems quite odd now. What am I keeping and why? The anticipated use of time seems focused and a bit mysterious. Have I divined the optimal use of the time I have remaining? Living space seems linked to living time. What space do I need and why? What is the purpose of space? What is the purpose of time? See, kind of interesting.

So, I am working my way through this new transition with its introduction of new awarenesses and insights. Of the many gifts nursing bestows on nurses, one is an early and frequent exposure to human death. It is valuable, and can inform the journey toward one’s own death. I am thus blessed with this gift. And some days I like to imagine that my exploration of this transition may serve others who will one day make the same discovery I have about their current transition. Another reason why coaching makes sense to me, “until I die”.

“The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

~Theodore Roosevelt