Aye aye captin’!

In my last blog I talked about some of the theory behind managing personal or professional change and transition. The research I referenced in that original blog provides a helpful foundation to anyone working with a coach in navigating the downside of change. What we know from my last blog is that change is hard- physically, mentally and emotionally. As I work with my own coaching clients I recommend a number of steps and exercises that I define as anchors to help them find streams of familiarity and routine through the fog of change. In this blog I wanted to share some of the anchors that my clients have used in the past, in addition to ideas suggested by my network of friends, family members and colleagues. I hope they will help inspire a few ideas for all North of Neutral blog readers, whether you are coaching clients of the past, present or future:


Train for a half marathon, keep up with those dance classes, walk 30 minutes a day.
I have a client who works in the media industry- her work is project based, often inconsistent and her typical month rarely looks the same as the last. To help her navigate the ongoing personal and professional change that occurs as a result of this industry idiosyncrasy she anchors herself to running. Training for distances of varying lengths has become one of the core constants in her life month after month: In addition to releasing feel good hormones, she is able to set definitive, time- bound milestones and connect with her running community; all processes known to reduce stress levels and help us feel in control in times of change (1).


Make room for people that matter to you.
Relationships manifest in more ways than we are aware of; research shows that carving time for the people that matter most significantly to us boosts immune function (2). A family member of mine uses the well know trick of scheduling a date night once a week with her husband. Regardless of other demands and distractions, she and her husband commit to maintaining this date night every single week for just them- no kids, no friends, no colleagues and no parents.


Develop a perspective.
My colleague recommends the following exercise as she navigates tough change at work: Each hour of your workday, take a moment and write down one word that summarizes your state of mind. At the end of each day, review your list. See if this is true for you: for most days, even the worst feelings do not last. You might also find that this process of writing your thoughts down will allow you to identify more closely activities that are energizers or drains. You might be able to turn some of those energizers (like reading to local third graders through your firm’s voluntary program now and then) into consistent anchors in your work week.

Sense of Purpose

Meditation is similar to learning other skills like how to ride a bike or play the piano and many of North of Neutral’s clients practice it (a couple of North of Neutral’s coaches do to!) fMRI imaging studies show significant bodily changes as a consequence of regular meditative practice, including growth in regions of the brain involved with compassion and understanding others, being mindfully aware, sustaining focus on a single object for a long period, and most importantly responding to the type of negative stress we feel when going through significant change (3).

(1) How to bounce back from adversity by Joshua D. Margolis and Paul G. Stoltz; Harvard Business Review (January–February 2010)

(2) Attachment Security and Immunity in Healthy Women by Angelo Picardi, Francesca Battisti, Lorenzo Tarsitani, Maurizio Baldassari, Alfredo Copertaro, Eugenio Mocchegiani, and Massimo Biondi; Psychosomatic Medicine (January 2007)

(3) Source: Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation by Richard Davidson and Antoine Lutz. IEEE Signal Processing Magazine (September 2007)