When it came time for Mike to tell us a bit about what he was hoping to get from the class, he shared that he knew it was time to retire. And he added, after a pause, that he was terrified. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.

He was not alone. Mike had put into words with such emotion what others in the room were feeling. He shared with his coach later that saying it aloud made it even more real for him. This turned out to be the beginning of his letting go of his academic career.

Mike had enjoyed a long career as an educator. His work suited him well in many ways and it was comfortable. But after more than three decades he felt it was time.

Like many people, he wanted more time to do the things that he enjoyed most. He knew the sorts of leisure activities that he enjoyed, but as he put it “I don’t quite see how that would make for a full life.” He wanted more.

What is a full life to you?

It turned out Mike already knew quite a bit about what he wanted to do. He wanted to write. In fact, he was already a writer. He had published for his work for years but was having a hard time seeing how this would translate into writing fiction.

As Mike and his coach began to explore what a “full life” would look like, what emerged is that a big part of it meant being part of a community. He feared losing the academic community he’d been a part of for so long. This would be a major loss after so many years. It became clear that this is what was keeping him stuck and preventing him from announcing his retirement.

With the help of his coach, Mike began to explore how he could create a sense of community in his life once he was no longer teaching. He identified several possibilities including communities he could join and one he could start. His coach suggested he might also investigate courses he could take on fiction writing and investigate communities of writers that he might join.

Hand painted modern art of a group of people with arms around each other's shoulders.

Once Mike began to picture a life outside his professional career, and especially one that included feeling part of a community, he felt more confident in his plans to retire. In short order, he announced his retirement, and immediately upon doing so, reported that he knew it was the right thing.

Mike went on to author not one, but several, books; all with the support of his writing community. While he officially retired from teaching, we think of Mike as having continued his work as an educator. And he did this in a way that he continued to learn and was a better fit for him at this time in his life.

Note: To honor confidentiality and protect the privacy of our clients we do not use names and have altered possibly identifying details in this Case Study.

About Perceptive Leaders LLC

Perceptive is a boutique leadership development and professional transitions consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado serving clients in the US and Canada, since 2005. We have worked with over 1,000 senior organizational leaders and accomplished career professionals to help them recognize opportunities for impactful and substantive change and how to realize that transformational change. For more than 15 years, Perceptive has been helping leaders and their teams transform their leadership. For more information, visit perceptiveleaders.com.

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