Miguel was a professor in his late sixties. When it came time for him to share what he was hoping to get from the class, he said “I know it’s time to retire” and he added after a pause, “and I’m terrified.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the room. He was not alone. Miguel had put into words what others in the room were feeling. Miguel shared later with his coach, that saying it aloud made it even more real for him. This turned out to be the beginning of letting go of his academic career.

Miguel had enjoyed a long career in higher education. His work suited him well in many ways and it was comfortable. But after almost four decades, as he shared with his fellow students, he felt it was time.

He felt that he had done is best work and he wanted more time to do the things that he enjoyed most. He had outside interests, but as Miguel put it “I don’t quite see how that would make for a full life.” He wanted more.

This turned out to be the beginning of letting go of his academic career.

One of the things Miguel knew that he wanted to do was to write. He had published academic articles for years. But he was having a hard time seeing how this would translate into writing fiction. He wondered if he may just write for himself for the enjoyment of writing or if he would try to get his work published.

As Miguel and his coach began to explore what a “full life” would look like, importantly, what began to emerge is that a big part of a full life for would mean being part of a community. His social life was centered around his academic community, and he feared losing the community he’d been a part of for so long. It became clear that this impending loss was what was keeping him stuck and preventing him from announcing his retirement.

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

When Miguel described what he did outside of work, these were mostly activities that he did alone. While he loved having time alone, and especially on the weekends, he knew that having too much of this would not be a good thing for him.

With the help of his coach, Miguel began to explore how he could create a new sense of community to replace his academic community.

Once Miguel 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.

On the last day of class, Miguel reported to his fellow students that he had announced his retirement, and added that, “he knew without a doubt it was the right thing.”

Miguel went on to write and author not one, but several books, all with the support of his new writing community. He is actively engaged in many of the same leisure activities he’d previously enjoyed but he does many of them with other people now.

As Miguel put it “being part of a community will always be important to me and I need to do the things to make sure I have this in my 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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