Identifying Your Post Practice Identity

In the past week or so, many of us would have seen or read about the latest downfall of the great Grant Hackett. At his peak, he was idolised by Australia at large, he was one of our greatest swimmers and to some, almost a God.

But for some time now we have watched his very significant and public fall from grace. Stephanie Rice showed empathy and understanding towards Grant, commenting on the difficulties she experienced following her departure from the pool. As we look at our sporting greats, often the story is not too dissimilar, though perhaps with less magnitude to that of Grant.

It would be interesting to understand whether retirement by choice resulted in any different feelings to that where injury dictated the end. Regardless, many athletes experience similar struggles with that same question following retirement; who are they, what is their purpose? For many years they have been in the spotlight for their endeavours and achievements and suddenly this is gone and they struggle with their identity.

As you read this you may wonder what relevance this has to professional practice.  Well, the short answer is, significant relevance. As practitioners approach retirement, one of the greatest hurdles to overcome is their post practice identity and purpose.

If they are no longer the partner or practitioner leading a firm, who are they? For many, this is why they have not yet retired. Some practitioners are able to adapt and move on more quickly than others and quite often this is where they have interests and activities beyond their working lives.

For others, it will mean a departure from ownership but not necessarily participation; as they continue to work in a consultancy capacity for the immediate future. For others still, this may come in the form of participation and involvement in a different sense, but not within the profession. Some will enter retirement not of choice but necessity as a result of their illness or illness of a loved one.

It’s a fact, 50% of business transactions occur as a result of uncontrolled or unwanted events, such as death, disability, divorce or illness. Not surprisingly, identity and legacy have been found to be one of the most significant inhibitors to retirement.  Similar to the elite athletes we were considering earlier, only for us it is at a later stage of life.

It’s funny, we like to avoid terms such as retirement, exit or departure due to its negative conation. In the US, they refer to succession planning as exit planning, again not an overly appealing term. However, we need to move beyond the terminology and appreciate the opportunity that is before us. Presently, many of us have the opportunity to do some planning in this area. We have time to build post practice identifies, legacies, and purpose. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Baby Boomer, a Traditionalist, or Gen X, we all have time. However, time will not stand still and that window of opportunity becomes narrower every day. So please, start planning your post practice identity soon, if not today.

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