Meet Your Needs Without the CEO Title

leadership transition Mar 17, 2022

- By Sophie Pinkoski

Beneath the joy and relief that follow your first days of retirement comes a particular sense of loss. As a CEO, you’ve dedicated your life to leading an organization – an endeavor that brought you a great deal of pride and most significantly, a sense of purpose. As the honeymoon period of your retirement ends and the euphoria of it all dies down, you may find an integral aspect of your identity stripped away. But as Tricapital Group’s Randall E. White put it, “retirement may be the end of the corner office and all the stress and prestige that go with it, but it isn’t the end of you. In fact, it may be just the beginning”.  

Moving on with your life doesn’t mean leaving your experiences and all you’ve learned from them behind. It simply means applying those aspects of yourself to your life in new ways. In time, you will find fulfillment elsewhere. The immediate gratification of travel or taking up hobbies may bring you short-term pleasure, but discovering what will bring you soul-deep meaningful satisfaction long-term will give you that solid sense of purpose you previously felt as CEO. 

Here are some ways to tap into your basic human needs to bring purpose to your retirement: 

Motivate yourself with routine and variety – We depend upon certainty to maintain a sense of security in our lives. In your leadership role, you’re used to a rigorous schedule of meetings and responsibilities to keep you busy.  In retirement, you lose that structure in your life. Yet while filling your days with a regular schedule again will benefit your mental health, breaking it up with variety will keep your new lifestyle from becoming stale. 

Engage in your community – Retiring after years of building a professional network full of people you undoubtedly came to respect and depend upon will feel jarringly isolating. Maintaining connections within your community will prevent you from falling into loneliness or separation. While transitioning out of your role, your family or closest friends will be the backbone of your immediate support network. In time, you can rebuild a network through your hobbies or volunteer work. 

Identify what makes you relevant – People are going to ask you what’s next now that you’re retired. The answer to that question may be intimidating, especially after tying so much of your identity into the work that you do. And leaving your role as CEO doesn’t mean leaving your skills and expertise along with it. Former CEOs are actually highly valued and sought after within the community for their sheer breadth of knowledge. Break down what makes you tick –– what sparks your passion and what is most important to you? Take your time when agreeing to get involved in opportunities again. Don’t be afraid to be picky either. Your newfound free time will be easily filled and it’s important it’s filled with projects that best align with what excites you most. 

Pass on your knowledge to the next generation – As someone coming out of a leadership role, you hold knowledge that new leaders would benefit from. You’re perfectly positioned to nurture the next generation, eager to learn from everything you have to give. Taking on a mentorship role does the important work of preserving your legacy as a leader, cementing your significance well into the future. 

Keep learning and growing – Come into your retirement full of open-minded curiosity. Spend time considering the bucket list of things you never got to do while busy doing the crucial work of leading your company. Pursue those hobbies and interests you’ve always dreamt of but didn’t have time for. Now is your chance to grow in ways you couldn’t before. 

Retirement is an exciting turning point in your life that may be equally daunting. But by preparing to reinvent yourself by applying what you do to a whole new context, you can bring a new sense of purpose to your next stage of life. 


Further Reading: 

The Big Problem New Retirees Run Into, Forbes 

Why You Need to Manage Your Retirement Expectations, Next Avenue 

Steps to Finding Purpose in Retirement as a Former CEO, Tricapital Group 

8 Ways to Reinvent Your Life After the C-Suite, Vistage 

The CEO’s Guide to Retirement, Harvard Business Review 

Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break. Allen, Catherine et al. 


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