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7. May 2015

Creating My Perfect Scenario

by Barbara Morris, Advisor, My Next Season

At My Next Season, we have found that real stories from executives, who have already successfully transitioned, are incredibly helpful to those preparing for retirement or departure from a corporate role. Advisor, Barbara Morris, shares her experience transitioning out of an executive role with a Fortune 100 company, pausing to consider her priorities and preferences, and the unique combination of Next Season roles that resulted. For more inspirational stories, please visit https://mynextseason.com/our-company/heroes.

Like many executives, I have always been one of those people who is all-in on practically anything in which I’m engaged. So it was with my career. Not only did it mean total dedication to my job, but that the organizations to which I belonged and the non-profits on whose Boards I served were all related, either directly or indirectly, to my job. That always seemed like the most strategic thing to do career-wise.

From time to time I would think, “Wouldn’t it be lovely, for example, to be able to work with two or three non-profits which had nothing to do with business but had touched my heart in some special way? What a treat!”

As time went on, that prospect seemed more and more appealing. So when I was invited to join a niche consulting firm with whom I would be able to negotiate a part-time arrangement, the temptation was almost overwhelming. This would give me the freedom to spend the other half of my time in the non-profit sector.

Well, I guess this opportunity was overwhelming because I walked away from a senior executive position with a Fortune 100 company so that I could divide my time between my new consulting job and non-profit ventures. For me it was the perfect scenario – being able to maintain a meaningful involvement in business while immersing myself in several worthwhile charitable ventures.

But before launching into my exciting next season, I decided to take a six month break to transition between my big corporate job and implementing my new plan for a more balanced life style. In retrospect, it was one of the best decisions I could have made. I think we often don’t realize how fast the pace is at which we are operating or the level of stress we have internalized. As I started to decompress, I was truly amazed at what a high level I had been performing and, I guess, living. For a number of years, the pace just kept getting faster and more intense without my being fully aware of it.

With this realization, I recognized the importance of structuring my next season in such a way that I could plan not only activities where I’d need to be “ON”, but also those I would do for pure enjoyment. How wonderful to actually have such control over my time and the amount of stress I’d be willing to accept!

Besides the obvious health and emotional benefits of taking a break to relax, it’s extremely beneficial as you head into new ventures if you have been able to create some distance emotionally and intellectually from your past career. Being able to start with a fresh perspective and an open mind is a wonderful way to make a great impression and to set yourself up for a very productive and enjoyable experience.

At the end of my hiatus, moving from a very large corporate culture to consulting with smaller firms was very energizing but nevertheless a huge adjustment. The high level of intellectual stimulation that results from regularly interacting with lots of very bright people in a big company is hard to match. However, for me it was replaced by the excitement of working with new client companies eagerly trying to grow their businesses. In addition, identifying several non-profits, whose missions I found particularly worthwhile and where my talents were especially helpful, provided a sense of fulfillment which I hadn’t experienced in some time.

As I think back on it, I am incredibly thankful that the consulting opportunity presented itself at a time when I was open to considering a change. It is that openness, which sometimes requires an intentional effort to internalize, but which is such a valuable element of not only identifying your next season, but also making certain that it’s absolutely the best one for you.

So, as you approach the time when retirement starts to pass through your mind, remember all of the fun things you have wanted to do over the years, but the demands of your job precluded — we all have lots of those things — special vacations that never fully materialized, an invitation to teach a course at a local college, the small non-profit you really wanted to help get off to a good start, following your favorite baseball team to Spring Training, that fly-fishing trip to Montana when you couldn’t join your pals, that week at Canyon Ranch that you never had quite enough time for. . . Now give yourself the gift of time to do all of those things and truly make your next season the most fun, rewarding, and enjoyable time yet!!

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