Who am I really? I’ll let you in on a little secret. My career identity was not (and is not) my true identity.

I wish I had known, standing on the cusp of retirement, the importance of taking the time to reflect on the journey that led me to where I was at the time. A journey filled with accomplishments, challenges, and personal growth. But, also a journey that had shaped my identity. That chapter was coming to a close, and instead of planning for who I would be in my next chapter based on my true, authentic self, I lost myself.

If you’re like me, navigating the transition from a successful career to retirement can be both exciting and daunting. 

The Career-Centric Identity: A Double-Edged Sword

Throughout my professional life, my career was a source of purpose, validation, and structure. Climbing the corporate ladder, achieving milestones, and witnessing the impact of my work provided an immense sense of accomplishment. But as the retirement date approached, the thought of leaving behind the familiar world of meetings, deadlines, and responsibilities left me wondering, “Who am I beyond my job title (or Hydro Girl as some colleagues called me)?”

Embracing Change and Seeking Authenticity

It took a while (guess I’m a slow learner sometimes), but once I began my quest for self-discovery, I realized that this transition offers a unique opportunity to unveil the layers of identity that had been overshadowed by my career. Instead of focusing solely on what I left behind, I’m now focusing on who I truly am and what I truly want to be and do in this new chapter. The concept of the “zone of genius” and a few other tools I learned during this time helped me rediscover myself.

Uncovering Your Zone of Genius

The zone of genius I’m referring to is that sweet spot where your innate talents, passions, and strengths converge. It’s the realm in which you thrive effortlessly, and time seems to fly by. In this space, you’re not just good at what you do; you’re exceptional. It’s not about who you are (or were) in your career, it’s about who you are when you’re designing and living your life according to your dreams, not someone else’s. 

Here are some ways you can start to think about your own zone of genius journey:

  1. Reflect on Your Past: Look back on moments in your life when you felt most alive and fulfilled. What were you doing? What skills were you using? These moments often hold clues about your natural talents.
  2. Identify Patterns: Notice recurring themes, interests, or skills that have accompanied you throughout your life. These patterns can provide insight into what truly resonates with your authentic self.
  3. Explore Your Passions: Engage in activities purely for the joy they bring, without the pressure of performance. Allow yourself to explore hobbies and interests that have always intrigued you.
  4. Seek Feedback: Reach out to close friends, family, and colleagues to gain an outside perspective on your strengths. Sometimes, others see our talents more clearly than we do.
  5. Embrace Curiosity: Approach this journey with an open mind and a sense of curiosity. Be willing to try new things and step outside your comfort zone.
  6. Let Go of Labels: As you transition from your career, let go of labels that defined you. Embrace the multifaceted nature of your identity and be open to redefining yourself.

As I delved into my own journey of uncovering my zone of genius, I discovered aspects of myself that were previously hidden beneath the demands of my career. Embracing this journey has been liberating, as it allows me to define my identity on my terms, not someone else’s. While the prospect of retiring from a successful career may seem daunting, it’s also an opportunity to embrace change and connect with your true, authentic self.

So, if you find yourself standing at the crossroads of retirement or any major life transition, remember that your zone of genius holds the key to unlocking your authentic self. By blending your innate talents, passions, and strengths, you can navigate this transition with a newfound sense of purpose and a clearer understanding of who you are beyond your career. 

I wasn’t sure of that, and it will undoubtedly be hard for you too (especially if your career has defined you for decades). But, if you can figure out your true zone of genius, and rediscover yourself, you’ll be excited to step into a new chapter. 

My Zone Of Genius quiz (it’s free) might give you a first glimpse into who you truly are and what you might want to be and do once you leave your career. You can take the quiz here. Then be sure to let me know your results. I’m curious. You can either hit “Reply” or post your comments in our private Facebook group, Amazing Women Living By Design. Don’t keep your Genius a secret! The world needs you! And if you know of someone who is nearing retirement (or just stepped into it) that might be interested in my blogs, feel free to share this email so they can sign up for my weekly dose of tips here