When George Thorne walks into his medical practice in Austin Texas, he is greeted warmly by staff and makes friendly conversation about kids and pets. An ophthalmologist for thirty-plus years, he is quick to speak fondly of his patients, medical partners, and team. It’s clear he has loved his career. But at age 65, he recently decided to stop performing surgery and phase himself out of his practice altogether. “I’m not sure what’s on the other side of this,” he told me with a hint of anguish, “but it’s time.”
George is like many of the Baby Boomers I work with in my executive coaching practice. They’ve had high-powered careers that they’ve found fulfilling and are core to their identities. As they approach so-called retirement age, they are ready (or forced) to transition out of their longtime professions and are somewhat anxious about what’s next. Their concerns are less financial than identity- and change-related: How can I successfully reinvent myself as I leave behind my career? What does the next phase look like for me? How can I make sure I don’t get bored?