In our work with high-performing lawyers and other intense professionals in transition, we encounter a very consistent challenge—and one that I faced myself when I left my firm years ago—the impending loss of identity.

We find that many professionals are strongly identified with their firm, their title, their practice, and their professional success. After all, it has taken nearly everything they’ve got to succeed at such a high level for so long.  Their careers have left them little time or energy to know themselves beyond that specific context.  It is no wonder that the idea of leaving can be downright terrifying.

There is tremendous power in coming to know ourselves outside of the career context and without reference to the various “roles” we play in our lives.  Roles are ephemeral—they come and go over the course of a lifetime—so identifying around them without a connection to a deeper definition can be perilous.

Setting aside the “need to earn a living” (even for a few days) can allow us to reconnect with who we really are, what we really love to do, and the many ways that we might choose to structure our lives if we believed we had a choice.  And suddenly, we realize that we do have a choice—many more choices, in fact, than we ever knew. The process of clarifying one’s identity beyond professional roles can be the difference between a smooth and successful transition or a lengthy process of confusion, aimlessness, and frustration.

If you are in a time of transition, no matter what the reason, embrace the opportunity to get to know yourself outside of your career.  There is far more to you and your life than how you earn a living.