What happens to competitive people in retirement
Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant, supports those approaching retirement to successfully transition and create a retirement they will love to live!
Hands up. Are you someone who thrives on the pressures and challenges of work? Is work something that has you jumping out of bed in the morning, excited to sign that next client, hit that target or solve that supposedly unsolvable problem? Regardless of the profession or industry you work in, you are driven by success in the workplace. You are highly respected by your colleagues and clients because you consistently deliver high quality work. They know that you’ll get the job done and you’re capable of making the tough decisions.
You’re great at what you do, and that is a fabulous attribute to possess. Your organisation is privileged to have you. The challenge, however, is that research has found that people who are naturally competitive and assertive during their career can experience greater difficulty in adjusting to the workplace (Delmontagne, 2011)*. The very attributes that made them successful during their career are the same ones that can work against them in retirement
Naturally competitive people thrive on difficult and challenging goals in the workplace and this singlemindedness often meant that they had few interests outside of work (Delmontagne, 2011). They didn’t allow space for friendships to be cultivated or hobbies to develop. As such when they do finally retire they find life quite empty. Without work as the binding force, acquaintances drift away, and without an interest to focus their energy and ideas the days seem endless. In essence, their self-worth reduces because they don’t feel that they are achieving anything important.
If this sounds like you, I bet there is another fear niggling away at the back of your mind – the fear of failure. Success and being the best is a strong part of your identity and you dread being seen as someone who has ‘failed’ at retirement. At work there was always a way to ensure success - you would work harder or longer to deliver on time or stay ahead of the competition. When it comes to retirement, however, success is not a tangible outcome, there is no single objective way to say that you’ve ‘made it’ and that can be disheartening.
So what you can do as someone competitive by nature to create a retirement that challenges you, connect you to others and ensures a sense of fulfilment? Consider the four
1. Plan and set yourself goals
Don’t leave it until day one of retirement to start taking action. Make time now to focus on you. Create that list of things you want to do and achieve when you have more flexibility with your time (call it a bucket list if you will) and then attach goals to those items. For example, if you’d like to take up cycling why not sign up for a road race and then start training for it. Take it a step further, set a time you’d like to achieve. Or perhaps there’s a book to write - the one that people have been telling you for 10+ years you should write. What is a reasonable timeframe to have a first draft completed in?
Importantly, consider both what you enjoy and what brings you a sense of and purpose, and involve your significant other in the planning process. Retirement provides a wonderful opportunity to spend more time with your loved ones so ensure that your plans are aligned and that you’re clear on what you do together and what you do independently in retirement.
2. Establish a hobby or interest before you retire
Life is busy and work can be all consuming, but make time to develop an interest outside of work before you retire. Not only will this help to create a sense of continuity when work no longer fills your waking hours but will ensure you have an established network of people to spend time with and to draw on for support if you need it.
Typical retirement activities such as golf, fishing and art classes may not appeal to you so think outside the box in terms of how you may like to spend your time. It might be mentoring young professionals in your sector, contributing your accounting, marketing or governance expertise to a not-for profit board, or training to summit the highest peaks around the world.
3. Consider a step-down approach
Rather than go ‘cold turkey’ and launch straight from full-time work to retirement, explore the options available to reduce the number of days you work per week. Is it possible to work only two or three days per week and balance the structure of work with time to focus on developing new interests and establish a social network outside of your job?
4. Reconnect with friends.
Make that call. Who is that one friend that you have been meaning to catch-up with for ages? What can you do to connect with them today? You don’t need to suddenly spend all of your time together, but it is refreshing to reminisce about old times and then know that you can count on them when you need them.
Set yourself up for success in retirement by recognising the challenges you are likely to encounter and take action now to prevent them from arising.
*Delmontagne, R. (2011). The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition into Retirement. Synergy Books: Austin, Texas.