Retirement Redesigned

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Monday, July 15, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

HomeRelationshipsLonelinessCelebrate the encroaching introversion of retirement

Celebrate the encroaching introversion of retirement

Monday Deadline. It’s true. Extroverts control the world.

The charming personalities and easy communication skills of the extravert are irresistible to those that vote for presidents and appoint CEOs. Leaders are always expected to be outgoing and able to make great speeches. That means that they can persuade and negotiate their way around most situations and can influence people wherever they want to. They are forceful, assertive and competitive. All qualities that are seen to be desirable.

Leadership development programs are geared to show candidates how to be effective in teams or groups and how to work at influencing others. In other words, how to sharpen extraversion skills and probably how to disguise natural introversion. One of the most famous books of all time is the Dale Carnegie “How to Make Friends and Influence People” Essentially a text how to fake extraversion.

For the record, extraversion is defined as the attribute that gets its energy from connecting with people. Social contact is the lifeblood of the extravert. Introversion on the other hand is defined as getting energy from going inside of yourself; not needing people so much and finding purpose in solitude

Those who are aware and who are interested in personality, usually define themselves as being one or the other; extravert social creature, or loner introvert. It is assumed that one stays mostly in one camp or the other during one’s lifetime. But each borrows a little from the other from time to time. The raging extravert can also retreat into a quieter period, withdrawing a little. And then for the introvert, when circumstances are ripe for it, the introvert can perk up and have party-animal moments of extraversion

So, is it true that one spends much of one’s life primarily in one camp or the other? Well no, that is not true according to recent research. It is now shown that extraversion is more associated with youth and introversion with being older. It is said that as one gets older the level of extraversion declines. In later age, and for our purposes this refers especially to the age retirement, people

become less interested in constant contact with others and more at ease with a singular lifestyle; in fact, being more introverted. Psychologists call this “intrinsic maturation” It indicates a life of greater emotional stability, greater agreeability and conscientiousness

For those settling into retirement there is sometimes a foreboding sense of increasing isolation. The old comrades from work and the social gatherings that used to be part of a working life are no more. Issues about health and about finances become preoccupations, forcing a measure of introspection. For the least fortunate ones there is increasing self-doubt and even depression.

But this gloomy scenario needn’t be. Because people are living longer lives there are many more years ahead for those retiring now. Question is, what to do to make life meaningful over an additional 20 or 30 years? In planning for a productive retirement and accepting that by that time one is less frenetic about making a vibrant social life, the best advice is to embrace the encroaching introversion and make the most of it. The more introverted lifestyle has a number of appealing benefits. It takes less energy and there is a special pleasure in being more quietly at ease with the world. The old competitiveness starts to fade away and there is little need to keep up with the Joneses.

Extraverts are easier to understand. Introverts are more complex. Learning to accept and use the increasing introversion of one’s later years is a skill. And like any other skill it requires practice and dedication. Check out the ex-Wall Street lawyer Susan Cain’s book The quiet power of being an introvert in a world that can’t stop talking. She focusses primarily on people after sixty. See SixtyandMe

Informed advisors and retirement coaches say that retirement should be seen much like any other job. You have to learn how to manage it and to acquire the skills that will allow you to make progress. The actuaries say now that you will, after all, probably be spending just about as much time in retirement as you have in your full-time working career

Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.


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