Meet Isaac. He’s 75 and has been retired for ten years. Years in which he’s been, by his own admission, “far busier than he ever was at work.” Before he retired, Isaac was given one piece of advice by a mentor and it was this: “When you retire, say YES to everything, experience new experiences, meet new people, and explore new worlds – only then will you know what fuels you.” Isaac took this advice and ran with it, quite literally. He signed up for sailing holidays with much younger members of his club, worked with church groups and homeless people, went on yoga retreats with friends, joined book clubs, a running club, theatre groups, a choir, and a canoe club, whilst, at the same time, plotting his journey around the world – Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos, Norway, the United States…
For him, at the start of his retirement journey, nothing was out of bounds. He loved life, and found the transition into retirement relatively easy, partly because he’s an extrovert – someone who thrives on having company, socialising, and being active. He loves to talk, in fact, he’ll make conversation with strangers in the street, in cafes, at bus stops, on trains, and generally anywhere he can – much to the annoyance of his partner!
In the ten years that have passed since he left work, Isaac admits he’s slowed down, mainly because of a lack of energy, rather than a will to do so, but says he’s happy with his lot. He’s adamant that keeping busy is key to staying active in body and mind, something he’s absolutely determined to do.
An extrovert retiree, like Isaac are generally confident, have high self-esteem, and focus on the positives, rather than dwelling on things that haven’t quite gone their way. Traits which tend to make their retirement transition easier. I’m massively generalizing, of course, as not all extrovert retirees will breeze into retirement life in the way Isaac did, but having a positive outlook, a can-do attitude, and confidence really does help.
Interestingly, although little research has been carried out into the transition into retirement, a study of 2,000 British people aged between 50 and 75 years of age which happened last year found that extroverts can struggle when they leave the workplace, mainly because they miss the social side of working life and daily interaction with their colleagues.
Isaac admits this was definitely the case for him. “I found it incredibly hard to leave, especially as I’d been working with the same group of people for a very long time. At first, I tried to cling onto those relationships, but it became increasingly difficult as I came to realize that no matter how much effort I made to sustain these friendships, for most people I was out of sight and out of mind. In a sense though, I was lucky because I already had interests outside of work, and through those interests, a social life. And since taking all the opportunities that have come my way, I’ve made new friends from all walks of life and of all ages. I definitely feel more emotionally connected now than I ever did in work.”
Back to work?
Isaac says he wouldn’t return to the workplace, like many retired extroverts do. “I’ve found ‘work’ in other places; I volunteer with homeless people, run a book club and mindfulness sessions at church, and I work with children with disabilities, using the knowledge and skills I learned in the workplace to give back and do good.” Some of Isaac’s friends have taken on paid work in retirement, to find, as he has, fulfilment, friendship, and purpose in their daily lives. “For them, ‘unretiring’, a movement that’s trending right now, has been the perfect solution. They haven’t gone back to the same jobs, or even the same careers, some of them have taken on menial work, others are volunteering. It’s all been about the people, rather than the payroll.”
A dream retiree
If you’ve read any of my work, or the blogs I often post, you’ll be well aware that Isaac is my dream retiree! He’s done everything I advise retirees to do. In essence, he’s not given up, sat on the sofa, and slowly started to wither away. He’s grabbed life with both hands and said YES, YES, YES to everything that has come his way. He’s found things he’s passionate about, crafted out a purposeful life and in all of this he’s found prosperity, spiritual enrichment, and good health. And (bonus point here!) he started to plan for his ‘retirement’ years before it actually happened, which has been the key to his success.
There is a but…
Of course, there is. This is real life. It’s not all plain sailing, is it? As Isaac admits, there are downsides to being an extrovert retiree. “I’ve certainly overcommitted myself more times than I care to mention,” he says, “I never seem to learn. I’m a people pleaser, I love to say yes, and this isn’t always a good thing. I’ve had to work hard at learning to say ‘no’. I’ve also come to realize that by always doing and never stopping to think, I’ve been avoiding my inner thoughts and feelings. And I’ve not been taking the time to be grateful for what I have. It’s a work in progress, but I’m allowing myself time to slow down and reflect which will definitely serve me well in the long term.