Hope for the Driven Personality

In the time leading up to my retirement, if I had been given a dollar every time someone expressed disbelief that I would actually be content not working, I could have retired much earlier.

“But WHAT will you do?” and “Aren’t you afraid of being bored?” were common questions.

Focussed, organized, passionate and diligent, the words “relaxed” or “laid-back” were seldom used to describe me. Early on, I had begun to read much retirement research and had other research quoted to me. In short, it wasn’t good. With everything from failing health (due to the sudden decrease in activity and pace) to struggling marriages (due to the dramatically increased togetherness…and misplaced bossiness) it appeared the more driven one was in their work-life, the more dismal the predicted retirement outcome. I eventually gave myself a break from reading the research, stood with my husband on the retirement bridge and we leapt.

So far, on the other side of the bridge, the same “A-Type” features of my personality have actually become my savoir. Being cognizant of the research that I had read, I knew enough not to slow down abruptly. So I did in my retirement life what I did in my work life – I immersed myself. Housing, and then house set up took on a life on its own and included numerous intricate details which proved to be a fantastic transition from the world of work. I then did what every sixth grader who first starts Middle School knows to do, I got a copy of the activities sign-up book and I joined, and joined, and joined! Not all of the activities stuck (e.g. cake decorating…. I was a disaster)! But through the good and the bad, I was involved, present, met great people and continued learning about myself. And some of the activities did stick. I recently attended my 60th yoga class after joining only three months ago. Yoga has provided multiple benefits – physical fitness, mental relaxation, and meeting really cool and interesting people. As there are a variety of different classes nearby and a pay-one-price monthly pass, there is no excuse for me not to attend.

My husband recently commented on how at ease I seemed in retirement, and how well I have adapted. He has found his retirement transition to be a bit less seamless. Although he is happy to be retired, he misses the excitement of an international legal practice, the camaraderie with his colleagues and the daily challenges and responsibilities that his work provided. We both greatly enjoyed our jobs, appreciated our colleagues and, to a large extent, defined ourselves through our work.

What helps some people transition more smoothly into retirement than others? It is likely a myriad of factors, perspective playing a significant role. For me, I have felt a similar awe and wonder to my initial retirement as I did when I first began working internationally, and the first time that I stood in front my own classroom, 35 years ago, and began to teach. Viewing retirement as an exit or as an entry, as a new chapter, or a separate book closed, underscores everything else that follows.

With the combination of this perspective, and my driven personality, I have fully immersed myself into my retirement. I continue to wake up early with a burning sense of purpose – there are meals to be made, daily routines to address, yoga classes to dash off to, emails to answer, company to prepare for, reading that I want to do, blog posts to write, trips to plan, children and grandchildren to visit, new passions to explore… the list never runs dry – and it changes regularly. Yes the tasks are different from when I worked – which helps to makes even the mundane new and exciting. Also, after many years living overseas, I am immensely grateful to have regular, uninterrupted time with family, friends and self.

Although I am relatively new to retirement, I haven’t grown a third limb…at least not yet! My biggest take away from all of this? There is definitely cause for hope and optimism for driven personalities in retirement. Be true to yourself and play to your strengths. Go forth with a healthy mixture of pre-planning, openness and wonder. Talk to others about their retirement but know that the retirement experience cannot be forced and no two retirement experiences are the same. And on the flipside, don’t believe everything that everyone tells you. Your footprints into retirement will be unique to you–be thoughtful in preparing to shape what they will look like.

38 Replies to “Hope for the Driven Personality”

  1. What beauty in this sentence: “But through the good and the bad, I was involved, present, met great people and continued learning about myself. “

  2. My favourite sentence, “…stood with my husband on the retirement bridge and we leapt.” Glad retirement is going well. It is also so great to have you guys close by. Island life brings out new perspectives for sure! 🙂

  3. It is such fun to read about your
    retirement. One of my favorite
    things about being retired is never having to set the alarm clock. I have always thought that maintaining your body is a full time job!!! There are always more books on my list than I ever have time to read. We just finished doing a four day bike trip from Key Largo to Key West!!! We spend lots of time helping with our two grandsons, age for and seven. I find there is never a dull moment in retirement.

  4. Again another great blog! I also believe that you just adjust your strengths and personality type to different avenues!! I just did two hours of line dance classes this afternoon! It reminded me of our days at Knox….teaching dance classes and our big school dance at the end of the unit!! Before that a 15 km bike ride…never enough time in the day to do all the things I would like to do! It is such a different life style here on Palm Springs for five months. Then back to Kelowna and another group of friends and activities…

  5. Love reading your blogs Donna. While much of what you write resonates with me, it is particularly this blog that was of great interest. Many of my colleagues keep asking when I will go back to being a Head of School, however I am committed to developing my new career path and business, and need to give it a good ‘go’ before I work out what may be the next step. It is scary and challenging, however it is extremely rewarding. There is life beyond our current careers, and we need to take the great leap to find out for ourselves what that can look like:) One can make anything happen with a positive mindset and a commitment and saying ‘yes’ …. 🙂

  6. Donna, this blog post makes me miss you tremendously. I just love how, even in writing, you manage to instill a sense of calm while communicating such wise advise. I recently made the decision to take a few months “off” to focus on my family, and my studies and what I’ve realized is, like you wrote, it’s all about perspective. Finally, I love how you included the metaphor of a 6th grader! You can take the principal out of middle school but you can’t take the middle school out of the principal. 🙂

  7. Hooray!! It is such a joy to hear about your new adventures. I am also secretly thrilled to hear you have become a yogi 🙂 I will think of you now across the globe as I come to the mat when I do my morning practice. I look forward to hearing where your journey brings you next! Sending lots of love xx

  8. I have never doubted that you’d be bored in retirement. There will only be one question: What is that Donna up to this time?

  9. Just getting caught up on FB and found your blog. Great reading! Not being anywhere near a type A, I found it very interesting, well-written and entertaining! I would love to follow your blog.

    Linda Roberts

  10. Thank you all for your comments. I greatly appreciate them. I have tried to reply to comments individually through email or FB. Keeping to my current Thursday schedule, my next post will be out this Thursday morning (BC time). Hope to see you then!

  11. My husband also commented on how well I adjusted to my retirement. I tell him that I was meant for the retirement lifestyle, work was just the way I was able to get here.

  12. Donna, I enjoyed your reflection on the “leap from the bridge.” I noticed in your comments on retirement research that you did not mention the Boeing study that found a negative correlation between age at retirement and death. It appeared those who took earlier retirement lived longer. A book that I would recommend for you and Richard is “Changing Lanes: Couples Refining Retirement” by Beverly Battaglia (2008). Bev found there were many books on retirement but none on retiring as a couple so she wrote one. It’s an interesting read.

    1. Hi Sandra – My sincere apologies for my delay in replying (memo to self: always check spam folder for additional comments). Thank you for mentioning the Boeing study, and Beverly Battaglia’s book — I will definitely look them both up. One of the (many) books on retirement that I have read so far is Sara Yogev’s A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse…But Not for Lunch! It is definitely an interesting read, but did scare the heck out of me in parts. I also fell prey to trying out a few of the online life expectancy calculator’s (like https://www.livingto100.com/calculator) …. which all promptly took points off for earlier retirement. Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing further readings, I greatly appreciate it.

  13. I’m also seven months in and am amazed at how many people ask, “What on earth do you do all day?” I didn’t start teaching until I was 51. I’ve always been extremely high energy and that took me through 11 years of teaching 3rd grade. I loved it and then I felt it was time to move on. I feel fortunate that I was able to get insured through the Affordable Care Act as that was always the burning issue.
    My husband and I’ve been Airbnb hosts for a year and half and absolutely love meeting people. We’ve made so many new friends around the world. I exchanged language lessons with a young man from Spain which reignited my desire to finally become fluent in Spanish. Through Meetup.com, I found a nearby Spanish conversation group. I went for the first time last week and had a blast. There were 14 people of all ages and backgrounds who just wanted to practice their Spanish. It meets weekly, so all I have to do is get used to drinking a latte at 7 p.m. That seems doable. I’m finding that the more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities appear.

  14. I think you sum it up nicely – viewing retirement as an entry…a new chapter. That’s what started our encore voyage…we viewed the whole deal as an encore – the next step. What do we want to do next? Everything is possible. Love your spirit!

  15. I used to be in a panic about the concept of “retiring” until I realized it’s actually just “rewiring.” I also gained comfort in learning about all the people who did their best work after the age of 50, including Michelangelo, DaVinci, Monet and Grandma Moses. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Hi Glory – Thanks for reading and for commenting! Great point about Michelangelo, et al.
      I have written a post inspired by our Ladies’ Lunch. It will come out next week. Hope to see you soon.
      Donna

  16. Thank you for introducing your blog to me in a comment on my blog! I’m going back to the beginning of your blog to catch up on your story now. But I just wanted to say it’s so nice to hear a new voice in the retirement blogosphere. I just added you to my blogroll so my readers can enjoy your fresh perspective too!

    1. Thanks so much Syd! I appreciate being part of your blog roll. When I began planning my retirement, you were the first retirement blogger that I followed. Although I never commented (following blogs was new to me, so I really didn’t get the comment thing) your posts have been incredibly helpful.
      I look forward to reading more!

    1. Great mantra! For me, I think this mantra is just happening naturally.
      My husband and I marvel at how, in our work lives, we were at the gym at 5:00 a.m. and at work by 7:00.
      We are now awake fairly early, but we spend much time lounging and puttering before we are actually ready to go out the door.

    1. Thanks, Dee – I greatly appreciate the share. I’ve also shared this weekly link-up on my social media. I hope many more will continue to join us there!

  17. Thank you for this insightful post. I am starting to think about my own retirement and wondering what this next chapter of my life will look like. It’s encouraging to hear from someone who successfully made the transition.

    1. Hi, Christine – Thanks so much for stopping by. Planning your retirement is a very exciting time. If you have any questions that I can try to help answer for you, please do not hesitate to let me know.

  18. Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been a retired teacher for less than a year now and I have almost burned out doing all the things I said I would do when I had time. Now I’m at the other end of the spectrum, doing too little. I’ve got to find balance. Thanks for addressing this, it helps to hear of other’s experiences.

    1. Hi, Jill – Thanks for stopping by. I’m a retired educator too. I agree with you that it’s all about balance. Since you felt you were close to burnout, maybe doing little for the time being has been your body’s and mind’s way of finding some balance. Once you’ve caught your breath, it is definitely time to experiment with things that you will enjoy doing in retirement. Remember, if we don’t use it, we lose it!

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