Mike Carpenter and I were discussing a recent article we saw in the Harvard Business Review which struck a chord with us, as we have seen it happen to a number of clients and friends and, yes, it is true to say that Mike is reading fewer cycling magazines since he started on the Goldman Sachs Management Course!
The article emphasised that some people who are highly successful in busy careers and have enough money to live more than comfortably for the rest of their days become seriously depressed as they retire and become older. So what is going on here? The typical answer is that we all need a purpose in life and when we stop working we lose that reason for being. However, that is not necessarily the case as some of these people continue to work.
It may be the getting older element that is depressing, but we all know people who continue to be happy well into their nineties.
The article implied that the problem is much simpler and the solution more reasonable than continuing to work, or being Peter Pan.
People who achieve success are masters at doing things that keep them relevant as their decisions affect many others and their advice lands on eager ears so what they do and say matters to others and this gives them a strong feeling of self-worth. The maintenance of this relevancy is rewarding but when we lose it withdrawal can be painful.
The cure? We need to master irrelevancy. At a certain point in our lives we will matter less, but it is vital to be able to cope with that. Many of us can go for a few days without having a particular purpose, such as solving other people’s problem or making important business decisions, but can we survive for a longer period?
The advantage of being able to do so is; freedom, as you can do what you want, when you want in the way that you want. This freedom and its enjoyment can be the anti-depressant needed to enjoy life after retirement, even for those who have been defined by their jobs.
It is important to practice this irrelevancy and here are ways you can start:
- Check emails when at your desk and just a few times a day.
- When you meet new people avoid telling them what you do. You will then notice the difference between speaking to connect, which is far more enjoyable and important, rather than speaking to make yourself look important.
- When someone shares a problem listen without offering a solution (if you do this with employees they will become more competent and self-sufficient).
- Try sitting outside without doing anything.
- Talk to a stranger with no purpose in mind other than to enjoy the interaction.
As a result, you will notice that even when you are (career) irrelevant you can feel pleasure in simple moments and purposeful interactions. And even though you feel irrelevant, you can matter to yourself. Do the things that matter to you not what matters to somebody else and enjoy the freedom that gives you.