Fellowship vs Solitude

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There has been an emphasis on teams and groups in organisations for a number of years now and for good reason. However, the latter suits the extroverts but is not always the choice of the introverts. Some people function very well on their own and prefer to do so, given a choice.

Demonstrating that one is a team player has become a key factor in career success over recent years. Much has been written about the value of teams and the overall argument put forward is that a team can be so much more successful and achieve a great deal more than the sum total of the individual skills. The obsession with teams and groups means that not preferring to be a team player is seen as an anathema. It also places a significant break on your career.

It is true that as humans we are social creatures and we tend to seek out the company of others. However, there are also those of us who prefer our own company without constantly having to be surrounded by others. The response of society at all levels is to try and reform the ‘lonely’ person. The loner is pitied and everything is done to try and fix the situation whether the loner in question wants it or not.

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Different people have different levels of aloneness they can tolerate. The benefit of either complete retirement or reduced working commitments mean that you have the luxury of choosing selective loneliness without having to justify it to either team obsessed organisations or the wider society. Finally you can select solitude without justification or guilt.

The benefit of having more time to yourself is that you can dictate the pace at which you want to do things. It is within your power to choose to do or not do certain things without having to weigh up the pros and cons of not including someone else. This may seem either selfish or a lonely person that needs to be pitied. However, for the loners among you now is the time to enjoy the luxury of that coffee or shopping trip on your own and at your own pace when you choose.

However, solitude may be a challenging adjustment for those who have been surrounded by others most of their lives. Not being prepared for it will be a shock to many retirees. There are so many benefits to solitude, but as with any activity or art form, it takes practice if it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Our careers provide us with structures and a social life, which when we retire, disappears. To some this may be a longed for blessing, indulging in the many activities they have looked forward to pursuing. On the other hand if you haven’t created a social life beyond your career to suit your personal preferences, it may mean you are deprived of most of the social contact you had during your career.

Many people think that planning for retirement means the financial aspects only. Although critical, it is no guarantee of a successful and contented retirement. You may think that you will plan what to do with your time nearer to retirement and flesh out the vague ideas you might have at that stage. Not a good idea, believe me.

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What is of equal importance is to plan what to do with your time when all the demands of work are no longer part of your life. As a coach I have worked with many people over the years that are caught by the unexpected arrival of retirement or reduced working commitments. It can be traumatic if no thought and planning was given to what life beyond work might look like.When planning for retirement, make sure to include reflections on balancing your own particular needs of fellowship and solitude.

A word of advice, don’t leave the planning too late. Someone like a personal coach could be a valuable resource to get you started and thinking about life beyond work and the adventures you could pursue, if you chose to do so. As with anything else in life, it will be what you make of it.

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