Since retirement, I realize that aspects of my personality are gradually changing. In my former identity as a CEO I was usually at centre stage and expected to respond with out-going friendliness to everyone. I was expected to speak knowledgeably and contemporaneously, to respond with wit, and to show decisiveness in the face of uncertainty. In short, I behaved as an extrovert and demonstrated those qualities associated with successful leadership.
Now that my life has changed, I realize how difficult it was to continuously demonstrate these behaviours and perform to meet these expectations. Was I ‘performing’ as an extrovert while my true nature was that of an introvert?
The expectations were stressors. Since leaving the professional expectations behind, I realize that I am more inclined toward being an introvert. I am self-contained, creative and contemplative. I think carefully before taking action, have excellent recall of past events and prefer socializing with one or two people. I use these qualities for methodical problem-solving.
What’s the Difference between being an Extrovert and being an Introvert?
Extroverts are categorized as people who are gregarious, assertive, enthusiastic. They seek excitement, enjoy large social gatherings and are energized when around other people.
Introverts are more reserved and less out-going. Too much stimulation overwhelms them. They and enjoy time spent alone. Reflection and preference for interactions with a few close friends characterizes their nature.
Extraversion is highly valued Western Society, especially in North America where a positive, outward orientation is rewarded — and expected — in business and in social life. The strong, silent introvert, while possessing many valuable skills, is often misunderstood and considered less intelligent, less ambitious and more withdrawn.
Can you be both an introvert and an extrovert?
Although some personality theorists believe that each of us has a primary personality type and a secondary type, most people demonstrate some qualities of each personality type. Behaviours fluctuate depending on the situation. Because people adapt, they learn behaviours and respond to expectations allowing them to react and respond as required.
Living is complex. Sometimes it is appropriate to walk alone on the beach and reflect. Sometimes only deep relationships and quiet moments with close friends allow you to relax. On the other hand, sometimes the stimulation of lots of talk, interruptions, spontaneous encounters with many people are necessary to energize and restore balance.
My Changing Identity– am I becoming more of an introvert?
As I focus on my basic personality type, I find that more of the introvert qualities are pre-dominant in this early phase of retirement. The change may be a happy be-product of a more relaxed lifestyle free of career expectations.
Healthy doses of solitude restore my energy more than socializing in large groups. I still enjoy big parties and other gatherings, but prefer to attend such events infrequently. I do not miss the ‘meet and greet’ social engagements that came with my work. The conversation and stimulation of small gatherings with close friends is preferable.
Having time to appreciate the simple joys of each day is the greatest gift of retirement. Deep reflection was impossible with 16 hour work days and long commutes. Now I notice many more ‘small’ things — the squawking blue jays on the deck as soon as my cats walk past the window, the sound of raindrops, the noise from wind in the trees — and I appreciate how such small gifts can restore my energy.
I have learned that I need periods of solitude. Whether its reading, exercising, writing or puttering around the house, these activities restore me and ‘re-balance’ my brain. I politely decline invitations for energy-draining events in favour of spending time alone.
Interestingly, among my retired friends, many people have become more extroverted and gregarious when free of career responsibilities. They socialize extensively, look for opportunities to interact with others, and seek the stimulation that comes from a full calendar of travel and events.
Because so many important life changes begin with retirement, it is important to know yourself and understand that your needs are unique. Your environment and your health will exert an influence on your personality and your behaviour. It is impossible to pigeon-hole he complex nature of personality into one ‘true’ type but knowledge of innate tendencies will help in accepting who you are and deciding on what your postworksavvy needs.
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