Daniel H. Pink, the American writer, speechwriter, and motivational speaker, cited significant research that challenged a very popular workplace notion: rewarding behavior we want in the workplace will result in more of it while punishing behavior we don’t want in the workplace will result in less of it. Instead, the research showed 3 factors consistently lead to better performance and personal satisfaction:
1. Autonomy: being self-directed, to direct our own lives
2. Mastery: urge to get better at what we’re doing, especially if it’s challenging, fun, satisfying and makes a contribution
3. Purpose: having a transcendent purpose that makes each day better and also attracts colleagues with great talent
For people after 50 the predominant career culture has included a schism between the workplace where one does work for money and away-from-the-workplace (weekends, vacation, retirement) where fun occurs. Our use of language has perpetuated this schism including Work/Life Balance as if Work and Life were separate. Balance is essential. But what is it we’re really wanting to balance?
Which brings me to my objection to retirement as an institution we have fantasized about: golf, volunteering, little or no stress, summer days, interesting projects, time to read, time with the grandchildren. As if we’ve worked our tails off and our entitled reward is an end state of lots of leisure and few demands. Is this good for us?
I know from my research and writing that many people are totally enjoying their retirement. I also know that many, many people – after the initial retirement thrill has worn off – fall into depression and the desperate need to keep themselves busy as if “doing” were the antidote to death.
Assuming that autonomy, mastery, and purpose are key ingredients in a rewarding after 50 life – regardless of employment, marital, geographical, financial, wellness, and social status – how much better off might we all be if we began to really look at what we need to balance and how to go about it?