Reality Check: Power in Retirement

Among other needs, Dr. Wm. Glasser asserts that we all have a basic need for power. Before you get too excited and protest that you have no such need, let’s explore what that power need might look like.

If you have an opinion that’s important to you, would you like other people to listen respectfully? When you enter a restaurant, would you like someone to acknowledge your presence? When you’ve worked hard and accomplished a difficult task, would you like to hear, “Great job!”?

Those are examples of this very basic need—acknowledgement that you matter, you have value, you count.

When retired, some folks may find that satisfying the need for power is even more challenging than before. Even if you didn’t consider your work valuable, work was still a place you needed to be. Now, it may feel like you’re not needed anywhere.

Further, retirement typically comes along with age, which brings a few effects of its own, doesn’t it? With aging can come people telling you what to do, like doctors telling you to make appointments. If that’s combined with an assumption that your time isn’t valuable because after all…you’re retired, you may find that your power need is far from satisfied.

How do we satisfy the power need? Here are two suggestions.

1. Being recognized by others as having value.

It’s hard to feel valued if you can’t find evidence that anyone else recognizes your value. Even when you know that what you do, how you act, indeed, who you are, is worthwhile, it’s considerably more satisfying if someone notices.

If you seldom feel appreciated, look carefully at your interactions. I’m not suggesting that you break up with ‘friends’ who argue, criticize, or put you down. However, I do suggest that you think about those with whom you spend your precious time, which is, after all, your life. Consider expanding your circle to include folks who have enough self-assurance so they don’t feel the need to treat others poorly.

That said, some folks receive recognition yet fail to accept it. Have you ever heard, “You did a wonderful job” and brushed it off? Think again. When you receive a compliment, it’s an opportunity to satisfy your need for power. Learn to accept recognition when it’s offered. Take it, be gracious, say thank you!

2. Knowing that you have worth.

Everybody has worth, although it may not always feel that way. If you doubted your worth, lacked self-esteem, or had marginal confidence before you retired, then retiring likely won’t automatically make everything better!

One effective way to feel worthy is to do something you want to do that you know is worthwhile. Give yourself a focus. Whether it’s a hobby, a volunteer effort, or even a job, do something that counts. Grand gestures aren’t necessary; all kinds of actions have value. Act, and then choose to feel the power that comes with knowing you are doing something that matters.

Satisfying the basic needs that I’ve discussed in the last few columns can make the difference between an enjoyable, fulfilling retirement versus a lonely, difficult one. What do you think?

This entry was posted in Power and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.