Herd Mentality – Finding a New Herd?

It’s hard to acknowledge that I follow a herd mentality. Life is defined by social norms. As social animals, we find life easier and more comfortable to adhere to group roles or mimic group behavior – it promotes safety, saves energy, and the approval is a source of pleasure.

So of course, given that almost my entire social sphere is still working, I’m more comfortable with being perceived as a part-time, free-lance worker.  I “fit in” if I’m working. It allows me to keep a part of my former identity and the validation that comes with that identity. And being an early retiree, almost all my work colleagues assumed I would continue to work.

So, since retiring, I’ve continued to work part-time as a consultant in my field of expertise.  Working is my herd mentality – comfortably adhering to group roles and expectations.

This past May, I got caught up in the work, not thinking about life. I returned to the regular work habits of years – juggling multiple projects, loving the fact I was being asked my opinion on things, but also not exercising, not blogging, not connecting with friends. Yes, I returned to my workaholic habits.

And I didn’t like it at all.

I’m not sure how to give up part-time work. Since I struggle with the workaholic tendencies, I think I need to.  But it’s hard to be different from your social sphere.  I’ve realized I don’t know how to “fit in” with friends or even how to live life if I’m not working as part of it.

How do I find a new herd mentality to become part of? How do I find a social sphere of (young-ish) retirees who are not working? Will this give me alternative role models and help me feel like part-time work is not the must-do to fit in?

Yes, there are many retirees (especially on line) who are not working.   They are active travellers, active grandparents, and/or active hobbyists. I’m none of those things. I also know that, just like Facebook, you don’t see the total picture of other’s lives on blogs and I should not do any inferiority-focused comparisons.   I guess I assume that by creating a IRL connections with a tribe of non-working retirees I’ll see more real pictures of how to live day-to-day life not working.

I’d love to hear your POV about this struggle of mine.


Picture Credit: Tim Doyle, Gnu Herd, Africa Safari 2017

23 thoughts on “Herd Mentality – Finding a New Herd?

  1. Hi Pat, As you know I’ve written a lot about the transition. I had a tough time myself. I just finished writing a post about longtime friendships from work. That said, the best way to adjust is to break the work pattern. I let go of all ties that were, yes, tying me to my old work life, including acquaintances. I kept the meaningful relationships built on mutual interests. I also joined some groups. Some I stayed with; others I have moved on. It’s a process and takes time. There will be failures and successes. Stick with the groups that work for you. I found joining OLLI and taking courses at other colleges opened the doors to finding retirees with similar interests. Yes, keep trying. This takes perseverance…it not easy leaving the herd! Hugs, K

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kathy, Perservance might need to be my word of the year next year! I’m writing a post on relationships right now – my way of finding that new herd. I’m trying to gear myself up for another round of trying new things, with our house move we have a new neighborhood, new yoga place (need to find one!), new habits.

      OLLI has been on my radar, but I have not taken the plunge on that. Maybe now is the right time. I’m also going to try some additional Meet-Ups this fall/winter. I’m working on my new action plan for making this move successful. Thanks for the encouragement!


  2. Do you need to give up part-time work, or do you need to redefine “part-time”? Of course I don’t know the details, but your description of work above sounds to me like full-time sporadic consultant work. Can you set a rule for yourself that you only accept one project at a time? Maybe ask your husband to act as your “manager”, or find a mentor/friend to help if you have difficulty saying no. Alternatively can you try selling your consultancy on a project as a maximum of 2 or 3 days a week? If you enjoy what you are doing (so long as it’s not overwhelming), then why not try doing it a different way?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mrs ETT, you’ve got it right! I need to learn how to say no to multiple projects. And I’m actually doing that this weekend…turning down a big project because I need to (re)focus on life. Scary because it eliminates one thing before another is in place. But, yes, I need to say no more often – something this workaholic has trouble with, but learning.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Congratulations Pat – it is a huge step. You need to recognise the small wins along the way, because changing the habits of a lifetime will never happen overnight. It’s like trying to give up perfectionism, or begin saving for early retirement. We all take two steps forward, one step back. I’m thinking of all that lovely time you will have at your disposal!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Pat. I just ‘retired ‘ in March and started my blog. The novelty is wearing off. I volunteered for a clinical trial at UBC with a group of seniors for 8 weeks. That was fun and interesting. I have not found other volunteer opportunities to be very interesting or appealing. I do use my Pacer app to reach my goal of 10,000 steps a day. I have got my bike out of storage and am getting a more comfortable seat. So I am trying to increase my physical activity. I took some art classes. I found I was over scheduled.. busier than when I was working. Now I have finished with all of that and am not sure what to do next. I have a few more volunteer opportunities to explore. I’d really like to monetize my Blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you’ve tried on a lot of new things in a short time. I’ve tried some as well, and found some that stuck and others that didn’t. Art classes for me were fun but not the passion I was looking for. I’ve enjoyed the blogging – found some community in this virtual space which is something that is meaningful to me. (No desire to monetize it…but good luck with that vision, although if the novelty is already wearing off, is it really what you want?). Two things that has really helped me choose things to try and continue to find the next thing is 1) getting really clear on my personal values and interests (not the should, but the real me) and 2) creating a possibilities list (mine has over 150 things on it…. another blogger I know has over 250 on hers). I pick items off the possibilities list that really fit my values and interests… some work out, others not so much. But I keep trying. Right now, I’m trying to boost my physical activity, trying charity work this next couple of months, and looking into exploring a new interest space (birding). Having been retired 3 years now, I’m still a work in progress. Many folks told me it would take 1-2 years to transition, but I still feel like I’m still doing it. Slow learner perhaps, but I keep trying! You should too. Start a possibilities list – read others blogs for inspiration – it’s where I get many ideas for my list.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pat, it looks like you’ve received a lot of great advice! I may have retired from my day job, but since I still teach at a university (my part-time gig of the last 7 years), I know I’m working, which is important since hubby is still working. As summer closes, I’m amazed how much time I spent alone at home working on the blog, my book, photography and some school prep. As much as I enjoy the quiet, I look forward to going back to campus. I think when we have meaningful work of our own choosing, at (early) retirement age, life is just that more rewarding. You will find your groove, Pat!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Right now, this newest transition in our life (downsizing) is really making me feel disconnected, but I’m going to work on it. Work on a vision and an action plan…that’s will be my newest work project!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that giving yourself the gift of time, without ‘I shoulds’, may be very helpful. Transitioning into retirement is a very individual process. For me, it felt quite natural. For Richard, it took two-years (and 600+ kms on the Camino trail) before he could comfortably write ‘retired’ on even the most mundane form asking for his current employment status.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear… there is just NO WAY I can even contemplate a 600 km walk to get comfortable with this transition. While I totally enjoyed reading about you doing it, it has not been put on my possibilities list. It’s in the same place as jumping out of an airplane – great for other people, but not for me.

      My hubby transitioned into retirement without any issues, like you. It’s a bit frustrating to me that he’s got no problems with this next stage at all.. except me creating to-do lists for him. His plans and my expectations (of his honey-dos) often are often not aligned. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not sure I have a herd either… or maybe I have a few mini-herds (sometimes consisting of just one member… me). I’m not a big group joiner anyway. I have a few friends (some working, some not) that I do different things with. I think that as you continue to do what YOU want to do, you’ll find a few kindred spirits.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not a big joiner, but I always wanted to be part of a “group”. I never did the sorority thing in college, nor the 20’s girlfriend click. The song from Cheers was my ideal… “a place where everybody knows your name”. I had that at work. That was my herd, my village, my tribe, my place. Now that I’ve retired, I’m still trying to be part of that, but I need to move on. I’ll keep searching for kindred spirits… I have a few in my life and I think I’ll try and use some affirmation, ask the universe, positive thinking approaches to see if I can acquire more!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not sure I have the answer for you. I am currently not working in my field of professional training, though this is more because I haven’t pursued opportunities than because I don’t want to do so. I have been so busy with other things (earning my intro sommelier credentials, getting ready to do voiceover/narration work, fixing up and selling our old house, rebuilding my tools and configuring my shop, doing scores of projects around our new house, whew!) that I haven’t missed work at all. However, I have also been one who is very content to be an N of one. I truly, truly do not care if I am like no one else. I view myself as setting standards, not conforming to them. Perhaps that’s a touch arrogant, but that’s really how I feel. I feel absolutely no pressure to be like anyone else or to do certain things in order to “fit in”. If anyone wants to be my friend, they’d better be ready to accept me as I am, because I will not change what matters to me to conform to someone’s idea of what I “should” be.

    Perhaps one idea you could pursue is only allowing yourself to commit to one part-time gig at a time. No doubling up and overlapping so as not to activate your workaholism gene. Ha ha. Perhaps you could also commit to a month off between gigs to maintain some perspective. I don’t see why you should not do SOME work if it’s fulfilling for you. Just don’t let it take over your life! Good luck.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can say I told someone back in late May that I wouldn’t even contemplate taking on another project until end of the summer…so there is hope for me! Of course, right now, I’m talking with 3 different teams on potential projects for this fall. Ack… what am I doing!?! I need to find those projects outside of work that inspire me… like your sommelier credentials. Of course, right now, our down-size moving is taking a lot or mind-space…and there was that little jaunt we took to Africa. Sometimes I think I’m my own worst critic/enemy.


  8. Hi Pat,
    Great post. I can totally identify. I’ve been retired for a bit over two years and have done a lot of hand wringing in that time, convinced I should be continuing to continue to work. Sometimes it’s a huge new career that I have in mind and sometimes it’s part-time work. Often, it’s writing more books.

    I’ve done NONE of those things because my workaholism would get me into trouble. When I left my career, I was so fried, so exhausted and frazzled, I honestly thought I might die. That fear has kept me from pursuing any number of things that would have been appealing to the old me.Of course, the exhaustion meant that nothing was appealing so there’s that too.

    Here’s the good news, Pat. In the last few weeks, I’ve started to love and appreciate the openness to my days. For the first time in forever, I’m not beating myself up for not having my old sense of mission, of contribution on a grand scale. I’m still in transition, the angst is not all resolved and tied up with a pretty bow, but I’m starting to feel just the tiniest bit of ease and a whole lot of happiness.

    I wouldn’t be in this spot if I’d continued working. I just know that about myself. However, now that I am starting to feel better, I’m also open to the possibility of work. Not in my old field, not where I was an expert – those days are over. But I’m keeping my eyes open and I’ll see what might come and if it feels right.

    As I’m writing this message and trying to come up with some specific help to offer you, I’m realizing that the sign for me has to do with commitment. When I first retired, I was commitment phobic. As a fellow workaholic, I imagine that might be true for you too? After a lifetime of deadlines and other people’s needs and travel and relentless work and, and, and, I was completely unwilling to have any commitments at all, even pleasurable ones. They made me feel resentful. In the past two days I’ve signed up for a six-week Drawing for Absolute Beginners class, and a class where I’ll learn to play the ukulele. For me, this is huge… and it’s a sign that I may be ready to contemplate work (or not). Who knows?

    And Pat? Ditto on the not a traveller, not a grandparent (or parent), not a hobbyist. I’m just tentatively figuring out what my interests might be. For now, that’s good enough for me. In fact, it’s exciting!

    Give yourself the gift of time, Pat. You deserve it. Oh, one more suggestion that was really helpful to me. I worked with a life coach a few years before I retired. We came up with two statements that I turned into an art piece and that I refer to often. They were “Do I trust myself enough to give myself a year without expectations?” and “The next step doesn’t have to be based on the last step.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do appreciate the openness, on some days. And some days it makes me crazy as my workaholic tendencies scream – “What are you doing today? Stop wasting your life!” Yet, I totally get your commitment phobia…. I’ve not signed up for any classes because of that. (Ukulele? Really? Oh my!) Because of this, I know I’m still “in transition” and trying to figure my next stage out.

      Working part time has been a link to my past life…and I let it get out of control. My challenge is to keep focusing on the life part of things. I’ve said many times… for me, work is easy….living is hard.


  9. To be honest, I still haven’t found my herd after 6 years. My husband hasn’t retired, and although I have friends and acquaintances who have, their interests often don’t converge with mine. The end result is that I spend a lot of time alone.
    I’ve gotten used to going places and doing things on my own. My independence and sense of adventure have been heightened because of it. Would I prefer to have a ‘partner in crime’? Absolutely, but I don’t, and I won’t let it stop me.

    You’ve said what you don’t want to have or aren’t doing … but you haven’t said what you want your retirement to look like. Understanding that is a huge step to knowing what to do next.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Joanne, a great observation! I thought I had a good picture of what I wanted retirement to look like, but now I’m thinking that it needs more work. Our upcoming move is a great time to also create some new habits for that lifestyle vision. I will be spending time next few weeks on this! Thanks for the nudge.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Classes and volunteering provide he herds you need.

    I take bridge, yoga and other exercise classes. I volunteer in several organizations (check out aauw, American asso of University women, raise scholarship money for girls in stem and college for women), a historical building, helping neighbors. I am tempted to do more, but restrain myself. Book club. Church. All kinds of options. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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