Retirement is hardest for a certain kind of person. Is this you? If so here’s 9 ways to flourish.

Old senior business man happy working in office

For some people, the years following full-time work fit like a glove. Yet others really struggle in their new skin. And the difference can have a lot to do with the way they’re made.

Those who are finding it hardest to adjust are what psychologists label Type A personality people. Unlike easy-going Type Bs, they are driven, competitive, organised, concerned to make things happen, ambitious, and desperate to use their time well.

Type As are easy to spot in the workplace – taking charge, aiming for perfection and getting wound up by the incompetence of others.

Of course, there are degrees to which this description is true. Not all Type Bs are so relaxed they’re horizontal. And not all Type As want to rule the world. But – and here’s the bad news –

Those with a tendency towards a Type A temperament face the greatest challenge in retirement.

Why? Because, when Type A people move on from fulltime work, the way they prefer to do life doesn’t change. And that can make for a very bad and highly frustrating fit for them and those around them.

On the personal front, retirement for a Type A means they’re now living in a world offering little challenge, responsibility or opportunity to ‘deliver’. That can result in feeling lost and abandoned due to the lack of a big reason to get up in the morning, a structure to their day and having responsibility on their shoulders.

This can show up as anything from a major attack of the grumps to frustration and even emotional illness. What’s more, Type As can be bad news for those close to them – particularly their spouses who may end up being treated as a surrogate employee.

I heard of one woman whose Type A husband was now demanding she folded the towels differently. He’d never cared about it for the past 50 years and this was not going to work!

So, if you’re a Type A personality what can you do to make your retirement years fulfilling rather than frustrating? Here are 9 positive actions to take.

  1. Build a new network: Social interaction and stimulation might be one of your biggest losses when exiting the workplace. Make sure the gap gets filled. Find stimulating, like-minded people to spend time with
  2. Identify new goals and challenges: Most Type A people have worked in settings where they thrived on having goals and achieving targets and matching performance metrics. If no longer having them leaves a hole then create new ones that fit into your new life.

    Perhaps it’s how far you’ll get down your domestic to-do list, how often you take a walk, the rate of progress in some new skill. For a mass of ideas regarding new challenges to face see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.
  3. Get out often. Fight boredom by doing things to burn off energy and reduce your stress levels. This is going to take more than endless rounds of golf.
  4. Volunteer: Countless worthwhile opportunities await your skills, experience and desire to make a difference in the lives of others. It may take some adjustment if you were once a top dog and now find yourself a small fish.

    Indeed, with that in mind, look for an opportunity that takes account of your Type A qualities. To consider the options and for wise advice see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Serving.
  5. Work at changing your behaviour: The fact is you will always be a Type A personality, but you can at least recognise what this means and try to make adjustments.

    Could you, for example, try to be more patient and less demanding? Could you try to take a back seat in the new circles you become part of rather than defaulting to an ‘I’ll do it’ approach?
  6. Be less time-driven: For someone used to having life dictated to by a schedule of appointments and meetings that can be a shock. Although time will always be precious for you, now it can be used differently. It’s no longer about how much you can cram in to the hours available.

    By all means put structure into your day. But give yourself permission to be more spontaneous and flexible. You could even write ‘time to chill’ in your day-planner and treat it as an appointment that has to be kept.
  7. Learn something new. Everyone who retires will benefit from learning a new skill or developing an old one. But this is especially important for Type A people. Studying, going to classes, joining an interest group, completing tasks and assignments, all have a positive role to play in making life more satisfying.
  8. See retirement as having a new job: You could even write yourself a job description – perhaps with a vision and mission statement. Define in words a role that has joy, relaxation, renewal, discovery and service. Then make plans to do it.
  9. Back pedal your competitiveness: A classic Type A person plays tiddlywinks with a four year old and cheats to win! When in competitive situations try to modify your behaviour by putting less emphasis on the score and outcome and more on simply enjoying the company.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. Most definitely a Type A, he’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.


  1. Thank you for these helpful words.Recognising who you are and who you would like to be are as important at 85 as at 55!

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife