Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Dismantling the Drive

Human drive is wondrous. Until the throttle gets stuck wide open.

It’s inspiring for me to see committed people pushing hard for something they believe in or wish to accomplish, putting in long hours intently focused on a single path. Greatness in all things mostly comes from that.

I was driven for many years. Self-employed, I was fortunate that work came to me without me asking for it. In fact, it came in a steady flow. A heavy steady flow. My challenge was to keep my head above the water line.

But when I decided to pull back on the throttle, when I felt there was enough money, the drive didn’t just stop.

In my mind, I was pulling back. But emotionally, I was being carried forward by the well-developed mental muscles of production. The drive to produce.

That lasted more than two years. When not working, which was my new norm, I suffered occasional galvanic anxiety that used to rise in my chest unannounced. It was like some claw that reached up from my gut. Anyone who suffers from anxiety knows the feeling. It’s as if you are at the mercy of some untamed force within you that has a will of its own.

So how do people who want to reduce their work but have habitually been driven to do more of it, deal with those urges?

One obvious way is to channel the drive elsewhere. Lots of retirees do this. Volunteer work. Part-time businesses. Organizing events. Leading civic campaigns.

My approach has been to dismantle the drive methodically: see it for what it is, consciously intend for it to decrease, tell myself convincing stories about why I don’t want it anymore, and wait for the calm after the long storm.

It's working. In fact, the drive no longer surges, it only flickers.

If you, like me, wish to defeat the drive to produce because you know in your heart nothing should have that sort of grip on you, chances are with diligence you’ll wake up one day and find it missing.

Is it the idea of being unemployed that makes some people fear retirement?

You are the project.