Collective Effervescence, the Key to a Joy-Filled Life in Retirement
Author: Lisa Stornaielo
Recently, I read an opinion piece entitled There’s a Specific Kind of Joy We’ve Been Missing in the NY Times. In it, Dr. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton who focuses on how people find motivation and meaning in daily life, claims that COVID has robbed us of our collective effervescence.
What Is Collective Effervescence?
He defines Collective Effervescence as small moments of mastery, connection, and meaning. They are as big as a space shuttle team working on a mission to Mars and as small as a group of sports fans doing the wave at a baseball game. Grant describes it as “ the synchrony you feel when you slide into rhythm with strangers on a dance floor, colleagues in a brainstorming session, cousins at a religious service, or teammates on a soccer field. Collective effervescence happens when joie de vivre spreads through a group.”
In the early 20th century, the concept was conceived by sociologist Émile Durkheim to describe the sense of energy and harmony people feel when they come together in a group around a shared purpose.
Grant states that it is a universal need we all share, both introverts and extroverts alike crave it even though they may not be aware of it, and without it, we can languish instead of flourish. If unattended, it can lead to depression and anxiety.
Why This, Why Now?
This article resonated with me for several reasons. Like many people during the pandemic, one of the biggest things I missed was hanging with my peeps. This was exacerbated at the start of the pandemic when I received a generous severance package that propelled me into early retirement. Working in the financial services industry for decades, I had the financial freedom to consider the whole notion of retirement and what I want to do with this next phase of my life.
Like many people, I had illusions about what this time would be like. After the first few months of not having to wake up to an alarm and spending my time taking up pottery, painting, and dusting off the golf clubs, I got bored.
I was fortunate to have a dear friend and colleague who shared my curiosity around reinventing the traditional notion of retirement. I craved the experience of building something meaningful with a team of folks I loved and respected. That had always brought out the best in me and stimulated my creativity and innovation.
My youngest was heading off to college, and I saw all the support and resources she received to find her career path. My friend and I set off on a journey to find resources for folks at this junction of their lives – retirement – but sadly we only saw financial planning support. There was nothing to support life planning to help people find fulfillment and meaning in this next chapter.
Our Research or The Difference That Makes The Difference
In Design Thinking terms, we decided to fall in LOVE with the problem, so we interviewed over 50 people (retirees and pre-retirees) to learn from their experiences. Through our research, my business partner and I found that many people like us have the freedom and flexibility of time. Some of them thrive and forge exciting new chapters while others wither both emotionally and physically.
One of the elements that we found makes a difference is that people with a strong sense of purpose and community tend to flourish rather than languish. They reignite and connect to a sense of purpose and create moments of collective effervescence within communities of like-minded people. These moments tie them to their sense of purpose and fill them with energy.
As I continue to chart my course in this next chapter of my life, I find that I have reconnected with my sense of purpose by helping others live up to their potential while surrounding myself with a community of like-minded people on the same mission. My business partner and I have founded a consultancy, The Future of You, to share our research and help people create their path forward.
Recently I took up Pickleball and am intrigued and energized by the collective effervescence of my league. It energizes and fuels my spirit, and it gets me inspired, motivated, and jumping out of bed in the morning. It also helps me balance my life and work on this new business venture in concert with my artistic and recreational pursuits.
What about you?
What is your sense of purpose, and where do you find your collective effervescence? What will energize you to live a life of meaning, purpose, and connection in this next chapter?
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