We’re all walking our own unique path through life, but enough similarities exist between our experiences to allow us to have a meaningful conversation about the journey. That’s why we’re here! Asking a particular question will resonate for many of us, although in profoundly different ways.
One method of identifying which questions might hold the most potential for opening up our heart’s desires is to look at where we fall within the stages of life. Society uses many labels to categorize individuals: child/teen/adult; single/married/separated; students/workers/retirees (and yes, stay-at-home parents are most definitely workers).
Rather than saddle you with another label, I’d like to focus on the stage of your journey through life. It’s as simple to describe as the bookmarked spot in your favorite novel: beginning, middle, or end. While these distinctions might seem to correlate with age, and often do, anyone can choose to start their lives over (professionally, romantically, or even radically).
What’s important to remember is that each stage carries with it unique goals and motivations. I’ve included a few questions in each section to help you identify which stage feels right for you. Feel free to read through them all though—the blueprint for our lives is designed like a set of house plans…each stage benefits from a healthy examination of the one before.
Hopefully we all enjoyed some of the magic that imbues the childhood years. What I’m focusing on here is the Beginning of Adulthood. It might have occurred when you hit eighteen and graduated high school. Or maybe not until somewhere in your twenties. For others, life’s stark realities might have caught up with you all too early. At some point, however, it sunk in that we were starting out on this journey, and were expected to “have a plan.” Or at least something surface-level to tell people when asked about our future.
This stage is defined by the concept of finding and/or proving ourselves within the world. It can cover a lot of different environments: in our professional or educational community; in our relationships, whether friendly or romantic; and within ourselves as we search for our ultimate sense of belonging.
This is when we build our foundation. We sort out our priorities and discover our values. Daily life tends to focus on the “right here, right now” needs. But deep within, our hearts are busy building hopes and dreams for the future, filled with stories of how our lives should unfold.
I certainly wrestled with these thoughts in my late teens and twenties, but I don’t feel like I really did them justice. I wasn’t ready to listen to the answers just yet. Part of my epiphany for writing this blog was the realization that anyone, at any stage in life, can start over at the beginning. I’m making a fresh start, examining my values and creating new dreams for a very different future. And so can you….
At some point, most often without even realizing it, we end up transitioning from uncertain young adults into competent (or at least practiced) grown-ups. This stage tends to focus on growing your life. It might look like hours of dedicated work to turn a job into a career. Or it could involve starting a family and putting down roots. Maybe your focus is on building a tribe of friends and neighbors in the community that most feels like home. Perhaps your middle involves all three!
This is the stage where we erect walls atop our foundation. One of the important qualities of a home’s walls is that they are straight, so they won’t fall over. So we surround ourselves with our people, the ones we know we can trust to give us shelter and support in times of crisis. Some of us may question the initial assumptions and directions of our lives—changing the “floor plan” before we start adding color. Soon enough, though, we start decorating the walls of our home with personal touches. In this stage, we’re discovering our unique style—the attitudes that can help us through the harsh reality of our fragile, ever-changing lives.
Now that I’m in my forties, these type of questions keep creeping into my thoughts. It’s especially challenging to consider my LIFE PURPOSE or how to live authentically when I feel shaky about my foundational beliefs. Currently I’m questioning the expectations of my youth, evaluating whether the things and places and people that decorate my life truly represent me, rather than just a generic blueprint for adult life.
I certainly imagine that I’ll want to take stock of my life as I start getting closer to its imagined end point (hopefully still decades off into the future). End of life reflections typically examine all of the precious gifts that have made your journey unique: family, friends, careers, accomplishments, failures, lessons, and regrets. There’s a tendency to look back, wanting to find patterns of behavior or choices that help explain how you got from Point A to Point B. The conversations I’ve had with people in this stage seem to be a combination of nostalgia for the past and an enlightened vision of what really matters.
This stage involves nailing down the shingles on our respective homes. First of all, building a roof provides the ultimate shelter—it keeps the rain out! Adults in this phase have often accumulated enough wisdom to know what works for them and what doesn’t. Therefore, they don’t allow anything in that might dampen their lives (whether that’s toxic people, too much stuff, or societal expectations that just don’t fit).
Once you’ve spent a while in this stage, it’s also time to make peace with the house you’ve got. This applies not just to the end of your life, but also to the end of a job, a relationship, or even your assumption of a healthy mind and body. You can always accept where you’ve been, learning to view the past with kindness and compassion. This stage can be about crafting a new story, not of failure or regret, but of lessons learned and the courage to keep taking chances.
It’s also important to realize that the past doesn’t have to be written in concrete. Any good contractor will affirm that you can always redecorate—whether that’s tearing down a wall or putting on an addition. It’s never too late to make changes in life, big or small. You just need to find the right team, the right tools, and a little time.
While I’m far from the end of life, some of the questions that matter here have been bubbling up into my life lately. In fact they’re a huge part of the reason this blog exists.
And perhaps the one question I heard recently that haunts me the most…
When you put it that way, spending energy and resources on things that my 90-year-old self wouldn’t value seems like a waste of time. Right now I feel a bit like I’m balancing on the tipping point of a pyramid. I’m half-way through life: looking back on what matters; reconsidering if my current life really suits me; and trying to make choices that I can be proud of at the end of this life’s journey.
Maybe you’re firmly set in one of these life stages, or maybe you’re straddling all three. Either way, take a few moments to sit in silence this week and consider where you’re at.
Does it feel good, like you are exactly where you’re supposed to be?
Do you want to rebuild?
Or do you have questions?
Feel free to share them below so we can talk about what matters most to you.