How do you measure progress in your life? The evidence from the literature on productivity clearly states that seeing that you are making progress is a critical factor in sustaining good work and keeping teams positive and strong. Well, the same is true for maintaining your sense of self and mental health throughout your life. You need to feel like you are progressing… but toward what is the question, and the fact is that what you are progressing towards should change with age!
0-7 Incarnating into the Body (The world is Good)
Loss of Teeth
7-14 Discovery of Self (The world is Beautiful)
14-21 Discover the World (The world is True/False)
Adult – Expansion
21-28 Founding a life (Testing oneself)
28–35 Building a life (Organising oneself/others) ** Peak Capacity **
35–42 Introspection OR Pushing Through (Preparing for the second half)
Elder – Giving Back
42-49 The Dark Wood (Loss of confidence & direction… discover new values)
49-56 Flourishing (Doing the 30’s but better! Experience becomes Wisdom)
56-63 Legacy (the final test)
63-70 Children of God (values embodied)
70+ This is complex but suffice to say that many of the greatest artists, composers, jurists, and politicians did their best ever work in this period: Verdi, Strauss, Shutz, Sophocles, Sibelus, our own Emily Kngwarreye, Goethe… the list is endless. Hokusai, the famous Japanese painter who made the ubiquitous woodcarving “The Great Wave off Konugawa” is famous for saying that nothing he did before 73 was really worth much.
What we value as we pass through these different phases of life changes. They should change.
We live in a culture that idolizes the expansion phase. Everything has calibrated the values of people who are at their most energetic (about one-quarter of Australia's population): productivity, growth, and testing oneself against the world.
These are not the values that should underpin life at every other phase, only at THAT phase! However, everything around us, our whole world, tells us that they are not only the most important values to live by and organize our society around, we believe they are the ONLY values that matter at all!!
The impact of course is that what younger and older people value most is lost, and also those people who have the most to contribute to culture, generosity, and inner growth are marginalized or assessed by the values of people they are not! Worse, they assess themselves by those values… YOU assess yourself on those values!
Are you over 35, or better yet, 42?
Is improving your productivity, organizational ability, energy, testing, and overcoming still what you think of as progress?
Do you make yourself wrong if you don’t achieve the standards for these things you’ve set yourself in your mind?
Do you realize that achieving those standards, set in your years of peak capacity will become ever harder as the years roll by?
Do you realize that by focussing on chasing the mirage of those values you’re missing out on discovering what you can really bring to the world? What other values you should be assessing yourself by?
Stopping long enough to listen, looking inwards and backward instead of forwards and out is the key to hearing what is changing and calibrating your life to what is calling for you… what you value now, not what you were taught or told to value and have taken at face value ever since.
There is probably nothing in the world I love more than walking beside people as they make this transition and supporting them to discover what they really value. If this interests you, take the time to use this link and book a short chat with me. It’s always worth learning a bit more!
My Life as an Example
You’ve seen me write about how new values emerge as we pass through the middle years of life? What’s really cool is that this also means that what you mean by progress changes.
Before covid, I used to fly around with my little suitcase on wheels and my sharp clothes to lead seminars and teach stuff. It felt good doing that because it marked success for me. I valued being a financially successful business dude doing good work and flitting through airports.
A few weeks back I did it again after the Covid hiatus, and guess what… I didn’t care about it. It’s not that I didn’t like the trip, I love flying, but it no longer meant ‘success’… it was no longer progress. Instead, I got a real buzz from the fact I was able to share some amazing stuff with the company that hired me to lead their strategic planning session… we went wherever that group needed to go and they were up for ANYTHING!
Leading that seminar, I felt that I had achieved something for them. It felt good and I realized that what progress meant had shifted for me. I was doing the same thing but in a different way and I could tick a box called ‘progress’ because I could see how new I was starting to fulfill new values that have been emerging in me.
So, what’s progress mean to you?
If this interests you, there may be a number of ways I can help: