Are you starting to feel like the old skin of an old you doesn’t fit any more? Do you feel like your old way of doing things isn’t working any more?
If you think back to who you were twenty years ago you were a different person, right? You had different experiences, you had different priorities and your perspective was different. It’s easy to accept change over long periods of time, but sometimes a period of transition can seem sudden, turbulent or confusing.
Whether a transition is enforced by life or business circumstances, or whether it’s a natural phase of maturation as priorities, motivation and focus of attention naturally change over time, any period of change can seem unsettling.
Change is natural of course. One of the seven Hermetic principles of the universe is The Principle of Rhythm which states that ‘Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall’. This principle can be paraphrased in Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ oft-quoted saying; “The only constant is change”.
"The only constant is change"
Instead of fighting against change a more effective tactic is to learn to flow with change. Instead of feeling unsure, unfulfilled or uncharacteristically stuck wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a framework to describe natural stages of development in adulthood?
Well fortunately there is! Just as changes in childhood are marked by distinct phases - infancy, middle childhood and adolescence - psychologist Carl Jung described four stages of adult psychological development. These are the four stages of development an adult may experience over a lifetime.
The Athlete Stage:
The Athlete is the stage in our lives when we are at our most self-absorbed. This stage is marked by a preoccupation with our physical body and appearance. In early adulthood we adjust to how our new adult body looks and feels. Here we identify our strengths and we also begin to develop insecurities. Some people never make it out of this phase, or often revert back to it.
In the Athlete Stage we use the physical world to begin to ground ourselves in a version of reality. After understanding how people react to us and how that makes us feel, our drive begins to take priority. This leads into the next stage…
The Warrior Stage:
As the vanity of the Athlete Stage begins to fade, we transition into the Warrior Stage. During this phase our main concern is to go out and conquer the world, to do our best, to be the best and to get the very best; to do what warriors do, and act like warriors act.
This is a stage when we want nothing more than wealth, influence and control. It’s a stage of comparison, of defeating those around us so we can feel better because we have achieved more because we are the warriors, the brave ones. The Warrior Stage is also the most common stage that people revert back to throughout their lives as they “re-invent” themselves.
The Statement Stage:
At this stage of life, we realise what we have achieved so far is not enough to feel fulfilled, to thrive and to generate long-term happiness. We start looking for ways to make a difference in the world and to serve those around us. We realise that what we chased after until now - money, status, possessions etc. - will keep appearing in our life but they no longer hold the same value as before because we are now in a stage of life where we recognise that there is more to life than status and material possessions.
Our focus shifts from thinking only about ourself and we begin to focus on living a life of service. During this stage we want to give back because we realise that giving is receiving. It is time for us to stop being selfish, egotistical or self-centred and instead to think of ways to help others, ways to leave this world a little better than we found it. So this stage is connected with creating an impact or a legacy.
For men, development from the Warrior Stage to the Statement Stage can be an important and exciting transition, however it can also be bewildering as we leave behind an expired construct of who we were as a younger man. Our frames of reference and priorities can change markedly and quickly, and men who fight against this transition may be described as having a ‘mid-life crisis’.
The Stage of the Spirit:
The final stage of life is the Stage of the Spirit which not everyone reaches. In this stage, we realise that we are more than what we have accumulated – be it money, friends, possessions, good deeds, or legacy. Impermanence is something we now recognise in day-to-day life.
We realise that we are of the universe on a journey of life that has no real beginning and no end. We are in this world but not of it. We are now able to observe ourselves from a different perspective. We are capable of stepping out of our own mind, out of our own body and understand who we really are. We see things the way they are as we become the observer of our life.
This stage has nothing to do with formalised religion, instead a useful comparison for Western minds is the Zen philosophy of the Far East. Over 2,500 years ago Lao Tzu posed a question that eloquently describes the Stage of the Spirit: “Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”
“Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”
As with any self-awareness work, bringing concepts and practical models into conscious awareness can help to demystify and clarify perfectly natural processes. Understanding your authentic self and exploring how the framework of the Four Stages of Life applies to your own unique worldview will empower you to navigate periods of transition effectively. You might want to reflect on how you react to the Four Stages of Life and where you are on your own journey. If you would like to share your insights, or if you want support during a life transition, then please Send Me A Message.
This article was first published on LinkedIn Pulse: Flowing Confidently Through Transition