Careers, businesses and family lives develop through a series of phases. When fully—some would say success”fully” lived—each phase has an arc that rises, peaks, descends and resolves as the next begins. If you approach your career, business and personal developments with this natural structure and rhythm in mind, it allows you to live the current stage fully, anticipate and plan for next phase.
This is true no matter your age, life stage or generation. Coaching can help you excavate these aspects of your life, oftentimes making a life feel richer in the reflection and taking intentional action.
Nowadays, with such long-life, you have the opportunity to approach each decade, each 10 – 15 year phase acknowledging an underlying natural rhythm, focusing the arc of your activities toward outcomes—the personal and career growth, self-development learning and chronological life-stage accomplishments you desire—as you design, craft and create your life story.
If you are a business leader, business owner or entrepreneur, on this foundation you can successfully craft the arc of business developments and plan the future with eyes wide open. Couples and Dual-Career Couples can integrate personal and professional with eyes wide open.
It’s Your Story—You Get to Rewrite and Build Each Stage
When you acknowledge the context of multiple 10-15 year phases, your career story takes on personal meaning—because you write it, and live it.
Like many authors, the outcomes for their characters are not always fully known, but various factors compel the actions and eventual outcomes. The direction or focus of their story or drama is in the author’s hands, but the characters must live it out. As must you. What compels you are typically a seasoning of interests, values, passions and purpose. These are not to be mistaken for needs such a fame or fortune unless those are high on your list of needs.
As you attune to natural rhythms of life and it’s stages, your life will sync-up and become more ease-ful. You’ll notice I DID NOT say easier. Often what we choose to do and learn at each stage requires much focused, intentional mental, sometimes academic, sometimes strategic, sometimes physical, always emotional, interpersonal, spiritual, action-oriented, time-consuming effort!
It’s matching your purpose and desires to your chronological stage and to each phase of life— trusting these stages will build on one another toward the outcome or dénouement you desire.
It’s embracing the fact that it’s focused, intentional, self-aware choices and actions steps that build your story. That most people’s stories are not always a straight line in an upward direction.That no one else can—or should—do it for you. Guidance and support are great, but if they try to do it FOR you, you should beware.
Working with the natural rhythms of developmental stages also requires acknowledging that it will take time to develop the career and communication skills necessary if you are 17 and glued to your iPhone, or to meet your love and start a family if you are 30 and overworked on the job, or to develop a smooth running company that’s a twinkle in your eye while driving kids to soccer games at 40, or plan a career exit strategy with your consultants, attorneys and financial folks, stay connected and converse with your mate about the future, wean your adult children and grow into the next fulfillment if you are mid-50’s, 60’s even 70.
But that’s different from having the expectations of a whole life unconsciously mush together creating anxiety for the younger generations and disillusionment if you are older.
Appreciating the Developments of Each Stage
So what do I mean by an “arc?” In drama or literature—even in the visual arts which draw our eye (consciously or unconsciously) from one aspect of an artwork to another—there is an arc. Simply put, it goes like this:
The Beginning Sets the Stage: The first step is background information and character introduction, including anything relevant about the character(s), past influences and current details.
- No matter your age, every decade is a defining decade. In your career and life self-assessment, this is where you take stock of your current age and stage, acknowledging what is typical developmental activity and learning at this time of life. Then, what is it you have learned and accomplished so far. Make a list. What is it you’d like to learn, develop, achieve in the coming decade? You can look beyond, but these are the steps to get you there. It may go faster, but if you map the steps you’ll have the grounding to sustain it. Make a list of clutter to clear and steps you need to take to get there. It’s good to ride that balance between complacency and over-projecting, but go for the big vision, then assess your willingness to do the work.
- Be sure to assess integration of your 4 foundations at every stage. These are 1) Life-Stage Vision zooming out to the “big picture”and back in to this stage, 2) Career Development desires, 3) Self-Development and personal growth/learning you want and need, and finally 4) Relational Development, at work yes, but here you integrate questions such as “What’s my true desire for family, mate, kids, friends, collaboration, partnering, etc. at this stage and how might future stages build on this? How must my choices in this part of my life support my career and business goals, and vice versa? What do I need to add to my focus now to have this desired outcome later?
Then There’s Rising Action: In drama and literature, the rising actions are a series of focused actions guiding the character toward the most important outcomes, learning, objectives or resolutions to be ultimately achieved. These actions are desired, focused and guided by the author. Lived by the actor or characters.
- On the Creativity Continuum these are choices that start with your “Why,” your focus and intentions. They are then backed up with action steps to achieve them.
- Often this is a phase I call “Experimenting and Exploring” combined with evaluating and pivoting as you uncover what actions lead toward your goals. In my experience people often overlook or want to gloss over this phase, but I find it crucial to actual growth toward what fits for each person, couple, team or company.
Until You Reach A Pinnacle: This peak in the story arc always involves a test or struggle with inner or outer forces, a confrontation with self or others to be mastered or overcome. Sometimes it’s a dramatic struggle such as between good and evil. It’s always a confrontation with choices. The choices lead to the quality of the outcome for the character.
- Here’s where you are in the middle of this phase, hopefully in your “zone” and thriving or resiliently learning, and shifting, leaning in and strengthening your career/leadership and personal skills all at the same time. Because who you are at work is who you are everywhere. And vice versa.
Anticipating the Conclusion: In the arc of every story there’s a natural anticipation of something nearing a conclusion. At this point dramatic characters and their audience are almost always faced with doubt and conflict over the anticipated outcome. This is sometimes a nail-biter because there’s a final “test” and we sit on the edge of our seats wondering if the character will go for it, choosing what’s best, what’s right, what’s most fulfilling.
- As you approach the resolution years of each life cycle, you may experience anxiety if you’ve been procrastinating or need to speed up your actions and learning. Anticipating ahead, you will sense if you’ve been doing your homework and can continue to enjoy, or if you need to dig in to catch up and accomplish what you set out to accomplish at this stage.
- A word of caution here: Sometimes what is created looks different than we expected. Be sure not to judge and go into self-recrimination or self-doubt. Better to assess objectively, reconsider your choices at this time and tuck in to the work remaining. Having guidance at this time can assist in accelerating the process so you “catch up.”
Resolution and Reflection: This is the part of the story where things come together for the character. It’s a place of reflection in the story where conflicts are acknowledged, resultant choices make sense and learning is integrated.
- Resolution in everyday life has a sense of accomplishment and dovetails with the next phase that is anticipated. In your career, life and self-development story, you cycle back into reflecting on the past, assessing where you are right now and looking to what story you want to write in your next life-stage.
So the question I leave you with is “What is the arc of the story you wish to create in your career and life at this stage? How might that segue into your next stage?”
Take some time reflecting on the arc of your current stage. Gather and gently nurture your dreams and desires. Be courageous with the things that compel you. Write, create, design—and live—your story with intention. Let it’s unexpected twists and turns surprise and delight you. Grieve the losses. Integrate and weave all of it into your next stage, into your life and career story.
Click on the graphic below to learn more about Choice Points in life and how choices you make at each stage can have a profound effect on the course of your life. They can be a wake-up call to reimagine your future. It’s also an entry point for coaching and consulting support—especially when you’re dissatisfied, want growth, or desire change. The choices you make will have a profound effect on the course of your life, so reach out for a Complimentary Conversation to see how I might help you integrate your current stage and create what you wish for the stage your may be approaching.