The Evolving Stages of Life

The Evolving Stages of Life


Chances are that when you were studying the developmental stages of life in sociology or psychology, there were essentially four: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. According to current research, there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement, and old age. (David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, pp. 190-191)

Without my saying one more word, I’ll bet you can speculate yourself about what these newly-acknowledged stages of life are all about – especially if you are between 20 and 30 years of age, give or take a few, or if you have children who are. In the latter case you may be wondering why it’s taking them so long to find their way. And if you are nearing retirement, you may be wondering why it’s taking you so long to figure out what you’re going to do next. So many decisions to be made! Keep working? Quit working? Do something different? Work part-time? Start a business? Pursue a college or graduate degree? Move? Stay where you are? Fulfill a need? Follow a dream?

Ironically, there are similarities between these two newly-recognized life stages, even though they occur at different ends of the spectrum. Since we’ve already paid quite a bit of attention to the active retirement stage, we’re going to focus here on odyssey.

The Odyssey Stage

I, for one, am thrilled that someone has finally named the stage between 20 and 30 for what it actually is—a time of wandering—not what we have been told it would be or should be. As a career/life coach I have dealt with -hundreds of clients, boomerang and otherwise, struggling through this decade, and I’ll tell you something: they are not feeling good about it, and they are not trying to get your goat! The fact is that post graduation, the rubber finally hits the road. A dawning awareness occurs: finding one’s way in the world is going to be harder than it seemed from afar. I have observed that young people in this age group tend to be deeply thoughtful and honorable. They take their lives seriously and want to make good choices. They fear they won’t.

Over time, people mostly do find their way to adulthood, which, Brooks notes, is generally defined by four major accomplishments: moving away from home, getting married, starting a family, and becoming financially independent. Just when young people accomplish these things has changed radically since 1960, when “70 percent of American thirty-year olds had accomplished (them). By 2000, fewer than 40 percent had done the same.” Time to face the facts: the “wandering” years are already upon us. And what’s the big rush, anyway?

Our dear Bonnie Bonetti-Bell was the force behind our Career/Life Coaching services, until her passing in 2019. As a principal of our firm, Bonnie had an innate talent for seeing the best in people. Moreover, she helped others see the best in themselves. Bonnie is fondly remembered and deeply missed.

Scroll to Top