Chapter 23

There is a time for everything: life phases

We humans are able to change and adapt and we have a free will. We develop our perso­nality during the first years of life in line with our genetics and corre­sponding to the influ­ences of our environment. Every phase of life impacts the one that follows. No one can start their lives over. The best oppor­tunity to grow into a self-deter­­mined life is offered to those who are willing to work on themselves during the early years of becoming an adult.

Benefit from the gift of freedom

No living being comes into the world in such need of develo­pment as humans. A person’s genetics and design, at first through the people we are closest to in our early years, and then more and more on our own, give each and every one of us our individuality.

No one knows how much time we will have on this earth. We have a statis­tical life expec­tancy. As long as there is evidence to the contrary, everyone assumes that they will remain within the statistics. Your individual vita gives a framework to your life.

People’s perso­na­lities shine through in their differing vitae. However, the oppor­tunity to have an impact on your own vita is a privilege available to people in developed countries, in parti­cular. Not taking this oppor­tunity is throwing away the gift of freedom.

Rules of childhood and adolescence

In past centuries, you were born into a social class. And that is where you stayed until the end of your life. Nowadays, we are largely free from the confines of birth. Neither blood nor class affiliation determine our future. But our parents do so more than ever!

How would you describe your parents? The aspira­tions and behaviors of fathers and mothers differ widely these days. Once a couple has their first child, the diffe­rences often come to light instantly. Their life situation changes drasti­cally: mobility and flexi­bility are restricted, tasks need to be redis­tri­buted, and not all habits you have come to love can be maintained and career expec­ta­tions may have to be revised. How do the husband and wife deal with these changes? Who feels disad­van­taged? What do both agree on? Where are the differences?

How the couple treats their child reflects their attitudes and behavior:

  • differing opinions when assessing risks
  • differing stimulus thresholds
  • one partner’s behavior might be more sponta­neous while the other is reflective
  • HE allows what SHE forbids
  • one is very strict while the other lets lots of things slide
  • one is more consistent, the other is more inconsistent.

We could go on and on. The diffe­rences resulting from the differing perso­na­lities of the parents have always existed. But they have a direct impact these days since society rarely sets any uniform standards as maxims of behavior. Mothers and fathers have to decide for themselves and as a couple, consciously or uncon­sciously, in which world of imagi­nation and in which reality their children should be raised. This is already reflected when naming a child. Are you happy with the name that your parents gave you?

Were you fortunate enough to have good parents?

How would you describe your mother and father? What kind of role model did they provide for you? Add the following keywords and then write your parents’ profile:

Your mother calm
selfish
affectionate
hard shell, soft core
anxious
irritable
cautious
silent
talkative
strict
lenient
consistent
understanding
always in a good mood
intuition-based
neat
slob
thinker
spontaneous
prestige minded
full of ideas
hot-tempered
Your father

After writing the profile, ask yourself what you have adapted from persons that were influ­ential for becoming an adult. What limita­tions from your childhood and youth did you take with you into your adult life?

None of us become adults without being subject to some mistakes in our upbringing. Many of these errors were made with the best inten­tions. Some fathers and mothers are overwhelmed with their child-rearing duties despite all of their best efforts. Just like in the stone age, we still assume that anyone can raise a child since they experi­enced how this works themselves when they were children. This is a fatal error that is made primarily in societies whose families are hardly performing their child-rearing duties, since they are starting to disintegrate.

Many parents have a tough time recon­ciling their job and career with their family. They don’t have enough time for their children and want to use the same efficiency strategies at home as they use on the job. When they at home, they feel they need to rest and relax, doing one of their hobbies, for instance, instead of facing the stress with the kids. Since in a welfare state people need a job rather than an extended family to meet their material needs, many young people choose to go with their job and partner instead of having children.

When young people reach puberty, they start orienting themselves outwardly. What your peers say and do starts becoming more important than what the people raising you try to convey to you. You now try out what the world has to offer, what forbidden things are all about and how you can make your voice heard. This initiates the process of cutting the cord from your parents. When the relati­onship to your parents has trans­formed into a relati­onship that focuses primarily on talking openly during this phase, if you trusted them, and their opinion on questions and problems was important to you – then you are one of the lucky ones that has or had good parents.

Take the oppor­tunity to stand on your own two feet!

People who want to gain clarity on how they got onto the path they take as an adult should write memoirs about their childhood and youth. This brings to the surface of your consciousness what may be buried within you, what you were not able to unleash, or what may hold you captive. Get out pictures and videos, take a look at them, and relate to what filled you with happiness, terror, fear, reluc­tance, pride, confi­dence, comfort, and love. Think back! And write down everything in detail. You will be amazed about all of the things that come up when you think back to the past.

And here is what plays a role: Whether you grew up in the city or in the country, whether you grew up as an only child or with siblings, whether you were able to roam your “territory” in the house and neigh­borhood on your own or were passed on from one monitor to another; what kind of people your aunts and uncles, grand­parents, teachers, educators, neighbors, friends and acquain­tances of your parents were – all of this had more or less of an impact and influ­ences you until today.

Look for all of that in your recollec­tions of your childhood and youth. Conclude this with an assessment of when you were young and write down what you want to achieve with self-impro­­vement as an adult today. This is a great oppor­tunity for you: As an adult, you can take on your further “education” on your own. You have this excep­tional oppor­tunity as a young adult, in particular.

Are you in full control of your life?

After the many prior decisions that were already made for your life during your childhood and youth, you have to choose your profession more or less entirely on your own. The serious side of life starts. In times when the distri­bution of roles and finding your place in society were still dictated by fixed struc­tures, there was not much to deliberate. Today, when a young person of average intel­li­gence and rather unremar­kable behavior has countless career options open to him or her, many young adults are at a loss. There are two ways to solve this: either a career aptitude test and or an explo­ration of potential jobs and careers. And: detach yourself from home. Get out!

Once you have selected your job and gone through your training, you have the amazing oppor­tunity as a young adult to learn everything you need on your own in addition to your profes­sional education for your life – developing as a person is ultimately more important than training for a job or getting an academic education. You only have a very limited time to do so on the job and with the requi­re­ments of a family; so you have to be able to deliver what the respective situation requires: initiative, creativity, endurance, drive and deter­mi­nation, concen­tration, ability to withstand stress, memory, motivation, self-management, etc. Keep an eye out for people who model this for you.

Jobs today require constant adjus­t­ments to technical and organiz­a­tional innova­tions and to state- or market-imposed changes. Whether you work as an employee or you work for yourself – without flexi­bility and usually also mobility you will quickly fall behind. People who want to stay on top of what happens and be and remain in charge of their own profes­sional career need to adapt to the markets of their profes­sional field. Or tuck in with an employer who makes a lifelong loyalty commitment to them – the state.

You prepare yourself for your path of life on your own during the years before you ultimately start your career and before you start a family. This phase of life decides how far you will go and how high you will climb and what you achieve, whether you are at the mercy of societal develo­p­ments or whether you become your own entrepreneur.

Have you found your life partner?

The early phase of  adulthood also has another signi­ficant aspect besides one’s entry into self-develo­pment and profes­sional training: Who do I want to pair up with to spend my future life with? Today, most young adults still dream of getting married and starting a family  – even though they approach this much more carefully than previous genera­tions. Young women in parti­cular who seek a satisfying job are delaying the decision for “marriage and children” further and further. More than young men, young women feel that balancing marriage and family with a career is very challenging.

But you have to find the right partner first. If you do not leave your perso­nality develo­pment to the coinci­dence of challenges from your environment but instead take on personal respon­si­bility and self-direction, you will have a clear under­standing of who might be a good fit. This elimi­nates the need for numerous “test” partnerships to find this out. Couples with more or less the same values and orien­tation who agree on what they want to establish and maintain, who know what they can expect of each other and give to each other have an oppor­tunity to grow old together in a constant process of adjusting and improving.

Today’s work structure provides little room for people’s marriage and family. The requi­re­ments, approach and time management, objec­tives, intel­lectual and emotional commitment are just too different. Families are not just about functioning or simply organizing your free time together. In fact, they represent commu­nities in which people are there for each other, do not block or mislead each other, and instead support each other, console each other, show consi­de­ration for each other, share joy and sorrow, support each other, and develop into wonderful people together.

When modern families succeed in living independently as a strong community, they are able to balance out much of what is upended or even swept away by the storms of time. They can give people the strength they need to succeed in their job. They can give the next generation the charac­te­ristics and skills it needs to take on respon­si­bility on the job and as fathers or mothers on their part as an active generation in this world in the future.

Religious orders provide a special example of life

There are people who live their life according to their religion’s worldview. They do not wonder what they might get out of life but instead ask themselves what they want to use their life for. This may result in leading a very purpo­seful life such as joining a religious order. Life is understood as a unit in which the under­standing of the world and other people is expressed. The compre­hensive under­standing, for example, of religious orders oriented towards Catho­licism is based on three decisions:

  1. I do not seek any personal property.
  2. I submit to the hierarchy of the community I selected.
  3. I forgo getting married and having a family.

Religious orders are the only form of communism to have proven to be viable over the centuries. The reasons:

  1. Living together is based on the free decision of the members.
  2. The social struc­tures are set up as microorganisms.
  3. Its members choose to not have personal property.

These kinds of commu­nities, like all human commu­nities, are not static but change both due to group dynamics processes and also due to the processes in the societal environment.

Religious people who want to consist­ently shape their life from within their faith have developed new forms of community throughout history. Today, there are charis­matic groups, parti­cu­larly based in France..

Once the decision to live in the community of a religious order has been made and you adhere to the resulting types of behavior in the sense of “making yourself useful in a loving manner,” nearly all ways of life and fields of activity on this earth become available to you. They range from being a lone fighter in the slums of São Paulo to providing pastoral care for tourists in the Spanish coastal resort of Benidorm, from a reclusive community in California to the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philo­sophy and Theology in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, as well as caring for the termi­nally ill, to giving seminars for top managers.

How have you prepared for your golden years?

For many people, retiring from profes­sional life is quite abrupt, since retirement is organized as a full-time activity. It is very hard for employees at the top of their game to transition smoothly to retirement. You either are fully committed or super­fluous. Jobs that allow you to transition into retirement are only available in very few niches. People have different experi­ences when they leave: Some people count down the weeks and months in the end until they can finally pass on their tasks to their successor, while others feel pushed out.

Many entre­pre­neurs and freelancers who are free to choose when to retire have a tough time letting go, consider themselves indis­pensable, and are afraid of losing influence, power, and prestige. People who cannot take a step back and have a tough time giving up everything they estab­lished over the years of full profes­sional commit­ments in their various positions have the greatest diffi­culties. When planning their lives, they neglected to include the time “after” and to prepare themselves for their retirement. People who have tied their self-confi­­dence to their job suddenly feel that they no longer have a purpose in life once they leave.

That’s why you need to define yourself outside of your profes­sional achie­ve­ments as early as possible in your life.

Once people are forced “outside” because of retirement regula­tions, market develo­p­ments, their family, or their health, many of these older yet capable people have a difficult time coping with their daily lives. Some of these people who never accom­plished anything other than a stressful life deter­mined by others despair at doing nothing. Others’ plates are so full that they end up racing from one appointment to another. They all appear to be unpre­pared for life after work. Instead of preparing to make their retirement into their very own personal life climax, they only cultivate their wishful thinking and nurture their lifelong dream.

You have to have a sense for the right time in your life. Everything in its own time. For your time as a retiree, this means ascending to the pinnacle of your life. Consider the years after your profes­sional life as a true oppor­tunity to make yourself useful with all of your knowledge and your experiences.

Experience true fulfillment of your life

Whether you use your profes­sional experience to serve as a guide for young company founders, whether you work in an advisory capacity on develo­pment projects in the “Third World”, whether you share your insights and experi­ences in memoirs, whether you set an example of behavior and life for your grand­children, or whether you volunteer to provide priceless things in our society – do not take a step back, but achieve life fulfillment in which there is no diffe­rence between work and leisure, between satisfying and unsatisfying activities, or between pleasure and frustration. Bring what you learned in your prior life to the table and be a role model for learning and communicating.

People who have succumbed to the false notion that the peak years of their life are their 40s and even their 50s will run into a problem: They will no longer be able to find a task that can fully fulfill their life; they feel like their life is already over. To avoid this situation, you need to see your life as a unit, as a whole in which phases follow one another but every phase has an ampli­fying effect on the phase that follows. Dating back to the phase of your early adult years, you yourself have an impact on your attitude and behavior, which also affects your life after the phase of the incor­rectly named “active years” of your life.

Be a humble role model and wise advisor!

You need to fulfill two requi­re­ments if you want to catapult yourself to the climax of your life once you turn 60. You need to be both healthy and mentally agile. If you think that the insights and experi­ences of your previous years are God’s gift to the work and you just need to be enthu­si­astic enough when sharing them with the world of the younger generation – then no one will listen to you, your advice will not be accepted, people will walk away from you or you will be kicked out.

Only the process of conti­nuous self-develo­pment and self-impro­­vement that you initiated in your early years will give you the wisdom of humility that will allow you to be both a role model and an advisor to younger people. You will be assigned respon­si­bility as long as people are certain that you are not patro­nizing but are able to offer assis­tance in a timely manner that matches the situation.

For this reason: Stay mentally fit when just like you did as a young adult as “your own entrepreneur”.

Second requi­rement: Health. This is another thing that is either maintained and promoted or ruined in your early years of life. Going to a rock concert can ruin your hearing, for instance. Of course everyone comes with a set of genetics that can either promote or endanger their health. And everyone is born into an environment that is either beneficial or harmful. But by the time you are a young adult, at the latest, you should find out how to handle your precious health and to not harm yourself with thought­lessness, laziness, seduc­ti­veness, and lack of discipline.

For this reason: Do not succumb to the siren call of the moment, but consider your health as the basic requi­rement for your life that must be maintained and promoted!

Death is inevi­table. You should be prepared for death – your entire life. After all, death can also occur suddenly. For this reason, you should see to the important things that are related to death. You owe this to the people in your surroun­dings that are affected by it. It is very much up to you how you under­stand death, interpret it for yourself, and orient your life towards it or ignore it.

If I under­stand my decades of living on God’s time horizon – eternity – and I under­stand my desire for justice and peace as my way of antici­pating entering God’s kingdom, then things can really get started after I die. Right?

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