The Connecting Life’s Stages Series: The Introduction

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 21a
February 1, 2023

By Dan Coughlin


The Connecting Life's Stages Series

The overarching purpose of my work is to help individuals, groups, and organizations to achieve what they want to achieve.

Toward that end in the past four years I’ve written dedicated series of articles on leadership, management, teamwork, personal effectiveness, interpersonal effectiveness, the inner journey, and entrepreneurship.

In The Connecting Life’s Stages Series, we will look into the idea that the different time periods in our lives have a connection to each other, and that we can leverage that connection to better understand how to achieve what we want to achieve. Here’s a brief introduction to the stages of life that I will write articles on in the months to come. Of course, no person’s life follows these stages exactly the way I’m laying them out, but we can still extract insights from these general thoughts to our specific situation.

Overview of Life Stages

The Explorer (Age: 12 – 22)

This is the stage where we explore our passions. We don’t make our fortune or a name for ourselves during this stage. It may have felt more like hobbies than a potential career. However, in these ten years we may very well have begun to uncover where we felt most alive. It may have been sports, theater, music, or a particular academic subject. We may have discovered that we love collaborative efforts or competitive challenges. By taking time to reflect on what happened in our lives during that decade, we may very well gain insights as to what we could be doing in any later stage.

The Young Pioneer (Age: 23 – 32)

This is where we begin to carve out our own space and try new paths as an adult. This can be a very, very exciting time to have adult freedom for the first time and room to try things personally and professionally, and a very, very difficult time as we try and stumble to discover what paths are out there and what we can do to create them for ourselves.

The Young Leader (Age: 33 – 42)

In this stage we may have earned certain significant roles, and we learned a great deal through trial and error. People are starting to really count on us, and we need to deliver in our personal and professional lives. Every step carries consequences, and we start to feel the weight of the mantle of leadership on our shoulders.

Empowered and Responsible (Age: 43 – 52)

We are established in our roles at work and in our families. We are now the people we used to look up to. We are held up as exemplars for our work organizations, our communities, and our families. People are turning to us for our decisions, values, morals, and standards. We are influencing for better or worse the next generation at home, work, and in the community. Our decisions for better and worse have large implications.

Crossroad Choices (Age: 53 – 62)

We have to make big decisions at this stage. Will we carry on in our marriages, our jobs, and our community roles, or will we choose new paths to pursue? We are no longer the newcomers on the block. We have had our fair share of successes and failures by this point. So what do we do now?

Maturity (Age: 63 – 72)

We are who we are. We have experienced many, many trials and tribulations to learn from. We have landed where we want to be in terms of our spirituality, passions, interests, and usage of time. This is the stage where we have much to offer to the younger stages. We are for the most part done competing for title, income, and authority. Our personal presence is the greatest value we have to offer to other people.

Sageing (Age: 73 – 82)

In this stage, we move from ageing to sageing. This is a term I learned from Gail Sheehy in her wonderful book, New Passages. Sageing is the time when we convert our life’s experiences into perspectives that can be useful to people of all ages. The great irony is that the most valuable wisdom often comes for free from a sageing person.

Source of Wisdom (Age 82 and beyond)

At this stage, people know they are closer to the end of their lives than the beginning. We have nothing left to prove, and consequently, we can be at our very best for other people. We may not have the same physical capacities we once did, but we have refined insights that people can tap into and that can enrich their lives with.


In the months to come we will reflect on the opportunities and challenges at each stage, and how that stage has value to offer to the other stages. Connecting these Life Stages can help us to be effective throughout our lives.

Film Recommendation

The Fabelmans

This is the story of Steven Spielberg from age 5 to 19. It reminded me of the importance of The Explorer stage. He discovered directing at a young age, and he nurtured it into adulthood.

Book Recommendations

  • New Passages by Gail Sheehy
  • Soulbattical by Shelley Paxton
  • Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • Running From Safety by Richard Bach
  • The Second Mountain by David Brooks
  • Discover Your True North by Bill George
  • The Inner Work of Age by Connie Zweig

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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