Stage 4: The Empowered and Responsible Stage (Age 42 – 52)

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 23a
April 1, 2023

By Dan Coughlin



This is the stage of life a person has been preparing for his or her entire life.

And now that it has arrived, it can be more than the person ever expected.

Now the person has very, very important responsibilities at home, at work, and in the community around where he or she lives. This often includes raising children from newborns to college-age children, being responsible for final decisions at work and having to deal with the consequences of those decisions as they affect many people, and committing to community activities ranging from coaching kids in the wildly exponentially growing world of youth sports to raising money for Habitat for Humanity.

And somewhere in this stage the person needs to carve out time to take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, and potentially spiritually.

This could also be called The Stressed-Out Stage. There are stresses placed on people in this stage of life from many, many different directions. They will be asked to volunteer their time, talent, and money to an endless list of good causes; they will have demands placed on their time, talent, and money at work and at home; and they will often be caring for teenagers and younger children while simultaneously caring for their aging parents.

The seemingly care-free days of The Young Pioneer Stage have now been transformed through the Young Leader Stage into a period of tremendous responsibilities impacting many people.

How to Make the Most of The Empowered and Responsible Stage

The challenge is not that you can’t handle these responsibilities. The challenge is that you may be taking on way more responsibilities than any person can realistically address in any given time period.

It is extraordinarily important to embrace the idea of refreshing your mind and body and spirit. There are many different ways to do this. Go for a walk, relax with a cup of coffee, read a book, watch a television show, play a game of cards, find a quiet space, and so on.

People in this stage all know how to do this. The challenge is they don’t. Why not? Because they are way, way, way too busy. During The Empowered and Responsible Stage people somehow often convince themselves that they are superheroes, computers, and robots who will never wear down at all. Until one day they do.

Please take time to reflect on the purpose, passions, values, morals, and talents that you uncovered for yourself in The Explorer Stage and The Young Pioneer Stage. It is very easy to lose a sense of yourself as you move constantly from family responsibilities to work responsibilities to community responsibilities. It is also easy to lose sight of the critically important relationships in your life. Marriages can suffer, relationships with your children can suffer, and long-term friendships can suffer as you move at a non-stop pace from one activity to another in trying to tackle an infinite and never-ending list of commitments. And it is very easy to lose sense of your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

People at this stage of life can overfeed their bodies and underfeed their mind and spirit while they are fulfilling an endless list of responsibilities that they have been empowered to take on.

You have been empowered to do a lot, and you are responsible for a lot. However, you are NOT a robot or a computer or a fictional, cartoon superhero. You are a human being.

Slow down, check in with yourself, look out over the next week, month, and quarter. Remember that you get to make decisions. You are not a slave to your calendar. You can choose where you invest your time and talent and energy and money.

I encourage you to invest a reasonable amount of those resources on slowing down and thinking. Reflect on what is happening and on what you want to have happen in your life. Discern the kind of person you want to be and the kind of relationships you want to have. Let those thoughts soak into your mind. Think about the future as well. What do you want your life, your relationships, and your contributions of time, talent, energy, and money to look like 10, 20, and 30 years from now.

And then move forward the way an artist does with a canvass: one intentional stroke of the brush at a time.

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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