Finding Joy in Three Stages

In my previous blog, I introduced the idea of dividing life into three stages and we looked at Stage One of Self-Discovery and Training. According to the Visionary Decision Making system, this is the time to discover and develop your natural talents — to learn who you are, what you’re good at and what you like to do. The best method of self-discovery is to apply yourself to whatever you find really fascinating — even if that means switching majors or jobs or, on the social side, dating different kinds of people. Other than the value of the skills acquired, in Stage One we experience the joys of learning (joys that are never left behind in a life well-lived).

Stage Two, which begins around age 30 (approximate timing of our first astrological “Saturn return”), is the Productivity-Accomplishment stage. This period is about putting to use those primary talents discovered in Stage One. The focus is now on applying yourself to doing what you have discovered you like to do and what you are good at (usually the same). This focus on doing calls forth a sense of personal mission and a desire to make commitments. Self-discovery is always exciting and fun, but there is even greater joy to be experienced in developing your natural talents and artfully, in your own way, contributing something of value. Although this can begin earlier, it is during Stage Two that we focus on doing our best to provide for ourselves and others, including possibly a partner and children (and eventually grandchildren). This period embraces work. We may compete in some marketplace, raise a healthy and well-educated family, or perhaps both. We work hard and take pride in becoming an active, contributing member of society.

Stage Three is a spiritually-oriented phase I call “Patronage.” It begins around one’s second Saturn Return near the beginning of a person’s 60s. It involves making a paradigm shift from producing and accumulating to giving back — as teacher, sponsor and adviser. This stage is inspired by the idea of helping future generations and is characterized by generosity and unconditional love. You may find yourself helping younger people with their Stage One and Stage Two decision-making — providing guidance and other support, perhaps even financial. The joy of Stage Three, which comes from unconditional giving, is the greatest of all.

Each of the three stages builds on what came before. It’s not as if discovery stops at age 30 or that you have to wait until you retire in order to mentor someone. Dividing life into three stages is only meant to highlight the timing of certain qualities in an evolving human life. Each stage features a different set of priorities and its own type of joy. In Stage One, decisions involve what to learn next … and there is the joy of discovery and the satisfaction of curiosity. In Stage Two, our decisions are more practical, supporting the joy of accomplishing and providing for oneself and others. In Stage Three, our decisions flow from our heart and ours is the ultimate joy of generous support and unconditional love. Knowing where you are in the trajectory of your life can help you make better decisions and feel the joys of self-confidence and fulfillment at any age!