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Viewpoints (Carol): Milestones

Viewpoints (Carol): Milestones

 

Whether retired or contemplating retirement, we know that how and where we invest our energies will profoundly impact the quality of our lives in the future.

Those who studied psychology will recall Erik Erikson's eight-stage theory predicting psychosocial development. The first six stages address human development from infancy until midlife. Successful resolution of those stages enables one to mature successfully, developing the ability to trust, to be autonomous, to engage one's own initiative, to develop one's identity and to engage in committed loving relationships.

The seventh and eighth stages describe challenges faced by people from midlife through old age. Erikson chose monumental words--Generativity versus Stagnation--to frame the conflict inherent in the developmental imperative for midlife. The existential question he addresses should be understood as: "How can I make my life count?" The fundamental virtue is caring: bringing along the young, participating in intergenerational learning, contributing to the wisdom pool, and adding to the growth and development of others--while remaining energized by the process.

Erikson's message is that to feel the full measure of our humanity, our raison d'etre is to do something, teach someone, invest our energies to benefit the broader community, and keep our lives meaningful. Remaining connected to others provides a conduit for our wisdom, and keeps our life energies flowing. His model does not permit one to rest on one's laurels.

For our own sake, and for the sake of future generations, we are compelled to remain involved, committed, and relevant. We are limited only by our imaginations in terms of how and where we can make a difference.

Carol is a psychologist in California who has enlightened many.

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