Calling & Life Stages: Senior Adults.

Part 3 (scroll down for Part 1 & 2)

Discerning our calling is a life-long journey. How we approach and wrestle with the questions of calling (who am I? Who am I called to be?) will be influenced by our stage of life. Recently, I have had a heightened awareness to this in response to conversations with friends, client work, and paying attention to my own mid-life transition.

Gordon T. Smith has done a beautiful job of speaking to the stages of calling or what he calls, “Phases Of Vocational Development.” On several occasions over the last few months I have found myself back in his material—or just recalling it as I sit with a client. And so, I have taken some time to compile and summarize his work (with a few of my own thoughts thrown in) and will share it in 3 separate posts. Where are you at in these phases?

3. From Mid-Adulthood To Our Senior Years:

Smith explains that the “notion of retirement developed in the 1930s, when life expectancy was lower and when it was appropriate for individuals to be released from hard physical work for the last few years of their lives.” Although most seniors today can expect to live much longer, the old notion has remained, and retirement is typically associated with a life of leisure. Because we have confused calling or vocation and career (assuming they are one and the same) our retirement can actually become a season that lacks purpose. We must understand that although we may leave a career, we will always have our calling. Of course, with age our capacity will change and we will have to continue to honor our limitations. “The expression or focus of [our] vocation, the way in which it is fulfilled, will change.” Our calling in our senior years ought to be marked by two essential characteristics:

  • Sharing Wisdom. “We allow our influence to flow from who we are as persons and what we have learned along the way, rather than seeking an influence based on position or office.”

  • Giving Blessing. “Those seniors who bless have the greatest influence on the generation that follows.”

  • Wisdom follows Blessing. “We will not be a source of wisdom, heard and appreciated for our counsel, if we do not bless.”

So, in summary, the phases of vocational development are as follows:

1. Young adults: take responsibility for your own life.

2. Midlife adults: accept yourself for who you are, for better or worse.

3. Senior adults: let go so that you can bless and offer wisdom.

Calling & Life Stages: Mid-Life Adults.

Part 2 (scroll down for Part 1)

Discerning our calling is a life-long journey. How we approach and wrestle with the questions of calling (who am I? Who am I called to be?) will be influenced by our stage of life. Recently, I have had a heightened awareness to this in response to conversations with friends, client work, and paying attention to my own mid-life transition.

Gordon T. Smith has done a beautiful job of speaking to the stages of calling or what he calls, “Phases Of Vocational Development.” On several occasions over the last few months I have found myself back in his material—or just recalling it as I sit with a client. And so, I have taken some time to compile and summarize his work (with a few of my own thoughts thrown in) and will share it in 3 separate posts. Where are you at in these phases?

2. From Early To Mid-Adulthood (for most this begins in mid-thirties):

Once we have experienced a healthy break from our parents and adolescence, we are free to process the next transition. As Smith says, “We can wrestle with mid-life questions on their own terms rather than carrying the baggage of adolescence through the process.” If we have done the work to differentiate from our parents in our twenties we can begin to honestly look at who we are.

Clarity for vocational purposes can only come after we have lived with ourselves long enough to be able to ask, for example, what matters to me more than anything else?

This season of adulthood is about narrowing in on our contribution and moving away from trying to be all things to all people. Smith says that to embrace calling in mid-life we must accept two distinct but inseparable realities:

  • We honor our limitations: “We accept our limitations and move as quickly as we can beyond illusion about who we are.”

  • We own our greatness: “We accept responsibility for our gifts and abilities, and acknowledge with grace what we can do.”

If we fail to accept these realities in our thirties and forties, and don’t make the necessary decisions to filter and focus – we will pay for it in our fifties.

Another important transition in this season is for the parent who serves as the primary care-giver (if this is the case). Smith says, “Such people cannot say that their primary vocation is ‘raising children’ unless they are called to work in an orphanage. We are responsible for raising our children with care. And it is a noble task stay at home and care for home and family. But eventually the children grow up, and the primary caregiver will go through a crisis of identity if he or she does not anticipate this transition.

Calling & Life Stages: Young Adult Years.

Discerning our calling is a life-long journey. How we approach and wrestle with the questions of calling (who am I? Who am I called to be?) will be influenced by our stage of life. Recently, I have had a heightened awareness to this in response to conversations with friends, client work, and paying attention to my own mid-life transition.

Gordon T. Smith has done a beautiful job of speaking to the stages of calling or what he calls, “Phases Of Vocational Development.” On several occasions over the last few months I have found myself back in his material—or just recalling it as I sit with a client. And so, I have taken some time to compile and summarize his work (with a few of my own thoughts thrown in) and will share it in 3 separate posts. Where are you at in these phases?

1. Phase One: From Adolescence Into Early Adulthood

At some point in our twenties we must come into a place of taking responsibility for our own lives. This means leaving adolescence behind, and here is the most important partwe must experience a healthy separation from our parents. We no longer depend on our parents for our livelihood and well-being. Smith says, “vocational integrity and vitality are only possible if there is a break from parents, from home, from adolescence.”

When we don’t choose to take responsibility for our own lives (and instead continue to depend on our parents) our ability to truly know and understand our own selves is strained. And maybe even more fascinating/illuminating is the link between our inability to separate from parents and how we view an employer:

If we never leave our parents…what tends to happen is that we inadvertently treat the organizations we work for as though they have a parental function. We expect the one who supplies our paycheck to be our ‘parent,’ caring for us. And we move into a level of emotional dependency that undermines our capacity to make necessary choices…We will continually be disappointed and feel betrayed by organizations if we do not move out of a parent-child relationship of dependence.

Once we have made this healthy break in our parent-child relationship, we are free to differentiate and explore. Our twenties are a time to learn and grow- to try new things and not fear failure. Much of understanding who we are, comes from understanding who we aren’t- and failure is one of our greatest teachers. Part of taking responsibility for our lives is paying attention to what we learn along the way so that as we move into mid-life, we are prepared to fully embrace our calling and know where to focus.