All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Where are you on the “stage of life?” More specifically, consider the late psychologist Erik Erikson and his theory that we pass through eight different “psychosocial stages” across our lifetimes (see http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html for a detailed snapshot of each stage), not too dissimilar—although perhaps less poetic—than the imagery given to us by the Bard so many centuries ago.
I—like many of you—and currently navigating “Stage Seven,” called the “Generativity vs. Stagnation” phase that spans from approximately age 40 to 65 and is characterized by asking big questions such as, “How can I contribute to the world?” Parenthood and work are usually the most important events during this stage, as sojourners strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them.
“Generativity” refers to “making your mark” on the world, through caring for others, creating things and accomplishing things that make the world a better place. “Stagnation” refers to the failure to find a way to contribute.
Perhaps each of us have tasted a bit of both generativity and stagnation—maybe even across the same year, same month or even during the same day! This is a great opportunity to take a quick survey of the activities, places—and, yes, people—who contribute to generativity or stagnation in your life. How can you shift more actions and relationships into the generativity column?