Drop the Stages and Phases: Enjoy a Fluid, Fulfilling Life

Author: Jerry Cahn

Drop the Stages and Phases: Enjoy a Fluid, Fulfilling Life

OpEd Purpose

Today’s potential 100+ year life is more fluid that ever: you can learn, start families, begin careers, take vacations, whenever you want. Adopting this mindset will free you to make the most of life’s journey.

The traditional aging model – developed when people had life expectancies into their 50s and 60s, focuses on three stages: youth, family/career and retirement. The ideas was that after retirement (e.g., age 65), you get can enjoy a few “golden years” of leisure.

Today, more and more people are living into their 70s and 80s (and beyond), and so “stage” believers are just filling that extra time with “post-retirement activities”, which include part-and full-time work for income, as well as engaging in leisure and passion activities such as learning and travel. The problem with this framework is as we live longer (e.g., to 100+) we’ll be filling this time with such activities rather than taking charge of our lives and doing what we really want.

For instance, Dr. Riley Moynes recently spoke about “the 4 phases of retirement” at a TedX program. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMHMOQ_054U&ab_channel=TEDxTalks). The phases are:

  1. Enjoying a well-deserved vacation
  2. Coping with the loss of your prior identify (e.g., worker, friends, routine).
  3. Experimenting and trying new things
  4. “Squeezing the Juice” out of retirement by engaging in purposeful (volunteer) and social (pickle-ball) activities.

Instead, adopt Age Brilliantly’s fluid model of a long, fulfilling life in which you take charge, plan and execute on life’s essentials (e.g., health, finances, relationship, passion, purpose, and time mastery) so you can enjoy doing what you want (e.g., work, leisure, learning, etc.) throughout the journey when you want and as often as you want. Work for large corporations, earn a pension, take a few years to travel and learn, become an entrepreneur and build a company, and then become a teacher, and then…. whatever you want as long as you can.  

If you decide you don’t want to return to work after a certain age, start exploring future life options before you actually retire. This way you can jump to Dr. Moynes’ fourth phase – making the most of the non-work years – rather than wasting time, often on painful experiences, to get there.

Indeed, companies can help you do that. “Phased retirement” is a human resources tool first created by the Office of Personnel Management for federal employees, but has been most effectively used by private enterprise. It allows full-time employees to work part-time schedules over a period of time (e.g., 3-5 years) so they can explore future life options while still earning some income and/or retirement benefits. Many people use it to mentor their future successors and/or serve as company advisors.

In sum, upgrade your mindset by viewing life as a fluid journey with no definitive stages or chronological benchmarks (e.g., middle-age) – just events that occur based on your actions. Take charge, plan and execute to make the most of your 10-40 year “future-self” and the many “next-selves” within it that you set for yourself!  For support, join the AgeBrilliantly(.org) movement! 

About the Author:Jerry Cahn, Ph.D., J.D. is a Master Chair in NYC for Vistage Worldwide, which serves 27,000 CEOs, all of whom at some point will exit their businesses and have to launch their future selves! He also is the CEO/CLO of AgeBrilliantly.org, an interactional platform for people who want to lead long, fulfilling lives to 100+. It provides members with information, inspiration, support, tools and resources to make better decisions as they navigate their lifepath. Included are education and coaching programs to help people launch and manage their future selves.