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Are You Aware of the Chapters of Life?

By Alainnah Robertson April 17, 2024 Mindset

Life is a journey made in stages. Each one presents its own unique challenges, moments of joy and opportunities to grow. Our ancestors began exploring the idea that life is a series of stages millennia ago, the Hindu rishis (sages) being among the first to do so. Since then, the idea has been explored through the different systems of understanding that we have developed across the ages. In our era, it is psychologists such as Erik Erikson who have perhaps done the most to shape our thinking on it.

There’s no question that, from the wide-eyed innocence of childhood to the focused pursuit of knowledge in our student years, and from the responsibilities of adulthood and family to the reflective wisdom of our later years, our lives unfold like chapters in a captivating story. Understanding these chapters can help us navigate each transition with greater awareness and purpose.

Chapter One: The Blank Slate of Childhood

Childhood is a precious period filled with wide-eyed wonder, boundless curiosity and the pure joy of discovery. It’s a time when the world feels like a playground and the future shimmers with possibilities. During this chapter, we start to develop our identities and lay the foundation for the person we’ll become. Nurturing parents play a crucial role in shaping this foundation. They create a safe and loving space where we feel protected, encouraged and supported as we explore our world. Their guidance helps us develop trust, take initiative and discover our unique purpose.

And Childhood is the time when we can take our first steps towards becoming lifelong learners. As Albert Einstein wisely said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” This insight underscores the idea that the true value of education extends beyond textbooks and classrooms: it is about developing a love for knowledge that lasts a lifetime.

Parents help nurture this love by answering our endless questions, reading us stories, fostering our creativity through doing arts and crafts with us, and encouraging us to play and connect with other children. Dr. Becky Kennedy’s Good Inside is one of many books offering valuable insights and practical guidance for parents during this formative stage.

Chapter Two: The Eager Student

Transitioning from childhood to being a student marks the beginning of formal education. The time has come for learning to take centre stage. This chapter isn’t just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about unlocking our minds, developing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and developing creativity. As students, our responsibility is to do all this to the best of our abilities, grateful for the opportunity for a good education.

Education is a gift, and with it comes the power to shape our own destinies. This involves accepting control of our lives, and developing self-knowledge, knowledge of others, and wisdom, meaning an understanding of how to live a good life. It entails studying many subjects, finding our passions and choosing a career path. Karen Harris’s Life Skills for Teens is an excellent guide that helps young people to make the most of this exciting chapter of their lives.

Chapter Three: The Adult with a Place in the World

The chapter of adulthood begins with a newfound independence granted to us by maturity – and a new set of challenges and responsibilities that we must accept and embrace. The stage is now set for us to be independent of our parents, forge our careers, explore new levels of intimacy and stronger bonds in relationships and, perhaps, embark on the transformative journey of starting a family. Becoming a partner or parent or provider shapes us profoundly, teaching us to prioritize the needs of others alongside our own.

Developing empathy and unconditional love is crucial as we navigate this chapter. As the renowned author and researcher Brené Brown reminds us, “Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’” Through empathy, unconditional love, compassion and open communication, we build deep, meaningful relationships that enrich our lives.

Adulthood also brings responsibilities beyond our personal circles. For some, these responsibilities will involve contributing to the economy; for others, society, the community or the natural world will be the focus.

As M. Scott Peck wisely observes in The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.” Embracing adulthood’s challenges helps us grow stronger and more resilient. Adulthood for Beginners by Andy Boyle is an excellent guide to learning the tough bits faster, and not the hard way.

Chapter Four: A Retirement of (Re)discovery

As we enter the retirement chapter, our priorities shift once again. Retirement is a time for reflection, relaxation and reevaluation. This time is an opportunity to explore new horizons – not just literally through travel, but figuratively, too, because retirement provides an ideal time for learning new things, pursuing new hobbies, seeking fresh experiences, making new friends and acquiring new skills.

Just as importantly, it’s a chapter when we have more time to focus on things that we might have had to set aside during the cut and thrust of adulthood – for instance, valued friendships and longstanding intellectual passions. P. Alexander’s Life After Work provides valuable insights and guidance for thriving during this chapter of transition.

Retirement also invites a shift in our relationship with material possessions. As organizing expert Marie Kondo suggests in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, downsizing can be incredibly liberating. She reminds us, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” By simplifying our lives through downsizing, we create space for what truly matters.

This chapter is the perfect time, while we still have the energy, to declutter and consider the legacy we want to leave behind. Would we rather burden our loved ones or create a sense of peace and lightness for those who follow? And would we rather exist in a cocoon of the many things we’ve accumulated but no longer need, or live free and unencumbered?

Chapter Five: Final Acceptance and Peace

As life’s journey progresses, we inevitably face its natural conclusion. While difficult, this transition can lead to a state of profound acceptance and serenity. Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlines five stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. These stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – offer a framework for the complex emotions we may experience, and not only when it comes to how we deal with the deaths of those around us, which become an increasingly frequent occurrence during this chapter. We’re every bit as likely to go through some or all of them as we come to terms with the fact that we too will soon die.

Facing our mortality can be deeply challenging, and we may experience denial or anger. Ultimately, though, acceptance allows us to find peace within the present moment. Finding it liberates us so we can cherish our relationships, express our love openly and release attachments with grace. By embracing this process, we can approach the end of our lives with a sense of serene maturity.


Ever evolving and only boring if we choose to make it so, life is a beautiful story. Each of its chapters brings its own unique joys, challenges and opportunities for growth. Embracing them with an open mind and heart is what makes for a fulfilling and meaningful life journey.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you aware of life’s stages? Do you enjoy life’s changes? Are you open to life’s lessons?

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Hi there, when I retired I did an outplacement and at one if the sessions a book was discussed which, unusually for me, I went straight to the bookshop to buy. It’s called ‘The 100 Year Life’ by Linda Gratton and Andrew Scott. It’s both enlightening, interesting and thought provoking.
All the best, Hazel


A nice, succinct break down of the various life states. However, the picture is not representative of the changes over the life course. Each chapter has more segments to it and I would have liked if the author spoke more about a mindfulness approach to life stages. Trained as a social gerontologist (education, certification, grad school and practical training) at around the age of forty, I began studying eastern philosophies and lifestyles. So much of how I was socialized and educated was more about conforming to a society that just doesn’t work well. When I began to work with the terminally ill and and a comatose client, everything opened up. I heard about a lot of regrets most of which speak to what I just wrote. The comatose client I worked months with came out of her coma while I was doing aromatherapy treatments on her in 1989. I had taken courses in death, dying and sensory therapies. Few nursing homes use this techniques because they haven’t heard of them. Hospice is so much more progressive in this regard for the most part.

In time, I completely changed my life. I moved to a small town in the mountains in a more caring and environmentally sustainable community. The interpersonal connections where unlike any I have seen either before or after. When people were sick or terminal, the community surrounded them. It was a wonderful experience and I miss it greatly.

Maureen Santini

Alex Haley said every death is like the burning of a library. A free, foolproof way to preserve your life story is the decade-by-decade method. Everyone is welcome.


So well written and expressed. Thanks for this beautiful essay on life.


Thanks for this article. I have long thought it is high time for adding a stage. The post-fulltime years can be much more vital and fresh than pursuing hobbies, downsizing, etc. Of course, these things may happen. Some of us completely restart and even upsize! What would you call a stage between full time work and “retirement” as described in these stages?

Joyce Ramsay

Hi Ardith, I am close to retirement with my business for sale and am having a great time planning my new house with a big shed. The house I build will be bigger than the one I owned over 20 years ago. I sold it when I got re-married have lived on a farm, a cattle station and a large hotel-sized BnB in those years. Now that I am divorced again, I am building a large shed to accommodate the hobbies I intend to develop – woodworking, soap- and candle-making, sewing and knitting. I have thought I might share this shed space with others who are like-minded and perhaps even start a co-operative to sell our goods at markets. I guess we could call it retryment. With maturity, we know what we like, we know what kind of people we like to hang around and with a number of good years ahead, we get to try things we never thought possible whilst someone else or a business owned our time. Good luck with this new stage in your life.

The Author

Alainnah is 91 years old, lived on three continents, and has been a lifelong learner, pursuing knowledge and wisdom. She’s always formed groups to study together. She prefers to ask questions and enjoy what others have to say. Alainnah has compiled her group study sessions in a book, Mindfulness Together.

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