A friend forwarded me information about an upcoming music festival which had one of my old favorite bands as the headliner. I looked at the link and had no desire to go. I quickly reflected, “That was a fun phase.”
My mindset has drastically shifted since those mosh pit days where I now enjoy going to see music with reserved seats. My twenty-year old self would call me out for being a square, but you know what twenty-year old Dan, I ENJOY BEING A SQUARE! I rather sit down and enjoy watching a band play with the Colorado Symphony than bash into other mosh pit participants.
Favorite vacation spots, hobbies, hair styles, music tastes, and other daily habits enter our lives with importance and then are nostalgically, or embarrassingly, reflected upon by our older selves.
As said by Dan Gilbert in his TED talk titled The Psychology of Your Future Self:
“At every stage of our lives we make decisions that will profoundly influence the lives of the people we’re going to become, and then when we become those people, we’re not always thrilled with the decisions we made. So young people pay good money to get tattoos removed that teenagers paid good money to get. Middle-aged people rushed to divorce people who young adults rushed to marry. Older adults work hard to lose what middle-aged adults worked hard to gain. On and on and on.”
The Three Stages of Adulthood
Life consists of many phases either dictated by cultural trends or significant life events. To generalize, common adult-life falls into three stages:
1) The Pleasure Years
Where’s your next vacation? Which happy hour spot is your favorite? See any good live concerts lately? Many young adults base their lives around activities that grant them instant gratification while they’re discovering their role in the world. Planning for retirement isn’t in the forefront of their minds for several reasons. It’s against the norms of their peers to post on their social media pages responsible duties like contributing the maximum amount to their Roth IRA or picking out their best option for health insurance. Young adults much rather become consumed with which new restaurant has the best fried pickles.
2) Must… Reach… Success
Once responsibilities demand more attention, adults shift their thinking toward conquering these obligations methodically, efficiently, and proudly. No one wants to be living paycheck-to-paycheck and the phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses” motivates people to achieve a level of success to live comfortably.
3) Let’s Be Ourselves
The older one gets, the chances of cynicism drastically rise. The grumpy personalities are popularized as older men in the media and everyone seems to relate because we all know a grumpy old person who is skeptical about new ideas or grouchy when taken out of their routine. People get older and they understand what they like and don’t like. They aren’t impressed by latest gadget and don’t feel the social pressure to “one-up” their neighbor. They instead gravitate towards simplicity where they appreciate sincere conversations and a humble lifestyle.
However, there is a middle ground. Some people that have “seen many moons” are still open to new things. We all know at least one happy senior citizen that is always smiling. They make a point to enjoy a Sunday brunch with family, travel to new places, and/or pick up a new hobby. This is a lifestyle worth pursuing no matter which age.
Two Constant Themes
Even with all these versions of ourselves documented by our social media profiles, journals, or your mom’s photo-album (only visited every time a new boy/girlfriend enters her home), two aspects follow everyone through every stage: your character and your reputation.
- The external world defines your reputation; your internal nature defines your character.
It’s important to shape your character into the person that you want people remembering after your last days. Remember that adversity inevitably enters our lives without warning. How you handle these curveballs truly define your character which allows people to create your reputation.
As a friend of mine said about the game of golf, “you truly understand someone by seeing how they handle themselves after a few bad strokes.”
If you work on your behaviors each day to positively shape your character, a better reputation will follow. New opportunities, experiences, and invitations will present themselves. People enjoy being around others that live with a high value of character, be that in professional or personal settings.
Whichever life stage that you’re in, always remember that today is the day that you continue your work in progress!