Yesterday I turned 28. It is not one of the round birthdays, neither is it turning 16, 18 or 21. But I believe it is still significant. Let me explain to you why.
Last year I had the great opportunity to work as a Long Service Leave Replacement teacher at a Waldorf School. I love the whole anthroposophy approach to education and the connection with nature. As it turns out Rudolf Steiner also came up with another theory that I was unaware of until recently.
If you are a little familiar with Steiner education and philosophy, you may know that he divided childhood into three stages. Every stage has an emphasis, a developmental challenge and a crisis:
Stage 1: Age 0-7
In stage 1, the emphasis lies on physical development as well as allowing the child’s will to emerge through imitating human activities. The child needs to feel and trust that the world is good.
Developmental challenge: Is love received or is love denied?
Crisis: The change of teeth.
Stage 2: Age 7-14
Stage 2 marks the beginning of the psychological unfolding of the child as well as the blossoming of the feeling life and imagination. These years are all about forming a relationship to beauty in the world.
Developmental challenge: Is the soul widely unfolded or is it only narrowly unfolded?
Crisis: The start of puberty.
Stage 3: Age 14-21
The emphasis during the teenage years lies on individuality and the development of the personality. People in this age group need love and guidance in order to develop their own highest truths and moral ideas.
Developmental challenge: Is a sense of personal identity discovered or is it still unborn?
Crisis: Stepping into adulthood.
The Adult Stages
So far so good. I had heard of these stages before. Everyone in the room I sat with when they were explained to me had, too. However, I had no idea that Steiner’s theory actually keeps going and extends to adulthood. And neither did many others. When I listened to the person speaking at the front and he kept putting more slides on, a sense of anticipation went through the room. Anticipation turned into curiosity and interest, then into astonishment. Why? Because the stages he explained seemed so very accurate to the people in the audience. They seemed accurate to me.
Foto: Belinda Rae
Stage 4: Age 21-28
Stage 4 is the stage I am about to leave behind. It is called the emotional phase. The emphasis in these years of life lies on experiencing and engaging with the world: work, play, relationships, adventure. If you are in this age group this might sound familiar, right? 🙂
Developmental challenge: Independence vs. dependence
Crisis: Where do I belong? Am I able?
Hearing this deeply resonated with me as I could look back on the last few years and identify all these things in my own life. I was unsure where I belong and how dependent or independent I would like to be in the future. I started a new relationship, travelled as much as possible, finished my university studies in Germany, had multiple jobs trying to find my way and moved to the other side of the world.
At the end of this stage I now know that I definitely value independence over security and that life to me is about change, personal development and adventure rather than having that one secure job and that one house you own.
Stage 5: 28-35
Looking at the focus of the next life stage, we are now moving from the emotional to the rational stage. This is the age where a lot of people in my generation start settling down, get married, buy a house, plan maternity leave, have babies etc. It is a stage where various significant things happen. And somehow they are now bigger than they were before. They have more impact on the rest of your life.
Stage 5 is about achievement orientation and about discovering your personal power. This is something I am really looking forward to as I feel like I haven’t 100% my personal power or purpose yet. One question I have kept asking myself is who I want to be in this world and what I want to support or not support. For me at the moment this means not eating meat anymore, trying to reduce the amount of waste I produce and making choices in alignment with my personal and ethical values.
Developmental challenge: Security vs. insecurity in relation to the environment
Crisis: What’s it all about?
Although the ‘play’ phase may be over I find it important to mention here that in my opinion we should still see life as our playground. A place and space where we create, grow, play and develop. Take risks. And sometimes just have fun for the sake of enjoying life.
Stage 6: Age 35-42
To not leave this list incomplete, I will keep going with the following stages. Since I am not in any of these life stages yet I cannot draw from personal experience here, but you as reader may be able to and I would appreciate your comments or input.
35-42 is called the existential phase of life. It is about discovering responsibility and morality. Doing good in the world and mastering things are also part of it, e.g. many people may be promoted in this stage of life and move up within their company. But I think that the term ‘mastering’ can be used in a very broad sense here. Thus, it may refer to mastering a certain hobby, the relationships we engage in or parenthood as a whole.
Developmental challenge: Certainty (finding oneself inwardly) vs. uncertainty (losing oneself to circumstances)
Crisis: Doubts and fears about the future.
Stage 7: Age 42-49
Stage 7 is focusing on a creative renewal of one’s life. It is about developing a new self-concept and dynamic courage.
Developmental challenge: Finding new aims, values and motivations (inner-directed) vs. being stuck in old ambitions (outer-directed)
Crisis: Do I have the courage to let go of the old and make the change?
Stage 8: Age 49-56
Now we are moving on to stage 8, which is about becoming wise. In this stage, people often want to act in the service of others and make a personal sacrifice for a higher good. They want to be part of a community and feel needed.
Developmental challenge: Establishing a creative and moral way forward vs. repeating yourself
Crisis: Am I ready to sacrifice to take my next step?
Stage 9: Age 56-63
Lastly, stage 9 is about evaluation. This means taking stock of one’s contributions as well as accepting one’s destiny. People often ask themselves whether they have contributed enough and whether their life has been worthwhile.
Developmental challenge: Potential developed vs. potential unrealised
Crisis: What have I left undone?
My mum falls into this age category and I can say that I have definitely noticed these thoughts coming from her, wanting to catch up on things she has not experienced yet. Moreover, she seems a lot more open to new steps and ways of living.
Of course many lives these days don’t end with stage 9, but I believe that this is a great overview to work with and a rhythm of life theory that makes a lot of sense to me.
I feel like I am ready to move onto stage 5, but sometimes it may be quite difficult to leave things behind. The growing responsibility does frighten me a little, but I know that it is inevitable to make these decisions in life and that this happens for everyone.
How about yourself? Which stage of life are you currently in and what are your thoughts about this theory? I would love to read them.
Lots of love ♥
Credit: I would like to clarify that this is not my theory. While I have done some research myself and included personal thoughts, the theory has been developed by Rudolf Steiner and the interpretation of the theory I have mainly relied on for this post is David Liknaitzky’s.