Understanding the 5 Stages of Life Can Help Navigate Hard Times

Most of us are aware that we go through many different stages as we progress through life. In my work with clients and my own life, I have learned that rather than experiencing these stages just once, we actually experience them again and again.

Being able to identify which of these five stages we are in (in each area of our lives) is extremely important because then, we can avoid a mistake many people make—trying to skip the most important, challenging ones (like #1 and #2).

By understanding these stages and our journey through them, we learn how to give ourselves what we really need when we need it.

Life Stage #1: Exploration

The first stage in the life cycle of anything is Exploration. This stage is all about learning, being open, and making new discoveries that we will need later.

In addition to being about starting something new, the Exploration Stage can also be a time of recovery after a transition or loss.

Just the way a newborn baby is open and curious, when we are in the Exploration Stage in any area of our lives, it is important to be open to inspiration, insight, and information that comes from unexpected sources.

If we rush the Exploration Stage, we can miss receiving important information or the opportunity to attain clarity and wisdom we need later and as a result, our future creations may lack depth or staying power.

Suggestions for Support

If you are in the Exploration Stage in some area of your life, it’s important to pay attention, listen, get curious, and give yourself plenty of space and time to learn and explore.

It can help to keep a journal or a log to help you remember what you are learning, so you can access it later.

This stage requires a lot of self-care, acceptance, and compassion.

You might feel led to take a course, study, read self-help books, or listen to podcasts. You may also benefit from professional help, such as that of a teacher, coach, specialist, expert, mentor, support group, physician, or therapist.

During the Exploration Stage, it can be important to request understanding from loved ones, and to be willing to learn from those with more experience than yourself.

The key is learning. Take the time you need to expose yourself to new ideas and a wide variety of perspectives. Study, soak up information, and get inspired.

Life Stage #2: Integration

After we have received information, we may start to feel a sense of closing down, just a bit. This is often what people describe as limbo or the chrysalis stage.

The Integration Stage is a progression from one thing to the next. Old patterns are breaking apart and new ones are being created. We are in-between things.

We may have completed one level of education but are not yet an expert. We may have birthed our first child but are still figuring out our own parenting style.

When we are in an Integration Stage in some area of our lives, we may feel more tired than usual. We might misjudge ourselves as being stuck or lazy, not realizing how much work we are doing under the surface.

It can help to remember that Integration is a very powerful process in the art of transformation. When we fully integrate our ideas, we become a powerhouse, strong, and ready for what comes our way.

When we skip this step, we are often not grounded or resilient in the way we need to be to truly succeed.

Suggestions for Support

If you are in the Integration Stage in some area of your life, it is important to strengthen yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and acknowledge how much you achieved in the previous stage of Exploration.

Strengthening activities can include self-care basics like drinking water, resting, exercising, meditating, and spending time relaxing with family members and friends.

You also might benefit from joining a program or a group where you can safely practice skills learned and process your new ideas. Integration requires being humble enough to acknowledge what you don’t yet know, and the courage to experiment with what you have recently learned.

Life Stage #3: Creation

After we have integrated new ideas through practice and experimentation, our energy starts to pick up again. We are ready for action.

The Creation Stage requires a huge output of energy, which usually happens privately.

In a relationship, this is the “in-love” stage when a couple often can’t get enough of each other. They don’t socialize much with others but instead are building the foundation of their relationship and defining who they are as a couple.

In our personal or professional lives, we may have a huge outpouring of energy or an urge to declutter, redecorate, write, make art, create something new, or redesign an aspect of our business, life, or home.

In the area of health, we may experience lots of motivation, suddenly feeling able to start and stick to a new diet or exercise program. We start to get really excited about making something new happen. We are energized and aligned.

When we give our creative process the space and respect it deserves, it can feel as if it is happening through us rather than something we need to work hard to make happen.

Suggestions for Support

Creation is so much fun that the tendency is to skip steps #1 and #2 and rush into it, pretending we are in a Creation Stage when we are not. It is important to be honest with ourselves about whether or not we are truly ready to devote our full energy to producing something new.

On the other hand, if you are truly in a Creative Stage, it’s important to make space for it. The huge rush and outpour of a true full-on Creation Stage doesn’t last forever and is often all-consuming.

It is a very important, precious, and sacred time. Your creations are vulnerable right now and need time and space to become whatever it is they are becoming.

Now is not time to launch publicly or share what is happening to you too broadly. Protect yourself against self-doubt and self-criticism, or anyone who is jealous or may not have your best interests at heart.

Negativity can drain your all-important energy and damage the Creative process. If you do share, share only with those whom you truly trust.

The Creative Stage usually requires lots of time, attention, focus, and energy. It’s almost impossible to be in a Creation Stage of all areas of our lives. Creation takes so much energy, different areas of our lives need to take turns.

When you are in this stage, it can help to make a plan so nothing too important falls through the cracks in other areas of your life. Ask for understanding from loved ones.

Lower your standards and simplify. Let go of things that aren’t important. Make sure things that are essential like self-care, paying bills, caring for children, health, and core relationships can be done in a way that also allows you space to create.

You might want to delegate, outsource, or pause things that detract from your creative flow. Consider scheduling smaller, focused time slots for quality time with your partner, kids, or activities that are important but to which you can’t currently give as much energy to as you would like to or typically do.

Make space for creative output while also making sure the rest of your life remains healthy and safely intact.

Life Stage #4: Sharing

The Sharing Stage is when we come out of the chrysalis and begin sharing our creations.

In relationships, this stage is when couples start going on double dates or bring the partner home to meet the family. Or, they commit in some larger way like moving in together, getting engaged, or getting married. The relationship is strong enough to share more publicly.

In the area of health, perhaps after months of losing weight, running privately, or working out with a small group, we may are ready to compete, run a race, or post our workouts on social media.

With creative pursuits or a business, we may share products with a small group of people at first, have a small art show, or publish our book. We may launch our business or new product.

When the time is right to share, it happens easily and effortlessly. It feels right. It is as if there is an open flow between us and whoever is ready to receive the gift of our creation.

Suggestions for Support

New creations are vulnerable. It can be helpful to view the relationship, course, book, business, or new home as an entity unto itself.

Is it ready to emerge in some outer way or is it still incubating? Sharing too early can cause something that could have succeeded to crumble because it’s just not ready for the public scrutiny.

On the other hand, sometimes we delay sharing out of fear or worry that our creation is not good enough. It’s important to go slowly, use discernment, and remember that sharing is about keeping your own flow going.

Sharing is all about being generous to yourself and others. It is about letting the positive energy of your good health, business, home, family, relationship, or product benefit others in some way.

As you begin sharing and emerging in the outer world, pace yourself and stay in tune with your energy. Go slow, find your pace, take a day off when you need it. Protect yourself emotionally and practically.

Remember, we can never please everyone. As you start to share, accept any defeat, negative feedback, or closed doors as increasing the possibility that other doors will open, so your true tribe (or audience, partner, customer, friend, reader, etc.) can find you.

And have fun! The Sharing Stage is when we give back to benefit others, and that always feels good.

Life Stage #5: Letting Go (or Auto-Pilot)

In everything we create and experience, there is a moment when we let go.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever it is we are letting go of is ending. It may simply mean that certain aspects of our lives need to go on autopilot, or it is time for them to evolve into another form.

Letting go is a natural phase in life. If we don’t let go of something when it is time to do so, we can experience a drain on our energy and resources that impedeS our growth. On the other hand, if we let go too soon, we may experience new crises that take extra time and energy to repair.

Letting go is often about automation. We no longer have to be hypervigilant to make sure things go perfectly. We don’t have to direct our creation as much as we once did.

This stage can also be about releasing something like a habit, pattern, or commitment that served a purpose in our lives for some time, but is no longer in our best interest.

The Letting Go Stage is often a time of loss or cleaning out. As we let go of what no longer serves us, we make space for new, positive energies that are more aligned with what we really need.

Letting go also happens when something has gone through its life cycle and needs to come to a natural end.

Suggestions for Support

Letting go is a time for extreme self-care. Consider getting professional support to help you delegate roles and automate functions, perhaps a professional organizer, clutter coach, or technology.

Now may also be the time to get help from a therapist, life coach, healer, recovery program, or support group to help you grieve, heal, emotionally detach, release control, and let go.

Most of all, be gentle and compassionate with yourself.

Letting go is as natural as is creation. The more we let go, the more we can open to whatever is next.

Final Thoughts

Moving through the five core life phases in the many different areas of our lives is a dance. The most important thing is to know where you are in the process so you can give yourself all the support, care, and understanding you need for your well-being and the best possible outcome.

More Tips on Navigating Through Hard Times in Life

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article:

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.

So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

  • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
  • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
  • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

Mindful Activities

Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

Final Thoughts

Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

More About Living in the Present

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