As we are approaching the season for graduations, there are many reasons to pause for reflection. Typically, milestones such as graduation, certain birthdays (18, 21, 30, 40, 50, etc. ), life events (birth of a sibling, the birth of a child, marriage or partnership commitment, illness, divorce, etc.) and other life transitions are all causes for reflection. Often, during these points of life transitions, we think about where we have been, what our goals/dreams/aspirations/assumptions were at some time in the past. We reflect on the future we thought we might have and compare it to the present or future we now believe we may have.
Sometimes these reflections and our evaluations help us to confirm that we are ‘on the right track.’ Other times, these reflections are a cause for us to make some changes – ranging from minor to significant changes. Developmental psychologists refer to this as a re-working of one’s life structure. For example, a lifestyle that worked great at 21 may not work very well at 30 or 35 years old. Maybe a person realizes they need to be more serious and settled (or perhaps they realize they have not allowed for enough closeness, fun, or self-care). In this case, a person may consciously choose to make some changes. Perhaps they go for further training in their job or career, decide to save money for the future, or think about taking a relationship to a more serious level. They could also realize if they don’t do some self-care, more time will pass, and they will never go fishing, learn to play guitar or lose those 10 lbs.
If the person assesses that they are on-course, they will still be enriched by the experience of this self-reflection. They will be moving through this life transition in a more conscious and perhaps more purposeful way.
If the person does not consciously go through this type of assessment, it does not mean there is no assessment happening. Sometimes this happens unconsciously. This may manifest as the cliched ‘mid-life crisis‘ wherein one day, “I don’t know what happened, one day John just left, bought a red sports car and married a younger woman.”
We really cannot (nor should we) avoid the fact that events have meanings in our lives. If we allow ourselves to be aware of them, these meanings can allow for a deeper, more textured and thoughtful existence.