As we wander through this journey that is life, we go through fundamental changes.
Some people use terms like “quarter-life crisis” or “middle age” to define where it is we think we are in our lives along the way. To me, there aren’t destinations in life. There are milestones for sure, but we can often come back to the same places that we were before.
That is what I love about Swiss psychologist Carl Jung’s 4 Stages of Life. As he described them, these stages have to do with who we are as people and our motivations. They have nothing to do with age or accomplishment, and throughout our lives we often move forward and backward from these stages.
As Jung once said,
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
THE 4 STAGES OF LIFE
1.) The Athlete Stage
At this stage, we are mostly preoccupied with our looks, with the way our body looks. During this stage we might stay for hours looking and admiring our reflection in the mirror. Our body, our looks are the most important thing to us, nothing else.
Here we identify our strengths and begin to develop insecurities. We use the physical world to begin to ground ourselves in a version of reality. After understanding how people react to us and how that makes us feel, our feelings begin to take priority. This leads into the next stage.
2.) The Warrior Stage
During this period, this stage, our main concern is to go out there and conquer the world, to do our best, be the best and get the very best, to do what warriors do, and act like warriors act. This is a stage when we continually think of ways to get more than everybody else, a stage of comparison, of defeating those around so we can feel better because we have achieved more, because we are the warriors, the brave ones. We want nothing more than wealth, influence and control.
3.) The Statement Stage
At this time, this stage in your life, you realize what you have achieved so far is not enough for you to feel fulfilled, to be happy… you are now looking for ways to make a difference in the world, for ways to serve those around you. You are now preoccupied with ways to start giving. You now realize what you chased after until now, money, power, possessions etc. will keep on appearing in your life but you no longer attribute them the same value as before, you no longer are attached to those things because you are now in a different stage of your life, where you know there is more to life than that.
You receive them, you accept them and you are grateful, but you are ready to let go of them at any time. You are looking for ways to stop thinking only about yourself, of ways to receive and start focusing on living a life of service. All you want to do in this stage is give. You now know that giving is receiving and it is time for you to stop being selfish, egotistical and self-cantered and think of ways to help those in need, to leave this world better than it was when you arrived.
4.) The Spirit Stage
According to Jung, this will be the last stage of our life, a stage where we realize that none of those 3 stages are really who and what we are.
This stage is the last of the 4 stages of life, and Jung pointed out that not everyone will get to this point of personal development. In this stage you recognize that everything up till this point was part of the journey and you have not been ‘you’ this whole time. You have been testing the extremes of the human experience.
In the spiritual stage you begin to develop internally as a person. You stop being archetypes and begin to be yourself, knowing that ‘you’ are a constantly evolving concept. Impermanence is something you now recognize in your day to day life.
After experiencing the extremes of the human ability and life, you can use this experience to your advantage. You can step back from yourself and recognize the aspects that make up the sum of what and who you are.
Which of the 4 stages of life are you experiencing?