[Key point: If you are doing everything right, working hard and still not getting the fulfillment, don’t just label it as the mid-life crisis. You may be ready to transition to the next maturity stage. It’s your choice to pay heed to your heart’s calling or to stay comfortable and forgo any further exploration of this wonderful life you have.]

When I ask “what do YOU want” people sometimes get confused.  Common responses are: “Wouldn’t that be selfish”? “I always think about others, I put others needs ahead of me, am I not supposed to do that way”?

Caterpillar to Butterfly2I realized some awareness around Kegan’s Human Maturity Stages might shed some light for this. Renowned development psychologist Robert Kegan  said, human beings go through few stages of maturity in their lifetime. I am going to introduce some of the relevant ones to my readers today.

Ego Centric Self (Stage 0-2)

This is typically the stage from birth to adolescence. At this stage the earth revolves around them. Others are there to fulfill their needs. They hardly have the capacity to feel empathy for others. When they reach adolescence they find it difficult and confusing as they need to compete with others in the bigger system to meet their needs. They start learning to give up their ego centric agenda to become the member of the bigger society. parents of teen-agers may relate to this :).

While most of the people successfully make that transition to the next stage, research suggests that 15% of adults never fully transition from this stage. They can be self centered and controlling or of victim mentality (others are causing all the troubles for them).

The Interpersonal of Socialized Self (Stage 3)

Most of the adults belong to this stage. This is where people become part of the larger society; they conform to the rules and norms and identify themselves with their role. At this stage peoples’ goals, actions and behaviors are mostly defined by the society they belong to.

They feel they are doing what they want, though actually they are living from “Outside–In” –driven by the motivation of belonging, being liked, needed and/or respected by others. At this stage people may hear the calling of their heart but they often ignore it. Fear of unknown, failure, risking comfort gets in the way.

If you are doing everything right, working hard and still not getting the fulfillment, don’t just label it as the mid-life crisis. You may be ready to transition to the next maturity stage. It’s your choice to pay heed to your heart’s calling or to stay comfortable and forgo any further exploration of this wonderful life you have.

The Independent Self (Stage 4)

Transitioning to this stage is a major transition, only 1 out of 4 adults make it to this stage. Sometimes people reach this stage but during stress they fall back to the Socialized self. At this stage people really are able to listen to their heart and follow that path. They are able to overcome the fear of losing the comfort, disappointing others, contradict the social norms that makes the Socialized self worthwhile.

At this stage the work is on defining “self”- it is not defined by their role or their relationship with others. They get awareness on authenticity; their action becomes an authentic expression of inner purpose. As they grow they start to see and experience the freedom and satisfaction of living from an authentic place – “Inside-Out”. A person in this stage would still get along with others and do things for others but this time they are more grounded on their intention and purpose rather than driven by others’ expectation and approval.

Kegan described two other higher stages, the integral self and the sacred self. I am leaving those out as those are not usually seen in our regular lives.

Now let’s come back to my original point of why focusing on “what do I want” is a good idea. It may seem like I am asking you to go back to the ego centric self (stage 0-2). Actually my audience are the people who are capable of transitioning from socialized self  to independent self. For those, “what I truly want” is a very powerful question to listen to their heart and start defining their authentic self.

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Reference : Becoming a Professional Life Coach


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