Midlife Adult Development – The Choice – “Stagnation” or “Generativity”

In Parker Palmer’s book, he helps us think about our mindset changes as we age. In today’s reading portion, he discusses his thoughts on Erik Erikson’s wisdom on Care in the 2nd Stage of Adulthood (ages 40-65).

Erikson states that we must make a choice during this time – will we be focusing on our past accomplishments (“Stagnation”) or focusing on the next generations of humanity (“Generativity”)?

Stagnation is fear-driven and focuses on our ability to feel so threatened by each other that we rest our hearts entirely on the credentials we’ve already attained in life. Self-protective, it seeks our own good vs. a world that needs an immense amount of goodness in which to bathe its aches.

Generativity (a term combining “creativity” with “generations”), on the other hand, signifies that we each play a part in the continued evolution of humankind. It is an essential relationship between all of us and our next, upcoming generations; the handing off of the baton of life. Generativity becomes ‘ “creativity in the service of the young” – a way in which the elders serve not only the young but also their own well-being.’

In Generativity, we must learn to lean toward, and not away from each other. We must seek to become the thread through which those who come after us are woven into the great fabric of life. Only in this way can we have the trueness and goodness of soul that will transcend our more unfortunate natures which seek to pull us apart.

There is no place for stagnation in humanity. But there is a great necessity in all of life for generativity in humanity. Indeed, this is the only thing that can save us from ourselves. We must care more for our next seven generations than we care about our own children’s children. And in this, repetition of generativity must take place if we are to gain any ground at all in elevating humanity past our current predicaments.

When it is your time to choose, which will you choose?

[Image: Continuation of Life Lessons from Parker J. Palmer‘s book, The Courage to Teach]