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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Understanding the 5 Stages of Life Can Help Navigate Hard Times

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Featured photo credit: Jonas Kaiser via unsplash.com

More by this author

Laurie Smith

Inspirational Writer. Coach. Healer.

13 Keys to Living Your Best Life and Aligning Your Priorities How to Set Intentions That Set You Up for Success What Is a Complete Life? 5 Rules to Live By Understanding the 5 Stages of Life Can Help Navigate Hard Times how to get out of a funk How to Get Out of a Funk When You’re Stressed Out

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained

Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: 5 Levels Explained

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation that lists five categories of human needs that dictate individual behavior. These five categories refer to physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.[1]

Motivation plays a big part in athletic coaching. I spent 44 years coaching basketball and each day at practice, I was trying to motivate our athletes to give their best effort. In this article, I will examine Maslow’s hierarchy and five areas of needs from an athletic perspective.

1. Physiological Needs

These needs represent the most basic human survival needs. They include food, water, rest, and breathing, and all four have importance in athletics.

Food has had an evolution in the world of athletics. I cannot recall my coaches in the 1950s and ‘60s mentioning anything about food. As time went on, the pre-game meal became important. Steak seemed to be the meal of choice early in the evolution. Research then indicated pasta would be the better choice.[2]

Today, I think most coaches prefer pasta. However, if the players are ordering from menus, some coaches believe the players should stick with their regular diets and order accordingly.

The next step in this evolution was that the pre-game meal, although important, is not nearly as critical as the athletes’ overall nutrition. At our University of St. Francis athletic seminars, we invited nutritionists to speak and to educate our players on their nutritional habits.

The ultimate change in food intake may be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady. He adheres to a specific, disciplined diet that has allowed him to play superb football at age 43.

Water also has had an evolution in sports. It went from not being allowed in practices to coaches scheduling water breaks during the practices.

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Rest is extremely important in all sports, and statistics validate its importance. NBA research found that during the course of the season teams win 6 of 10 games at home but only 4 of 10 on the road. In the NBA playoffs, the statistics change to 6.5 at home and 3.5 on the road. Many coaches believe rest is the key factor to these statistics because the players are sleeping in their own beds for home games.[3]

Our St. Francis basketball team found the importance of breathing on a trip to play in a tournament in Colorado. In our first game, we were playing great and winning by 12 points early in the game. Then the altitude kicked in, adversely affected our breathing, and we lost the lead and eventually the game.

In our second game, having learned our lesson, we substituted more frequently! Maslow’s idea of physiological needs plays a major part in the athletic arena.

2. Safety Needs

Safety needs include protection from violence, emotional stability and well-being, health security, and financial security.

If a fight breaks out during a basketball game, there can be serious injuries. This is the reason a coach steps in immediately when there is any violence or dirty play in practice. The coach must protect the players. You drill your teams to play hard—never dirty.

The importance of emotional stability has gained more credence in sports in recent years. Many teams hire psychologists to help work with their players. There is a great deal of player failure in sports and it is critical for the players to stay emotionally stable.

Health security is much more prevalent in sports today than in my playing days. I once got a concussion during a basketball game. We had no trainers. The coach handled it by telling me after the game, “Sullivan, you play better when you don’t know where the hell you are!” He was right, and my medical treatment ended there! Games today have trainers available to protect the health of the athletes.

Financial security is predominant in professional sports. Most players today use free agency to go where the money is because they consider sport not to be a sport at all. They believe it is a short-term business at their level. I personally appreciate the athletes who have taken less money so the team can retain teammates or use the dollars to bring in new players.

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3. Love and Belonging Needs

These needs can be summed up with two words: love and relationships.

After teams win championships, you will often hear coaches say, “I love these guys” or “I loved coaching this team.” You can tell by their body language and the tone of their voice that they really mean it.

I think coaches say this because the season can be a tough grind. Practices, scouting, film work, travel, and problems that arise take a toll on coaches. However, when you have teams that give all they have every night in practice, you do come to love them.

ESPN did a 30-30 segment on the North Carolina State national championship team coached by Jim Valvano. I was especially interested in watching it because I knew a player on the team who used to come to our camps. Terry Gannon played a major role in their championship.

The program was a reunion of their players. This was 20 plus years from their title, and if you were to take one thing away from the show, it would be how much the players loved each other.

In the last analysis, sport is all about relationships. You can meet former teammates with whom you played 40 to 50 years earlier and that athletic bond is as strong as it ever was. Although you may have not seen each other in years, your friendship is so cemented it’s like you have been seeing each other weekly.

David Halberstam’s book, The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, validates the relationship between athletics forges. Ted Williams is dying and three of his former Boston Red Sox teammates—Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio—make the trip to Florida to see him. Even though 50 years had passed since they played together, the bond among them never waned.

Love and belonging epitomize the essence of sports.

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4. Esteem Needs

These needs are characterized by self-respect and self-esteem. Self-respect is “the belief that you are valuable and deserve dignity.” Self-esteem is twofold—“it is based on the respect and acknowledgment from others and esteem which is based on your own self-assessment.”[4]

Often the players on the bench are the ones the coach respects the most because they work so hard in practices yet receive none of the glory. The best coaches never let the starters or stars ever denigrate the players on the bench. Coaches must always acknowledge the value and the dignity of those who play little. They often turn out to be the superstars of their professions.

Some coaches will never get “it.” They think they can motivate their players by degrading them. They embarrass the athletes during games and they constantly berate their performance in practices.

Great coaches are just the opposite. They are encouragers. They do push their players and they push them hard, but they always respect them. Great coaches enhance the self-esteem and confidence of their players.

5. Self-Actualization Needs

“Self-actualization describes the fulfillment of your full potential as a person.”[5]

I believe three words are the key to self-actualization: potential, effort, and regrets.

You often hear in athletics that a player has potential. It also is not uncommon for the person introducing the athlete to rave about his potential. I was fortunate to work with an outstanding man in the Milwaukee Bucks camps, Ron Blomberg. Ron had the best definition of potential that I ever heard: “Potential means he hasn’t done it.” Will he do all the work necessary to fulfill his potential?

Effort is great, but it’s not enough. If you want to reach your full potential, you must have a consistency of effort in your daily habit. Only consistency of effort can lead to success.

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John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, said that success is becoming all your ability will allow you to be. He agreed with his friend, major league umpire, George Moriarty, even though he used to kid him. Coach told him he never had seen Moriarty spelled with just one “i.” He followed this with, “Of course, the baseball players accused him of having only one ‘eye’ in his head as well.”

In his poem, The Road Ahead or The Road Behind, Moriarty wrote,

“. . . for who can ask more of a man
than giving all within his span, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory.

When your life is winding down and you look back if you can say you gave “all in your span”—that you consistently gave it your best effort—you will have reached your full potential and there will be no regrets.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned more about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, consider reflecting on the last two needs (esteem needs and self-actualization needs) and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you doing all you can to enhance the self-esteem of those around you?
  • Are you doing all you can to self-actualize the potential you have been given?

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

Reference

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