Three Stages of Life

Bill Abbate

What has been the happiest time in your life so far?

Most of my readers are in what we will call the adult stage of life, an opportune time to create a great deal of happiness.

While many factors affect our happiness, one simple thing can make life far more enjoyable regardless of your age.

The three stages

Rather than examine the many stages some people attribute to life, let’s look at three primary stages instead. It is necessary to make some assumptions since a short piece like this cannot cover every situation. This article is not for those who grew up in or are currently in an abusive situation. Instead, we will focus on the more typical life many of us live.

The early years

Many believe we are happiest during our youth, a time of naivety when most experience little trouble. Responsibilities are few other than going to school, homework, and chores. For most children, life is relatively simple during this time.

In these more carefree years, we can build many great memories. Because worries are few, time passes differently. Summer breaks can seem endless. As recently as the 90s, most children spent much of their time outdoors. This has changed dramatically due to technology.

Today’s children spend less than half as much time outdoors as their parents did during their youth, meaning they miss out on many health and psychological benefits their parents enjoyed.

Sadly, this stage passes too quickly. Who wouldn’t want to take another crack at their childhood knowing what you know now? But hey, once a stage of life has passed, it is past.

“Youth comes but once in a lifetime.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)


Adulthood can start with continuing our education, working, or both. Depending on your mindset, early adulthood may or may not be a happy time. For some, it is great; for others, it isn’t. Experience teaches us it is often a mixture of good and challenging times.

As we mature, we tend to take on greater responsibility. We will work diligently for several decades, with seemingly no end in sight.

During this time, you can develop your own definition of what it means to be successful. Success is unique to each of us, provided you don’t let someone else define it for you.

Passing the midpoint in your career, usually in your 40s, you can begin experiencing life-changing events. It is around this time many start reevaluating their life. An event such as someone dying may prompt this self-examination. For many, it turns into a mid-life crisis.

“As a man grows older he values the voice of experience more and the voice of prophecy less.He finds more of life’s wealth in the common pleasures-home, health, children.

He hurries less, and usually makes more progress.He esteems the friendship ofGoda little higher.”Roy L. Smith (1887–1963)

Many are reasonably established in their career by now. From this point forward, the realization that your career will end one day begins setting in, affecting your outlook. You start thinking more seriously about retirement.

During the second half of adulthood, you will likely experience more deaths. One or more of them could be someone you are very close to. You become acutely aware that death is imminent, and you may begin seeing the people you love and care for with a newfound appreciation.

For some, this can be a great time of happiness. You live a decent lifestyle and have established yourself in a community with a nice group of friends. While your responsibilities are no less and perhaps greater at this age, experience and wisdom help you better deal with them.

“A well-ordered life is like climbing a tower; the view halfway up is better than the view from the base, and it steadily becomes finer as the horizon expands. “William Lyon Phelps (1865–1943)

The later years

Our later years should be the happiest time in life as we get off the work treadmill, at least in part, and have fewer responsibilities. Unfortunately, many people will not save and invest enough to cover how they wish to live in retirement, requiring them to work in some way. Yet, for those who are self-sufficient, this can be the happiest time of life.

As you enter old age, the deaths continue to mount until you have outlived most of your contemporaries.

“The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded on a fallacy.The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts, and we grow happier as we grow older.” William Lyon Phelps (1865–1943)

Early on, this can be a wonderful time in life. For some of us, retiring from work doesn’t mean we retire from life. Life is only starting anew. The entire world becomes a playground for those who keep active. There is so much to learn. So much to experience.

“No one grows old by living — only by losing interest in living.” Marie Beynon Ray (1886–1969)

As we enter old age (around 80 or more), our bodies may not keep up as well as we wish. When our mobility diminishes, we realize those final days are getting closer. We start saying things like I need to go on this trip or take this cruise before my health gets too bad to enjoy it.

The funny thing is that as many of us age, we usually think we have much time to live. It could be because we have always thought this way and have difficulty accepting our end approaching. Whatever it is, if you ask most reasonably healthy older people how old they feel, it is always far younger than their actual age. They feel not years but decades younger.

Even this latest time in life can be a time of happiness. You may have many fond memories and enjoy the full weight of your life, those you have loved, and those who love you.

Final thoughts

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”Zig Ziglar (1926–2012)

Ultimately, you get to define the happiest stage in your life. There is no reason all three stages can’t be enjoyable! As with everything else, you alone determine how to live your life and how much you enjoy it.

Oh, that “one simple thing can make life far more enjoyable regardless of your age” is the mindset you choose to develop. You can find out more in this article.

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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