Life, by the Decade

The primary focus of each decade of life.Just got a crisp little email from my lifelong mentor Bobb Biehl.

He summarizes the focus of each decade of life as follows:

  • Childhood = Security
  • Teens = Self
  • 20’s = Survival
  • 30’s = Success
  • 40’s = Significance/Struggle
  • 50’s = Stride
  • 60’s = Strategic
  • 70’s = Succession
  • 80’s = Slippery
  • 90’s = Sleep

These one word summaries are the “normal” focus for each decade based on observations of thousands of people over forty years.

The framework makes more sense to me now than it would’ve in my 20’s.

When we’re in our 20’s we want to quickly get to success, significance, skip the struggle, hit our stride and be strategic beyond our years. I can remember thinking I had to get it all done before I was 30 or it’d be too late!

In hindsight, despite what we and others may see as big accomplishments in those early years, there is a gradual accumulation of knowledge, wisdom and relationships over time.

These assets can make the milestones of our later years far greater than those flashy earlier ones.

I’d like to see something a little more encouraging for the 80’s and 90’s, but it’s not certain that I will even get there.

What is encouraging is that the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s can be high leverage years. We easily forget that in our youth-obsessed culture.

We can choose to stay engaged and contribute to things that matter all the way through, rather than checking out and coasting past the fictional Best Before date.

P.S.: Bobb has some further teaching on this topic here: Decade by Decade


Photo credit: JD Mason

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