The Seminal Sevens
Age does not define us, we define ourselves. Ages are to life as punctuation marks are to a story. They are a time to reflect, to plan the next decade, to see how orderly our life is and to assess whether we are making progress and having fun. Each seventh age seems to be more significant than the turning point of the decade it precedes. That has been my experience both personally and in the thirty years we have been mentoring and coaching other people. The following thoughts are not rules. They are points to think about.
SEVEN – the age of reason when you are expected to understand right from wrong. Children learn very young these days and grown-ups continue learning all their lives. A baby learns to imitate its parents and grandparents, then to observe other babies and so, gradually, to begin to make its own identity and establish its presence in the world. Today, seven is when children become alarmingly aware of the knowledge available.
SEVENTEEN – on the brink of adulthood but probably well over it in terms of understanding sex, possibly drugs, the world’s financial priorities and the freedom that earlier generations simply didn’t have. The stresses that come with that knowledge are formidable. The temptations of social media are demanding. Adults expects you to know a lot of what they know but forget that you know a lot of what they don’t.
TWENTY-SEVEN – you probably realise that playtime is over. It may have been abandoned earlier. Relationships may be getting more stable. Certainly, girls of this age will often look at a close friend in terms of life partnership. Many will also take the view that life is a long time and partnerships should always be reviewed, possibly changed, along the way. Career starts to be a focus whether marriage is or not. If you don’t know your purpose, it’s time you did.
THIRTY-SEVEN – a sudden realisation that you have reached a third of the way through your life may precipitate a jolt of uncertainty as to where you are going. Family may be appearing. The burden of buying a house, insuring your life, becoming responsible for unknown and unforeseeable demands on you – morally or financially – makes the start of the ‘mid-years’ a time of considerable pressure.
FORTY-SEVEN – an especially critical age for careerists. Decisions made now will influence the rest of your life, including your old age for which provision is essential if it is to be even moderately comfortable. Decide to continue steadily along the path you are on, maintain your work-life balance, keep up a modest standard of living OR go for the top. Both are totally acceptable but once you have decided, changing your decision to trade up is likely to present you with daunting difficulties – enough to preclude you from doing so..
FIFTY-SEVEN – if you’ve gone steadily along the career route you may be tempted to start thinking about when to retire. Perish the thought. Quite apart from the inadvisability of ever retiring you are still a young person, capable of significant influence on how the world works and much needed to support the truly old. Fifty-seven is now middle-age.
SIXTY-SEVEN – if you reached the top, chances are that you will be expected to step down from the position of CEO and take a non-executive role. Try not to. Seats on boards suit some people but are generally about meetings over which you have little influence but very high responsibility. OK if you know the business well, not so good if you don’t. You are two-thirds through your life. Review what you want to do with the rest of it.
SEVENTY-SEVEN – don’t stop working but do start on the Bucket List. Travelling will become increasingly difficult so do it now if you can and want to. You may be grandparents. If so, enjoy but do not spoil the grandchildren. Their independence is your and their parents’ success. Whatever you do, keep mentally active and don’t slip into the trivia of old age. Dementia is not yet understood but it is best kept at bay by challenging thinking every day.
EIGHTY-SEVEN – well, I’m only half way through this age so forgive me if I’d like a little more practice before pontificating. The body will be showing signs of ageing. If fully stretched, the mind may still be in excellent order. Keep it that way for as long as you can. You potentially have another ten years of happy, worthwhile living.
I certainly intend to.