Life tasks - what do we do and when
November 16, 2019 11:04 PM   Subscribe

So to borrow a bit of Adler’s psychological theory, every human has life tasks to complete, which we all do at different ages and stages. I’m looking to get your help making a list of what the tasks are and when most people do them in a modern, western country. Here’s what I thought of so far.

- Defining your gender (am I a boy or a girl) : childhood
- discovering and accepting your sexuality (am I straight/gay/bi etc and that is ok): late teens to mid 20s
- becoming financially independent: mid 20s to mid 30s
- finding a life partner: ??

I’m really just looking to brainstorm so hope this can still count as a question. I’m especially keen to hear about life tasks which people usually undertake age 35+
posted by EatMyHat to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Spitballing here because there are going to be a lot of variation in this.

- Completing school - late teens to late twenties
- Buying your first car - mid-teens to early twenties
- Having a child - ???
- Losing your parent(s) - 50's and 60's
posted by MaryVictoria at 11:26 PM on November 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Buying a home
Retiring... though is that still a thing? 🧐
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:12 AM on November 17, 2019

Getting a driver's license -- 16
Moving out of your parent's home -- 18+
Planning your funeral
posted by NotLost at 12:14 AM on November 17, 2019

Building professional competency - I would guess it takes about 10 years, may start in college/grad school or with first job (or later depending on whether the early jobs are building skills)
Professional mastery - being good at what you do (starts in 30s or later, lasts until retirement, career change or burn-out
Youthful activism - pre-child years where there is energy for changing the world
Mature Community contribution and leadership - giving back to the community with the benefit of experience, usually after child rearing tasks ease, often ramps up in early retirement
Caring for elderly parents and/or sandwich generation (your parents and your children at the same time)
Women who are very involved in child rearing often have a big surge of new career or artistic expression of the professional expansion when the kids leave home.
Adjusting to aging bodies beginning to have significant limitations (60s-80s)
posted by metahawk at 12:40 AM on November 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

Considering yourself an adult - like bar/bat mitzva; more an internal choice and framing than an external task.

Accepting that people younger than you might also be adults

Taking responsibility for learning about the local political situation and being informed enough to make good voting or advocacy choices

Realizing that your physical body might not be up to some of the activities you've taken for granted (climbing ladders, driving, etc.)
posted by amtho at 2:28 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mentoring or having a parent-like role to one or several younger people.
posted by Glomar response at 3:49 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Awareness and acceptance of mortality - age five to never
Identity separation (Being able to think of self as functional outside of and without relationships.) - Age five to never, usually in late teens
Object permanence - age one year to never
Self discipline and self control (I should not be doing this it will make me really unhappy.) - age about six to never
Cause and effect - age six to age eighteen to never
Basic math - age about twelve to never ( understanding compound interest, how much it costs to pursue habits, income to expenditure ratios, etc.)
Self soothing - six months through about sixteen to never
Self criticism with sufficient detachment to be effective - age two to never - often only attained very late in life
Spiritual understanding of ones own beliefs - a personal conclusion about God and ritual - age about twelve to end of life
Awareness of what career path one wants -as early as age six in rare cases, commonly about twenty to eighty
Awareness of what career path is actually possible - as early as twelve, commonly from eighteen to sixty
Personal creativity - as early as two to as old as eighty
Dealing with loss - age five to never
Dealing with personal mental health - age about twelve to never
Reading and analysis of information - age about five to thirty
Tolerance of uncertainty - age about four to never

Please note that we go through episodes of neurological growth periodically, and a skill not obtained at the usual time - such as understanding of personal sexuality - can often be gained during one of the later periods of neurological growth. Some people may need to separate from others before they can assess their own gender identity and instead of getting it from early childhood into adolescence may only be able to cautiously consider their gender identity after getting married and breaking up. We fail, plateau and get second chances at a great many of these.

Missing some of the basic developments can result in floundering at the developmentss that are built on those earlier things - Failure to fully understand and accept object permanence can lead to failing to develop an identity separate from those that you have relationships with or other glitches. However this means that if a basic development is picked up later in life the skills that are dependent on them may fall into place very rapidly. Thus someone who has not picked up self soothing may not have picked up driving, career goals, and understanding realistic career goals, but within weeks of developing the means of self soothing end up changing employment and get a driver's license.

This means that often if you are struggling with something the problem does not lie with the growth/maturity goals that you are struggling with, but an earlier one. For example if you are struggling with school and think it is a self discipline problem, it may well be that it is a basic math problem because you haven't figured out that you don't have the time available to do what you are trying to do, or realistic assessment of your career expectations problem because you actually hate nursing and only think you want to be a nurse, or self soothing, because you can't bring yourself to study enough, since you need to spend time with people feeling safe and having them soothe you.

We also regress on these things and redo them periodically and this is normal, as periods of regression help us get better at them when we work on them again. Losing your faith is usually a sign that you are about to develop a deeper faith, or have just figured out that you never actually understood and believed those things anyway, but had been allowing others to define your faith for you.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:46 AM on November 17, 2019 [17 favorites]

Many excellent answers so far. I find Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs useful.

Self-acceptance, Self-care with nutrition, exercise, health care, conflict resolution. Making and keeping friends and relationships.

Acceptance of loss. Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends grow apart, divorce, become estranged, move away, die. Acceptance of loss becomes a way of life in age; I watched my Mom repeatedly cope with the loss of spouse(s), close friends, siblings. It's a reality and it's very hard.

Keep in mind that we all come from a different place. For some people Overcoming A Toxic Parent or Overcoming Some Form of Trauma or Recognizing and Addressing Personal Mental Illness, Neurosis, etc.. Some people grow up with no money, so Getting An Education will take much longer. Just be cautious of the age-related milestones. It's a different race for everybody.
posted by theora55 at 9:09 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some brilliant answers here guys, thank you! (And keep them coming!)
posted by EatMyHat at 10:57 AM on November 17, 2019

Please please please make a will and a living trust. Make a will even if you don't think your estate is worth anything, or you don't think you are not going to die very soon. You can save your loved ones a lot of grief and expense by letting them know, in writing, what would you would like done after you are gone. And don't forget to specify who gets the rights to your digital media and online accounts.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:34 AM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

In my opinion, we should all strive to do this by the age of 30:
Accept that whatever horrible things happened in your childhood, your past is now your thing to deal with and it's time to stop blaming your parents.
That doesn't mean you have to be okay with bad things that may have happened. But it means you need to find a way to cope with them.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:37 AM on November 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

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