Do you feel great being in ultimate control, carving out your life the way you want to? Well you are about to be surprised, maybe even shocked, as most of your major life changes are not in your control at all and are the result of your natural evolution as a human being.

Each one of us goes through distinct developmental stages in life. At around three and four we begin to see the world is about more than just ourselves. We encounter the concept of our death and if you think deeply you will find your first recorded memory is imprinted at this age. (This first memory is really important and greatly influences your life story.)

Around eight or nine we discover our sexuality, which is which sex we are attracted to and then comes hair-raising puberty – sorry about that. We are now establishing a rush of hormones and breaking away from parents to form our own identities. It’s time for loud music, knowing everything your parents don’t and saying “like” a lot to express unconfident ideas, in non-threatening ways, with peers.

At 25 our brains are fully developed and we see all that risky behaviour we engaged as a teenager was really stupid – teenagers have little fear of death. After 25 a deeper sense of values and morality sets in.

Around the late 30s we hit the mid-life crisis. This is a time when we reflect on the question; is this all there is to my life? An analysis takes place where in the end we hopefully come to terms with the fact that the life we have is just fine. This is it and it is okay. The 40s then become a period of reduced need to impress others, to go forth with creativity and to find the life we truly want.

Then comes preparation for retirement – the coming to terms with getting older and the idea of moving from ‘Doing’ to ‘Being’. Some people really struggle with retirement and it can take a long time to accept the challenge of just being rather than having to do. For many retirement prospects are frightening. But rest assured you don’t have to stop, you can just re-arrange life. It is also a time where you start thinking of younger ones coming along and you are more likely to do volunteer work.

So what does understanding all these life cycle stages mean to us? Well knowing you are going to confront these stages gives you comfort in knowing it is the same for all. We are all challenged at these stages to grow, develop and change.

There is also the impact of genes on our development. Like slow release fertiliser our inherited genes are activated at various stages in our life cycle. This means the way we think, the way we challenge ourselves and the many ways our bodies respond to the environment are all the result of genes releasing themselves as we age.

I find all this fascinating and in some ways comforting, knowing even though we think we are in total control of our lives there are natural elements taking place outside our rational in control brains.

Can’t help myself if finishing with this link to Peggy Lee’s classic song, “Is That All There Is.” Take care and keep dancing.

Gerry North is a gay couples counsellor and can be contacted by email on [email protected] or

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