Imagine adding another dimension to how you age. One that looks at life by its stages rather than years. It has been done by many and is called the four chapters of life. Let’s look at this unique perspective to see what we can gain.
The four chapters of life
What if you could break free from the bonds of time in your view of life? Instead of seeing only age, let’s take a different view — your life as a book divided into chapters. This book is unique in that your life is on its pages. It consists of four chapters, each representing a season of life. Hopefully, your book will contain all four chapters. Viewing time in these significant chunks can help us better understand who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming. In each chapter, you will see how you have matured and what you have created by your choices. Life’s four chapters consist of the following:
Chapter 1 — Spring — birth through adolescence
Chapter 2 — Summer — early adulthood
Chapter 3 — Autumn — middle adulthood (middle age)
Chapter 4 — Winter- late adulthood (senior)
Let’s look at my autobiography as an example of how this book can help you. Rather than share it word for word, I will summarize each chapter with some takeaways.
Chapter 1 — Spring
Summary My parents divorced when I was four, and my mother remarried when I was six. I barely remember my birth father. My stepfather, a good man, though he was far too lenient with us kids, was in the Navy and out to sea so often we saw little of him. I had difficulty accepting him as a father and always called him by his first name. It was my stubbornness and immaturity that led to us never getting close. I considered myself fatherless and longed to one day meet my real father. I became very independent and matured at a young age. I was the “man of the house,” caring for my little brother and sister. I felt the world’s weight on my shoulders when I was far too young. As a military brat, we traveled the world for most of my childhood. I lived in Norfolk, Detroit, Long Beach, and San Diego before we left the country. We lived in Japan, Honolulu, and Malta for eight years, returning to the USA in my late teens. The effect of my childhood Those early years continue to affect my life to this day. I have found much good in them despite the many difficulties. One of the biggest lessons from that period is I am a survivor. If a kid can live the life of a Navy brat, attending 12 schools from first to twelfth grade, constantly struggling, with no father figure and a young, immature mother, he can survive anything! The most significant benefit from this part of life was the tenacity I developed, which has served me well throughout my life.
Chapter 2 — Summer
Summary Entering early adulthood, I married at 19 and had a child at 21. After a hitch in the Navy, I worked hard, often at two jobs, to support my little family. There were endless work hours, nearly getting divorced, all the while climbing the ladder from laborer to managing companies. As a husband and father, I worked hard, had many successes, and failed at times which strengthened me and made me more determined to succeed. Around thirty, I discovered my love for learning. It was then I started understanding what I learned would take me wherever I wanted to go. The effect of my early adulthood I am satisfied I did what I could and realize I could have done some things differently and better. I learned many lessons that served me well in my career and to this day. One of the biggest lessons from this period was realizing I could accomplish whatever I wanted as long as I was determined, persistent, and worked hard. I saw tremendous growth in this time of life, steadily advancing in my career.
Chapter 3 — Autumn
“Youth is like spring, an over-praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” Samuel Butler (1835–1902)
Summary Entering middle age, our daughter moved off to college, and we became empty-nesters. I had advanced considerably in my career yet allowed work to consume me. During this time, I would work for a company for a few years until another great offer came in. I usually took the job and promotion advancing to the highest levels in a few organizations. Fortunately, Charlotte, my wife, was understanding and forgave me for not being home much because of my hectic work and travel schedule. Unfortunately, she got cancer and died at the young age of 51, turning my world upside down. The effect of my middle adulthood I continued to mature, learning many lessons in this part of life, fully realizing I could create my future with few limits and accomplish almost anything I desired. One big lesson was not to allow my job to consume my life. After the death of my wife, I started to implement this lesson, which created tremendous benefits. My only regret was I had not started it while she was alive. I came to appreciate the important things in life in a far greater way than I could have were it not for the lessons of chapter three. Fortunately, I met a wonderful woman named Jane near the end of this chapter. We married, and I have made a concerted effort to bring decades of lessons into our present life. Nothing is better than having someone you love who is your best friend and will be for the rest of your life!
Chapter 4 — Winter
“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” William Blake (1757–1827)
Summary to date This final chapter is a work in progress. Coming to the reality I am writing my last chapter is sobering. I find it essential to use the lessons of the past decades for something larger than myself. I have become a legitimate writer and author during my retirement years, and I want to share what life has provided me with others. Writing gives me purpose and is part of what I hope to leave as a legacy to help anyone who reads it. If my writing helps only one person, it will all be worth it. The effect of my late adulthood to date What are the more important aspects of this final chapter? So far, it is living life to the fullest, helping others, and growing spiritually. At this stage, I could kick back and relax as a retiree, but that is not who I am. I want the rest of my life to count. I want to make it worthwhile. The most worthwhile thing I can do is help others live better lives. How can I do that? Through writing, coaching, and mentoring, helping people see more, do more, and be more. Then there is the spiritual aspect, an essential part of my life. I want to grow and do what I can to help others grow spiritually. It is the single most important thing in life.
“Cherish every season of life; for without coldness, there is no comfort in warmth, and without darker days, there is no joy in light.” Wes Fesler (1908–1989)
It can be challenging to stop and look at your life when you are in the midst of it. It would do everyone good if they would take time from their busyness and think about what they are doing and where it is taking them. You may believe you have all the time in the world, but be careful. Before you know it, you, too, will be old. Don’t live a life filled with regret. Live a life of purpose on purpose. Why not ask yourself a few questions now and then to gauge where you are in life? Doing so will allow you to make the best use of what you have already lived and to think about your future. Ask yourself:
“How do I feel about the chapter(s) I have lived so far?”
“What lessons can I take from these chapters to improve my life going forward?”
“Is my life turning out how I had hoped, or is it different? What do I want to do about that?”
“How do I want chapter 4, the final chapter of my life, to be? Who do I want to become before and during that time?”
These simple questions can help you gain insight and add value to your life. Give yourself a break now and then to consider the answers and what lies ahead.