Generations Weigh In: What Are the Best Years of Our Lives?

"We love to slice and dice (the generations) and play the name game. But there are some things the generations have in common."
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A recent piece in Vanity Fair revealed the results of a poll they sponsored along with 60 Minutes. It is a fascinating look at how the different generations – Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers & Millennials – look at each other and the world:

“We love to slice and dice (the generations) and play the name game. But there are some things the generations have in common. Most of us agree that you can be anything you want to be (even if you start out as a miserably unpopular teenager).”

Agreeing to Agree

According to the study generations agree Alzheimer’s care and race relations are likely to be better for future generations. Let’s hope so. We share similar views of the World War II generation, saying they are best captured in Norman Rockwell Paintings (22%), the Normandy American Cemetery (21%) and the Iwo Jima Memorial (21%). When it comes to the Baby Boom generation, 21% of us give them credit for the anti-war movement and rock music (16%) along with some of the blame for the national debt (14%). These are interesting tidbits but are they providing the kind of understanding we really need?

Life Stages, Not Labels

While it’s interesting to look at these generational perspectives and influences, it doesn’t impact the way many of us are experiencing life today. So many of us feel as though we’ve made our most significant life choices by the time we’re in our 40’s and our proverbial story has been written. We feel lonelier and less connected than we would like to. We crave a greater sense of meaning and purpose. We are exhausted and feel less vital than we’d like. Thinking about life in generational terms doesn’t address this at all. Understanding the stages of adult development, on the other hand, can change everything.

I’m focused on the years between about 45-65. Everyone fortunate enough to reach their mid-40’s will experience this new life stage I call Middlescence. It comes with distinguishing characteristics and associated tools to help make it the most fulfilling time of life yet. The Baby Boom generation is pioneering it at the older end of the range, with Gen X stepping into this newly identified life stage. To see if you are a Middlescent, click here and take the quiz! Like adolescence was 100 years ago, we are just beginning to define what it means to be in this stage and creating the language to describe it.

3 Truths About Life’s Newest Stage

  1. We are happier! A Harris Poll found that our happiness and contentment with life increases in our 50’s and continues that way as we age.
  2. We have all we need to help us grow during this stage Similar to adolescents, iddlescents are at an inflection point of personal evaluation on many levels. Only now we also have the hard-earned wisdom we need to help ourselves figure out what we really care about and how to act on it.
  3. We want to make a difference. The hunger we feel for more meaning in our lives is effecting our choices. By age, 35- to 44-year-olds and 45- to 54-year-olds were the most likely to volunteer (28.9 percent and 28.0 percent, respectively), and 7% of Peace Corps volunteers are 50+.

Find more tools and information on Middlescence here. I want to help you find the power and potential to transform your life personally and professionally.

This poll was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, among a random sample of 1,015 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone June 3–7, 2016.

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