The four quarters of life

Make adjustments at halftime


Have you ever looked to another generation for inspiration on how to live your best life? It’s likely you’ve leaned on the wisdom of a parent, mentor or elderly friend from time to time.

But did you ever think to reflect on the habits and interactions of a toddler, middle schooler or millennial? As the second youngest of 10 children, I’ve always been intrigued by life stages and human behavior, as I had firsthand experience observing the habits and interactions of a large family. I’ve spent decades researching how we make our way through the various chapters of life, and I like to compare how individuals progress through life to how people play one of my favorite sports – football. Over time, I came to a clear realization:

Just like on the field…you can have it all, but not all at once.

As we age, obtaining advice from younger generations can add tremendous value to life’s journey. I touch on this concept in my latest book, “After Further Review.” In this second part of my four-part series for BizTimes Milwaukee readers, I’ll dive into the four quarters of life and how we can find inspiration from other generations.

First quarter: Charging out of the tunnel

The start of the first quarter of a football game is exciting. Teams line up to charge out of the tunnel onto the field with great focus, motivation and anticipation for what is about to take place. Sounds a lot like the early years of our life, doesn’t it? No matter what the odds are, both teams are confident that they’ll win. They are just excited to get out there and play.

The first quarter of life is a time when our unbridled eagerness and healthy optimism enable us to believe we can do anything. This phase is about establishing your identity. When you come to the end of this quarter, you likely have a better understanding of who you are, how to take responsibility and what comes with that knowledge.

Is it possible for older generations to learn from individuals in the first quarter of life? If you’re a member of an “older generation” you may be thinking that this is impossible… you are, in fact, older, wiser and more experienced. But the reality is older generations can learn a lot from those in the first quarter of life. Individuals in this stage (particularly millennials) tend to:

Embrace change
Change is inevitable and people in the first quarter of life fight it less and embrace it more. Their ability to be resourceful and work through various circumstances contribute to a go-with-the-flow attitude that, in many situations, allows them to expand and grow.

Place a greater value on experiences than things
Those who have grown up during times of economic uncertainty are more likely to adopt a simple lifestyle and value the acquisition of material things less. Research has shown that experiences are more fulfilling than buying things, and younger generations understand the value of prioritizing experiences that provide satisfaction and happiness in the long run.

Find balance
The first quarter of life can present some of the biggest stressors, including career choices, marriage and having children. Nowadays, the career and life choices of this age group differ from the choices available to their parents. Work/life balance means something different today. Employees are not looking to their employer for the answer but creating the balance themselves, perhaps by taking on freelance work or creating business opportunities that give them control over their time, rather than working a set number of hours each week.

Work smarter, not harder
The fact that individuals currently in the first quarter of their lives place a high value on balance has also resulted in this generation becoming master multi-taskers. Their ability to thrive in fast-paced environments and use technology proficiently results in quick and efficient completion of tasks.

Take risks
One of the most enviable traits of those in the first quarter of life may be their propensity to take risks. As we age, we understand that great achievements oftentimes take great risk. While those in the first quarter of life might have less on the line when they take risks, one key that anyone can walk away with is that failures offer an opportunity to grow and learn from past mistakes.

Second quarter: Hanging on and keeping up

For most people, the second quarter of life is all about hanging on and keeping up. When you are in your 30s and 40s, you may be experiencing some of the most draining years of your life. Your kids are running from one activity to another and you’re trying your best to juggle all of life’s responsibilities.

During the second quarter, we are most vulnerable to the myth that we can have it all, and all at once. The “busyness” of the second quarter likely won’t change, but you can change the way you handle it. Taking time to reflect and seek inspiration from other generations may be most important during this season of life.

Halftime: Heading into the locker room

What does every football team do after the second quarter? They head to the locker room and hit the pause button to reflect on what took place on the field. We can incorporate the same concept in our own lives. Not everyone who goes into the locker room at halftime comes out with a completely different strategy. Sometimes, it just takes a slight tweak here or there to find more meaning and happiness. By reflecting, gaining inspiration from other generations and not getting caught up in the “busyness,” I promise you’ll walk out of the locker room with a game plan that will include investing your time and talent in things that truly matter to you.

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