middle aged woman looking into the distanceYou’ve hit middle age and taking time to reflect on your life so far.

Do you feel that you are connected to a community with a sense of purpose whose actions will benefit future generations? Or have you been more focused on your own interests with no regard to being productive or contributing?

These examples highlight a concept called generativity versus stagnation. They are part of a theory of psychological development, first pioneered by Erik Erikson.

Let’s look closer this concept, and what you can do to “make your mark.”

What is Generativity?

Generativity is the things that you do to contribute to making a difference and leaving a lasting legacy. This involves what you do to form relationships with others, especially your family.

There’s also being a mentor and assisting younger generations as they move forward. Finally, generativity refers to the commitments that you make to the people in your life. When we think of someone who has achieved generativity, it is someone who feels connected.

An Example of Generativity

Let’s consider an example of generativity. Imagine someone who is between 40-65 years old. If they are experiencing generativity, they may:

  • Have a job or pursue work that they find meaningful, productive, and impactful.
  • Be in a long-term relationship (married or partnership) with a romantic partner.
  • They may have children, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
  • Have meaningful relationships with other people, such as friends and family members.

Essentially, someone who is experiencing generativity feels connected, valued, and knows that what they do is making a difference.

The Wall of Stagnation

In many ways, stagnation is the opposite of generativity. With stagnation, you don’t consider the interests or needs of others. In fact, you might describe your actions as selfish. There is no concern for doing meaningful work or being productive. Nor do you care about your legacy and what you will leave behind for future generations.

Any connections you have with others are superficial, and not deep or meaningful. An example of someone who is stagnant may include:

  • Earns a lot of money, but finds little to no meaning in their work.
  • Doesn’t take the needs of others into account when making decisions.
  • Is all about living in the moment, with no concern about the future.
  • Has struggled with maintaining long-term romantic relationships.
  • If they do have children, they are not invested in their development or futures.

How Generativity and Stagnation Happen

These states of being occur not by chance. Rather, they can result from two things:

  1. The decisions that you make in your life.
  2. Events or experiences that occur to you.

For instance, perhaps you are more generative because you went into a helping profession. Or, you have always enjoyed volunteering and helping others in your free time. But, with stagnation, you focused more on having a good time and fulfilling your pleasures versus forming meaningful relationships.

What to Do Now

So, at this point, take a moment to reflect. Are you happy with where you are, or do you make a change? Do you believe that what you have done will leave a lasting legacy for others? If you are unsure, then it’s time to make a change! It’s never too late to do something different and make decisions that allow for generativity. For example:

  • Picking up the phone right now and calling someone whom you care about.
  • Volunteering in your community.
  • If you have children, taking an active interest in their lives, development, hopes, and dreams.
  • Finding opportunities to be more connected to others.

At some point, we all pause to talk stock of our lives. However, if you don’t like what you see, you’re not doomed to stay this way. You can take steps yourself to get out of stagnation. But, if you’re struggling to do so, ask for help. Find out today how you can benefit from individual counseling.

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