Our lives are a progression of seasons.
Some seasons of life are long: elementary school, parenting young children, grand-parenting, or caring for a spouse as they near the end of life. Other seasons of life may be short (life change can happen in the blink of an eye).
Regardless of their length or how a particular change in season came about, as Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, “Every age is an undiscovered country.” Each season brings unique joys and challenges.
Many people have been asked, “What is the best season of life?” And the answers vary: some loved their college years… or when their children were young… or when their children left the house… or when they retired.
When I consider the many varied answers to the same question, I am reminded that there is a unique joy to be found in every season of life. Every season holds potential and opportunity and adventure.
And every season contains the potential to be the one we enjoy the most. It is up to each individual to choose. Why not this one?
There is a present joy in our current season and there is no reason it cannot be the most enjoyable one. But how do we accomplish that?
Here is how we make this season of life our best season:
1. Accept the change in culture happening around you.
The only constant in life is change. As the seasons of our life change, so does culture. And it is always helpful to make the best use of those changes.
If we continually long for the “old days” when we used to be able to ________, or the world was more ______, or young people didn’t _________, we’ll never experience the joy of the present moment!
When I was younger, I had dinner with a successful real estate agent easily in his 60’s (maybe even older). He made a passing reference to a social media site and something he had seen while on it.
“Wait,” I responded, “you’re on that social media platform?”
“Oh yes,” he said, “I try to stay current and educated on all the new advancements in social media.”
I made a decision that day that I would work to be the same type of person when I got older. I don’t want to become the old man who constantly complains about the state of the world. I’d much rather be the old man who understands the world and sees the benefits of it (and possibly the drawbacks). Certainly, as a parent of teenagers, it is wise for me to know the current iterations of social media and so I am familiar with all of them.
Given the option of staying current with the changes in the world or being left behind, I’ll choose staying current every time.
2. Recognize the change happening inside you.
As the seasons of our life change, there are more changes happening than just the world around us. There are also changes happening inside of us.
Our bodies change, our worldviews change, our wisdom grows (hopefully), and our abilities increase or decrease. Sometimes we are growing in our abilities and skills and sometimes they are being taken from us.
Recognizing those changes, accepting that they are occurring, and adjusting our lives because of them are essential to fully enjoying our present life.
As we enter later seasons of life, we lose physical abilities, but have certainly gained experience. And of course people develop at different times and learn to overcome obstacles at different points, but the longer we live, the more we have learned and overcome.
When we are in younger seasons of life, what we lack in experience, we are often able to make up for with energy, passion, and drive to succeed. Our minds are also less made up and we are more open to new ideas. Change happens around us, but also inside us.
The more we recognize and accept the changes taking place in our bodies, the more likely we are to make the most of the current season.
3. Do not be defined by past mistakes.
Sometimes the mistakes that mark our past are the result of our own foolish choices. But sometimes they are the result of someone else committing harm to us.
Either way, allowing mistakes in the past to negatively define your present is a mindset that must be overcome.
If the mistakes of your past are your own doing, remember that you cannot change those decisions. They have been made and the harm cannot be undone. But you can redeem the past by learning from it! The past can become your servant if you learn life lessons from it that make you a better person in the future.
If the mistakes in your past are from the doing of somebody else, I am sorry that happened. People can be cruel. But that person does not need to harm your present as well. I don’t know what it means for you to turn that harm into good, but it usually contains leveraging your pain to help others.
I have a friend who was reluctantly drawn into divorce by a spouse who could not overcome PTSD. She could have become bitter and angry, but she did not. Quite the opposite in fact. She currently volunteers assisting people with PTSD repair their lives. Rather than allowing her pain to negatively affect her today, she has turned it around for good and is making the most of her current season in life—even if it is one she would not have chosen for herself.
4. Identify the joys in your current season.
Oh, to look around and recognize the simple joys that surround us each day! Is there a more blessed discipline in life?
Every day, joys surround us. And the more we stop to recognize them, the more we appreciate them and the day in front of us.
That is one of the reasons gratitude is such an important discipline. The more we practice it (in the good times and the bad), the more we experience joy and meaning and fulfillment.
Identify the unique joys of your present season:
- The opportunity to focus undivided attention on your education.
- The excitement of a young marriage.
- The precious first smile of your newborn daughter.
- The maturing son as he becomes a young man in front of your eyes.
- The opportunity to serve or give or travel that your empty nest now offers you.
- Or even the final few months with your loving spouse as death draws ever closer.
5. Honor your past, but don’t overburden your present with it.
My past has made me the person I am and I never want to forget it or the people who have made me. I am thankful for my past in every imaginable way, I’m just not moving in that direction.
I do not honor my past by allowing it to burden my present. In fact, I most honor my past by living my best in the present. This can be seen most vividly in the physical possessions we carry from one season to another.
I encourage people to live more by owning less. When we remove the burden of unneeded physical possessions, we uncover time, money, energy, and opportunity to pursue greater passions.
Inevitably, during my conversations with people, I will be asked about possessions from a past season of life. “What do I do with my grandparents’ __________?” “My spouse passed away, how do I handle his ____________?” or “My children are now grown, but I can’t seem to part with their old __________?”
On each occasion, I gently remind the person that their present obligation is to live their best life today. In fact, we honor our past relationships most by making the most of our present opportunities.
If I were to pass away, I’d sure love my wife to keep something that reminds her of me, but I would never want to burden her future seasons with my old things! In fact, I’d be upset if I found out she was holding on to my old things out of a feeling of obligation. I hope she would look fondly on her season of life being married to me, but she has entered a new one. And I’d want her to live her best life today, not carry unneeded possessions (or burdens) forward.
6. See trials as opportunity to grow.
Every season of life contains special and unique joys. But there is no perfect world, there is no perfect person, and there is no perfect season of life. Every season contains unique obstacles and trials.
It is easier said than done, but when we see the trials in life as opportunities to grow, even trials can be welcomed (or at least, better understood).
I would wish no trial on any person, nor would I ever wish them upon myself. But the reality remains that success is a terrible teacher. We grow most when faced with obstacles, hurdles, and trials of every kind.
There is no doubt your present season is requiring you to confront new challenges, but that doesn’t mean you cannot also enjoy this period—even working to make it the best one of your life no matter the trial you are currently facing.
7. Give what you can to younger generations.
There are very few obligations that I believe apply to every person alive. But it seems to me, one such obligation is to pass on to younger generations the lessons we have learned in life. Some lessons we learned with great difficulty, some came easy to us, but each are valuable to those who will come after us. This is the only way society moves forward.
If you want to make the most of your current season of life, consider what talents, abilities, and wisdom you have collected that can be passed on to younger generations.
Be present in your child’s life. Mentor a young ambitious worker in your career field. Get involved in your community or church or local school. There are even nonprofit organizations dedicated specifically to help you mentor those who need it most.
Give to others in some way. That is the best way to make the most of life… and it’s the best way to enjoy each season of life along the way.
Each new season of life is an adventure. And every adventure is meant to be enjoyed. You might as well enjoy this current one the most.