Generativity

What Impact Will You Leave In The Lives Of Others?



What is Generativity?

Generativity has been defined as the propensity and willingness to engage in acts that promote the well being of younger generations as a way of ensuring the long-term survival of the species. [The Psychology of Mattering]

Erikson's 8 Stages Of Development

The word was first used by Erik Erikson [1902–94] who was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings leading to what has become known as "Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development".

The 7th Stage Of Development

Each of eight stages of development involved a conflict of opposing possibilities.  Erikson's model suggests that during the 7th stage of development occurring duing the middle to later years between ages 40 and 60 generativity is an important aspect of the psychology of human beings and it extends beyond imperatives of parenthood.

The Conflict Between Generativity and Stagnation

The conflicting possibilities at this stage are, according to Erikson, between generativity and stagnation - between the drive to leave some lasting change that will benefit other [younger] people after your death and the lethargy, cynicism and general world weariness of just not caring.


Verywell/Joshua Seong

Making Your Mark

Generativity ocurs  when a person shifts his/her energy to care for a change which will help the generations to come, it can also be seen as ‘making your mark on the world’ by caring for others and accomplishing something beyond yourself for making this world a better place.

Those who practice generativity tend to be physically healthier and live longer and have lives filled with purpose, productivity and meaning that are engaged in:

  • Mentoring
  • Volunteering
  • Philanthropy

In contrast, people who are stagnant feel low energy and less involvement in both communal and individual affairs. These are people who feel uninvolved or disconnected to a community or wider society.



    The existential question of this 7th stage is: "Can I make my life count"?








Generativity - Life Purpose And The Meaning Of Life

In the Meaning Of Life we start with the premise that the meaning of life is a matter of choice - it is entirely whatever you choose it to be.

We explored this theme further in What Is My Life Purpose and noted that as we progress through life rather than the 8 stages proposed by Erikson there is a simpler model which proposes 3 stages that are not age dependent but reflect a development of maturity.

  1. Uncovering  - your personal individual contribution, this is all about figuring out how and where you fit with your offering to the world.
  2. Discovering - this is about developing realization that the world is about more than just you and your success and your abilities, it's collaborative, and the growing understanding that your greatest achievement and fulfillment comes from "us" rather than just "me".
  3. Rediscovery -this is the stage where you move into the holistic view and start to see and participate in the greater whole. You grow in wisdom as you see more of the bigger picture, and this is accompanied with the realization and experience  that we are tribal creatures living in an interconnected world, and following on from that an increasing engagement with generativity.








Shantideva And The Race Horse


Shantideva  was an 8th-century CE Indian philosopher, Buddhist monk, poet and scholar at the university at Nalanda.

Shantideva is particularly renowned as the author of what has become known as "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" or "Entering the Path of Enlightenment."

It is a long poem describing the end to end  process of enlightenment and it is still referenced by Buddhist practitioners.

There is one line that I first heard about 15 years ago and it has stuck in mind ever since and it is this:




    From the moment of our conception we head inexorably towards death, just like a racehorse galloping towards its finishing post.








How I Rediscovered My Life Purpose Sitting In A Bar In Singapore...



I hadn't considered the 'what is my life purpose question' for sometime when I rediscovered it sitting in a bar in Singapore a while ago with a bunch of expat friends enjoying some beers and a chat.

The conversation took an interesting turn when one of them suddenly asked the group:

"If you knew you were going to die tonight and you were given a few minutes to reflect before that happened, what would you say was the meaning of your life?"

On hearing that question I suddenly had a moment of clarity and I realised that for me the answer to the 'what is my life purpose question' was (and remains):



    "What difference will you make?
    What impact will you leave in the lives of others?"







An Experience Of Generativity

Making A Difference

It was about 11.30pm and I had drunk a few glasses of wine over the course of a long and relaxing evening and I was ready to go to bed when my wife asked me to go and find our teenage daughter and bring her home.

Our daughter Susan* was at the "difficult" stage and my wife and I had repeated arguments about the best way to relate to her. My view was fairly relaxed and my wife's view was more controlling.

Neither of us were right or wrong. Inevitably, and as they things play out in countless other families, we argued until eventually one of us gave in.

Bringing Susan home

I put on my jacket, and started walking up the road to the main street where the bars were in the small market town where we lived to try and locate Susan and persuade her to come home.

At that time I was earning a lot of money and we had a large and lovely house in the very best part of town. Our family was a typical affluent, well educated and prosperous middle-class family.

The infamous Jason...

I hadn't walked very far when I bumped into Susan walking home. There was a young guy aged about 20 with her and I could see at a glance that he was from "the other side of the tracks" and then I realised that this was the infamous Jason* she had told us about.

From the snippets of previous conversations with Susan and from my own prior inquiries with a mutual friend  I knew that Jason came from a broken family who lived on welfare, he had a dead end job and existed on the fringes, in that twilight zone of drugs and minor criminality that exists in so many towns in the UK.

To my shame I was rude and abusive

I was so relieved to find her and so angry with my wife for forcing me to go out when I just wanted to go to bed, and also to be honest I was a little drunk from the wine I had drunk earlier, and to my eternal shame and discredit I shouted at my daughter and was then verbally rude and abusive to Jason and told him to go away and leave my daughter alone.

We returned home and I went to bed. I woke up in the early of hours of the morning and experienced a moment of shattering clarity. I realised instantly that I had behave badly. But it was more than that.

"This could be a turning point...this could make a big difference in that young man's life"

I had this very strong sense of an inner voice saying:

"This could be a turning point in that young man's life, this could make a big difference , go and apologise to him and welcome him into our family, treat like a son..."

...and that is exactly what I did later that morning.

I got Jason's number from Susan and I texted him and apologised for my bad behaviour and told him he was most welcome to our house and invited him to join us later that day for a meal.

Becoming a member of the elite special forces

Fast forward a few years and Jason and I became good friends, and with a little support and encouragement, Jason transformed himself and his life. He got himself educated and joined the British army where he progressed up through the ranks rapidly becoming a member of the elite special forces serving on several tours of active service in war-zones where the UK had military presence.

Looking back over the past 20 years, I now realise that this was first time in my life when, aside from being a parent, I had a strong and powerful urge to practice generativity. As I get older this inclination gets stronger and there are now many situations where I have acted upon it and still continue to do so.

[*Names have been changed for privacy.]






Generativity - A Challenge



    “…are you making a difference in your own and other people’s lives? If the answer is negative … you may want to reconsider what you are doing and why..." [Massimo Pigliucci]






Further reading:

What Is My Life Purpose

Asking yourself: "What is my life purpose?" is one of the most important questions you will ever ask. It cuts straight to the heart of who you are and why you are here.

More In Common

"We are more united and have far more in common with each other, than things that which divides us." These words were spoken by UK MP Jo Cox in her maiden speech to Parliament in 2015. One year later she was murdered and her words went viral. Millions of people across the country realised that Jo was speaking for them.

The Redemptive Self

Research has also suggested that highly generative American adults tend to construct self-defining life stories (narrative identities) that feature the psychological theme of redemption—the deliverance from suffering to an enhanced status or position in life.

The Power of Rituals

We can nourish our souls by transforming everyday practices―eating together, working out, reading, taking a walk―into sacred rituals that can heal our crisis of social isolation and longing for connection.

Introducing "The Balanced Toolkit" Approach To Life

This website and all the material on it, is my attempt to put something back. This is my attempt, in some small way, to offer the guidance and mentoring that I always sought and never found.








Return from "Generativity" to: The Meaning Of Life



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