How Our Priorities In Life Change Over Time

We seldom think of our lives as a series of passages, with each passage marked by a gradual or subtle shift in priorities. However, adopting this perspective can help increase our self-awareness and enrich our life options.

Before adulthood, we need the support of our family to survive and that of our teachers to learn reading, writing, mathematics, and the humanities and sciences. Then, when we finally graduate from high school or college, we start a career and raise a family. At this stage, besides the support of other people, from bosses to pastors, we also need the support of more abstract things like insurance.

A young person needs home or renter’s insurance, health insurance, automobile insurance, and so on. For more info on how to get the best rates on these kinds of services, be sure to do your research online.

As we go from one stage to another, we rarely think of them as stages. Apart from certain landmark events, like graduating from high school or college, getting married, and having a first child, watching children go to college, attending a retirement party, the stages happen so subtly that we don’t even realize that we are changing at all.

Interestingly enough, the idea of life passages is not a modern invention. Different cultures and religions have conceptualized the stages of life in different ways. Ancient Greece, for example, mapped out human life in a cycle of 7 year periods.

Let’s take a look at how our priorities change as we transition from childhood to old age:


A single cell becomes a fetus and then a baby. As babies, our priority is just to learn how to use our bodies and get used to being in the world. As infants, we learn to walk and talk, and gradually get used to the idea that there are other people in the world other than our family. Sometimes there are unique challenges in childhood that our loving parents bravely work to help us mitigate or overcome. Childhood, from one to ten years, is a time of simple priorities: learning the basics of self-sufficiency and getting increasingly socialized.


This is a strange time in our lives. Besides dramatic hormonal changes, we appear to be rediscovering the world anew. We are neither children nor adults. We have left childhood behind but not yet arrived at adulthood.

At this stage, our priorities are a little jumbled…we want to break away from our families, explore our sexuality, and grow up a little faster to experience more of the life we feel we are missing out on. We imagine adulthood is a time of wonderful freedom from the rules of home and school. We look forward to a time when we can have the freedom to do things our own way.


When we finally arrive at adulthood, we find it far different than what we had imagined. It’s not the freedom we had hoped for, but a new chain of events that constrain our time and impulses.

Adulthood can be broken up into many subgroups.

Early adulthood from age 20 to 35 is when we are most enterprising. We search for a career, a mate, a home, and a circle of friends. We may work for others or start our own business. Our priority is to just carve a place for ourselves in the world.

Midlife from age 35 to 50 can be a time of settling into the roles we have picked for ourselves, as well as a constant reinvention of ourselves. Although our priority appears to deepen or break away from the patterns we had created in early adulthood, we are also seeking to find the deeper meaning of life.

During mature adulthood from age 50 to 80, now that we have established many things, our priority might shift to becoming more benevolent, contributing to improve society, settling into a religious faith or political party, and being a little more patient with others than we would have in our earlier, more tempestuous years.

Finally, there is late adulthood, which we consider ourselves lucky to reach, which can be a time of wisdom. We may use the rich experiences of our lives to guide others.

Priorities and Perspectives

Our priorities change throughout life because our roles and perspectives change. We appear to follow a timeline, from youth to adulthood, starting a career, raising a family, experiencing an empty nest, and finally retiring. By understanding the cycle of life we are in right now, it helps us prepare better for the next stage in our lives.

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