Home Concepts Adult Development Deep Caring XXVII: Generativity Four—The Sacrifices

Deep Caring XXVII: Generativity Four—The Sacrifices

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Boundary management is not about giving-up time or relationships. And it is not about money, lost opportunities, or better pay in the private sector. As one Emerging Sage notes, “Once you raise your hand in this community, you are going to get sucked into many activities. You are going to get pulled into things that you did not necessarily anticipate.” Many of the Emerging Sages are involved in civic engagements that focus on sustaining the natural environment. Ironically, they recognize they need to manage boundaries in their own lives if they are going to sustain boundaries that affect their civic commitments. So, in the end, sustainability becomes a goal at many levels.

From Success to Significance

The challenge of managing boundaries seems to be based in part on a change in the priorities set by Emerging Sages as they move into the second half of their lives. Their commitment to family might remain strong when they reach mid-age, but there is also a shift in the concern they have about the nature and quality of work they are doing. We know from considerable research on adult development that many young adults are ambitious and tend to identify self-worth in terms of personal and professional success: being singled out for recognition, getting a pay raise or promotion, being elected to public office or appointed to a prestigious committee. As these men and women mature, a gradual but sometimes dramatic change occurs. They begin to focus not on their personal and professional success but on achieving something that is significant outside themselves. This is about leaving a legacy, about being “good for the world” rather than just being “good in the world.” It is about Generativity Four.

We also know something about what aides and what hinders this shift from personal and professional success to a higher level of significance. A key is the support of important others in one’s life: If the partner doesn’t understand or encourage this shift to significance, then potential Emerging Sages are likely to pull back and remain engaged in the pursuit of personal success. And in the process, they are likely to risk becoming stagnant rather than generative. If friends, co-workers, and neighbors don’t appreciate the new priorities of Emerging Sages, and tell them they are losing their competitive edge, they are likely to fall back into old patterns—begrudging the success of others. Our study of Sage leadership suggests that it truly does take a community to help Sage leaders find new purpose and energy in their lives, and to help them transition from focusing on success and self-achievement to significance—probably the single factor that most leads to an enduring legacy.

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