Living life meaningfully in all the stages of life is perhaps the quest of many. People crave for significance and desperately want to leave an impact – something worthwhile for which you will be remembered. Being the best student, being the best mom or dad, being professional and growing in your career, being a grandparent that loves and cares deeply for your little ones, supporting your children as they make progress in life, contributing in some way and thereby meeting needs within the community – probably all these activities and pursuits are done to make a difference and leave some form of legacy.

For me, there are three stages of life that are fairly significant:

    1. You BELIEVE in Santa Claus
    2. You ARE Santa Claus
    3. You LOOK LIKE Santa Claus

The first stage, “believing in Santa Claus”, is the stage of reliance (on parents and other support systems) and reverie – having dreams, imagination and hope. This is the stage when all the (hopefully positive) influences of life like education, upbringing, involvement in sport and other extra mural activities assist you in forming a vision for your future. You become aware of your giftedness and other abilities and plan how you are going to use them effectively as your life takes its shape. It is in this stage where you aim to be the best and dream of what is possible. You develop belief in a potential future for yourself as your self-image becomes more robust and hope for opportunity for your potential to be realised.

The second stage, “becoming Santa Clause”, is the stage of realisation. Your family is growing, your career is developing and you are settling into some form of rhythm in the busy-ness of life. This is the stage of giving – there are children’s education and mortgages to pay, time needs to be spent encouraging the children with their homework and maintenance suddenly becomes a reality now that you own a home. This is a potentially dangerous stage, for one can get so caught up with activity and the quest for success that one loses perspective on the things that really matter. Issues can become clouded by pressing demands and priorities can easily become compromised by the seemingly urgent.

The third and final stage, “looking like Santa Claus”, is the stage of reputation. You have done the hard work and you are now respected for who you are and what you have done, not just for your grey hair. Others may even look to you as the expert and your wisdom is sought. In these later years, contribution becomes critical and relationships can potentially become more profound. Perspective on life becomes more holistic and a very real possibility of being an encourager develops. Life can become very fulfilling if you adopt a selfless attitude during this stage.

These three rather broad stages of life are sequential, but certainly not mutually exclusive – many of the characteristics of each stage can and should be found in all three. Having hope and the ability to dream, being able to prioritise the important into daily experiences, imparting wisdom and encouragement and growing one’s character are all processes that should permeate life as a whole. Living life meaningfully is the goal though – knowing your contribution will leave an impact and have significance on the lives of many.