What is Generativity and Why Should I Care?

July 22, 2017

Most of us look at our lives in terms of physical development. We learn to walk and talk as children, and continue to gain physical ability through adolescence and young adulthood. Then begins a slow physical decline.

Are we done?

No! It’s not the end; it’s the BEGINNING!

Our midlife years are filled with emotional growth. Generativity is an emotional development term coined by the famous psychologist Erik Erikson, and studied extensively in recent years by Professor Dan McAdams. It means: Caring for others without expecting anything in return. For many people younger than 50, the concept of giving to others without expecting anything in return sounds like a fairly lame milestone to strive for. After all, we are striving for and expecting outward achievement: work and home/life goals. However, most of us forget about emotional milestones in our lives such as:

– Meaningful relationships with friends and family

– Passing on values, skills and knowledge to others

– What do I want my mark on the world to be?

What do we do?

Add emotional growth to our expectations.

What we know from research is that giving to others and having meaningful relationships leads to higher levels of well being and better physical health.

So, add some Generativity to your life!

Here are three forms of Generativity:

Mentoring – passing our knowledge, skills, value and culture to others (this can be done at work, home or in the community)

Volunteering – giving our time, knowledge and ability to organizations and individuals without expecting pay in return.

Philanthropy – giving financial resources to organizations, charity, and foundations.

Still not convinced Generativity is important?

Well, here is the kicker – those who do not reach the stage of Generativity remain “stagnant.” That is, we are stuck at a point in life lacking purpose and our accomplishments don’t have meaning. We all know stagnant people and literature and film are rife with examples of stagnant characters. Ebenezer Scrooge is just such an example. He was wealthy and had a life long successful career, but was unhappy and bitter (stagnant) until he became meaningfully connected with others and gave back to others(generative).

Not enough?

Those who practice Generativity tend to be physically healthier and live longer. It is as simple as that. Our connections with others in our community and the world (and our ability to care about others) carries us into our late midlife and beyond with purpose, productivity and meaning. And HEALTH.

The phrase “Tis Better to Give than to Receive” is actually True!

If you would like to learn more about Generativity, type Generativity into the search bar at the top of the page.

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