life milestones

Do Life Milestones Matter?

The moments when you hit important life milestones bring many feelings. For me, one of those milestones is fast approaching: turning 50. Like many who reach this point, I am reflecting on all that’s been great in my life—and on everything that wasn’t. I laugh at just how stupid I was as a teen, I shudder at my rebellion in my twenties, I smile at the hope I found in my thirties, and I rejoice in the life I’ve lived up to now. It’s all a gift. I don’t even mind the influx of gray hair.

For our kids, milestones are also gifts. We celebrate all the huge moments: that first step, the first time they say “Dada,” the first day of school, learning to ride a bike, the driver’s license, graduation. Do life milestones matter? Yes. They are opportunities to stop for rest and collect our thoughts before we take the next step. And they are important to the family. They are important to our kids. Here are some ideas for how to acknowledge them.

1. Celebrate.

Celebrations provide anticipation and excitement. They bring joy into our families. And goodness knows we need all we can get. For my 50th, I hope not to cheat the moment in the least. My personal style of celebrating doesn’t revolve as much around parties as it does around symbolism and connection. God willing, I plan to visit my ancestral roots on an entirely different continent for the first time. For me, that’s huge. I believe it’s helpful for us to understand the tree on which we are a branch. What’s your family’s style of celebrating?

2. Take inventory.

Milestones are like trail markers providing a great place to pitch the tent for a bit and take a breather.

When we reach big life milestones, it’s the perfect time to take stock of where we currently stand with our life goals. Life milestones are like trail markers providing a great place to pitch the tent for a bit and take a breather. Where did we hope to be by this point? Where do our marriages or other relationships stand? Are the kids progressing as we had hoped? How did I put on this extra weight and how soon can it be gone? So many questions. Ask them all.

3. Remove the weeds.

In the process of reflection, isolate and contain the bad choices and decisions since the last milestone. We all have them. There’s no need to beat yourself up. Just change course and learn from the mistake. Doing this is critical to future success. Be a strong leader and avoid the danger moving forward.

4. Chart the next course.

After celebrating, taking inventory, and removing the weeds, it’s time to plot the strategy for the next segment. In my case, I’m developing future plans for an empty nest. We still have a 14-year-old at home, so it’s not imminent. But I’ve learned that once the nest starts emptying, it happens fast. How will my wife and I remain connected? Where will we spend our time together? What do we need to do financially to remain stable and secure? Proper strategy prevents many future hardships. Plot your goals. The worst that can happen is you regroup at the next marker and try again where you didn’t succeed.

Sound off: How does your family celebrate the big moments in life?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think are the next big milestones for you and others in the family?”