When I first began studying psychology, “developmental tasks” were on my mind as well as glaring at me from text books……. The reason?  I felt I was always “behind” in my developmental tasks…. more about that later…First, what IS a developmental task?

    It is typically defined as….”a task that arises predictably and consistently at or about a certain period in the life of an individual….or any physical, social, intellectual and emotional ability or achievement needed to be acquired at each developmental stage of life.”

    Most of us, as adults, would define it as having to do with “staying in step” with friends; living up to expectations of those around us; comparing ourselves to others to see if we’ve “done things like others do them.”

    As babies and then as small children these tasks are more easily defined: walking, talking at the appropriate age; learning to read; growing and developing through adolescence.  You can probably name them yourself!  Later however, it’s often about measuring ourselves in comparison to others.  That takes me back to my own feeling of being behind…meaning?  

    I remained single when others got married; I moved far away from home right after college; I went to graduate school instead of getting a job;  I got married when others were getting divorced; I decided against having children….. well, you get the picture!

    The issue for grown ups is how much we measure our own success and happiness by comparing ourselves to others… AND today, many adult “tasks” have altered as our cultural expectations have changed:  the age for marriage is older; many couples live together; many women have babies while single; men become single parents; college debt and challenges finding jobs means many live at home with their parents; moving from job to job is far more acceptable……the point? When there are so many differing life styles, comparison can get tricky. More and more it’s essential to do SELF EVALUATION vs comparing yourself to others.  AND the cultural expectations of what’s appropriate at what age/stage of life is slowly changing……and even in the later stages of life, retirement has become a “developmental task” that for many is obsolete! 

    In a sense, we are shifting the “psychological frame of reference” historically defined by the institutions of family, school, church, community.  That reality is either emotionally challenging and confusing, perhaps liberating, and sometimes it’s a significant source of stress.  While we want and need to make our own decisions and choices, we do need role “expectations” to bump up against, either to help us define self or to have something to rebel against!

    To make this relevant, think about what you grew up learning that was expected of you. WHERE did you learn to have those expectations?  Make a list. Next see what you believe you have accomplished; then what is still something you need/want to do or expect of yourself. 

    See how your expectations of self have shifted/changed over the years. And see if you know what, or perhaps who, has influenced those changes.  Being who you are, who you want to be, and who you have expected to be AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR LIFE is a big chunk of how you evaluate your level of happiness, success, personal satisfaction.  And regardless of where you are, what you are doing, what stage of life you are in, PERSONAL POWER is about being in charge of your own life…..its about living the way you hope to live vs comparing yourself in any unnecessary manner to others….even if it means you might be “behind in your developmental tasks!”

    Listen to Dr. Linda Moore and Mike Manko discuss the what a developmental task is and how to determine if you are on track on this SteveAndMikeRadio.com podcast.