Your Life Course Schema: Linear, Cyclic or Seamless?

Carriage Castle Fantasy Backdrop

In addition to Metaphors that can shape our understanding of life and our interpretation of life events, there is an even more ‘totalizing’ way that we cognitively frame how a lifetime—including our own–is structured. Theories of the “life course” abound with frameworks that define how we construct our Life Paths.  From interviewing many people from various backgrounds, I have uncovered three overlapping (culturally co-existing) contemporary models of how our lives are structured. We can call these “life course schemas”. The three contemporary types of life course schema models are: Linear, Cyclic, and Seamless.

This week’s Life Mapping Tool (see right panel) asks you to reflect on the prompt: “WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE TYPICAL STAGES OR PHASES, IF ANY, OF A NORMAL HUMAN LIFETIME, WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE TYPICAL OF YOURS?”

How you answer this journaling prompt reflects how you conceptualize life in terms of a Life Course Schema. And which of these models you tend more to think in terms of can affect where you see yourself as “at” with respect to the larger picture of how you conceive of where you are Now, how you’ve come to being where you are, and where you’re headed.

{I invite you to take a few minutes now to journal your immediate response to the above prompt.}


Does your answer have five or more “stages” (like Birth—Childhood—Teen Years—Adulthood—Late Adulthood—Elderly) or a similar set of stages? This is a LINEAR model or Life Course Schema.


Does your answer refer to a series of repeating “cycles” or phases (like 7 year cycles, decades, or 12 year cycles, or a similar series of periodic phases)? This is a CYCLIC Life Course Schema.


Does your answer suggest that there simply are NO typical stages or cycles that everyone goes through in similar ways (like saying life “just happens” relatively randomly, so you need to be able to adjust to the unexpected) or a similar idea? This is a SEAMLESS approach.


For now, I invite you to journal, contemplate or talk with a loved one about how you may have come to your specific Life Course Schema model (is it from your parents? or from some other set of influences?). On Tuesday I will share some more about how each of these Schemas might influence your life, both for the positive and as a limiting construct.

I welcome your response to the prompt or any other insights. You may use the Comments button below or  send me your longer response.

Better Endings to You! Linda