I am fascinated by the course of human life.

Even though physical human development is nothing less than miraculous, I am particularly fascinated by psychological and spiritual individual development. Especially the tipping point around forty and the period leading up to it. One could say that around this tipping point the physical development turns negative (said differently: the process of deterioration has begun), while on the contrary the psychical and especially the spiritual development, could grow and expand significantly. (1)

I wrote an informative and reflective piece about the road to forty, the different phases of life and a possible shift in orientation towards inner life around the age of forty. It is also about my own road to forty. I expect many readers in their thirties or forties will recognize themselves in this writing. I hope it will invite them to further self-reflection and development.


It is not that difficult to visualise the biological course of human life. After all this physical development is simply visible, it cannot be missed. It's all around you and you will see it every day! Also your own physical changes, at least if you once in a while look in the mirror yourself.

It can be more difficult to understand and see the human psychical development. What is ment by that? It's about the qualities to think, to feel and to want. And it´s about the growing ability to become aware of these different components separately within oneself and to unravel the dynamics between them.

The spiritual development of the individual takes place at a deeper level. For me this is about getting in contact with the Self with capital S. To learn via self-reflection, to see beyond your own ego and beyond your subconscious convictions and beliefs. This to recover the lost connection with the Self and to expres more of the 'true colors' from this unique Self into the world. With this comes an orientation towards `the good´. The natural tendency to contribute (giving and serving), to feel nourished at the level of the soul by the actions you purposefully take. It's about being at peace. Wisdom.


The young adult (21-28 years old) is characterized by strong impulses of the will and has the desire to stand on its own two feet, to be out there in ´real life´. Manifesting oneself in the outer world is what it's all about. Like finding the first real job, earning money, owning a house, carrying responsibility and especially wanting to do many different things. For the young adult social contacts are very important and impulsiveness is exceptionally manifest! In this life phase however, there is limited Self-awareness. It is therefore important to bear in mind that the discovering and eagerly manifesting in the outer world can go hand in hand with big fluctuations in the perceptions of its own feelings: certainty is abundantly visible but at the same time insecurity can be experienced in the inner world. 

I recognize many of these characteristics and descriptions. In this life phase a lot of my energy went to creating a certain image of myself. I was mainly focused on the establishment of this (in my opinion) beautiful image, not realizing how depending I actually was on the acceptance and approval of others. With polished shoes, ditto cufflinks and image I lived my life acting happy, always smiling. But that what I presented to the world covered up that at times it was much more fragile in my inner world.


On average between the age of 28 and 35, the ´visible outside´ is created in the material world most profoundly. This life phase is therefore a productive phase, very materialistic by nature and the young adult (still rather young) often is under high pressure, it needs to juggle with many different things at the same time.

Up till now energy has been primarily focused externally and the personal identification with the end results of all this work is often strong. Logical as the manifestation of this ´construction´ is built with blood, sweat and tears. This ´castle´ is created with hard work and dedication and will be preserved and defended!

And then … around the age of 35, quietly, a soft whispering from the inner world arises, a first call for meaning can present itself. For some a bit sooner, for the other a bit later. The majority are able to ´hear´ this calling for attention but neglects it. This is logical as the attention is still fully aimed at the outside world. And if something of this inner calling is received, it often is not understood. I see this inner calling as an invitation from the Self to make a shift in the orientation towards inner life, an all-defining turn inwards.


I have worked with people between the age of 30 and 40 years old. I find this a super interesting, fascinating and defining life phase. Each one of these clients went through life with various questions. I feel gratitude for accompanying them during these important and perhaps intense moments in their lives and for seeing each one of them making ´a turn´ on their own. That turn about changing the direction from an outward orientation towards an inward orientation.

There where before the materialization in the outer world was asking most of the attention, if not all, now the inner world starts asking for discovery and nourishment. The more intense something internally started to ´wring´, the heavier became the weight of an identity-question: how come something is wringing inside of myself? What actually is that about and what does actually this say about me? How do I actually relate to the world around me? I have created so much but what has all of this given me so far? What exactly is truly important to me?

The moment where someone deliberately makes this shift towards self-reflection and self-discovery, or on the contrary does not do so, fascinates me immensely. I admire my clients who courageously start their inward journey. And I can enjoy when this shift stimulates the psychical development (more balance in thinking-feeling-wanting) and in some cases witnessing the beginning of spiritual awakening: step by step a steadier individual becomes visible, more balanced and grounded with a stronger connection to its Self.


Around 34-years-old I thought I had it all fixed. I was taking care of myself pretty damn well. Think about owning a nice house, great job which allowed me to tell impressive stories, nice company car, frequently traveling for my work, money in the bank, going out for fancy diners quite often, a couple of holidays per year and once in a while some travelling as well. Despite all of this something inside me started to feel not in place. At first I did not know what that was about. Now, roughly 6 years later, I have sharp insight in what that actually was: the will to live a more meaningful life, the wish to contribute and to have impact from who I truly am, not from who I always thought I was or had to be. This is what I call: living from Natural Strength!

Around that time, I started a course at the Coaching Academy International (CAI). This was the beginning of my shift towards inner life as there I stepped on a road less travelled: a 4,5 year inward and very personal journey of discovery. No cognitive education, but a unique journey based on learning via my personal experiences and confrontations. As I said, the CAI was the starting point for my shift and until this very day I am thankful for my manager who has supported me during all those years. Exceptionally if I may say, still I see his contributions and support as a gift from heaven.

The renewed contact which I have been able to make with my Self, means to me a new and more mature connection with my inner adventurer, an autonomous discoverer who enjoys and prefers traveling independently, driven by perseverance, starting from ´the good´ and trusting life.


In November (2018) I turned forty myself. Let me draw up the balance: no permanent job, not owning a house anymore, no car, no fixed salary, little belongings, no monthly contributions to my pension plan, no neat polished shoes and no best friends living around the corner anymore.

If I turn this into positive then it looks something like this: I live an independent and adventurous live, together with my wife I live on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean, every day I am working on personal growth and the evelopment of my own business for Personal & Professional Development, every euro I earn I do earn mySelf, usually I go through life on flip-flops, that what I do is like food for my soul, I connect with amazing people and via my contributions to their personal and professional development I also contribute to making the world a better place. I live more and more from my own Natural Strength. Physically the process of deterioration might have begun, psychical and spiritual I am growing, life is moving forward into a beautiful direction.


A red line, clearly visible, runs through the life phases of each individual. And it is around forty-years-old where this red line comes to a splitting point, a fork.
For the one the physical, psychic and spiritual development all three turn negative. This person ignores an inner calling, lives one-dimensional and remains a strong external focus, keeps experiencing imbalance and often blames external circumstances for inner discomfort. This remains a broken individual, not whole, and in many cases a process of ‘acidification’ might intensify over time whilst aging more and more sour. 
For the other the physical development also turns negative, but the psychical and mainly the spiritual development take a turn on a path of growth. This happens to the individual who can and dares to answer the calling from within. It will not be a surprise this undoubtedly has an effect on the speed with which the physical deterioration sets forward.

The one who makes the reflective orientation inwards will experience life with more freedom, playfulness and liveliness. Having inner experiences will become more important than having external successes and there will be a growing acceptance of and trusting on the unique Self. 


Said differently: that what is visible in your outside world is a reflection of the state of your inner world. The clearer you can see what is subconsciously going on in your inner world and the more you can connect with that what drives you from deep within, the more of this unique Self, as a reflection, becomes visible in your outer world as Natural Strength. Living from Natural Strength first requires sensing the calling from within and answering this calling. It takes courage to turn the external orientation to an inner orientation. The will to live life from Natural Strength requires Self dis-discovery thus gain sharper sight on your unique Self. This is easier said than done. It is hard work and often goes hand in hand with a smile and a tear. It is a journey preferably not travelled alone.

Where do you stand in your life? How powerful is the calling from within? What do you hear? To what are you invited to do and to stop doing? Has the reflective shift inwards yet started? Then I wish you a beautiful journey and wisdom along the way. And if inner pressure is rising and rising: remember there is a time for everything, you are never too old to change directions.


Anne Lamott, American writer, puts it aptly and her quote inspires me over and over again. It helps me to continue travelling my own independent journey, especially when things are difficult:

“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are”.


Koen van der Well

(1) B. Lievegoed, De levensloop van de mens, Rotterdam: Lemniscaat, 20e druk, 2010).

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