Your Life Journey Exercise

Ray Dalio has been one of my favorite writers to read. He wrote many great books including Principles, Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises and the Changing World Order.

He has also written many other articles on his LinkedIn page.

In this article, Ray focuses on an exercise that he created to help people put their life and the lives of the people they care about into perspective and to help them get what they want by planning for what is to come in the future.

Here is the link to the full post:

And here is my summary below:


There is a typical life arc that is unique to each person but pretty similar overall to everyone as well.

This life arc consists of 3 very different phases and lasts on average about 80 years.

Phase 1 - under the care of your parents and in school.

Phase 2 - others are dependent on you and you're working.

Phase 3 – you’re out of work and free from all of the challenges that you face in the 2nd phase so you can enjoy the end of your life and pass away.

Here is an image of Ray’s life arc:

Source: Ray Dalio

Observe what is happening on the life arc at each stage and compare it to your own personal experiences.

And pay extra attention to the critical junctures because these can have big effects on how your life may play out.

Phase 1:

- born with certain desires and born into different circumstances.

- dependent on those guiding then

- consists of pre-school, elementary school, middle school and high school [U.S. based students]

- all experts agree that around the ages of 9-11, the child is becoming a young adult and is naturally more motivated to self-discover and self-direct. This can lead to constructive or destructive behaviors.

- Ray noticed that a common feature between the most successful independent thinkers is that they all developed their passions and independent learnings for the subject areas that they pursued and became superb at starting around the age of 12.

- one of the great struggles in phase one is how much to be guided to follow instructions compared to how much to think and learn for yourself. There is not much opportunity to think and learn for yourself at this stage since you will mostly be guided how to behave but thinking for yourself and self-discover during phase one is the most important skill in order to get what you want out of life.

- you may know what excites you and what doesn’t excite you but you don’t know much about which direction in life is best for you so it's best to give yourself the most options by maximizing your desirability to those who will choose or reject you. And it's also wise to pursue a life path that excites you and maximizes your choices.

Phase 2:

- more freedom to make your own choices

- a lot more of getting what you want is more in your control

- Ray views exploring and experimenting and then gradually honing on what you want to focus on is the best combination at this stage.

- early part of this phase starts in the mid 20's to early 30's and is usually one of the happiest and care-free periods of one’s life.

- Ray says don’t overlook making work your passion here and don’t overlook money because money will give you security and freedom.

- between 30-40 = more responsibilities which means more challenges coming from work, your love life and possibly starting a family. 

- the last part of this phase usually takes place around 40-55 and is reported to be one of the least happy phases of life on average.

- achieving success in your private life and at work is more challenging than you probably thought and the worries about your children, job and parents increase at this age [40-55].

- divorces are highest between 40-55

- loving your work and relationships is very valuable between 40-55 because it will keep you excited and fulfilled during what could possibly be a challenging time.

-  55-65 ends the 2nd phase for most people

Phase 3:

- parenting obligations and work are left behind so lots of freedom

- surveys on happiness around the world report that your 70's are the happiest years in all of life.

- the last few years of this phase can be difficult though since this is a time when one can start to lose one's friends, maybe your spouse, have health problems and think about the end of life.

- Ray says that surprising to him, while happiness levels dip a bit in the last part of the last phase, they remain relatively high until right before the end.

The more you visualize the next 10 year period in your life, the better it will go. And be open-minded and understand that you can get good principles for handling the challenges of life by finding others who have already experienced and been through the challenges that you're facing.

Ray writes, "try to objectively know yourself well so that you can find the best paths and decisions for you. Life is largely a journey to discover one's nature and to find paths that suit one's nature" and then ends with a suggestion to take at least one personality test to find out your strengths and weaknesses of your abilities.

He created the following personality test that you can take by following this link: