Youthful Wisdom

choice theory maturity responsibility wisdom youth

Defining Maturity

There are a lot of possible interpretations of the word 'maturity.' The most common has to do with emotional regulation and responsibility. How well does an individual deal with emotional upsets, and how willing are they to take responsibility for themselves and their lives?

It can also refer to physical development. One says a girl is mature if she is beginning to show signs of womanhood. This definition isn't very useful here though, because there isn't much you an do to control physical maturity, and it doesn't translate very well to other areas of life; just because you're growing a beard before anyone else in your class doesn't make you better qualified to lead the pack.

So the definition I'd like to use here is that of emotional maturity. In Choice Theory, Dr. Glasser talks about the willingness of his patients to take responsibility for their actions and behavior. Those who refuse to take responsibility tend to develop psychological or emotional disorders in an attempt to deal with the problem. Instead of confronting your overbearing boss, you try to ignore the problem, your psyche compensates by developing personality or depressive disorders, and you take your frustration out in other areas, never dealing with the problem and never getting on with your life. That is immaturity at its finest.

Maturity as Responsibility

If we accept Glasser's definition of maturity as something that we can control, simply by taking responsibility for our lives, then we have a good basis for figuring our how young people can be more mature than older people. Basically, those young folk who choose to deal with their lives head on and take matters into their own hands when appropriate are those whose emotional and social lives will be the most stable and effective.

To take an example that myself and a lot of my peers are dealing with, let's look at job satisfaction. Many of us young, relatively inexperienced people are dealing with the fact that we don't like our jobs. Many of us are college-educated and ambitious, and find ourselves in positions that have no opportunity for growth, or we don't like the idea of working for a larger company. Rather than strike out on our own, however, we stay where we are comfortable, working a job we may not enjoy.

We have some options in this case. We can simply become resentful, putting in our hours with no plans to better our situation. This leads to depression, questioning your value as a person (I'm working such a bad job and putting up with poor treatment, day after day, so must deserve it), and frustration with other people. This decision is motivated by a sense of lack of control. We might think we have no choice, that a bad job is better than no job, or that we just need to suck it up.

You can also take responsibility for your own happiness. You can see the job as a stepping stone, in which case you make plans to take the next step. At least then you can see what all your labor is working towards. You can decide to quit, in which case you are removing yourself from a bad situation, taking care of your emotional and personal well-being and sense of value.

Show Yourself You are in Control

I have a friend who was miserable at her job, until she made the much-needed decision to quit. She had been thinking about it for a long time, but it wasn't until she actually told her boss that her feelings of constant lethargy, irritability, and depression vanished. Even though she still had two weeks after notifying her boss, she was able to feel herself during those last few shifts, because she had finally taken responsibility for her situation and for bettering it.

The choice to finally start doing something about insidious weight gain by starting an exercise or diet program is another example of maturity in this sense; you are doing something to take responsibility for your life. Making a list of professional goals, and following through with them, is another example. It's all about taking real action, rather than waiting or hoping for things to happen to you. This is integrity; matching your actions to your goals and beliefs.

I think maturity is a reflection of one's willingness to take charge of their lives and to actually move towards their goals and dreams. Your dreams might be really ridiculous, but as long as you aren't giving yourself excuses and are actually taking steps in the right direction, you'll find that you feel more in control and more yourself. Maturity therefore can be seen as a reflection of personal responsibility. And that is something anyone, young or old, can choose to acquire with patience and discipline.

Is there any problem in your life you're putting off dealing with because you don't think it's anything you can do something about? Resolve to make some action, just to demonstrate to yourself that you're not entirely helpless.

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