A new president has taken office. QAnon groupies have sounded the retreat, feeling disillusioned after their grand conspiracy theory never came to pass, now lamenting how they could be so gullible.
The days of entitled fanatics storming government buildings has passed. We’re now entering the age of maturity, a golden age of personal responsibility, empathy, and perhaps even a bit of kindness. That’s my dream. We shall see.
No matter what direction our government takes, the world needs adults who reject selfishness, control their primal impulses, and exhibit humility. We need more grownups who demonstrate maturity — a quality that has little to do with age. It’s entirely possible to be a 70-year-old immature human being. We’ve seen it.
To join the ranks of the mature, we must take responsibility for their actions, judgments, and failures. We must show empathy to other human beings, even those who disagree with them on social, political, and religious views. And finally, we must reflect and learn from our mistakes with the goal of becoming better humans.
I often joke with friends my age (nearing 50). If you’re just as much of an asshole today as you were ten years ago, then you haven’t matured.
When I look back on my behavior as a teen and twenty-something, I’m embarrassed at my lack of compassion, discipline, and social intelligence. Maturity is very much a growth mindset skill. There’s always room for improvement.
These four “self” skills helped me get there.
When things don’t go our way, our default reaction is to freak out, lash out, or run out of town. When outcomes do land in our favor, we bask in our happiness, marvel at our success, and develop an undeserved arrogance. In either case, we tend to put aside rational thought and let our emotions dictate our path forward.
Whether we win or lose, self-reflection brings us perspective and makes it possible for us to grow as we move onto whatever awaits us.
Practicing the ability to reflect on your experiences forces you to acknowledge your weaknesses, mistakes, and shortcomings.
It’s challenging to evaluate yourself objectively. But I’ve found that writing in my journal, and keeping it private, has allowed me to cultivate an honest assessment of my behaviors and decisions.
Self-reflection will humble you. It exposes your mistakes, your failures, your hurtful comments, and destructive behavior. These painful confrontations with your own actions force you to grow and mature.
Almost every day for the last four years, I’ve gotten out of bed at 5 AM to work my side hustle. That’s self-discipline — a skill I failed to develop until my mid-40s.
It takes a level of maturity to do what you know you should do without anyone pressuring you. When a boss says finish that report by 5 PM, that’s not self-discipline; it’s someone putting a metaphorical gun to your head saying, do this or else.
Self-discipline requires the maturity to recognize that nothing in life comes to you for free. Immature people look for shortcuts — the quick path to the corner office, a once in a lifetime investment, a viral story formula they can plug and play. Shortcuts entice immature folks because they lack the will to do the hard work that success demands of us.
As kids, we relied on our parents to impose discipline on us. Do your homework or no television.
As mature people, we must impose that discipline upon ourselves. It’s a difficult skill to cultivate, requiring the mental recognition that shortcuts don’t work and the acceptance that the long path is the only path.
The immature possess unbridled confidence in their beliefs, abilities, judgment, and superiority. These characters appear larger than life at times, luring people to follow them based on their infectious self-assuredness. But without a healthy sense of self-skepticism, they’re one bad decision away from implosion.
Mature people understand that no matter how grand your intelligence, some beliefs and decisions, in time, will be proven wrong. Not all of them but some of them.
They possess a healthy sense of open-mindedness, always skeptical of their beliefs, and eager for others to enlighten them.
In his book Principles, Ray Dalio writes, “Open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong.” Go ahead. Prove me wrong. I’m okay with it. It’s not enough to say it; you must get to a place where you desire it.
It hurts to admit you’re wrong. Nobody likes it. Mature people, however, understand that in exchange for their bruised ego, they gain enlightenment.
Impulse control seems to have disappeared from our cultural norms. True, we’ve had political figures ginning us up with hatred, false entitlement, and tacit approval for violence. That doesn’t excuse beating up people with a fire extinguisher.
Mature adults don’t instigate confrontation when outcomes don’t land in their favor. When forced to engage, they handle themselves with class, avoiding toxic displays of emotion.
A mature adult exerts control over their impulses, abhorring violence. We may not enjoy losing, but instead of acting out, we diffuse our animalistic urges and turn to self-reflection to figure out where we went wrong and how we could do better next time.
Sadly, too many adults either can’t or won’t control their impulses. For some, it’s a sense of entitlement. They don’t get their way, so they resort to force or bullying. For others, it’s just a skill they never developed.
Putting it all together
Maturity has once again regained its superpower status. If you’re part of the club, don’t take it for granted. It’s not a “riding a bike” skill. You can’t put it aside for a decade and expect it to resurface when you need it. Keep the blade sharp by cultivating the four self skills.
Like I’ve seen from several old friends, upstanding adults can regress after drowning themselves in a whirlpool of anger, self-pity, and conspiracy theories.