Life is a funny thing. As children, we play. As adults, we work. In between we develop relationships, raise families, pursue goals and pause every once in a while, attempting to gain some perspective on the whole thing. Before we know it, we are retired and approaching the end of our lives, wondering, where did the time go?
Throughout this process, it is impossible not to learn. Experience is the greatest teacher. And yet, there are so many of us who will end our lives still subject to the same core tendencies that we developed in early childhood. And, while it is these very personality traits that make us ‘who we are,’ they also hold us back in numerous ways. For true growth to take place, an honest ability to reflect on oneself and one’s place in the world must be developed. Only then, after true contemplation has taken place, is it possible to integrate this understanding into our behavior and see real maturity arise, real actions in the world that one would call wise.
Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging. ~ Maya Angelou
The modern world makes this very hard. We are so busy holding down jobs, keeping marriages together, paying the bills and raising kids that any time for true self-development is lost. Society assures us, of course, that it is these very things that make us adults, but if that was the case, would we still be seeing such high levels of depression and divorce, health problems, and school-shootings? Are these the marks of a truly ‘mature’ society? Obviously not. In the true order of things it is not ‘playing by the rules’ that makes you a mature individual, but the recognition of a much deeper set of rules, and their development in the self. Here, then, are five clear signs that you are maturing, and not just aging.
4. A RELINQUISHMENT OF EXPECTATION
Ask most 20-year-olds what kind of future they envision for themselves by the age of 40, and they’ll most likely have a few solid ideas. Check in with them at 40, and they’ll most likely tell you how they never could’ve imagined their lives turning out the way that it did. Far from being the burden so many experiences this as it is, in fact, one of life’s greatest gifts: the calling for you to release expectation. As we just pointed out, life is an organic process. Its flow is unpredictable. The mature person has been paying close enough attention to this over the years to come to understand it and integrate it into their world-view. This is the next stage of surrender to change, and it results in a change in perspective, due to a deep understanding of the uncertain nature of life itself. Its signs are reflected in the actions of the mature person – there is very little to no negative reactivity to what life throws at them. They have a calm presence. They’ve learned how to relax. Their mood is not dictated by specific outcomes but comes instead from this Que Sera Sera attitude. They’ve learned how to go with the flow.
5. AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT ‘LOVE’ ACTUALLY IS
This is a big one. So many young people are sure that they have experienced ‘love,’ when in fact what they’ve been through is an intense combination of biological and psychological need fulfillment, most often unconscious in origin. Unfortunately, this is often a pattern that continues throughout life for many, without there ever being a break-through into the deeper levels of love that lie waiting for them. Infatuation, lust, and obsession are not loved. It takes heartbreak, and the courage to face oneself to know and learn what love is. Whether it takes place in a string of relationships or in the issues that can arise over the course of a single, long-term love-affair, a mature person has come to understand that the purpose of all relationship is personal growth, and that nowhere is there more potential for personal growth than in the dynamics of their love relationship(s).
Through these relationships, the mature person has learned acceptance; they’ve learned empathy, understanding, and compassion. Instead of appreciating only those things in the other person that they agree with or approve of, which is a very shallow form of love, they’ve learned to honor and even appreciate the other’s individuality instead, knowing that there is always something to be learned by the differences between them. In this way, the love has deepened. It has become a choice, not some out-of-control whirlwind that sweeps you off of your feet and holds power to make or break your happiness. Above all, the mature person understands that love is work. It is a commitment, and through the honoring of this work, through the honoring of this commitment, they have come to know levels of love, joy, and ecstasy that could’ve never been reached through other means, no matter how seductive the shallower forms of love may have appeared at the time.
6. A RELEASE OF SELF-IMPORTANCE
The mature person has learned that the world doesn’t revolve around them. They know that they are not perfect, nor will they ever be, and they have therefore given up the game of projecting an air of perfection to others. They are honest about where they are at, their skills and talents, and their shortcomings. They understand that mistakes are an integral part of life, and they are not afraid to make them. They are also unafraid of being proven wrong. (In fact, the highly mature person celebrates it.) Having learned this, they are not only happier but have probably accomplished many things, learning even more about both life and themselves in the process.
Because of this, the mature person most likely enjoys what they do for a living. Those who have failed to get over themselves and face their fears are more likely to be stuck in a job they dislike. The willingness to try and fail, time and again – due to the understanding that they are not as important as their mind makes them out to be – leads to a greater understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately, life itself. Although it seems almost paradoxical, through this releasing of a sense of self-importance, the mature person has almost assuredly achieved some important things.
Image Credit: Shutterstock (licensed)/By adike
FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM HERE