Most people eventually mature. Some at 25, some at 65 and others, we just think they will never grow up. It’s clear that age is not the sole determinant. So why do some people mature early and other mature late (or not at all)?
First we must understand what produces maturity. Simply put, maturity is produced by life learning. On a micro level, maturity comes by accepting and retaining the feedback life gives you as you make choices in moments. On a macro level, maturity comes from learning through experiences. A person’s level of maturity is the collection of their learned life lessons to that point.
When I was in elementary school, I loved when we grilled out. We had a gas grill which seemed great. No waiting on charcoal to light and heat up enough to cook on. Gas grills provided instant heat! Eventually, I was allowed to light the grill. Lighting the grill involved turning on the gas, lighting a long match, and sticking it through a hole on the side of the grill to light the burners. Although I was young, I was taught to open the grill top first, have my match ready, turn on the gas, light the match, and stick the match in the hole on the side until the burners lit. That was a straight forward process that was communicated and I’d seen done many many times.
One particular night, we were going to grill and it was finally my opportunity to light the grill. I was excited, probably more because it involved fire than responsibility, and got the matches and went outside. When I got to the grill, I turned on the gas. I then grabbed the matches and started striking it. I can’t remember exactly but those long matches are hard to strike and I’d break off the tip on the first one almost every time. But I eventually struck the match, bent over to look in the hole, and stuck the match in.
As I mentioned before, maturity or learning comes from the feedback you get from a choice, good or bad, in a moment. Choices usually fall within 4 categories.
• Doing what you know to do
• Not doing what you know to do
• Doing what you know not to do
• Finally not doing what you know not to do.
The way I had unintentionally chosen that evening was to not do what I knew to do.
Recapping the process for you... open lid, have match ready, turn on gas, light match, stand back, and stick match in hole on side. I had totally omitted the opening the lid, botched lighting the match, and totally ignored standing back. But I nailed the gas and stick it in the hole steps!
The moment the lit match entered the hole on the side of the grill enclosure, a mini explosion occurred shooting a flame out of the hole and blowing the lid of the grill top open. The flame scorched the right side of my face singeing my eyebrow, creating a new part in my hair, and burning the side of my face by my ear. To this day my right sideburn does not grow as fast as my left!
What a maturing day for me. I accepted the feedback that flame-throwing grill gave me which was generated by the careless choice in a moment. I learned that day how important it is to meticulously apply the knowledge you have in order to successfully and safely get a result. Especially when it comes to fire. The best thing that ever happened to me was not getting away with that careless mistake. I am a gas grill lighting specialist now.
This is how maturity is produced. But I think the huge misconception is when it is produced. We seem to have resigned ourselves to a belief that maturity just comes with age over time. I do not disagree that maturity does occur with age over time, but it is not age over time that produces maturity remember. It’s learning. I was a mature 15 year old in the kitchen not because I had lived 15 years, but because I had been cooking eggs and corn beef hash since I was 9. I was a mature cook because of the repetitions, not the age.
So when a young person (or older person) reaches a certain level of maturity depends on 2 factors. One typically outside of our control and another largely within our control.
1. How open they are to actually learn
2. When young people are presented with opportunities to learn
If you have been around a young person between the ages of 13-19 for more than 5 minutes, you have picked up on the fact that they typically know more than you. And rarely does what you say or do influence that fact. So point 1, their openness to learning, is largely out of our control.
But the second point is where I think we can gain the most ground and accelerate maturity. By presenting young people with opportunities to learn earlier and more frequently, we can accelerate maturity.
If I did not start cooking at age 9, there is a great chance that I would have eventually learned to cook when I was older. At what age would have been dependent on when I would have been presented with and accepted the opportunities to cook. Said a different way, it would have happened when I would have collected enough experiences to achieve a certain level of culinary maturity.
I was put in a position where I had to make my own meal some weeknights when I was young. Now I see it as I was given the opportunity to learn. Would I have chosen it at the time? Probably not. But regardless of whether I liked it or not, it produced maturity in me.
That is where I see a great opportunity for the future of the next generation. What I believe to be the norm is we wait for life to happen to us and then react to it. We wait for life to present us with the challenges and circumstances (opportunities) that are used to teach us. Rather than pursue opportunity, we actually avoid it. And by avoiding challenges and circumstances, we actually delay maturity. The reason we think that age over time is when we mature is because we eventually cannot outrun reality. We eventually can no longer avoid the challenges and circumstances, and are forced to experience them. We don’t choose them. They choose us. How open we are to learning at that particular time determines whether it sticks. Determines whether we “learn our lesson”. So for most of us, we eventually mature this way.
Another factor that impacts maturity is most of us are not 1st time learners (unless it involves fire and gas). It takes us typically 3,4,5 times before we learn the lesson. So if you wait for life to present you with those challenges, you may have to wait 5, 10, 15 years for another opportunity to learn a lesson (or mature) because you are waiting (usually not very eagerly either) for life to present you with that opportunity again. So if it takes you 3 times of going through something before you learn your lesson and “opportunity” only comes knocking on your door every 2 years, it will take you 6 years to attain a certain level of maturity. To put it in perspective, college is typically 4-5 years. If you follow the normal path to maturity, do you see how you could possibly squander one of the most important times of your life?
I’m not saying a person cannot lead a successful, satisfying, fulfilling life by following the normal path of maturity. But what I am saying is this … how much faster could a person start enjoying that successful, satisfying, fulfilling life if they pursued a different path that accelerated their maturity.
You don’t attain a certain level of maturity as a public speaker because you are 45 years old. You attain a certain level of maturity as a public speaker because you have spoken in public 45 times.
Maturity is a function of learning over time. Not age over time.
So if we want to accelerate maturity, we have to accelerate learning. And we accelerate learning by pursuing it, not running from it; not waiting for life to happen. We accelerate learning by pursuing change, pursuing challenges, pursuing mentorship, pursuing the opportunities to make choices in moments. We mature when we embrace the feedback of our choices and go look for another opportunity.
Season Builder is all about accelerating maturity with a process of pursuing not waiting.