Consciously or unconsciously, we make choices during our key moments, and the quality of our lives is determined by these choices. If we make good choices we grow in confidence, personal effectiveness, and enjoyable relationships (emotional maturity). When we make poor choices we become less effective, eventually feeling like nothing more than a pawn of life circumstances (emotional immaturity).
Our key moments are how we develop emotional maturity. We don’t become more mature when the waters of life are calm and placid and everything is going our way. We grow in maturity when in turbulent, choppy waters. When tempted to act out our fears, hurts, or resentments.
Step 1: Be present. You can’t choose better responses to your key moments if you’re asleep at the wheel. You have to wake up and become fully conscious and present to what is happening both within and around you. If not alert and aware, you’ll quickly slip into old, habitual, negative ways of reacting. Being present does not making responding easy. But it does put you in the driver’s seat.
Sometimes I feel the fear of the uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear take the wheel and steer
It’s driven me before, and it seems to have a vague
Haunting mass appeal
Lately I’m beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel
Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there
With open arms and open eyes, yeah
Whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there, I’ll be there
– Drive by Incubus
By being present you begin to take your power back.
Step 2: Embrace Reality. At this moment (which is the only moment that is real), what is, is. To be happy and effective, you must acknowledge and respect rather than fight against the realities of your life. Embrace it and find peace. They form the boundaries or parameters within which you live and make choices daily.
Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it.
– Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2, Page 11
Denying, avoiding, complaining, or refusing to think about uncomfortable realities gives those very things incredible power over your life. Taking ownership of the reality equips yourself to change it.
Step 3: Exercise Responsibility. Responsibility has to do with the choices you make about how to think, feel and act about reality. The quality of your life depends on your ability to make good choices—choices consistent with your best self and long-term best-interest—in spite of what happens to you.
Step 4: Clarify Your Vision. What do you really want? What is most important to you? Being clear about your vision gives you the motivation or incentive to make good choices when in a key moment. It is easy to follow the path of least resistance or act out negative emotions. But, if you’ve thought about what you want, if you have a clear vision of the outcomes you desire for yourself and others, then it becomes easier to delay immediate gratification and exercise the discipline to make a positive and strengthening choice. A clear vision allows you to be ruled by something other than impulse and circumstance. Define what you want. Deepen it so that it becomes more important than what you’re currently getting.
Step 5: Act from Integrity. This is where the rubber meets the road. No excuses. No whining. Acting from integrity is bringing what you say and do into alignment with what you really want. It is acting consistently with your higher vision. It is living by commitment rather than ease, discipline rather than convenience. Acting from integrity requires that you give up short-term payoffs (immediate gratification, escape, avoidance, self-indulgence, revenge, etc.) for something that is bigger or more fulfilling in the long-run. It requires that you pay a price (delay of gratification, quieting your tongue, facing a problem, entering into a difficult conversation, etc.). The price you pay is like your admission into the world of emotional maturity. You’ve earned it.
I am still at Step 3. But I am glad to have wisened up and know the importance of making the right choices that align with my path 🙂 and I am glad that I finally know that now!