Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Long Haul

What is the dividing line between maturity and immaturity? As a child, this was always a bit of mystery to me. I tried to intuit a definition of maturity from bits of grown up conversation. It involved tucking in my shirt, sitting up straight and chewing with my mouth closed. (The truly mature also kept their elbows off the table). Mature boys didn’t cry, and weren’t afraid of the monsters in the basement. Maturity meant acting like the grownups did.

As I grew older, I realized I needed mature definition of maturity. Maturity is not found in long pants or table manners or even RRSP’s, but rather in a perspective on life. Indeed, maturity is somewhat similar to the Kabbalistic concept of mochin d’gadlut. In Gadlut or “largeness” one is no longer focussed on the narrow obsessions that often dominate our waking moments. One transcends the perspective of the petty and considers the big picture. Life’s details are seen within the larger context. In many ways, true maturity is very similar; it is living life while looking beyond the here and now.

This type of maturity is not automatically bestowed with age. Even adults who sit up straight and always have their shirts tucked in can get trapped in the childish world of the here and now. Have you ever been stuck in an unexpected traffic jam when you are a few minutes late? If you’re anything like me, you sit there, completely unnerved by the situation, constantly thinking “come on, come on, come on! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”. Even though there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change the situation, impatience overwhelms, leaving you distracted and distraught. Instead of taking advantage of the time to plan or relax, you obsess over the stalled car in the right lane. This small mindedness can be very destructive; the frustration you get from a one hour traffic jam can poison your mood for an entire day.

Maturity is living life for the long haul. When you live for the long haul, your life is driven by a clear and defining sense of purpose. Each moment, each event, is approached with the larger goal in mind. Small setbacks like traffic jams don’t get in your way, and the serious setbacks don’t stop you either. All that matters is the larger goal of true purpose and meaning.

The remarkable thing is most of us don’t have a larger sense of purpose. Corporations spend endless man-hours and thousands of dollars working on mission statements, trying to understand what they should be doing. But rarely does anyone sit down and considered what his own mission ought to be. Because of our lack of mission, we end up living life unfocussed, distracted by temporary worries, without a larger sense of purpose to anchor us.

Living life for the long haul begins with a sense of purpose. True maturity is achieved when each moment is lived according to larger ideal. This broader vision is life transforming, and is useful when stuck in traffic as well!

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