On Maturity and Priority

One of the most valuable lessons I learned as an adolescent was to take care of what needed to be done before I undertook what I wanted to do. Sometimes the two coincided but more often than not something I wanted to do had to wait.

The ability to prioritize in this way requires a level of maturity that extends only slightly beyond that of the common teenager. While children and early teens are rightly self-centered, the failure to launch into adulthood is caused more often than not by the young adult refusing to let his or her world grow to the point that it includes others. This refusal may be caused by insecurities, insufficiently cured character or an improperly managed balance between responsibility and privilege during the child’s upbringing.

Learning to care for others beyond oneself is an important step in the process of maturation. The cultivation of that care can be primed by learning to take care of personal possessions or perhaps animals, but ultimately the individual has to come to the point in his or herself that he puts the needs of others ahead of his own, when the situation warrants it (which incidentally is most of the time).

Strangely enough, as soon as you do put the needs of others ahead of your own you find that others help to fill your needs. There is a natural quid pro quo that works out most of the time (you win some and you lose some) and the net result is that many more needs are met all around than could have been had everyone been acting selfishly.

Should you fail along the way, don’t crumble, beat yourself up or hide from the embarrassment. Instead, redouble your efforts by channeling the terrible feeling you have into making sure that you handle the next situation rightly. This fact alone would save a great many people from spinning their wheels in the mud of self-deception, rationalization and denial. Remember, you’re not fooling anyone when you indulge in self-deprecation. It’s a trick that everyone knows and that most can see right through.

If you have to play catchup, don’t despair. Progress comes quickly to those who truly apply themselves. If you are feeling pressed to do something for yourself, take a quick scan of your world to make sure that there are not more pressing needs. It is easy to lose perspective and this can be an important time to check yourself.

When your priorities are in balance you’ll find that there is plenty of time to take care of your personal concerns.

“Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and importance, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.” ~ Margaret Thatcher

6 thoughts on “On Maturity and Priority

  1. Kimberly

    Sounds like common sense but it’s become the exception rather than the rule. This is one of those things children and friends learn by example.


  2. Kolya

    I was recently watching a show called “The World’s Strictest Parents,” where two children would visit a family that had quite strict parents. In every case, the children who went to visit the new family were self-centered and had a distinct lack of empathy for others.

    In only a week’s time, spent in a family who worked together as a team for a greater good, the teen’s lives changes dramatically. They began to enjoy helping others (volunteer work was often included in these scenarios) and could see how what they did or didn’t do impacted those around them.

    It’s never too late to start caring for others and as your post points out, “progress comes quickly to those who truly apply themselves.”


  3. Soderbloom123

    While reading this I was reminded of the quote “Do something for someone quick!” or DSFSQ. I googled it and lo and behold found the search result was a link to a previous post of yours “D.S.F.S.Q.” and the second search result linked to an article which referenced your blog article. It’s a catchy phrase not to forget – thanks for keeping it alive and well on the web!




  4. Colin

    The big difference I’ve found here is that when you push out things that you should have done for others so that you can do things for yourself, the things that you do for yourself end up feeling rather empty. On the other hand (like you said), if you do the things for others, most of the things for you get done anyway, but you end up living a fulfilling life. I guess the question is which is more important to you? I know I want to live a fulfilled life, and that means growing up and a central part of that is caring for others more than I care for myself.


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