A man’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)
A number of years ago, I stayed up till 1:30 in the morning watching a long lineup of comics at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, Calif. I remember being thoroughly entertained during each and every one of their routines. Yet, there’s only one act I recall in detail. Like all the others, it was based on the kind of exaggerated truth we can all relate to. I remember it above the others because it’s a truth that stayed with me, a truth of which I believe many of us adults need to be reminded.
The comedian talked about how he and his friend would get together on Monday nights, order pizza and watch TV. After many years of this routine, one night his special needs buddy wondered if they could order Chinese food instead. At this point in the story, the comedian happy-danced across the stage, proclaiming that, yes, they were grownups and they had every right to order Chinese food.
I still smile when I think about this act. We are grownups, and we have the freedom to make choices, among all the other privileges that adult status allows us. Sometimes, though, the responsibilities and hardships of being adults bog us down, so much so that we often fail to recognize our joy as well.
Below are three reminders that can help us tap into why being a true adult can bring even deeper contentment.
- The freedom to choose.
As adults, we have the freedom to make basic decisions or intricate life strategies. Simple choices, like deciding what to buy at the grocery store, whether to take a walk or a catnap, even choosing what book to read, can bring a layer of simple joy to our lives. Being cognizant of this freedom can further increase our happiness because we can learn to cherish these seemingly small, yet life-affirming, privileges.
Even during the adult challenges, which can include dealing with an irrational boss, paying a stack of bills that looms larger than our bank account, and caring for a loved one with medical issues, we adults can still enjoy a kind of freedom that allows us to seek solutions in which to make our current lives better.
Intricate life strategies, such as laying out a plan to help formulate goals, can bring a long-term fulfillment. A 2013 Psychology Today post notes that true adults are better able to “…pursue their goals and priorities honestly, their actions are more likely to correspond to their words.” Therefore, though an adult’s life is often more challenging, at the same time it is also often more rewarding.
- The joy of now.
A 2013 article in The Atlantic describes a set of studies that shows how older bloggers are more inclined to list their happier experiences as moments of relaxation and peace, the kind of happiness, Halvorson notes that is “…less about what lies ahead, and more about being content in your current circumstances.” (The younger bloggers tended to describe happiness as anticipatory-based scenarios that elicited feelings of excitement and elation.)
With age, we mature. And with maturity, we are better able to appreciate being in the here and now. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle describes this in his book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, as the joy of being. This joy of being, Tolle writes, doesn’t come from possessions, events, or even other people. It emanates, rather, from consciousness itself, which we are often better able to tap into with true maturity.
- The positivity of awareness.
Dr. Firestone writes how mature adults welcome new learning experiences, are open to unfamiliar ideas, and welcome constructive feedback. With this kind of emotional health, true adults are able to expand self-knowledge and awareness.
Self-awareness teaches us to acknowledge both our positive and negative aspects of ourselves. Once we are better able to understand and work on these aspects, we are better able get along with others, and thus, are better able to feel more contentment and joy.
Being able, then, to appreciate the freedom to choose, the simple ease of being in the here and now, and the ability to expand self-awareness can all help increase grownup joy. And, when your grownup self is too bogged down to remember all this — you can always order Chinese!
Sports fans watching TV photo available from Shutterstock