The mark of maturity is (hopefully) different at different ages.
A mature 10-year-old is becoming aware of his or her strengths – those natural talents that they can develop into their special attributes. Children in this age bracket learn what they’re good at doing by comparing themselves to their peers. Who runs faster, or gets their math quiz completed first? In those areas at which they excel lay opportunities to learn and grow their capabilities, thereby building self-efficacy. As their talent combines with acquiring knowledge and developing skill with deliberate practice during their teen years, they develop strengths that will serve them well throughout their life.
Mature 18-year-olds are able to make and keep longer-term commitments such as maintaining stable relationships or completing a month’s long school project. A key signal of this level of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. This means being able to keep commitments even when they are no longer new or novel. Most importantly, they can honor their commitment to do what’s right even when they don’t feel like it.
At the same time, people in this stage of development are able to clearly state their wants, needs, and beliefs. They want independence, and recognize that they need to negotiate mutually agreeable deals in order to get what they want. They’ve mastered their impulses and freed themselves from the tyranny of now. Money is a good measure of this capability, with some young people expecting their parents to give them what they want when they want it while their more mature peers are willing to work in order to get what they want.
Mature 29-year-olds have established their identity. They’ve decided what kind of life they’re going to live in terms of having a career, a committed relationship (or at least knowing what they want from one), and a set of values that they trust and that guide their decisions.
They’re unshaken by flattery or criticism. They’ve come to understand that all people have good and bad elements, so they can maintain a perspective that they’re neither all good nor all bad. They receive compliments or criticism without letting it ruin them or sway them into a distorted view of themselves. They are secure in their identity as a person with solid strengths and weakness they need to work on improving.
Mature 40-year-olds have the benefit of experience. They know what pushes their buttons in relationships and have learned how to control their reactions. They’re able to reflect on things that used to make them fly through the roof, and say, “I know why this bothers me, and I’ve developed good methods for dealing with it.”
A mature middle-aged person possesses a spirit of humility. Humility is a fundamental aspect of maturity. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less. Mature people aren’t consumed with drawing attention to themselves. They see how others have contributed to their success and express gratitude to those who collaborated with their efforts and those who mentored them when they got stuck. Humility is the opposite of arrogance.
Mature 55-year-olds have become selective about relationships and priorities. They focus their attention on people who they experience as rewarding, and gently move away from those who are self-absorbed or toxic. Maturity at this stage means focusing more on experiences and satisfying relationships than on material possessions as the primary sources of meaning and pleasure.
By now mature individuals see setbacks as opportunities for growth and change. They believe that problems are a part of life, that they contribute to creating most of their problems, and that they need to dwell on what they need to do differently going forward. The opposite traits are blaming, whining and denying.
Mature 70-year-olds are able to reflect on their experiences in life and to think about what it all means. Maturity at this level involves having learned from life’s hard lessons and using that wisdom to deal with what’s yet to come. At this stage people start to consider what kind of legacy they want to leave behind and the value of their lives in terms of making a meaningful contribution to society.
At the same time, they develop a deep appreciation of the more positive aspects of everyday life. They become more grateful, for both big and little things. Immature individuals presume they deserve everything good that happens to them. Mature people realize how blessed they are compared to most people in the world.