Are You Emotionally Mature?

Written by Jim Cathcart,

As you grow older your physical maturity becomes obvious. Men develop a beard. Women take on interesting new shapes. People get taller and their voices change. But what about emotional maturity?

It turns out that emotional maturity is even more obvious! A lack of it is evident in behaviors like: whining, blaming, rage and denial. People lacking this type of maturity are “high maintenance” in the worst way. They demand extra attention, recognition, consideration and privileges that they haven’t yet earned. They throw tantrums, yes even the adults, and they carry grudges. They have difficulty forgiving. Some say, “I can forgive but I won’t forget!” (If you don’t forget then you haven’t forgiven either.) Small setbacks or difficulties throw them off track and they exclaim, “That’s not fair!”

Their problem is not the world around them; it is the world within them. They live in fear, indignation and dependency. Their prevailing attitude is that someone else should solve their problems or provide their desired outcomes. Who knows the source of their entitlement mentality, maybe they are carrying old hurts unresolved into each new experience or maybe they simply never learned how to solve their own problems and deal with disappointment.

I say it’s time that we make emotional maturity an important goal of our society. Let’s measure it on school report cards, in employee reviews and as we chart our own development. At work and especially at home we need to sustain a culture in which all the rewards go to those who learn to become self-reliant. Treat it as you do when encouraging a baby to take its first steps. “Yay! You did it. Now try it again.” Let’s celebrate the ability to deal with problems in positive ways. Let’s make heroes of the people who can keep their cool under pressure, remain calm while others panic, and think when others only feel. Give me James Bond over The Incredible Hulk any day.

It is only those who have become self-reliant that are able to reach out and help others. The dependent people take from the world while the self-reliant give to it. When’s the last time you saw a destitute person hold a charity event? How many immature people step up in an emergency to make things better? If you can’t take care of yourself then how will you be able to help anyone else? By the way if you can’t lead you, please don’t try to lead me.

“The Greatest Generation,” who fought in World War II, often had to continue to work long after they were tired, and learn to create makeshift tools, repair everything, perform first aid, fight against overwhelming odds, endure ongoing pain, deal with terrifying fear, yet still “get the job done.” When they became parents many of them said, “My kids aren’t going to have it as hard as I did.” And so we didn’t. We were given much more freedom of expression and much less day-to-day responsibility than our parents had. Therefore many of us became emotionally weak. The 1960s bear abundant evidence of our immaturity.

Thankfully most of us got over it and grew up. But there were plenty of hold-outs. And succeeding generations have had ever-increasing percentages of entitlement junkies and emotionally immature people. You can measure the number of emotionally immature by tracking the metrics of entitlement programs like welfare, food stamps, public housing occupancy, and other handouts. These were meant to be “a hand up” to lift people back to self-sufficiency. Instead they have become “hand-out” programs where dependents continually line up with their hands out. You can also measure the number of laws designed to protect “the weak”. More ‘fairness’ laws = more weak people.

In a society where there is a high level of emotional maturity there isn’t much need for laws to assure “social justice” or “civil liberties” or to create “a level playing field.” With emotional maturity everyone is equal in opportunity but still different in personal ability. Of course, we should provide access for disabled people and services for the severely disadvantaged. But we should not be applying different rules that alter the “game.” That’s like giving short, light weight people the opportunity to play in the National Football League against opponents who weigh 250lbs and stand 6 ft 5in. They’d be crushed. It’s not fair to them and it alters the game for everyone else. There is always some field for which a person is not suited.

There are two important measures: The number of people receiving entitlements and the number of laws on the books to protect “the weak.” Our goal should be to reduce the numbers in both of those measures year by year. We should measure and publicize this like advertisers do for the National Debt.

When people aren’t required to produce good results then they become emotionally weak. If we reward or accept “effort” instead of “outcomes” then people learn to measure and value themselves by whether they tried, not whether they succeeded. At work they give up early. “Hey boss, I tried. It just didn’t work.” At home they find excuses for their lack of performance. “It was raining” or “I didn’t know where the tools were” or “I’m not good at that. You should do it.”

Several years ago I went to a basketball game in which my 9-year-old grandson was playing. At half time he exclaimed, “We are ahead by two points!” His teacher said, “We don’t keep score. It’s good that everyone just enjoys the game.” I thought, “What! It’s only about process (playing) and not about outcome (the score)? How do you learn anything from that?” The kids were keeping score even though the well-intentioned adults discouraged it. A score is a factual reality; one side always has more than the other. It’s natural to have a score in a game and for some people to win and others to lose. We don’t need to protect the losers, we need to encourage and train them!

If a person is shielded from the disappointment of losing then they will never develop the emotional maturity to deal with failure, difficulties and frustration. I cannot do your exercises for you in order to make you strong. If you are protected from hardships then you become a “hot house flower” that cannot withstand changes in the weather. Therefore you can never venture out from your protected environment.

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Thank God you have problems! The only people without problems are in the grave. If you don’t have problems you should ask God to give you some. That’s how you grow.” He’s right. Emotional strength can only be developed through dealing with resistance. We need to encounter difficult and scary people in order to learn how to deal with them. We need rejection, criticism, unfair treatment, accidents, set backs, disappointment and failure. If we don’t get it then we don’t develop the thinking, the skills and the emotional endurance to overcome them.

A dear friend of mine loves cardistry, the artful juggling of playing cards. He carries a deck of cards with him everywhere and is constantly trying new techniques. He fails more often than he succeeds and yet each time I see him he has mastered a new technique. He once told me that he enjoys the practice almost as much as the performance. That’s the attitude all of us need. Let’s learn to value the difficulties as training toward our goals.

Nobody else is to blame and nobody else should solve your problems. Many people would consider that statement outrageous. They’d say, “Of course others are sometimes to blame and should solve our problems. Otherwise that’s unfair.” You see, “Fairness” is the problem. This is a great concept but not a reality. Life isn’t fair. The world, nature, etc. are not fair. Fairness is a human concept that people try to impose onto the world, but it doesn’t stick. People are created equal in the eyes of God but not equal in nature. Some are tall, some are gifted, some are intelligent, and some are weird. So societies are formed to help meet everyone’s needs. We agree to rules that allow us to get along and we create solutions and resources that can be shared in commerce for everyone’s advancement. But it can never be “fair” for everyone and that’s OK.

I accept my age, size, intellectual ability, appearance and current circumstances. But I continue to learn to do things that diminish my disadvantages and exploit my best qualities. I cannot change who I am but I can improve who I am! So can you.

Join me in the quest to evolve our culture so that emotional maturity is achieved by everyone. Let’s measure it, publicize it, celebrate it and collaborate to increase it on every front. And wherever we fail, let’s learn to get over it.

Episode 4 featuring Dr. Tony Alessandra

In this episode we interview Dr. Tony Alessandra on his best tips for assessing your skills, gifts, talents and weaknesses to thrive in living The Extraordinary Life! Dr. Tony Alessandra helps companies out-market, out-sell and out-service the competition. Dr. Alessandra earned his PhD in marketing in 1976 from Georgia State University. Tony is Founder of Assessments 24x7 LLC, a company that offers a variety of online assessments, including the DISC profile. He is also a prolific author with 30 books and over 100 audio/video programs and films. He was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame in 1985; the “Legends of the Speaking Profession in 2009; and the Top Sales World Sales Hall of Fame in 2010.

Dr. Alessandra's contact info:


Episode 3 featuring Tracey Tremendous Jones

During this episode we interviewed Tracey "Tremendous" Jones on her new book "A Message to Millennials" and how every leader regardless of their generation can achieve extraordinary success in life and in the marketplace.

We asked Tracey the following questions...

What your biggest challenge you had to overcome to live the extraordinary life?
Where do you gain motivation and inspiration?
Why do you feel so many people fall short of living the extraordinary life?
Who are your role models or heroes?
What is the ONE thing you would say to others to help them live the extraordinary life?
How do you stay focused on your most important priorities?
What’s one life hack you could share with others that’s helped you create extraordinary results?

Tracey's answers will capture your heart, renew your enthusiasm and quite possibly change the way you think about the Millennial generation or about your future if you are a Millenial!

About Tracey C. Jones, Author, Speaker and Leadership Expert

Author of eight books (and counting!), Tracey C. Jones is the president of Tremendous Leadership. With twelve years in the Air Force, another ten in corporate boardrooms, plus an MBA in Global Management, Tracey built an impressive career as a corporate “fixer.” Her deep love of education has propelled her to continue her educational pursuits in a Philosophy of Leadership doctoral program. Her father, the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, founded Executive Books in 1965 with the goal of changing the world one book at a time. After amassing an exceptional leadership background of her own, Tracey took the company’s reins in 2009 – and carries on her father’s tremendous legacy today.

Website or Contact Information: (check out her new book!)

Twitter: @traceycjones and @tremendousbooks
Facebook: @tremendoustracey and @tremendousleadership

Problem Solving Strategies

Some years ago I was booked to deliver the keynote address at an International Forum in Caracas, Venezuela. My host asked if there was anything I’d like in my room. They expected me to say wine or fresh fruit or a favorite food. Instead I said, “Yes, if anyone has a guitar that I could borrow during my stay, I’d appreciate it.” Surprisingly they complied! I was really pleased to have a guitar to relax with during my off camera times.

Then an idea occurred to me. My 3 hour seminar is going to have a break in the middle so people can visit the Expo in the hallways. The guitar might be a great tool to bring them back from the break. So at the end of the break instead of repeated announcements that the seminar was resuming, I got on stage and started playing and singing popular rock and roll tunes! We cranked up the volume, opened the doors to the hallway and in no time all 800 people were back in their seats and singing along with me in English.

What a treat that was! Here’s how the idea evolved: I posed the question, “What is the need?” Answer: to bring people back from the break efficiently. Then I asked, “What is the usual approach?” Answer: repeated announcements and urging over the loudspeaker. “How does that work?” Poorly.

Here’s the twist: Instead of just asking, “What is a better way?” Instead I asked, “What would be more fun and make them WANT to come back into the room?” The music was appealing and fun so they all came back without any urging from us. It wasn’t about getting people into the room, it was about causing them to WANT to be in the room.

In solving any problem the first step is to identify the need or problem. What is the problem?

Is it: A danger or emergency? Not enough money? Not enough time? Too much time? Not enough support from others? Wrong or inadequate tools? Unsure of what to do? Lack of interest? Illness or injury or damage to equipment? Not able to do what is being requested of you? (Why? Knowledge, tools, skills, permission, legality?)

The problem could be any or even many of these, but until you have defined what the problem really is, then you’re not yet ready to solve it. Let’s say that the problem is that a coworker is wasting supplies and taking too long to do their job. 

Now that we know the problem we need to root out the cause of it. I like to use the SPITS format for this.

S – Situation. Is this just a temporary problem that is due to the current situation? Or is it something more permanent than that? Is this a pattern or a situation?

P – Person. Is the problem the person? Are they not trained for this task? Are they having some personal difficulties that complicate their ability to perform? Are they not aware of their errors? Should another person be handling this instead?

I – Interpersonal. Is this problem a symptom of a difficulty between people? Maybe this is a subtle form of sabotage (“I’ll show you!”) Or maybe there is a conflict that needs to be resolved.

T – Technical. Could the source be wrong tools, wrong information, or something mechanical or digital that is interfering?

S – System. Perhaps the system you are following is the source of the waste and inefficiency. Many former processes no longer work for current needs and should be replaced.

By simply identifying the source or nature of the problem many potential solutions are eliminated. E.g. If the house is on fire then more insurance won’t solve your problem.

During my years in the U.S. Army I was trained as a combat medic and hospital corpsman then later went of Officers Candidate School and transferred to Infantry Training. As a medic I was taught this simple lesson for dealing with injuries: 1st Protect Life! then Preserve Life, and then Assist Healing. That’s not how they said it but it boiled down to keeping the person alive, then getting them to safety and assuring that they can recover from the injury. The mantra was: Stop the bleeding! (Without blood they’ll die), Clear the airway! (Make sure they can breathe), Protect the wound! (Bandage and cover the injury), and finally Treat for shock! (Shock is the trauma effect of the injury and it is a priority for recovering well.)

With battlefield injuries it is often apparent where the damage is and the source is usually known. In day to day life it’s not that obvious. So finding out what the need is and what is causing it should be our first concern.

Once we know What the Problem Is and What the Source may be then we are in a position to address it. Here are some general rules of thumb that will help you find more and better solutions.

  1. Fix the customer or the person first. If you’re not in a situation where there is immediate danger then focus on the participants first. Listen to what they are saying, listen for what they are feeling, try to probe to the actual underlying concerns or fears or confusion.
  2. Determine what is needed. Is it money, materials, assistance, a new work-around, saving time or what?
  3. Set Priorities. Do the most important things first. Put out the fire first and then address the damage. If a customer is upset, deal with their upset first and then correct the problem.
  4. Isolate the problem. What is the problem really? Why does that matter?
  5. What is the source of the problem? Is it Situation, Person, Interpersonal, Technology or Tools or Information, or System caused?
  6. What action is needed? Sometimes doing nothing is appropriate, at other times much action is needed. Only do what is required in order to reach the right outcome.
  7. Take action immediately or delegate action to the appropriate person who can act on it.
  8. Assure that your solution truly did correct the problem. Check again to assure that the priority needs were addressed.

We will address creativity in problem solving in another article, but be sure to look beyond the usual solutions and “suspend the system” that you usually follow just long enough to assure that there is not a better way. There are some things you cannot control but you can at least minimize the damage they have done. Other things may be fully within your grasp when you follow a good procedure to isolate and solve the problem.

Written by Jim Cathcart.

Jim is listed in the professional Speaker Hall of Fame, is a recipient of the prestigious Golden Gavel Award (along with Earl Nightingale, Art Linkletter, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins and many others), has been the president of the National Speakers Association and received the Cavett Award for a lifetime of service. He has authored 17 books and scores of recorded programs. In 2014, 15 & 16 he was listed as one of Top 50 Sales Influencers in the World by Top Sales World. The San Diego chapter of the National Speakers Association renamed their member of the year award “The Jim Cathcart Service Award” and the Greater Los Angeles chapter gave Jim the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. In 2008 he was inducted as one of the “Legends of the Speaking Profession.” And in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 he was selected as one of the Top 5 Sales & Customer Service Speakers by in an online survey of over 14,000 people.