At 14, I got to visit Australia with my best friend and his family. For some reason, he and I decided it would be fun to use that trip to go on a stealing spree.
We began at the airport before we even left, swiping books and candy from little souvenir shops.
Every day of the trip, we’d walk to this nearby video store and fill our jackets with tapes and goodies. We must have looked so conspicuous. I mean, it was way too hot to be wearing those massive, heavy jackets. Besides, we were both over six feet tall, and the lifted contents puffed our jackets out so far we’d walk away nearly spherical.
At malls, we’d hit bookstores back and forth, one standing guard as the other shoved books in his pants and ran out.
The problem with stealing is you do get addicted to it. You start to enjoy the danger and the rush, and seeing what you can get away with.
We hit the same bookstore too often one day and got busted by mall security who told us never to return. We spent the whole rest of that day creating these ridiculously dorky disguises so we could sneak back in.
By the end of the trip, we were careless, taking whatever we wanted wherever we went.
The night before our flight home, we hit this little convenience store, packing our clothes with candy and magazines. The store owner saw what we were doing right away and called the cops. We were arrested, my friend’s parents were brought in, and we were taken to an Australian police station, booked, and basically scared out of ever stealing again.
Our perspective changed after that. Even if we were ever to be tempted by thievery’s mad rush, the absolute horror of how our Australia experience had played out was deeply enough ingrained to be inescapable. Its compelling power would surpass all temptation.
Maturity has a lot to do with perspective—with no longer being able to ignore what’s most valuable to you and others, and also what’s hindering those values.
With a mature perspective, you can’t help but predict the likely consequences of any course of action you might take.
I mentioned how coming to see more of your values naturally empowers you to allow those values to bring themselves more to life through you.
Let’s say you see every connected piece of the life you want in detail. There has to be some willpower involved somewhere, right? I mean, actual choices must be made in specific moments to act in line with your values instead of your compulsions, addictions, etc., no?
How can you do what you’ve never been able to before?
In short, your perspective has to change before your behavior can.
What you want has to go from being a hope, a should, or a plan . . . to a must.
In other words, thoughts like:
Wow, we’ve sure been stealing a lot lately. What if we get caught again? Why do we even need all this stuff? And now we’re banned from the mall! I wish we could stop all this and just enjoy the rest of our trip.
…have to change to:
Nothing could ever make me steal again after that.
Perspective and Choice
It’s where changes in perspective translate to changes in behavior that things can get tricky.
The more you see of what you want—and the more your perspective changes—the more your instincts tell you to zero in and find the right method to follow.
I encourage you to resist those instincts.
Instead, keep holding still.
Know that you’re close.
You’ve already seen yourself start to become someone you know won’t be satisfied with choices other than those the person you hope to be would make.
Now look at your life from the other side: Look at every addiction, compulsion, personal limitation, and circumstance currently keeping you from living by your values.
Stare all those hindering forces right in the face as much as you possibly can.
You already see why self-control and change are in your own best interests; now really consider the negative side of that same equation.
Addictions and other limiting forces push you to live in places and states where you should actually be afraid.
A certain kid lies so much he can’t even tell when he’s lying by the time he’s an adult. How much anxiety must someone in that state feel to always have to remember exactly who he’s told what to? What’s it like when he’s forced to reckon with the fact that he really can’t trust himself or his own thoughts at all?
Does that sound like a fun way to live?
Here’s something I once wrote while high at the peak of my weed addiction:
“This feeling of being out on the streets with nowhere to go because I’m high and can’t go home . . . it really is the worst. And all these things I’m doing should make me paranoid. I mean, I’m driving around harsh cities with broken headlights I never fix; I could get pulled over at any moment, and my car is filled with paraphernalia.
“I even get high all the time at work no matter how much I tell myself not to. It must be so obvious to everyone.
“I don’t believe I’ll stick to anything I tell myself to do.
“How could you ever relax if you can’t ignore the serious problems potentially caused by your actions?”
Could I have ever gotten used to spending countless hours out on the streets with nowhere to go because I was high on a workday and couldn’t really be anywhere I knew, public or private?
See enough of your values, and your next steps become clear; see enough of the consequences of what’s hindering your values, and the prospect of living that way indefinitely becomes too much of a nightmare to endure.
Again, you gain empowering perspective on all aspects of who you are, what you want, what’s holding you back, etc. when you find a way that works for you to share your real experience over time.
That’s how you can grow up and stop putting off the life you want.
You fall in love with the person your values make you as they use you to bring themselves more to life in the world.
Going public with your real experience reveals and takes you to your current capacity so you can then grow beyond it.
No, seeing your current capacity isn’t fun at all, for it’s seeing your true limits and the consequences of every bad choice made thus far. You don’t look so good to yourself at that point, and there’s no longer any way to hide from what you see.
But that’s what makes carrying on in that sad state progressively less bearable.
That’s when you finally refuse to steal from your own potential anymore.
Really Growing Up
“The process of recovery from addictions is in many ways completing the process growing up.”
-Dr. Linda Hatch
When it comes to perspective and maturity, you really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone; so hopefully getting older means coming to see more of how precious life truly is.
Adolescents basically have no responsibilities, as well as unlimited time and options, so they tend to feel they can afford themselves at least a little self-destructiveness, negativity, etc.
I have no desire these days to be self-destructive or inconsiderate in the fun I choose.
I’ve also come to see life as too short for holding grudges or fighting for things that really don’t matter.
I was watching this video of a Metallica show in Antarctica, and was so impressed by what the band had to say to the crowd, talking about how life is a treasure, and how all those watching and listening should go do something positive to make a difference.
In fact, I heard Tool say the same thing in concert years ago: encouraging the audience to take the energy they felt from the music and go do something good with it in the world.
At the time, I’m sure I thought that was pretty cheesy; but now I really like it.
We’re all just people; we don’t live that long.
I feel like I value things like sweetness, walking softly, and letting old troubles stay dead a lot more than I did a decade or two ago.
Perspectives can change, and they have to before our lives can.
Hatch, Linda, Ph.D. “Gaining Emotional Maturity Is Key to Addiction Recovery.” Psych Central.com. N.p., June 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2016. <http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/06/gaining-emotional-maturity-is-key-to-addiction-recovery/>.