My daughter asked me a good question. “Daddy, other than age, what makes you an adult?” Fortunately, I had been thinking about this issue for some time. So I shared my conclusion: “An adult is someone who understands their appropriate responsibilities. And takes them seriously.”
I went on to explain how I came to that idea. I considered the difference between an immature person and a mature person.
Immature people tend to allow others to take responsibility for their lives more than mature people do. When it comes to their plans, health, and happiness, they expect other people to fulfill those needs. And, sometimes, immature people may take responsibility over things that are not in their control. For instance, other people’s feelings, actions, or behaviors. In either case, a person’s self-control is reduced — leaving their character underdeveloped. Codependency is a sign of this type of stunted growth.
Maturity can come once a person realizes that they can’t continue living like this. Then they recognize their need for self-control, and will see their responsibilities more appropriately.
What does maturity for designers look like?
I've observed something very similar with designers. After comparing immaturity with maturity, it comes down to understanding your appropriate responsibility in at least three areas: communication, personal development, and health.
As a mature designer you want to be able to communicate clearly, promote yourself effectively, and explain your decisions well, so you will have credibility and good professional relationships.
Mature designers take responsibility for their own personal and professional development. You can start by accepting your personal deficiencies. You don't have to live in denial of your faults. Be willing to develop a plan to address them.
Mature designers also explore opportunities to learn broadly, but concentrate narrowly. In other words, be open to all sorts of ways to address your learning — whether it's in-person classes, online videos and webinars, or shadowing other experienced designers. However, be aware you won't be able to address all your goals, all at once. So focus on one big area of improvement and develop it over time before moving on to another big area. Mature designers know it takes time to achieve a skill or new behavior, and are patient with themselves.
As Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, has said:
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Mature designers know they have the responsibility to care for themselves when they are capable of doing so. Because when you aren't healthy, you aren't designing very well. This calls for wisdom and humility. You may have to ask for help where you aren't capable of addressing the health concern yourself.
Mature designers don't just focus on physical health. They understand that health is more holistic than that. You can learn to eat right, but you know that your finances, thought life, and space for rest and even play are also required for a healthy lifestyle and good design work.
It is also essential that you create appropriate boundaries, balance between work and rest, and have a clear design process that you can communicate to other people. And if you struggle with any of these areas, be honest and seek help, whether it's a doctor, friend, or supportive community.
Being a mature designer takes responsibility and insight. But when designers mature in the areas of communication, personal development, and health they not only design better they grow better relationships.