Despite an abundance of self-help geared books, blogs and seminars, there is still very little information for those wanting to improve their situation in a quality-shift. Not just finding people who will agree to date you, but higher-quality people. Not just a job you tolerate but a job you can enjoy. Not just more activity partners but more expressive, genuine connections.

I find that majority of self-improvement directed information is very prescriptive. Do this, do that, follow these 6 simple steps. This type of guidance works very well for simple, straight-forward things like losing weight orr making new friends, perhaps even for finding more dating prospects or finding a new job. This type of advise also works very well to provide a leg-up for people that were unable to develop certain life skills appropriate for their age and environment, usually in the social skills arena.

However, for a lot of people who are already living somewhat functional and together lives the path to higher quality is amorphous, because it’s not based on actions in the outside world but on individual’s internal pattern of thought.

I’ve come to believe that the reason there is little published information about how to reach higher qualities of what individuals want is not because it’s complicated or unknown. It’s simply because it’s based on a certain level of maturity and few people enjoy being called out for acting or being immature; even fewer are willing to pay for someone to tell them that the reason they can’t achieve lasting quality in their lives is because of their childishness. It’s a very humbling experience and immature people don’t handle being called immature very well because they’re, well, immature.

It’s extremely difficult to make quality changes in life because of the vicious circle: to make progress one must accept that they’re too immature, and immature people don’t think of themselves that way.

This is also why unsolicited advice doesn’t work: it’s not that the advise is bad (on the contrary it’s usually very good) but the recipient isn’t mature enough to accept and implement it. This also works in the opposite direction: a less mature friend offering advise on how to navigate a relationship issue will be dismissed as nonesense.

From observations in my own life most of the immature people I encounter remain that way because they incorrectly assume that their maturity level is determined by achieving certain life milestones: a promotion at work, a college degree, ability to cook or to purchase necessities frugally, having many friends and traveling to many varied destinations, earning a comfortable living at a job and paying mortgage on time every month.

All of those are admirable accomplishments but they have absolutely nothing to do with emotional maturity – and only increasing one’s emotional maturity will allow one to achieve not just more goals but create a life that is orders of magnitude qualitatively higher than present.

Before someone can grow their own level of maturity it’s important to understand what emotional maturity is and (more importantly) what it’s not.

Take for example a successful business person who is very good at sales and spends his days associating with CEOs and CFOs but also has a short fuse and is a poor excuse for a householder. Or a life-of-the-party soccer-mom senor accountant who repeatedly gets entangled in workplace drama and can barely handle, without resorting to anti-anxiery medication, the emotional stress that inevitably comes with attempts to balance demanding work and family responsibilities.

For women, who as a gender are ironically considered more mature on average than men, there is an added obstacle to overcome: ability to spew unfiltered expressions of emotions has nothing to do with maturity; at least not the way I’ve seen many women express themselves. Being more expressive and in touch with emotions is not mature if those emotions are in control and not you, especially if it’s not an individual choosing to share them and instead these emotions spew out uncontrollably all on their own.

The difference between a mature person experiencing something and an immature one isn’t different quantitatively, but what each person gets out of the experience is very different. The simplest way to understand this duality is by considering a classic dilemma of quantity vs. quality.

Not surprisingly, one of the easiest ways to judge emotional maturity is by observing behavior: mature people tend to go for quality over quantity. In alcohol, in foodstuffs and in friendships alike.

Another way, which is more subdued but which doesn’t suffer from the bias that “divas” and YUPies introduce is how an individual navigates the issue of personal boundaries. Immature people either lack boundaries all together (a push over) or have firm but unbendable boundaries (domineering asshole). A mature individual has clear expectations of himself and others, but also doesn’t impose their will on less mature and more tantrum-prone people with ultimatums or categorical black-and-white reductions.

After all, an ability to clearly consider ramifications without emotions getting in the way and tolerating ambiguities is only something highly mature individuals can do. Immature people either can’t handle such situations and collapse, or what is most likely is they learn to recognize them from past experience and now simply avoid them. As the saying goes: it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

The difference between a mature person excusing themselves from a destructive situation and an immature person running away from something they can’t handle is that mature people make a deliberate decision while immature ones are reacting abruptly without any thought or conscious consideration.

Ultimately it is this inability to evaluate their reaction in real-time that is preventing immature individuals from achieving quality results. First for obvious reasons that the reaction is to swift for options to be evaluated objectively, and second because after the fact an immature individual is unable to see that there even was an opportunity to make alternate choice and so are unable to learn from this experience; in a vicious circle they are left to perpetually relive the same mistakes in the future.

As to how to evaluate relative maturity of individuals in a group? It’s actually very simple: simply pay attention to how people react to a very pleasant or very unpleasant situation, and how long it takes them to lose their cool and allow their emotions to run the show.

It’s not that mature people don’t get upset or don’t make mistakes. It’s just that their emotions aren’t allowed to run the show most of the time.

And with that you now have a way to instantly increase your level of maturity: simply slow down your reactions and take pause right as you feel your emotions are about to overwhelm you before you react automatically. The catch is you can only do this if you consider yourself not yet as mature as you could be in the future – which is in itself a trait only people with high emotional maturity level will have.