02/10/2015 01:18 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2015

Do You Operate as a Child or Adolescent -- Or as an Adult?

Aaron works hard and earns a very good living for his family. He loves his work and feels a deep satisfaction in designing beautiful buildings for people. He is a person who is well organized, on time, and follows through on what he says he is going to do. Aaron operates as a loving adult when it comes to financial and organizational responsibility.

However, Aaron does not operate as an adult when it comes to physical responsibility. He eats poorly, is overweight, doesn't exercise, and often gets to bed too late to get all the sleep he needs. He is often tired and his doctor has warned him that he is on a fast tract to a heart attack. Yet Aaron has made no changes in his lifestyle.

He also doesn't operate as an adult when it comes to emotional responsibility. He is easily irritated and often dumps his irritation on his wife and children. When he is not working, he feels a deep emptiness inside, which he covers over with working late at home, with food, with TV, and with demanding time, attention and sex from his wife. He takes no time to notice what he feels; instead, he avoids responsibility for his feelings with his various addictions. He has no spiritual practice or spiritual belief system to help him with his feelings.

Aaron's wife has become more and more distant, preferring to spend her time with the children and with friends. Aaron's neediness and emptiness feel overwhelming to her. She is no longer attracted to him.

Are you like Aaron, taking responsibility in one or two areas of your life but neglecting the others? Happiness, peace and joy are the results of choosing to operate as a loving adult in all areas of your life -- physical, financial, organizational, emotional, relational and spiritual.

Financial responsibility is not about making a lot of money. It's about doing your best to earn enough so that you feel safe regarding having the basic things you need -- a place to live, enough food, and so on. It's about living a lifestyle that is consistent with what you earn rather than overextending yourself and causing yourself stress. Certainly there are times in life when we may feel stress over money, such as changing jobs to something you love, putting yourself through school, following your passion and not knowing if it will come to fruition. Sometimes we are doing our very best and there still isn't enough money, but at least we are doing our very best. Financial responsibility is about doing our very best.

Organizational responsibility is about things like being on time, paying bills on time, getting your taxes in on time, doing what you say you are going to do, as well as keeping your work and living environment neat, clean and organized. It's about creating a living and working environment that doesn't lead to feeling overwhelmed with how much has piled up. It's about taking action rather than procrastinating.

Physical responsibility is about educating yourself regarding healthy eating and having the discipline to feed your body well. It's about taking the time to exercise and get enough sleep. It's about things like wearing a seat belt when driving, and a helmet and good riding gear when riding a motorcycle. Physical responsibility is about caring about your health and well being.
However, you can be taking full physical, organizational and financial responsibility, but if you are not taking emotional, relational and spiritual responsibility, you will not find your peace and joy.

Taking emotional, relational and spiritual responsibility means staying connected with your own feelings instead of avoiding them with various addictions. It means moving beyond being a victim regarding making others and circumstances responsible for your feelings, and being willing to take 100 percent responsibility for your own pain and joy. It means staying connected with your spiritual guidance throughout the day so you can stay tuned into what is in your highest good. It means treating others with kindness and compassion and not making others responsible for your well being.

Being a loving adult means showing up for yourself on all levels. While this might seem like a lot of work, the truth is that the pain and stress you cause yourself when you don't take loving care of yourself takes far more energy than taking care of yourself. Try it and see! You might be amazed at the energy you have when you are really taking loving care of yourself.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day at-Home Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul - For partnered individuals & couples, & people who want to be partnered."

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