When I was a little boy, I remember someone illustrating the difference between immaturity and maturity this way: Put a new, shiny penny and an old, worn silver dollar side by side, and a child will pick the penny every time. Immature persons grab what shines; mature people reach for what matters.

My assumption then and now is that the illustration wasn't about money. It was about bright, sparkly things that get attention over and against more valuable things that may appear mundane and drab. Back then, it was playing baseball over doing homework or riding my bike over taking care of my chores.

Maybe that old illustration still works for adults. It is the difference in just getting a job with a paycheck and finishing high school or college. It is the contrast between "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and the fundamentally right values your mom and dad taught you. It is the discrepancy between get-rich schemes and a plan to work hard and save regularly.

Perhaps an even more fundamental difference between juvenile and grown-up thinking has to do with a word in that last sentence — the word "plan." Now I know the limitation of human planning full well. Not every plan comes to fruition, and all our plans are subject to things totally beyond our control. But it is childish in the extreme to expect good outcomes on the basis of nothing more substantial than wanting and dreaming. There needs to be a path.

Did you ever wish you were more fit? Weighed 20 pounds less? Had a college degree? Had a few really good friends? Did work you enjoyed? Did something that made a difference? Had better control of your money? Were making the world a better place? Had a better marriage? Enjoyed a better relationship with your children? Could show people the value of faith?

We all have our wish lists. But wishes aren't plans. And it typically takes an intentional plan to get from Point A to Point B — unless you really don't care where "Point B" is. You need a path to walk. You need incremental steps that will reassure you as you execute the plan and navigate the path.

For the two things that matter most to you, try to identify three clear and specific steps that you know would move you closer to those goals. Then you will find out whether you really want those things or have simply fantasized about them. You can even index your progress toward maturity.

Wishes aren't plans!
Better to fail in pursuit of the holy than to live the tedium of self-deception.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things (Philippians 3:12-15 TNIV).