And 10 steps to start becoming that man
I love men. Especially happy men. But there aren’t many of those around.
It’s not your fault, men. Society has made you what you are today. It has made you wear masks that hide the real you. The sweet you. The gentle you. The vulnerable you. The soft under-bellied you.
The happy you.
Society decided a long time ago that men needed to appear hard, uncaring, and even ruthless in order to be successful. Showing feelings was seen as a sign of extreme weakness. So you had to repress those feelings of yours. In public. Even at home.
You can repress feelings for a while, but not forever. You eventually run out of space to hide them, and then they start to come out. On their own terms, and in their own time. And it’s never pretty when they do come out because they’re beyond your control. They come blurting out, fast and furious, when you least expect it. They’re typically directed at someone you know will take it. That usually means a loved one, and one who doesn’t deserve it. Which makes you feel bad, and angry at yourself. You manage to control those feelings of hurt and anger, but don’t express them. You do what you normally do. Sweep them under the rug of repression. And the space freed up by your last outburst soon gets filled up again.
My heart goes out to you. You’re stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. And you deserve to be happy. But right now, you’re not. You’re an unhappy man.
How do I know this? Because I’ve spent my 56 years of life surrounded by unhappy men. At home, at work, at play. I can see your pain. I’ve been on the receiving end of your pain. And it’s not been fun. For you, or for me. These men are my template for what an unhappy man looks like.
I also know this because I’m now with a happy man. A truly happy man. And the difference is astounding — for him and for me. This man is my template for what a happy man looks like.
Life as an unhappy man
An unhappy man is an angry man. You’re not allowed to be yourself, to feel what you feel or say what you want to say. This makes you frustrated and angry. This anger lives close to the surface, bubbling out every now and then when you can’t take any more.
You’re a stressed out man. So much is demanded of you. Meeting the expectations of the labels you wear is exhausting — provider, employee, father, husband, son, brother. Work is so unfulfilling. The version of yourself you have to be at work bears no relation to who you are. And keeping up this facade is a full-time job in itself.
You’re a man of many masks. One to match every label you wear. Sometimes, you wear the wrong mask. That’s hardly surprising, it’s so hard to keep up with all those versions of you. The only good thing about the masks is that they cover the way you’re really feeling.
You’re a wounded man. Not being allowed to be yourself sends you a message loud and clear. That you’re not good enough as you are. Every time you’ve shown a part of the real you, it’s been shot down. And that hurts.
You’re an inauthentic man. How can you be real when you can’t be yourself? Being inauthentic takes up a lot of your energy as you shape-shift constantly. You shape-shift to be the right version of you in any given moment.
You’re an automated man. When you don’t express your emotions, the way you do things becomes automated. You spend much of your time on autopilot. You get things done, but your heart’s not in it. And when your heart’s not in it, life isn’t fulfilling.
You’re a untruthful man. You can’t be truthful when you’re not yourself. You don’t know what your truth is. You know society’s truth, but not yours. It’s not like you’re walking around lying to everyone. You’re just not being truthful to yourself.
You’re a repressed man. Of course you’re repressed. You’re not allowed to express your true feelings. Trouble is, you can’t repress certain feelings and not others. They all get repressed, to some extent. So you live in the middle zone, without the lows, but also without the highs.
You’re a man who abuses his power. Again, this goes along with everything that society expects of you. When you have power, you’re supposed to keep it. And use it. Using it invariably means that it benefits you in some way. And, in so doing, abuses someone else in some way. Even saying something along the lines of “Because I say so” or “Just do it” in response to a question is an abuse of power.
You’re a man who uses people. A lot of powerful men get other people to do their dirty work. You use other people for tasks you don’t want to be associated with. Even overtly ‘nice guys’ do this. You get others to do your firing, to deliver bad news. You avoid taking responsibility for your decisions.
You’re a man who numbs your pain. You binge on your anaesthetic of choice. Sports, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, TV, shopping, thrill-seeking. You do this to escape from what you’re feeling. And it works. For a while.
Life as a happy man
A happy man is a kind man. You put the well-being of others at the same level of importance as your own well-being. And I’m not just talking about that of your loved ones. You place everyone’s well-being at that level.
You’re a compassionate man. You don’t judge others. You seeks to understand them, even if their point of view doesn’t match yours. You accept them as they are. You don’t bully or threaten others. Ever.
You’re a gentle man. You use gentle words, and have a gentle touch. You doesn’t impose yourself or your opinions on others. You aren’t forceful in any way.
You’re a big-hearted man. You take nothing or no one for granted. You know that there but for the grace of god go you. You’re generous of yourself, and share what you have with others. You’re caring.
You’re a vulnerable man. You don’t fear your emotions, and allow yourself to feel them fully. You express them freely, in a controlled manner, and without hurting others.
You’re an optimistic man. Optimism and happiness go hand-in-hand. When you’re happy, you see what you have, not what you don’t have. You see the possibilities, not the obstacles. You see yourself as limitless, not limited. It’s not that you wear rose-tinted glasses — you know you’ll have hard times ahead. It’s just that you know you can overcome them.
You’re a questioning man. You ask questions, instead of making assumptions. You ask questions to come to your own conclusions, instead of just following the crowd. You ask questions so you keep on learning new things, instead of just reinforcing what you already know.
You’re a resilient man. You’ve done your self-work. You’ve worked hard to become the the man you are. You always pick yourself up off the ground, and carry on. You’re resilient to whatever is thrown at you, which is good because life always throws things at you.
You want to be your best self. You’re not afraid of failure. You know it well, and have used it well. You learn from everything that happens to you. All you want is to be the best possible version of yourself. And you take steps in that direction every day of your life.
You’re an unconditional man. You live without conditions. You love without conditions. You choose to accept people and situations as they are, instead of wishing they were different. You focus on what’s important in life — meaningful relationships. And you don’t get caught up in anything unimportant — that’s just detail. You never try to change people. You either accept them as they are, or you stay away from them.
You’re fully alive. You experience life in all its glory. You see and think with greater clarity. You feel intensely. You fear less. And love more. You’re engaged with what you’re doing, all the time. Your creative self is on fire — even if you didn’t know you had a creative self. You wake up every day looking forward to the day ahead. You go to sleep every night grateful for the day you’ve had.
You’re a fun-loving man. Happiness and fun go hand in hand. You see the fun in the things you’re doing. And you see more opportunities for fun. You look at the world with wonder, not fear.
You’re a patient man. You don’t force things. You know everything unfolds in its own time. Sometimes that’s fast, sometimes it’s not.
You’re a man with dreams. You know how you want to live, and are working towards that. Your dreams aren’t just dreams. They’re your personal goals. And you’re a man of action.
You’re a creative man. You tap into that part of you that exists in us all, and find a way of expressing it. Photography, art, music, writing, cooking, film, sculpture, wood-working. It doesn’t matter how you express your creativity. You do it because it makes you happy and fulfilled to do so.
You’re an in-the-moment man. You don’t spend your time dwelling on the past, or wishing for the future. You don’t wonder “What if…?” all the time. You’re a ‘what is’ kind of guy, only interested in what you’re doing right now. In this moment. This makes life much less full of anxiety. And much more fun.
10 steps to becoming a happy man
There’s no quick fix to becoming a happy man. You become one by wanting it so badly that you’re willing to put in the work. The work isn’t for the faint-hearted. It takes honesty, commitment and consistent effort. But when you see what as a happy man looks and feels like, you can see it’s worth every scrap of effort.
Here are 10 steps you can take:
- As with any big life change, the starting place is to acknowledge that you need to make one. To acknowledge that you don’t want to continue living like you have been. Even if the world outside tells you there’s nothing wrong with how you’ve been living. Here’s the acid test of your true quality of life. Ask yourself this: Does your life feel as good to you as you thought it would at this stage? If your answer is “YES!”, then read no further. If your answer is “NO!”, then it’s time to make some changes to your life.
- Next comes a commitment to yourself to do the work. If you’re honest, you’ll know you find it easier to commit to your boss to do something you hate doing than to yourself. When you see it in black and white like that, it seems a bit nuts. But don’t be hard on yourself, it’s how you’ve been trained by society.
- When you make life changes, you embark on a journey of discovery. As with any journey, you need to know where you’re starting from. You should assess where you’re at today. Take stock of your life. See what’s working, and what’s not working. Note how you’re feeling… truly feeling, inside. Writing in a journal every day is a good way to do this. And see how you’re spending your time. That’s always pretty shocking. This assessment is a snapshot of your life today.
- If you’re not happy, chances are you’ve lost touch with yourself. With who you really are. It’s so easy to do this when your impulse to fit in is so strong. Because fitting in requires you to be a defined person… someone defined by others, not you. It’s time to go deep inside and rediscover yourself. To find your answers to the questions “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?”.
- You used to dream when you were a child. A lot. You may have continued to dream into your 20s. Then life took over. It’s time to dream again. Dream big. And turn the ones that best reflect who you are and why you’re here into personal goals.
- Having dreams is only part of the equation for becoming happy. Making them happen is the other. This requires rigorous planning. Not the sort of planning that takes the joy and spontaneity out of living. But the sort of planning that identifies the steps required to take you from today to your goals. And breaks them down into achievable chunks.
- If you’ve done your planning right, you’re primed for success. With steps sized to be achievable, all you have to do is act. You have to take action on your steps every single day, or you’ll lose your momentum. And it’s much easier to fail without momentum behind you. Another way to keep your momentum going is to celebrate your achievements as you go along. Don’t wait until the end! Celebrate every little step along the way.
- When you’ve reached a milestone, stop and enjoy the view from there for a bit. But not for too long. Take the time to review where you’re at and how you got there. Identify what worked well for you, and what didn’t. Because you’ll need this information for the next step.
- What next step, I hear you say! Aren’t I happy now and forever? Well, you might be, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure that you don’t slip back into your old ways. Because your default programming is strong. It’s easier for you to be that person because you’ve spent a lifetime being him. Being the person you truly are, the person you want to be, takes more work. Constantly review your behaviour and make sure it’s aligned with who you want to be. Constantly review how you do things and make sure it’s the best way for you. You’re a work-in-progress. And always will be. That’s the wonderful thing about being the real you. You’re dynamic and limitless, and constant growth is the name of the game. You’ll always be starting some new work on yourself. Because you want to. Because that’s who you truly are.
- And finally, here are some daily practices that will help you increase your happiness quickly, and make your mindset more positive:
Vigorous exercise three times at week for at least 20 minutes.
Expressing your gratitude daily. Write down three things EVERY evening that you’re grateful for from that day. You can do this on your own, or with loved ones — each person sharing his/her three things.
Performing a daily random act of kindness/generosity. This can be anything, like writing emails to colleagues praising something they did, or paying something forward, or helping pick up things someone’s dropped, or giving a bigger tip after a meal.
Reliving a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this — you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
Practicing forgiveness — of yourself and others — for past wrong-doings. When you hold onto grudges, your nervous system gets unconsciously triggered into stress mode every time it recognizes something familiar from a past grudge. That’s right, your stress response is triggered in the present by something that happened in your past.
Strengthening your social connections. In all research, this is shown to be the single most important contributor to happiness. You may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one as being stressed out isn’t conducive to building strong relationships.
Meditate daily. This practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. Research proves that regular meditation increases your alpha waves and physically changes your brain to give you more control over your response to stressful situations. Even two minutes a day has an effect, so start small and build up.
Living a meaningful life. Having a life vision that reflects who you truly are and what you’re here to do and taking action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.
Men, I see you. I see your pain. I feel your pain. And I’m here for you. Please do whatever you can to become happy. The world needs you happy because the world needs more compassion. And less power-mongering.