If you’re anything like I was in my early 20s, you feel like the world is a frustrating place. It’s not so much a matter of knowing what you want – in all likelihood, you know that all too well – it’s just that you have no real idea of how to get it.
Maybe you desperately desire financial independence, but find yourself living at home without a job.
Crave a loving relationship but have no idea how to connect with women.
Or struggle with a health issue you just want gone, gone at any cost.
Your mind is full of goals, dreams, and desires, but you have no map, no compass, no route from A to B.
What you have at this moment is a specific problem or issue – and you’re looking for a solution.
That ongoing striving to improve our situation is one of the most powerful drivers of human progress – and, don’t worry, if you’ve had enough initiative to reflect on your life and to seek to improve it, you’re already well ahead of the game – but it does come with one crucial caveat.
Very simply: It is not enough to have a desired outcome. While knowing what you want is undoubtedly a necessary first step, achieving it will take much more; that is to say, specific internalized values, beliefs, and motivation.
There is simply no avoiding the fact that you will face obstacles, setbacks, and low points in your journey through life – not to mention a whole lot of hard, often uncomfortable work – and, if all you have is a daydream of a given end point, it is very unlikely that you will persevere to see it.
That’s why I have drawn on my own experience to put together this guide of the values and beliefs that have helped me personally to become more resilient in my life, and to live it with intent. For me, values are like a compass – providing you with orientation and a reference point whenever you are lost, and I share them in the hope that they help you, too, in living the life you want to lead.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!
Much of our stress, anxiety and otherwise unpleasant emotion comes from the discrepancy we perceive between the reality we experience in the present moment and the idealized reality we construct for ourselves in our minds, handily removed from any of the constraints of actual experience. When you practice acceptance, you let go of that idealized picture of what might or might not be, and put all of your focus into what is. Whatever the circumstance, you agree to concentrate on what you have to work with right now. Accept where you are, take deliberate action in accordance with your values, and the results will come.
Successful men persevere when others give up. Most of us can get stuff done when we feel like doing it, when the sailing is smooth. A man who perseveres is different, because he has the grit to keep on going even when things are tough and he wants to give in. And when you look back, it might just be the thing that makes the difference. Those days when you went to the gym when it was the last thing you wanted to do. The times when you put in the effort to work on your relationships when you could have run away. The times you overcame short-term gratification to achieve something you really wanted to achieve.
In my book, courage is about making the difficult choice – which is why perseverance takes courage and why it’s so closely related. At its simplest, courage is about not shying away from the things that scare us. Confronting that person. Sitting with that unpleasant feeling. Having that awkward conversation. Taking that risk. Doing precisely what it is you are scared of doing. Many of us have a habit of taking the easy way out whenever we can – successful men learn to lean in to that fear and take the harder path.
We live in a world of short attention spans and the desire for a quick fix. The fact of the matter, though, is that any meaningful change is the result of consistent action over a prolonged period of time. Any man who wants to be successful in any area of his life will have to be prepared and able to put in consistent and deliberate effort to see the results he wants. People have a tendency to see only a person’s success – the reality is that there is a whole lot of consistent work that person has done to get where they are.
In developed societies, most of us are really pretty well off, and this has, in some cases, created a sense of entitlement. Many people are disengaged and disenchanted with the way the world works, but most remain passive in getting up and doing something about it. We have all become very used to a way of life that centres around consumption, consumption, consumption. In my mind, the successful people in today’s world are creators, not consumers – the people who have a motivation to make a change, whatever it might be, and the initiative to pursue that motivation and make their own mark.
Linking in with the value of initiative, impact is about the broader perspective. Achieving success requires an attitude that goes beyond the individual person. People who are successful have other people in mind – people they serve, people for whom they want to succeed. It is a mindset not of scarcity, in which people feel the need to take and protect what they have, but of abundance, in which people can work together to mutual advantage.
Constructivity is about seeing the positive and potential in every situation, no matter how bad it seems. I’ve noticed that many of my peers seem to be quite pessimistic and fatalistic about the world and the direction in which we are heading at the moment, but that is no reason not to make the best of it we can. On an individual level, I have learnt from personal experience that often it is the biggest lows that precede the greatest periods of self development and growth – whatever the situation, there is always something to be learnt and applied in the future, and that is what constructivity is all about. A lot of it is about gratitude, too; whatever the situation, there is always something to be thankful for, and we should never lose sight of that.
8. Personal responsibility
We’ve already talked about initiative, and how important it is to play an active as opposed to a passive role, and I think that the value of personal responsibility very much ties into that. Personal responsibility is about a man holding himself accountable for his actions, and remembering that the buck stops with him. It can be easy to get caught up with external circumstances, especially when things don’t go our way, but ultimately it is us, and us alone, who hold the responsibility for our lives.
You might be wondering how a man can possibly live up to all of these values. After all, none of us is a superman, and we are all going to fall short of these ideals at least some of the time. The idea of vulnerability is to freely admit the limit of our powers; we are flawed and we will fail, at least on occasion. That acceptance is what allows us not to be too hard on ourselves when we do founder and struggle. Vulnerability should also be about reaching out for the help of others, accepting when you don’t know something or are in the wrong. That way, you can learn, grow, and refine while striving to be the best you can be.
My final value, that of congruence, is the one that ties everything together. A congruent man is a man with values he lives and stands by. He has a clear internalized code, and his desired outcomes, as well as the means by which he achieves them, are congruent with those values. You might also like to think of it as integrity or honesty, the idea of being true to oneself. However you define it, a man who is truly congruent is a man who will be resilient to whatever situation he finds himself in – and also the man most likely to succeed, as everything is in its proper alignment. He is doing what is the right thing for him, and for the right reasons.