What are the character traits men need to develop for success in life and relationships?
Most guys don’t plan on coming up short in relationships, but a failure to plan is the same as a plan to fail. We all want to be the best men that we can be for our lovers and ourselves, but how can we achieve our best without a reasonable goal? Our culture lacks a definition for the word “man”, so men who want to be good often lack direction. Here are ten traits that every man can strive for to be a holistic man.
Life is meant to be a challenge. We get knocked down, battered and abused by hard times, misfortune and doubt. But in the challenge lies our opportunity to learn and grow. Resilience is getting up again and again, it’s the last bit in the tank when you think you can’t go on, and it’s the ability to roll and flex with the punches.
Resilience is a product of challenge, and the ease of modern living has all but leveled our playing field. So to cultivate the trait of resilience today, you get to pick your own mountains to climb and your own obstacles to overcome. The more you commit to challenges of your own making, the more resilience you will grow and the more your family and community can depend on you when times get tough.
Men have been programmed with steely exteriors in this culture. With so much pressure on guys to look tough it’s hard to switch gears between public and private life, and men forget how to be gentle. But gentleness is a key ingredient to resilience, and it serves as the balance.
Gentleness is the softness that allows our loved ones to connect deeply with us,; without connection, life isn’t much worth living. The strongest men are those with the softest hearts, and their gentleness allows them to grow with family and community. You can practice gentleness by looking deeper into the needs and emotions of yourself and others. It is easy to react harshly, but it never leads to connection. Conversely it is hard to be gentle, but gentleness lets others know that we care and are ready to connect and grow with them.
The role of a man is to be a rock for his children, wife, and community. The strength of a man’s word determines the security that his family and community have, so to be dependable is a serious responsibility and privilege of manhood.
It takes effort and hard work to make your actions line up with your word, but in the habit of dependability you grow a deeper faith in yourself, which extends to the people around you. When you are dependable, the important ones in your life open up fully to you and share their innermost world for a full and rich connection. A man truly is only as good as his word, so boost your dependability by only making promises that you can keep, and by stretching yourself to the limit to keep those promises.
Adventure doesn’t necessarily imply leaving for weeks at a time and hacking through jungles in search of long forgotten treasure. But many people feel that adventures must be big and grand to qualify, and so they stay hunkered in their home when millions of scintillating adventures wait in their own backyard.
Being adventurous really only means stepping outside of your comfort zone, and you can do that every day. You don’t even have to leave your home if you pick out a good enough book. Adventurousness is the precursor to resiliency; it is the desire to expand your horizons, and to gain new knowledge and experience. You can practice this trait by talking to new people even when you feel unsure of yourself; by exploring new trails and hiking paths in your area; by surrounding yourself with fun loving people; by picking up new hobbies and passions; and by getting dirty every once in a while.
The spirit of adventure is a balancing trait to dependability which actually helps you to see your routines with new eyes. Adventure lies in the heart of every man waiting to be expressed.
Courage comes from the Latin root “cor,” which means heart. So to be courageous is to express your heart. It takes courage to tell that special partner you love them and want to spend the rest of your life together. It takes courage to quit a career that has held you back from fulfilling your greatest purpose. It takes courage to forgive loved ones and to move on past old hurts and wounds. But a man is someone who gives life to his community, and courage is required to stand up and express his unique qualities that support life. Courage is the culmination of virtues like wisdom, resilience, intelligence, and …
Courage without vulnerability is reduced to riskiness. Vulnerability is the honesty, self-reflection and acceptance that fills courage with wisdom, potency and purpose. An invulnerable man blames his failures on external factors because he associates failure with his identity; an invulnerable man is stuck in an imaginary shell of his own inadequacy. A vulnerable man blames his failures on his actions and allows room for growth because he accepts his actions as separate from who he is. If a vulnerable man fails, he can look for the error of his actions and do better next time; he has faith. When an invulnerable man fails, he blames the failure on his nature and succumbs to fear; he has no faith in himself, and will not risk exposing his imaginary identify of “failure.”
Vulnerability is especially important in relationships because it leads to these all-important words: “What I did was wrong, and I’m sorry.” Vulnerable men know that they can improve their actions with commitment and persistence, and that there is no shame in having been wrong. Vulnerable men are the ones who can connect deeply emotionally, intellectually, and sexually for lifelong intimacy. You can grow vulnerability by reflecting on your history and reframing your life with “I screwed up” instead of “I was a screw up.” Perceiving failure as an event, and not a person, will open you up to take bigger risks and to grow. Without vulnerability, a man cannot grow.
The trait of truth seeking is reserved for people who want to be real human beings. Admitting that there is truth requires courage, vulnerability, resilience and faith; truth is not for sissies. Truth seeking requires wisdom, because you cannot seek truth if you don’t recognize it to exist.
Many people stray from truth because it so inconveniences their lives and routines. If the truth is that cheating is harmful to relationships and to society, someone who indulges in the short term pleasures of infidelity would be apt to call truth a subjective thing; that his truth is different from yours or mine. But here’s the deal: If absolute truth didn’t exist, one couldn’t refute it’s existence by denying it. If there is no truth, then the denial of truth could not be true, and would therefore have no meaning. Relativism, by definition, has no grounds to stand on.
Truth seeking men are also long-term thinkers. Truth is the prize that motivates good men to stay away from the tempting drug of passing pleasure, so those who seek it are focused on the long term. Long term thinking, truth seeking men are also the ones who will be the most dependable and the most courageous. They are the best husbands because their wives and children can rely on them for long-term security and love.
Truth seeking is a trait you can cultivate only after you ingrain vulnerability and courage. Truth will require you to humble yourself and admit when you have done wrong. To grow as a truth seeker, you get to question everything. Question what you thought was good for you, question cultural norms, question religions, question scientific facts; question everything.
A truth-seeking man will be the most curious and fun-loving man because truth never stays in one spot—it is forever one step ahead of you, begging for you to stretch yourself and grasp it. Truth seeking is at the heart of adventurousness and every other trait that makes a man a man. Truth seeking men recognize that growth is a requirement for living, and that truth is the ultimate tool to grow with. If you accept that there is such a thing as truth, you will be curious, courageous, vulnerable, resilient, dependable, and many other things that go into making an amazing careerist, husband, and father.
This trait is the opposite of what modern society has become—flashy, glamorous, extravagant, ritzy, ostentatiousness and braggy. But all of those expressions require energy that don’t actually serve the growth and character of a person, so it is the humble man who has the most power to accomplish a meaningful life.
If truth is a knight, humility is the page. Humility assists people in preparing to accept truth, and the opposite of humility is pridefulness. Whereas humility says, “I know nothing”, pride claims to know everything. When you know that you know nothing, then you are receptive to learning everything. This is why good men are also humble men; there is nothing they can’t learn, and no way they can’t grow. You can grow humility by adopting a learner’s attitude; by reflecting
Wives of humble husbands get the pleasure of always being wanted and desired because their husbands continually seek to know them better; never presuming to know all there is to know about her. Humble husbands are the ones who grow in intimacy with their wives till their dying days.
Patience is such an amazing and sexy trait, but it hardly ever takes the spotlight because most people are set on short-term thinking. Patience unlocks the privileges that come through the responsibility of truth seeking and long-term thinking.
Without patience, a man will give into the desire for passing pleasure and become consumed with a lust. Without patience, the infinite beauty within a woman remains unseen. Patience gives a man the time to unlock the treasures in the heart of a woman, and to know her heart and soul. The patient man is one who acknowledges there is a whole lifetime of intimacy and sexual satisfaction ahead with his partner if he gets to know that person’s innermost world first.
Patient men are well prepared men. Patient men seek to refine themselves so that when the opportunity for great risk and reward comes along, they will have the eyes to see it and the skill to succeed. Patient men are also the gentlest men. By practicing patience they give themselves time to assess their emotions and respond positively to the people around them. You can practice patience by setting long-term goals, and by having faith in your ability to attain them one step at a time.
You can grow patience by counting to ten when you are angry, and by breathing deeply when you want to respond harshly to someone. Reading big books is also a great way to develop patience. The treasure of knowledge and experience in a 1,000 page book must be discovered one page at a time for up to weeks on end. Patience leads to long-term thinking and a life of responsibility and privilege.
Assertiveness is the balancing trait to patience. You can be patient all damn year and it won’t do you any good if you lack the assertiveness to strike when the iron’s hot. Without patience, assertiveness becomes rashness and false confidence which gets people into hot water and sticky situations. Assertiveness is having faith in your preparedness and knowledge, and the courage to make the big leaps even if you look like a fool in the end.
Assertive men are generally truth-seeking men, because they stick up for what is right, and they believe in themselves. Assertive men demonstrate hard work, faith and courage in the spotlight to model the behavior of younger people.
If you commit to developing these character traits, your life will effloresce and your family and community will overflow with the rare gifts that come from good men. The alternative is to define manhood by anatomy, in which case you have no challenges, save for tender nipples and testicles during puberty. Striving for these traits will be a daily challenge that you make yourself, and through battling and achieving, you will craft the greatest man that you can be. The world needs more great men.