There’s a pattern to the life of a settled man. It’s a pattern most of us desire, but very few of us are curious enough to investigate. I’ve fallen into this trap often. I reach for the quick fix. Within the span of a few minutes, I decide and then take action. The most dangerous part about this is the presence of assumption. To act quickly often requires the highest levels of assumption we can muster. And, in those assumptions, we are usually wrong. Don’t mistake me; I understand that at times instinctual decisions are necessary. But, we would be lying to ourselves if we believed the success percentage with this way of living was high.
This low success rate only shows how essential it is for a man to build a life one, intentional decision at a time. The pace of modern society along with its distance from the real (think eating food from your garden or traveling from place to place by raw, animal power), does not promote stepped discipline — quite the opposite. Even still, most of the things we decide don’t feel that large: what series to watch, which restaurant to take in, or when to pay a little more on that credit card balance.
Everything isn’t life or death.
But, what about when it is? What about when the stakes are higher, and we know it? What about when we step into a corral with something much bigger than we anticipated? These are the times when how we do things matters a great deal. In the end, the thing itself isn’t our most significant obstacle. We are.
More often than not, we haven’t taken the time to do the work needed to recognize the signs. To boot, we haven’t had anyone teach them to us in the first place. Not only that, we choose to not seek out this information on our own. So much of it is at our fingertips. Still, we don’t do the work. Why? We lack confidence. We lack confidence in ourselves. Perhaps more importantly, we lack the belief that it matters in the end anyway.
Work is most pleasurable when it feels preparatory.
Most of us need to know the work is leading us somewhere. Otherwise, we feel like Sisyphus, always working hard only to work harder again. It’s essential for a man to know his toil is taking him somewhere, somewhere good. The gratification of a job well done is only increased when we realize it was possible precisely because we have done the work beforehand. As men, we should leverage this good feeling. We should use it to the fullest. We should use it to motivate us in all the moments leading up to the critical moments, those times when what’s in the corral has our number.
It’s time we start doing the long labor of recognizing the signs in our stories. What if you, as a man, knew the way sexual temptation shows up in your life, and you stopped falling for it? What if you studied what triggers your anger, and you developed a strategy for it? What if you froze your spending for four weeks to dig into what your family of origin taught you about how to deal with money? What if you asked of your life those kinds of questions that require more than a moments thought? Would you tomorrow go differently than today? I feel confident it would. Would you be a better, more purpose-filled man, I think you would.