It is common in my practice to encounter people choosing to seek counseling in hopes of finding happiness and fulfillment in life, but it is most common among men. With the natural wiring to strive for success and provide for those they may care for, they spend a lot of their life working a job with hopes they will not only be able to make a living for themselves, achieve success, but also hope they will find fulfillment and satisfaction as well. I am happy to have Nathan Hansen (a Licensed Professional Counselor in Grand Rapids Michigan, and a colleague of mine) guest blog today to help men figure out what they may be doing to prevent themselves from finding satisfaction and how they can move towards achieving it. Enjoy!
There’s a question out there for men, and women, that seems to plague us day in and day out. Men are struggling with it. Some people seem to find the answer and the rest of us keep looking. It is kind of like finding the fountain of youth. We all think it’s out there somewhere and we keep looking. Maybe it’s hiding in plain sight? Maybe it is fake?
The question many men struggle with is ‘how do I find satisfaction in life?’
We ask ourselves over and over, how do we get off the hamster wheel of repetition. It’s like the movie Ground Hogs Day with Bill Murray. His character wakes up every day experiencing the same thing no matter how many times he tries to change it.
I bet there’s many men like you out there right now waking up day after day wondering if everything will change. You feel lost. You look around and see all your friends getting promotions. You see them getting bigger houses. You see them having nicer cars and going on vacations. You’re trying to manage stress. You get the promotion and it doesn’t do much. You work out. You have the toys. You have the girl, the kids, and the dog. But, at the end of the day you still feel like something is missing.
I think for men, the problem is part of the solution. A default mode with how many men view and interact with life, for better or worse is by compartmentalizing the various areas of our lives. I liken the man’s brain to a hallway with a bunch of doors. These rooms have labels on them: work, family, faith, money, sex, friends, projects, hobbies, emotions, etc. When we’re in one room that’s where our time and energy is spent until we leave that room, close the door, walk down the hallway and enter then next room. Each room is only a part of who we are but they’re separate. Individually they may seem fulfilling but in reality they’re not. We spend too much time in some of the rooms while other rooms are ignored, not cleaned, or left a mess.
I think the answer to finding satisfaction in life is knowing how we’re created to be and interacting with it in a healthy way. It’s not dumping all of our energy into one room and then not having more energy for others. It’s ok to compartmentalize certain areas of our lives for a particular purpose. However, we have to be intentional about caring for all of those rooms in that hallway.
One easy way to do that is to make goals. You might have goals. That’s fine. But when is the last time you actually took a look and figured out which goals you’ve accomplished and how they all impact one another?
If you’re not sure how to make goals write them down and be specific about them. Make them measurable, and give yourself an appropriate amount of time to complete them. I think most importantly, you need to tell someone about your goals! Accountability significantly increases our ability to accomplish our goals. When we tell someone we’re also not isolating ourselves in only one of those rooms. We’re also including someone else who’s in one of those rooms—chances are more than one of those rooms. For those of us who are married it’s our spouse. For others that person is our boyfriend or girlfriend, or a parent, or best friend.
As a professional counselor I believe that many problems we face are caused by experiencing dissatisfaction in relationships. I’m willing to be that if we invite others along with us on accomplishing our goals we will find the fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives that will be greater as a whole than the individual parts.
© 2017 Nathan Hansen, LPC & Great Lakes Wellness Counseling LLC
Nathan Hansen, LPC is owner of Great Lakes Wellness Counseling located in Grandville, MI. He helps couples feel closer and individuals find freedom from the frustrations and problems they are trying to overcome. He enjoys helping his clients find real solutions, experience changed lives, and receive expert care. His goal is to partner with you to help you make your life more enjoyable and free from the problems or struggles you are experiencing.
When life throws you for a loop, we typically have our go-to coping mechanisms to ease the tension of the uncomfortable feelings that go with the troubling situations life puts us in. A lot of the time the coping we choose tends to cause more stress than actual comfort. We eat to stuff our feelings, causing us to struggle with self-image and self-hatred. We isolate ourselves and over think the situation we are dealing with, often causing us to think negatively and struggle with finding solutions because we over emphasize the emotional impact rather than giving ourselves credit that we can deal with this situation like the countless other situations we have found ourselves in. We stuff our feelings down in order to avoid them and not deal with them, causing us to emotionally over react in other non-related situations and relationships we encounter every day and then struggle with understanding ourselves in the process, which leads to self-doubt and lowers our confidence and self-esteem.
As a therapist, I strive to help people gain confidence in working through and feeling their emotions in the moment or shortly after in order to not bury them. When we attempt to experience them and accept them, we gain a better understanding of ourselves and are able to recognize how certain situations influence and impact us. When one gains that understanding we are able to more proactively make changes in our lives in order to gain confidence in dealing with certain people and situations because we understand how it is going to affect us emotionally so we don't criticize or judge ourselves for how we do react when things happen. If we no longer judge or criticize ourselves, we are able to build self-esteem and awareness which makes us more confident in dealing with more situations we face on a daily basis and doesn't throw us off nearly as much. We gain control in ourselves, which far outweighs feeling in control of what is going on around you... because, lets be honest, you can't control what is going on in life outside of yourself anyways and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will become more capable of controlling what we can and letting go of what we can't. This will lead to a higher level of life satisfaction. Who doesn't want that?!
Rachael Kool, professional counselor and normal, everyday adult screw up