Men, Our Dreams Are Not Our Own

by | May 17, 2023 | Essays, Latest Essays

You were born into this world, and the miraculous biology with which you were imbued took hold. You learned quickly and eventually grew up – finding a place to belong. But that inherent need to belong, to be respected, to be part of a tribe may very well have taken you to places you have no business going – and formed perspectives that were not aligned with your authentic and true self.

The influences that directed our paths started very early, and as a mechanism to “get by,” perhaps even thrive, each of us took cues from our environment – our family, our friends, community, culture, social networks and so on. We essentially formed ourselves into the shapes these social influences demanded with the idea that we could garner unto ourselves those things in life that these same influences told us were important.

But we were, in a very real sense, lied to in this potent, implicit dialogue. The lie itself wasn’t insidious. One might even argue, it was for our “own good.” As risk averse beings, we often pass down to others the explicit idea that safety and longevity are best found in following the crowd towards the status quo. But that approach to living often leaves us empty and reeling from a life void of lasting meaning and deep contentment.

To echo a recently popular call to arms – those that would sacrifice some personal freedom for an equal measure of safety (in this case, the safety of the status quo) deserve neither.

But, in the case of men dreaming dreams that are not their own and chasing goals that are not aligned with their authentic selves, the issue is not so cut and dry.

Why? Because we didn’t understand, for the longest time, that we were making this choice – much less have the opportunity to consider the answer. Because we simply were not aware. But now we are. Our excuses are gone. We now see that the restless, nagging sense inside us that signals something is wrong has its genesis in the path we have taken in life. Our northstar, for untold numbers of us, has turned out to be a weather balloon.

Had we been keenly aware of the cost of following the status quo – of taking the obvious track – many of us would have chosen something different. In this alternative choice, we acknowledge that true success in living life really boils down to the opportunity to seize hold of the fullest expression of who we authentically are – and to hone that expression into the creation and realization of our life’s work. But, we have buried much of our authentic selves and the associated clues that would have led us to a life well worth the struggle – the struggle that comes with the pursuit of meaning.

Instead, we soldier on, meet our commitments, and slowly begin to slide into the “quiet desperation” Thoreau observed. Some of us begin to look for meaning in all the wrong places – validation through random sexual encounters, thrills through inordinate risk taking, and prominence through the continued acquisition of money or power (just to name a few vices that become the idols of our lives).

Sadly, others simply begin to diminish – having given up on finding meaning or a unique purpose in which to pour themselves. Unlike the lemmings that run off cliffs to their deaths without any real meaning – men need something into which we can empty ourselves. Men are at their best when we “spend” our lives in pursuit of our purpose.

To grow interpersonally and meaningfully spend our lives, we must revert back to the time where men understood that “iron sharpens iron;” we must strengthen one another and hold each other accountable to a life of honor and courage and service as a minimum baseline.

We must build a welcoming tribe based upon an ideal – not race or color or any other differentiator used as means to segregate and divide us. We must live, succeed and celebrate in our tribe through the strengthening of the content of our character and our service to others. Our shared individual troubles and singular path to triumph show us that in our unique making, we are also all the same – struggling with the same search for meaning.

To make meaning and live authentically, we must consider this ideal:

What the world has consigned to the infinitesimally narrow margins of living must be brought to the forefront, the very center, of your life.

These marginalized, yet vital, ideals include:

  • Endurance during suffering – so that we might set an example and make meaning and find freedom by the way we choose to engage our suffering, seeking to discover the hidden lessons that only this path can offer. Life is hard; it’s supposed to be. Why? We grow through struggle..
  • Service to your sacred things – without an accounting of our sacred things – those things for which we would kill or die without hesitation – we cannot develop a blueprint for living and serving. Do you serve sacred things?
  • Sacrifice for others – men were designed to sacrifice; to spend ourselves on something worthy of our life and our effort. Sacrifice is the highest ideal.
  • Managing the most valuable resources – time and attention matter most. We all have little time; and where we aim our attention matters most. Where will your attention go with the time you have left? Why?

In the end, we all want our lives to matter – but to whom and for what?

When you consider your life, are the dreams you pursue really your own – or just a version of what the world has told you should matter most? It’s not too late to take control of your life – to take stock of your sacred things, to course correct and make your way to a place of your choosing that brings the most meaning to you.

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