If you’re like most people, January has you thinking about the new year ahead and you probably even made some resolutions or set some goals. For years I have done the same thing and have repeated much of the same without success. I have often felt like I start the new year with the best intentions and I’ve even made specific plans, set deadlines, and broken bigger goals into smaller ones. The problem is after a few months go by and life gets busy, my priorities tend to change. I find ways to use my time for things that may be good, but are not moving me closer to reaching my goals. One of the reasons goals don’t stick is because we don’t set ones we really care about. You may want to lose weight, eat healthier, or finally start that business or get a new job, but at your core you know that you’ll probably be just fine if you don’t do any of those things. And there’s always next year anyway, right?

Well I’m sure you can agree that setting an intention of becoming an overall better man is a worthy and achievable goal. However, pursuing this goal for one year is a bit short-sighted, as it takes time to really develop yourself and change your character and lifestyle. So why not set this goal for yourself over the next 20 years, repeating your intention and simply updating the details? Why not focus in on a few key areas in which you can improve yourself, then break them down into smaller, more specific goals for this year, for the next six months, and for the next 90 days, and all the way down to this week. The more specific you get, the easier it will be to track your results. But don’t only give yourself until the end of this year to become a better man; its an ongoing process that you have already begun—you simply need to keep moving forward.

Though your own goals and intentions should be specific and personal to you, here are 3 steps you can take this week to become an increasingly better man over time.

Reflect

On your past year, on your past five years, on your whole life…look back at the way you have lived, the relationships and jobs you’ve had and the kind of man you have been. Take an honest self-assessment and determine what is broken so you know where to start your work. But don’t just fall into the trap of self-loathing and beat yourself up over every mistake you made or bad habit you continued; look at the positive things, those things you did right that you take for granted. Go ahead and make a pros and cons list about yourself if want to see it all out on paper (I process things well this way). But don’t forget to ask yourself the why question: why did I do that? What were the circumstances, influences, or attitudes that led me to taking that action, quitting that job, or starting that habit? Remember to look at your life from all angles, trying to identify your core motivations and influences for the man you are now.

Find a good role model

I don’t know what your relationship is like with your father, maybe its good, maybe its terrible, or maybe you’ve never even met him. Men typically become like their fathers, as they have a tremendous influence in their lives for better or worse. Although fathers are supposed to be the best role models for their kids and especially their sons, they often miss the mark. Whatever your story with your father may be, you need to have at least one good role model of the kind of man you would like to become. If your dad is not one of those men, then determine clearly for yourself why he is not and find someone who is. Ideally you could find a friend or mentor who you could meet with in person and talk to about your past and your desires for the future. At very least, you need to read good books, listen to podcasts or sermons and do everything you can to soak up the wisdom and guidance of great men. Some of my favorites are pastor Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge) and Jim Daly at Focus on the Family, among many others. Many resources you can get for free or a very reasonable cost, but they deliver a tremendous amount of wisdom and value. The truth is if you don’t have a clear picture of the kind of man you want to be, you won’t ever make it there.

Find accountability

If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Yet I cannot stress enough the importance of accountability among men—this is the real key to not only reaching goals, but living a life of integrity. You must find someone who is willing to ask you the tough questions without worrying about your feelings, who will hold you accountable to the boundaries, values, and goals to which you have committed. You must share with them the desires and fears of your heart, verbalizing not only what you want to do, but where your present weaknesses are at the moment. This is especially tough for men to do; guys don’t usually sit around talking about their fears, hopes and dreams, past hurts, or their current feelings about their identity. This is definitely a learned behavior and comes with time and practice, along with trusted friendship. But if you really don’t want to share your heart and your issues with other men, I have to ask why not? What exactly do you fear? That the other guy will judge you or look down on you, gossip about you, or otherwise hurt you? This type of thing is obviously possible, but from what I have seen it’s not likely. And even if you do get burned by some jerk who you thought you could trust, so what? You’re man enough to take a few bumps and bruises along the way, aren’t you? What if you do find a meaningful friendship that offers real accountability? It could literally change your life and have a ripple effect in your family tree, positively influencing the lives of your wife, children, and even grandchildren.

No matter what day of the week you’re reading this, you can take these 3 steps within the next 7 days and be well on your way to becoming a better man. Take 15 minutes tonight to dedicate to some quiet, uninterrupted reflection on who you are now and how you got here and don’t be afraid to jot down a few notes. Lay out a few key areas you need to focus on this year and think of very practical goals. Tomorrow take a few minutes to identify one or a couple potential mentors or role models in your life and contact them this week if possible. Download a few podcasts or buy a book. Get accountable—call or text a friend or acquaintance whom you respect and know has some wisdom to offer. This guy doesn’t have to be a pastor, a coach, a mentor, or even older than you; he should simply be someone you can have honest conversations with on a regular basis.

What are other ways in which you want to become a better man this week/year/next 5 years?

I would LOVE to hear from you in the Comments, on Facebook, or by Email.

Also, if you want some more direction on where to look for good resources, or you want me to help you out with personal accountability, let me know and I’d be glad to help (send me an email or PM if you don’t want it to be public).

Don’t forget to check out some of my other posts about manhood, purpose, and other topics on tylerjbrooks.com/blog 

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What does it mean to be a MAN?

Is manhood defined simply by your anatomy, your age or physical maturity, or your behavior? Or is it more about what kind of work you do, how much money or power you possess, or how much responsibility or confidence you have? We live in a time and a culture (in the U.S. at least) where the definition of what it means to be a man has been tragically confused. As boys grow up they are usually taught to be nice, to sit down in class at school, to be quiet, and to be sweet and gentle and follow all the rules all of the time. So for most young boys, they are essentially expected to act like nice little girls. As they grow, most learn to follow the rules to stay out of trouble, but this facade is never who they really are. What they desire with all their hearts is to run outside, to play, to scream, to rough-house, to climb trees and play in dirt and mud and capture small creatures and kill bugs and, did I mention run and scream? My almost-five-year-old son is a perfect example of this–he is the definition of high-energy, adventurous, fearless boyhood. On a daily basis, he runs, jumps, climbs, screams, fights, finds things he can use to hit other things, gets dirty and usually ends up hurting himself, someone else, or breaking something. I know some would try to diagnose him with some disease or disorder that explains his behavior, but I wouldn’t buy it. My son is not abnormal or hyper-active, nor does he have any deficits with they exception of listening to what he is told the first time. My son is a normal little boy. And he is on his way to growing up into a man. At this point in his life, he is learning and growing at an incredible rate that will likely be unmatched throughout the rest of his life. He is like a sponge soaking up all the information and knowledge around him. However, one thing he has not yet mastered is actually caring about what other people think. Sure, he doesn’t really want to disappoint his parents, but his main aim is avoiding punishment while doing what he wants. He doesn’t care if his misbehavior in public places embarrasses his mom and infuriates his dad, he just responds to circumstances the way he feels without fear of the possible repercussions. Although I do sincerely hope his behavior and self-control will continually improve over time, I cannot help but admire his unwavering commitment to doing things his way. I fear that as he gets older, like so many other boys, he will learn to withhold his true emotions, squelch his ideas and desires, and learn to follow along with the crowd and just be nice. Conforming to societal norms is not always bad; obviously learning to control things like anger, greed, and lust are good for individuals and society. However, holding back boys from being boys for generations leads to men who don’t know how to really be men.

In my next post, I’ll break down ways in which REAL manhood has been hijacked in modern culture and what you can do to take steps toward reclaiming your own manhood.

I would love to hear feedback from readers…what do you think it means to be a man?

Let me know it comments or on Facebook.