As a therapist, people often ask me, “What makes men happy?” Some believe it’s a happy marriage, a successful career, or a strong relationship with God. I say it’s all of these! However, they must be kept in the right order. I believe the secret for a happy life for men is having one’s priorities in order.
While there are countless priorities we men must attend to in life, I divide them into seven categories:
Friends & Family
To be happy in life, I believe one must make God his number one priority. He is the one who has given us life and all its blessings. He is also the one who helps us weather life’s storms and endure suffering. God is also the one who gives us purpose. By understanding who we are in God’s eyes, we can live with purpose, vision and passion. This creates an excitement for life and a heart filled with joy.
Be careful though of a vague faith that lacks commitment. The Catholicism should connect us with our local parish, where we go to Sunday Mass; to our community, where we volunteer to help others, and to witness, whereby others will know we are Christians by our works of charity and lives of love.
Our wives and our marriage rank next. They are the ones to whom we have committed ourselves to love, honor and cherish until the end of our lives. As Scripture says, we must love our wives as Christ loves the Church. Every day, we must thank God for the blessings of a good wife. We must also show our wives our appreciation for who they are and all they do. We must be willing to serve them with all our hearts, helping them run the household and bring up the children. It is in serving them that men will find true joy.
Children are the third priority. As fathers, God has charged us with the responsibility of raising our children to be virtuous adults. We are their leaders, providers and protectors. This means taking an active role in their lives, showing interest in everything they do. We must make the effort to spend time with our children within a group and individually. This is where special memories are made and wonderful teaching opportunities arise. We also have the awesome opportunity and responsibility to instill in them our Catholic faith! There is such a joy in watching our children grow into healthy adults and being able to take some credit for it.
Career plays a significant role in determining a man’s satisfaction in life. While many women have the option of working in the home or outside the home, we men are raised to focus on career and be the primary breadwinner of the family. Because of this, we often derive our identity from our career. This makes it crucial to have a fulfilling career.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that 80% of men are unsatisfied in their careers. They often feel stuck in a dead-end job. In order to have a fulfilling career, a man must identify where his passion lies. He must then find a way to turn that passion into a career. This, however, must be done within reason and prudence. Don’t quit your day job without a pretty good plan for what’s next.
For example, the odds of a man who is passionate about sports becoming an ESPN sportscaster are pretty slim. However, he can probably find some other career related to sports that he will find fulfilling and serve his passion. If you are doing what you are passionate about, you will never suffer from burnout. Many men worry that if they do what they really love, they won’t make any money at it. However, if you are doing what you love, chances are you will be really good at it. People will then want your product or service and the money will follow.
Close family and friends are also important to a man’s happiness. Studies have shown that people who have a broad network of healthy relationships live longer, happier lives. When a man gets married and has children, his immediate family becomes his primary focus in life. However, this is not to the exclusion of extended family and friends. He still needs his parents and siblings to help and support him as a husband and father. Grandparents, especially, offer a wealth of knowledge and wisdom for marriage and family life. Close friends can provide a welcome break from the stresses of daily life.
Unfortunately, this is an area of life where many men are weak. Most men don’t have close friends and are very lonely. Thus, it is important to cultivate these friendships. The Knights of Columbus is an excellent venue for this. Playing golf or fishing with one’s buddies can actually help a man be a better husband and father. He can return to his wife and family well rested and renewed. Scripture tells us that a brother strengthens a brother as iron sharpens iron. We need close male friendships.
Healthy pursuits are the sixth priority in life. We men need to have interests and hobbies as an escape from the stresses of daily life. So many men are hyper focused on marriage, family and career that they don’t take time to relax and renew. Hobbies, such as golf, reading, camping, bowling, gardening or even a monthly poker night can help a man relax. Many wives actually encourage their husbands to develop more friendships and do more “guy things.” They recognize how having healthy pursuits can make their men better husbands and fathers.
Then there’s “everything else.” These are all the other responsibilities, interests and issues in a man’s life. Men must be careful with these because they can interfere with their primary responsibilities. An example of these would be a man taking on extra hours at work or helping a neighbor when it is unnecessary. Men must understand what their primary duties are and focus on them. Anything that interferes with these priorities should be avoided.
Built into all of these priorities is the need to care for one’s physical health. A man honors God by being a good steward of his body. To meet his responsibilities as a husband, father, worker and friend, a man must be physically healthy. Thus men must care for their health, eating right, watching their weight, exercising, getting enough rest.
By understanding the important priorities in life, and keeping them in their proper order, a man can achieve a life that is happy, fulfilling, and lived with purpose.
Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Pa. His website is maritalhealing.com.