(This is an updated article, previously published in December 13, 2013, in Good Men Project. Did some updates based on… living another year and learning a little more about myself and the world. For the original article, click here)
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Gentlemen, Happy Holidays to all! ‘Tis the season to celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or simply the fact that you survived another 365 days in this world. You need to celebrate the fact that you are still married, got out of a marriage, or have avoided getting married, that you have a child or that “you are not the father,” that you are well off or have been able to survive your current economic limitations. Truth be told, the simple the fact that you are alive is reason enough to celebrate. For that last reason alone you deserve a gift or, actually, six gifts to be more precise. You have spent the last few weeks in a never-ending anxiety attack, searching for the perfect present for everyone else, so don’t you think is time to give yourself some well-deserved rewards for trying to become a better man? Here is a list of 6 things you can give to yourself, for what you’ve endured in 2014 and maybe even to help you get in the right mindset for 2015:
1. The Tailored Suit
If the Samurai had their armor, the Spartans had their Shield, the Knights had their Full-Plate, and Ironman had his Mark XLII, Modern Men have a proper Suit and Tie. Nothing tells others that you mean business like a good tailored suit. I know that some of you might think that suits and dressing well is all about being superficial and you are all about inner beauty or some other excuse you might come up with to hide your insecurities. Dressing well is not about vanity but about taking care of yourself. It’s about self-respect and about being honest when you present yourself to the world. The biggest message you are constantly, maybe unconsciously, sending to everyone around you is that how you treat yourself is how you will treat others.
A man should always have a proper, well-fitted suit available in their closet. We will have several events in every year that will require wearing a suit, such as meeting your fiancé’s father or you being the fiancé’s father, going to that interview for your dream job or heading out to a special dinner to celebrate you got said job, or simply heading to a court hearing for whatever happened after the previous celebration. Nothing in this world can stop a proper Gentleman in a nice suit, with the only exception being a lovely Lady in her “little black dress.”
A manicure? Really? Yes! It has the word MAN in it so it must for Men.
All joking aside, take a moment and think when the last time you pampered yourself was. Men usually think that pampering yourself is more of a womanly thing. Since when is treating yourself right gender defined?
I know most of you would never consider a manicure as pampering, but hear me out. Think of how you show off your hands every day. You shake people’s hands, a true Gentleman’s presentation card, whenever you greet them. You direct people’s attention with hand gestures, show them off every time you use your phone in public, or attract everyone’s attention to them every time you sign a document. These are just a few everyday moments when your hands draw more attention than your charming smile or your tailored suit. Your hands show off your manly strength or your gentlemanly tenderness. In the olden days you would carry your family crest on a signet ring on your hand (something we seriously need to bring back) and today it is where you carry your symbol of eternal fidelity and love. So going around with bitten nails and calloused hands really takes away from who you are. This is all about self-respect, so take the time to make them presentable, the same way you should with all other aspects of yourself.
3. Project Car
Sometimes life can be overwhelming. The easiest way to deal with that feeling is to view Life as nothing more than a long list of smaller challenges instead of a massive project. What better practice for that mentality than a project based on the same premise.
Get an old broken down car. Don’t look at the car thinking about the total amount of work that it needs, but rather handle it one piece at a time. Teach yourself to look at how much you have achieved instead of how much work you still have to do. Take the time to enjoy every moment you can get to work on it. If you are not mechanically inclined, pick something else. Just remember that you don’t have a deadline, so pick something you can take your sweet personal time and space to finish.
Note: I do not recommend a home expansion project for this or basically anything you can’t cart off your property, in case you get tired or lose interest in it. Your wife and friends may remind you every day that the project is not finished. Also, it might end up being an incomplete permanent addition and could actually lower your home’s value.
Life is a constant journey, and sometimes you need a quick reminder of just how far you have traveled. Sure, there is digital media available: blogs, notes, or whatever other electronic-based ways to keep track of what you have done. Unfortunately, these have the bad habit of disappearing from your files when you most need them or appearing in someone else’s computer when you least need them too.
Get a physical journal and every day write something in it, no matter how random. That interesting quote you found online, that weird dream, or that thought you could not get out of your head will be a perfect entry. Weeks or even months later you will realize that those entries were not as random as you thought.
5. Unplug for 24 hours
In a world with instant access to the universe, the down side is that the universe has instant access to you. We have become slaves to texting, social media, emails, and calendar. We will take out our phones during a concert or when we take our kids to the park, or whatever other event in our lives; just to share it with everyone online, most of whom don’t really care. This comes at the expense of truly living in the moment. Apparently we need to see the world through a smart phone screen to be able to properly enjoy it.
Take one day to simply unplug. Set up your autoreply, turn off your phone, and leave your laptop or tablet at home. For the next 24 hours forget that you need to reply to every text you get, comment on every status update, or even read every email. Head out to the great outdoors and breathe nature, or take your kids to the park and actually play with them, or go for a walk, or simply sit down at a coffee shop and look at the people strolling by. For the rest of the day, learn to listen to yourself and the world around you. You will be amazed at what you will notice and you will realize that the world did not end because you did not update your status.
6. A Random Act of Kindness
Remember how this all started? You are thankful that you survived another year. Some people are not as lucky. Give yourself permission to help someone out, and become your own reason why your faith in humanity should be restored. This can be something as simple as paying a stranger’s tab at a restaurant, or helping out at a soup kitchen or leaving a gift card on a random car’s windshield in a parking lot. Do something, anything! Just make sure it is an anonymous gesture. This is not about looking for your own glory or vanity, but rather knowing that you have the power to give hope to other people. Who knows, in this ultra-connected world, what you thought was a simple act might just go viral, inspiring others to do good as well.
So, there you go. These are the six gifts you should give to yourself. A suit and proper hands so your exterior image will reflect your interior mind-set, a physical project and a journal to record your journey as a man, and the time to listen to the world so you can best give voice to it. They all seem simple enough, right? Remember to always be a Gentleman-Warrior, a Caballero. Learn to let go of what is not really important and enjoy the ride.