We've had discussion after discussion on what makes a man a man, manliness as a trait, and how to be a man. What I haven't seen is a discussion on what a man needs to have in order to be satisfied with his life. I'm not talking about being deliriously happy or even just happy every day of your life as that is impossible. Nor am I talking about manly traits such as muscle mass, toughness, or any of the other 'window-dressing' traits. And I am not talking about material things or even accomplishments we've achieved. What I am talking about is simple satisfaction with your life and how it is going or has gone. What traits or immaterial concepts do you all think do or would help a man be more satisfied with his life? An example I've come up with is Purpose; basically, what it is that will make getting out of bed in the morning not such a chore.
I'd say Brett set out a pretty good set with "The 5 Switches of Manliness" http://artofmanliness.com/2011/05/09/the-cure-for-the-modern-male-m...
On top of those, and parallel with your assertion of purpose, I'd also say mastery of some skill(s) is also essential for the confidence a man needs in life. Mastering something (career, music, writing, fighting, sailing, flying, etc.) allows a man to identify himself with something and speak authoritatively on it. We've all seen the guy who tries to act like he knows everything about something with fancy words and apparent confidence, but behind his bragging it's obvious he has not mastered the subject. Opposite that, a man who's mastered a subject will gladly and simply speak on his realm when you ask him, but there is a quiet confidence in his words that betrays the truthfulness in his knowledge. It's that confidence and comfort with something that helps a man "fill the shoes" of manliness.
I guess the question I am asking could be for a man or a woman because I'm not asking for 'manly' traits, we've covered those before. What I am asking is something more fundamental, what is it or what are they, those things that could ensure a satisfactory existence. There are the basic needs; food, shelter, and water that we all require to exist and then there are those other less base but still fundamental things we need in order to feel or be satisfied with our life.
Impact. Self-reliance. Security. Purpose. Legacy.
Mostly, a man needs to make a difference; for his life and work to mean something, particularly to those close to him.
"All men by nature desire to be happy." - Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle takes that entire work to answer the question you stated so succinctly. People are often thrown off course by the word, "happy." We use it frequently to describe the psychological state of contentment. Aristotle uses it in an ethical sense as a term analogous to your phrase, "satisfied with [one's] life." (And that, by the way, is the same way Jefferson used the term in his phrase, "the pursuit of happiness.") So, in Aristotle's view, you can be temporarily melancholic, disappointed, upset, irritated, or even sad and yet be leading a life course that -- unless bad luck suddenly strikes you with great misfortune -- one would call happy. Nicomachean Ethics is a complex work that really can't be summarized in a brief post (but it is quite enlightening and I recommend it). Still, I'll give it a shot. For Aristotle, being satisfied with one's life involved balancing all of one's human needs. A man must have health, a certain amount wealth (an impoverished man, in his view, cannot be happy), some play or recreation (for refreshing the mind and the psyche), and the employment of the uniquely human tool -- an intellectually rigorous mind -- in bettering ourselves and our fellow man.
In my opinion, that last element is the key to a satisfying life. The first three factors make the last one possible.
I think on a supernatural level we want more, we want eternal union with the creator and exemplar of all truth, beauty, goodness and, in short, being, He whose existence is his essence. But below that, on a natural level, Aristotle all the way. You gave a good summary, impressively brief. I think a further point is that we are one creature so we are made to live one life. Balance in life should not be a matter of segmented parts, but a hierarchy of activities, each fulfilling its function in the whole. Each activity should be both good in itself and working for the sake of a higher part, i.e. the body for the mind, good deeds working towards true thought, etc.
I think people need to feel useful. Even in some little, tiny way.
Rewarding reciprocal interpersonal relationships.
Achievement of goal towards financial security - social security r/t fiscal means.
Purpose - ego integrity r/t contibution to self, family, and society.
Spirituality - either organized, or organic - being in touch emotionally with environment. A sense of being a contibuting part of 'The Whole' of both society, and of the larger universe.
Nurturing - plants, children, animals - whatever gives one a sense of completeness.
I was reminded of a question like this today, when a colleague not much older than me responded to someone's plans for "10 years down the road" with "I'm hoping to be retired around then."
Gosh -- will I be done with my working life then?
Even if not -- I will one day.
I wanted a name for myself (just admitted this). Does it matter? I want my children to rise up and call me blessed. Yes, that matters.
But I think the only thing that is going to matter to me long term -- besides having my wife, my boys, and some others consider me to have been a gift to them -- is to have God Himself find me pleasing. Like Lewis's analogy of when you're camping and you sleep on a root and wake up, shift, and stop it from digging into your back . . . all the struggles up till that point are not my life. The best of life, or afterlife, is after that conflict is gone.
Whatever it takes, I want to be there.
As a man I believe you are satisfied when you are asked to perform a job, and you know the person asking has confidence you will complete the task at hand. I will use a job or profession as an example, and add when you have achieved a level of experience and skills that you can be trusted with important responsibilities. But maybe this could be as simple as a relative or friend asking you to do something for them they know you are capable of doing.
The ability to serve in your community and give back to others some of the gifts you have received and hopefully leave this place better than when you found it.
In addition I believe you will find satisfaction and happiness in having found that special woman to share your day, your thoughts and dreams and enjoying their company and know you are in it for the long haul together. When you have children and raise them into responsible kids and see them become adults and have children of their own and watch the traditions you held as a family become theirs and their families.
The knowledge you are not in this alone and your service here on Earth is for a greater purpose and life here will be just the start, a beginning.
This is not just about the skills you have mastered or the things you own but more the person you are and how you are viewed in your circle of family, friends and community - are you held with respect, viewed as a person with honor and integrity, and deemed a person worthy of friendship and a man of principles and faith.
As these things were being achieved I believe you will find you will become pretty satisfied with life.
Fascinating topic choice and very intriguing responses, everyone. Keep it up, lets see where we can go with this!
These are not my own words, but they've helped me a great deal, so it is my hope that they may benefit you as well. "Just be thankful for what you have, where you are and who you're with. Don't trouble yourself with wishing for what once was or what could be; nor burden yourself with where have been and where you are going to go; or discourage yourself by comparing what you have to what you would like to have. Just, be thankful for life, the air you breath, the lot you've been given, the company you keep, the fruit of your labor and the toil of your hands."
Yes, I often still fail to follow this wisdom; however, it has brought me comfort, contentment and courage to live life instead of living as if I were already dead. I hope this may bless you just as it has aided me.