One thing I have noticed as I peruse the main sight and the forums is that a lot of the posts and discussions have to do with mental health. Discussions about interpersonal relationships (marriage, dating, friendships), about personal resiliency or "hardihood", coping with stressful circumstances, and becoming the best man you can be are all, in a broad sense at least, mental health discussions. So, as I have wanted to contribute more to the worthy cause of the Art of Manliness and promote mental health awareness and wellbeing for men, I have decided to start a weekly blog that I am calling "Brian's Manly Mental Health Minute." Each Monday I will endeavor to touch on some area of mental health relevant to the AoM community in a way that I hope will be both helpful and interesting.
To get things going I suppose I should introduce myself in the professional sense (i.e. explain why my opinion on mental health is worth more than the virtual paper it's printed on):
I hold a Masters of Education in Counseling from the College of William and Mary, I am a National Certified Counselor, I am a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I have considerable experience working with adolescent and adult men on a variety of mental health issues including depression, anger management, addiction, and social/relational problems. I have researched men's issues extensively.
That's who I am, next I think it important to explain what I mean by mental health. Mental health is more than just the absence of a psychological disorder, but as the World Health Organization defines it: "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."
So without further ado, here is the inaugural Manly Mental Health Minute:
Art of Manliness is an excellent source of manly examples and inspiration, which may make you want to set goals of your own to be a better man. While this is wonderful, goal setting is a skill and many people end up setting themselves up for failure by setting goals that are essentially unachievable. To set goals effectively, both professionally and personally I use a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) strategy called "The Well Formed Outcome." This strategy uses a series of steps to ensure that the goal or outcome being designed is both beneficial and achievable.
Step 1: State the goal in the positive. Most people are very good at telling you what they don't want, however they have a much harder time telling you what they want instead. However it is very difficult if not imposable to go towards a negative goal. Part of this is because when we think about the negative goal we have to think about what we don’t want in order to understand it, this negative visualization can sap our will to move and leave us feeling stuck. Instead the goal should be stated in the positive so that when we think about our goal we are visualizing what we want to go towards. An example of a negative goal would be “I want to not eat so much junk food” or “I don’t want to be afraid to speak in public.” These same goals stated in the positive would be “I want to mostly eat healthy food” or “I want to feel comfortable speaking in public.”
Step 2: State the goal in sensory based terms. This is about knowing when you’ve reached the goal. If you don’t have an empirical, sensory based way of evaluating the goal, you’ll have no way of knowing whether or not you’ve actually achieved it. For something environmental such as the diet example above it is relatively easy to define it in sensory based terms e.g. “I’ll eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.” For more internal, psychological goals such as the public speaking example this can be a little trickier. What you want to do is imagine yourself successful in the goal. Step into the imagination, see what you would see, hear what you would hear, feel what you would feel. It is those physical feelings that will tell you when you have succeeded.
Step 3: Make sure that the goal is initiated and maintained by you. If your goal relies on the actions of other people in order to be achieved, then you ultimately will be at the mercy of others to reach it. You therefore need to ensure that the goal you are setting is something within your control. If it isn’t reform the goal so that it is.
Step 4: Make sure that the goal is worth it. We set goals because we want to change however there are some positive aspects about or present state. Ask yourself “What would I be giving up if I achieve this goal?” This is particularly important for psychologically based goals. When you have the answer to that question ask yourself “Is there a way for me to keep this positive while style attaining my goal? If not, is it worth giving up this good thing to obtain the goal?” This is important as many men get stuck because a part of them is afraid to loose something in order to obtain a goal. By bringing this to the forefront, you can overcome the pull of the past.
Step 5: Make sure that the goal is ecological. This is a fancy way of saying think about what will change if you do achieve the goal. Ask yourself “How will achieving this goal effect my friends, family, career? Are there any times where I wouldn’t want this goal?” Many people want less stress and have goals related to that, however there are times when stress is an appropriate and necessary reaction to circumstances. Therefore you wouldn’t want to set a goal to be stress-free, but rather to stress only over things that require it.
If a goal passes all five of these steps it will be both an achievable and beneficial goal for you, giving you the direction you need to be a better man.
Until next week, may you be manly and mentally healthy.