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Journey to Maturity

Setbacks Make Boys Into Men

by Nick Clements

IN_0614_FatherAndSonWe all know hard-charging men that have their foot firmly on the accelerator. They claim that easing off would damage their career and be an admission of failure. They are wrong. Those enjoying early successes can grow up overstressed by trying to stay on the fast track at any cost. These alpha boys are doing what they think others want them to do. In many cases, they are influenced by subtle and overt pressures from parents, peers and celebrity lifestyles, as well as advertising and video games.

As a consequence, these men obsessed with superficial goals are emotionally stunted, controlling and unable to form long-term relationships. The good news is that if they can recognize these symptoms and want to change, they may be ready to mature into an alpha wolf, a whole different kind of man.

An essential catalyst for this change usually comes from experiencing personal wounding: being overlooked for a promotion, feeling redundant, losing a friend or status, or perhaps sacrificing a former identity to parenthood.

Ultimately, the true test is how he faces such failure and how he deals with his emotions without labeling himself as weak. The hallmark of mature manhood is how a guy acknowledges his diminishment, not how he manages success. When he stops hiding from himself, signs of his emerging as a mature hero, an alpha wolf, will appear.

Taking one’s foot off a lifelong accelerator targeting superficial successes to make room for other priorities is essential for a long and happy life.

He’ll recognize that he makes mistakes, absorb and acknowledge his vulnerability, admit he doesn’t know all the answers and become comfortable with this loss of control. These are the lessons a man must learn to become a more realistic, whole and three-dimensional individual. How he reacts to setbacks and takes responsibility for his actions molds character and helps him take his rightful place in society, rather than a false position.

Instead of being obsessed by competing for things and one-upmanship in the material world like an alpha boy, the alpha wolf grows up by adding strong spirituality and compassion to his life skills. He sees the bigger picture, and by viewing people as friends rather than rivals, he is better able to forge mature, loving relationships and be a better father.

Our sons need to be exposed to emotionally intelligent role models and discussions of attendant values and traits. It’s not a simple or easy path, but it’s an essential process for boys and men that benefits them and everyone in their lives.

Nick Clements is an inspirational speaker, workshop leader and author of a trilogy of books on male spirituality and rites of passage, including his recent novel, The Alpha Wolf, A Tale About the Modern Male. He also blogs on masculinity at HuffingtonPost.co.uk/nick-clements. Learn more at Nick-Clements.com.

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