If you want to become a more effective and powerful man, it will require methodical training and conquering challenges.
Now, if you’ve been reading my other writing on integrating your masculinity and becoming a stronger person, you’ll find that I might often stress the inner work, or, more specifically, doing deep therapy – like examining the wounds with your parents, reconnecting with your inner child, or befriending your shadow and anger.
And all of that kind of work is absolutely crucial, no doubt. But all the men I’ve known who are on a path of growth and consciousness have each come to the same conclusion:
Yes, therapy was a vital step. But it only had meaning and served a purpose when they started *taking action* on things.
Therapy is only one half of the equation. It sets you up to be more free to wield your sword. By “sword” I mean your will power, assertiveness, and creativity.
Then, it’s doing the outer work that actually starts to sharpen it; where you begin to actualize and cement transformation, and start to generate deep senses of confidence, fulfillment, and healthy pride.
An integrated man, who is in touch with his mind and what he needs, will oscillate through different seasons of life.
Sometimes he feels more inclined to go inside to reflect, recharge, and reform. Other times, he feels the pull to put more focus on the outer world – in doing things, like building relationships and producing results.
So, if you know you’re in the latter phase, or want to activate it, then I’d recommend taking on the following things, which are the ten best ways for you to sharpen your sword.
1. Being honest, always
Honesty is one of the hardest things for anyone to learn to do. A big part of it is telling the full truth.
To preserve a shiny and positive self-image, we all tend to tell white lies, stretch the facts, or outright hide things altogether. We don’t want to feel the discomfort and awkwardness that comes from exposing the reality of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Telling the truth constantly means having to override this childish impulse to hide, and learning to face into the discomfort, and stand strong in yourself.
But besides truthfulness, the word honesty contains other qualities too – like honour, integrity, ethics, virtue, genuineness, and directness.
An honest person is someone who is straight-forward, open, pulls no punches, and stands up for what’s right and true in any given situation. Instead of just “not lying,” Think of it as showing up totally in life.
You have a built-in bullshit detector. In the privacy of your head, as you read this, you already know whether or not you’re being REALLY honest. You can see many of the ways you try to manipulate and appease others, and even yourself.
When you’re dishonest, all you’re doing is holding yourself back. You’re in a state of defence, rather than offence. It’s like you’re stuck in place using your hands to hold up a mask and shield, rather than having your sword drawn and charging forward to attack life.
There are two sides to honesty: with others, and with yourself.
Honesty with others is what’s needed to build relationships, trust and respect, experience meaningful intimacy, and practice being authentic.
Honesty with yourself is what’s needed to build trust and respect with yourself, and evolve to become a better man. Because here is a basic fact about growth and change:
It can only happen if you acknowledge something that’s not working, or needs to be better.
Which means that you need to be radically honest when examining yourself. This means stepping out of the comfort of victimhood and taking full responsibility and blame for what is less-than-ideal in your life.
An honest man has worked to diminish his core shame, as well as the belief that there are parts of themselves that need to be hidden or disguised. This is what allows him to have the courage to stand strong, admit mistakes and flaws, or open up and be vulnerable.
2. Working out
Next to your honesty work, pushing and developing your body is the other side of cultivating a sense of power.
When you work out, you’re not only building muscular strength and pumping out feel-good neurochemicals, which feeds back into your mindset, but you’re also building the muscles of your will.
Your will is the force that makes shit happen. It’s the CEO of your life. Or rather, it should be. Because a lot of people aren’t living in a way where their highest will is running the show. Their default is to allow their impulses, addictions, limiting patterns and trauma run their lives. Their will power is shackled and wasting away in the basement.
To that point, you may want to have accountability around your fitness – through a training buddy, or a personal trainer. Because they will push you to perform past your known limits. They will help build your mental muscles and whip you into shape more than you ever could on your own.
It’s okay to let others help you sharpen your sword. Think of it like this: A sword can’t sharpen itself without something else to grind against, whether that’s a person, experience, or a challenging task.
So asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re weak and can’t do it alone. It means that you’re smart, because you realize what the best strategy is, and that it can’t even be done alone. The most important thing is that you are simply committed to being your best self, by whatever means necessary.
3. Discovering/making progress toward your North Star
Your North Star is your guiding purpose in life. Through all the noise, it’s the vision for the thing you want to achieve, or the lifestyle you want to build, or the kind of person you want to be.
Everyone is at a different stage of this journey.
You may still be in discovery mode – where you have no clue, and you’re testing hunches and trying various things to see what creates a spark inside of you.
You may already have those visions inside your head, but you need to finally embrace them, and stop being in denial about your true calling or fearful about going after it.
Or, you may have been following it for a while, but it’s starting to get cloudy, or not feel totally right. So, you’ll go back to the drawing board to reconnect with your values and how you want to apply your skills, and which ones you need to develop.
In any case, keep making forward progress toward it. Even if you can’t see it yet, or don’t know what it is, you can be taking steps and making efforts toward figuring it out.
Without doing this, you won’t ever feel settled and “right,” or tap into how rich this life can really be.
Identifying your North Star is deep work, and it can take several years and a lot of struggle. But once you crack the case, literally everything in your life changes. You’re less prone to falling into slumps, or depression. You feel more solid, valuable, and directed. Your relationships level up, because your sense of worth isn’t codependently rooted.
That’s all because you have a focus and a source of fulfillment that transcends everything. It goes beyond material things and being a consumer, or validation seeking through sex and relationships.
You’re connected to the reason why you’re on this planet. You have a higher mission. This is ultimately the biggest reason why we want to constantly sharpen our swords in the first place.
4. Completing tasks aligned with their mission
Once you have your North Star defined, the next phase is completing tasks that are aligned with it.
When you first connect with that purpose, or the next iteration of it, there is a surge of excitement and accomplishment. But this is only temporary. It’s merely one milestone in a much bigger race.
So, if you don’t take action on it, it will constantly haunt you and cause you to spiral into low or high-grade self-loathing. That’s because you know exactly what you should be doing, but you’re avoiding it. Usually out of fear, or being stuck in childish resentment toward power and authority.
Completing tasks is one of the major sources of fuel for the masculine in all of us.
5. Develop your skills
The feeling of learning and becoming more proficient at something is enlivening. You not only expand the map of reality and make new connections in your brain, but you get to feel effective.
Like completing tasks, developing skills relevant to your mission is the highest emotional return. But learning absolutely any skill is still highly valuable sword sharpening, because of what it does for your mind and confidence.
This could be anything from sex, to something work-related, or expanding your social life, or building proficiency in new sports and martial arts, or all of the above.
A big piece of the benefit here is having to actually apply yourself to figure something out. When you stop learning new skills, or advancing current ones, sooner or later you will begin feeling stagnant and uninspired. You lose touch with the wonder of beginner’s mind. The vital freshness and excitement of the unknown, and hitting new levels of mastery, have no way of coming in.
Look around at interests you can invest more time and money in. Look at what certifications or classes you can take to advance your toolbox.
6. Not letting yourself ‘get away with’ anything
A great way to keep the sword of your spirit sharp is to actively use it on yourself.
This means keeping a keen eye on your mind and life, and monitoring your integrity. Where you can, stop engaging in low-leverage bullshit, relationships, and habits. Stop being out of integrity with your word.
Here’s something to get the ball rolling:
Do you believe that you’re committed to truth, health, your purpose, and becoming your best self?
Okay. Let’s do a scan of your entire life and see if there’s anything that doesn’t line up. Let’s look at your sleep habits, your diet, your exercise schedule, money-making plans, your vocabulary, who you’re spending time with, and how many hours you’re spending on your phone, YouTube, and porn sites…
Where are you letting yourself ‘get away with’ sloppy behaviour and mental weakness? Where are you trying to let yourself slide and hide, and fall miles short of who and what you could be?
This point comes back to honesty and taking ownership, which is a very different disposition than hiding and blaming.
If a hurricane hits your house, there’s not much you can own about that. But that’s a rare exception in life. Many things in our lives are the way they are because you have created them to be that way – for better or worse, and consciously or unconsciously.
Some negative patterns have played out for many, many years, so it can be deeply uncomfortable to admit that a problem or limitation in life is all on you. But so what? Focus on the fact that awareness is the first step in transformation.
A solid man doesn’t whip himself and wallow in regret when he sees a flaw in his operating system, or slip back into an old behaviour. He notices it and says, “Ah, there it is. Alright, I can do better. New choice. Let’s try that again.”
7. Being in a men’s group
Every man will ideally develop this capacity to use his sword on himself. But even better would be surrounding yourself with other men who can challenge you as well.
Because a group of growth-minded men can not only help you combat and overcome the resistance within yourself (because we all fall victim to our demons sometimes) but they can help take you even further.
They can help you see things about yourself that you otherwise never could, because our ability to see ourselves clearly is highly limited. Each of us are trapped inside our own programming of life.
In a men’s group, one of the many things that will happen is the other guys hold up a mirror to your mind. In short time, you will start seeing beliefs, patterns, and ways of thinking that were completely invisible until someone named it from the outside.
In addition, you will be held accountable to taking action on the things you say you want to do, and making the changes you want to make. And because everyone else is doing the same, you’ll draw tons of inspiration from their process too. It creates an upward spiral towards evolution and success.
The feeling of belonging and connection you get from sharing your lives, and exploring yourselves, will make you feel stronger and more on track than most anything else.
8. Practice conscious deprivation
A great way to train the mind and free up time and energy is to consciously deprive yourself of things for a period time.
These could be compulsive habits you use to distract yourself and squander energy, like video games, porn and masturbation, sugar and junk food, sex, or even work.
When you deprive yourself of things you think you need, or never really thought twice about, you start to see that you’re just fine without them. In fact, you’ll probably feel sharper and more powerful as a result, because you’re conquering your low-leverage impulses and wasting less time.
And what you remove doesn’t necessarily have to be an addiction or distraction tactic, per se. For example, the stoics had common exercises where they would eat only staple foods – like rice and beans – for a period of time, or live as if they were in poverty.
This was not only partially an exercise in the will, but mostly in humility, removing irrational fears, increasing aliveness and gratitude for life.
9. Go on a solo retreat
To bring clarity on how you want to wield your sword, or what your priorities and growth edges are, sometimes the most valuable course of action is to take a solo retreat.
This is time where you can be only with yourself. No phone. No Internet. No distractions.
When you strip away all the noise and static of the world, and remove all outside influence and messaging from advertising and social media, you can more easily get into alignment with your deepest values, goals, and aspirations.
On retreat, you’re looking to get in touch with the fundamental core essence of your being, and who you are. You will be reflecting on how your life is going; who you’re being, where you’ve been, and where you’re headed.
For this reason, it’s ideal to go camping, or rent a rustic cabin, somewhere secluded.
Renting a posh Air Bnb with a flatscreen TV and heated pool isn’t recommended, because there are too many luxuries to coddle your mind, which is a distraction in and of itself. That’s not to say that you couldn’t have a valuable solo experience in a nice suite, hotel, or apartment. But the experience is deeper and more profound when you’re immersed in nature and your environment is simpler.
I’d suggest bringing only the absolute staples… basic food and water (or access to water), and a notebook and pen.
Sit, walk, listen, examine, journal, build a fire. Some people will do this for a few days, while some may disappear for a month. It all comes down to what kind of time your current lifestyle can afford.
As a rule, I’d recommend building in some retreat time for one weekend every three months, then do a more extended retreat (several weeks to several months) once a year.
10. Challenge yourself, and allow yourself to be challenged by the people closest to you
A challenge is something to rise to. It is a proposition or confrontation that demands your courage or best efforts, and leaves you levelled up.
Kick your own ass into gear by regularly setting higher goals and challenges. Do things that stretch your comfort zone and current levels of discipline and skill. Then, get held accountable to completing them.
This could be as simple as doing daily meditation or exercise, having a tough conversation, or quitting smoking or drinking.
It could be as big as building a new business or finally taking bites out of a huge mission-related project that you’ve been delaying.
Being open to trusted people giving you challenges from the outside is especially important. Because they may be able to see what we need most, or recognize what we say we want but are deeply entrenched in avoidance and resistance around. Their targeted challenge will help lift you up and actualize more greatness than you can on your own.
A warrior needs rest to recover from training and battle, and keep performing at their best. But most modern men would cop to knowing they’re not being a warrior and truly performing in life. Instead, they’re stuck in laziness and lack the push to expand and move forward. So, their biggest focus should be seeking and conquering challenges.
A Life Long List To Review
None of these points are a “one-and-done” type of thing. They all beg revisiting and require maintenance, just like a sword would.
At any given point in life, you can review this list and find something that jumps out and calls to be worked on.
In the beginning, if you consistently engage each point, in their own time, you’ll watch your inner and outer life start to explode with more happiness, strength and accomplishment – which will ignite a fire for always keeping your blade razor sharp.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also love checking out:
– How To Develop Your Masculine Edge: 9 Steps To Becoming A Beast
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