We’ve all done it hundreds, if not thousands of times. Think about it… for many of us these were the first kind of stories we heard. As soon as we were old enough to get imaginative we subsequently put ourselves in the centre of the drama.
Fairy tales, fables and nursery rhymes are littered with tales of bravery, over-coming adversary and triumphing over evil. Centred on a knight, prince or warrior-like figure these stories are an early introduction to the concept of the hero.
As we grew, the land that once was ‘Far far away’ became closer to home. Soon it was our favourite sporting heroes, maybe even our dads.
For me it was a mixture, my dad was (and is) someone I always looked up to with admiration and that childhood element of awe. When I wasn’t emulating the most popular cricketing or rugby star, it was my dad who took the form of the hero.
It is by no means all children, but the sad thing for a large chunk of today’s boys and girls is that they don’t have this present hero at home. So many fathers spend such a large chuck of their time working and ‘providing’ that quality father-son time is limited. There are more men taking on the responsibility, even some full time stay at home dads, however, outside of that, never in history have men been less present around their children, and we are seeing the negative effects of this everywhere.
Traditionally you’d be with your father as you grew up out in the farm, in the mill, or whatever he did and he would give you tasks appropriate to your age to help you mature through that process at a suitable rate/intensity. From there we would partake in the long standing traditional rite of passage into manhood.
Today boys are being raised increasingly by women, taught by women, and generally less and less time around males, let alone strong, suitable male role models. We’re missing this crucial rite of passage.
According to John Broadbent, author of Man… Unplugged, the most common theme he’s seen in many young males is a “simmering rage”. These boys are lost, they don’t really know whom they are, where they’ve come from or where they belong, and without this rite of passage and proper masculine modelling they go looking for it elsewhere.
Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys and The New Manhood said, “If you don’t teach a boy how to find their compass, they’ll be drawn by other people’s magnetic fields and they’ll travel through life lost.”
Biddulph says that if you get 100 men in a room, 30 of them don’t talk to their dads, ever — completely estranged. Thirty of them connect for Christmas and Birthdays, 30 of them have some sort of relationship, where they can go to footy and have a sort of conversation. But only 10 actually have what he would call a functional relationship with their dads.
What part of that 100 do you want to sit in when your kids are adults?
The statistics in Australia alone are a huge worry. When we look at what else results from this struggle for men to speak their mind, confidently own their own space, and deal with their emotions in a healthy and normal manner, we see alcoholism increase as well as rates of domestic violence and abuse. The number of children assaulted and sexually abused is on the rise. During the period 2005-2010 abuse and assault by family members and known non-family members all rose significantly.
70% of men are overweight or obese, 28% being obese. One in five men will suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder according to leading psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Phillips. Anxiety, depression and suicide see the highest rates in men aged 35-44.
Just look at the kind of “role models” we see everyday — Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Charlie Sheen, Kayne West — all legends and successes in some way, but in terms of being appropriate role models for our kids, they’ve got massive flaws. The kind that will start being emulated by our kids if they don’t have their own hero at home.
If your kids lose this hero early and don’t regain it they may lose that bond with you and miss their journey and rite of passage into adulthood to become a healthy, well rounded and balanced man – and a role model to those that come after them.
Here’s a pretty typical scenario –
You’re spending too much time at work and not enough quality time with your family. This starts to cause higher levels of stress, which encroaches on the time you do get away from work. The phone call/email from work is always a threat. Sleep suffers dramatically and this vicious cycle becomes a downward spiral. This can result in losing respect at home and any real control in your life. Fear and guilt can start to take over as a dominant motivator of our actions — the fear of losing respect at home, in our social situations, and in our work environment, and the fear of not being good enough become huge. Guilt over not being there enough for the kids, not being the role model they need and deserve.
This all leads to a perceived loss of control, which in turn leads to an actual real loss of control. Not great for us men when we want to be in charge of our lives and dominating our days.
The result: constantly fighting to keep your head above water.
This is sadly common and so far away from being a strong masculine role model for our kids.
It needn’t be that way. You can become the hero for your kids; lean, strong, confident, and inspirational.
Become The Hero You Admire
We’ve all got one. As we grew, fairy tales gave way to comics, books, cartoons and movies. We started paying a little more attention to the heroes that resonated more with us. For me it was Batman easily over any other. Why? Because he was a man, not an alien creature or something far flung, but a man with replicable values and virtues. Like you and me.
For me that’s why Batman becomes such a poignant example for kids (including the darker side – an actual acknowledgement that we all have a darker side, and recognising and owning it is vital) because he has a strength of character, a strength of mind and a physical strength that we can all mimic in our own way.
Of course, you might have another, so be it, just think about the great qualities and virtues they possess, the ones your children unknowingly admire. The key here is pinpointing the key attributes and values that you need to start living and exhibiting on a daily basis that your kids can (and will) pay attention to.
What you’ll find in an exercise like this is the elements you pull out of your hero are the ones you value most and therefore want your kids to value and exhibit as they grow and mature.
Set A Plan To Live Out Those Virtues Every Day For The Next 5 Years
If you can create a powerful goal and vision for your own life that sees you living out these virtues and values, you will be in the position to start making the kind of changes to your body and health that will see you become the physical hero to your kids and that guy looking back at you in the mirror…
It’s this element of selfishness that every man must have in order to make himself better so that he can serve the people that matter closest to him to the best of his ability:
Be your best to give your best
How’s that going to look?
- Set time every day to do something positive for yourself. Be it training, sleep/nap, preparing a healthy meal, eating in peace or simply being alone with your thoughts to reflect – DO IT. Do not let anything short of an emergency prevent this taking place. For you to give your best you have to be at your best.
- Make a list (like some of the things above) of all the elements you need to succeed in your hero mission and create the body and life that requires.
- Prioritise them in order. If you can only train 3 times a week then those 3 blocks of time become priority number ONE when they roll round. Nothing short of an actual emergency takes their place – do not budge!
- Execute with ruthless consistency.
Your kids will take this all on board. Even in your journey to become the hero you are providing the lessons they need most in life – how to be your best.
Then you can get into the nitty gritty:
- Train often, train hard and train with purpose – this will be different for everyone which is fine, just make it happen. Always. For specifics on what to do and how, see the No Crunch Ab Answer here for one option.
- Eat well 90% of the time – only in doing this yourself can you change your body and determine what food your kids eat and what they will continue to eat as they become adults. Give your body what it needs to become super (tonnes of fresh vegetables, naturally raised/wild meats & seafood, fresh fruit, eggs, nuts and some dairy, grains and seeds, with natural fats such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, butter and duck fat). Learn to eat in amounts and frequencies that suit your body and life (you can read more on this here).
- Prioritise getting as much quality sleep (7-8 hours/day) as possible. Of course for you new dads this can be very different, so just know that you must be getting sufficient restful sleep and naps as often as you can. If you’re not already, start seeing sleep as equal parts important as diet, training and…
- Managing your unnecessary stress – a massive part of becoming the hero is making sure you can keep life in perspective and handle what needs to be handled. That’s what gives our hero that edge and level of awesomeness; his ability to shrug off the stuff that doesn’t matter and tackle the important issues. Putting into perspective what should actually impact on your ‘care factor’ is a vital skill. Work on having a better grasp of how you interpret the words, actions and thoughts of others and events around you to limit stress, then move to how you manage the stuff that does cause stress. Always prioritise time and activities to de-stress.
- Integrate your kids into this process – get outside and play with them, ensure you become part of their superhero narrative by actually being in it.
- Go about doing these things day in, day out. Consistency is what will give you the chance to look (more) like superman and setting an example your kids can’t unlearn.
Do you think Martin Rooney from Training for Warriors here is an example and hero for his daughter?