9 habits of men who genuinely want to improve in life, according to psychology

I often think that the real measure of a man is not based on where he starts in life, or even where he ends up.

What really defines a man is the steps he takes along the way.

It’s easy to think that we compete with one another, but the only person a man should really be in competition with – outside the sports field – is himself.

What matters most in life is being up to look in the mirror and know you are a better man today than you were yesterday.

But how can you tell a man who has this kind of growth mentality? How can you spot a man who is genuinely working on bettering himself?

Well, it’s all in his habits. Here are some habits that show a man who is working on himself and fixed on progressing in the game of life.

1) He sets clear goals

How are you ever going to get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going?

Almost all of us have dreams of one kind or another. But a man who focuses on being the best version of himself isn’t content with wishy-washy goals like, I want to be rich one day, or, I want to fall in love.

Instead, he sets clear goals for himself and takes steps towards them.

So instead of saying he wants to be rich, he will ask himself what level of income he desires, then ask himself how to get there. Then, he will take concrete steps to achieve it. Whether that means working on his career or starting his own business, he will have firm ideas on how to get where he wants to go.

The same applies in personal relationships. Instead of just saying he wants to fall in love, he will take a chance on meeting new people and be open to new experiences.

“Goal-setting as a psychological tool for increasing productivity involves five rules or criteria, known as the S-M-A-R-T rule,” writes psychologist Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury.

This means your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

A man who wants to improve himself will hold himself to these practices to make sure he remains accountable to himself.

2) He reads

For some (*cough* me *cough*) reading is a rewarding hobby we practice regularly. But for others, reading is something they only do when they have to.

In fact, statistics show that men are less likely to read for pleasure than women are.

That’s a shame, because reading is more than just a way to pass the time. It can be a powerful way to learn more about the world and yourself and improve your life.

“Several studies indicate that reading works of fiction can be of particular benefit to people with or without mental health difficulties,” writes psychiatrist Rob Whitley.

Meanwhile, autobiography and recovery narratives “can increase connectedness and understandings of recovery, while validating personal experience and reducing stigma.”

Ultimately, what you read is less important than the fact that you do. Whether you read fiction, self-help books, or business and career guidance, you’ll benefit in many different ways.

3) He learns

Do you ever think humans know too much?

As a species, we have peered into the mysteries of the universe, with the result that we know more as a group than any one person can know by themselves.

In other words, there’s always something new to learn. No matter how knowledgeable a person gets, they can never know everything.

To some people, that’s exciting. And men who are looking to grow on a personal level are invariably men who are eager to learn more, both about the world and about themselves.

“By constantly challenging yourself and pursuing education, you stimulate intellectual growth and personal satisfaction,” writes educator Amara Weiss. “You expand your horizons and knowledge and cultivate critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving skills, and flexibility.”

There is even evidence that always learning can delay and even reverse the aging of your brain.

4) He examines his own actions

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” the Greek philosopher Socrates said. And it’s true that any man who wants to improve his life needs to understand himself and his actions and motivations on a deep level.

“Self-examination is one of many spiritual practices present across many wisdom traditions that we would do well to implement in our own lives,” writes philosophy professor Michael W. Austin.

On a daily basis, he writes, “we might also ask ourselves what virtues we exemplified: courage, honesty, compassion, or others? Did I treat others with respect? Was I fair to myself and others?”

Men who ask themselves sometimes difficult questions like this are men who are looking to supercharge their growth.

A regular examination of our actions and motivations can help us understand ourselves on a deep level so that we can work on our flaws and enhance our strengths.

5) He takes responsibility

if a man uses these phrases in a conversation he has a really strong personality 9 habits of men who genuinely want to improve in life, according to psychology

“Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men,” says Don Corleone in The Godfather. And while I hesitate to advise you to follow the wisdom of a violent criminal, it’s true that a man who wants to be the best version of himself needs to be careful.

In other words, he needs to hold himself accountable. He needs to take responsibility for his own actions and not blame others when things go wrong.

In fact, this can become the driving force behind personal growth.

“By distancing ourselves from our own potential role in problems, we also disregard the possibility of our place in the solutions, as well as the joy and affinity that come from problem solving effectively together,” writes counselor Jennifer Hamady.

To put it simply, when you blame other people, you deny yourself the opportunity to grow. A man who wants to improve himself takes responsibility for everything. Even the things he didn’t do.

Because while you can’t control the actions of others or the things that happen to you in life, you can always control your reaction to external events.

6) He demonstrates discipline

Discipline is everything.

In time, glaciers wear mountains into dust, and the same thing is true in our own lives when it comes to discipline. Focused and disciplined habits will get you far further than occasional bursts of insight or productivity, and men who are focused on improvement know this.

“It takes discipline to commit to action and to do what it takes to make a change,” writes psychotherapist Denise Fournier. “This is the facet of discipline that requires making different choices, sometimes sacrificing the comfort of this moment for the promise of future achievement or fulfillment.”

To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t succeed without discipline. I’m just saying it’s really, really, really unlikely.

So if a man practices discipline in his daily habits, it’s a sure sign that he’s going to go far.

7) He prioritizes health

You don’t need another article telling you how important it is to exercise and eat right, and I’m probably not the person to tell you that anyway. After all, I’m no athlete myself.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. All I’m saying is that men who want to improve in life know that everything gets harder if you don’t treat your body right.

You don’t have to be Tom Brady. But you should find some time each day to get some moderate exercise and watch what you eat keep to your body functioning effectively.

That’s all.

8) He develops resilience

No matter who you are, life is going to knock you around at some point. What matters most is your ability to get back up again.

That’s what resilience is.

“Resilience is the ability to cope with and recover from setbacks,” writes psychologist Kendra Cherry. “Instead of falling into despair or hiding from issues by using unhealthy coping strategies, resilient people face life’s difficulties head-on.”

Cherry goes on to point out that resilient people often:

  • Communicate well
  • Have an internal locus of control
  • Have high emotional intelligence
  • Have positive views of themselves and their abilities
  • View themselves as fighters rather than victims

There are lots of different ways to develop resilience. But if a man is working to make himself as psychologically resilient as possible, he’s absolutely improving himself, too.

9) He practices empathy

Many of the virtues people normally link to masculinity are centered around toughness, strength, and domination.

But a man who really wants to be the best person he can be knows that few things in life are more important than empathy.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the place of others and experience what they are feeling, and it’s vital to effective communication, and also vital to anyone who wants to be a decent person.

A man who practices empathy is a man who wants to improve himself and be a better man tomorrow than he is today.

The quest for improvement

What is life for if not to be better versions of ourselves?

If you see these habits in the men around you, or in yourself, it’s almost a certainty that these are men trying to be the best that they can.

Because ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you are in your journey. All that matters is that you keep moving forward.

Picture of Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley is a France-based writer with a passion for psychology, philosophy, science, and anything that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions.

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