Since 1991 I have been in men-only groups in a variety of settings. In college I lived with 17 men for three years. I then worked for my fraternity for two years traveling the country facilitating conversation and leadership workshops with only men.
For the past eleven years I have led wilderness rite-of-passage trips with boys and men. I have even led leadership workshops at fraternity conventions with 1000+ men. I have spent thousands of hours with just men in a variety of settings.
But nothing quite compares to what happens when 8-12 guys sit in a circle and get real.
I have been in a men’s group for the past five years and these guys have witnessed me in all my colors. They have supported me and challenged me through two breakups, marriage, fathering a kid, building a business and much more.
From 2009-2011, I led a six month men’s group called the Men’s Leadership Training to see what is possible when a small group of men collaborate and really work on themselves toward a greater purpose.
What about you? When was the last time you got real with another man and showed yourself to him? When was the last time another man called you on your bullshit? When was the last time you sobbed in front of another man?
Purpose & Value of a Men’s Group
In my view the purpose of any men’s group is multi-faceted. Likewise, the value is not only very subjective, it runs many layers deep. Try joining one and see what value you receive.
In a nutshell, men’s groups are about getting four things in your life: Clarity, Accountability, Challenge, and Support. Read more here.
I have recently pinpointed what I call the nine P’s in men’s personal development that are essential for a man to know and learn if he is to grow and evolve. And, the nine P’s apply to men’s groups.
The nine P’s
Partnership. This is the biggest “P” of all. This is about relationship. Ever heard of a business partner? An accountability partner at the gym? A partner for life? Like it or not, a men’s group is a committed partnership. Even if you don’t like a guy in your men’s group, you get to practice being in partnership, in relationship, with him. You are there to hold each other accountable to what you say you will do.
When you join a men’s group, you make a commitment to the men in your group to stay in the fire of the relationship without bailing out. For most guys, when things get hard, they just leave. For guys in a serious men’s group, they get in the ring and stay in the ring. When it’s time to leave, it gets talked about directly.
Power. Most men just don’t have access to their full conscious power as a man. Men’s groups help you get in touch with your full power–express it, share it and be witnessed in it.
Purpose. A common thread in a men’s group is the common purpose which we are discussing here. But within the context of the group purpose is each individual purpose. Do you know why you are on the planet? What is your life’s purpose? A men’s group can help you explore this.
Presence. A men’s group without presence is a big fat waste of time. It’s just another intellectual discussion about concepts. When men learn to become present with their experience in the moment, they are more likely to feel and more likely to be congruent. In a men’s group, you learn tools to help you “get present.”
Principled. Essentially, this means integrity. You do what you say you will do because you know your values and where you stand. You know yourself well enough to have principles. However, contrary to a lot of men, these are constantly evolving to support your evolution as a man.
Practice. Men’s groups are all about practice for the real world. Just like a basketball player practices free-throws so he is more likely to sink them in the big game, when men practice being authentically themselves, they are more likely to stay authentic and open in the real world.
For example, I might practice saying something hard in my men’s group to another man, so that I have more confidence to say it to my boss the following day.
In a group of guys in this context, you practice:
- congruence–(thoughts, words, & actions all line up)
- being authentic (being who you really are without hiding)
- taking responsibility
- openness, open heartedness (really listening to, and understanding, others)
- feeling your feelings
- speaking your truth & skillful communication (i.e. dealing with conflict)
Prayer. Yup, prayer. I’m not religious, but I am a spiritual dude. Prayer may happen in the beginning or end of a group. Shout outs to whatever you believe in or to someone you love. Asking for guidance, wisdom for yourself, the men in the circle or sending a prayer to someone you love.
Possibility. Ah yes, what is possible for you and each man in the group? Individually? Collectively? More on possibility here.
Play. A group of guys getting together in this way can be very serious. That’s why we need to lighten up in every group and have some fun. This can happen before, during or after your group. I’m a serious guy, so play is critical for me to stay open to my smile, to my laughter and to having fun with bros I care about.
For example, the men’s group I’ve been in for the past five years just implemented a monthly night to celebrate together and play together.
Why Not Turn To Women For Support?
It is a common experience among men to go to their girlfriends or wives for support, emotional or otherwise. Women get tired of this dynamic. They don’t want to be your lover and your mother. Women tell me all the time how they wish their partner had more quality man friends.
Only seeking support from women is a slippery slope. That is why it is critical to get some honest feedback from your fellow men. We need support and wisdom from both sexes if we want to grow as men.
What Men’s Groups Are Not:
Don’t worry, men’s groups are not group therapy, although they can be very therapeutic. Men’s groups are not a bunch of guys sitting around a fire singing Kumbaya. Men’s groups are not a bunch of weird freaky men just talking about their feelings (although I can be weird and freaky and talk about my feelings).
Men’s groups are definitely not for dudes who would rather keep things very much on the surface and who are afraid of intimacy, although a group can help with that guy’s fears.
Remember, a men’s group is for a brave man who is willing to face the music of his own life. There are men’s groups all over the world right now, each with it’s own unique flavor and purpose.
A men’s group can be a great support when you are going through a tough time in your life and need support. A men’s group can also be a place where you celebrate the victories in your life with great people and explore what is possible in your life. Listen to a few men discuss the value of a men’s group here.
Ultimately, a men’s group will challenge you to be who you are without hesitation, reservation or apology so that you can be the powerful guy you are who is free, fulfilled and full of energy to serve the world.
So, How And Where Do I Start?
Read the next post on how to start a men’s group
And, check out this how to guide— “Men’s Group 101, How To Start and Lead A Men’s Group.”