I watched a documentary on HBO recently:
State of Play: Happiness
I would recommend every writer watch it. There is so much to learn here about Point of View and Motivation. This can apply to all protagonists but yes, particularly if you have a main character who is/was an athlete or in the military.
It was AWESOME. It is about the science of happiness and came from the viewpoint of retired NFL football players and their journey to find happiness after leaving the NFL.
I am a major student of Positive Psychology and this spoke to me. I worked with angry teens that always needed ways to find a different, positive vision for their self-image, their relationships, and their lives.
As writers, this is what we look to create in our stories. Experiences that can help our Heros and Heroines find a better self-image, better relationships/love, and more productive lives.
Listening to these football players talk about the gladiator experience of going into a stadium with 80,000 fans and playing the game was mind blowing for me. They talk about being adored and a role model and a hero and then one day no more. Be it by retirement or injury or just not being able to play at the level needed any more.
So listen to their POVs of this wondrous experience and then the loss when it was over. The emotion of this can be transferred to all sorts of experiences for our characters.
Listen to how they rebuilt their lives, discovered new ways to have a purpose.
The last part of the show is a round table discussion between the host, Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist and author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness (both great books) and a former Navy seal and a retired NFL player.
This part of the show is filled with POV info about being a part of a team, being under stress and in dangerous situations and the emotions that go along with that. Great stuff!!
The most important thing they learned was that there will always be a hole in them being separated from their team. You build another life and have plenty of happiness but missing “the guys” and that camaraderie will always be a part of them too.
So look for ways to infuse this knowledge into the male characters of your stories. Not all will have been part of a team or sport or military. But may have experienced a life change that will have a dramatic impact and you can use some of that loss and uncertainty in your character.
This can apply to female characters to a lesser degree but still yes.
Story is about a character undergoing a transformational arc. This documentary was a real world illustration of that. Watch the emotions and psychological shifts these men experienced and see how you can transfer that knowledge to your Heros and Heroines in your stories.