When I first picked up Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, I was a little thrown off. After all, when’s the last time you picked up a self-help book with an F-bomb on the cover?
But, as the subtitle of Manson’s book proclaims, this is “a counterintuitive approach to living a good life”. And that’s exactly what Manson aims to share with his readers.
By flipping our conventional definitions of success, happiness, growth, and truth on their heads, Manson’s manifesto forces us to reexamine what’s really important in our lives. This read is a surprisingly fresh and honest perspective on discovering what we value, finding courage in the face of fear, and embracing our faults as opportunity for change.
Manson begins with an explanation of the book’s namesake: “There is a subtle art to not giving a fuck. And though the concept may sound ridiculous and I may sound like an asshole, what I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively- how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values”.
When was the last time we dedicated reflective time to deciding what our values were, and how they influence what we care about? With this blog, the goal is to lead a more calm and simple lifestyle. What better way to do so than by settling in with a good read, learning and growing through mindful reflection, and laughing along the way?
Are you in? Good.
Read on for my thoughts on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
Giving a Fuck
To be clear, not giving a fuck is not the same as being indifferent. As Manson stresses throughout his book, it’s important to recognize that there are a million and one things we can care about in this world. Not giving a fuck is the refusal to spend time involved with things and people that don’t promote our best self. For me, my father’s cancer diagnosis sparked a complete overhaul on what I spent my time caring (and worrying) about. Priorities seemed to change overnight after the diagnoses, and especially after we lost him, and with that, so did the rest of my outlook on life. Not everyone has a profound loss or moment that rocks them to the core and gives them a crossroads. So, how do we filter out that which is no longer working for us and focus on what we truly care about?
Rearranging the Values and Metrics
The most important part of deciding what it is we truly care about is deciding what our values are. One of the more profound quotes that stood out to me in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is that “values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values- the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings- will all be out of whack. Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be.” It’s not easy for us to be honest- truly honest– with ourselves about what values we hold. But the sooner we acknowledge what isn’t working for us, the sooner we can focus on what does.
One of my recent posts discussed the comparison game. We all play it at times, whether we’re willing participants or not. We compare ourselves to those we see on social media. If we value relationships with others, but we measure that value by the metric of comparison: how frequently friends text or call us, by how many likes our posts get, or by what others think of us- we set ourselves up for disappointment. Why? Because according to Manson, “bad values, while sometimes pleasurable, lie outside of your control and often require socially destructive or superstitious means to achieve.” We can’t control what people think about us, so why are we measuring ourselves against an impractical, self-defeating metric? Confronting painful truths like these aren’t always easy, but I promise you, it’s worth it. When we stop measuring our value by things we can’t control, we create space in our life for amazing values like honesty, curiosity, standing up for ourselves and others, humility, creativity.
Sounds pretty great, right?
We Always Have a Choice
When we are stressed out, overscheduled, overworked, or just too tired, it’s easy for us to feel like there is no solution to our problem. I think we all know someone who seems to have a laundry list of personal problems or complaints, but never seems willing to address them. But the fact is, we always have a choice in how we handle adversity. Manson makes a case for recognizing the difference between fault and responsibility as key to living a good life. For example, it may not be our fault when a friend continually blows us off, but it is ultimately our responsibility to decide how we handle the situation. We can choose to be upset or angry, and let those emotions eat away at us. Or, we can choose to re-evaluate the time we spend with that person, and move away from the chaos and disappointment that friendship brings to our life. Recently, I discussed the topic of how I create calm amongst the chaos. A lack of structure in my schedule, too little sleep, and an over packed agenda had brought me to tears. It would’ve been really easy to revert to comforting habits, but I knew it was my responsibility to choose how I wanted to handle it. For me, that’s getting a little extra sleep, chatting with loved ones, and sweating it out with a great workout (Orange Theory, anyone!? I’m addicted). By choosing to make positive changes, I was able to practice my favorite mantra- “let that shit go” and bounce back to my normal self.
“At some point, most of us reach a place where we’re afraid to fail, where we instinctively avoid failure…this confines and stifles us. We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.” This quote really resonated with me. Like Manson, I quit my job in the corporate world to begin my own business. It was terrifying and exhausting and exciting all at once. Now, I was the only one responsible for my successes and failures. It’s a hefty responsibility, and one that I don’t take lightly. I honor it every day, move through the mistakes, learn from them, and do better next time. Because the fact of the matter is that no one else can do it for me. This blog, my photography business, they’re in a lot of ways the legacy that I’ll be leaving behind. They’re my passion projects that just happen to provide me with shelter and food. Letting the fear of failing win out will only lead me right back where I started: at a place where I was brutally unhappy. Once we stop running from the fear of failure, we are free to explore the best of ourselves, to practice resiliency, and to make the thousands of little mistakes that will ultimately define our successes.
Ultimately, I found myself not wanting to put this book down. Manson’s witty dialogue and brutally honest truth-telling is a breath of fresh air when it comes to prioritizing what we care about in life. After all, it’s really all about “prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.”
Uh huh, honey.