The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
The first book I read this year was Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I got it for Christmas from my husband after the slight hiccup of his company’s firewall quarantining my emailed list of gifts.
Learning and personal growth are very high on my list of values. I love to learn new things and to gain unique perspectives. His book celebrates the fact that we are not going to ever be everybody’s cup of tea so we might as well choose what we want to focus on and let go of the rest. We spend so much time trying to fit in and yet our uniqueness is what leads to true happiness and success.
Manson writes about five unconventional and counter-intuitive values he lives by.
- Taking radical responsibility for everything in your life.
- Uncertainty: constantly doubting your beliefs to keep an open mind.
- Failure: the willingness to discover your own flaws and mistakes.
- Rejection: the ability to both hear and say no.
- Contemplation of your own mortality to gain perspective.
Taking Radical Responsibly
When things go wrong in our lives, it’s easy to blame others. Our parents made us this way, or our boss doesn’t give us the right opportunities. Manson encourages us to take responsibility for everything in our lives and to accept that our lives are the way they are because of the decisions we have made and the actions we have taken.
This can be a depressing notion if your life is not the way you want it to be. But on the flip side, it’s greatly empowering to know that you can influence your future by the decisions you make and the actions you take.
Manson states in the book “I’m always wrong about everything, over and over and over again and that’s why my life improves.” Many of us, myself included, have a strong desire to be right about things. Doesn’t it feel so validating when things turned out the way you expected them to, and there’s that huge temptation to say, ‘I told you so’? It may feel great to be right in the moment, but it’s fleeting, and it isn’t correlated with happiness. Someone I really look up to once asked me whether it’s better to be right or to be happy. That triggered a realisation in me that being right is overrated.
Being certain feels safe and helps us to feel in control of our environment. The trouble is, the world is ever changing and so are we. When we try to control everything, we are often not receptive to the unexpected opportunities that come our way.
Learning from Failure
Manson talks about how success is the sum of failure upon failure. If you observe a successful person, the chances are they have failed a lot more than their competitors. Failure is the way we figure out what doesn’t work which is hugely valuable. It takes courage to get up and to keep trying after a failure but that’s what makes us successful in the end.
Manson writes that our proudest achievements come in the face of our greatest adversity. In my own life, I’ve experienced this first hand. My health collapsed from stress and it took many years to get back on my feet. I could spend a lot of time focusing on the costs but there are far more learnings and the process has transformed my life into a much happier one.
Rejection and Boundaries
We have a choice as to what we care about and invest in. When we do that, we inevitably say no to something else. Being clear about what we will and will not stand for provides a level of freedom that is highly valuable. Our relationships become better with stronger boundaries. No one enjoys the feeling of being taken advantage of and it is certainly not the recipe for success in relationships and life. It’s important to say no to the things we don’t value, or we don’t accept.
Understanding that not everything works for everyone is also a good way of learning to accept rejection. If we are clear about what we say no to, we learn to accept the fact that others will also reject us, our ideas and our requests. That’s part of life. It doesn’t mean that you are flawed.
Contemplation of Your Own Mortality
The reality of our own limited time here and our impending death, provide some perspective. When people close to us die, we are often reminded of this. We fear so much, and we spend so much time avoiding risks, that we are not truly living. In embracing our mortality, we can dive headfirst into opportunities, because the consequence is often a lot less scary than we imagine.
Death offers us a deadline, so to speak. In the time we have, we need to make our life worth something. Leaving a legacy allows us to focus on how we contribute to the world and what difference we will make in this lifetime. Happiness is found in our contribution to the world, be it in volunteering or charity work, what we give to our children or how our work leaves a lasting impact.
This book was a great reminder that we need to be selective about what we give a f*ck about. If we figure out what we value and apply ourselves to that, we also let go of everything else. We let go of what people think of us, and the fears that hold us back. We challenge our beliefs constantly and keep an open mind for the purpose of learning and growth. We focus on what truly matters and we give it our all. We take responsibility for our lives because we only get a limited time to fulfil our dreams, to love with all our hearts and to make a difference in this world.
Kathy Mann is a writer and speaker, based in Johannesburg South Africa. She’s passionate about building a happy life, on purpose using the tools of positive psychology. Kathy guides people towards living their best life possible through what she has learned in becoming very sick from stress. Women often feel so stretched, trying to be everything to everyone. Kathy’s here to remind you that being true to yourself, connecting with your strengths and talents, is the best way to serve the world.