The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
I will freely admit that I picked up this book by Mark Manson simply because of the title. You must admit it’s eye catching and makes you want to pick it up. The vulgarity in the first few chapters was a bit much, but buried under all that were some important messages. As I was out running long yesterday the messages were circling around in my head. There were many connections to be found here to my life, including as a runner preparing to run her first marathon.
First, I believe under the tongue in cheek writing, sarcasm and vulgarity, this books is about finding what’s important to you and letting go of the rest. Manson advocates for limiting the amount of emotional energy you expend being concerned about things that have little to no meaning or value in your life. An example would be worrying needlessly about someone else’s Facebook feed. If you spend time thinking about how someone else’s life is seemingly perfect, or reading into everyone’s response (or lack thereof) to your posts, then perhaps you are valuing the wrong things. Recently, I overheard a conversation on the ferry that speaks to this concept. A woman was lamenting to her friend over someone she thought was a good friend. She was saying that every time she posts something on Facebook this “friend” doesn’t comment, or even like her posts. But, she noticed that whenever another mutual friend posts this “friend” not only likes and comments, she pushes the love button. I remember thinking the conversation was ridiculous at the time, but after reading it made me realize that people really do overthink this Facebook stuff.
There are so many subtle lines in this book that will make you laugh and think. For example, one is around the over emphasis on positivity. While I agree totally with surrounding ourselves with positivity, Manson points out the cold, hard truth – “sometimes things are f***ed up and we have to live with it.” If we set up this unrealistic expectation that life needs to always be positive and Disney like, we set ourselves up to feel like failures when it’s not. This is exactly how I feel some days – my ankle and feet hurt most every day and it stinks! There is nothing to be positive about, but I’ve learned to live with it and keep going. Do I have to spout some positivity quotes and be thankful for this pain? NO, it stinks and I’m dealing with it as best I can. Rather than expending my energy spouting how lucky I am to have this problem, I’m expending my energies trying to overcome it. Much better use of my time and emotional energy.
Instead of trying to be “perfect” all the time, Manson suggests asking yourself what problems you have. Life, he writes is actually a series of problems. He writes, that “Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.” If we spend our lives trying to get away from our problems, will we ever really succeed? Will we ever be able to handle losing, or not being perfect? Instead of focusing all our energy on figuring out “how can I get rid of my problems?” we should focus on asking ourselves, “What are the problems that excite me? What are the problems that I’m willing to work hard to figure out?” In education, we equate this to being in a “learning pit”, deep down in there we are striving to climb our way out. These are the problems that matter and are worthy of our energy, not whether or not someone liked our Facebook post.
Manson talks a lot about facing truths and not trying to always spin them into something positive. Think – When life gave me lemons, I made lemonade. What if I don’t like, or want lemonade. He talks abut facing truths and being totally honest with ourselves and others “Once we embrace our fears, faults and uncertainties – once we stop running from and avoiding, and start confronting painful truths – we can begin to find the courage and confidence we desperately seek.” As I ran along yesterday my darn ankle starting hurting, like always, around mile 6. Instead of focusing on it I told myself, this is your reality. It’s going to be uncomfortable running 26.2 miles so you may as well get used to it. I could find no positivity in the discomfort I was feeling and didn’t feel like expending my energy on it. It stinks but it’s my reality and I needed to keep on going. There was no lemonade to be made from these lemons. Rather, there was determination, perseverance and grit to be made. Instead of aiming to have this perfect run I accepted that sometimes runs are not perfect. Sometimes there is pain and discomfort and it just plain sucks. But, despite this, I can and will continue because it’s important to me to finish what I started.
I realize the book may not be for everybody because the author does use colorful language. For me, I liked the author’s refreshingly honest spin on self help. I laughed out loud so many times and was eager to share the book with others. It also reminded me that I’ve been focusing my energies in the wrong areas in my marathon training. Reality and things I don’t give a f**k about – I will not win the marathon. I will not finish in the top ten percent. I am a slower runner. I will likely have discomfort at some point in the run – hopefully toward the end. Reality and things I give a f**k about – I will finish the run. I will run with my running friends. I will have a great time running through NYC and enjoy the crowds. I will complete this bucket list race. I will be proud of myself and my efforts to get this done.
What do you give a f**k about? Please feel free to comment below.