What are you willing to struggle for? NO really, what pain do you want in your life?
According to Disappointment Panda life’s problems are endless and if it feels like you against the world, chances are it’s YOU vs. YOURself! Mark Manson – a barely 30-something millennial sage whose failures taught him straight away about success – wrote a most refreshing read called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Personally, I’m just so proud that I read an entire book. And you should too! This one is fun and totally worth it.
The reality of happiness (and I couldn’t agree more Mark!) is that it requires a struggle! In fact, it’s born out of struggle! And the “everyone gets a trophy” coddling of modern culture that leads us to believe that everyone/everything can and should be exceptional is just plain wrong. Most of life is quite ordinary. And that is refreshingly OK!
Layer on all the sensationalism in the media and the pervasiveness of technology, our insecurities are multiplied and magnified, even our thoughts make us worry in what Manson calls the Feedback Loop from Hell. We experience emotional distress in our mundane lives around nearly every corner. As if being chased by lions on the Serengeti, our fight-flight systems are on overdrive. The resulting chronic stress is the real danger! Check out famed neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky’s work on the topic – How to Relieve Stress: Managing Bad Stress and Good Stress. He’s literally a GENIUS!
Our misguided search for self-esteem via exceptionalism prevents us from developing emotional resilience. Self-worth through self-compassion is the key! Not the measure of what others think, but the measure of what you think and how you feel about your SH*T experiences not just your super cool ones (you know, the ones with all the likes on Facebook).
Adversity breeds strength of mind and character. Constant positivity (though this “optimist-to-a-fault” knows how well intended it can be) is a form of avoidance. Denial of all that is bad and difficult in life is a denial of life itself. Figuring out what is and is not worth a F*ck to you, is about meeting the pain and suffering you experience with wisdom, being with it and, as much as possible, affirming it – really owning it. We can’t control life but we can train ourselves to a more righteous and mindful response to it.
What is really worth a F*ck to you? How to know? You can start by defining what you value most in life, and from there, determine your own personal metrics of success.
Manson suggests radical responsibility, uncertainty, failure, rejection, and mortality, a good place for all of us start in order to challenge our natural biases…
Radical responsibility – this is where the real learning comes. Apparently William James, the Father of American Psychology and a pragmatist, posited that all improvement arises from the personal realization that we are responsible for everything in our lives. Again, we can’t always control what happens, but we have some measure of control over our response. And the more mindful we become, the more presence we have to respond in ways that best reflect our values. “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” –William James
Uncertainty – removes judgment! “Certainty is the enemy of growth…and being wrong opens the possibility of change.” This idea of being in search of doubt vs. truth allows curiosity and continuous improvement to emerge. By being open to always learning we can “chip away at the ways that we’re wrong so that we can be a little less wrong” as we move through life. Embracing uncertainty certainly promises to keep us honest.
Failure – my worst fear of all! But here again, pain = resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and an overall happier life. I love the way Manson encourages us to treat life as a science lab where actions are experiments and our thoughts and emotions the data to test hypotheses. I also love and LIVE by his ”Do Something” Principle – that is, DO something, then use the reaction to spur further action, which in turn (we hope) will generate motivation. I live by this principle, perhaps a little too much, but with action as the primary metric “even failure pushes you forward.” Get to it!
Rejection – we all need to reject something, otherwise, we stand for nothing! This one is especially hard for me, an unrelenting harmonizer. I want everyone/everything to get along. But harmony is also a form of entitlement and without conflict, there is no trust. Damned though we try, we just can’t pretend the conflict and suffering away. Rejection is a fact of life, but a fact that can hone our focus.
Contemplation (of one’s own mortality) – and the clincher…10 out of 10 people die! Death is described as “the bitter antidote” in Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death and the realization of death can help to bring about a better world as people strive toward a symbolic higher self that outlives the physical self through heroism. Mortality as a focus of meditation is infinitely popular, but I personally don’t love it. I am going to die, yes! But not anytime soon. In fact, we’re all living a lot longer these days, so it’s even more important to figure out what to do with the life we have in the present. I know this is indeed what meditating on death is all about, but I prefer to contemplate the fleeting concept of time vs. my certain doom and destruction. However, you label it…“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by life’s trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” –Charles Bukowski
Thanks Mark! Loved the book! So now what?
You might start by making a list of the things you care about, then track how much time you’re spending thinking and doing all that you think and do – and begin a deliberate practice of working to align these two lists more and more. Share what you care about with a friend and/or enlist a coach to give you feedback. Prioritize relentlessly! But worry less about managing your time and more about maintaining energy for the things that matter most to you in life. Do something, challenge your hypotheses, and try again. Choose your F*cks wisely as they are guaranteed to cause you pain. But if you choose them, it will be the kind of pain that is worth it!