In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, author Mark Manson argues that our consumer culture and social media have us chasing the wrong things in pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life. We are giving a f*ck or caring about too many things that don’t matter and don’t make us happy in the long run.
We are urged by social media and society to give a f*ck about everything.
We are told to always be striving for more — more happiness, money, experiences, friends, possessions. The self-help movement urges us to focus on being positive and feeling good. But all the focus on positivity actually emphasizes what we lack — and so we keep striving.
As a result we become addicted to phoniness, and constantly pursue superficial things. This creates temporary highs rather than true happiness. We end up frustrated and feel that we are falling short in comparison to what we see in social media, which celebrates only the most extraordinary. Or, we develop the belief that we are entitled to always feel good.
But success, fame, and fleeting self-improvement don’t lead to satisfaction. The key to a happy, meaningful life is to give a f*ck about less, and focus only on what is most valuable and important to us.
This book is intended to help you:
There are challenges to choosing to give fewer f*cks (that is, to reprioritize what we care about and what we don’t), which include:
A misunderstanding of happiness:
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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck argues that our culture and social media encourage us to pursue superficial things in order to be happy. But we end up feeling miserable because we fail to prioritize — we give a f*ck about too many things rather than choosing and focusing on just a few important things that give our lives meaning. This book is a guide for sorting out what’s important and what’s not, and redirecting our lives to achieve true satisfaction.
Social media, entertainment, and advertising messages urge us to give a f*ck about everything incessantly. We “must” always strive for more — more happiness, more money and success, more experiences, more friends, more possessions, greater attractiveness, and a better body. In addition, self-help “experts” unrealistically urge us to be positive and happy all the time.
But we feel unhappy instead because these messages emphasize what we lack. By constantly wishing/striving for something, you reinforce to yourself that you don't have it. Then the self-help experts give you superficial, short-term fixes: Stand in front of a mirror and repeat affirmations, or follow 10 easy steps to become rich. The advice...
You probably spend too much time pursuing and caring (giving a f*ck) about superficial things. This uses up energy that could be devoted to things you value more.
Think of a time recently when something small got under your skin and you obsessed about it. What was it?
Our culture treats happiness as a formula that can be solved. For instance, we may think: If I get a certain thing or do a certain thing, such as marry the right person or live in the right community, I’ll be happy. Or, we treat happiness as something we can earn or acquire.
However, happiness isn’t something you get in return for an achievement (such as a new job) or something to be found in a “top 10 steps” article from a self-help guru. It’s not something that’s given or that you passively receive, or that is waiting for you somewhere.
Happiness grows from solving problems or overcoming challenges — an activity that improves our lives, creates satisfaction, and is ongoing (creating yet more satisfaction).
Being unhappy or dissatisfied is a necessary component. As the Buddha taught, pain and loss are integral to life and we shouldn’t resist them, but rather allow them to lead us to something better.
Suffering and dissatisfaction are actually part of our biology. Dissatisfaction and insecurity spurred our ancestors to search out, build, and fight for better living conditions. They are a survival mechanism for advancing our species that is still useful in...
The purpose of emotions is to give us feedback, telling us that something is good or bad for us.
Think of a recent situation that aroused a strong emotion. What happened? What emotion did you feel?
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Don’t aim for a pain-free life. When you strive for something that is important to you, you accept the pain necessary to get there.
What’s a goal that is very important to you?
A feeling of entitlement is rampant today because many people have bought into cultural and social media messages about what it takes to be happy — which actually makes them more miserable and unable to cope with challenges in life.
Entitlement can take one of two forms:
Our entitlement epidemic is rooted in a trend that began in the 1960s, when the self-esteem/exceptionalism philosophy spread through schools, churches and business development seminars. The focus became feeling good about yourself rather than trying, failing, learning, and accomplishing things.
In the sixties, researchers concluded that people who felt good about themselves tended to perform better and caused fewer...
A feeling of entitlement can stand in the way of improving yourself and succeeding in your work and relationships.
Have you ever thought in an entitled way? (This might mean you feel your problems are unique; that the rules don’t apply to you; that you deserve special treatment; that you consider yourself a victim.)
Self-awareness helps you understand what values are driving you to feel and act in certain ways, so you can choose better values.
Self-awareness has multiple layers, like an onion. To uncover your deepest motives, you need to peel back the layers and examine each one by questioning yourself.
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Question how you feel and why to uncover your deepest values.
Think of something that’s currently bothering you. What is it? What emotion are you feeling?
When you don’t feel in control of a situation you become unhappy. You might not feel like you have any choice in the matter, or you might feel incapable of solving your problem.
It’s often a matter of perspective. A problem can make you miserable, or it can give you a sense of accomplishment when you solve it. Often the difference is in the degree to which you are responsible or feel you have a choice.
For example, if someone forced you to run 26 miles, it would be painful and you would feel miserable. But if you planned and trained for running a marathon, you’d feel pain but also a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in completing it.
We feel in control and empowered when we choose our problems or challenges. When forced to deal with problems not of our making we feel helpless and victimized. But here’s the solution — no matter what situation you’re in, no matter your circumstances, you always have a choice. You can choose how you feel about something, and you can choose how to behave in every situation.
We’ll discuss multiple applications of this idea below.
Once you accept your responsibility and ability to make choices, you’ll feel empowered in any...
Things may happen to us that aren’t our fault. But we are still responsible for how we choose to respond to them.
Think of something that happened to you that wasn’t your fault but that you feel resentful about. What was it?
In order to grow we need to entertain doubt about our beliefs, feelings, and rightness. Instead of trying to prove we’re right, we should look for ways we’re wrong so we see where we can grow.
In fact, much of what we believe or think we know is wrong. That’s been the case throughout human history. Astronomers once believed the sun revolved around the earth. People also once believed in useless and dangerous health remedies, like leeches and lobotomies.
As children, we believe crazy things that seem logical to us but turn out to be wrong. As adults we believe wrong things about ourselves, other people, and society. Years from now people will shake their heads at what we thought were certainties, like we do over discredited beliefs from years ago.
Willingness to learn and change our beliefs is a lifelong growth process. For example, Michael Jordan noted that he failed over and over and over — and that’s why he succeeded.
We never reach perfection in terms of knowledge or certainty. Learning is a gradual process, where we build on what we learned before. When we learn, we go from being wrong to being less wrong (rather than jumping from wrong to right), and then...
Much of what we think we know is wrong. Being willing to learn and change our beliefs is how we grow.
Think of a disagreement you had recently, when you thought you were right and everyone else was wrong and dumb. What was the situation?
Most people are reluctant to fail or to admit failure. But to succeed at something you first have to fail, usually multiple times, so you can learn.
Improvement at anything is a result of many small failures. The more you’ve failed, the greater the scope of your success will be. Someone who is better at something than you are probably failed at it more times.
Children fall repeatedly when they are learning to walk, but they don’t give up on walking after failing a few times — they keep trying until they succeed.
We don’t start trying to avoid failure until later in life, when we internalize messages that failure is bad, from the education system and overly critical parents. A focus by the media on extraordinary success, but not on the challenges leading up to it, also distorts our beliefs about success. If you want to be successful at something you have to be willing to fail at it.
Besides offering a chance to learn, failure is an opportunity to rethink our values and standards.
Improving at anything requires failing many times and building on those failures.
Think of a goal that’s important for you, but that you’re not making as much progress on as you’d like. What is it?
Our culture tells us to always be positive and accepting of everything — to say yes. But you have no values if you view everything as equally valuable. Values give your life meaning and purpose.
Choosing certain values automatically precludes others. For example, if you choose the value of having a good marriage, you have to reject values that would undermine that, like indiscriminate sex. We’re defined by the values we reject as well as by those we choose. We have to do both.
It comes back to giving a fck about some things, and rejecting or choosing to not give a fck about others.
The idea of narrowing our options to be happy is counterintuitive — we typically think the path to happiness is having unlimited options and freedom. But meaning comes from caring a lot about select things. Freedom gives you too many options and you end up caring about nothing in particular.
We actually tend to be happier with less. The more options we have, the less satisfied we are with the options we choose, because we keep thinking of the ones we didn’t choose. You keep wondering if you’d be happier with a different choice. Psychologists call this the paradox of choice.
A fulfilling life requires making choices — accepting the important things, and rejecting others.
What is one important thing in life that you want to commit to?
We prefer not to think or talk about death because we fear it. But it is the yardstick we use to measure our life and its meaning. Without death providing perspective, our life and values wouldn’t mean anything.
When Manson was a young adult, a friend died at age 19 from diving off a cliff during a party. After struggling with the impact of this loss for a long time, Manson concluded that, given the inevitability of death, most of the things he spent time worrying about — fear, shame, embarrassment, and even pain — weren’t significant in the scheme of things. The experience changed his life, as he began to discard his insecurities, and focus on more important things.
Various religions and philosophies encourage connecting with mortality. Stoics advised keeping death in mind to appreciate life and put problems into perspective. Some types of Buddhism teach meditation as a way of preparing to die.
Mark Twain wrote: “Fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Accepting your mortality means getting rid of superficial values and considering what impact your life has made.
The key to a happy, meaningful life is to give a f*ck about less, and focus only on what is most valuable and important to us.
Make a list of things you give a f*ck about.