I first heard of Mark Manson when my sister periodically linked me to his blog. His writing style is a bit irreverent, a bit blunt, very no fucks given. (FYI: this is the last time I’m using profanity in this post – I’m not a huge fan of it in print.) Profanity aside, the content of his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, is actually quite philosophical – it’s really about how to live a good life.
We have a habit of focusing on the negative, making ourselves miserable in the process. We fail at things because we didn’t truly want them in the first place. If we don’t want the journey, if we only want the results without all the hard work, then it’s not for us.
How to Live a Good Life
We are functioning under misconceptions about what constitutes a good life. When we want the wrong things, when we have the wrong goals, when we take the wrong actions, we end up feeling worse and worse, despite our accomplishments. According to Mark Manson:
Pursuing happiness is the wrong goal.
We think we’ll be happy when we get rid of our problems. But we will never be rid of our problems. We merely switch out one set of problems for another. And, due to the hedonic treadmill, we can never be in a perpetual state of happiness; there are peaks and troughs, but we always return to an equilibrium. Instead of trying to be happy, we should focus on our values. Life will continually throw struggles at us, but we have the ability to choose what struggles we value.
We are not special.
Growing up, especially in the States, we are told we can be anything we want to be. We are told that we are unique, that there is no one else who can do what we can. And because the media only shows us the highs (extraordinary people) and the lows (absolute failures), we start to think that we can only be the best or the worst. If we’re not exceptional, then we’ve failed. Being average has become a failure. That is completely untrue. You can’t have an entire population of above average people; who are they above?
We use the wrong metrics.
In this day and age, comparing ourselves to others is unavoidable. Because of that, we have to choose the right things and the right people to compare ourselves to. A metaphor I’ve heard time and time again is, you can’t compare your start to someone else’s middle/finish. That person has put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get themselves to where they are; you can’t expect to jump into the fray and be at the same place without putting in the work.
Also, if we’re trying to compare material possessions (“keeping up with the Joneses,” if that idiom is still being used), we will never reach a pinnacle of success. There’s always a bigger house or a nicer car or a fancier watch. It’s easy to get sucked into a never-ending vortex of one-up-manship.
Our values justify our sufferings.
An extension of the wrong metrics is having the wrong values. But regardless of that, our values are what helps us to endure suffering. Wanting an expensive lifestyle might not be the best priority to have, but if you value that, it makes working 80-hour weeks easier than if you lived a simple life. Our values are what give purpose to our suffering. But that said, we should try to have the right values.
We are always making a choice, even when we don’t.
Sometimes, it’s easy to avoid making a decision. If we don’t actively make the choice, it feels like we didn’t screw up, like we didn’t have anything to do with it, like it’s not our responsibility. But, that’s wrong. Not making a choice doesn’t mean we’re letting others choose for us. Not making a choice means we are choosing the default. We are still responsible for the consequences of the default.
We are often wrong.
How many times can I say “wrong” in this post? Our memories are often wrong. This is because our brains need to make meaningful connections; our brains will automatically weave a story from the events in our lives. The more we think about something, the stronger the memory becomes, even if that wasn’t how it happened.
Being wrong can be a good thing. The fear of success and/or failure (I have both, how fun) comes from fear of change. We are afraid to change how we see ourselves. If we think we’re not good enough, success threatens that part of our identity. But what if we’re wrong? What if we’re identifying with the wrong thing? What if we were wrong about being a failure? The things we could accomplish, if we were wrong…
We should do just it.
Failure is a part of life, a part of the learning process. There’s no point in waiting for the right moment, because there is no right moment. We won’t ever completely know what we’re doing. We can’t wait for motivation and inspiration to come to us; taking action is what motivates and inspires. Instead of getting caught in the self-doubt, we can pick our commitments and go for it. Focus on what we care about, and say no to the rest.
I was struggling with the writing style and the voice in the beginning, but once I got used to it, the content was exactly what I needed. This is yet another reminder of finding what’s essential. I haven’t read all the articles on Mark Manson’s blog, so I can’t say if the book is new or different. It does help open your eyes to reevaluating your life, to question if this is the life you want to be living, if these are the choices you want to be making.
Get your copy here:
Have you read this book? Do you follow Mark Manson? How do you determine what’s important in your life?