New Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Caring less about more—and more about what matters.
Posted December 27, 2016 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
Mark Manson, Author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” came up with his best-selling concept that not giving a fuck is actually the key to happiness by accident. He was writing a blog about finding meaning, receiving thousands of emails from people, and began noticing that a lot of their suffering was derived from simply prioritizing and valuing the wrong things. “I was experimenting with different ways to approach the idea that happiness is all about changing your values,” Manson says. “When I wrote an article about the subtle art of not giving a fuck, people loved it and shared it with their friends. So I stuck with that and used it for the book.”
How You Can Choose to be Happier
According to Manson, caring less can actually lead to more happiness. It’s all about the choices we make about what to care about. He uses his own life as an example. “I was a big party guy in my twenties, and kind of a playboy as well,” he explains. “I adopted a lot of values and goals that were fairly superficial and, in many cases, self-destructive. They looked cool and sounded sexy on the surface, but underneath there was no real meaning going on, just a lot of escapism. My life was about racking up these checklists of ‘cool’ stuff I had done.”
After a number of years, Manson’s life began to feel empty. That's when he started getting introspective about what he had been choosing to care about and what it was really getting him. Ultimately, that led to an understanding of the difference between emotional highs and true happiness.
“Most people chase highs,” Manson explains. “Highs make you feel good. They sound fun. They impress people. Happiness is harder. Happiness requires struggle and boredom and sacrifice. Real happiness comes from discovering a sense of importance in one's actions and in one's life.”
Eight Things That People Care Way Too Much About
According to Manson, some of the most common things people care way too much about include:
- Impressing other people
- Being right all the time
- Being "successful"
- Being pleasant and polite
- Being happy
- Feeling good all the time
- Being "perfect"
- Feeling secure and certain
“When we care too much about these things, we spend most of our time avoiding our problems rather than dealing with them,” Manson says. “We start caring way too much about that new TV show, or how many likes we're getting on Facebook, or what our mother will think of our new house plant. These are bad values that turn us into frivolous people.”
So, how do we change our values? The first step, according to Manson, is to get real about what we honestly do care about — not what we think we should care about.
Figure Out What You Honestly Care About
Here’s Manson’s simple litmus test in figuring out what you honestly care about: actions never lie. You may, for example, say your kids mean everything in the world to you, and even want that to be true. But if you're neglecting to pick them up from school because there's a sale going on at the mall, that's an indication your values may lie elsewhere.
“The first step in making better choices is to simply be brutally honest about your own behavior to yourself,” Manson explains. “What are the choices you are making? How are you spending your time? What are you neglecting that you shouldn't? Initially, your tendency will be to try to pin these decisions on other people or circumstances. But ultimately, the choice is always yours.”
Here’s the good news/bad news: You are always choosing what to value more, moment by moment. And, according to Manson, that’s how change happens — slowly, moment by moment, with every choice you make.
Choose to Care About MORE
According to Manson, once you get clear about what you actually care about (and stop crying, because chances are, it will hurt to admit), the next step is to ask, "What if?"
Start with hypotheticals, such as:
- What if I didn't care about that sale at the mall? What would my behavior be?
- What if I didn't care so much about impressing the people at work, what decisions I would make?
- What if I didn't care so much about my sex life, how would I behave?
“Spend some time thinking about these ‘what ifs,’” Manson suggests. “Write down these scenarios if you need to. Imagine a world that exists with different values and see how your behaviors would be different.”
Just Do It!
The final step in choosing to give up caring about the things that don’t really matter and changing your values is to take action. “You will fail a number of times—and that's fine,” Manson says. “The point is to keep doing it until your behaviors line up with your new values.”