What it Takes to Get the “F&%# it” Attitude
Not caring too much will liberate you from fear, doubt, and inhibition.
Posted July 17, 2013
I introduced you to the “F&%# it!” attitude in my last post. As I indicated in that post, if you can adopt this somewhat “out there” perspective, you will free yourself to pursue your life with fear or inhibition. But I have to tell you that the “f&%# it!” attitude doesn’t come easily. The fact is that most of us are so heavily invested in all aspects of our life that it’s a real challenge to let go. But I’m sure you know that anything worth having takes time, effort, and patience. And the “f&%# it!” attitude is achievable and, yes, oh so worth it.
F&%# It! Takes Courage
Saying “f&%# it” to yourself and the world is scary. Your life as it is now may not make you happy, but you’ve been at it long enough that it is at least familiar and predictable, which offers some comfort in and of itself. Your life may not be great now, but you’ve had years of practice at it and you’ve learned how to manage it pretty well.
When you say “F&%# it!,” you are giving up all that is familiar, predictable, and controllable in your life and, in a way, the comfort that accompanies it. In its place, you are entering a psychological and emotional landscape that is unfamiliar and uncertain and may not be entirely within your control. Though this shift can be unsettling at first, I assure you that you will find it liberating after a while.
That is why courage may be the single most important characteristic for embracing the “f&%#-it!” attitude and changing your life. Letting go of your fears and making a change requires risk and risk is daunting because when you risk, you may fail (of course, the other side of the coin is that only by taking risks can you truly succeed).
Courage in the process of changing your life means the willingness to "look in the mirror" and acknowledge aspects of yourself that you may not know about or may not like about yourself. Courage allows you to explore your inner world and to not run from "bad" emotions you might feel as learn about yourself. Courage enables you to say “f&%#-it!,” free yourself from the shackles of your old life, and, to paraphrase Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, “boldly go where you have never gone before.”
Courage also provides the commitment you need to initiate a new life and the conviction to adhere to that new path. Courage enables you to resist your old unhealthy habits and patterns, and to make difficult choices to do what is in your best interests, however uncomfortable it might initially make you feel. It is courage that enables you to let go of the familiarity and comfort of your past life and grab on to the hope that a new life will provide you.
Courage emboldens you to say “f&%#-it!” to values, beliefs, and attitudes that don’t bring you happiness and embrace those that are important to you now. It allows you to act in ways that strengthen rather than undermine your self-esteem. Courage encourages you to take ownership of your life and assume responsibility for everything you do, including your mistakes and failures, as well as achievements and successes. At the same time, courage allows you to jettison the overinvestment that creates fear, doubt, and reluctance as you engage in your world. Finally, courage allows you to welcome and accept all of your emotions knowing that only by experiencing the full spectrum of emotions will you ever be able to fully experience the "good" ones such as joy, excitement, fulfillment and happiness.
Having the courage to accept the “f&%#-it!” attitude and begin the process of changing your life is much like jumping into cold water. You know it will be a shock at first. It will be uncomfortable and you will initially regret having taken the plunge. But, after you are in the water for a short while, you begin to adapt to the coldness. What was then intimidating is now approachable. What had been unknown is now familiar. What was then painful is now invigorating.
“F&%# it” Takes a Leap of Faith
The problem with saying “f&%# it!” is that it will produce a sea change in your life. Change can sound like a good idea in theory, but, in practice, it is not always so clear. If you say “f&%# it!,” you don’t what might come out of your Pandora’s Box.
You can never know for sure whether you can actually shift your life in the direction in which you want to go or, if you succeed, whether that change will be what you really want. No one, not your family, your friends, your clergy, or your psychotherapist, can foresee what will happen to your life if you change it. There is going to be that fear of the unknown; how will you change psychologically and emotionally, and how will your world around you change if you adopt the “f&%# it!” attitude?
Ultimately, if you really want to say “f&%# it!” and change your life, you must take a leap of faith. A great philosopher once said, "You do or you do not. There is no try." No, it wasn't Aristotle or Socrates who spoke those simple, yet profound words; the great thinker was... Yoda, the Jedi Master of Star Wars fame (actually, George Lucas, but you get the idea). The leap of faith begins with the conviction that you don't want to continue down the path that your current life has been taking you any longer, that it will only bring you more unhappiness and discontent. The leap of faith involves having a basic belief in yourself and a fundamental trust in the vision of who, what, and where you want to be in the future. The leap of faith involves the belief that good things will happen when you say “f&%# it!,” that when you free yourself from the shackles that currently bind you, you will create a healthy, new life.
I often use an analogy from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Indiana Jones is in search of the Holy Grail (An appropriate metaphor here, wouldn't you say?). He is following a map that leads him along a treacherous path toward the Holy Grail. Near the end of his journey, Jones comes to a seemingly bottomless chasm across from which is the doorway to the Holy Grail. There is no apparent bridge across the abyss, yet the map shows a picture of a man stepping into the void and speaks of taking a leap of faith that will enable Jones to traverse the gap. Mustering his courage, Jones takes that leap of faith and finds that there is an invisible bridge that he can walk across to seize the Holy Grail. Against the direst of consequences if he was wrong (plummeting to his death!), Jones had the faith to choose the path that led him to the Holy Grail. Similarly, you must also have the strength of your conviction to take that initial leap of saying “f&%# it!” (especially realizing that your worst-case scenario is nothing like that faced by Indiana Jones, though that was just a film, of course).
The leap of faith in adopting the f&%$ it attitude begins with, well, faith, that you can change your life. That faith starts by the conviction that you just can’t continue your life as it is any longer. It also involves focusing on the positive aspects of change and directing your energy and efforts onto the encouraging new course of your life. Recognize also that some misgivings are a normal part of the process—you can never be 100 percent sure that things will work out the way you want—if you didn't have doubts, it wouldn't require a leap of faith.
You should also regularly dream about the new life that you envision and how wonderful it will feel to find that which you seek. The leap of faith will then initiate an positive upward spiral that will transform your leap of faith into a growing confidence that you can and will change your life for the better.
You must also understand that this leap of faith is not blind faith. Rather, you have a lifetime of knowledge and skills that you can marshal to change your life. Hopefully, you also have extensive resources—family, friends and other forms of support—to bolster your efforts.
The “F&%# it” Payoff
If you accept the “f&%#-it!” attitude, you can be sure that, at the end of a day, a year, or your life, you will not have to experience the most frustrating of all emotions—regret. What does regret mean? That you wish you had done something differently. The sad reality is that there are no dress rehearsals in life, there is no time machine that gives you opportunities for do-overs. You get one shot at life, so you might as well take it otherwise there will be a whole lot of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” when you look in the rearview mirror of your life.
Regret relates to action or inaction. Life presents all kinds of opportunities to you. You then have a choice whether to embrace or reject the opportunity. You can take a leap of faith and risk plummeting to your death (metaphorically speaking, of course). Or you can keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and ensure your safety, while also missing out on what the opportunity had to offer.
I don’t know many people who have regrets for what they did, for when they acted on an opportunity, even if it didn’t work out. I do know many people who have immense regret for what they didn’t do, for when they failed to act when an opportunity arose, whether the job not taken, the idea not pursued, or the person not asked out on a date. Yet, when your life is blocked by the obstacles of overinvestment in your life, regret is what you will surely experience.
I came across a blog written by a nurse who takes care of dying patients. The post described the five regrets that she heard most frequently from her patients. The first regret is perhaps the most elemental because it lies at the heart of the mindblocks that I discussed in a previous post: “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
So much of the lack of meaning, satisfaction, and happiness that people experience can be boiled down to the fact that they are not living a life that is consistent with their true selves, values, and goals. This incongruence creates a tension that can only lead to an unfulfilled life. The “f&%#-it!” attitude empowers you to jettison the expectations of others and create a life that is authentic and rewarding.
When you have the “f&%#-it!” attitude, you are encouraged to embrace every opportunity you come upon. Of course, many of those opportunities will lead to dead ends and, in some cases, devastation or heartbreak. You will naturally feel disappointed that they didn’t turn out the way you wanted. But that feeling of disappointment will be mild and short lived compared to the feeling of regret you would feel if you didn’t “take your shot.” At the same time, along with that sadness at the failed opportunity, there is also an upside. You will feel a certain pride in knowing that at least you went for it and gave it your all. As the saying goes, “You can’t score if you don’t take the shot” (or even get in the game).
Along with regret is a question that will gnaw at you for every missed opportunity and chance to take action that passed you by: “I wonder what could have been?” You don’t have a crystal ball in which you can gaze into the miasma of the past to see what would have happened if you had let go of your fears and gone for it. Of course, good things don’t always happen when you take action, but I’m going to argue that more good things happen when you go for it than when you run from it. There’s another old saying that, “It’s better to make errors of commission than errors of omission.” Even if things don’t work as planned, at least you know and, with that knowledge, you don’t spend your living (and dying days) wondering what could have been.
At the end of any given day, the past year, when you retire, or on your death bed, you want to look back on your life and be able to say “I left it all out there.” You can only do that when you are not afraid of life. And the only way to not fear life is to adopt the “f&%#-it!” attitude.
When you say “f&%# it!,” you liberate yourself from those forces that have, until now, taken your life in a direction that has been unsatisfying and unfulfilling. With the “f&%#-it!” attitude, you have freedom from fear, doubt, anger, shame, and despair, all of which prevent you from leading the life that you truly want. It also means you have the freedom to hope, feel, accept, engage, and strive, all which propel you to live that healthy life that may have eluded you for so many years.
What does it feel like to say “f&%# it!?” Not long ago, I was working with an accomplished businesswoman, Tricia, who came to me because she felt she was living a life of profound emptiness. Her job had created a truly unhealthy lifestyle of too much travel, too little sleep, and poor eating. She had little time to exercise, had put on considerable weight, and just felt lousy about herself. Plus, the long hours at work prevented her from maintaining meaningful friendships or exploring romantic relationships. After several months exploring all that was causing Tricia to lead such a toxic life, she decided to take the risk of adopting the “f&%#-it!” attitude, figuring that she had nothing to lose. One day, Tricia came to my office and told me that she had an exciting and healing epiphany the previous night. With tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, she said, “I realized that I would never have to go back to the way I used to live my life. I have never felt such joy!”