What is the secret to happiness? Wouldn’t it be nice to just stop caring about things? To let go of all the petty annoyances that take up your time, energy, and money—jerks in traffic, going-away parties for colleagues you don’t even like, or your Facebook account—and only focus on the things that truly matter to you?
Not only does blogger Mark Manson think this is possible, he believes it’s the only way to achieve true, lifelong happiness.
In his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Manson doesn’t mince words, nor does he offer the same feel-good motivation and advice that’s typical for self-help books. Instead, he cuts straight to the point and tells readers exactly what they need to hear: The secret to happiness is that you will never be happy all the time. Suffering is a natural part of life. Instead of avoiding suffering, find the things worth suffering for, and focus on those things. And stop giving a f*ck about everything else.
The not so secret to happiness
We give too many f*cks and it’s making us miserable
Before we get into how not to give a fck about things, let’s clarify what Manson means by not giving a fck. Not giving a fck isn’t the same as being indifferent; rather, it’s about being comfortable with being different. It’s about searching for the things that really matter to you and focusing on those things at the exclusion of what’s bringing you misery.
But what exactly is the problem with giving a fck? Manson explains that giving a fck about things isn’t inherently bad, it’s what we give a fck about that’s causing problems.
Self-improvement only reinforces what we think we lack
It’s good to strive for being the best version of yourself, but spending all your energy pursuing new, bigger, and better things only reinforces that you lack those things in the first place. Dreaming about being skinnier or wealthier only reminds you that you aren’t skinny or wealthy. It does nothing to actually improve your situation.
Happiness comes from suffering (for the right things)
“If I only had ___, then I’d be happy.” We’ve all said it once or twice, but the premise that happiness can be solved by one external factor is completely wrong. No one thing can ever permanently end our suffering; in fact, we can’t end our suffering at all! We suffer because it’s biologically useful to us. When we’re unsatisfied with the status quo, we work, fight, and innovate until things are better. Growth is born of suffering. We need the bad things in life to appreciate the good.
Hoping for a life without problems is pointless because it’s impossible. Problems never disappear; they only change or grow. Solving problems, however, is what makes us happy. So, strive for a life full of good problems, problems you’ll want to solve that are worth suffering for.
Nobody is special, and everybody screws up
Your mom was wrong about you. Turns out, you’re pretty average. But that’s okay! So is everyone else. Even if we’re exceptional at one or two things, we’re still probably average or even below average in others. There’s nothing wrong with being average.
The reason we all feel the need to be extraordinary is because extraordinary people and deeds are what we see all the time. Entertainment and social media constantly bombard us with images of exceptional people living exceptional lives. How can we ever measure up?
The truth is: We can’t. So, let’s stop trying.
What do you give a f*ck about?
So is there really a secret to happiness? The objective reality of your situation isn’t nearly as important as your interpretation of it. Whether we know it or not, we are always choosing what to give a fck about, for better or worse. We are always giving a fck about the things that happen to and around us.
Our strength comes from consciously making those choices. We don’t always get to choose our problems, but we are always able to choose how we feel about them and how we react to them. When we take control over the f*cks we give, we can start giving them to the things we really care about and stop worrying about the things we don’t.