The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

by Mark Manson

All of us have things that we care about. But when we really think about it, more often than not, a lot of the things we care about are the things that are keeping us from achieving our full potential. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck teaches you to let go of those things that are detrimental to your happiness by  picking up new habits and ways of thinking that will promote self-development, which in turn, will make you an overall happy person.

Summary Notes

Chapter 1: Don’t Try

The key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a f*ck about less, giving a f*ck about only what is true and immediate and important.

Most people are obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: be happier, be healthier, be better than the rest, etc. However, having these expectations causes you to become hyper aware of your own personal shortcomings and failures. This makes it more difficult for you to achieve those expectations. To put it simply, , wanting to be happier reminds you of your own unhappiness and causes you to remain unhappy.

So, does this mean you should have no expectations at all? Of course not! It just means that you should be more critical of the expectations you have by giving a f*ck about only what truly matters to you and disregarding the rest.

Actions to take

Chapter 2: Happiness Is a Problem

Happiness is not a solvable equation. Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature, and as we’ll see, necessary components to creating consistent happiness.

Life itself is a form of suffering - this means that every single person on this planet must experience suffering in one form or another. This suffering is actually biologically useful as it is nature’s driving force for change. When we are dissatisfied by what we have, we work towards making a change to become satisfied.

Similarly, pain (both physical and psychological) is a universal experience. Although, it is not necessarily always a bad experience. For example, stubbing your toe on a table corner will teach you to be more aware when you are walking to prevent more toe-stubbings. No matter who you are, you will likely have experiences that cause you to feel pain and suffering. Once one problem is solved, another one pops up. This is simply how life works.

So, if pain and suffering are inevitable, how do we achieve happiness?

The answer is: Happiness comes from solving problems. Whatever your problem is, once you address it, and start working towards solving it,, you will feel a sense of relief and happiness that you worked past it. The next time an issues arises, you will be more familiar with the steps for problem solving that you can move on to the next one, and the next one, and so on, feeling happiness all the way. Remember, happiness is not something magically discovered, it grows through activity.

The two biggest things holding people back from solving their problems and feeling happiness are: denial and having a victim mentality. Your problems will exist whether you acknowledge them or not.Acknowledging your problem, but not accepting the responsibility to solve them (for example, you blame someone/something else, or believe there is nothing you can do about the problem), will not make you any closer to resolving the issue, and not make you happier. . The only way out is to face your problem head on and figure out a way to solve it.

Remember, the longer you avoid your problems, the more painful it will be when you finally confront them.

Actions to take

Chapter 3: You Are Not Special

The knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgement or lofty expectations.

Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations, such as being happier, healthier, smarter, faster, richer, sexier, etc. This type of mindset is further propagated by the media, who try to sell being extraordinary. However, they are selling you a lie If you buy into their manner of thinking, you begin to feel inadequate.

If you keep looking for the bigger and the better, you will become overly attached to the superficial and fake, and will spend the rest of your life searching for the happiness and satisfaction that is not there. When you accept yourself, flaws and all, you will achieve true happiness.

Remember, your flaws do not make you any less of a person. Yes, they make you different, but there is nothing wrong with being different! Acknowledging and working on solving your insecurities, will allow you to become more confident and charismatic. You are who you are, and accepting it is the first step towards achieving happiness.

Accepting yourself also means to understand that you will make mistakes. The fear of making a mistake must not keep you from trying again. You may not always be the best, but if you try, and keep trying, you may surprise yourself.

Actions to take

Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering

As Freud once said, ‘One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.’”

Picture the concept of self-awareness as a physical onion with many layers. Becoming self-aware is a process of peeling those layers away to reveal what is underneath. To be self-aware, you must identify and understand the emotions you feel, and characterize your personal values that drive these emotions.

Often, we suffer because we do not live up to the expectations we set for ourselves. These set expectations are based on the personal values we hold. For example: if you value loyalty, you may expect yourself to stay loyal to a boss who overworks you with the hopes of climbing the ladder at that company. When you peel back the layers of the self-awareness onion, you will understand that your value of loyalty, and not your difficult boss, is the root of your suffering. The only way to stop suffering this way is to alter what you value and expect from yourself.

Confronting your inner self is not an easy task; But once you do it, you will gain fresh insight on why you have the problems. This will then help you come up with effective solutions for solving them.

Actions to take

Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing

Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it.

When you feel like you are choosing your problems, you will feel empowered. However, when you feel like your problems are out of your control, being forced upon you, and against your will, you will feel miserable.

It is not always possible to control what happens to you, but what you can control is how you perceive and respond to a situation. The same event can be good or bad, depending on how you choose to interpret it. The most important thing to remember is that YOU are responsible for interpreting and choosing how to respond to each and every event in your life.

You are always choosing, whether consciously or subconsciously. Ignoring a problem is a choice, just like how working towards solving it is another choice. When you feel like your problems are out of your control, it is because you have made subconscious choices that are making the problem worse.

For example, you may feel like your subpar looks are the reason you struggle to find a partner. In this case, you are subconsciously choosing to believe that looks are the only important thing when it comes to finding a partner. On the other hand, if you consciously choose to look for someone who likes you for who you are on the inside, you may just find what you are looking for.

Actions to take

Chapter 6: You’re Wrong About Everything (And So Am I)

Many people become so obsessed with being “right” about their life that they never end up actually living it.

What you believed a few years ago is probably different from what you believe now. Naturally, what you currently believe will be different from what you believe in a few years time. As time passes, you will grow as a person and learn new things that will change the way you view the world.

Personal growth is a never ending process. When you learn something new and apply this to your beliefs, you are not switching from a wrong belief to a right one; you are switching from a wrong belief to a slightly less wrong one. The end goal here is not to find the right belief to have, but rather, to trim our wrong beliefs today, so we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.

Manson’s Law of Avoidance states, “ he more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it”. This means that you will likely avoid whatever threatens to change your beliefs - even the ones that are holding you back. However, when you acknowledge that you are wrong, you give yourself the space to change for the better. If you are certain that you are right, you deny yourself the opportunity to grow.

A majority of the beliefs you hold are probably dated, and oftentimes, these beliefs are holding you back in life. For example, if you believe you are unworthy of love, you will never put yourself in a position to find it and therefore, you never will find it!

Actions to take

Chapter 7: Failure Is the Way Forward

Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.

Every failure you experience is an opportunity to learn something new so that you do not make the same mistakes again. When we avoid failure, we tend to stick to what we are already good at. This limits our opportunities to improve our skills and become better. Remember, every successful person has failed before succeeding - failure is a normal and important part of the process.

Overcoming failure is not easy, for it takes a lot to get back up off the ground and try again. However, once you do something, anything, about the problem you have, you will find the motivation to do more. For example, if you are experiencing writer’s block, sit down and write two hundred words, about anything, every day.. Before you know it, you will have pages and pages of ideas and topics to work from.

Remember, the first step is the hardest - it only gets easier after that.

Actions to take

Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No

The only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives.

Many of us believe that we should be as accepting and affirmative as possible, ie. we believe that we should open ourselves up to different opportunities, say yes to everything and everyone, etc. However, this belief will overshadow everything in your life. After all, if you do not reject anything, what do you stand for?

When you choose a value for yourself, you are rejecting alternative values. For example, if you choose to value your marriage, you are rejecting infidelity. This applies to every area of your life, and it is crucial in finding happiness. Learning how to say the word “no” will help you change your life in the way that you want it to. As with the aforementioned example, when you say “no” to infidelity, you are working towards building a healthy, committed relationship

Actions to take

Chapter 9: … And Then You Die

Death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured.

Death scares us, and because of this fear, we often avoid talking or thinking about it. However, death gives our life meaning - without it, everything would feel inconsequential and arbitrary.

Death is unavoidable, we can’t do anything about it. What we can do, however, is change the world for the better before we’re gone.

Actions to take

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