Why happiness is cloaked in not giving a shit

Published February 15, 2016   Posted in How to Think

One of my favorite articles that I have ever read comes from Mark Manson, a guy who notoriously gives it to us straight without regard to political correctness or emotional attachment. One might say that he truly doesn’t give a shit.

pinterest-fewer-shitsBut on the other hand, he clearly does, and this paradox is fascinating.

His article titled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” blasts through why giving too many fucks about stupid things that we cannot control, or holding spurious expectations that we all MUST BE HAPPY, can wind up causing us shitloads of grief – and for no good reason.

And as blog posts tend to do, it got me thinking about, well, me.

I am happy. I may not smile every second of the day. I may not frolic in fields of dandelions set against a backdrop of rolling hills with melodies of the Sound of Music filling the air, but I am a genuinely happy person.

And more times than not, I just don’t give a shit. I go with the flow and let things happen as they may. Sure, I have goals just like anyone else and I work my ass off to accomplish those goals. Not giving a shit is very different from not caring about life. Very, very different.

Because when we don’t give a shit, what we really mean is we don’t give a shit about trouble or difficulty. Those things that stand between us and accomplishing our goals? Yeah, those are the things we don’t give a shit about. We stiff-arm the shit out of them and proceed along our way. We take the Marshawn Lynch approach and simply run over the defense rather than letting it tackle us.

Maybe there is something to this “not giving a shit” thing.

How not giving a shit makes us happy

It is not easy to not give a shit, and I don’t yet have it perfected, either. The key is to find the things that matter the most and pursue them like they are going out of style but to also shrug indifferently when things don’t matter for your life. After all, we can’t tackle everything. Just ask the Miami Dolphins defense. When we try to give too many shits, we fail ourselves.

This minion just doesn't give a shit.

This minion just doesn’t give a shit.

The fewer shits we give, the more relaxed, confident and focused we become for the things we should be giving shits about. Like our health. Like our relationships. Like our happiness.

I have learned over the years that we are happiest when these two beautiful things come together in perfect harmony:

We understand what we want out of life and We realize that life is not perfect, and shit happens

Most of us know how to care too hard, but far too few of us have mastered not giving a shit. That’s right, most of us just give too many shits, and the younger we are, the more shits we tend to give.

For example, we give too many shits about sports. Our hearts pound in our chests in close games and we yell and curse at our TVs and referees. Our blood pressure rises to insane heights. We kill people in soccer stadiums and loot stores after games.

We give too many shits about our jobs. We literally work ourselves to death for the sake of large, nameless corporations. We care about fancy job titles and wielding power. We sweat our next “performance review” and raise cycle.

We give a shit about whether we’re right every second of the day. We argue our point and keep arguing until someone gives up.

We also tend to give a shit about what other people think of us.

Stop that shit.

Consider your shits limited

Play a game with yourself and pretend that the number of shits that you can give is limited to just a couple a day. Once you have given your allotted number of shits, you’re done. You must live out the rest of the day completely stress-free and unfazed by stupid shit that we probably shouldn’t care about anyway. Seriously, you’re free. You’re off the clock.

Okay, while this is a completely unrealistic game to play, it is important to understand that we can’t give a shit about everything. We die young when we let hundreds of shits fall from the sky like hail pelting our windshield on the way home from corporate work, grabbing those shits as they fall.

Clearly, this "ET" dog gives no shits.

Clearly, this “ET” dog gives no shits.

Don’t take so many of those shits (hah!). Let them fall by the wayside and just drive your car home. Hop out, throw down your work shit and be yourself. Just be your own damn self – if you happen to know what that is.

This is the magically awesome part about true happiness.

Imagine the energy we’d have only giving a shit about the things that make a difference in our lives. Suddenly, the little things no longer bother us. Cursing in blog posts no longer seems like such a big fucking deal. That word you completely massacred in your speech in front of 200 people? You now realize nobody fucking noticed, much less cares. Only you care.

That acrobatic cartwheel shit your dog does? That instantly becomes the best thing ever.

You now have the confidence to go through life absolutely killing it. Your energetic ass confronts problems like it never has before. You brush stupid shit off your shoulder and move the fuck on. Your politically-insane friend no longer gets off by arguing with you about politics because you give no shits about what he thinks, and he knows it.

That asshole who made fun of you back in grade school because you wore your socks too high up? Who gives a shit? In fact, that incessant torment has made you into the person that you are today, ignoring gratuitous shit in your life and flourishing beyond your wildest imagination.

This is some serious happiness.

Now go out there and stop giving so many shits. Just be happy.

We track our net worth using Personal Capital


45 responses to “Why happiness is cloaked in not giving a shit”

  1. EAWoods62 says:

    I really like this concept, and I started practicing it last year. What I came to realize is that I cared far more than most people about things that only effected me. I still struggled each day with my self-imposed sense of standards. However, I am now able to work through how much energy I put toward them. Pay raises and promotions are high on the list. Now I just don’t give a shit. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Steve says:

      Yup, pay raises and promotions are high on a lot of lists – a popular item for sure. After all, they can kick start retirement savings and can definitely shorten the time it takes to get to early retirement. Ain’t nothing wrong with adding a little extra green to your stash!

  2. Fun post! Reminds me (in a way) of the Janis Joplin lyric “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. I have to say that despite resigning my job a week ago and just going in the office to work toward my final day on 4/1, it IS very hard to not give a shit. Even though I have nothing at stake, it is difficult not to get pulled into the political gravity of the workplace.

    • Steve says:

      I definitely agree, MrFireStation – especially if you’ve invested so much of your time in the past to a job, it is tough to not give a shit. Just remember that not giving a shit doesn’t mean you’re completely apathetic. Rather, it just means you’re no longer prepared to accept stressful responsibilities. Well done once again on your resignation notice. Jealous = me. 🙂

  3. Curious Steve….you post your net worth but, I was curious about your investing philosophy. Growth ETS? Dividend income stocks only? Asset allocation? Thanks !!!

    • Steve says:

      Steve – I have a very simple investment philosophy. I don’t do ETFs or dividend stocks. I invest very simply in managed and diversified funds like Vanguard’s LifeStrategy and Targeted Retirement accounts. I have never bought an individual stock in my life and, most likely, never will. My wife has some money in individual stocks that we’re letting grow, but that is about it. The S&P most closely resembles my investments, so when it does well, so do I. 🙂

      Pretty boring, I know – but it has worked very, very well for us.

  4. I’ve consciously tried to be better at this. I used to (and still do to an extent) worry too much about what’s going on around me. I’ve made some decent sized strides in the past two years but there is definitely further to go. Only issue is I guess it can come off as not caring, when in fact I do care about important things and loved ones, but I just don’t sweat the small stuff as much as others may want me to. But that’s all part of learning to not give a shit I guess. It definitely limits my stress levels for sure.

  5. Some really great shit here! I try not to let thing outside of my control affect me. Why waste time and energy on these things. Why let people you don’t care about have control over you. By not giving a shit about these thing you can reduce stress and live a much happier life. It’s worked for me.

  6. Maarten says:

    Love the post. Not giving a shit (which I don’t anymore since I retired some time ago) doesn’t necessarily bring happiness for me but it practically eliminates all stress. Stress can certainly lead to unhappiness.

    I would like to think everyone should apply this lifestyle of not-giving-a-shit but I have to take exception when it comes to work. Not giving a shit at work (and I’ve seen plenty of it) can work out for the individual but it can negatively affect the people around him/her. Others tend to have to pick up the slack or make up for mistakes/omissions from the person that didn’t give a shit.

    So with that said; if you can separate the not-giving-a-shit from your obligations, then go ahead: find your happiness by not giving a shit (feels good to write down, doesn’t it?).

    • Steve says:

      Stress is a huge part of not giving a shit, Maarten – very, very huge. I think you are right, though, that there is a fine line between not giving a shit and actively shirking your responsibilities, which you certainly want to avoid at all costs. Especially when people are depending on you, like at work.

  7. Haha, well said. I have noticed that I get worked up about things I don’t ultimately care about too often, and thus waste emotional energy. Luckily I also can recognize that I won’t care in a day or two, and that makes it easier to weather. I have found that I save a lot of money by not giving a shit about a lot of things. Being less picky about what I wear, eat, drive, or furnish my home with allows us to save more and spend on the things we do care about, like travel.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Kalie! Being able to recognize when you’re churning up emotional energy for something that you ultimately won’t care about in a day or two is a huge, huge advantage. Most people definitely don’t have that ability. And pickiness…yeah, that’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine – especially the picky eating thing. I understand there will be foods that we just don’t enjoy, but being picky is more times than not all in the mind. 🙂

  8. amber tree says:

    Thtat is a true challenge for me… giving less shits… I wish I could do it.

    I do think to much about the possible outcomes and events that can occur and then my mind starts to wander away… Someone gave a good framework. It comes down to this: I you can influence it, take action, if not, let it go…Looks easy on paper, not so easy for me.

    • Steve says:

      It’s true that this is much easier on paper than to implement. I’ve found that things generally work out…if you let them. Too much meddling often winds up diminishing the potential return – at least it has in my case. So, I’ve learned to leave well enough alone and let the natural order of things work out a lot in life. It works great for me.

  9. Stockbeard says:

    I don’t give a shit about this article.

    Kidding. It’s actually pretty powerful stuff, thanks!

  10. I fucking love this article. It’s made my day. I give zero shits about most things, except I cannot let my husband win an argument. I need to give less shits about that. I know I’m right inside, so it doesn’t really matter 😉
    Agree also, giving less shits about almost everything means I drive a shitty car, live in a dodgy-ish neighbourhood and dress my kids in hand-me-downs. Giving less shits has enabled me to be a stay at home mum, travel the world with my family for 15 months and now pursue my own business. Not giving a shit what people think about you is empowering, but so hard to do as we are conditioned to please and impress from a young age. Break that cycle and true happiness is within reach.

  11. I definitely have not mastered the art of not giving a shit. I practically shit at the sign of the merest trouble. And no one to give it to!

    I’m working on it. I no longer hide under the blanket when bad things come our way. That’s progress, right?

  12. My grandma always used to say, “Shit happens and it happened to me.” (Pretty great, right?!) She never meant it as a complaint – just like a “meh” and move on kind of thing. I definitely am not programmed to shrug things off, but I am getting better at it. Loved this post, Steve!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Penny! I like that attitude – shit happens. It always will happen. That’s life…but if we get ourselves stressed out every time it does happen, we might find ourselves a lot more stressed out than we need to be. I’ve found that if you truly believe that most things will work out in the end, then you remove most of the reasons behind stress to begin with. 🙂

  13. Yes and yes. Thank you so much for this post, Steve! I’ve been doing better with this, but it is definitely still something to keep working on. When you say that people master caring too hard – that definitely spoke to me. I started to realize that in the process, I was forgetting to take care of myself too. I am fortunate that my fiance has mastered this & really takes on mindfulness. He’s the one to remind me that I’ve met my quota and to just move on & be happy. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Perfect, Alyssa. It’s nice to have your partner remind you to just sit back and relax every once in a while. And I’m sure that you remind him every now and then that some things really do need focus! 🙂

  14. Our biggest breakthrough has been not in giving fewer shits (in fact, sometimes we needed to give more), but in learning to know what’s worth giving a shit about, and what’s not. Sometimes this distinction is less obvious than it should be! And of course we aspire to stop giving all the shits about work soon! But taking on that attitude too soon would derail our early retirement plans. (We kinda need those big bonuses to make it all happen!) 😉

    • Steve says:

      Knowing what shits to give is an important element in this equation, no doubt. But even still, sometimes it’s tough knowing which situations are ripe for shit-giving. In my experience, the general rule of “the fewer, the better” has worked marvels! 🙂

  15. Mr. Groovy says:

    Fuckin’ nice post, Steve. When I was young, I thought sports were important. My whole week would be ruined if the Cowboys lost on Sunday. Fast-forward thirty or so years, and I don’t care if the Cowboys (or any NFL team for that matter) ever play again. In fact, this past season, I only watched one game–the Super Bowl. And that was only because my mom is a big Panther fan.

    I didn’t begin flexing my don’t-give-a-shit muscles until Mrs. Groovy and I relocated to Charlotte almost ten years ago. We finally got our financial house in order and had some breathing room. And it was soon after that, perhaps a year or so into my encore career, when my don’t-give-a-shit muscles began to blossom. It started slowly with Fridays. I no longer gave a shit if any particular Friday was a payday. Then I no longer gave a shit whenever utilities and cable nickled and dimed us. In 2010, I didn’t give a shit when dad wanted to celebrate his 70th birthday in Italy. I wasn’t planning on spending $7k on a vacation, but fuck it. Dad wanted to go to Italy, so Mrs. Groovy and I followed.

    Now, since I’m on the cusp of retirement, I can not-give-a-shit with the best of them. News? Don’t give a shit. Haven’t watched the local news or read a local paper in years. Election? Don’t give a shit. Hillary, Bernie, or Donald will save us. Just like Barack did. Stock market about to implode? Don’t give a shit. Bring on the correction.

    Thanks, Steve, for defining and naming a philosophy that truly turbo-charges your pursuit of happiness. I only wish I could have developed this attitude thirty years ago. Cheers.

    • Steve says:

      Haha, thanks Groovy – fucking love your comment! Your attitude is completely refreshing, believe me! I used to be a 24/hour news junky, but suffice it to say, not any more! Cheers to you too, good sir!

    • Amt says:

      Agreed…. I just had the best job Interview ever. I didn’t give a shit wether I got it or not (kinda). I already have full time job (that helps me not give a shit) I just wanted to add a few more hours to my regular pay check. I was applying for an elder care job. So I answered questions really honestly with a comedic flare just being myself. Just one example was when I was asked what kind of elderly activities I liked such as bingo, knitting, board games etc. I said to the interviewer “oh i like Bingo actually and board games …
      and I can fake liking knitting and crocheting and puzzles”. I was happy to be myself and addmit I didn’t give shit about some elder activities. Although i DO give a shit about tbe actual people i work with, its the company that matters not the activity we’re doing. They appreciated that. And it felt great to be able to be myself and laugh about it. Of course I got hired.

  16. […] references his sense of humor it also refers to his outlook on life. In his own non-childlike words he just doesn’t give very many shits about anything. Like a child he lives in the moment. He finds extreme joy when doing something he enjoys doing. He […]

  17. […] I am focused only on writing quality and entertaining content that I give a shit about (but not too many shits!). That’s my […]

  18. Stephanie Knight says:

    Luv the shit out of this.

  19. Whitney says:

    I enjoyed this article and well on the flip side why do people care that you don’t give a shit ? Why do they want you to give a shit ? It’s a catch 22 around most people I know . You are damned if you give a shit and damned if you don’t so where is the fucking middle ground ? Ehh oh well hell it is what it is I reckon .

    • Steve says:

      Hah! Yup, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. People just care too much about what other people are doing and thinking, I guess. Weird, I tell you!

  20. Derek says:

    love, love, love it.

    I think the key is found here… “giving too many fucks about stupid things that we cannot control”.

    It’s caring too much and spending too much time on “stupid things that we can’t control” that makes for wasted time and energy.

    Spending time and energy on awesome things that we CAN control is a great way to spend our time and energy.

    Anyway, thanks for the great reminder. I’ve actually got some shit in my life right now that I need to let go of because it’s both stupid and I can’t control it!!!

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Thanks Derek – this was definitely a fun article for me to write. But yeah, the less we worry about things we can’t control, the more stress free we become. Mark it! 🙂

  21. TigerLily says:

    Recently discovered your blog and totally dig it, and I especially LOVED this post! After getting fired from a really really shtty job several weeks ago, I realized that I gave WAY too many shts about this company and my icky boss, and the ending of the job was a true Blessing.
    Life is too damn short NOT to be happy!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks TigerLily! Appreciate the comment, and I love your attitude regarding that J.O.B. of yours. I think you said it best with, “Life is too damn short NOT to be happy!”


  22. Kristi says:

    I understand that I am quite late to the party.. But, I just LOVE your Marshawn reference & Dolphins slams!! Well done!! I suppose the post was useful, too 😉 In all seriousness, I am guilty of giving too many fucks on multiple occasions. I appreciate this post and I look forward to reading the post referenced right up front! I need to implement some of these “how to give less shits” concepts into my daily routine. Thanks for a great read! #gobills

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