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.
But 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.
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.
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.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.