Knowing what to care about and what to pass on

I just finished reading a really interesting book called The Art of Not Giving a F*. Actually, I read a really good summary of it. The main message of the book was pretty simple. Life is full of choices. Some stuff is simply beyond our own control but most of it is stuff we can choose whether or not to care about. If we have set up clear values for our life and priorities for ourselves and let them guide our actions it is easier to control choosing those things we give a you know what about. And the more we choose to exercise this control, the more happiness and freedom we will experience. There are some actionable steps you can take to help with this. This biggest is to avoid blame. We need to take responsibility for our choices and not put that on others. Passing the buck onto someone else can give us a brief sense of relief but it doesn’t last. And it turns out that people get addicted the feeling that creates. Sometimes it is moral superiority and sometimes it is a victim complex. But at the end of the day, if you are going to live the life you want you have to start taking responsibility for your actions.

We try to do it all. So many options surround us all the time and it makes choosing very hard and we spend all our energy on the choices and never actually get anything done. It’s important to find out what is important to us and do that thing if we are going to be truly happy. The rest, well you need to learn to not give a F about it. I want to find my purpose in life. Don’t you?

We spend so much time trying to avoid suffering. Society tells us to do this. But really, it’s not such a great idea. Pain is essential to happiness. Pain shows us what isn’t working. The suffering we experience along the way shows us a better way to be or live. To turn suffering into joy, you have to focus on your purpose. Ask yourself honestly why you do the things you do. By looking closely at those motives it will lead you to your purpose – the thing you really want. Then find the values that help you reach what it is you want. Then when the problems come up, you take responsibility and get them dealt with. You can’t fear failure, either. It’s a very helpful tool for figuring out self-improvement. You don’t have to be right all the time, instead you have to be improving. Embracing uncertainty is the key to this. Reject all the crap you think you know and be ready to change. Challenge your preconceived notions and question everything.

The other thing, and this one struck me, is that we all fear death and coming to terms with that allows us to exist in the moment. We create a conceptual self to keep ourselves alive in the memories of others after we are gone. Its the culmination of all our actions and projects but we need to forget about creating that crazy thing and life in the present. Be happy right now.

Stop Waiting

I’m guilty. Looking and waiting for the next thing that will make me happy. For the weekend, for vacation, for a big change. But happiness doesn’t come in the waiting. Happiness comes when you stop waiting and make the most of what is right now.

I read an interesting and short little essay on this very subject. We all spend time figuring out how to be happy. We ask our friends, “Are you happy?” We think if we can solve our problem, we can finally be happy. But really, the most important question isn’t how to be happy, it is much more fundamental than that. What if, instead, we all asked ourselves how to pay attention to important things?

What if we paid more attention to climate change instead of Kim Kardashian? Or sex trafficking instead of Netflix?

Then we could address these problems with clear leadership and popular support. And if we could solve our most pressing problems, the solutions to the other ones would fall into line.