You are not special. Happiness is a problem. Suffering should not be avoided. You are wrong in everything.
These ideas go against almost all personal development materials. And these are some of the ideas that form the basis of Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
This title represents the rejection of the pursuit of a successful ideal imposed by society. It is getting rid of the pressure to be always thinking positive. It is not accepting the feeling of inferiority because your life does not correspond to what others expect from you.
In today’s Arata Academy Summary we will learn about a different strategy for you to have a better life by breaking free from the pressure of having to look happy and optimistic all the time.
Even if you do not agree with all the ideas presented, see how they have the power to start a reflection on the paths you are planning for your own life.
Positive thinking is not the key to happiness
Many personal development materials propagate the idea that positive thinking is the key to being happier, richer and more productive.
This idea also seems to have contaminated social networks. Many profiles of companies, celebrities, influencers and even our friends try to build on this idea of a positive, optimistic and even extraordinary life.
However, we know that real life is not like that. Not all people are extraordinary. And even the lives of extraordinary people are not made only of special moments. And that’s fine.
The first step in rejecting this idea of perfect life is to accept that you are not special. It is accepting the negative aspects of your life. It is clear that not every opportunity in the world will serve you.
This message is especially valuable for sufferers trying to live a reality that is not viable. If you are one of those people who have long tried to live a life far beyond your reality, this acceptance will bring you a feeling of tranquility and satisfaction. By lowering your expectations, you also decrease your frustration.
I know you have probably heard the advice that you should not give up on your dreams. This is good advice, but in practice it can be a great source of dissatisfaction.
For example, let’s say you have the dream of being a professional soccer player. You tried, but you’re thirty-five years old and you’ve never played a game professionally. Should you really insist on that? Wouldn’t it be better to give up on this dream and look for more achievable ones?
Not giving up on your dreams brings a problem. The problem with you always being focused on what you do NOT have. In a future you would like it to be a certain way. But it makes you stop enjoying the present moment, you stop appreciating and thanking what you already have.
The more we try to feel good all the time, the more dissatisfied we are, because the search for something only reinforces the fact that we don’t have that thing.
What would be the alternative? Accept the negative aspects of our life. Accept our limitations. Accept our failures.
You don’t have to be indifferent to everything
You don’t need to be indifferent to what others think of you. You don’t have to ignore the problems of life. You don’t have to be angry at personal development.
This is a mistaken view. You should not be apathetic and indifferent to everything in your life. You must become someone who learns to be comfortable with failures, differences, and life’s own limitations.
You should not be indifferent to what other people will think of you. What you need to do is stop caring about small details that have little impact on your life. It is necessary to prioritize attention on what really matters.
You do not have the power to choose what happens to your life. But you have the ability to choose what you want to care about. And your focus determines your reality.
The pursuit of happiness can become a problem
Stop trying to solve all the problems in your life to finally be happy. Do you know that idea we have that if we had a certain body type, if we had a certain amount of money or even if we had a good love relationship we would be much happier?
This is an idea studied for thousands of years. And the conclusion is that this ideal happiness never comes. As soon as we achieve the goals we think will make us happy, new goals come up immediately. And the cycle never ends.
This quest for an ideal life will never be completed. Instead, it is better to accept that pain, loss and problems are part of our existence and should not be avoided.
Do not condition your happiness to the achievement of what you want or to the escape from what you do not want. This makes it much easier to experience happiness every day of your life.
Accept that you are not special
You may have heard in some program, book, course, or social network the idea that you are special. This is a very widespread message today to increase people’s self esteem and help them achieve their goals.
But this approach has a big problem. Believing to be special makes you feel entitled, that is, as if you are entitled to results. Entitled people make less effort to overcome difficulties.
The problem with believing you are special is that when something good happens in your life, you believe it is your own merit. And when something unwanted happens, you will have a tendency to blame others because, as you are special, the mistake was not yours. This impairs the ability to take responsibility and make improvements.
Do not confuse being unique with being special. You are unique. Your life experiences, your ideas, your dreams are different from other people. But just being unique doesn’t mean you’re special. If everyone is special, no one is special. Or everybody is special and that makes no difference.
Some people come to believe that they are special because of some trauma they suffered. These people begin to feel victims and begin to act as victims.
Believing that you are special leads people to act more selfishly, as if the world owes them something. This kind of self-centeredness, of keeping your full attention on yourself, is a sure source of dissatisfaction.
Believing that you SHOULD BE special makes people compare themselves to other people they see on television, at the movies or on social networks.
You keep comparing your backstage with the stage of others and that only brings frustration. The desire to have more positive experiences is in itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of a negative experience is in itself a positive experience.
So the way out is to accept that you are not special, in the sense that not all people can be extraordinary at all. In some things you are good, in others not, and everything is fine. This diversity is one of the graces of life.
Suffering has its value
Another very popular idea today is to avoid suffering. We are always trying to avoid problems. This makes us always looking for more comfort, more safety, more easy things.
The point is that suffering can also make us grow. For this, we need to develop our self-knowledge. When you understand what values guide your life, you will have a better understanding of your failures and successes.
Good values are 1) realistic, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable. For example, honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for what you believe, respect, humility, creativity.
Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially harmful, and 3) not immediate or controllable. For example: manipulation, violence, hedonism, wanting to be the center of attention, getting rich to be able to show off.
Prioritizing better values is choosing to care about better things. These things bring us better problems, and with them, life is better.
When you are clear about what you value most, you take control of your life. You consciously decide to face the good problems, the problems that will make you grow as a person. The idea is not to escape the problems. It’s figuring out what kind of problem you prefer to deal with.
If you do not make this conscious decision, you will also be making a choice. One way or another, we are always choosing. Everything that happens in our life is our responsibility.
Of course some things beyond our control can happen. But we have a responsibility to choose how we interpret these events and how we react.
Learn to accept that problems exist. Acceptance is the first step to solving problems. As a next step you must take responsibility. Many people refuse to accept responsibility for doing something about it because they are afraid to be blamed. These are two different concepts. Do not confuse blaming with responsibility. When you look for someone to blame, you are focused on punishing. When you think about responsibility, you are focused on the solution you can implement.
Happiness lies in solving problems. If you avoid problems or think you have no problems, you are on the road to unhappiness. If you think you cannot solve your problems, you will also be on the road to unhappiness. The key is to solve problems, not to have no problems. True happiness only happens when you find out what problems you like to have and solve.
You are always wrong, because learning is endless
We are always seeking certainties. We want to eat the right foods. We want to find the right partner. We want to invest in the right business.
These certainties are often distractions that prevent us from finding new forms of development. If you are sure that you have a tendency to put on weight and get sick, this is going to limit you to finding a healthy diet. If you are sure you are not attractive, this is going to limit you from finding a good partner. If you believe you are not good with numbers, this limits you from making good investments.
If you do not question your certainties, you may be limiting and sabotaging yourself. Instead of cultivating these certainties, you should learn to recognize that you are always wrong and to seek only to be a little less wrong each day.
The learning is endless. As much knowledge as you have, the amount of things you do not know is always much greater than the amount of things you know. The important thing is to be always improving.
It takes the courage to kill your old self in order to make room for a new self. This constant reinvention is essential to your development as a person.
Failure is part of the process
When we are seeking certainties and avoiding suffering, deep down we want to escape failure.
From an early age we are programmed to believe that failure is a bad thing and should be punished. We are reprimanded when we fail in any activity. We get a low grade when we fail at school. We get fired when we fail a job.
But failure is part of our life. To fail is to move on. There is no personal or professional development without failure. Avoiding negative feelings only deepens and prolongs these bad feelings, leading to emotional problems. Constant positivity is a form of escape, not a valid solution to life’s problems.
The best way to get rid of the fear of failure is to adopt the principle of action. Do something. Whenever you are paralyzed with fear of doing or failing to do something, simply take action and watch the results.
This does not mean that you will stop being afraid. It just means that you will act despite the fear. See the episode Hello! Seiiti Arata number 132.
Just putting yourself in action, even if it leads to failure, will make things happen. And at the very least, you will have a lesson to learn.
You need to learn to say no
Just as failure is part of the process, rejection also has its positive side.
Most people have a hard time saying no. We don’t want to look rude, we don’t want to give up something, or we simply associate the word no with a loss.
Many times we need to learn to say no to one thing in order to have others. This is an eternal game of choices we have to make throughout our lives.
Whomever tries to embrace everything ends up with nothing. Or you have to meet so many demands that you may end without having time for what really matters. Learning to set healthy boundaries is critical.
You need to be clear about choosing what is important to you so that you can say no to what is not important. This choice should be made based on your personal values.
Soon we will die
We all avoid thinking about the theme of death. We do not want to admit to ourselves that soon we will die.
This fear is justifiable. We want to make the most of life, and not think about the day when we won’t be here anymore.
But this tendency to avoid thinking about death wastes our time. When you remember that you are going to die, you are more motivated to stop wasting time on little things. This is the bright side of thinking about death.
How many minutes would you spend on a social network if you knew you had one day to live? How long would you be away from the people you care about? How long would you be doing activities you hate just to earn some money?
The point is that you can only have one day to live. Regardless of your age or health, no one knows how much time you have here on Earth. And one of our biggest challenges is knowing how to lead life when we have no idea how long it will last.
We need to think long-term to secure our uncertain future while taking advantage of the present moment, as it may be the last we have.
The best way to deal with this paradox is to live up to our values. If you live your life by following a code of ethics that you have created for yourself, you will leave an independent legacy whether your date of death is today or ninety years from now. Those who live fully in accordance with good values are prepared to die at any moment.
If you build a solid list of values and can live up to those values, you will be able to live your life well regardless of time, and you can also subtly cease to care about all the other things that you don’t value.
Stop worrying about what society thinks of you. Do not live your life by comparing yourself to others’ standards. Live your life consciously and in accordance with your values.
Whenever you feel sad, insecure, or anxious, the cause is likely to be the difference between your actions and what you value. Whenever you are paralyzed, scared or even unsure what to do next, check your list of values that the answer will be there.
If you want to delve into this and find out how to generate their own value list, I made a special lesson in Planning Your Life course just about how to discover and rank your highest personal values.