Let’s start with a little meditation / self-reflection. Grab a writing utensil and something to write on (scrap paper, napkin, personal journal; whatever floats your boat). Now, jot down the 10 things that are perturbing your mind in this very moment. As little or small as it may be, write it down. Now, take a look at what you’ve written. In this list, how many items do you think will still matter tomorrow? In a week? Month? Year? 10 years?
Now, honestly looking at your list, how many of these items do you think are really worth your energy worrying about? I will candidly share my own list and explain what I mean by this:
- Laundry piling up in my bedroom
- LSAT studying
- A very weird date happening next to me at Pavement Coffeehouse
- Cold sore on my lip
- Comforting my grandmother in her time of need
- My painful Fourth of July sunburn
- Failed attempts to use Instagram less
- Human Trafficking
- Convenient time to pick up my dry cleaning
- Long-overdue exercise
Now, I will analyze my own list. 1) Laundry is piling up, yes, and I will eventually get it done. But for now, I have about five pairs of clean underwear before I completely run out, so all good. Delete. 2) I already took the LSAT for the first time and it went well. I’m planning to take it again, yes, but why the stress? Ciao. 3) Weird has turned into hilarious. Au revoir. 4) Found a medication that is working extremely well. Likely will not be a problem next week. Adios. 5) I am doing all that I possibly can. 6) Found my aloe. さようなら (goodbye in Japanese). 7) Haven’t been on it all day. Cheers to you! Salud. 8) This will still matter in 10 years. 9) It will be there when you get to it. Αντίο (Greek goodbye). 10) As per Nike’s advice, Just do it! (I did it since writing those words.) Arrivederci!
As you can see, only one item on my list will truly matter in 10 years (no. 8). And it’s a global humanitarian crisis, not even remotely comparable to laundry or cold sores. However, our minds are constantly plagued with spinning thoughts about work, body image, and random to-do’s, convincing us at times that they all hold the same weight and importance in our lives as the objectively more critical problems that plague our world. I think all of us struggle with the ability to better sort out and prioritize these thoughts. One book that really changed the way in which I mentally organize this spiraling anxiety is The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, by Mark Manson.
Mark Manson begins his novel with, “In my life, I have given a fuck about many people and many things. I have also not given a fuck about many people and many things. And those fucks I have not given have made all the difference.” As human beings, we have an intrinsic want to be liked and appreciated, alongside an innate desire to fit in. These tendencies encourage us to act like others, be “easy going,” dress like others, and pretend to agree with others, even when our views could not deviate more. We don’t speak up or walk around in our “Woman’s Rights are Human Rights” T-shirt, because, well, most of us are averse to conflict, or even being looked at in a funny way.
However, the ability to not give a f*ck, Mark Manson shows, is power. Once I was comfortable being known as the “Women’s Rights Girl” (yes, people actually called me that), I was more outwardly-spoken than ever before. It wasn’t that I accepted what they were calling me necessarily, though I learned not to care about it, but instead that I became comfortable believing what I believed, even though it was totally “out there” to most of my friends. But then again, Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas were likely “out there” to most of his friends, as were Sheryl Sanberg’s, Malala’s, and countless other change-makers.
What Manson says is so simple, and inherently true, but an incredibly difficult practice to adopt. Most of us struggle through life caring far too much about topics that simply do not merit a single worry in the world. Just think about this for a second – What if you stopped caring about your grocery list, the impending thunderstorm, your ex-husband’s behavior, or whatever is on the list you’ve written down just moments ago, and started to focus on your career, your ambitions, your family, and the people that are truly there for you? My boss once sent me a wonderful quote reading, “Imagine if you took all of the time, energy and emotions you’ve been with part-time people, and invested all of it into your family, your loyal friends and yourself. Imagine!” Those who treat us poorly simply do not deserve our time. Why do we stay? We are wasting away our precious energy.
Energy is a renewable, but limited resource. Use it wisely. And stop giving a f*ck about the things that don’t matter. It’s life-changing. Try it.