My personal notes on the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

  • Happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems.
  • What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?”
  • Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.
  • The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies—that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.”
  • What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how you come to see the situation, how you choose to measure it and value it. Problems may be inevitable, but the meaning of each problem is not. We get to control what our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them, the standard by which we choose to measure them.
  • If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.
  • When we have poor values—that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others—we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse. But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our fucks to something better—toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.
  • We, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.
  • Taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where the real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from.
  • As you reassess your values, you will be met with internal and external resistance along the way. More than anything, you will feel uncertain; you will wonder if what you’re doing is wrong.
  • We shouldn’t seek to find the ultimate “right” answer for ourselves, but rather, we should seek to chip away at the ways that we’re wrong today so that we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.
  • Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth.
  • The problem here is that not only is certainty unattainable, but the pursuit of certainty often breeds more (and worse) insecurity.
  • Our values are imperfect and incomplete, and to assume that they are perfect and complete is to put us in a dangerously dogmatic mindset that breeds entitlement and avoids responsibility. The only way to solve our problems is to first admit that our actions and beliefs up to this point have been wrong and are not working. This openness to being wrong must exist for any real change or growth to take place.
  • The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
  • We all have values for ourselves. We protect these values. We try to live up to them and we justify them and maintain them. Even if we don’t mean to, that’s how our brain is wired. As noted before, we’re unfairly biased toward what we already know, what we believe to be certain.
  • There is little that is unique or special about your problems. That’s why letting go is so liberating.
  • As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves.
  • And the only way to figure it out is to put cracks in our armor of certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves.
  • Many people, when they feel some form of pain or anger or sadness, drop everything and attend to numbing out whatever they’re feeling. Their goal is to get back to “feeling good” again as quickly as possible, even if that means substances or deluding themselves or returning to their shitty values.
  • Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway.
  • Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
  • Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
  • Your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your future actions.
  • Action → Inspiration → Motivation
  • If we follow the “do something” principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting—when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite—we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.
  • With simply doing something as your only metric for success—well, then even failure pushes you forward.
  • The point is this: we all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X.
  • It can be difficult for people to recognize the difference between doing something out of obligation and doing it voluntarily. So here’s a litmus test: ask yourself, “If I refused, how would the relationship change?” Similarly, ask, “If my partner refused something I wanted, how would the relationship change?”
  • When our highest priority is to always make ourselves feel good, or to always make our partner feel good, then nobody ends up feeling good. And our relationship falls apart without our even knowing it.
  • For a relationship to be healthy, both people must be willing and able to both say no and hear no.
  • Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
  • All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.
  • To truly not give a single fuck is to achieve a quasi-spiritual state of embracing the impermanence of one’s own existence.
  • Because once we become comfortable with the fact of our own death—the root terror, the underlying anxiety motivating all of life’s frivolous ambitions—we can then choose our values more freely, unrestrained by the illogical quest for immortality, and freed from dangerous dogmatic views.
  • The Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome implored people to keep death in mind at all times, in order to appreciate life more and remain humble in the face of its adversities.
  • “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
  • Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life.