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Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Love reading self-improvement books? Me too! Learn what I loved, what I hated, and how I rated The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ = A Fun and Invigorating Read ✔

I really enjoyed this book. It is the only self-help book I've read where the author actively uses their real life experience in order to make fun of themselves to further the points made. It was non-pretentious, there were lots of interesting stories, and some really insightful points about self-improvement and how to live life that are counter-intuitive to some commonly held beliefs. It was refreshing to consider some concepts in a new light, and to hear others that weren't new explained in a funny way.

Summary: This book is about how we should stop trying to care about everything and live life by carefully picking and choosing what to care about based on our values and priorities. That the consequences of caring too much are very costly, and there is a great need to reduce the number of things we put our time and energy into. That we need to fight against the desire to feel good all the time and the ever present danger or becoming entitled. But the good news is that we get to choose our problems and what we are willing to suffer for - because suffering is good and a life spent avoiding suffering is actually bad. And choosing what to give craps about and having values that are worth crapping about are the key to unlocking emotional empowerment.

Readability & Tone: The book was really easy to read and kept my attention until the end with lots of stories, a joking and sometimes self-deprecating attitude, and real-life examples to go along with each main point. As you might expect from the title there is a devil-may-care, down to earth, gritty, real-life experience with no-filter tone to the book. It's like talking with your slightly wild and adventurous cousin (the 'tried to do a backflip off of the roof of the house into the pool that one time' kind) over some beers at the bar. And frankly it is really fun IF you don't mind the occasional (or not so occasional) f-word, self-effacing joke, or drug/sexual reference.

Key Concepts:

  • When you focus too much on what you want, on being positive, or on giving yourself affirmations you are actually focusing on what you lack. Instead of trying to have it all and chase after happiness all the time it is better to pick and choose what to care about, try less, and embrace feeling not-so-good.

  • The 'Feedback Loop from Hell' is a negative cycle where being self-conscious about having a bad feeling makes the feeling worse. For example you feel angry, then you feel stupid for feeling angry, then you feel even angrier for feeling stupid. The solution is to embrace the negative emotion.

  • Most good things come from adversity, and adversity will bring up difficult emotions. So to overcome adversity (and get the results you want) you must be willing to accept and deal with difficult emotions.

  • Happiness comes from solving problems, so if you avoid the problem through denial or victim mentality or addiction (chasing highs) you will feel miserable. Happiness is also temporary, so you need to continue to solve problems. But you get to choose which problems you want to solve, and you can try to increase the quality of your problems.

  • Thinking you are special and focusing too much on building high self-esteem is bad because you can get too fixated on feeling good all the time that you become entitled. You can also become entitled if you think your pain or your problems are unique and unsolvable. You need to be able to admit when you are wrong or could have done something better and embrace the belief that all problems are solvable.

  • Most people aren't special or exceptional - and that's okay. It's actually required. There has to be an average in order to have exceptions or outliers. We need to stop chasing after the dream (fueled by social media) of being the extreme case and thinking that that is what is normal or expected of us.

  • You need to take responsibility for everything in your life - even if it wasn't your fault - because you are always choosing how to respond and what you can do about it.

  • Be less certain of yourself, your beliefs, and the 'truth' so that you can be flexible, adaptive, and fight against feelings of entitlement (the the truth is I deserve a raise so how dare they not give it to me! kind of attitude).

  • Embrace failure in pursuit of your desires and values because if you are unwilling to fail you are actually unwilling to succeed.

  • We need to say no to people & things, be willing to disagree openly, and to set boundaries more often because rejection is actually a good thing. It means that those people or things don't fit with our values, so it's good to give them the boot.

  • We should embrace the concept of death so that we can try to live freely without regrets and to focus on ensuring that our values live on and affect the world around us in a meaningful way after we are gone.

What I Didn't Like: The first half of the book was pretty action-packed with introducing new ideas and rotating them fairly quickly. The second half of the book dives into the '5 Counter Intuitive Values' that you should embrace (the last 5 key concepts above). While these were still interesting, the pace was slower and I think it could have been condensed into a much shorter delivery. It came across as a bit meandering. That being said the story in the last chapter left me bawling my eyes out and very touched, so I'm glad I read it all. The comment "death is the light by which the shadow of all of life's meaning is measured" was beautiful.

How it affected me personally: Raise your hand if you are or have been a people-pleaser... Is your hand up? Me too. I even spent time and energy trying to please people I didn't even like! It has taken me many self-help books, teachers, and concepts to really let go of the idea that I want to please other people and care what they think. And this book was one of the stepping-stones to help get me there. Now I can say that although I'd like for people to like me, that I don't need for them to like me and that is a healthier place to be. I am more selective about what and who to care about, and not in a mean or a hateful way, but in a "is it really worth it to me? do they or does it align with who I am as a person?" evaluating with some emotional distance kind of way. And almost every time I ask those questions it turns out that it isn't worth it, which is probably the reason I was asking in the first place! I would encourage you to take time to read the book, have some laughs, and think about what you want to value and really give sh*ts about and why.

That's all folks! I really hope that you enjoyed my book review - if so please give it a heart below ❤ And make sure you follow me on Facebook to keep up with all the latest articles and reviews!

Amanda Aten

Happiness & Wellbeing Life Coach

As a Happiness and Wellbeing Life Coach I help people to discover their innermost values and priorities and guide them to make internal and external adjustments in order to align their lives with their values.

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