Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F–k

For the longest time, whenever anyone mentioned The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I always replied, “Oh, I loved that book and the one it’s based on.” I couldn’t figure out why everyone always looked at me like I was nuts when I brought up a book about cleaning in the same conversation.

Turns out it’s because I was actually talking about the book The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, which–although excellent– is not the same thing. So, when I (finally) discovered that I hadn’t actually read the book people were raving about, I decided to pick it up.

Image result for the subtle art of not giving a f*ck indigo

Similar to both The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, this book challenges you to examine what’s really important to you. Mark’s philosophy is basically that you need to give a f–k about some things, but that you’ll be a lot happier if you’re giving your f–ks to the right things.

To use an example from my own life, I give a lot of f–ks about what other people might think of me, specifically about my appearance. In giving those f–ks, I place a lot of value on the way that I look. Instead, a better value (i.e., place to give one’s f–ks) might be fostering healthy relationships with my loved ones. Plus, as Mark says:

As a rule, people who are terrified of what others thing about them are actually terrified of all the shitty things they think about themselves being reflected back at them.

Here’s what I thought.

What I Liked

The parts of the book that discuss problems and pain really resonated with me. Basically, regardless of what we do in life, we’re always going to encounter problems. But, when we get our values right, we end up with better problems because the reward for solving them is more worthwhile:

This, in a nutshell, is what “self improvement” is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a f–k about. Because when you give better f–ks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.

I also really liked what Mark says about action being the first step to change, not inspiration:

Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.

This is something that’s been a common thread throughout a lot of the self help reading I’ve done, especially in some of the books that helped me get out from under the weight of my depression. When I was depressed, I didn’t feel like doing anything. Because I didn’t feel like it, I just didn’t do it. And the more I didn’t do things, the less I felt like doing other things.

Now, instead of waiting around to feel motivated or inspired, I start acting. Don’t feel like doing my laundry? Cool, so I start sorting the laundry, without making a commitment to actually do it (it’s a big production because I don’t have a washing machine in my apartment). Most (if not all) of the time, the simple action of starting to sort it provides me the motivation I need to actually get it done.

What I Didn’t Like

Mark talks a lot about entitlement and the difference between fault and responsibility. Most of that really resonated with me (and gave me a lot to think about), but there was one small piece that didn’t sit well when he was talking about choices. In the context of getting robbed, he writes:

Do you freeze up? Do you tell the police? Do you try to forget it and pretend it never happened? These are all choices and reactions you’re responsible for making or rejecting.

When you’re in a life-or-death situation and that fight-flight-or-freeze instinct kicks in, it’s just that: an instinct. It’s not a conscious choice, and it’s unfair to trauma survivors to present it that way. You might automatically freeze until it’s over, or you might be hidden underneath a desk before your brain has even fully processed what’s going on.

I know that this is a minor point within the larger text (and that my own experience with trauma means that I can’t approach this without bias), but that really stuck out to me while reading.

What I’ve Implemented

I’m a bit of a perfectionist in some areas of my life. It’s actually what took me so long to start blogging: I felt like I couldn’t share my writing with anyone until I’d mastered every detail of the writing process, until my prose was so sharp that they’d give me all the awards. Thankfully, I eventually got over myself and just starting writing, and it’s now one of my favourite ways to spend an evening.

Learning to live with imperfection means that you actually get to try new things and, you know, improve. You don’t have to (and, actually you never will) know absolutely everything. It’s OK to be wrong. (And thank God, because you will be. A lot.) As Mark puts it:

Growth is an endlessly iterative process.

Yeah, pretty sure that’s my new motto.

Have you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck? Or, for that matter, the other book I kept getting it confused with (or the book that one was based on)? Let me know what you thought in the comments!


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