The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
The more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. Philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “The Backwards Law” (further reading: the hedonic treadmill).
Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.
To not give a f*ck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.
When you give too many f*cks—when you give a f*ck about everyone and everything—you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times, that everything is supposed to be just exactly the f*cking way you want it to be.
Pain and loss are inevitable and we should let go of trying to resist them.
The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.
We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.
Don’t hope for a life without problems. There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.
Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.
Happiness comes from problems you enjoy having and solving.
Nobody who is actually happy has to stand in front of a mirror and tell himself that he’s happy.
Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.
Negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, it’s because you’re supposed to do something. (Tony Robbins discusses this in detail in Awaken the Giant Within.)
Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good.
Everything comes with an inherent sacrifice—whatever makes us feel good will also inevitably make us feel bad.
A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The path to happiness is a path full of s*itheaps and shame.
Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.
Our struggles determine our successes.
Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems.
The problem with the self-esteem movement is that it measured self-esteem by how positively people felt about themselves. But a true and accurate measurement of one’s self-worth is how people feel about the negative aspects of themselves.
People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of or a threat to, their own greatness.
The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences.
A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of his character frankly—“Yes, sometimes I’m irresponsible with money,” “Yes, sometimes I exaggerate my own successes,” “Yes, I rely too much on others to support me and should be more self-reliant”—and then acts to improve upon them.
A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it, they’ll never achieve anything, never improve and that their life won’t matter.
The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all.
If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not “How do I stop suffering?” but “Why am I suffering—for what purpose?”
Self-awareness is like an onion. The first layer is a simple understanding of one’s emotions. The second layer is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions. This layer of questioning helps us understand the root cause of the emotions that overwhelm us. Once we understand that root cause, we can ideally do something to change it. The third level is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?
Values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values—the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings—will all be out of whack.
Much of the advice out there operates at a shallow level of simply trying to make people feel good in the short term, while the real long-term problems never get solved.
Take a moment and think of something that’s really bugging you. Now ask yourself why it bugs you. Chances are the answer will involve a failure of some sort.
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.
Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.
If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.
Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.
Research shows that once one is able to provide for basic physical needs (food, shelter, and so on), the correlation between happiness and worldly success quickly approaches zero.
Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems—problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you.
When we force ourselves to stay positive at all times, we deny the existence of our life’s problems. And when we deny our problems, we rob ourselves of the chance to solve them and generate happiness.
Problems add a sense of meaning and importance to our lives.
Some of the greatest moments of one’s life are not pleasant, not successful, not known, and not positive.
Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable. Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate or controllable.
When we have poor values—that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others—we are essentially giving f*cks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse.
Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it.
If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control—that there’s a problem you have no ability to solve, a problem that was somehow thrust upon you without your choosing.
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. (Ryan Holiday writes at length about perspective in The Obstacle Is the Way.)
The more we choose to accept responsibility for our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. (“Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life” is Principle #1 in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.)
Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them.
A lot of people hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe that to be responsible for your problems is to also be at fault for your problems.
The responsibility/fault fallacy allows people to pass off the responsibility for solving their problems to others.
Our beliefs are malleable, and our memories are horribly unreliable.
The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it. Manson calls this, “The Law of Avoidance”
When we let go of the stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, we free ourselves up to actually act (and fail) and grow.
There is little that is unique or special about your problems. That’s why letting go is so liberating.
The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.
Questions that will help you breed more uncertainty in your life.
- What if I’m wrong?
- What would it mean if I were wrong?
- Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
It’s worth remembering that for any change to happen in your life, you must be wrong about something.
Being able to look at and evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is perhaps the central skill required in changing one’s own life in a meaningful way.
Manson tries to live with few rules, but one that he’s adopted over the years is this: if it’s down to him being screwed up, or everybody else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that he’s the one who’s screwed up.
If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.
Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something. If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all of the painful learning experiences you have.
We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.
Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway.
Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something—anything, really—and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.
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.
Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
We all must give a f*ck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something.
The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, the desire to attempt to accept everything equally and to make everything cohere and harmonize, is a deep and subtle form of entitlement.
The difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship comes down to two things: 1) how well each person in the relationship accepts responsibility, and 2) the willingness of each person to both reject and be rejected by their partner.
The mark of an unhealthy relationship is two people who try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel good about themselves. Rather, a healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.
Entitled people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they constantly paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they will receive the love they’ve always wanted. Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.
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?”
It’s not about giving a f*ck about everything your partner gives a f*ck about; it’s about giving a f*ck about your partner regardless of the f*cks he or she gives.
Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits.
For a relationship to be healthy, both people must be willing and able to both say no and hear no.
When trust is destroyed, it can be rebuilt only if the following two steps happen: 1) the trust-breaker admits the true values that caused the breach and owns up to them, and 2) the trust-breaker builds a solid track record of improved behavior over time.
Death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured.
Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life.
You are going to die, and that’s because you were fortunate enough to have lived.