I recently finished reading an interesting book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. The book offers a unique perspective on a problem that many of us struggle with every day. The basic idea behind the book is that we spend too much time and energy worrying about things that aren’t important. We have a limited amount of time and energy to spend, so this is a big problem.
Put another way, the book is about clarifying your values. The reality is that if you care too much about everything, you can’t care well for the things that are most important to you. We need to clarify our values, and only spend our time and energy on the things in our life that are truly worthwhile.
I’ll give you an example from my own life that happened the other day. I was at a restaurant, and I went to the bathroom because I had to take a dump. (Not the most pleasant example, I know, but stick with me.) There was only one stall in the bathroom. As soon as I went into the stall and sat down, another guy walked into the bathroom. I noticed that he was waiting for me to get out of the stall.
For some reason, I felt anxious. I know it’s weird, but I don’t like to inconvenience other people or make them wait, even when it involves something silly like taking a dump in a restaurant. I started to feel rushed, like I needed to hurry up so I could accommodate the dude who was waiting.
But then I remembered the book I was reading! I realized that there was something going on under the surface that had to do with my values. For some reason, I had internalized a value that I needed to accommodate other people and make sure they weren’t inconvenienced, even if it meant putting my own needs and wants last. This shows up in a lot of areas in my life, even when taking a dump at a restaurant bathroom.
This value was operating under the surface, but it was causing a lot of problems in my life. Namely, I was caring too much about what other people wanted or needed, and it interfered with getting my own needs and wants met. I recognized that I needed to be more flexible with this value: Sometimes it is good to prioritize the wants and needs of others, but other times it is good to prioritize my own wants and needs.
What does this mean for my life now? Well, now that I am aware of my values (instead of having them operate unconsciously), I can make choices. I can think about my actions and decide what is in my best interest. In some instances, I might decide it is important to prioritize the other person’s wants, or work out a compromise that could meet both our needs. But as for the guy waiting for my bathroom stall, I got there first. The stall is designed for me to take a dump. He can wait 5 minutes.
Take some time today and think about your values. Analyze the ways you are spending your time and energy. Remember, we each have limited resources. We can’t prioritize everything. Make your values conscious. Write them down. Then make good decisions in your life about what values you want to prioritize. Most importantly, give yourself permission to let the unimportant stuff go.