Close your eyes, pause for a second and listen.
Do you hear that?
Somewhere very near, nestled between your left and right ears, is the sound of a never-ending cacophony of fucks bouncing off the walls of your skull, slowly driving you mad.
And unbeknownst to you, it’s holding you back from going all-in. From choosing a goal and showing it what you’re made of. From grabbing hold of life and making the most out of your short time on this spinning rock.
Heart disease? Sugar? Ninjas? Nah, giving too many fucks – that’s the real silent killer.
The Anatomy of a Fuck
It’s completely natural to care about the opinions of others; we’re social creatures and we’ve been doing it all of our lives.
No one is immune to this, nor should we be.
Allow me to share a few shining examples from my past.
At some point in early grade school (or yesterday), I remember having to pee. Bad. Cartoonishly bad. Michael Jackson bad. I raised my hand to go to the toilet and the teacher told me to hold it. So I did, all while recalling the horror stories of those who dared tempt fate before me and paid the price. In their pants.
Then came the critical fork-in-the-road moment. I was either going to sit there and soil my adorable Dockers shorts in front of all my friends, or challenge authority and fight my way to porcelain freedom. Thankfully my mom gave me enough good sense, and I ran out of that classroom and down the hallway like I scored the winning goal in the World Cup.
Then there was the time when I gave a public speech and got way too close to the microphone when I spoke, causing epic feedback and giving the audience an excuse to erupt in laughter. To this day, the thought of speaking to more than one person fills me with debilitating levels of anxiety.
I could go on, but you don’t have the time and I’m quickly running out of tears.
These are my stories – what are yours?
I see it all the time when working with clients.
Busy men an women who put themselves dead last after a long list of duties, stressing because they’re running around trying to be everything to everyone.
And we’re not even talking about what can start to happen once you choose to do something differently.
Put on weight? Nobody says a word.
Adopt new habits, start to feel empowered about the direction of your life, and maybe lose a little weight in the process? All of a sudden you’ve changed. You’re in the gym too much. You’re obsessed. You’re too muscular. You’re looking unhealthy. You’re no fun.
The Sea of Fucks is vast and wide; navigating it can be treacherous, and if we’re not careful it will swallow us whole.
The problem isn’t that we care about what others think; we’re not robots. The real danger appears when begin to value their opinion more than the combination of our own knowledge, instincts and sense of self-worth, and changing our actions because of them.
Giving too many unnecessary fucks fills our lives with so much noise that true clarity becomes damn near impossible. It forces us to dull our edges, and because we’re too busy worrying about what other might think about us we become stifled, unable to express who we truly are.
Here are three practices that you can begin to use in the war for your mental sanity.
Get Clear On What You Want
This step is critical in creating an anti-fuck shield deep within your soul. Your goals are you goals, so own them completely.
The less clear we are in terms of what our aim is, the more likely we are to fall victim to the whims and fancies of others.
One week you want to build a back that’s large enough to block out the Sun, then the next you’re switching it all up, devoting your energy towards becoming an ultra marathon runner because someone told you that it’s the best way to get a six-pack.
Like dandelion fluff on a breezy summer day, just as you start to head in one direction and gain traction, you’re quickly blown in another, stuck in this seemingly endless loop of having your course of action determined by external forces.
Remember The Golden Mantra
Ready? Here it is: Just because someone can talk to you doesn’t mean you should listen.
Imagine if I waltzed into where they house the Large Hadron Collider, with my little shorts and shaker cup filled with protein powder, and started lecturing all of these brilliant scientists on what they were doing wrong, how I thought they could make improvements, and that putting a piece of cake inside the machine would probably accelerate results due to its delicious nature.
These people are at the top of their field, with years or rigorous study and practical experience to back them up.
Me? I know less about physics than I do about how planes work (AKA nothing at all). I’m just there, throwing unsubstantiated fucks into the air for no reason other than I can. They have every right to smile and nod, while secretly trying to make me disappear with their mind.
There’s a different between acknowledging that someone is saying something versus actually absorbing what’s said and having it influence your behaviour.
Create Your Power Team
It’s easy for us to be deterred or hurt by comments that people make about us or what we’re doing, but author Brenè Brown has a simple tactic to help us filer and reduce the amount of people we let into our inner circle: make a list.
Brown suggests that we take a small piece of paper (think smaller than you’re already imagining) and write down the names of people whose opinions and feedback we actually value and will ever think about considering.
This list will clearly different depending on the context of the situation.
Did you hire a coach to help you achieve your fitness goals? They should be on your list of people to listen to.
You know who isn’t on your list? The guy behind the deli counter who is telling you all about the newest plan he’s on that lets you eat as many cookies and raw bacon slices as you want while only working out once a month.
Are you putting your work out there for people? Perfect. Then you may want to listen to the feedback from the people who’ve invested their money in you by buying your product.
You know who doesn’t get a say? YouTube comment trolls and people who haven’t spent a dime supporting your work.
It’s hard to focus on anything but the one negative comment amongst a sea of positive praise and feedback, but you can strive towards this ideal and refine your approach over time.
At the end of the day, you make the final calls. It’s your job to filter all the feedback you receive, choose to accept, ignore, an then decide on a course of action. You are the gate keeper through which all fucks must pass – take this job seriously.
There’s Only One Choice
To quote my friend Julien Smith, those who don’t give a fuck change the world. The rest do not.
But what if you’re setting your sights a bit lower? What if you don’t want to change the world, but just your world?
Then, oddly enough, after rallying for hoarding all the fucks and not giving any, giving them is exactly what needs to happen.
Give them to yourself. Give yourself permission to fail horribly, succeed wildly and everything in between.
Give them to those you serve. Your clients, community, friends and loved ones and protect them fiercely. This will fill you with more energy than you’ve ever had before.
The feeling of lightness that you experience once you realise how simple this can all be if you allow it is almost unbearable at first, then it transforms into something incredibly freeing.
We’re here for a brief moment in time. Don’t become so buried beneath the weight of the fucks that other people hoist upon your shoulders that you become a passive observer instead of an active participant in your own life.
Julien Smith – The Complete Guide To Not Giving A Fuck
Mark Manson – Fuck Yes or No
Johnny B. Truant – The Universe Doesn’t Give A Flying Fuck About You