A lesson from Mark Manson’s Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope
Mark Manson is a blogger turned book-selling author and a full-time writer who writes non-conventional self-help books that sold millions of copies worldwide. His first of two best-selling book, titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck has a bright orange cover that instantly caught my attention the moment I glanced at it. At the time, I recommended it to Mel without having read it myself, just because of the cheeky title and almost teasing her a little, because letting go is a subject that doesn’t come as naturally to her. Soon enough, I too picked up the book and read through it in a breeze. It is a counter-intuitive book that combines ancient wisdom with modern psychology, filled with brilliant analogies and impeccable humour. His first book discusses about the counterintuitive approach to living a good life. If I could guess from reading only three chapters into his second book, it would be about getting ourselves to adopt the aforementioned mindset.
One particular concept that I want to discuss today comes from the second chapter of the book. The chapter opened with a bold statement stating that self-control is an illusion. Admittedly, self-control is a topic that I personally struggle with for a good portion of my adult life. As a person, I am very emotional and what drives me to pursue something is usually my deep sense of curiosity. I would obsess over something I come across: whether how the stock market works, Buddhist philosophy, human psychology, and so on. Otherwise, it is sometimes almost hopeless to get me going. The problem is, I am not particularly happy with what I do for a living at the moment. Upon graduating from an engineering degree a little over a year ago, I was lucky to have landed myself a job position that is quite special. I get to work in a team that plays a central role in driving the company forward, a role which requires me to work with people from different background, which pushes me to grow personally and professionally. I’m so fortunate! Or so I’ve been told~ While I could rationalise how fortunate I am to have a good job in the midst of a global pandemic, my lack of motivation makes me feel defeated a lot of the time. I have told myself to focus again and again but to no avail…
This is where Mark Manson said that I have got it all wrong. It is not that I lack self-control, but that the whole thing about it is a sham. To explain his idea, he gave an analogy of our psyche as a driving car with the Thinking Brain and the Feeling Brain inside of it. Mark Manson argued that self-control is the product when the two Brains align. He explained that it is traditional to view the Thinking Brain as the adult driver while the Feeling Brain is the child passenger who would so often distract the Thinking Brain time and again from driving peacefully, but this is not so. Mark Manson argued that it is the Feeling Brain who drives the car, and compared it like an angry boyfriend, while the Thinking Brain is the passenger girlfriend who holds the map and is supposed to navigate the car to follow the right direction. The insight here is that once we get the roles correctly placed, only then could we handle the situation would lead us to fruition.
Telling off a bossy driver is less likely to work than to provide a mutual understanding of why it is important to drive safely and reach the destination. These aren’t exactly Mark Manson’s words, but at least that is how I interpreted it. The key to this relationship lies in getting the Feeling Brain to empathise with the Thinking Brain, so that compromises can be made to reach a goal that is inherently beneficial . In my case, for my lack of passion in what I do today, it is my duty to first acknowledge that it is not to my liking but whining about it doesn’t get me anywhere. It is perhaps more helpful to contemplate on what is good about the job, and what it means to not give my full attention to it when I have to. The one constant that wakes me up from dozing off at work is the thought of my manager and colleagues who have treated me well all this while. It is only right for me to reciprocate by giving my full attention during office hours. This is reasonable enough but unfortunately hasn’t worked out all too well for me, most probably because it adds value to what working means, but not much to what the work itself means. I personally haven’t found that compromise to internalise it within myself, but the notion of empathy expressed in the chapter is a huge one, because it allows me to persistently engage this continuous dialogue with myself for peace.
As I am typing this post, an idea pops up in mind about the mindset I can adopt to implement a lasting change in my behaviour. Instead of merely assigning values on what doing the work means to me and my relationship with my colleagues, it could help to assign some equivalent mental qualities on what having done the work means. Developing trustworthiness, resilience, mindfulness and equanimity amongst others are mental qualities that I require to prepare myself for the next stage of my life. While I have been working from home comfortably for the past however months, I cannot see what will happen to me in the future. Whether working in a job I care about but with uninspiring colleagues, or any other permutation of life difficulty, the positive qualities I mentioned could only do me good. There are a lot of readings involved to how I have come to this conclusion, but whether it works for me or not shall be discussed in a a future post!
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