This article states 5 life-changing lessons that I learned from reading the book, the subtle art of not fretting. 

If you are thinking, wasn’t the book’s name the subtle art of not giving a F*ck? Then you are right, but today, to save our younger audience from profound expletives, we will use the subtle art of not fretting. 

Author Mark Manson has put forth a unique perspective of success and self-improvement. Marketers all over the world are busy marketing self-help books. 

Self-help books that were started to make everyone’s life better have become a million-dollar industry today. 

Self-help books

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Today the self-help books promise you a happy life and solutions to all your life crises. They assure you that you will slowly turn to develop a monk-like mindset. But the reality is different. 

You have to face real-life problems that are raw and authentic. Hence, the author suggests that you start this journey by forgetting anything and everything you learned from these superficial self-help books

Why should you stop reading superficial self-help books?

1. Desire for more

Superficial self-help books always teach you to strive for more. More happiness, more money, more success, and more everything. The list is endless. 

But if you look carefully, you are actually craving something you lack when you want something more. 

When we strive for more, we can never be happy because there will always be something more that we will desire. After more money, you will need a huge house, a luxurious car, and the list will go on.  

2. The Feedback Loop

The feedback loop from hell keeps you bothered, and you start worrying about even the smallest of things. You become customized to cursing yourself for everything wrong. You get angry very quickly, even at the most minor thing. 

And now you are mad about being angry at small things. This loop continues. One after another, things keep stumbling. You are a loser. You can’t even control your emotions. 

These degrading thoughts make you more anxious, and you turn to addictive substances to make yourself better. 

3. The continuous feel-good mentality

But stop; let’s rewind a little back. Anger or feeling low is all part of life. It is something that makes humans unique. 

Very few other animals can feel and consider their thoughts. And it is ok to feel certain emotions because that is the beauty of being human.

The problem here is our society always teaches us to feel good about ourselves. Be calm and thoughtful every time, which is practically not possible. 

Things are meant to come your way, and you will lose your patience or calmness, and it is alright. Life happens. 

Balloons

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First, you have to accept that humans are not perfect, and you can not be calm and happy every hour of the day. Acknowledging all your emotions is the only way to change them and be happy. 

Accept your emotions as they are, both positive and negative. If you suppress them, they will come back in full swing. 

The desire for a more positive experience in itself is a negative experience. And paradoxically, acceptance of one’s negative experience in itself is a positive one. 

But that is the way life is. If you don’t strive for more, how will you improve?

The author has a straightforward answer to this problem. He doesn’t imply that you should start being apathetic or brute by saying the subtle art of not fretting. Instead, he suggests being comfortable with yourself and your own values even if they are different. 

The author suggests simplifying your priorities. Don’t ever get in the line of pursuing everything. It will only lead to anxiety and unhappiness. 

Instead, the subtle art of not fretting suggests you stop worrying about unimportant things in life and fret about things that are genuinely essential for you.

You will always have problems in life. The point is choosing issues you enjoy dealing with. 

When we become more selective about things we fret about, we become happy, and people call it mature. 

This self-help book is different because it doesn’t teach you to gain or achieve. Instead, it concentrates on teaching how to lose and let go of things. 

Here are 7 life-changing lessons that I learned from the book: the subtle art of not fretting.

1. Limited amount of frets

The world is moving at a brisk pace. In this fast world, you have to slow down, be silent, and use your inner voice to understand what is essential and what is not. The author says you have limited amounts of fret to give to other things. 

The subtle art of not fretting suggests you use these little number of frets available for things that actually matter to you. We are often blinded by flashy and showy things. As a result, we spend a lot of our energy and time on things that are not essential in life.  

The author also says there is no such thing as not giving any frets. The truth is you have to worry about something in life to do something worthwhile. 

Choice

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But, you have the right to choose things you fret about. Stop wasting them on superficial events, circumstances, products, goals, and people.

The subtle art of not fretting tells us to prioritize our worries on things that are valuable. 

I fret about too many things. I changed, not giving too many frets in life. In the end, it was the frets I didn’t give that made the difference. 

2. Misunderstood happiness

Happiness is something that we all crave. We link happiness to success. 

But is happiness really about money and success? If so, why are so many billionaires unhappy? Why are they doing so much charity work to make themselves happy?

Happiness is misunderstood by many. We always think happiness is an emotional response to an outcome. I will be happy when I get a good-paying job. I will be happy when I have a lot of money. 

So happiness becomes an ‘if and then equation.’ If your project is successful, you will be happy. If it is unsuccessful, you will be unhappy. This is a very unclear and unsatisfactory way of viewing happiness. 

The reason for unhappiness in the ‘if and then equation’ is that you will always find something better to crave. You will always raise your bar high to the next level. And in this process, we will never be satisfied or happy. 

When you get that good job you crave, you will want to raise your bar and target the next exclusive paying job.  

We are wired to be dissatisfied with things we have and satisfied with only those things we don’t have. 

The truth is that happiness comes from solving problems and overcoming challenges. Life is full of problems. The key to one problem is merely the creation of the next, and hence, happiness is constantly a work in progress. 

Avoiding problems will make you miserable in life. Don’t crave a life without any problems. 

When you have no issues, you will not find solutions and will never be happy. Instead, you should hope to live a life full of good problems. 

Happiness and struggles

The subtle art of not fretting puts a unique perspective on choosing your struggle or pain. People often want a high-paying job, 6 figure salary, and a huge house. 

But have you ever asked yourself what pain and struggle are you willing to make to get the same?

Real happiness and lifelong fulfillment come from struggling and managing your struggles to get the desired outcome. Instead of the ‘if and then relation’ of happiness, concentrate on the hard truth that happiness requires struggle, and without struggle, you can’t be happy

Happiness is not some destination you have to reach. It can be felt in the process of doing things you enjoy. 

Don’t be trapped in the loop of wanting the reward but not the struggle, loving the result but not the process because it will never work. 

3. The trap of an entitled mindset

The subtle art of not fretting says that life is never fair to you. It never was and never will be. The author says you should never get into the web of being entitled.

Entitled mindset comes in 2 forms:

  • A person is entitled and feels he is unique and different from others and hence needs special treatment
  • A person is not good while everyone out there is fantastic, and hence he needs special treatment. 

Entitlement is like a narcissist bubble that disorients everything to reinforce itself. 

People with this entitlement view always believe that good things happen to them because of their greatness, while bad things happen because other people are jealous and are trying to bring them down. 

This entitled mentality makes people delusional into accepting anything and everything that feeds their grandiosity and sense of superiority. 

Having an entitled mindset makes a person feel that he is extraordinary and is liable to get different treatment from others. A person with an entitled attitude feels good about himself all the time, even about his not-so-good aspects in life.

If everyone feels extraordinary, then by definition, no one is extraordinary. 

4. Accepting your negatives 

All this feeling good about oneself and boosting your self-esteem started in the 1960s. The research found that people with higher self-esteem performed better and caused lesser problems overall. 

Hence, policymakers and experts started promoting self-esteem practices in full swing, making people trapped in feeling privileged. 

Years later, we found that feeling good about one is not going to take you anywhere unless you have a good reason to feel so. Failures and struggles are necessary parameters to measure the development of successful minds

The most precise and accurate measurement of self-worth lies in how we feel about all the negative aspects of our life. 

A person with a high degree of self-esteem and worth would be able to accept all the negative aspects and habits in his life. Yes, I am lazy about waking up early. Sometimes I procrastinate. Yes, I get angry at the smallest of things. 

Bad and good

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Accepting your negative part is the first step in changing them. While if you are ignorant about your negative habits and feel perfect, you will never improve or succeed. 

The subtle art of not fretting suggests this is another high in life that will only give you momentary relief while obstructing your growth. 

Strip yourself of this entitled mentality and accept yourself with both your positives and negatives. 

5. Suffering for success

Once, in his 60s, Picasso was sitting in a cafe in Spain. While drinking his coffee, he drew something on the napkin. 

Before leaving the cafe, he crumpled the napkin and went away when a woman stopped him. 

The woman said she wanted the napkin; she was willing to pay for it. ”How much?” she asked. Picasso replied 20,000 dollars. 

The woman was shocked. She said, ”but you only took 2 minutes to draw it”. 

Picasso replied,” no, ma’am. It took me 60 years to draw this”. 

He put the napkin inside his pocket and went away. 

The subtle art of not fretting suggests that improvement is based on thousands of tiny little failures. 

Further, it says the magnitude or height of your success is based on how many times you have failed while doing something. 

Failure and success

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We have known this since we were a baby. When a young child starts to walk, he tries many times, gets hurt, and fails many times before he learns to do so. While failing so many times, he never says, ” maybe walking is just not for me”. 

Avoiding failures is something we learn in a later part of our lives. 

A lot of fear of failure comes from choosing a lousy set of values and depiction of success. 

It’s the growth of oneself that generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements and things. 

One day, in retrospect, years of your struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.

Freud

6. Underlined values 

Our values determine the nature of problems we have in life. And the nature of the problem decides the quality of life we will live.

People often don’t peel off their inner levels and go on to chase superficial highs such as being rich. 

But these people forget to question themselves as to why becoming rich is essential or what are the metrics by which they define being successful and rich. 

Because, mind you, people can be financially rich but still be miserable, while others can be miserably poor but happy. 

For a better life, you have to change the set of values or purposes that don’t serve you or align with yourself. 

The best way to have a clear set of values is by questioning yourself. 

7. Art of questioning

The subtle art of not fretting says that honest self-questioning is difficult. It involves answering simple questions that will make you very uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable and painful the answer, the more likely they are to be true. 

Questioning oneself and doubting our own thoughts is one of the most challenging skills one can develop.

To generate this art of questioning and develop a clear set of values, you have to ask yourself 3 questions:

What if I am wrong?

Asking this question will help you generate the humility and compassion that is needed to solve many problems. 

Question mark

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Remember, the goal here is to merely ask the question and entertain the thought at the moment. Don’t hate yourself for not being right all the time. You have to be wrong about something for any good change to happen in your life.

What would it mean if I was wrong?

The potential meaning and core behind our wrongness are often very painful. It helps us open to the new set of values on its face value. 

The central skill required in changing one’s life is being able to evaluate different skills without necessarily adopting them. Asking probing questions is necessary to get at the core of the problem that motivates us to behave a certain way. 

Is being wrong going to develop a better or worse problem for myself and others?

There are always going to be problems in life. This litmus test helps you determine if your values are strong or downright broken. 

The goal here is to determine which problem is better, the current issue or the future ones. 

A scale with question mark weighing

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The problem is most people would choose an easier path that requires little to no thoughts, no second-guessing, and not believing other people’s judgment. It creates misery for everyone around but makes your life easy.   

Instead, you should choose a path that solves the problem keeping mutual trust, happy relations, and humbleness in mind. 

Even if such a path makes you uncomfortable, it will help you grow beyond your insecurities while demoting your impulsive and selfish behavior. Such an option is painful and difficult to follow but is the right one. 

Conclusion

This book, the subtle art of not fretting, is a different type of self-help book that gives you an alternative way of thinking about your life. It suggests you only worry about the most essential things and dump those superficial things that occupy most of your time and energy. 

Various unique concepts in the book help us to view our life and problems in a different light. Next time your life starts being messy, tinged with superficial issues and struggles, remember the subtle art of not fretting about them. 

Soul potion 

Someday you will die

Aside from every other matter, death is the single truth of life. The subtle art of not fretting says that keeping our mortality in mind can help you bring in a fresh perspective on life. Most people deny death. 

We don’t think or talk about death because we are scared of it. The subtle art of not fretting states that death is the light that gives one’s life meaning. All your experiences, metrics, and values would be zero without death.

A man walking stairs

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People with close to death experiences have realized and written about how they were wasting their precious energy on unimportant things, like failures, shame, remorse, fears, etc. 

Near to death experiences brought them clarity about the priorities in life and helped them learn the subtle art of not fretting about irrelevant things.  

Imagine if you found out you would die tomorrow. You would never mind the rudeness of your boss or the gossip about some acquaintance. 

Instead, you would want to do something worthwhile like try something new, spend time with your family, play with your kids, etc. Such experience helps us to set our priorities straight.

The fear of death comes from fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Mark Twain

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