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And so (as I mentioned a few days ago), while the title of Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck seems to imply that we should coolly brush off the entire world and all its sh*t and not care about a single thing—in actuality, Manson’s thesis is that we should carefully choose what to care about and struggle for.

According to Manson, there are good values and bad values. We should give serious f*cks about good values, but not about bad ones. He says there are three differences between good and bad values:

“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.”

One personal story he tells—in a different section of the book—stands out particularly in my mind, in relation to these points. A woman (and this is a true story, he says) fell in love with him after a brief encounter. Convinced that they were meant to be together, she stalked and harassed him for the next seven years. No matter whether he ignored her, politely asked her to stop, or angrily asked her to stop, she persisted.

This is an example of someone whose values are bad in all three ways: (1) The woman’s superstitious beliefs led her to think that the match was destined. (2) Her behavior was socially destructive because she negatively affected the lives of Manson and people close to him. (3) Her beliefs about Manson were not immediate because she thought she would experience happiness with him in the indeterminate future, even though he was showing her no affection now; and her beliefs were not controllable because it’s impossible to force someone to love you.

To transform her values into good ones, she could have done the following: (1) Identify the facts and separate them from the fantasies, for example by focusing on Manson’s responses to her overtures, instead of on mystical interpretations of signs from the universe. (2) Work on behaving in ways that produce positive outcomes and responses from others; no tangible good was coming of her contacting Manson, and his responses to her were not positive. (3) Think about what she has control over right now, and work on those things; for example, she could work on learning a new skill or cultivating a new attitude.

I confess, I have a number of superstitions. In fact, in counting them up to write this post . . . well, I have more than I had realized. That’s something I’m going to have to work on. Do you, like me, have any bad values that could, with a little personal effort, be discarded in favor of good ones?

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