Insights From Mark Manson’s Books

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By Brad Kearns. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Breather: “Mindless positivity isn’t practical or helpful for most people,” Mark Manson writes in his first book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. He is, as usual, right on with this observation. Realizing that, “our modern, and maddening, urge to always find happiness only serves to make us unhappier,” Manson communicates clearly and concisely throughout his books about why we need to change the way we look at things like personal identity, hope, shame, and happiness.

The reason why Manson’s message works so well is not just the power of the message itself, but the fact that, instead of trying to push the power of positivity onto his readers, he offers an entirely new perspective ― what if everything you thought you knew about happiness and success and yourself was wrong? And what if that was actually a good thing?

Here’s the thing: as humans, we are all naturally inclined to feel attached to various parts of ourselves, especially the parts of ourselves that receive praise. Whether you’re a standout student or worker, an amazing athlete, a math genius, or a truly great dancer, it’s important to not fixate on the things about ourselves that we identify with the most. Why? Because Manson argues that identity is an arbitrary facade. He suggests looking at your life as a series of decisions and actions and try to maintain an identity that is defined by as little as possible.

Our emotional feeling brain actually rules over our rational, thinking brain. Yet we think, or pretend, that the opposite is true! According to Manson, emotions drive our consciousness, and it is emotion only that can motivate us into action. “Emotions convince your thinking brain that you’re right,” Manson says. When emotions rule over the thinking brain, it can lead to narcissism, addiction, compulsion, self-righteous anger, and so on. This is because a person ruled by their emotions has no independent thought, so they only pursue things that bring them instant gratification. Ultimately the goal is not to suppress your emotional brain, but to get your thinking brain connected to your emotional brain. Manson says do not try to suppress your emotions, but instead, try to convince your feeling brain that you will benefit from whatever decision that you are asking yourself about. A good example of this is when people often fail to succeed with lifestyle changes ― this is because our “feeling brain” feels like we don’t deserve the success.

Which leads us to self-worth. “Our self-worth is the sum of our emotions over time. If we can’t equalize, we accept inferiority, shame, and low self-worth,” Manson writes. Interestingly, both high and low self-worth are narcissistic, and self-worth is also an illusion. I know a thing or two about tying your accomplishments and/or abilities to your self-worth, so here’s a funny story from my college days: One day, the lockers got totally looted, so I had no choice but to jog home down a busy boulevard, for a mile and a half….in nothing but a Speedo and swimming goggles (and no shoes!). This was only one day after being the champion of a big tournament ― talk about being taken down a peg!

“Your identity will stay your identity until an event changes it,” Manson writes. “It’s a network of value-based narratives that determines our identity.” There are two ways to heal from this:

  • Examine the narratives of your life, and reposition them.
  • Visualize the future you want for yourself, and make that your new identity.

Let the feeling brain “try on” your new identity so it can become accustomed to it. This can be difficult, because it signifies that you’re really ready to change. “The stories of our future define our hopes, and the stories of our past define our identity” Manson notes, and he advises we take a look at both of those, so we can straighten them out, and get them right! Catch up with my recent interview with man himself, Mark Manson, here and if you haven’t yet read his books, check out The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope.

TIMESTAMPS:

It doesn’t work to try to be constantly happy. [04:11]

Carefully choose what you give a fuck about and then reject the social pressures. [07:06]

Identity doesn’t exist. It is arbitrary. It is a façade. [08:14]

Some of the chapter titles of this book are intriguing: Don’t Try, Happiness is a Problem, You are Not Special, etc. [10:37]

If you don’t have hope, you are basically headed toward depression and anxiety. [11:14]

A quick history of the 20th century gives an idea of what many people have lived through and helps put things in perspective. [13:37]

When life gets too comfortable, we have to pick a cause to worry about to give us meaning. [16:18]

Our emotional feeling brain actually rules over the rational thinking brain. [17:42]

The history of humanity features a major effort to conquer the emotional feeling brain with self-control. [19:50]

There's a common notion in spiritual psychology that the affluence and love we achieve in life equates to our level of self -worth. [24:04]

Every emotional reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. [25:11]

Both high and low self-worth are narcissistic because they imagine themselves as something special. [27:25]

Your identity will stay your identity until an event changes it. [29:52]

LINKS:

QUOTES:

  • "Struggle gives richness to life." - Roger Bannister
  • "Our modern and maddening urge to always find happiness only serves to make us unhappier." - Mark Manson

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