I’ve wanted to write about authenticity, finding truth within and projecting that truth to the world, so when Helena shared her piece on finding your “right work” and my cousin’s live webinar on Dharma aired shortly after, I decided it was time to put thought to words. Both Helena and Michael’s ideas kept bringing me back the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson (and I’m guessing both Helena and my cousin would seriously question their connection to his book). If you haven’t read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck its title may suggest a crass comparison, but hear me out.
Trauma in life often brings with it a realization of what truly matters. Death, cancer, natural disaster – the list is long, but no matter, the trauma is life-changing. Afterward, people often seek to find meaning and a sense of belonging, usually with a newfound art of not giving a f*ck about the stuff that really doesn’t matter. Sometimes that sense of consciousness within oneself comes from the sense of belonging to something larger, something more vast and knowledgeable, or something believed to have already succeeded in understanding Dharma, the pure truth in being. Other times we find that sense of consciousness within ourselves after a traumatic shock to our system because it resets a former identity and we have to rebuild. Maybe it’s just a whole lot of fuck-ups in life that caused us to hit rock bottom and we finally realized we really f-ed up. However we got there, self-reflection and a sense of consciousness are thrust upon us. We might not know what to do with it at the moment, but that’s where it begins.
Failure is a buzzword right now. With failure you supposedly get grit, you get future gains, you get fearless potential. And here converges Helena’s post, my cousin’s webinar on Dharma, and the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson – it’s not failure that gives us potential, it’s the effort we’re putting into something – anything – that brings us potential. At least we’re trying! We’re doing something. We’re out there exerting energy and not giving a f*ck if it doesn’t work out. We’re okay with that and we keep going.
When we’re stuck in a job that we hate, or a relationship that is miserable, or believe we can’t find our way in life, those sad realities are really not the point. The point is that we’ve given up hope. We’re idling. When we’re depressingly questioning our choices, or self-consciously wondering if we’re living up to our potential, or worse, angrily blaming others for us not doing good enough, we’re idling. We’re not really failing because we’re not even putting in any effort. And we’ve all be there at one point or another.
There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.
If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.
– Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Insert trauma – whatever it may be – and we’re forced to exert real effort. We have to fight for our life. If you accept the truth of who you are and what your situation is you can rebuild, project honesty, and find your ‘right work’ – work as a metaphor for whatever matters to you.
To me, ‘right work’ is authenticity. Yes, we may need to sit at a computer all day, and we may not find absolute passion in what we do to earn money, but that’s only one kind of work in life. When you live authentically, you can find the ‘right work’ in raising your children, as Helena spoke about in her description of her friend. You can find your ‘right work’ in helping others through volunteering. Or maybe your ‘right work’ is creating art or gardening or teaching others to create art or garden. True right work is experiencing Dharma. That sense that you’re giving yourself to something with effort, with honesty, pure in intent and potential.
The secret to life isn’t being successful in what you produce or can show materially, it’s the process that matters – accepting responsibility and being okay with being wrong, exerting real effort and focusing your practice to improve, and being authentic and living honestly. Trauma brings us there because we’re forced to reflect on our personal sustainability. Dharma embodies it because it’s the art of not giving a f*ck.
Much love and happiness,
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