For some reason, 2017 seemed to churn out almost as many self-help / positive thinking / motivation focused books as it did detective thrillers. Ok… wait… that isn’t impressive enough… Maybe it churned out almost as many as the entire mystery genre combined. One second… think bigger… Maybe it produced as many as all fiction books put together. Maybe as many as all fiction books ever published in the history of man. Maybe this is hyperbole.
No matter where you look today you’ll be able to find a book about life, about how to live it, about how to make it better, about how to overcome challenges. It’s a phenomenon peculiar to very (I mean, like, the last 50 years) recent history (though I’m not saying books like these didn’t exist before then at all). A lot of people think this recent uptrend is taking place because society is having a crisis of identity and happiness (maybe true), while a lot of others think there are too many writers out there acting opportunistically and turning to this sub-genre for money and exposure (also maybe true). Either way, there are a plethora of books coming out that have to do with positive thinking and taking control of your own life in some way, shape, or form.
But when it comes to positive thinking, I am actually (plot twist) A HUGE FAN.
Hear me out, though, because I think that the ideas behind positive thinking and motivation get a bad rap.
Unfortunately I have too many thoughts on this topic to cram into a single post, so I’m going to focus this one here on a guy who I think epitomizes (in a weird way) how I feel about positive thinking and motivation (though he uses a lot more curse words than I do).
I’m talking about Mark Manson, the very interesting and talented blogger and author. Last year Mark released a book titled ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’, which he explained as A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. But well before this book ever came out Mark had posted hundreds of blogs that seemed to ride the full spectrum of topics, thought they all wove around the anchoring thread of Motivation and Positivity. The book title itself is a misnomer, really, because it’s actually about knowing where to focus and give a person’s very limited amount of F***s, rather than not caring about anything at all.
Because the thing about positivity is that it isn’t about being happy all the time. Bad things happen in life – war, poverty, disease, loss of friends and loved ones, setbacks in our professional and personal lives – these things are unavoidable and are almost integral to the full experience of being human. What matters is how you choose to react to these things, what you choose to dwell on vs. what you choose to overcome and move on from (i.e. What you choose to use your F***s on). Positive thinking is about coming to terms with the world and life as it is, to not sweat the things that you can’t change, to focus on trying to positively impacting those things you actually can impact (both in your own life and others). If we believe in our own ability to dictate our life as much as a person possibly can, if we train ourselves to see the good in things, we give ourselves confidence and energy which in turn helps us accomplish our goals. And in the process it helps us deal with the bad things in life that inevitably happen. Not to say a good cathartic rage or cry or rage-cry isn’t necessary or good sometimes.
I say all this knowing that some people have unfair advantages over others, some people are given tougher paths, some deal with more loss and heartbreak, some have it easy, some have it hard… those differences matter, and fighting for equality while understanding the hardships other people had to go through is important, but that doesn’t make this form of positivity wrong; doing the best you can in every situation, seeing the good in things, taking control of your life with as much joy as you can muster is often the most important thing we can do in our lives day-in and day-out.
Mark sums up a lot of incredible thoughts in my favorite post of his ‘Life is a Video Game—Here Are the Cheat Codes’. FULL DISCLAIMER, though: This post is full – and I mean ridiculously full – of curse-words and all-around vulgar language. If any of this offends you please don’t read it as I’m trying not to fry anyone’s sensibilities on a random Wednesday morning!
In a lot of his posts Mark hides an astounding amount of insight and truth behind irreverence and R-rated language and content. He strips away propriety, ramps his emotions up 10x, and lets his mouth (typing fingers?) fire off like the cannons on a pirate ship. I personally appreciate his style as a change of pace from the normal ‘Self-Help’ books/gurus, but you have been warned!
I wanted to quickly thank a couple of my fellow bloggers for inspiring me to share how I feel about positivity and motivation: Milly Schmidt (‘omg another call out? leave me alone already Dave’) for mentioned Mark’s book in her recent post, which reminded me just how much enjoyed it, and Alisa from Write What You Know! for her recent post about Motivation (after commenting on her post I immediately plagiarized from my own comment for part of this blog).
The concepts around positive thinking, motivation, and self-help are open to interpretation, which is what makes them so great. I know that focusing on the positive has materially impacted my life over the last few years, building upon itself over time to the point where the difference is easily noticeable to my friends and family, and I’m grateful for how far it’s taken me.
Hopefully some of Mark’s words, or just these types of thoughts in general, can help other people, too.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think, or what questions (or criticisms!) you might have below.
P.S. Yes, that’s me in the blue shirt and white shorts in the picture, just trying to practice positivity with some friends, ya know?