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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Life Hack 4: Things you don't have to care about

This is a very simple one. Think of things that you don't care about and make a list.  For me, for example, it would be

*The clothes other people wear by choice.
*The outcome of sporting events or prizes given to movies or poets.
*Other people's taste in movies.
*Almost all of what other people do that doesn't affect me directly.
*Winning arguments with other people.
*How good or bad my handwriting is.
*Almost all comparisons between me and other people.
*The private behavior and public opinions of celebrities.

You could go on and on with this.  Now there are things you will care about as well. You can make a list of those things also. Choose only truly significant things, things that you really feel you must care about, like the health and well-being of family members or the state of the republic.

Now the trick is to find a third list of things that you do care about but that you really do not have to care about. Maybe you care about what total strangers think about you, or you care about the quality of their tattoos. You really don't have to. One reason is that caring about these things does nothing good, or prevents no harm, for you or for anyone else. Usually, it will be a thing without any practical consequence, and which you have no direct power over anyway.  Your caring about it seems to have some benefit for you, but this is an illusion for the most part. This includes most things that other people think or say about you, and a lot of what you think or say about other people.

You might think not caring is negative, because you should care about yourself and about other people.  I agree. You should care. But by moving more things from the care to the don't care column, you will be able to clarify what is really worth caring about. I've gained a lot by stopping a lot of unnecessary preoccupation with things that aren't really that bad, or whose badness is not that significant. For example, I no longer worry that people like the music of Kenny G. I don't need to out-debate other people or convince them they are wrong. While watching my local team play, I want them to win, but the minute the game is over I pretty much forget about it.

***

If you want to continue to care about something that I wouldn't approve of your caring about, don't worry, because you shouldn't care what I think in the first place.  Some of these false cares might seem vital to you, and you will want to cling to them as long as possible.  They probably have some function for you. I know I too still care about a lot of things I shouldn't. When letting go of a care you are not becoming indifferent to life, but choosing your battles more wisely by being less ego-driven.

For example, most comparisons to other people have to do with your own ego; so does the drive to convince people your beliefs are correct. Think envy, pride, sloth, wrath: most of that is ego-driven. The other deadly sins are simply wanting too much for one's self: gluttony, greed, and lust. Whatever your framework, I think once you adopt with life-hack you will see that there are at least a few things that your worry does nothing to alleviate.

***

When should you care about what other people say to you about yourself? I think it would have to be someone who cares about you personally and has your best interest at heart, and is expressing it in a way that conveys that concern, and giving you information on which you can act. So anyone that is insulting you, by definition, does not deserve to be heard.



6 comments:

profacero said...

I will see if I can apply this.

Things one cares about and doesn't, yes.

Things one doesn't care about but knows one had damned better care about is a category I struggle with. I have trouble getting myself to care about how I am perceived, but I know it is very important and that I must learn to care about it more.

Things I care about and should not are related to that. I know it is dangerous to be me and I keep trying to be someone else, and care a lot about it. This is unwise and unproductive but I am too scared to stop trying, and the habit of trying is very strong.

Hm.

profacero said...

1/ So, hm: things I care about but should not are, then, involve my fear of people. Even the fear is justified, the way I focus on it is not helpful.


2/ "When should you care about what other people say to you about yourself? I think it would have to be someone who cares about you personally and has your best interest at heart, and is expressing it in a way that conveys that concern, and giving you information on which you can act. So anyone that is insulting you, by definition, does not deserve to be heard."

Hm. What about comments on student evaluations, though, or complaints about your political blind spots from people you lead?

Jonathan said...

Yes. You should care about a student evaluation if it is a legitimate point and something you can correct. But the caring would consist of changing something concretely. Should you care about a political blind spot? I suppose you could, but only if changing would make the world a better place in a concrete way.

profacero said...

My political blind spot is wanting to put all the contingents on the tenure track. They hate this idea: do not want the perceived challenge of the tenure track, think they would not be selected for it / would be on the street, or do not want to move the way you often do to get on the tenure track. This is of course not what I mean: I mean, just transform them all to tenure track, even in situ. This is supposed to very, very arrogant and hurtful (say the contingents). I have been turning it over for over a month and my view only grows stronger.

profacero said...

P.S. Life hack 4 is very challenging, it is interesting. Perhaps I should make it my 2017 project. What do my responses above mean?

That I live in an unsafe environment and don't have the skills to handle it -- I neither conform nor overcome, which are the two viable paths, I am stuck in the middle and keep trying to conform so as to overcome, but really should be yet more seriously in the resistance.

Leslie said...

...and: dealing with fear/precarity is my #1 activity on that weird tier between the bad tier (3) and the maintenance one (2). Sometimes it is straight-up destructive and sometimes it is necessary. Figuring out the difference takes a lot of work.

Hm.