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Selective Apathy Frees You to Care More

Selective Apathy Frees You to Care More

Apathy by Libby.

    Photo courtesy of Libby

    What do you think of this phrase: “The Joy of Apathy”? It sounds like such a clashing contradiction: how can joy, which is associated with happiness and passion, be found in the opposite stoicism of apathy? While joy and apathy certainly aren’t the same, they often work together and are complementary, as we’ll see.

    Every one of us has a capacity to care and be happy. That’s good, and is a fundamental part of what enables us, as humans, to build sustaining communities and civilizations. At the same time, caring too much is hurtful, or even harmful — unhealthy obsession, caring’s dark side, can creep out and make one focused on trying to win at all costs, even if the end result is failure. Take a gambler, who’s undeniably passionate about pulling the one-armed bandit or takes a chance on innumerable other games, but whose high-rollin’ elation soon descends into depressing depths when they can’t beat the house. Or witness the hype-laden rush of the dot-com-bomb era, from which Pets.com ex-CEO Julie Wainwright candidly wrote about what she learned.

    Passion and joy focused in the wrong directions don’t do you good; as part of your emotional faculties, tempering them with apathy — even if that may sound completely counterintuitive and wrong at first — is key to living a better life.

    Care, but not that much

    Herb Cohen is one of the world’s finest negotiators. From bargains at electronics stores to convincing terrorists to let their hostages go, his wealth of experience has a central theme which comes up often: care, but not that much.

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    Showing you’re interested in, say, a store item will pique a clerk to sell it to you. But go overboard and, in effect, communicate (via body language and obvious desperation) that you must have it at any price, and you will give the upper hand to the other party.

    My Dad was a pretty darn good negotiator too, and whenever someone enthusiastically offered him what they considered to be a massive deal, my Pa would scoff,

    “Huh! Is that so?”

    and stare at them. So intensely that their retinas might’ve been seared out before dunking dollars off the price tag. It was one of his best tricks, which helped me get my first Macintosh computer at a fine price, among many other goodies in my youth.

    Be cool. Let apathy be the frosting on your “caring cake”. In the blackjack-centric movie 21, Kevin Spacey plays a professor with a secret life of teaching card counters. He repeatedly reminds his students to not let their feelings get in the way to win — so in the absence of those feelings, even though it’s unsaid (as it often is), there’s apathy.

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    The same principles apply in relationships: coming on too strongly to someone you have affection for is smothering. Pretending you’re not interested (it’s hard, I know!) may have the opposite effect. I’m not just talking about romantic partnerships, but contacting someone you admire and want the attention of (Tim Ferriss describes this as a Mentor-type process) — we’re all people.

    What’s really worth caring about?

    You have a finite amount of time and energy, just like you do with other resources, such as money. Even if you’re super-generous, you don’t donate to every charity, just a select few you especially care about and can relate with. It gives you a good feeling to give. And the rest? Frankly, you don’t care. They effectively don’t exist unless you give not just $$$, but your attention.

    While that may be viewed as bad for those other charities, don’t worry, because human diversity is infinite, and chances are someone else cares about them. (Or if not, perhaps the charities should do a better job marketing themselves.)

    You aren’t interested in everything. You don’t visit every website — you bookmark favorites (and I hope one of them is Lifehack ;) ).

    Think of your ability to care and be joyful about the stuff in your life as measured as slices of a total pie. You may find this uncomfortably mechanical, but with a big picture — or pie-cture — you can look at criteria such as:

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    • How much time you spend on something
    • How much you talk to friends & family about it
    • Your commitment to active, communal participation (Joss Whedon fans and cosplay zealots are fantastic examples)
    • And perhaps most importantly: what are you getting out of it?

    Throw away your “old clothes”

    Out of everything you care about, what definitely isn’t worth caring about, as passionate (in a bad way) as it makes you feel? If you find that tough, take a hard look at what long-term benefits you’re getting from it — the followup, the results, the takeaways.

    You may like to indulge in food and consider yourself a confectionary guru. But gorging yourself on le chocolat, despite momentary feelings of pleasure, will bloat you in the long run. Care less about sweets, care more about a healthy lifestyle.

    Some people get a rise off of social drama on Internet forums and like to “munch the popcorn” while watching the trolling ensue or even making trouble themselves — instead of doing something that contributes more effectively and visibly to their well-being. For instance, using a forum to conduct research about job opportunities.

    Others passively watch TV news waiting for stories of interest, when they’d be better and quicker served by a sleek aggregator like popurls.

    You’ve probably observed that you don’t have enough time, but for the time you’ve been spending on various activities, should you really care about all of them? Or can you look closer and go “meh” to some, empowering yourself through the joy of apathy?

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    I understand it’s a mental challenge to drop the slop, like trying to get rid of old clothes and hesitating, “I might need them someday!”. But apathy is about not wasting energy, saving resources, and having more of a “reserve” to spend in the future. Just like emptying your closet of unworn antiques gives you space to store new ones, caring less about some things — or not giving a damn at all! — makes you able to care more about others.

    Be bored of badness

    When I was younger, I used to get angry. A lot. Sounds like the Incredible Hulk, but there was nothing smashing about it. You know what intriguingly ended up happening? I experienced a lot of incarnations of anger, depression, and other baggage, like variations on a theme by Beethoven, and eventually found myself bored… numb… not caring. It created a void wherein I thought to myself, during some of my more sullen moments,

    “OK… if this is my life… what do I care about, and why?”

    Words like “purpose”, “meaning”, and “reason” often get trotted out here. The simple truth that connects those three words is a sense of focus, of direction, of finding your way.

    And focus certainly doesn’t mean “everything”; like using apathy skillfully, even artfully, it means picking something specific to target. Remember, apathy is easier than it seems, because not caring doesn’t require energy. (Pardon the double negative.)

    Don’t count on theory. Often in life, you just won’t know without the experience. Having lived through something. You cared about it, know what that’s like, and now you can lose interest and move on. The concept of losing interest in unhealthy emotions may sound bizarre, but it makes perfect sense. Emotions are often connected to external experiences, and just like the 100th rerun of a comedy sitcom episode isn’t going to be as funny or surprising as the first time around, going through phases of emotions and exploring them, even if they’re unpleasant ones, will teach you a lot about who you are, what’s worth caring about, and why.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

    50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn

    If you’re like me and really into self-development, you’ve probably read many of the thousands of self-help books out there on the market. But also like me, you probably find all the information a bit overwhelming.

    That’s why I wanted to do the self-less task of taking the most important, life-changing lessons I’ve drawn from these books and condensed them into 50 key points.

    Here’re 50 habits of successful people you should learn:

    1. Believe It to See It

    Our minds tend to focus on what’s happening around us and refuse to see what could happen. Only when you trust in what’s possible and dare to dream big, big things can happen for you.

    2. See Problems as a Wonderful Gift

    While others only see problems and give up, successful people use the problem as a lesson to find improvement in themselves or the task at hand.

    3. Keep Looking for Solutions

    Even if they’re knee-deep in problems, successful people will still put all of their focus on finding solutions.

    4. Remember It’s All About the Journey

    Successful people are conscious and methodical in creating their own success. They don’t sit around doing the bare minimum, hoping success finds them.

    5. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

    There’s so much fear on the road to success, but instead of letting that fear control and limit them, successful people do a good job of just forging ahead regardless.

    6. Always Ask Productive Questions

    It’s all about asking the right questions. Successful people make sure they are questions that will elicit information for a more productive, creative and positive mindset moving forward.

    7. Understand the Best Waste of Energy Is Complaining

    Successful people know that choosing to see the negative side of things will only create a useless and unproductive state.

    8. Don’t Play the Blame Game

    Taking responsibility for actions and outcomes is a form of empowerment that you can build your success upon. While the act of blaming others or outside circumstances takes this empowerment away from you.

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    9. Maximize Your Strengths

    Not every successful person is simply more talented than the rest, but they do use what they know they’re good at to achieve more successful results.

    10. Be in It to Win It

    Successful people are busy, productive and proactive. Instead of sitting around over-thinking and over-planning a great idea, they just take a step towards it no matter how small.

    11. Know That Success Attracts Success

    People who are successful surround themselves and seek out like-minded people. They understand the importance of being part of a team and forge win-win relationships.

    12. Actually Choose to Be Successful

    Dreaming big is a massive part of being successful even if your dream seems impossible. Ambition is a mindset that needs to be a daily conscious choice.

    13. Visualize, Visualize, Visualize!

    You’ve got to see your success in your mind’s eye even before it comes. Successful people clarify and get that certainty about what they want their reality to look like rather than being mere spectators of life.

    14. Be a One-Off Original

    Successful people look for what’s working and then create a unique spin on it. Imitating only regurgitates other people’s ideas with no originality.

    15. The Perfect Time to Act Is Now

    Waiting for the right time to act is basically procrastination wrapped up in an excuse. Successful people know there’s never a perfect time so they may as well just do it now.

    16. Keep Learning, Keep Growing

    Continuous learning is the key to a successful life. Whether it’s academic, being a student of life or actionable learning, it’s all about expanding your knowledge and personal development.

    17. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

    Successful people have the knack for finding positive aspects in all people and circumstances no matter what.

    18. Having a Bad Day? Do It Anyway!

    We all have bad moods but it shouldn’t be an excuse to stop everything. Giving into a bad mood just stop-starts your life, slowing success way down.

    19. Sometimes Risky Business Is Needed

    Calculated risks are a must for success. It’s about weighing the pros and cons while moving forward with that element of trust.

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    20. Accept Challenge All the Time

    Dealing with problems head-on is a must to be successful. Successful people also face challenges in order to improve themselves.

    21. Make Your Own Luck

    In the mindset of a successful person, there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ or ‘fate’. They take control to actively and consciously create their own best life.

    22. Ignite Your Initiative

    While many people are reactive, successful people are proactive – taking action before they have to.

    23. Be the Master of Your Emotions

    Being effective at managing emotions is key on the road to success. That’s not to say successful people don’t feel like we all do, but they’re just not slaves to their emotions.

    24. Champion in Communication

    Consciously working on effective communication skills gets anyone closer to success.

    25. Plan Your Life Strategically

    Successful people’s lives aren’t a clumsy series of unplanned events and outcomes, they methodically work at turning their plans into a reality.

    26. Become Exceptional at What You Do

    To become exceptional, you typically have to do things that most won’t. To become successful, hard decisions need to be made and acting on them is crucial.

    27. Choose to Live Outside of Your Comfort Zone

    While many people are pleasure junkies and avoid pain and discomfort at all costs, successful people understand the value and benefits of working through the tough stuff that most would avoid.

    28. Live by Core Values

    Successful people firstly identify their core values and what’s important to them, then do their best to live a life that reflects these values.

    29. Realize Money Isn’t Everything

    Money and success are not interchangeable and the most successful people understand this. Putting money on a pedestal and equating it to success is a dangerous mindset to have. Success comes in many forms.

    30. Don’t Get Carried Away

    Successful people understand the importance of discipline and self-control and as a result they are happy to take the road less travelled.

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    31. Self-Worth Is Not Tied to Success

    Successful people are secure. They do not derive their self-worth from what they own, who they know, where they live or what they look like.

    32. Kindness Breeds Kindness (And Success)

    Generosity and kindness is a common trait among long-term successful people. It’s important to take pleasure in helping others achieve.

    33. More Humility, Less Arrogance

    Successful people are humble and happy to admit and apologize for mistakes. This is because they’re confident in their ability. They are happy to learn from others and happy to make others look good rather than seek their own personal glory.

    34. Change Opens New Doors

    People who are successful are adaptable and embrace change, while the majority are creatures of comfort and habit. They are comfortable with, and embrace, the new and the unfamiliar.

    35. Success Requires a Healthy Body

    It’s not just how you think, it’s about how you show up for success. Successful people understand the importance of being physically well, not for vain reasons but because being in tiptop condition creates a better personal life for success.

    36. Laziness Just Doesn’t Exist

    Successful people are never considered lazy. Yes, they can relax when they need to, but working hard is their game.

    37. Resilience by the Bucket Load

    When difficulty strikes, most would throw in the towel, but successful people are just warming up.

    38. Feedback Is Just Another Chance to Improve

    How people react to feedback determines their potential for success. Being open to constructive criticism and acting on it to improve is most seen in those who are successful.

    39. Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

    If people are hanging out with toxic and negative people, then they need to take a look at themselves. Successful people hang out with others who are positive and supportive.

    40. Can’t Control It? Forget It

    Successful people don’t invest time or emotional energy into things which they have no control of.

    41. Swim Against the Tide

    Successful people are not people-pleasers and they don’t need constant approval from others in order to move ahead.

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    42. Alone Time Is Valuable Time

    More self-worth means being more comfortable with your own company. Successful people are more happy and see the value in spending time alone.

    43. Self-Standard Is Higher Than Most

    Everyone has a choice to set high standards for themselves. Successful people do this, which in turn produces greater commitment, more momentum, a better work ethic and of course, better results.

    44. Failure Isn’t Rationalized

    While many use age, health, lack of time, ‘bad luck’, or lack of opportunity to explain away their failure, the key to success is finding a way to succeed despite facing these challenges.

    45. Down Time Is an Important Part of a Routine

    Having an off switch and taking time to do things that make them happy is a common trait of a successful person. Take a look at here The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    46. Career Isn’t Who You Are, It’s What You Do

    Successful people know their career isn’t their identity. They are multi-dimensional and don’t define themselves by their job.

    47. Be Interested in Only the Path of Resistance

    While most people look for the easiest way or the shortcut, successful people are more interested in the most effective way. They look for the course of action which will produce the best results over the long term.

    48. Follow Through

    Many spend their life starting things that they never finish, but successful people get the job done. Even when the excitement and the novelty has worn off they still follow through and finish.

    49. Invest in All Your Dimensions

    We’re not just physical and psychological beings, but emotional and spiritual creatures as well. Successful people consciously work at being healthy and productive on all levels.

    50. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

    To obtain success, it’s important to practice what you preach. Successful people don’t talk about the theory, they live the reality.

    So there you have it, a summary of what I’ve learned from self-help books. But of course, you need to start taking actions so you will get closer to success too.

    Bonus: 5 Bad Habits To Quit

    More About Success

    Featured photo credit: Juan Jose via unsplash.com

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