"Your problem?" - that's the question I was faced with a couple of days ago when I made a somewhat contemptuous gesture towards a small and funny looking man sneaking into our compound through the exit gate without showing his "green code" and getting his temperature checked at the entrance.
I answered "That was not right! The entrance is on the other side!"... "Your problem?" - I shook my head... "Your problem?" - the dude just kept going. He looked at him closely and considered my options. That man was probably totally stressed out from his day at work with a small plastic bag including 2 cans of beer and some candy as far as I could tell. He seemingly tried to get into the shelter of his own home as fast as possible. I thought for a brief moment if I should give him a lecture on his social responsibility to follow protocols and the long term implications of not doing so, etc.. I had it all laid out in my mind including how important it is for us Non-Chinese residents to make a good impression and follow the rules since we are already under general suspicion of being responsible for every corona case in China since roughly May 2020. But I was held back because I was able to already anticipate his answer: "Your problem?"
Yeah, I'm guilty of giving way too many fucks about things that shouldn't bother me at all. Things that don't affect me and that I have no business in - and things that I can't change anyways no matter how hard I'd try. There's a simple reason for that: not having more important things to do. It sounds simple and - to be frank - it is. If my mind was occupied with more important things that were based on my goals and values, than I probably wouldn't bother at all who entered the compound through which gate - or if another insane scooter-delivery-guy crosses the road in front of me during a red light while almost getting flattened like those poor little frogs that try to cross the road on a rainy day... I would get less angry and I would think about "better problems".
We all have something we give a fuck about. Problems that we focus our attention on and that we can try to solve. Some of them are harder to deal with, some are simple, some of them are just a stupid waste of time. And even if you try not to give a fuck about anything, then that's the thing you give a fuck about. However, what we need to look out for when choosing what to worry about are those things that align with our principles and values. We should only give a fuck about what is in alignment with the things that are truly important to us. For example, if we value family-life, then everything concerning family-related values like respect, honesty, tradition, care-taking and self-sacrifice, as well as everything else related to a happy and healthy family is probably worth caring about.
It's hardly worth mentioning that there are good and bad personal values. What you focus on and care about should be based on good values - not the shitty "secondary-greatness" ones like money, status, a bigger car, a bigger house or a porterhouse-steak coated in 24k gold. Good values are evidence-based, socially constructive, and controllable. Bad values are the opposite. You can also apply this to what defines success in your life. Achieving success in life is not nearly as important as our definition of success. If our definition of success is horrific because it is based on bad values—like, say, world domination—then working harder, setting and achieving goals, and disciplining our minds all become a bad thing.
However, from my personal experience, just having good values is not enough. I think I have a couple of good values that I try to base my every-day behavior on. For instance, the values that I claim to have and that probably led to me bothering about whether or not someone uses the right gate to our compound in the first place are, just to mention a few, community, integrity and interdependence. But is the category these values belong to ("system-awareness") the most important one to me? Is it the first priority? And how many fucks do I have to give in regards to my values related to every-day human interaction? That's a tough question because it makes us prioritise.
To be sure that we focus on the right things that really matter the most, we have to choose the amount of fucks we have to give in regards to a few key dimensions: personal health, intimate relationship, family, friends, work, and leisure. We have to set specific goals in these dimensions and set our values and principles in order.
There is a ton of values and principles in each category and please excuse me for not making a detailed distinction between values and principles at this point, but let me briefly summarise the differences for your information: Values are part of our internal system that guides our behavior, whereas principles are external. Values are subjective, personal, emotional, and arguable, while principles are objective, factual, impersonal, and self-evident because they are indisputable. So here's a list of principles and values that you could thrive for:
food and shelter
intimacy and sensuality
honesty and loyalty
passion and compassion
belonging and recognition
self-sacrifice and caretaking
legacy and tradition
kindness and altruism
listening and responsiveness
openness and honesty
choice and commitment
community and service
sustainability and ecology
As mentioned before, we don't have enough time and fucks to give in order to achieve a high level of fulfilment in regards to all of the above stated values and principles. And there are many, many more in each category. We have to chose what's most important to us. That doesn't mean we can neglect any of the dimensions mentioned above. All of them are part of our lives. There should be a set of goals encompassing all of these dimensions. But we can chose what's most important within these dimensions.
Take this for example:
The most important values in regards to personal health for me are mental and physical functioning since these are in alignment with my overarching goal of being physically, mentally, and socially healthy.
In regards to my intimate relationship I aim for the best possible balance between intimacy, passion, and commitment (also called consummate love) for the simple yet ambitious goal of spending the rest of my days with my wife in harmony.
Within my family I focus on loyalty & respect as well as legacy & tradition because these are the values my father stood for and since he's been gone I'm trying to hold these values high and honor them in his memory.
In accordance with my goal to only have the most sustainable and healthy friendships I pick choice & commitment as my core values in the friends dimension. I don't make friends very easily and stick to the choices that I've made.
At work I focussed on responsibility & integrity for the longest time. However, I have realised over time that balance might be the most important and overarching value. Not only work-life-balance, but balance in regards to saying yes vs. saying no, balance in regards to economical vs. ecological goals, balance in regards to integrity (towards the cause) vs. loyalty (towards the person), etc..
In my leisure time I focus on sustainability. While spirituality is deeply embedded in my personal being, sustainability is something I have discovered over time and it helps me to make better choices e.g. regarding my buying and eating behavior, personal finances, etc.
So, there are some core values and principles attached to goals that should guide me in regards to the every day battles I choose and the fucks I give about what happens around me. Yet, it's quite tough to follow through with this.
I think that one of the key reasons we fail to focus on what's important to us is the amount of problems we get bombarded with every day by other people and institutions. We are told that we should have many more problems than the good ones we chose for ourselves and that are derived from our overarching goals. Nowadays, we are supposed to give a fuck about everyone and everything. But we don't have the time for that. And none of the people or institutions that mislead our attention and focus towards problems that they deem fuck-worty will ever give us back any of the time that they have taken from us.
No, I'm not saying that we can choose all of the problems we have to deal with ourselves. We can't. Sometimes shit just happens and we have to deal with it. Yet, we can choose how to deal with the problems that we are faced with. The key word is responsibility. We have to take responsibility for how we deal with them based on our goals, values, and principles. Ignoring them is not a good solution since there is a high risk that whatever we hide in the fog might come back to us in an even worse manner. So, the essence to giving the right fucks is this: Take full responsibility for everything that happens to you - but choose your reaction solely based on your most important goals and in alignment with your values and principles...
Some of the ideas shared in this blog are taken from the book "The subtle art of not giving a f*ck" by Mark Manson and his website: www.markmanson.net