We’ve all heard of the ‘bucket list’, where make a list of all the things we want to do, be, have or accomplish during our lifetime.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It can be a fun and inspiring endeavour.
But, let’s face it, it can also be a little depressing.
By focusing on what we want and don’t have, we may end up feeling that we’re coming up short — that our life should be one big adventure after another, and that we’re nowhere near where we’d like to be.
A surefire way to get discouraged is to gauge our sense of worth based on where we are in relation to where we want to be.
There’s usually a hefty gap.
On the other hand, when we look at where we are now in comparison to where we’ve been, we’ll most likely feel a boost of confidence. Even if we’re not where we ideally want to be, we can appreciate just how far we’ve come, and what we’ve been through to get where we are.
This simple change in perspective can shift our mindset and immediately make us feel empowered and happy.
That’s why I’m more into the idea of a ‘fuck it list’ than a ‘bucket list’. (Excuse the swearing, by the way. I thought about blanking it all out, but that seemed rather dumb. So, fuck it!).
What exactly is a fuck it list?
First of all, we have to understand that stress and unhappiness don’t actually come from external things.
I know it sure seems like they do.
But, contrary to what we might think, everything in life is value-neutral. Things simply are as they are. Until, that is, human beings come along and decide to chunk reality down into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. “I like this, but I don’t like that.” “I want this, and I don’t want that.”
Our stress comes from the meaning, the value, that we ascribe to objects. We invest things with different levels of meaning. Not only that, but we come to believe that these things should be a certain way. When these objects don’t match up to how we think they should be, as is frequently the case in life, we get upset.
Why? Because essentially we’re giving too much of a fuck.
We generally spend our lives trying to get reality to match up to our likes and dislikes; to conform to our internal map of how we think it should be. But ultimately life is life, and things are going to happen as they happen, whether we like it or not.
I voted in the UK election the other day. I did my bit, scrawling a cross on my ballot paper, and then I simply accepted the result as it happened. After all, what was the point in getting worked up about it? It was out of my hands. I gave enough of a fuck to vote, but not so much of a fuck that I lost sleep over what happened next.
The very notion of letting go can be a real challenge to many people. This is because we cling so tenaciously to our beliefs and ideas about how reality should be.
Again, life doesn’t care what we think. It’s far too busy running this whole show. It makes concessions for no one.
The real secret to inner peace is knowing when to let go.
And then let go some more.
Letting go doesn’t mean that we don’t care. It doesn’t imply some kind of lazy apathy. It simply means we know when to stick to our own business. Our business is to live our lives as best we can, contributing to others and the world where appropriate, and letting others do likewise.
When faced with outcomes we aren’t too crazy about, it pays to remember that our true power lies in how we respond. It relates to our mindset and emotional maturity.
Much of the time we can’t control outer events. We can’t control other people. A lot of the time we can’t even control our own bodies (have you ever tried to get your toenails to stop growing? Nope. Not gonna happen).
So, one of the most important life skills is knowing when to simply shrug, and let it go. If it’s not something that’s not within our power to change, what other choice do we have? The only alternative is to waste our time, energy and life force getting angry, upset and stressed. And what does that accomplish aside from making us miserable and sick?
There comes a time when we need to learn to say “fuck it!”
Saying “fuck it!” to stressful situations, to our worries and fears, immediately dissipates tension and frees up a whole lot of energy.
It also helps us see things more objectively. While the situation, event, or circumstance may still not be to our liking, it begins to lose its hold on us. We become free of it because we’re no longer resisting it.
This is immensely liberating.
So why not create your own fuck it list? Take an inventory of your life. See what’s stressing you. Obviously, fix what you can. But figure out what you need to let go of, what you need to relax about, and what you need to say “fuck it!’ to.
Here’s my list. These are the things that used to be a big deal to me, but which I now endeavour to relax about. Maybe you’ll be able to relate to it.
1. Fuck the Past
I always tended to be rather past-centric. I’d get hung up over mistakes I’d made and beat myself up without relent. Sure, if we had our lives to live over again with hindsight we’d probably all do things differently.
But I’ve come to realise that everything has always transpired exactly the way it was meant to. If it could have been different it would have been.
I’ve always done my best with the resources and knowledge I had at the time, and generally everyone else does too. Life isn’t about getting it perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect. Life takes us where we’re meant to be. Each situation and every perceived mistake offers us the opportunity to learn and grow.
The past happened as it had to happen — and it’s gone. It no longer exists. Therefore, it makes no sense to hold onto it other than to cherish the good times and let happy memories propel us forward.
2. Fuck the Future
If the past doesn’t exist, then neither does the future. When we think about the future, what we’re actually thinking about is a projection in our mind; a mental fabrication.
Many people spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what’s going to happen with the economy, in their personal lives, with their jobs, and an endless amount of other things. Obviously, it’s necessary to plan certain things and to take a responsible attitude when it comes to how we’d like our lives to unfold. But getting sucked into imaginary future projections is not a healthy way to live, particularly if we’re always terrorising ourselves with all the bad things that could happen.
We could spend our whole life worrying about the future and playing out various scenarios of what might happen, but things almost never transpire the way we think, so getting lost in such fantasies is a waste of time.
What I’ve learned is that if I take care of things and do my best in the present, the future tends to take care of itself. Good things and bad things come, and I deal with them as best I can, as and when they happen.
‘Future’ is an abstract concept that’s more or less specific to human beings. It’s helpful to an extent to be able to project ahead, but when we find ourselves getting stressed about it, it’s time to say “fuck it” to the future and just get on with life in the present as best we can.
3. Fuck what other people think
This is a big one!
How often do we go through life paralysed by the thought of what other people might think?
We’re actually hardwired to care about what other people think. We all want to want to be accepted, validated and to fit in.
But there comes a point when we realise that constantly living after other people’s opinion is no way of living at all.
What does it matter what other people think, anyway? People’s thoughts and opinions are fickle and ultimately mean very little. And, let’s face it, no matter how much we try to get people to like and accept us, we simply can’t please everyone all the time.
It’s far better to live authentically, to listen to our heart and follow our own dharma; our sense of what’s right and wrong for us. A life lived after the opinion of others is inauthentic and unfulfilling.
Freedom is freedom to be yourself and to follow your own way. The people that matter will love you for it, and those that don’t, don’t matter.
4. Fuck wanting to be someone else
I think most of us grow up feeling that in order to be happy and fulfilled, we have to somehow be more, better or different to what we are. Sadly, this sense of lack and inadequacy is conditioned into us from a young age and can take many forms.
Maybe we feel we ought to be better-looking, smarter, wealthier, more successful, more popular, or creative, or any number of other things. The sad thing is, our happiness is postponed until we are. And, given that our time on this Earth is finite, that’s truly sad.
The fact of the matter is, we are the way we are. We all have our own unique characteristics, abilities and proclivities. This is just the way consciousness expresses itself through us based on innumerable factors.
Sure, we’re free to change things about ourselves and to set goals and adopt different characteristics and behaviours, but ultimately we have to learn to accept ourselves as we are right now. Nothing’s going to work in our lives until we do.
Like anyone, I have my own particular strengths and my weaknesses, but after many years of struggling with issues of self-acceptance, I came to realise that I don’t need to turn myself into someone else in order to be happy. I can accept myself as I am right because I’m actually a pretty decent guy. I don’t need to be anybody else. I am who I am, and that’s enough.
5. Fuck limitations
Life is beset with limitation, whether financial, geographical or related to time, health, or any number of circumstances outside our control. From an early age, I’ve had a lot of health limitations. This continues to be a factor and prevents me from doing and achieving everything I might like.
But rather than using our limitations as an excuse for not doing anything, I learned that we can accept them and manoeuvre around them as best we can.
Fish swimming through rivers don’t get bothered by the rocks and boulders obstructing their way. They don’t turn it into a problem. Fish are too cool for that. They simply swim around the rocks and carry on their way.
I’ve learned to try and adopt the same attitude. I work within my limitations and where possible, I push beyond them. I recognise the futility of getting upset about things I can’t control and instead focus on those I can control.
6. Fuck the news, media and mainstream culture
Having studied press and broadcasting as part of my degree, I developed a jaded and suspicious attitude toward the mainstream media.
Far from being an impartial window to the world, news and media outlets are used to not just inform opinion, but to actually shape it.
The way the news is reported (not to mention what is reported, and what isn’t) can and frequently is used to manipulate people en masse. The mainstream media is the greatest form of cultural, social and political engineering on the planet.
I find it worrying that virtually all our media outlets are owned by a mere handful of individuals. These people have certain vested interests which are inevitably reflected in the media output. The news and media also has an extremely negative slant, which is one of the top criteria for determining which stories are deemed newsworthy. In my view, too much of this distorts the human spirit, creating a kind of deadness, apathy and hopelessness.
Between that and a predominant focus on all kinds of mundane and inane trivialities (such as ‘celebrity culture’), I tend to steer clear of the mainstream media. That doesn’t make me uninformed. I always hear exactly what I need to hear. I’ve found that for a peaceful mind, I simply have to guard my inner space and be vigilant in the way I curate my media input.
7. Fuck my creative fears
I’ve always been creative. When I was a child, my creativity was totally uninhibited. I just did what I wanted — creating comic books, stories, and playing out all kinds of adventures — because I loved doing it. I didn’t care if it was ‘any good’ or not.
As I grew up, however, I bought into the notion that for my work to have any value, it had to be ‘good’. It had to be sellable and to gain the approval of others. While this mindset is perhaps necessary for the professional creative, it also subtly sabotaged my creativity.
It’s taken me years to find my way back to the joyful, spontaneous, and carefree creativity of my childhood. But the less I care about the end result of my work, the more I enjoy doing it — and, funnily enough, the better it is too.
Authentic creativity requires a complete absence of self-consciousness. It’s an inward journey, in which we surrender control to the muse — the innate creative force that fuels the best and most fulfilling work. When I get ‘in the zone’ and tap into that raw and almost primal force of creativity, it feels energising, electrifying, and totally invigorating. It has a life and momentum all of its own.
However, the moment I become self-conscious and start judging the work I begin to block this flow. The ideas start drying up and the excitement turns to fear. There is, of course, a necessary time for the critic to come in and take an objective look at the work. But that must be held off until the latter stages; the editing stages. The initial stages of any creative endeavour need space and innocence — they must be as free and unconstrained as possible. Fear is the mortal enemy of creative expression. To give into this fear is, quite simply, the death of creativity.
8. Fuck expectations
Expectations are stifling. They choke the joy of out of life.
The sad thing is, we’re usually drowning in them. Our minds are full of them — a whole heap of expectations of ourselves, of others, and of life. In turn, others have a whole set of expectations of us, too.
But why should we conform to what others think we should be?
Why should we even impose a whole heap of ‘shoulds’ on ourselves?
And why can’t we let others be as they are without holding them prisoner to ideas of how WE think they should be?
We can’t be free as long as we’re bound the weight of our own expectations, and allowing ourselves to be hostage to the expectations of others. The essence of many Eastern philosophies, such as Zen and Taoism, is to simply drop all this mental baggage. It’s not getting us anywhere. In fact, it’s the source of so much of our stress and suffering.
By relinquishing all notions of how we think things should be, we become more present to life, as it is, now.
Instead of living life driven by a tangled mess of expectations, beliefs, prejudices and mental abstractions — which are always based on ignorance, or a limited view of the whole picture, anyway — we come back to life.
Life becomes simpler; smoother. Others don’t bother us quite so much. We start being a little kinder to ourselves, too.
We stop trying to control things as much. When we cease trying to force things to be the way we think they should be, something incredible happens. We actually start to appreciate life! We start to see how blessed we actually are.
Life isn’t something that needs our micromanagement. The universe has been functioning just perfectly the past 13.5 billion years without us.
Really, why should I make so many constant, petty demands of life? It’s given me everything.
When I manage to drop my expectations, I’m able to see how amazing life actually is. Instead of getting sucked up in all the dramas and the compulsion to want things to always go my way, I decided a much healthier way is to just let go, relax, and enjoy the show as best I can.
And so concludes my fuck it list. It’s very much anti-bucket list, really. Rather than listing all the things I want to experience, I’m simply clarifying the things I no longer want to experience. Saying fuck it can be hugely liberating!
Why not write your own fuck it list? What would be on yours?