03 August 2014

Food For Thought // #10

Artichoke Flower // Personal Picture

Here is the latest Food for Thought post, mainly focused on perspective and how changing our own view of the world can improve our situation and make us happier. My communications teacher used to say: it's like changing your camera lens - the situation itself doesn't change, but you approach it with a different angle.

On Raptitude - The Elegant Art of Not Giving A Shit

Not giving a shit sounds like apathy, but it’s not. It’s simply a refusal to waste your energy and time on thoughts you’re not going to act on. So when you do give a shit, make sure that the point of this shit-giving is to figure out what you’re actually going to do in response to what happened, and then move on to the action part.

In this article, David from Raptitude explains the importance of letting go of these things we replay over and over in our heads, despite the fact that they don't matter, when there is nothing we can do about them anyway.

I think it circles back to one of the Four Agreements: "Don't take it personally". After reading Raptitude's piece, I realized there are a lot of these things we "give a shit about", that really are taking personally something that has nothing to do with us. David's example of being called names while running is perfect: these people don't even know him, how can that insult be gainst him personally? It's probably a general hatred for runners on the insulter's part, which, no matter his reasons, is his problem and not the runners'.

I found that shifting our focus by not taking it personally are a great way to "not give a shit" about these trivial things we can replay in our heads afterwards. I remember, in the train, my seat neighbour laughing at me because I was taking a picture of my food. I didn't take it personally, she seemed to have a general opinion on young people and their phone addictions. Instead of taking it personally or "giving a shit", I laughed with her and explained I liked to take pictures of little ordinary moments to cultivate gratitude. Which actually started an interesting discussion between the two of us.

In any case, the elegant art of not giving a shit is a very interesting piece to read, as I feel we are cluttering our minds a lot with this little events we shouldn't care so much about. As long as you are happy with your own choices, there is no reason to be concerned with other people's opinion, especially when you know nothing about these folks, and when these opinions are expressed in a non constructive way.

On TED - Rory Sutherland: Perspective is Everything

In this talk, advertiser Rory Sutherland explains the importance of perspective - or how we perceive a situation or a product. This is related to what we call "perceived value" versus "actual value" in marketing. Basically, the idea is that we live, and accept, the very same situation in a very different way depending on how we perceive it.

Sometimes you just want to stand there silently, alone with your thoughts. Sometimes you just want to stand in the corner and stare out of the window. Now the problem is, when you can't smoke, if you stand and stare out of the window on your own, you're an antisocial, friendless idiot. If you stand and stare out of the window on your own with a cigarette, you're a fucking philosopher. 

 One interesting point he raises in this talk, is how the impression of control affects how we react to a certain (unpleasant) situation. For example, we'd be more willing to pay taxes if we knew (and ultimately, could choose) what that money would be used for. Another example he gives is pensioners versus unemployed people. The former chose to be idle, whereas the others are stuck unwillingly into that same situation.

Now how can we use this fact? Two things: as consumers, take a step back and realize that advertizers are creating a perspective for you. They are creating a "perceived value". Knowing about it can help dig beyond the brand image and find out if the actual value is worth the money you are about to pay for.

I have a perfect example for this. The other day, I was going to an organic store to find argan oil, as both my cuticle oil and night cream were depleted. There were two different bottles of argan oil in the store: one, simple, shelved along with essential oils as an "ingredient". The other one, from a fancy brand, sold as a natural anti-age product. The ingredients and size of both bottles was exactly the same (100% argan oil), but the "anti-age miracle" product was twice the price. Because when you slap "anti-age" on a product, it sounds more valuable, more intricate, the perceived value is higher.

The second thing we can use this perspective idea for, is to change our perspective on our current situation in order to be happier about it. It probably takes time, but changing your perspective on something you can't do anything about anyway helps accepting the situation, even see it in a better light. For example, instead of feeling underpaid, you can feel lucky to have a job. Which doesn't stop you from looking for another, better paid job, mind you. But it helps being happy with the current situation in the meantime.

Picture: A close-up of an insect on an Artichoke flower, in my mother's garden. Aren't the colours of nature beautiful?

That's it for the tenth Food for Thought post. I hope you like this series and its format with fewer links but explored deeper. Do you have any personal examples of improving your life by changing your perspective on things?


  1. Haha, I really need to work on the art of not giving a shit. I spend way too much time ruminating on stuff that ultimately doesn't matter. Like the cyclist who almost rode into me and then yelled at me for getting in the way, despite the fact that I had been clearly visible to her and I was obviously focusing my attention in a different direction in order to avoid getting hit by a bus, and despite the fact that all she had to do to avoid any sort of problem was to slow down slightly - that happened days ago and I still found myself getting pissed off about it this morning.

    People who don't take things personally and who don't give a shit probably on average have a much less stressful life. Ruminating is also a pretty strong predictor for aspects of mental health, e.g. for people who develop depression, if they were prone to rumination beforehand, their outcomes (in terms of coping, recovery, etc.) tend to be worse than people who didn't ruminate so much. I've tried to be more aware of when I give a shit despite not really needing to, and I do try to interrupt my thoughts before they get too far along that track. It's just not worth the energy to dwell on, but it can be very hard to not dwell on things, particularly if you're just naturally a thoughtful or empathetic person.

    1. It's true that it isn't that easy not to give a shit, because we tend to ruminate on things that matter to us, hurt our personal values or ethics. What I like about Raptitude's approach, is that he basically says - either you give a shit and do something about it, or don't give a shit at all, since if you can't act on it, it's useless to dwell on it". It's always harder when it comes to emotional reactions though, and that's where perspective can help, making ourselves see things in another way to help calm the emotions down :)

  2. Absolutely, oftentimes a situation is all about how you frame it. Also I find that the less I give a shit the less stressed and worried I am about things out of my control. Maybe this is why people say that the older they get the happier they are, they just have less fucks to give! :)
    and by the way, beautiful photo, that beetle looks like a piece of jewelry!

    1. Thanks! I thought the insect would fly away or something when I approached with my camera but it didn't, so I could take my time to try and take a beaituful picture. I'm still a beginner photographer though :)
      Maybe age helps give less fucks about things indeed. Maybe because we see the bigger picture more easily, also because past experiences help realizing that it isn't that important after all. When I see what my 20 year old sister ruminates about, I'm thinking she is overreacting to most things. Maybe in 10 years I'll think the same of what I give a shit about now :)

  3. Anti aging??? I am so over it. If we are not aging we are dead! I raise my glass to active aging!

    1. Haha To active aging indeed :)I think "anti-age" products are one more thing marketers use to feed off our insecurities. A body well taken care of ages well without use of this kind of stuff.

  4. Since I started taking yoga classes about two years ago, I have learned much about changing perspective. During yoga, the teacher often reminds us of why we do certain poses (by which they put a painful exercise into the perspective of long-term goals) or that everything changes constantly (by which they remind us that a frustrating limitation of the body is a temporary and changeable thing). I have started consciously doing this in other areas of my life as well. For example, I share an office with an annoying co-worker who drives me crazy. I regularly take a mental step back to reframe and see, for example, that he’s probably not purposefully getting on my nerves ;).
    So I think changing perspective is very useful, although sometimes it can be limited to an intellectual exercise when you’re actually looking for a deep emotional shift. Like the credo ‘Don’t take it personally’: I know it’s good advice, but that doesn’t mean that I will never take anything personally again! Another example from my own life. I often get really angry and/or depressed driving home from work, because I’m confronted with so many bad chauffeurs who put others at risk by speeding or doing dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. I often try to change perspective so I can regain my calm, but even though I know that for every bad driver, there are a lot of responsible ones, and also I will probably get on other drivers’ nerves sometimes too (cause I’m not perfect either), and that really, as long as nothing bad actually happened I shouldn’t worry so much – knowing these thing intellectually doesn’t make the anger or sadness go away. I’ve been wondering though, if these intellectual changes in perspective can actually, when practiced deliberately, result over time in a true emotional shift. The writer on Raptitude seems to think so – I’ll try to remember his words next time I feel an internal rant coming up …

    1. I was just thinking of a recent discussion I had with my dad about traffic bums. He gets so furious when someone blatantly disregards the rules of the road or endangers others. Red in the face and obviously upset. I mentioned that I had always felt like that too a few years ago, when I had an abrupt change of perspective: the car that had just tailgated me, and then roared by me, immediately edged up to the next car and tailgated it. Before I even had time to react to the perceived insult, I realized that the person in that car treated everyone the very same and had so much anger, or stress, or something. It literally wasn't about me.

      Dad said, "But it just upsets me to see someone breaking the rules--getting away with it--endangering others!" This with a tone that suggested it would be less than moral to feel any other way than righteously indignant.

      "I've thought of that. And I realized that I am not a cop. I would be expending a lot of energy working up to a rage that wasn't going anywhere, except to upset my stomach."

      He laughed.

      And yes, that insect is jewel like among the flora. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Ah that's a very good example - getting furious at other drivers despite not being able to do anything about them driving dangerously. I don't drive so I don't have that kind of example in my personal life but I can relate to that.

      This is a good question though - does rationalizing with intellectual explanations actually helps not giving a shit emotionally? Usually when we ruminate something, it is for emotional reasons and not rational ones. It probably does have an effect on the long term, to stop the ruminating loop and try to see things with another perspective, even if we "rationalize" the perspective at first. I know that it ultimately worked on recent issues I had at work, but it took some time. I think the emotion has to come out first.

  5. Is that a Japanese beetle (looks like a big one!) and a honeybee in the flower? What an amazing photo. I'm curious, where were you when you took it?

    1. Thanks! I believe that's a honeybee yes, as for the beetle I have no idea what this is. Its colour is so wonderful it caught my eye straight away! This picture was taken in my mother's garden in Auvergne, a region in the center of France.

  6. Hi there,

    Just to say that I really appreciate your blog and that by now I've scrolled to the bottom of your blog. Naturally, I am now hungry for more, so I'd like to know if you have list of influential and inspiring blogs and people on the Internet that you follow which touch on the same subjects... mindfulness, happiness, designing your own life etc. I feel very inspired by you now, so I would like to read more around these topics as yours is the first blog I stumbled into. I would much appreciate your recommendations. PS: loving the Food for Thought posts - so inspiring! Have a lovely weekend & looking forward to your reply.


    1. Hi and welcome! I'm happy to hear you like it here :) There are links to very different blogs and sites I regularly read and follow in the "source" page: http://the-nife.blogspot.fr/p/blog-page.html

      I haven't updated it in a few months but there are already a few blogs you may be interested in on there. I'm updating this page once every few months so if you're looking for inspiration you may find somewhere to start here.