Cue Sarah Knight — inventor of a unit of measurement for this purpose, which she has called ‘fucks’. She is such an expert in fucks that my friend lovingly nicknamed her Sarah Fucks. Fucks are units of time, energy, and/or money. And Knight swears that we too often give too many to people and causes we feel we must or should.
But we don’t have to thoughtlessly spend our limited time, energy and money to these things. Being an accountant of her currency of fucks, Knight recommends we create a fuck budget. This involves writing an inventory of everything you give a fuck about, work out what we really must do, and — à la Marie Kondo — eliminate any items that do not spark joy.
“Too often, we allocate our fucks without a goal in sight. We’re in the moment, saying yes, making plans, agreeing to spend a weekend in Vancouver before realizing, Uh-oh, I didn’t think this through. In order to maximize your potential for happiness, you need to consider outcomes before committing to giving your fucks.”
— Sarah Knight
That’s all fine and good, I thought. For pushovers. Maybe I already don’t give enough fucks? Will this make me a worse person? I had first come across The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck two years ago. And it is safe to say that I have since changed my mind. So let’s walk through each of my initial concerns in turn.
Maybe I already don’t give enough fucks?
I was wrong. I was still definitely saying yes to things and people I did not need to, at the cost of my needs and goals. I began to realise I could potentially say no to a whole host more of things. I found myself saying no to overnight trips to my parents’ home and spending just three days at my grandparents for Christmas.
Will this make me a worse person?
The approach is really about taking care of yourself first: Sarah Knight likens it to putting on your oxygen mask before assisting others. And the process of assessing where you put your time/energy/money isn’t a mindless exercise. It involves carefully contemplating what you do and do not want to do, your reasons for those choices and the negative effects it might bring. Fortunately, Knight prescribes a healthy dose of honesty and politeness to mitigate some of these side-effects.
Let’s go back to my example. The reason I wanted to avoid overnight trips was that my mental health is a priority. I identified that a potential negative effect could be upset family. So to deliver this with honesty and politeness, “Mum, I don’t sleep overnight because I don’t want to have night terrors. I love you and I want to spend time with you. It isn’t personal.”
This has sharpened my assertiveness skills and is good practice of a personal policy (both of which I will talk about in future blogs). In all, I did not become a worse person, and it actually means I can get the maximum enjoyment out of my precious time, with and without my family.
I often think authors don’t deserve a good book title, especially when it oversells a claim. But despite her parodying the beloved Marie Kondo, there really is Life-Changing Magic in it.