Want to know the difference between alive people and astonishingly alive people (you know — those astonishingly alive people who seem to have more passion, fulfillment, happiness, and better hair than the rest of us)?
Astonishingly alive people give two shits.Not just one, but two.
How astonishing your life will be is pretty much proportionate to the amount of effort you devote to living like you mean it. (Please refer to Fig. 1.0.)
The disappointing reality of being alive
Well-lived lives don’t just happen to us. We have to conceive of what an astonishing life might look like, and then brace yourself for the most unglamorous part of all: we have to plan them.
I might need to say that again, with a twist: we have to plan to be happy. Happiness isn’t an inborn trait, it’s a talent. And you can’t develop a talent if you’re sitting on the sofa eating Rocky Road for hours on end (unless you’re a TV or movie critic, in which case I envy you for getting to eat ice cream on the couch for a living).
We all want more out of life — we want to “carpe the fuck out of this diem” (to quote my favorite pair of socks), not take life for granted, and die with as few regrets as possible. The good life has less to do with good intentions or the cool-sounding things we might add to our bucket lists, and more to do with our ability to plan and organize lives worth living. We have to take our lives by the reins and schedule more life into the days we’re above ground.
The giving two shits “Life Plan”:
Actively identify what lights you up (like we talked about here)
Craft a plan to DO MORE OF WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP (which involves putting those things on your calendar, like appointments which are way more fun than root canal)
Do points 1 and 2 two again and again and again and again, until the morning of the day you die
A life example of giving two shits:
Giving no shits: Sitting at home listening to a tape on your Sony Walkman. Giving one shit: Buying concert tickets to a band you love that’s coming to town. Giving two shits: Actually attending the concert.
I went through a phase from 2014 – 2018 where I bailed on SEVEN SHOWS. I gave a single shit by buying the tickets — feeling quite proud of myself for being the kind of person who went to cool venues with her partner to watch cool bands — except I didn’t bother to give that second shit. I’d decide the day before that “it’s been a really long week” and it would take too much effort to get gussied up and stay out past our bedtime (because most cool bands don’t wrap up in time for The Husband and I to be all tucked in for our 9pm snoozefest). Sure, it felt lovely to give the tickets away to friends with more vim and vigor, but there was that sneaking suspicion that we could have been living in vivid color while we sat at home living the black and white version of our lives on those concert nights.
(Comedian John Mulaney does a fabulous bit about the pleasures of canceling plans; I’m ALL ABOUT bailing on obligations in favor of a healthy dose of homebody-self-care, but maybe not seven concerts. That seems like I could have given two shits, right? Maybe I could have thrown in the towel on three… but seven seems excessively squanderous.)
What opportunities do you have to give two shits (not just one) with the fun and recreation in your life? Maybe you’d like to sign up for (and attend!) piano lessons? Maybe go to the gym (one shit) and push yourself to try a new class that makes you sweat in new places (two shits)? Maybe plan a girls’ weekend with monogrammed beach towels and can coolers?
A love example of giving two shits:
Giving no shits: Sitting at home with your special someone watching a movie about other people getting swept off their feet by romance. Giving one shit: Setting aside a date night in the calendar, with no real agenda. Giving two shits: Putting actual effort into a date that might put some romance in your pants (here’s a promise: I will never say that phrase again).
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but for most couples I think we experience a seemingly innocuous but more insidious problem: that familiarity breeds ho-humness. It’s easy to slip into autopilot with our significant others, especially when we’ve been around the block with them more than a few times. What would your dates be like if you and your special someone were getting to know one another all over again? You’d give two shits, right?
I used to plan fairly epic surprise date nights with The Husband (until we’d hop in the backseat and the uber driver would ruin the secret: “So I’m taking you to guys to Au Cheval?”). I’d plan three-stop date nights… a place for a cocktail in a different part of town (Logan Square — here we come!), then a place for dinner helmed by an impossibly cool-and-hipstery-chef, then some kind of show/ distillery tour/ knife-throwing class. I’d get new earrings. I’d bake a dessert that would wait in hiding at home, which we’d dive into it when we came home tipsy. Lots of two shits were given! And yet lately… I’ve been slacking. I’ve been giving one shit and maybe sometimes even half a single shit (like last weekend when The Husband suggested we go out for dinner… and I politely declined because I didn’t want to have to put makeup on). HOLD UP: my “live like you mean it” alarm bells are going off. Can you hear them too? I’m passing up chances for aliveness because of makeup complacency? That’s not the kind of life I want to live.
Where might you be giving a single shit in the love department, when two shits would be much better received? Maybe give a thoughtful gift to your spouse, for no reason other than it being a Thursday morning? Maybe send a cute card to your partner in the mail, specifically because it’s not Valentine’s Day? Maybe light some candles (one shit) and make a three-course meal (two shits) with wine pairings (three shits and I’ll love you forever)?
A work example of giving two shits:
Giving no shits: Punching in for work and managing to not get fired. Giving one shit: Completing a project well. Giving two shits: Completing a project as though you had something to prove — reminiscent of the you in your first month of your career — when you were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (remember how cute you were back then?), eagerly learning and growing and using things like your discretionary time (*gasp!*) to apply yourself and basically be an all-around A-player.
One of my clients read my Would You Hire You? post and took a good, long, harsh look in the mirror. She didn’t like the reflection of the B-player looking back at her. “I was the golden child!” she recollected, having earned the Extra Mile Award at her organization right out of the gates. At some point she lost her zest, going from golden to silver to bronze. (The bronze child is a tad less triumphant than the golden child, no?) She had lost her get-up-and-go-ness at work, and as a person who strongly identified as an Achiever, she wanted to get-up-and-go-again. So like any gold medalist in training, she recommitted (and got a coach!). She took on a stretch assignment which brought her back to life. She became a mentor of an intern which gave her a fresh perspective of what it looked like to care. She angled for a promotion and got one… in her firm’s LONDON OFFICE… where she now wraps up her pleasingly challenging days in a pub.
Where might you be giving a single shit at work, when two shits might be even more engaging for you? Maybe take the initiative to refresh a broken process? Maybe take a newbie under your wing? Maybe learn a new skill (one shit) and then do a presentation to train the rest of your team on it (two shits)? Maybe your version of giving two shits about your career requires you to do the scary thing and jump ship, choosing to pursue a new job that makes you feel excited to be an employee again? Or maybe your two shits has to do with becoming your own boss once and for all?
Random examples of giving two shits, from people who have astonish-ized their lives:
Jana decided she was going to make 2022 her year of “being there” for the people she cared about, even if it was inconvenient (like going to a friend’s bridal shower in Oregon, visiting a heartbroken sister in Philly, and hosting her cousin for a long weekend). “I’m tired of never being available. I don’t want to die regretting that I prioritized work or Netflix over being with my loved ones.”
Terri turned 60 and decided it was high time to start getting her nails done, once and for all.
Marco was tired of making excuses about his dated condo, so he hired a designer to “make it look like the Restoration Hardware catalogue.”
Jim asked his 30-year-old daughter to join him in therapy to help mend their troubled relationship.
Helena wanted to take her business to the next level and was inspired by the old management maxim of “what got me here won’t get me there.” She hired a social media expert, got new headshots, and refreshed her website. She credited a ginormous new account to her makeover (which I of course call “giving two shits”).
Randy set aside a month to get his “death and taxes” in order… he got an accountant to do his taxes and a lawyer to do his will.
Moira stepped up her game on a not-for-profit board she sat on, heading up a committee and “finally feeling like I’m making a difference instead of sitting on the sidelines.”
And in summation of one shit vs. two shits…
Giving one shit in life is answering the question of “how’s it going” with “fine” and meaning that — fine… no more, no less, just garden-variety “fine.” Giving two shits would warrant a more exuberant answer that reveals your enthusiasm with life, that takes into consideration your eager anticipation for the concert you’re going to on Thursday, for the creative and thoughtful date night you’ve mapped out, for excitement about a new assignment at work that showcases your strengths.
We’re all allowed to be slackadaisical (slacker + lackadaisical = my new word of the month) every once in a while; sometimes giving one shit or even no shits is just what the doctor therapist ordered. But you know the difference between needing to recover from the flaming dumpster fire of burnout and just. being. apathetic. THAT’S THE WORD! Apathetic. Let’s do everything we can do avoid being apathetically alive, and consciously give two shits to be astonishingly alive.
Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!