The One Habit That Matters More Than Anything Else

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    108 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?

    One thing for you to think about

    Curiosity cures: anxiety, ignorance, selfishness, extremism.

    Curiosity creates: empathy, compassion, knowledge, growth.

    Curiosity prevents: arrogance, judgment, stagnation.

    Practice curiosity.

    Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.

    One thing for you to ask yourself

    In what area of your life could you benefit from being more curious? It could be about the people around you—it could be about the world or society you live in. It could be about the person you spend the most time with. What would happen if you were more curious?

    Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.

    One thing for you to try this week

    Practice curiosity. Practice asking interesting questions—of others, of yourself, of life and the world. Look for the answers. Then ask if those answers may be wrong.

    Notice the changes that organically emerge around you.

    Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.

    Last week’s breakthroughs (and questions answered)

    In last week’s newsletter, I challenged you to stop approaching something in your life transactionally, and many of you responded with how difficult this is when it comes to relationships—be it with a partner, friends, or family. Here’s Lilley with a breakthrough we can all learn from:

    This week’s topic about transactional relationships came at exactly the right time.

    This morning, I was quite triggered when a friend who I haven’t spoken to in three years finally responded to an email I sent him back in February to say happy birthday, and to ask how he’s been. He responded in a civil manner, but told me he would prefer to have no further communication with me, as I was part of a chapter in his life that he has closed.

    I get this; at times our friendship was rather toxic, as he had romantic feelings for me which I did not reciprocate. It just hurt, because I cared about him, and it reminded me of when an ex of mine cut all contact with me a few years back.

    It’s been sticking in my mind, and I’ve been finding myself having self-doubting thoughts like ‘Am I really such an awful person that the parts of peoples’ lives with me in them cause them to want to cut me off altogether?’, or resentful thoughts like ‘How can he not remember the good things about me and what I’ve done for him, like when I got him a job, lent him money when he was broke that he hasn’t paid back to this day, and let him live in my apartment for barely any rent?’

    I realize two things now:

    Firstly, just as I didn’t owe him romantic affection just because he was a good friend to me at a time that I was suffering, he also doesn’t owe me his friendship because I helped him out.

    Second, the fact that he doesn’t want to be friends could be for reasons separate from whether I’m a good or bad person. Just as doing good things for people can’t buy their friendship, it’s useless to wonder endlessly about what other things I could have done or not done to have kept a friendship.

    So yeah it sucks, but I don’t have to be debating my entire moral character over this, and coming away either feeling like I’m a horrible person who mistreated him, or he’s a horrible person who’s mistreating me. There are people in my life who actively choose to be my friends, and I should focus on nurturing those friendships.

    This is, in my opinion, the most mature (and difficult) way to interpret failed relationships. Hats off to Lilley for the insight.

    Meanwhile, Tommy is beginning to reframe his lifelong transactional approach, starting with exercise:

    This week’s focus on removing the ‘transaction’ from actions was the kick in the ass that I needed.

    For the last two months I have been frustrated with work, the gym, my faith, etc. because I was not seeing the results I wanted. My entire mindset was if I complete X and Y, then Z will be the result. Put simply, that’s not always how the world works.

    Going to the gym to enjoy a workout and healthy habit rather than expecting a rocking physique is the type of reframe I’m implementing this week.

    This mindset shift is nothing crazy but can easily be implemented into all aspects of my life. I’ve been living ‘transactionally’ for far too long.

    And here’s a variation of a question a lot of people asked:

    I recently learned through therapy that a lack of reciprocity is a deal breaker for me in my relationships. Not tit for tat but that the other party must be vested in the relationship too. After reading this week’s newsletter, I am a bit torn. Are you saying that we should not expect reciprocity in our relationships? If we should not expect reciprocity, how do we balance that?

    A lot of people confuse transactional relationships with boundaries. But they are the inversion of each other.

    In a transactional relationship, I will only love you if you do this thing for me. In a relationship with healthy boundaries, I will love you unless you do this thing to hurt me.

    It’s a subtle distinction. In a transactional relationship, the default state is withholding love/affection/validation/whatever. In a healthy relationship, the default state is giving love/affection/validation/whatever until shit goes south.

    Transactional relationships are generally manipulative and miserable. Relationships with boundaries are healthy and foster a lot of joy and happiness.

    A lot of people also asked how it’s possible to have a non-transactional relationship with work. It’s easy—be motivated by something other than money. You can receive money, obviously. But that can’t be the reason you’re doing it.

    As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

    Until next week,

    Mark Manson

    #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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