Before I started the Tao of Indifference in 2013, I was often asked for dating advice. When asked why I had so much success with online dating (and dating in general) I would usuaully casually mention something to the effect of “I just don’t worry about it” or “I don’t stress out about it” and without ever really describing what that meant, I would move on. Oddly enough, I’m in the same boat now. I was recently asked for an overview of my “philosophy” (don’t worry, I’m not an epistemologist or anything) but it did make me realize that I had never clearly laid out exactly what the “Tao of Indifference” really is. Many people hear the word Indifference and they immediately think of Apathy. (Ted Rubin’s quote on Indifference comes to mind).Granted, the terms apathetic and indifferent are interchangeable, but what the Tao of Indifference is about is NOT universal apathy. What its about is being selective in what you care about. I realized very early on that the people who had the hardest time dating, especially online dating, were the people who cared about just about every single struggle and slight that comes along with dating. They put time,energy, and emotions into people they’d met only once, so any rejection from them was a heartbreak piled onto a longer list of heartbreaks. I’ve always attributed my success in dating with the fact that I don’t care about most of the negativity inherent in modern dating. Just got ghosted? Eh, it sucks right now but I don’t plan to dwell on it.
In an effort to further lay out what the Tao of Indifference means to me. Here’s hoping you take some value from it:
1. Indifference is your greatest tool
The central tenet! Yes, I think that Indifference is the greatest tool that you can have in life, and especially so in dating. When you’re dating, at some point you have to define how you define your success. At some point, your happiness, your goals, all those things are defined by what you care about and what you don’t care about. The emphasis of what you should care about in life and love should be determined by you, not societal, cultural, or religious norms.
I’m a big advocate for being indifferent about rejections, once the rejection is done, and I think it would serve most people well to do the same. You can feel saddened by a rejection, but what you shouldn’t do is dwell on feelings of defeat if you are rejected. Seeking closer and trying to understand a deeper meaning are okay in concept, but if they’re holding you back from future success, maybe you should be indifferent about being rejected, once you process your own feelings about a rejection.
Most people who receive rejections in their love lives are rejected simply because they aren’t a good fit for the person they are trying to date, or they are being rejected because of something they cannot fix. So why dwell on these types of rejections?
Thinking about a negative aspect of dating that you can’t ever change, like an initial rejection, is going to use one of the few non-renewable resources out there: Time. Your time is extremely valuable, and wasting that resource on something as trivial as “Did she reject me because I wore a blue shirt” or “Did he reject me because I don’t drink gin?” is wasteful. The average American lives 27,375 days over the course of their life. The Tao of Indifference is about realizing that every single one of those 27,375 days is meaningful, so you shouldn’t waste a second of those days thinking about something that doesn’t matter. Yes it’s good to know why you were rejected, but will that knowledge allow you to go back in time and change the rejection?
2. Care about the things that matter to YOU
There can be no indifference without having something to care about. What you care about is entirely up to you, but you should try to care about the things that actually matter to you. For some people, its family, a career, an aspirational drive for continued success, the love of a partner, or something as small as the love of a pet. Whatever it is that you decide is worth caring about, care about it in the most unflinching, unapologetic way. You might think that the guy who writes the Tao of Indifference blog would be a pretty apathetic guy, but I’m incredibly passionate. I couldn’t produce the amount of content that I do without being passionate about it. . The only reason that I’m indifferent about so many things is because the passion I have for what matters to me doesn’t allow me a lot of time to worry about things that I think are frivolous. What you decide to care about is up to you, you get to determine what you value in life. Just make sure that what you’re spending time caring about is what YOU want to care about, not what someone tells you that you should care about.
3. Success is relative
Success in life and love is not a one-size-fits-all template. What you think of when you think of success should be based solely on your own values. Not everyone wants the house, the kids, the backyard, the marriage, or even sex and dating. Success is relative. You get to define what your goals are in life, and because of that, you get to define what constitutes a success to you. Maybe success for you is the accumulation of material wealth, or maybe it’s raising a child. I wouldn’t begrudge you either. The standards that others will hold you to shouldn’t matter more to you than your own standards. Don’t waste time thinking about how your life choices will be perceived. Go for the success you want, not the success that others want for you.
4. The value of your opinion is not universal
Many of us were taught that our opinions matter, and they do on a micro level, but that value is not universal. An opinion is a lot like currency in that it’s value depends on where you are and who you give it to. Just because you have an opinion does not mean that it inherently has a high value and needs to be shared. Many people share their opinions when no one asks or wants their opinion, especially when it comes to someone’s appearance, or their sex life. If you’re in a situation where your opinion is valued and expected (i.e. your friend asks how an outfit looks on them) then by all means, provide that opinion. If on the other hand, you’re providing your opinion in a situation that is both unwarranted and inappropriate, keep it to yourself.
5. “Indifference” does not equal “low regard”
When I talk about indifference I want to be clear that when I say I’m indifferent about something, that does not mean that I hold something in low regard. What I mean when I say that “Indifference” is that I either don’t care, or caring about it adds no value to my life. Indifference isn’t the opposite of liking something. You can’t hate, loathe, or hold something in low regard and be indifferent about it. Recognizing the difference is important.
6. What you deserve and what you get are not always the same
When faced with uncertainty, unfairness, and hardships in life, well-meaning people will often say that they don’t deserve their lot in life. “You deserve better” is a sweet sentiment, but not a sentiment that should hold too much value for you. What you deserve is not always what you get, and the fact that you or someone else thinks you deserve something does not mean anything unless you put in the work to get it. Nothing is guaranteed, even the things you may deserve.
7. Life requires work
While I espouse selective apathy, I also know that the things you care about in life take work. Dating takes work. Relationships take work. Love and life take work. The things you care about will take work. Whether it’s a hobby, a career, a goal, dating, relationships, marriage, children, friendships, pursuing happiness, and countless other things, they all take work. Some people are handed things in life, but no one’s life involves 0% work. Even people born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth have work to do, whether it’s in maintaining friendships or romantic relationships. Life doesn’t hand you all the things you want, deserve, or need. It requires work.
8. Keep an open mind
When you’re right, you’re right and when you’re wrong, you’re wrong. But very often, you’re somewhere in the middle. Keeping an open mind, especially when you’re not dealing with matters of fact, are essential. This doesn’t mean that you have to humor contrarians or devil’s advocates, but you should at least keep an open mind when dealing with anything that might be subjective. That doesn’t mean that you should always doubt yourself, but you should consider ways in which you might be wrong before deciding that you are right about a subjective topic. You do not need to keep an open mind about everything in your life, but you should keep an open mind about your opinions. “What if?” is a powerful tool.
9. Seek happiness, but not at the expense of others
Alternatively we can call this the “Don’t get ahead by trampling people” rule. I’m all for personal freedoms and the pursuit of happiness, but what I am not in favor of is the pursuit of happiness that involves inflicting harm on others.You should live the type of life where you avoid harming others in your pursuit of happiness, whenever possible. At some points in your life, especially when dating, you’re bound to hurt someone, whether it’s through a breakup or rejection, but you shouldn’t purposely try to hurt anyone. If your joy is excelling in your field or career, you can do that without working to actively hurt or sabotage those you consider your competitors. If you find joy in parenting, you can do that without insulting people who choose to not have children. If your joy is found in the exaltation of your chosen deity, you can do that without insulting or wishing harm on those who do not share your beliefs. Your joy should not be built on the suffering of others, and you should seek to do-no-harm as often as possible.
Ultimately, the Tao of Indifference is about maintaining a balance in life. Balance between expending energy on trivial, unimportant, or things that are harmful to you, and using that energy toward pursuing your own passion(s) and your version of happiness. Life is a balancing act, and living a fulfilling life requires you to not tip the scales in favor of negativity or triviality. Remember that time is your most precious resource and to protect that time, sometimes you have to be indifferent.
Good Luck Out There.