Choosing to Care

How few are the things that really matter.

The Paradox of Choice is that being given more options isn’t always better.

Choosing among a hundred different brands of toothpaste or peanut butter can take a long time.

And the difference between most brands is very little.

Which means the marginal benefit – the additional benefit you’d get from picking the first one that seems decent v/s searching diligently for the best among all options – is very little.

But the time you’d have to invest to find the best of the whole lot is a lot more, as compared to selecting the first thing that gets the job done. Not to mention the effort of comparing so many options.

It comes down to this:

You have a finite amount of time and energy, and you’re always bombarded with people and events clamoring for them.

There’s always something happening.

You have to “choose” what matters.

This is the real paradox of choice we face all the time.

And I think the truth is that very little matters.

Most things go into the “irrelevant” bucket, which is much bigger than the “relevant” bucket.

It’s pretty obvious, because if it wasn’t so, you’d quickly find yourself overwhelmed with data and things.

You could be reading about orcas, or going through the Illiad, or engrossed in whatever you see in the paper – from the news in Afghanistan to politics or sports or any celebrity’s personal life.

Or even things in your own life – your job, studies, sports, hobbies, friends, family, finances, chores – the list is endless.

If you know what matters to you, you can give more of your life to that.

And if you’re aware of what doesn’t matter, and keep it in your mind, you can do your best to ensure that those things don’t steal your life more than they have to.


Money is finite.

You might want a car, a house, a laptop, and fifty more things, but there’s a limit to how much money you have (currently).

Time is finite.

You might want to visit Jerusalem and take up an online course and read more books and learn a new skill and play a sport – but there’s a limit to how much time you have.

And just the same, there’s a limit to how much you can care.

It’s a very simple yet powerful idea, one I try to keep in mind all the time, more than anything else.

(The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson is probably about this idea, though I can’t be sure, because I couldn’t bring myself to go through the whole book. I’ll apply a censor in my essay, not because of any taboo but because I’m not interested in the off-chance of being misinterpreted by someone who doesn’t bother to read the thing).

There’s a limit to the number of ***** you can give.

Some might have a hundred, some might have only ten, but it’s still very limited.

So you can choose to spread yourself thin and distribute them freely on everything that comes your way.

Or you can hoard them and concentrate them on what matters to you.

If you have a hundred ***** in you, maybe you give one each to a hundred things.

Or you give fifty each to just two, or even everything to just one.

It’s the difference between choosing to care a little about a lot, or to care a lot about a little.

If you care a little about a lot, you’ll pursue a lot of things, though you’ll be unlikely to really contribute significantly in any one.

That’s not a problem either, because if you only care a little, you won’t mind not being able to achieve anything; there are plenty of other things on your plate.

If you care a lot about a little, you’ll “miss out” on many things. And you still might not achieve anything either, because there’s no guarantee of that – anything great is unlikely to be that easy or certain.

But it probably won’t feel like “missing out” or “sacrifice” if you really care about whatever you’re doing.

In either case, you should know that everything has an opportunity cost. There’s always something else you could have been doing instead of whatever it is you’re doing now.

Every hour you learn the piano is an hour you could spend playing football.

The money you spend on buying books is the money you could have spent on buying a PlayStation.

So every **** you give to something is a **** you could have given somewhere else.

Cause for pressure? I don’t think so.

It’s stupid to let this paralyze you into never acting, always looking for “the best” thing to spend your time and money.

That’s just one more way to spend your time, and probably not a very good one.

Instead, it’s a reason to use your ***** responsibly, to value them and hold them to a high standard.

To remember to not let them go to waste because they’re limited.

(Dunbar’s Number suggests that there’s a limit (~150) to how many real stable social relationships we can maintain. Intuitively it seems correct, which is why it might help to apply the same idea to choose whom you befriend)

The Caring Test

So what does matter?

Anything that passes your tests.

Very little does.

I used to think my test should be: Does this affect me?

It’s safe to say that a tiny fraction of the things going on around you will actually, significantly affect you.

But I changed that to a different one: Do I care?

Do I care? is a better question than Does this affect me? for several reasons.

Caring is Being Affected

When the test is Does this affect me? there’s no reason to look at anything not directly connected with you.

Following a celebrity is pointless – you’re obsessing about someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

Many people might still agree with this; I do as well, but I don’t consider it a guiding rule for humanity.

Lots of things don’t seem to affect you, but you might still care about them.

And that means they do affect you, so the answer to that question changes, and then it might matter to you.

When the test is Does this affect me? there’s no reason to look at anything not directly connected with you.

Now we come to the other side of the coin.

There’s no reason to care about the “big picture” – issues like racism, environmental change, poverty and so on – things you can do nothing much about.

As long as you do your best to ensure it doesn’t affect you too much, you’d be fine.

This is also a very reasonable course of action, but just as before, hardly a principle to be applied to everyone.

If everyone acted on the principle that what didn’t affect them was irrelevant, there wouldn’t be people like Raoul Wallenberg or Witold Pilecki or Abdul Sattar Edhi and countless others who did what most people would find completely “irrational”.

Again, they cared, so it did affect them, and so it did matter to them.

The converse is also true.

Many things might affect you, but you might not care about them.

Like a friend bitching about you or someone talking rudely to you.

If something affects you but you don’t care about it – then it’s easy to ignore it, almost as though it didn’t affect you.

Then why would it matter?


So what matters most?

I’d always put what you care about above everything else.

It’s hard to say what matters more in this group:

  1. Things you care about that affect you
  2. Things you care about that don’t affect you.

If you’re hard headed, you’ll say 1 should.

Most of us care about not starving to death, and food prices / employment / housing all affect us – without the basics you could never think about anything else.

But it’s also true that many people seem to care a lot about things that don’t “affect” them, even to the point of giving their lives for them.

Think of journalists or humanitarian workers in war-torn areas who could easily find other ways to make a living – they choose what they’re doing.

It’s equally true that we care a lot about things that don’t “affect” us – like celebrities or history or fiction or sports teams. B0OKS OF ADAM By ADAM ELLI9 OHHH HEY, YOU WATCHIN' SOME SPORTSBALL? HOW'S THE STUPID SPO TOUCHDOWN FUMBLE! GO AM LET PEOPLE ENJOY THINGS SHHH Cartoon Comics Animated cartoon Fiction Conversation
Source: Adam Ellis

Whether it’s “good” or “bad” depends on you – and you can only speak for yourself, because you can only spend your own *****.

You might be tempted to preach to avoid “wasting” time on those things.

But what other people care about probably is something you don’t care about and something that doesn’t affect you, so it’s usually a good idea to ignore it.

This is the last in the hierarchy – things that you don’t care about, that don’t affect you.

Slightly above this, but much below what you care about, are things that affect you, but you still might not care about.

Someone lies to you, or something goes wrong at work – it’s up to you to choose how you respond; you always have that choice.


Caring too much

Sometimes you give too much to something that wasn’t worth it.

It’s like getting worked up about a petty insult or imaginary sleight and letting it have power over you.

The Poison Tree is about a guy like that, who wasted years of his life plotting revenge.

That’s why forgiveness is freedom.

Or you can end up sacrificing your life for an obsession and cutting everything else out, only to end up regretting it.

Caring too little

I guess the opposite can hold as well.

You take something or someone for granted, and only realize how much they were worth when they’re gone.

Or you don’t put in effort in something, and it goes wrong, and then you realize you should have cared more.

Caring about the wrong thing.

There’s a very fine distinction between “caring about the wrong thing” and “caring too much”.

If you care about the wrong thing, you already care too much.

You could argue they’re the same, but I’ll make a distinction anyway.

Caring too much is when you do care, but you care more than something is worth to you.

It could be people obsessing about every calorie they consume, or fighting for every little mark in college.

Their grades, and their fitness matter to them – but what they’re doing is actually inefficient and hindering them from better results.

They spend so many ***** on something that gives them so little.

So they’re not wrong per se, but there’s a good chance they might think so with hindsight – unless they consciously prefer it this way.

Caring about the wrong thing, on the other hand, is caring about something you don’t really care about at all.

It might be obsessing about conspiracy theories.

Or spending hours defending or criticizing people who don’t know you in arguments online with people whom you don’t know.

Or obsessing about other people – how much they score, how much they earn, who they hang out with etc.

Maybe some people genuinely care about these things.

Or maybe they’ve just never thought about why they care, and if they did they might find that they don’t really care.


I’m using the words “wrong”, “too much”, “too little” very loosely.

I don’t think anyone can tell you “you care too much / too little” or “you care about the wrong thing”. Certainly not me.

That’s why I’ve not said anything about what you should care about.

Because what others choose to spend their ***** on is their prerogative; I’m no one to preach.

And what others choose to spend their ***** on is not something I’d want to spend my ***** on either.

It’s something you have to decide for yourself.

And it’s something you have to keep thinking about, because often what seems worth caring about today doesn’t seem all that important tomorrow; and something unimportant today becomes all-important tomorrow.

But it’s worth seeing where your ***** are going, and not handing them out freely to everyone and everything without asking yourself if it’s worth it.



Intro, Body, Conclusion.
Amazing read!


Do you intend to write more books in the near future? Book builds on one concept after another and thus much more engaging and immersive.


“Results came when I stopped caring about them – and then I applied that to academics and then to everything else I did.”
( Quoting it from one of the most loved blogpost of yours- what I learnt in the gym.)

This seems to mean that you cared about results or in general you cared about something. Then you stopped caring about it.

Above blog choosing to care- seems to be about things that are upcoming and we evaluate them to understand its true worth. Like objectively evaluating something.

1.Then how to stop caring about something you cared previously? Like you said in the gym example. TBH it does create a paradox. You care something. You understood there is a better way to do it by not caring about it. But you doesn’t know how to stop caring about the thing you previously cared. Your mind hold both things and you are not going anywhere, just stuck in between.

2. Does it mean to emotionally detach from it to not care ?
Or does it mean to care something else so the thing you cared previously will stop its hold over you ?

3.Wish to know how you stopped caring about something you previously cared.


I think he meant “not caring about the outcome” rather than not caring about anything. A person can give a **** about racism, environmental issues but that doesn’t he has to depend his happiness on the success of his initiatives. He meant focusing on the “process” and not on the outcome


Yes he does mean the same. I am just connecting with other blogpost of him. This blog seems about caring few or what we value. There is another related essay of not caring. Pratyush touched it in blogpost – ‘what I learnt in the gym’. As I found both of these are connected upto a extent. I wish he could explain – how he transformed form ‘being caring to not caring’. First in the gym and then everywhere.


*to not caring result.


I contradict on initial sentences you wrote : In his book or the essay on gym – he mentions, he stopped caring about result. As you said he doesn’t stopped caring ‘at all’. Also on why would one continue going to gym – he mentioned it clearly, he did it for fun and not for result. As you said, he continued going to gym for result – on this I differ based on what I read.

I agree on what you said in subsequent lines. This is what I asked, how he changed his perspective. Is it about emotional detachment to the thing/result he previously cared or something else..?

I MAY BE PUTTING IRRELEVANT TOPICS TOGETHER. Although I am easily connecting the two together. As I was reading, the words from essay – what I learnt in the gym,were subconsciously kept connecting to this essay.

I was thinking about – caring and not caring. He mentioned in gym essay. He stopped caring. It seemed to me that – he do cared about them initially. He changed his perspective. He got better results by not caring results. So I was thinking, how he did it..? How he stopped caring, what he cared previously..?

P.s. I may be either thinking well by connecting two topics & those written after long time lag Or thinking bad by connecting two irrelevant topics & overthinking.


Let me take a guess, his decisions are based on the current outcome + compound interest effect of that activity over time.
Assuming he enjoys weightlifting slightly more than playing football, and if the results of weightlifting are taken away, football will be more fun to him on the basis of the long-term results.


Reason for confusion is these are two different kinds of games entirely.
One game you play for itself, one you do for something else.


Put yourself in the future – imagine you already have what you’re aiming for.
The truth is your life would probably be much the same; whatever it is it wouldn’t be the panacea you imagine it to be right now when you don’t have it.
That it’s mostly just hype

It helps if you’re doing something you like doing anyway.


I’ve thought about it already and the truth is I already do; anyone who lifts naturally knows you don’t see much change after the first few years.

These are games you play with no marginal value – the definition of marginal value itself would have told you the answer.


This has somehow become the most important thing of my life. Thnak you


caring to care about keeping this at my hindsight makes me the one who actually cares and who doesn’t pretend to care.


I have asked quite a lot of times the same question.
Where do you gather these ideas for writing such blogs!

Thanks for sharing!


There’s an insightful Ted talk upon paradox of choice that goes with the same name. Here’s the link – .


Like the idea of asking yourself how much you care about something frequently ✨.


Pratyush you make an article easy and difficult at the same time.


Pratyush sir, what are your views about using a “censored ” word in formal writings.

Mark manson mentioned in one of his YouTube videos, he used it as a marketing strategy, to be able to get across this very important message especially to the youth.

In essence he said the same stuff that most self help books talk about, but in a completely different manner which appears “cool”.

And guess what his strategy worked like anything!
People not interested in this domain also have gone through the book atleast once.
I have personally witnessed that fad having aversion to self help content in general but a strong attachment to the book.

His strategy did work well!
But still when your work influence mind of public there is a responsibility that comes along it.
It would be naive to say if it’s good or bad. No such bracket really exists.

But from perspective of a writer as well as a reader, what do you think?

Also as a writer, what matters to you the most?


Useful sometimes, like those instances when another word can’t convey the same depth of feeling as a swear word.
But usually you see them thrown about to sound informal or cool – which is fine, if that’s what you want to appear like or your market wants that.
No taboos either; they’re just words like any other, don’t need to be censored except for specific reasons.


Pratyush , do you care to upload sociology paper.2 evaluated copies( remaining) ? Rather going after notes , I think it would be better to read your copies to understand context. Anyway we have to think at the moment . Your way of grasping the question is too good.


If you get more than you give, and if both parties feel the same way, and then it doesn’t feel like giving.

vaishnavi singh

okk what about caring about smthing/someone who affects us but we can’t make it give a fuck to us,does that mean its nt worth giving a fuck or does that mean wait until u get the care/result/reward u obsessed for.
let’s take celebrity example : obsessing over someone who does even know u sounds stupid but what if we care nd obsess after making ourselves worth of them taking notice of us, does that mean we can care and wait for care to return if it feels like worth waiting for ?

if u ever consider replying please use mail

vaishnavi singh

thanks dear this is the right piece of advice which i do beleive when it comes to human beings.
it may sound not very sane if i tell u that i m thinking about my career and goals as human being while writing this comment and my career is really nt giving a fuck to me right now 😉 anyways i enjoyed how all my comments sound like relationship questions cuz i talk about my career as a person nt some object or abstract idea.
try it u might love it to consider ur career as ur bae like i do.
thanks fr reply nt everyone is willing to stop by to reply

vaishnavi singh

no way girl , it really feels good if someone gives their time to reply.
instead of being ashamed ,u should be proud of urself for being considerate and kind enough to give solutions and views to someone in need 🙂