Optimistic Nihilism — A Life Philosophy That Acknowledges The Importance Of Not Giving A F**k

5 min readMar 15, 2022

I first heard of this way of thinking through the YouTube channel “Kurzgesagt” and was immediately hooked. Over the past years, I’ve read a lot of literature in the self-improvement, mindfulness and business niches — nothing ever came close to a perfect take on life than this... Well, Stoicism is quite up there as well, but that’s a topic for another post.

So what is Optimistic Nihilism all about?

By Muhammadh Saamy on Unsplash

“In the 20th century, nihilism encompassed a variety of philosophical and aesthetic stances that, in one sense or another, denied the existence of genuine moral truths or values, rejected the possibility of knowledge or communication, and asserted the ultimate meaninglessness or purposelessness of life or of the universe.”
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica

So basically, nihilists believe that life has no value, no meaning, no purpose, and that everything suddenly becomes irrelevant in the big picture.
There is definitely something to the idea that everything ceases to exist in one way or another. Everything has an end, at least until we manage to scan our minds and copy them into a piece of hardware or cross the boundaries of our existence in unexplored ways.

Now, before you get too lost in reflecting on your own life choices, let me address the optimistic part of this dilemma.

Since everything we can possibly accomplish in life is meaningless because we will die at one point, the only way of conquering life itself is doing what you think is right and thus giving meaning to your existence as a result.

Why not get the best out of life?
The probability of being born is practically zero. A human being produces about 500 billion sperm in his lifetime, and in the same time, one could have become a tree or a stone without being able to use the repertoire of feelings, thoughts and connections that are available to us. Moreover, one exists only for the blink of an eye, considering the whole of history, so of course, it is practically impossible to leave a trace on this planet.

Extraordinary individuals like Elon Musk, Albert Einstein, or Julius Caesar certainly have a larger sphere of influence than you or I do. Yet they are insignificant in the big picture and in the history of time in comparison with how long dinosaurs roamed the Earth for example. Their ideas, actions and philosophies, however, are immortal.

So how do I continue to live with this subconsciously present in my mind now?

Dare things, live in the moment and as healthy as possible to enjoy it to the fullest extent. Start being more curious as a remedy against boredom by often asking questions and reflecting on your surroundings.

Do you know what’s the most effective antidote against dissatisfaction?

Gratitude — practice it and experience yourself becoming the best version you can achieve. Optimism is the active way, being open to new things, being open-minded is the passive way.

Probably the most important factor that creates long-lasting happiness are deep friendships and relationships.

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger has done a long-term study on growing up. Millennials were asked what they wanted out of life and 80% said they wanted to be rich, 50% said they wanted to be famous.
These 700 people were followed for 75 years and interviewed monthly to annually, brain scans done, children and spouse interviewed, questionnaires filled out — the works.

It became clear that friends, family and community are very important to the mind and body. People who are left alone tend to go down faster
because their mental strength diminishes quickly and they get sick more often. The connection between mind and body is crucial for a healthy and fulfilling life. So start talking to the person you like and reach out to strangers from time to time, because you never know what the future holds. Man is a social animal, and if there is a lack of relationships or intensity, you will surely feel the consequences (dramatic, I know).

It is very likely that you have already spent 90% of your time with your parents until the age of 20. Make more time for the ones who made you who you are today.

Do something with the means at hand in the place you are in.

The ultimate goal should be to find meaning and purpose in life, at work and at home. The good thing is that these goals are defined differently by each person. If everyone had the same desires and gave equal importance to each value or ideal, we would be in a race for first place — but that is not the case at all. Don’t worry if you feel you are making slow progress, the important thing is that you don’t stand still.

When it comes to your physical well-being, stress is the first thing you should address, because it is the silent killer. However, the problem is not stress itself, but the lack of rest. It’s equally important to take time for yourself to reflect, meditate, cultivate hobbies and friendships, and take breaks from studying or working.

As for intellectual well-being, there is research that shows that people who are curious, compassionate, and ask questions are not only happier but live longer. Another important element is an intense engagement with a subject matter. This can be a text, a work of art or even nature.

So what should I take with me on my journey after reading this?

The most important predictor of happiness is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us. Allowing painful emotions is important for the learning process, but then how do we cultivate pleasant ones?

Above all, with the feeling of gratitude. When we appreciate the good in our lives, we have more of it. So happiness is much more than pleasure, it is wholeness.

Live in the moment and don’t worry too much about the future, but use past experiences to shape your life in advance. Take responsibility for everything that happens to you, even if you are not to blame. It is still your responsibility to cope with the situation and come out stronger.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Stefan Zweig.

“Time to leave now, get out of this room, go somewhere, anywhere; sharpen this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes, be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore”.

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