Wouldn’t it be nice to be happy all the time?
I don’t think so and I will tell you why.
Our past and future are surely not always better than the present. Yet we continue to believe they might be. In a recent post I talked about how things in the present are not always as they seem. We compare past to present and not always with a discerning eye. Why do we think past or future events better? Are we happy enough? Do things in the present make you dissatisfied?
I think it might be in our make-up to be dissatisfied a lot of the time. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it is more common with creative people too. Being perpetually happy all the time would stand in the way of us getting anything done.
Creatives get stuff done, but may be a bit cranky or dissatisfied during the process. Ofttimes, this dissatisfaction leads to innovation and discovery. It is the driving need to do better.
I follow a cartoonist, Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal, and he has a post called How to be Perfectly Unhappy. It kinda explains his views on unhappiness.
While my view of happiness is different, I feel people who promote happiness, self-improvement, and self-help like it is a religion or something often have a back-story of depression, abuse and a host of other bad things in life. They think they can help and change other people just by telling them happiness is a choice. Sure you can put on a happy face, but does it have authenticity?
You can’t pretend to be truly happy nor can you tell others how to be happy. And you just can’t choose to be happy on cue. You have to feel it in your very being. It is a mental or emotional state, not a switch you click on and off.
Happiness is difficult to find because of what our perception of it really is. Yet these “happiness gurus” will give you ten ways to be cookie cutter happy. Eternal bliss – a myth.
Creative people share what they see with the rest of the world. Sometimes what is shared is borne from periods of strife or despair.
To someone who regularly creates, the world has deeper meaning, increased interest, frustrating complexity and unlimited possibility, more than what it might for other folks. The world is shinier and intriguing with all the small intricacies around them.
The Downside of Being Happy in the Washington Post was an interesting article with a number of good examples of artistic genius. Oddly science still has not really determined if happiness affects creativity or if creativity is enhanced by melancholy. Science has yet to agreed on whether sadness leads to creative excellence, but one researcher did conclude causally that creative genius is attributable to negative moods and sadness.
I find if happy, I am content and not in an especially creative mood. Too happy to care I guess. I do admit, photography does make me happy, but it might just be the fact I am out in nature. I don’t find being unhappy as a source of inspiration either. If unhappy, I really have no interest in artistic endeavors like painting. I suppose, I could not acquire creative genius if the research is correct.
When at my most creative, I am not thinking of anything in particular at all, not happy or sad. My mind wanders, and the idea just appears out of nowhere. I do find being dissatisfied is a trait I possess and it does kick-start me into doing a job much better. It is a way to be at my creative best. It is not dissatisfaction with the beauty surrounding me, but rather dissatisfaction with not being able to capture it at that level. Dissatisfaction is a force pushing for perfection. Unobtainable, but always a quest.
I can say one thing that instantly changes my mood though – is standing up tall. Immediately I feel better about myself and feel like smiling. I feel like anything is possible. Maybe all there is to being happy is good posture!
Everyone’s journey though life is different and how they perceive the world around them is unique unto them. Being happy, well that all depends… on how YOU see it. You don’t need a happiness prophet telling you how to feel. Paint (in the next post) or photograph, neither happy or unhappy. Just a little dissatisfied and standing tall.