I HAVE bad news–everything you’ve learned about how to become a successful painter is wrong. Here’s the traditional trajectory of success: work hard, get a great gallery, make money, be happy.
But according to the book The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha this equation needs to be reversed.Being happy, he writes, opens up our learning centers. Our brains work at maximum capacity only when we are happy. He advises, be happy first. American philosopher William James agrees when he said, the greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.
I’ve always been a pensive person. Elementary school teachers wrote things such as thinks too much on my report cards. I always flattered myself and felt this melancholy frame of mind fit well with the artistic temperament. When I left home at 18 I asked my mother if she saw any aspects of my personality that would cause problems. Yes, she answered, rather too quickly, you have a moody streak.
The Harvard Business Review reports that happy people are 31% more productive, have 37% higher salaries, and are three times more creative than their bummed out counterparts. Shawn Achor in the book The Happiness Advantage writes, it’s not necessarily reality that shapes us but the lens through which our brain views the world that shapes our reality.
Aristotle wrote, happiness depends upon ourselves. Victor Frankel said, everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Walt Whitman penned, keep your face always toward the sunshine— And shadows will fall behind you.
All of these quotes suggest that we have the freedom to choose our attitude. The reason we easily fall into negativity is that being on the lookout for the worst possible situation is part of what keeps us alive. It’s an innate aspect of the survival instinct. It’s part of being human.
These ideas, as well as a profound intuition, made me realize I needed to be happy first. The most important aspect of my decision to change was the realization that my attitude not only affected my painting, it spilled over and affected those I love most—my wife and daughter. The way forward was clear—if my pensiveness was affecting my career and family I needed to change.
Strangely, changing for others comes easier to me than making a change to benefit only myself. I believe focusing motivation away from ourselves will allow us to perform the mental jujitsu necessary to effect permanent change.
How you will affect change to become happier and more creative will depend on your personality and personal values. But once we know and understand the necessity of happiness in our personal success the necessity of change becomes inevitable.