309: Add More Joy

–WHEN we are unhappy, we fixate on what is wrong. It becomes difficult to focus on the positive. Our current unhappy state casts a shadow over our present reality, and our prime goal becomes to escape current problems. But assigning unhappiness to current conditions is an illusion and worsens unhappiness. In the book Fail Fast, Fail Often, by Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz, the authors describe how adapting to our current mental state, and moving forward despite being less than happy, is a superior strategy. Waiting for an ideal moment postpones happiness and is described as the “not yet” view of life.

Such a view allows people to procrastinate their success–the economy isn’t doing well, they need to take more workshops, they don’t have proper leave-behind materials, they haven’t gotten into the right galleries, and so on–the list becomes interminable.

Babineaux and Krumboltz say it’s better to simply push forward, with a Panglossian attitude if possible. It is better to side-step solving personal problems and take steps forward. No matter how trapped you feel in your life there are steps you can take that will allow you to move forward. The only limit is your creativity. Move forward at all costs, and keep moving.

I like Babineaux and Krumboltz’s practical approach to maintaining momentum, and it syncs with my experience of learning to paint. It is better to move forward, to keep painting, despite setbacks. There is a growing body of work that proves that when we are in a happy state, we can process complex information more effectively. When you are painting, you are judging value, mixing color, deciding on textural applications, adjusting edges, and modifying composition. You can juggle such complexity best when adopting a generous frame of mind rather than obsessing about the difficulties of the process.

Work done for the joy of it increases creativity. Work done for money, prestige, of other external rewards, inhibits creativity. As the authors write, “when you are feeling good, it encourages you to think more flexibly and engage in playful, exploratory actions.”

Think of the places and activities that give you joy. The photo above shows one of my favorite locations, where I’m writing this now. It’s the sunroom adjacent to my new studio. In addition to being wonderfully comfortable, on a sunny day, I can sit and soak up the rays. The room’s design, comfort, and beauty give me joy. My studio, usually another place that gives me joy, is currently quite a mess after a long stretch preparing for two shows. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and spend the time getting it back to its joy-inducing state.

Painting isn’t an easy profession, but if you want to paint better consider adding more joy to your life.

Brad Teare –January 2017

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Updated: 12th July 2024
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