Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Passion and Happiness

There is a viewpoint in our culture that in order for someone to be successful they must work very hard, sacrifice a great deal, be without friends, miss out on important family moments, suffer from high cholesterol and heart problems, and basically choose between quality of life or success. The same applies to artistic and creative people; they should be socially awkward, impractical and suffer from wild mood-swings.

Over the last few decades numerous studies have analysed what makes a person successful; in business, in artistic endeavors, in any field.  Similar studies have been done in the field of happiness. What makes a person happy: is it money, power, friends, success, intelligence, values? Incredibly enough, studies contradict the mythology surrounding both success and happiness.  Despite these two being what most people in life strive for, as a species we suck at knowing how to achieve either.

Interviews with successful people, and interviews with happy people tend to reveal very similar trends. The most successful people are usually also very happy.  They are typically not living the Hollywood life - they may spend their days at an office, in a studio, in a refugee camp or performing research.  They are often not the most glamorous or fashionable people.  They are often not at all wealthy, or at least not living a wealthy lifestyle. What does unite them is they chose to do something different, something which fascinated them.

In each case, the successful person listened to and cultivated their curiosity.  They turned down safe jobs. They chose to pursue a life different from those around them, and to devote their energies and talents to perfection in whichever area fascinated them.  In the process they experienced months and years of failure, sometimes rejection, sometimes a lack of acceptance in 'normal' society.  When, years later, they emerged with a discovery, an invention, a new viewpoint or something radical they became celebrities.  Celebrated for how amazing they were, how special, how few of us are capable of doing what they have done.  

It is true.  How many of us are willing to give up the status quo, to seek a life outside of the normal career path to follow some vague dream inside? We continue to believe in the Hollywood dream that if I find some glamorous, beautiful, wealthy person and meet celebrities and by association become one myself, that I will be happy.  

What in fact studies are demonstrating, successful and happy people have already figured out, and we should all pay attention to, is that if we truly wish to be happy we need to learn what makes us unique.  We need to devote ourselves to cultivating our talents and using them in the best way possible.  We will have to struggle, to forge new paths, to step outside of our comfort zones.  We will have a life which appears hard and uncomfortable.  We may become successful.  What we will be, is happy.

No comments: