The Happiness Song
The song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams was one of the most popular songs in the US last year. It’s so for a good reason. The song has a way of cheering you up.
As I began to write this piece I decided to look up the lyrics of the song. Not only is the rhythm of this song a happy one but the lyrics are too.
It says something to the effect that even if you bring me bad news, you can’t change how happy I am. When I read that, I said to myself: ‘man, you must be really happy to talk that way’.
Happiness in Creativity
I’ve been working on a new series of abstract pieces. In this series-‘Rocks and Gems’– I decided to give myself permission to deviate from my usual modus operandi. And to just focus on creating work that makes me happy.
You see, sometimes when you try hard to make your work fit a certain mold, it becomes confining and difficult to break out of ‘the mold’. Since my desire for this series is a novelty, I’m making myself do things which are emotionally exhilarating to me and refusing to be overly critical of the work.
As I complete the first piece in the series, I realize I’m creating something novel, in that, it is different from anything I’ve previously done. Although it started out as just a fun project, it’s one of the most complex pieces I’ve created to date. Not only that, it is just as strong as any of my previous pieces, if not exceptionally better.
Happiness in Good Design
Recently, I watched a TED talk, which is something I do frequently when I can find the time. This particular talk was by Don Norman on ‘Three Ways Good Design Makes You Happy’. One thing Don said about halfway through his talk that piqued my interest was- when you are happy, you are more creative.
He went on to explain that, our brain uses different processing methods when we are either happy or afraid. The processing method ( ‘breadth first’) which the brain uses for problem-solving when we are happy, makes us think outside the box and makes us more creative.
On the other hand, when we are afraid (or have a looming deadline ahead of us), our brain uses ‘depth first’ problem-solving, which makes us focus mainly on the problem at hand (or dare I say, the problem inside the box).
Happiness in Effective Problem Solving
To be successful, both of these methods are needed. ‘Breadth first’ problem solving alone will result in so many great ideas with no particular one of them being implemented, so we need the ‘depth first’ method to rein in our thoughts and focus us at accomplishing the task at hand.
After listening to the talk, I thought about the current series I’m working on and how aptly the information applies to my process in this series. You really do work differently, when you are happy.
As an artist, I want to grow, I want to improve. I don’t want to regurgitate the same stuff month after month and for me, that is what is exciting about this new series.
Yet, there comes a point where I need to set some parameters for myself in order to complete a piece. I can’t keep on endlessly exploring all the interesting ideas that my happy state of mind affords me.
In conclusion, I’ll say this: While Don Norman’s focus in this talk was about how good design makes us happy, my observation is that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Happiness creates good things (design) and good things (design) in turn create happiness.
How you feel about the work you do, is important. The happier you are at what you do, the more innovative you are likely to be. The more innovative you are, the more likely you are to be successful.
Thank you for reading.
What are your thoughts and experiences on the topic? Let’s discuss them below in the comments.