The importance of happiness in creativity

I always ask creatives “Do you know what you need to be happy” and its amazing how few of them can actually answer that question. This episode looks at why happiness is an important part of creativity, understanding how being happy is a part of creating versus the creative process, and how you can understand things that influence your happiness like decision fatigue.

Listen now:

Show Notes:

Why are we talking about this?

– Creativity is supposed to be fun but there is something more going on here because we don’t just create all the time – creativity is bigger than that.
– A few years ago I started asking 1 simple question to many young creatives – do you know how to be happy?
– Its a simple question but few people are able to answer it and some people even came back days later saying they hadn’t slept because the lack of an answer bothered them so much.
– I think happiness for creatives can be a struggle and I think the better you are at creativity the more you struggle with happiness.
– It is complicated by the fact that I think the concept of happiness also changes over the course of your life and career.
– In fact, far from promoting creativity, depression may actually make it harder for people to be creative, and they may only start to be creative again once their mood improves.

Happiness and creativity in 2 parts

– Let’s define exactly where I see the problem and to do that we need to pull apart the creative process into its two parts – creating and being creative.
– Creating is the actual act of making something
– Being creative is the process that leads up to and surrounds that act of creation

Part 1: Creating

– Being creative generates a huge amount of happiness and research shows that anyone is happier and more productive when they are being creative.
– We only struggle in this area to be happy because we want to create new things but to do that we need to take risks, refine our process and grow to continue to find happiness.

Part 2: Being creative

– I think the being creative phase is where most of the problems lie
– I think there are three things that can contribute to this problem and many people don’t realize it

1 – The double-edged sword

– Being creative is born out the fact that we look at a problem, situation or way of doing things and find the faults or short-comings in those things.
– We constantly look for new connections, new ideas and all of those things. We could create something that would do it better.
– We see flaws and opportunities at the same time and that process of constantly questioning things takes a tole if we aren’t careful.
– But what happens when we then turn that drive and critical eye on ourselves?

2 – Psychology of summoning your creativity

– We are all asked to summon creativity on demand and the more senior you are the more you are asked to do this.
– Part of this knowing your creative process but part of it is knowing how to find insights to put into that process. See shows 1 and 26.
– But layered across all of that is your mindset and ability to common your creativity when those moments happen. Happiness has a lot do with that.
– I study a lot of sports psychology to try and understand this.
Athletes will say when they are in a good head space a baseball looks like a basketball but when they are in a bad head space it is like hitting a grain of rice.

3 – Career evolution

– Your career is going to change several times and you will have to re-adjust your concept of happiness.
– You have to re-adjust at every stage and see if the next stage is going to make you happy.

One extra – Leaders don’t make happiness

– As a leader, I can help someone chart their career path but I can’t be responsible for their happiness.
– This can be a tough conversation and sometimes something you just cant get people to understand

What can you do to keep yourself happy?

– Now that we have gone through the landscape of creativity and happiness, what can we do to help improve this problem?

Understand what you need to be happy

– Even in the best of times I only get 60%-70% of what I need to be happy from work. Its why I speak, teach, write, have a podcast, etc.
– You need to understand how much happiness do you get from your job and then what do you need to do to get the rest outside of work.

Understand decision fatigue

– You can’t make an infinite number of decisions every day because when you make a decision you actually expend mental energy.
– If you make too many decisions in too short a time frame, you significantly reduce your decision-making ability. This is known as decision fatigue.
– Steve Jobs famously wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day. It really comes down to this — was it more important for him to choose a t-shirt for the day or how interactions would work on the next version of the iPhone?

What are the signs of decision fatigue?

– You start to avoid making decisions all together.
– You can’t weight-up the tradeoffs between decisions
– You lose self-control over things you’d normally refrain from, like drinking alcohol and eating whatever’s in front of you

How do you fight it?

– You need to understand that this is a real thing that does effect your creativity.
– On days when you need to create you need to control how many decision you are making and understand how it effects you.
– Its why I usually concept, write, design, etc. in the first half of the day

Subscribe now

You can listen and subscribe now on Apple iTunes, Google Play MusiciHeartRadio, SpotifyPocket CastsStickerTuneIn and on all other major podcast platforms.

Join the community

Ask questions, suggest topics for future shows and connect with other Crazy One listeners. Check out the Facebook page.