O.K. So in addition to the fear cycle, the menstrual cycle, the climactic cycle and the motorcycle, there's the happiness/success cycle. Or so I'll call it.
Recent research at the University of Virginia has revealed that "moderately happy people, while less successful in relationships, tend to achieve more, because being a little disgruntled can serve as an incentive to improve."
On another front, Jonathan Haidt, in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, "argues that humans have evolved to live like bees in a hive—in tight, cooperative groups. Haidt has found that many people, when asked to remember the happiest time in their life, will refer to an intense, hivelike group experience such as military experience, a band or just a time when they had a close group of friends. 'During the Enlightenment we busted out of the hive and created modern, independent ways of living,' Haidt says. 'Now we fly around asking, 'Why am I not satisfied'?"
These two tidbits, thanks to my Spring 2009 issue of the University of Virginia Magazine, make great and disturbing sense to me. They explain why, when I was in my late twenties and early thirties, I lived through a heady period of creativity (i.e. success, in my mind) at Wieden + Kennedy which left me both exhilarated and constantly frustrated (read: miserable, despite my success) but which I have continued to search for elsewhere in life. I remember it as being a deeply happy and rewarding.
In retrospect, I think what was rewarding was what I achieved, and, yes, the amazingly tight relationships which were formed and which continue to grow and deepen even today. My friendship with Janet, for example. (Thank you Dan Wieden for "giving" me Janet.) But what I have now—a deep, abiding and loving relationship, two beautiful children and a curiously fulfilling life in Italy—provides me with a greater happiness. I couldn't have had this profound happiness without giving up that earlier phase—that literally buzzing hive of group activity.
Flip side: I'm often not as creative, I fear, in this happy hive as I used to be in the disturbing one. When I confront the shift in personal creativity, I get grumpy, grumpiness spreads, and before you know it, something creative pops out of it again. I feel happy. The smiles come back, I enjoy life, creativity ebbs.
Around and around and around. Happy - creative/successful - happy - creative/successful. And so we go. How lovely it would be to be happy and to feel creative, be creative at the same time. —Charlotte