"There’s a common belief that happiness and ambition are incompatible. Many ambitious people I’ve known seem eager to claim that they aren’t happy, almost as a way to emphasize their zeal, in echo of Andrew Carnegie’s observation "Show me a contented man, and I’ll show you a failure." Perhaps the happiness-thwarting feelings of dissatisfaction, competitiveness, and jealousy are neccessary goads for ambition. If I remained ambitious, was it impossible to be happy? If my project made me happier, would I become complacent? Was the arrival falacy an important mechanism to keep me striving? Studies show that many creative, influential people in the arts and public life score above average in ‘neuroticism’ (i.e., they have greater propensity to experience negative emotions); this doscontent arguably urges them to higher acievement. Other studies, however, show that people tend to think more flexibly and with more complexity when they’re feeling happy. But whatever a wide-ranging study might show about the connection between ambition and happiness generally, I realized that for my own part, I was much more likely to take risks, reach out to others, and expose myself to rejection and failure when I felt happy." -Gretchen Rubin
What say you, all you artists and creative types?
Do you feel like this is the case for you?
I know I can definitely relate.
It’s hard not to dwell on negative things sometimes and feel like those are the things that push you forward and motivate you to become better and push you towards your ambitions and goals.
I think that mindset can be really great sometimes, but I also think we so often get stuck in that discontent and in a cycle where we think if we don’t have negative in our life, or we’re not dwelling on it extensively, we must not be making progress and aren’t motivated and passionate enough in our work.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! On this, as well as on what you do to get yourself out of those negative slumps and creative roadblocks. How do you balance ambition and happiness?