Andrew Piper, 27 January 2013

I convened this session because I'm in the middle of reading ‘The Happiness

Advantage’ by Shawn Achor, a Harvard psychologist who is working the field of

Positive Psychology, essentially the study of happiness (as contrasted with the more

traditional study of depression and how to deal with it). I'm really excited about the

possibilities of this research and how it can affect us as artists (because we have to

deal with a lot of frustration, failure, rejection and isolation, and somehow find a way to

stay positive about our work and identities as artists), and also about its wider potential

to provide the tools to help whole generations of children grow into adults who,

whatever their external circumstances, will have at their core a resilient happiness.

The title of this session was a cheat because the question has already been

answered: through scientific experiment these psychologists have realised that it is

the other way around - happiness leads to success. Often when we succeed in a goal,

we immediately move the goal posts, or set a new goal, and if our happiness is

contingent on success then it is constantly being postponed. But if we take care of our

happiness, our resilience to adversity increases, we learn better, we are more open to

opportunities, we take more risks, both professionally and personally, and generally

(without consciously changing anything else in our lives) behave in ways more

conducive to success.

We started with five things that research has demonstrated will make you happier if

you make them part of your daily routine. These are:

1. Write down three things (3 new things) that you’re grateful for. (If you struggle with

this, stick a pencil between your teeth and try again - this forces your mouth into a

smile, and will make it easier to think of positive things)

2. Briefly describe something nice that happened to you in the last 24 hours. Recall

the details of the event and write them down.

3. Exercise

4. Meditate

5. Practice random acts of (unlooked for) kindness

We went on to discuss the way each of us viewed the relationship between success

and happiness.

One person talked about how she felt it was important for her to define success

according to her own criteria, and to celebrate the completion of each goal she had set


Another person said that much of this sounded like what she'd read in a book called

The Secret, about positive attitudes creating a positive response in other people and in

‘the universe’. Another person, though, commented that it's all very well to tell

someone to be positive, but there needs to be a technique for this, otherwise it's like

telling a depressed person to just cheer up.

One person talked about how important she'd found it to deal with one thing at a time,

and not get overwhelmed trying to do everything at once.

(This is related to an idea in The Happiness Advantage' called the Zorro Circle, where

Zorro is forced by his mentor to learn how to fight in a small space first before he can

expand into leaping around in what would become his trademark swashbuckling


Other books that people suggested for becoming (and staying) more positive about

ourselves as creative people were:

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, and books by

Eckhart Tolle (specific titles weren't mentioned)

One of the participants was Amelia Bird from Gomito Productions, based at Greenwich

Theatre, who facilitates groups of actors, writers and directors to ‘hang out’, throw

ideas around, and try things out using the theatre's cafe space. She invited those of us

who are wanting more ‘creative time & contact’ to get in touch via email:

[email protected]


children, Children, Success, success, books, creativity, resiliance, Creativity,

happiness, psychology, mental health