Happiness doesn’t always make you FEEL happy.

One of my “Secrets of Adulthood” (see left column) is that “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”

Yesterday, although the drawing class was very tough, I left feeling exhilarated.

This morning, I felt completely different. I dreaded the thought of showing up. I remembered how much my back hurt, how worried I’d been that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and in particular, how tremendously frustrated (almost panicky) I’d felt when starting my chair drawing.

I had to remind myself that sometimes, happiness is painful. The activities that contribute to long-term happiness don’t always make me feel good in the short-term. I don’t always look forward to those activities. I may find them actually upsetting.

I had to be in my seat by 9:30 a.m., so it wasn’t long before my dread of going to class had turned into a reality. And once I was there with a sketchbook in front of me, I felt fine.

But I realized that it was an advantage to be taking the intensive class, five days in a row. If I’d been taking the course over a semester, I would’ve been dreading the class for a week. Maybe I would have talked myself out of coming back.

Today was tough, too. The more I learn to see, the more I learn to see what I’ve done wrong. But whenever I got discouraged, I’d just take in my entire drawing and gloat, “I DREW this corner! And it actually looks like a corner!” After three days of instruction. Amazing.

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  • I began reading your blog a few weeks ago after starting a long put off project – research into self-improvement. Happiness, productivity, overall health, the works.
    This post struck a chord because I am doing the same thing – working on skills that are painful, difficult and anxiety causing in the short term.
    Obviously, I am hoping the long-term benefits will outweigh the bother!

  • Richard

    Well then it shouldn’t be called happiness, now should it?

  • Summer

    You know, I have this same struggle–as do we all. Reading Richard’s quote, I am struck with how often I feel that same way.
    I think, particularly in this sense, we are talking about Joy more than Happiness. Happiness is so very fleeting–it all depends on the weather, or traffic, or relationships, or, or, or…
    Joy, on the other hand, is deep and abiding regardless of outside circumstances. I struggle with whether joy is worth the work. Sometimes, I don’t think so and I’d just rather quit and do something to stopper up the pain or anger or work or bad times I’m working through to get to the joy.
    However, having experienced joy (or what I perceive to be joy) I know the seeking is well worth the effort. I must remind myself of this almost by the minute.
    We humans are creatures with very short memories.

  • MJ

    “Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.” Robert Frost

  • MJ

    When I’m doing something tied to my happiness that is scary, because I have not yet dealt with my fear of failure, lingering worries about inadequacy, etc. I have initially unhappy experiences too. The first writer’s workshop I ever went to really saved my mental sanity (at a time when I was in a hideous job and felt that my life was irreparably going the wrong way) – by the end of the 3 days I was very happy, had tons of confidence restored, felt like the future could be wide-open and great. But driving there? Every muscle in my body seized up and I was sure for about 200 miles that I was going to throw up. Fun, fun, fun – but I would not have had the wonderful payoff if I had not plowed through the temporary misery.

  • lea

    the never-ending longing for perfectability in something: yoga, golf, drawing (democracy?). these things do have moments of happiness embedded in them as they give periodic, unexpected reinforcement. there is something about doing something difficult and never knowing when the pay-off will come which is, done diligently, the flip side of addiction in a way. will you please post some of your drawings—-

  • jeanette pettus

    I can;t seen to get myself together for nothing. I have tryed I just don;t feel good no matter what i do. Tride back pain dizzness weak anxity there so mush more what do a person sirport to every day or there life feeling like this dortor afer dortor. plase help me. Thank you;