How many times have you asked a colleague how their day was going, only to be told something like “frustrating” or “stressful”? Those are strange responses, if you think about it, because they refer to internal emotional states. They’re not about the work or the value that has been created. They’re about how somebody feels. Too often, people engaged in work wind up frustrated, upset, insulted, exhausted, drained, over-worked, bored, fearful, stressed, anxious, worried, hurt, angry, aggrieved and a range of other very negative emotions. None of this would matter, except for the fact that these negative emotional states, if sustained, have been demonstrated to have a real and detrimental effect on long term physical and mental health. They are, in effect, an assault on your person.
It’s equally remarkable that people rarely respond with a description of a positive emotional state. People simply assume that they are not at work to be happy, engaged, intrigued, curious, fascinated, playful, joyful, empowered, successful, exploring or blissful. Management doesn’t tend to use the achievement of these positive emotional states to motivate their staff. I don’t know if that’s cultural, but it seems to me that if people were managed in such a way that the goal was to achieve positive emotional states, while they worked, productivity and the earnings of the company they work for would probably skyrocket. Why, then, does most management practice have the effect of making people miserable? Miserable people tend to die prematurely of heart attack or stroke.
The thing is, people are paid for the value they produce. They are not paid to endure and experience negative emotional states. That was never part of the deal. You actually don’t get paid in order to suffer anxiety, or to feel worthless all day long, or to be thwarted in your attempts to apply your imagination, ingenuity or creativity. Strangely, those that pay salaries often assume they are free to inflict these negative states of emotion on their workforce, as a bought and paid for entitlement. Is it really?
I think that is one reason why so many people are drawn to the life of an artist. Here, they can earn their bread and butter without necessarily being compelled to endure negative emotional states. I’m not saying that the practice of art is entirely free from negative emotional impacts, but the chances are far higher that you will spend your day absorbed, fascinated, in the flow, blissful, contented, expressing your creativity, free from worry, feeling in command or your destiny and day and proud of your well-deserved achievements. You might not make as much money, which can inflict its own negative emotional states on you, but you also don’t have to suffer gloomy or upsetting emotional states and have your life and health gradually ruined, by degrees, to earn a crust.
When you put it like that, the life of an artist could work out to be a very good deal indeed.