Choosing to be happy with everything just as it is, without trying to change anything, removes the desire to control and the unhappiness that results when things don’t go the way we want them to. Making the happiness choice daily, hourly and even moment to moment is employing skillful means for conscious living. However, making the happiness choice is not always easy to do. This summer, while grieving the loss of my brother, I became more closely acquainted with some people he admired. Among them is a designer called Stefan Sagmeister who has also studied happiness.
A consciousness shift
Renowned for Rolling Stones and Lou Reed album covers, posters and his book of life lessons,Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, designer Stefan Sagmeister has a unique way of looking at life and design. I was surprised to find his book does not contain a lot of written content. It consists of 15 unbound photographs in a laser-cut slipcase and shuffling them produces 15 different covers. I have also watched several Sagmeister videos — videos my brother encouraged me to watch so many times before he died.
Stefan Sagmeister: 7 rules for making more happiness
- Doing more of what I like to do and much less of what I don’t like to do.
- Doing it yourself. What you don’t do properly yourself is never deemed to actually be done.
- Having meaningful relationships.
- Thinking freely, without pressure.
- Being close to the content and in the moment.
- Working on projects that actually have visible impacts.
- Keeping a diary that supports personal development.
Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far
Sagmeister’s full list of 20 maxims:
1. Helping other people helps me.
2. Having guts always works out for me.
3. Thinking that life will be better in the future is stupid. I have to live now.
4. Organizing a charity group is surprisingly easy.
5. Being not truthful always works against me.
6. Everything I do always comes back to me.
7. Assuming is stifling.
8. Drugs feel great in the beginning and become a drag later on.
9. Over time I get used to everything and start taking for granted.
10. Money does not make me happy.
11. My dreams have no meaning.
12. Keeping a diary supports personal development.
13. Trying to look good limits my life.
14. Material luxuries are best enjoyed in small doses.
15. Worrying solves nothing.
16. Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.
17. Everybody thinks they are right.
18. If I want to explore a new direction professionally, it is helpful to try it out for myself first.
19. Low expectations are a good strategy.
20. Everybody who is honest is interesting.
There’s nothing wrong with fear; the only mistake is to let it stop you in your tracks.
Stefan Sagmeister scaled creative summits in design by determining to journey beyond his comfort zone and live a daring life. Yet, every day he still talks himself into taking risks.
Working outside my comfort zone in art has always been a frightening prospect for me. It’s not the doing that scares me; it is the assumption that others will reject what I have done that becomes a barrier to creation.
My comfort zone has been Sumei painting and Chinese brush painting. Though abstract art has always appealed to me until PTSD flashbacks provoked me to I enter art therapy, I had never done anything more than dabbling in it.
Well, the good news is that my brother’s admiration of Sagmeister reached beyond the grave. What I watched encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone and explore abstract art. I’ve been painting bizarre and whimsical abstracts and loving every minute of it. While the fear monkey still prophecies rejection, I choose not to tune in to its yammering. Today, I’m thanking my brother for being so persistent, because his sharing of Stefan’s Sagmeister life lessons helped set me free to take risks and go beyond my comfort zone.
What about you? When working outside of your comfort zone is a scary thing to do, what do you do to spur yourself to do it?
- Stefan Sagmeister: “Trying To Look Good Limits My Life” // Interview (smashingmagazine.com)