I’m currently enrolled in a storytelling class through IDEO U. One of the main reasons I keep getting pulled back into the IDEO U platform is the conversations that are sparked as a result of opening class assignments to everyone for feedback.
My last assignment was, you guessed it, about the need for focusing our attention of the pursuit of happiness. A classmate wrote a very thoughtful response that sparked a conversation about the role and importance of sadness on that journey toward a happier self.
“I'm going to apologize in advance if I get too philosophical, but if happiness drives success does that imply that sadness drives failure? Is sadness a bad thing? And can happiness exist if sadness does not? Somebody told me that the light of the moon is stronger against the dark night sky than it is against the morning light. I think that statement is an analogy to the happiness/sadness idea.”
Happiness absolutely cannot exist without sadness. Sadness makes happiness so much more powerful and meaningful and wonderful.
But I’m not sure sadness is the true opposite of happiness. Both emotions are heightened states along the same spectrum. I see the opposite of both happiness and sadness as complacency - satisfaction with the current state of being. When we become complacent, we are no longer practicing happiness.
Research shows us is that happiness is a skill that everyone can practice and get better at. And when you are more skilled in happiness, you are better able to handle sadness. You are able to use optimism and confidence and compassion and control to get back to your happy state quicker.
Sadness, therefore, doesn’t drives failure because happiness and sadness work together in the journey toward success. But if practicing happiness drives success, complacency in ourselves and our abilities is what ultimately drives failure.
The opposite of having emotion, whether happiness or sadness, is the state of lacking emotion completely.
The goal isn’t to rid our lives of sadness but rather to craft a life of action and delight. Sadness is an ally on our journey toward happiness because sadness tells us what we are needing to reach that happy state. Sadness focuses our energy and attention on happiness deficits. Sadness is the friend that is constantly reminding us why we love what we love.
Embrace sadness as you would happiness. Learn from it. Let is guide your happiness training.