I never thought I'd say this, but...
If our lives are roller coasters, the downs are just as important as the ups, aren't they?
Here's the thing...
For months, I've heard great things about Pixar's movie Inside Out, so I finally decided to watch it with my kiddo. The movie's themes were way over his head, of course—but while he was distracted by the bright colors, I was tearing up hard.
In case you haven't watched it yet, here's a brief recap...
The animated movie is set inside the mind of a young girl, Riley, where her emotions (Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness) take turns debating how to react to what's going on in Riley's life. And they even get to visit different areas of Riley's mind, like Imagination Land, Long-term Memory, Dream Productions, and even The Subconscious (where they find some of Riley's worst fears, like Grandma's vacuum cleaner and a clown named Jangles).
Throughout the movie, the characters fight to bring Joy back to Riley's life after her family moves across the country. What they discover, though, is that the only way to re-introduce Joy is through Sadness.
You read that right...
The only way to re-introduce Joy is through Sadness.
This realization through me for quite a loop.
Have I gotten it all wrong?
Ever since I started my blog over five years ago, I've been exploring how to make life better. Most recently, since I started the Process podcast in August, I've spoken to dozens of entrepreneurs and creative people I admire about making our low moments shorter, more rare, and easier to handle.
Is that the wrong approach?
In the ninth episode of Process, my friend Jason Zook shared:
"Your hurdles and unfortunate events and lows are pivotal moments that take you to success and achievement."
And I remember thinking,
"But please no..."
We're all hardwired to want to avoid sadness and suffering. That's why the Interwebs is overflowing with advice on happiness. But despite wanting to avoid the bad parts, we simply can't. Loss happens—through death, failure, or any sort of change, really.
But avoidance is just lack of acceptance.
For example... A few months ago, a friend of mine got hit with a huge obstacle—the kind she never in a million years expected and would put a dent in her daily life for longer than she liked to imagine. It came out of nowhere and it SUCKED.
I was grieving for her because I hate when my friends are down, and I told her one thing over and over:
"You don't have to suffer over this."
Because we always have two options available to us:
- Accept the obstacle and figure out what to do next.
- Reject the obstacle and throw a pity party instead of taking action.
I'm sure the Dalai Lama is great at following #1 perfectly, but I don't personally know anyone that's able to pull that off. We're all usually following a mix of the two. But the more acceptance we throw in the mixture, the faster the obstacle disappears into the background—or into our Memory Dump, as Inside Out puts it.
But what does sadness have to do with it?!
vulnerability for the win!
In the movie, the characters of Joy and Sadness work together to try to get Riley to feel like herself again. But I think there's one thing the movie could've been more clear about:
Sadness alone won't lead us to happiness—but sharing that sadness with someone who deserves our vulnerability will do the trick.
If we can't avoid struggling, then sharing that struggle with another person can help us feel understood and accompanied. Most of all, though, another person's perspective can help accelerate the rate at which we learn from our mistakes.
When I think back to all the struggles I've been through in my 29 years thus far, I'm certain that it's the people who surround me that have helped me make sense of my obstacles and set me back on the right track.
The people we love— and the people we let love us—are the keys to our happiness.
No matter your age, I really recommend watching Inside Out. It's an amazing look at what goes on inside our minds.
The more we know about how our minds work, the more we can work to control it—for the better.
PS. Happiest of holidays!
This is my last post of the year. I'm taking some time off to work on my upcoming book but, most importantly, spend quality time with my family. Wishing you the happiest of holidays! :-)