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Embracing sadness

Negative emotions are natural, normal and to be expected.

As Harvard psychologist Susan David puts it, “discomfort is the price of admission for a meaningful life.”

In fact, in the world of arts, letters and music, melancholy is one of the most fruitful and productive emotional states.

Why not harness that emotional productivity in business and everyday life? Instead of avoiding or limiting unhappiness, why not acknowledge it and put it to use?

There are several options for dealing with sadness:

Ignore it and press on. This is the default in the business world. Business is great, things are fine, all is well. But research shows that suppressed negative emotions often get worse. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Accept it. Sitting with sadness can create emotional muscle and agility. Abraham Lincoln was a famous depressive who used tenacity and purpose-driven determination to fight his sadnessand transform a nation.

Respect and honor it. When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband to a sudden heart attack a few years ago, she wrote “Option B,” her book about grieving, reflecting and moving forward after a tragic life event. Giving space, time and attention to mourning allows us to say goodbye to old realities and embrace new ones.

David sums up the value of being sad, scared and emotionally agile: Emotional courage is not the absence of sadness and fear, it is sadness and fear walking. And it’s the only way forward in a fragile, beautiful world.

Have a great week.

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