Forget happiness; give me real

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor experienced severe depression while he was teaching Harvard undergrads about happiness.

Happiness speaker and entrepreneur Nataly Kogan experienced a similar personal crisis during the time when she launched her Happier app and gave this TEDx talk.

I was thinking of these two heroes of mine during the Avatar course earlier this month, on a day when I was feeling especially raw and emotionally drained. Screw happiness, I remember thinking. I'm done forcing it. I want something real.

Not that happiness isn't real, of course. It's just not the only real thing worth experiencing. Life is way too big to fit into a box called happiness.

In my classes, I teach about the importance of feeling the full spectrum of emotions, but just knowing that to be true doesn't ensure I always do it. More and more lately, I've found myself seeking out and clinging to happy feelings while trying to avoid anger, sadness and fear. And it hasn't felt good.

Part of happiness-seeking is just human nature, but I think there's also a part of me that fears that if I have a business called the Gift of Happiness and am not consistently happy, I must be a fraud, failure or hypocrite.

I think it's time to let that fear go.

Feeling angry or discouraged doesn't mean I'm bad at what I do. It just means that I'm alive and experiencing being human. I can powerfully advocate for and facilitate happiness without needing or even wanting to be happy all the time.

Ultimately, this is what Shawn and Nataly and so many others realized, too. Their experiences with depression, panic and despair didn't mean they had chosen the wrong field. Quite the contrary; it deepened their knowledge, making them even better teachers and leaders in a field with deep personal significance.

That's what I aspire to as well.