It’s time to stop saying, ‘I’m only a fitness professional. Every fitness pro knows that you are a confidant, a best friend, a coach—maybe even a self-esteem consultant—and that needs to be honored,” says Robert Holden, PhD, New York Times best-selling author; director of Success Intelligence, a consultancy group offering leadership programs and coaching; public speaker; and weekly radio host of Shift Happens! Holden believes that a key to professional success is making the shift from simply having a job to experiencing deeper professional purpose.
Acclaimed as a leader in psychology and spirituality, Holden promotes happiness, love and joy as a means to a purposeful and successful life. At the 2018 IDEA World Convention in San Diego, attendees learned his key principles and practices during a special keynote at the Opening Ceremonies, where Holden inspired fitness professionals to live their life purpose, follow their joy and grow their business.
Holden is best-known for his groundbreaking work as director of The Happiness Project, founded in 1994, and as a coach to the leadership team at Dove for its Real Beauty campaign. Learn more about his work and you’ll discover how his teachings can affect your career and help you boost the success of your clients.
Lessons From The Happiness Project
Holden’s professional training as a psychologist focused principally on unhappiness, but his instincts told him the focus should be on happiness instead. And he fundamentally believed that happiness is something much more than the absence of unhappiness. In 1992, he created a Laughter Clinic course “for people suffering from a desire to be happy.” The course quickly became oversubscribed with a waitlist, leading to the development of The Happiness Project in 1994.
Holden created an 8-week program, not for people who were clinically depressed, but for those experiencing low spirits. “[The Happiness Project] explores what true happiness is, what blocks happiness and what enables happiness,” he says. “The real purpose of the work became helping people to stop searching for happiness and to start following their joy.”
In 1996, the British Broadcasting Company created a documentary that vividly showed the transformative power of Holden’s 8-week course. Documentarians recruited independent scientists to track three participants throughout their course experience and at follow-up evaluations 6 months later. Each week, participants completed mood questionnaires similar to, but more comprehensive than, the Happiness Test, described below. To supplement questionnaire results, University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers collected EEG data and MRI scans from participants when the course began and 6 months after it ended.
At follow-up, the three participants showed significant improvement both in outlook and in brain functioning. In other words, they not only felt happier, but they had experienced a shift in brain activation patterns from an unhappy resting state to a naturally happy resting state.
Fast-forward to 2018, and Holden combines his experience with research findings to outline 10 key areas that can shift to increase happiness:
1. Self. Learn what you love, what inspires you, what you are made of. The better you know yourself—and accept yourself—the happier you will be.
2. Relationships. Identify your most important relationships. Consider how you can be a true friend to important people in your life. Studies show that “rich and satisfying relationships” increase happiness.
3. Work. Love your work. Have a strong sense of purpose.
4. Attitude. Choose to be happy now. Much of happiness rests simply on your intention to be happy, without any change in circumstances.
5. Gratitude. Practice gratitude—it will shift your perception to a more positive state and increase your ability to be present.
6. Forgiveness. Let go of past hurts and disappointments and free yourself from suffering. Forgiveness lets you release resentment and brings you to the present.
7. Humor. Live more lightly. Be spontaneous. Let yourself have fun.
8. Health. Be kind to yourself. Take care of your own well-being.
9. Spirituality. Know what inspires you, supports you and gives you strength. Studies show that people who commit to a spiritual life path are twice as likely to consider themselves “very happy.” Spirituality connects you to your “being” so you don’t get lost in going, doing and having.
10. Now. Be present. Living in the “not now” is a chief cause of unhappiness. Your happiness score increases the more present you are in your life.
The most important lesson Holden has learned about happiness is that it is much more than a positive feeling. “Happiness is in our spiritual DNA. We experience happiness when we are being authentic and true to ourselves.” Holden challenges people to investigate: “If you’re not feeling happy, what is missing from your life? Perhaps what is missing is more of you.” What he is referring to is the inner connection with who we really are—our inherent value—and finding that connection is a spiritual path.
To discover 6 Creative Principles for Living a Happier Life, please see “Shift Happens! Saying YES to the Next Step” in the online IDEA Library or in the July 2018 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.