What is the Happiness Project?

9 Things Happy People Know

Today marks the launch of my new 8-week online happiness program The Happiness Project. It’s based on the original 8-week program, started in 1992, and subject of the BBC science documentary How to Be Happy. I’ve called this online program The Happiness Project because it features every major principle and practice of my work. It’s my greatest hits album on happiness!

My original 8-week happiness program was tested by independent scientists, selected by the BBC science team, who verified it to be “a genuine fast-track to happiness.” This got everyone’s attention! Since that documentary, the world’s media has interviewed me countless times. I’ve kept a small archive of my favourite interviews, which include interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer for Good Morning America, and Michael Parkinson for the BBC.

Here is a selection of the questions I am most commonly asked as Director of The Happiness Project. These questions and my answers come from transcripts of various interviews over the years. So here it goes!

Robert, were you born happy?

I’m asked this question a lot! I was born wanting to be happy. I was quite a serious child – thoughtful, self-conscious, and not exactly carefree. I was born with fast genes. I was looking forward to being happy one day. In my teens, I imagined that my life would get better in about 18 months time, after my exams, when I got a girlfriend, or something. Deep down, I felt like everyone else found happiness easier than me. Throughout my twenties, I kept thinking I just need another 18 months to crack happiness!

Why did you start The Happiness Project?

This is very personal. I’ve often described my work with The Happiness Project as an open letter to my mum, and my work with Success Intelligence as my open letter to my father. In my childhood, my mum suffered terrible bouts of depression. She spent months-at-a-time away from home in mental care. My father suffered from alcoholism. He lived homeless on-and-off for the last ten years of his life. My parent’s pain somersaulted me forward into an intense inquiry on life’s big questions like Who am I?, What is the purpose of life?, What is happiness?, and What is real success?

How did The Happiness Project begin?

Initially, the goal was simply to start a conversation about happiness. In six years of studying psychology, philosophy and psychotherapy, I’d had only one lecture on happiness! We studied unhappiness, but never happiness. According to what I was taught, happiness is what you experience when you aren’t unhappy anymore. Well, that didn’t make sense to me. I believe that happiness is much more than the opposite of unhappiness. I felt happiness deserved an inquiry.

In 1992, I created an 8-week happiness course, which I called The Laughter Clinic. I described the course as “a course for people suffering from a desire to be happy!” The course was advertised locally through the National Health Service and in doctors’ surgeries. By the time we finished the first 8-week course, we had a waiting list of 500 people. It would have been rude not to do another course. That’s how the journey began.

What’s the purpose of The Happiness Project?

The first mission statement of The Happiness Project was: talk happiness. Let’s start a conversation about happiness. The unofficial mission statement, which everyone in my team knew, was: how to help Robert Holden be happy now (not in 18 months time). As time went on, and I learned more about what real happiness is, and understood better the causes of unhappiness, the real purpose of the work became helping people to stop searching for happiness and to start following their joy.

What’s the biggest cause of unhappiness?

Forgetting who you are. When you forget who you are, you forget what true happiness is, and this causes you to search for happiness in all the wrong places. Happiness is not an “it” that you find, or a “thing” to have, or a “destination’ to get to; happiness is a quality of your true nature. Happiness is in your spiritual DNA. The soul is JOY. The whole reason why happiness is life’s # 1 goal is because we experience happiness when we are being authentic and true to ourselves.

What’s the biggest block to happiness?

The belief that happiness has to be deserved has led to centuries of pain, guilt and deception. I tackle this erroneous belief in a workshop called How to be so Happy You Almost Feel Guilty, but Not Quite! It’s a very popular workshop. For as long as you believe that happiness has to be deserved you’ll be afraid of being too happy. Fortunately happiness does not have to be earned, worked for, deserved or paid for. Happiness is not something you achieve; it’s something you accept. Happiness is free – there is no escape from this freedom!

What makes your 8-week happiness program so successful?

The balance of spiritual practices and psychology principles is key. Our inquiry includes the ego and the soul. It’s also based on action-learning principles. The program doesn’t work in theory; only in practice. I ask my students to bring their willingness to rethink happiness. I also ask them to bring their whole Self. Happiness is not just the absence of sadness; it is the capacity to meet sadness with honesty and love.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about happiness?

Happiness used to be dismissed by psychologists as “a pleasurable emotion with no evolutionary value.” Yet, happiness is much more than just a positive feeling. Happiness is your spiritual compass. It helps you to live on purpose, to find meaning, and to follow your joy. Also, psychologists now recognize that happiness has “an active ingredient” in it that boosts your chances of enjoying greater health, abundance, success and love. Happiness is both attractive and contagious! It attracts more of what you want and brings out the best in yourself and others too!

Robert, how would you sum up your work with The Happiness Project?

People from all walks of life come on my 8-week happiness program. The most common feedback I hear is: “I came on this program to find happiness, and I found me!” When we say I want to be happier, I think what we mean by that is we want to experience self-acceptance, to be more authentic, to feel more alive, to express ourselves creatively, and to live a life we love. Happiness is a worthy goal. Always remember that your happiness and your healing are a gift to those you love and to our planet too.

The Happiness Project 8-week online program launches today. I do hope you will join me on this journey. It features 40 daily coaching videos with me and also four live webinars with me. I’ll be with you every step of the way.

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