Did you know that you have your own “Happiness Contract?”
This is a set of beliefs you hold that determines just how much happiness you feel you deserve and how much happiness you believe is too good to be true.
A week ago I attended an inspirational talk by Dr Robert Holden who created The Happiness Project and was featured on Oprah in April 2007.
A few years ago, I literally bumped into Dr Holden in a hotel in South India after I had visited Nirvana School and last week was the first time I had seen him since. The evening made me realise what I had missed by not following and applying Dr Holden’s teachings in the intervening 4 years.
Dr Holden, a world leading authority on happiness, explained how most of us work without much love and joy in our workplace.
Indeed, 621 out of 1000 people surveyed would not even have their son or daughter work in their own workplace.
Early in his career, he started off by wondering why there was so little research into what made people happy, whereas there was tons of information as to what made people miserable, stressed and unhappy.
In the course of the evening, he went through 9 common personal laws that people use to write their own “happiness contract” and which ultimately prevent them from being truly happy.
I took notes during this talk by Dr Holden so I could share my learnings with my blog readers. I am glad I managed to capture most of his key points, but for a more indepth study please check out his new book.
As you go through each of the 9 points below, please reflect and see which ones apply to you. Then being to practise the suggested affirmations daily in your life.
The Happiness Contract
Though the “Happiness Contract” is a great metaphor, it’s effects on your life and on your level of happiness can feel very real.
It is your statement of beliefs of how much happiness is possible and how much is too good to be true. The contract is unique to you and the one key central clause is that happiness has to be earned and you must be deserving of it.
To rip up your happiness contract, first acknowledge that these personal laws of happiness are only inside your head. And always remember that happiness is your true nature.
Here are the 9 personal laws from Dr Holden and how to get over each one:-
1. Perfection Rule – “I must be perfect in order to deserve happiness”
Perfectionism takes all the joy away and covers up a hidden fear of being bad, defective or corrupt in some way. Ultimately it is about a belief you hold that you are not good enough – you are born perfect and yet you then spend the rest of your life trying to be “perfect”.
“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult” – Sigmund Freud
So in your day to day life, the belief you live from is that X amount of good behaviour buys Y amount of happiness.
However the goal of your life is not to become a perfect self – it is to see that you are already perfectly made. True happiness requires you to be more of you!
What would your life be like if you gave up the need to be perfect?
So if you are a perfectionist, here is the “perfect” affirmation for you:-
“I love and accept my unconditional self”
And please do not get hung up and beat yourself up for being imperfect if you fail to remember to say this affirmation a few times each day!
(I am clearly a perfectionist judging by the number of times I have gone over this post:-))
2. Sacrifice – “I must sacrifice good things for happiness”
The underlying belief here is that enjoying happiness is selfish and you cannot be happy yourself until everyone else is happy first.
However, if you truly believe that happiness comes from within you and not from the outside, then why spend a life time of sacrifice trying to make others in your life happy? Let them find their own inner happiness whilst you focus on enjoying yours.
Happiness requires no sacrifice, only acceptance. If you really must sacrifice and give up things, then give up fear for love, guilt for joy, separation for oneness, illusion for truth and the ego for god or whatever greater power you believe in.
Affirmation if you believe in sacrificing your happiness for others:-
“My happiness is my divine gift to the world”
3. Work Ethic – “I must earn happiness”
The hidden fear here is the belief that you are worthy of only a certain amount of happiness.
The mistake people then make is overdoing it and trying too hard to be happy. So stop over preparing for your life and just go with the flow.
I remember the times when I have prepared for my public talks by spending hours preparing almost every sentence and creating elaborate power-point slides. But on those occasions when I have not prepared anything and just gone with the flow, my talks have been really flowed, fun and inspirational.
Just relax a little bit – the key before doing anything is to do nothing first. Meditate and let your intuition guide you and see what opens up ahead of you.
As Dr Holden said – “No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance”
So the key is to being to accept yourself as the shining light you are. Know that you are worthy now of all happiness – start with self-acceptance and the rest is easy.
Affirmation for you if you feel you must earn happiness:-
“Happiness is the purpose of my life”
4. Suffering Tax – “I must suffer in order to know happiness”
It is as if we brace ourselves to suffer daily in all areas of our life. Do you find your life to be one of constant drama, struggle and pain?
Just because last term you signed up for the school of hard knocks, it doesn’t mean that this time around you have to take a master class in pain!
Rather than believing in no pain, no gain, just remember this – no pain, no pain:-)
Affirmation for you to stop suffering to be happy:-
“True joy cures the need to suffer”
5. Mastery Clause – “To be happy I must be enlightened”
A major block to happiness is we think we need to know it all. Many people, and especially those who are into personal development big time and attend one seminar after another, go through their lives searching for more knowledge and looking for that one key which will bring them happiness.
As Dr Holden put it so eloquently, let us learn to practice love and kindness before we try to learn if Krishna and Vishnu were the same!
(In case you don’t know, Krishna and Vishnu are both Hindu gods, and Krishna is said to be a reincarnation of Vishnu).
Our true nature is already happy and our personality just needs to know that.
Happiness is you, without your neuroses. In your work, simply follow your joy rather than needing to understand the needs of your target market first.
Affirmation for you to be happy and enlightened now:-
“Happiness is the key to enlightenment”
6. Approval Rating – “I must have approval for my happiness”
The underlying belief here is that happiness is not safe.
One also fears whether they can trust happiness and if they can be trusted to be this happy without ruining it!
The basic mistake is to relate to happiness as a peak expereince and not as a natural ongoing experience. Instead, see your happiness as a compass that gives you guidance, support and direction.
Affirmation for you to stop seeking approval for your happiness:-
“My happiness is my gift to everyone”
7. Readiness / Independence – “I must be 100% ready to be truly happy”
The hidden fears here are that I am not ready, I won’t find happiness and also what if happiness is boring!?
The basic mistake is searching for happiness and wanting to become something, rather than just being.
Remember that the future will not make you happy. Happiness is milking the secret now – stop searching for your life purpose and just choose one!
Dr Holden also talked about how we all get hung up on finding our life purpose and almost put our lives on hold until we find that fabled purpose. He suggested making kindness and love the purpose of your life and to live from that purpose. (I shall explore more of this in a future article soon.)
Affirmation for you to give up having to be independent and ready:-
“Happiness is oneness with myself and with all”
8. In Control – “The more in control I am, the happier I will be”
The hidden fears here are that happiness does not last and that I will lose control. The basic mistake we then make is we try and avoid unhappiness.
But have you ever noticed that what you try to control the most often gives you the most grief?
So if your strategy for success is not to fail, then you will not succeed.
Affirmation for you to let go of the desire to be in control:-
“Happiness is always now”
9. Having to be good and waiting – “I must wait for happiness to happen to me”
The basic mistake here is the “wait” problem – I shall be happy one day, some day.
The belief is that you can only be happy one day when you are really good. But the problem then is that instead of choosing to be good, you have to be “good” – and then you go through life being agreeable all the time, saying “yes” when you mean “no” and giving away your power rather than facing up to any conflict.
The hidden fear is that your happiness will cause a conflict – the key is to give up being “minnie me” and focus on what you really want.
We all feel that happiness has to be earned and that we are not deserving to be happy unless such and such is in place etc
Affirmation for you to stop waiting for happiness:-
“I accept myself and I accept happiness”
The Way Forward – You are the Light of the World
The key message that I took away from the evening with Dr Holden was this – “You are the light of the world”
This is a key statement and the underlying premise of a lot of Dr Holden’s teachings and that of other leading world teachers. Indeed this message is taught all over the world in various doctrines especially Christian and Hindu.
Note that this statement is in the present tense i.e. you already are the light of the world and it is all inclusive and applies to everyone.
And best of all there, are no qualifying statements! In other words, you are the light of the world regardless of who, what and where you are in the world now.
So for instance, you are the light of the world even if you are 40+, you don’t have a degree, you are single and are feeling vulnerable etc – you get the point.
“Every child is an artist – the problem is how to remain an artist when an adult” – Pablo Picasso
You are the light of the world even if you haven’t yet written a world best selling book, you don’t drive a Porsche, you haven’t met your soul mate or you don’t have over 10,000 subscribers to your blog:-)
The question is just how would you live your life if you really believed you were the light of the world? How happy would every minute of your life be from then onwards?
If you can accept this as being true about yourself, then you can accept it in others. The key to true happiness and the final act of healing is to know that there is nothing wrong with you nor anyone else.
To end, here is joke from Woody Allen about happiness. Though these words are meant to be a joke, there is a deeper meaning:-
“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer.
To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy.
Therefore, to be happy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.” – Woody Allen
Wouldn’t you rather rip up your happiness contract and suffer from too much happiness?!
Great list Arvind. Another way to look at it is that you are responsible for showing others that it is okay to be happy. In fact that it is preferable. Though be weary of settling to work you hate so that you can affirm happiness without feeling it. You are right though, any moment we can choose happiness.
Thanks Justin – if you are happy yourself, others can either choose to share your joy or resent it, you just have to continue to be joyous.
In every moment you are reborn,so why not be reborn with love and joy?!
Arvind, this is such a great post, that I send it straight to my tumblr.
i truly believe that realizing that happiness is a decision we could make instead of something we have to earn or work for. All things we do that we believe can make us happy are actually things that keep us away.
We must unlearn to do the things, because we want to be happy,
Instead we must learn to be happy to do the things.
Excellent post and a must read.
Thanks Patrick for spreading the word through your tumblr – you do know how to make a friend happy!
But then again am I vesting my happiness on the number of comments I get on my blog?!
Great distinction from you – be happy to do things, rather than do things to be happy – thank you.
Great post Arvind,
It almost seems too easy to be happy and…from reading this post and these points, it really is easy. It’s really a matter of finding happiness in everything you do – allow every little step be something you enjoy and part of your light that shines. Just choosing to live this life is a experience we were meant to enjoy. Thank you for allowing me to find happiness in what truly matters to me and what makes me feel good.
I have done a lot of personal dfevelopment work and read so many books – and have reached the conclusion that the only thing that matters in life is to be happy and joyous all the time.
Once you are in that state of constant happiness, everything else you want in your life will manifest.
So as you say, make every step one you enjoy, and then the next one and the next…
You have elaborated a profound wisdom here. Happiness cannot be achieved in comfort, it cannot be achieved by being stagnant, it cannot be achieved by inaction. Happiness can only be achieve I we let ourselves grow, and such accompanies discomfort and sacrifice. 🙂
So true Walter – what you seek becomes even harder to find. But what you just choose to be becomes yours.
Interesting piece, Arvind! I hesitate to say for fear of being misunderstood, but in general, none of these points really apply to me. I rarely get hung up on things I can’t control so I guess you can say I’m overall a happy person (as I think you are, too, based on many of your posts…).
I’ll remember to refer to this piece if I become unhappy in the future…
Thank you Belinda!
I have finally found the perfect blog reader – someone who is always happy!
As for being a happy person overall, are you suggesting there is an alternate way of being?!
I really enjoyed this Arvind. I don’t know how I ended up on your blog today, and coincidentally, I am going through some tough times and at the same time got in the habit of blogging, so an article about the happiness contract felt a bit soothing. Unlike Belinda, I can say that all of your 9 points are applicable to me, and I can correlate to each one of them. I would like to contribute a number 10 here though:
Fear of loss – being scared to be happy all the time, and being fearful that I might not remember how to handle unhappiness when it comes about again. So, let me not get too used to happiness that I forget how to handle unhappiness tomorrow.
Thanks for visiting!
However you ended up on my blog, you were clearly meant to be here since all 9 points apply to you:-)
Thanks for your point 10 – I can relate to this too as so many people refuse to be happy in case it doesn’t “last”. Kind of seems illogical really – I won’t enjoy my life too much right now as I don’t wish to be too unhappy later when I am not enjoying it so much!
Let us all be happy and joyous every day and all the time:-)
Hi Arvind. Google directed me in this page of your site when I search for the keyword “the secret to become truly happy”. Thanks for the insightful article. The happiness contract is a nice idea. I agree that e should stand for happiness. And yes… we need to determine and recognize the happiness that we can really attain. It’s always good to be true.
Welcome to my blog, Ret.
Glad to see that Google is at least doing something to spread happiness:-)
The happiness contract is a wonderful idea – let’s get this message out there to a much wider audience.