Happiness is both objective and subjective as it goes, but that doesn’t mean there’s no scientific way of achieving it. Positive psychology expert and celebrity happiness coach, Rob Mack, joins Tanya Memme in this episode to talk about the scientific method of happiness. Rob is one of the world’s leading experts on the relationship between happiness and success. Want to know how to find authentic happiness in your life that will ultimately translate into effortless success? Tune in today!
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Taking The Scientific Approach Towards Happiness With Rob Mack
In this episode, we have Rob Mack. He is a happiness coach and he’s absolutely phenomenal. I am honored to have you here because everything that you teach and everything that I’ve heard you say to me and to your clients are exceptional. Thank you for coming to the show.
I appreciate you saying that. I fully receive that. I would say that most of my life, I didn’t feel that way though. Most of my life, I didn’t feel exceptional or extraordinary.
You started off down and how you got involved with becoming a happiness coach.
I was suicidal.
It’s hard to bring the topic up. Tell me about that if you’re willing to talk about it.
It was the worst thing that ever happened that turned into the best thing that ever happened.
How old were you?
I remember being deeply miserable and unhappy for as long as I’ve been living. Honestly, since probably birth. I can remember clearly at 6 or 7 feeling like, “Life sucks.”
Where does that come from? Does it come from your upbringing? Does it come from your environment?
I’m an empath. You’re an empath. You pick up the energy of the folks around you when they’re stressed, anxious and sad. You pick it up from the world and you could feel it. It was largely that.
Did you have a tough upbringing?
I did. My parents were phenomenal. I had a phenomenal family, but there was lots of stress and lots of conflicts. I was determined and destined to be successful and committed to being and doing things right. Perfectly, in fact.
Which sometimes when they say you strive for perfection, it’s not always healthy. No one’s ever perfect, so you’re always going to be disappointed first of all.
Because nothing can live up to the expectation that you’ve placed on yourself or you’ve placed on that thing.
You had an interesting upbringing. Where did you say that you were from?
I was from Little Washington, outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a small little town.
What was it like for you and your life? You’re 6 or 7-year-old and trying to be perfect. You don’t see the glass half-full. What was that like for a kid? How did it progress?
It was mostly me crying about something probably. I’m trying to hide the tears and it was mostly me also trying to hide myself. I love being alone because as much as I was stuck with my own thoughts, it was better than being surrounded by people who I felt were always putting me on the spot to be or do something. I didn’t like being social and I wasn’t good at being social. I don’t think I even spoke too many words until I was thirteen. I remember going to church and other people would ask my mom, “Does he not speak?” She said, “He’ll speak when he’s ready. He’s probably just observing you or whatever.” I didn’t socialize at all.
These thoughts that were mostly largely unconscious for me at 6 or 7, you’re not that aware of your self-talk, over time got worse. It wasn’t just about the stress and anxiety that surrounded me and I felt on the inside. It was also this existential angst that began to develop where I looked at life as a whole. I was always good at planning things out to the end. I would say, “If I accomplish X, Y or Z, then what happens?” “I’ve got to do this..” “Then what happens?” “Death happens.” I was like, “No matter what I accomplished on this planet or acquire, no matter what I do, I will die and everyone I love will also die.”Nothing can live up to the expectation that you've placed on yourself. Click To Tweet
That is morbid for such a young person. That’s how you saw the world.
It was just death.
This is what makes you amazing how you can relate to all of your clients. It’s what’s brought you. You have been through so much that you’re relatable. What was it like during that time? Was it days before you were about to take your life?
It was no different than any other day. I was like, “This sucks and I hate my job.”
Did you plan it?
I thought about writing a suicide note. I contemplated that a couple of times, and then I discovered I didn’t know what to say. I had tried to have this conversation in bite-sized pieces with people I cared about, my family. They were always great, but there was no way they could understand. Unless you’ve been there, you can’t. They would say, “Just don’t think that way.” I’m like, “That’s life.” I am sitting here with you. My 16 or 17-year-old self would have said, “Even if I have just met this beautiful woman, she could be gone in 5 seconds, 5 days or 5 years. In any case, she’s going to be gone.”
The days before, there’s nothing different. I can’t say that I was 100% committed. If I was, I would not be here today. I started thinking and researching ways to do it. That’s where my mind was at, “I could take pills. I could shoot myself.” You start going down this rabbit hole of things that you could do. I didn’t want to experience a whole lot of pain and I didn’t want it to be that messy, the whole thing but then you also realize you only have access to certain tools and things.
It’s interesting because in my life, I know three people that have committed suicide. One that attempted it and two of them were related to me. I don’t understand, but I’ve been through it too. What makes you relatable as a coach is that you have been through all of that. Suicide is at an all-time high so I’m sure that you can relate to your clients. How on Earth did that change from that to becoming a happiness coach? Let’s talk about that.
It’s wild and that’s why all of life is this perfectly woven tapestry. What I have with me is I dug the steak knife in my wrist because I was a pain thing. I want to see how painful it is going to be. I felt more peaceful and blissful than I’ve ever felt before in my whole life. For no good reason, there’s a knife in my arm.
I can’t relate to that.
I had this experience and I’m like, “That’s interesting.” Nothing objectively has changed. I had a good job and I had a good family. I was healthy. I didn’t have any real complaints, which made the depression a lot worse in some ways because I felt guilty for not being more grateful.
When I had this experience of peace, I thought, “I could postpone this for a day or at least an hour. Maybe do a little bit of searching,” so I did. I started searching and researching a little bit and seeing what was going on within me. I discovered that what was going on within me was a perfect microcosm for what was going on in the world at large. I was experiencing objectively good circumstances and good life but subjectively, I felt like crap.
Also in the world, since 1950, there’s been an increasing amount of suicides and depression. We’ve got ten times the level of bipolar depression and we’ve got more access to disorders. We’ve got more stress, anxiety and drug use in lots of ways. It all points back to the same thing. This is all despite all the technological advances, the improvement in health, improving quality of life and longer lives. All this objective stuff is improving but subjectively, we’re feeling worse for it. We were happier in 1950 than we are now.
I see it every day. It’s apparent now too. With all four cases that I’ve been aware of, they’ve all been in pain. They started off on prescription drugs. That’s a whole other topic, but what I love about you and what you bring to this world, to your clients and the people that you heal is that you have this experience. Because you come from that, you can help people through the toughest and most difficult times of their life. Even for somebody like me, I’ve not committed or thought about contemplating suicide, but I’ve had my moments where I was thinking. It might have been a brief thought because life is tough and life is hard. I went through a difficult time. I heard you talk about you being a happiness coach and your inspiration pod. You have so much amazing, incredible knowledge that I’ve never heard anybody eloquently say it the way that you have. Everybody can relate to what you do and how you help people.
I appreciate that. That means everything to me. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Thank you for being on this planet. Also, tell me about the success story of one of your clients.
I say that not in a way that gives credit to me because what I do best at my best is get out of the way. I’ve got this one particular client that I remember. He’s a great kid. He is probably 17 or 18.
You work with a lot of teens.
Yeah, I definitely work with some teens. Usually, their parents call and the kids don’t know. That’s how it goes. There’s a lot of negotiation that goes on but in any case, yes. This kid grew up fortunate and his parents have worked hard to get them to a place where he wouldn’t have to worry about basic needs. He didn’t have to worry about money and they killed themselves in doing that. Anyways, the kid is a great kid but he lied a lot, lots of drug use and not particularly happy. My work was to live with him. I live with this kid and I live with his family. It was not painful. It was a beautiful house and a beautiful place.
I moved in and I don’t often do this. It was a 24-hour a day thing. I moved in with him. The challenge is that the things that you and I could talk about, I couldn’t necessarily talk to this kid about it. I couldn’t say, “This is why you should be happy and this is why you should not lie.” It doesn’t register. This is why I say at my best, I get out of the way. My job in a situation like that is simply to offer him the one thing that he’s not able to access for himself, which essentially at the end of the day for all of us is unconditional love.
The parents thought that they weren’t giving him unconditional love, right?
They were, but he wasn’t giving that to himself or allowing himself to access that. His parents, like all of us, are busy. They have their own lives and they have things going on. They’re trying to support and provide for the family. My job, the way I see it with all my clients, is to provide a space of unconditional love and regard so that they can hear their own wisdom, come up with their own answers and realize their own power. At the beginning of my practice, I was doing a great disservice decline because I was giving them all this information and all this stuff that I had learned over the years.
I realized that in lots of ways, that was a disservice because I was encouraging them and training them to lean on me and depend on me for their happiness. The most transformative element in any therapy or coaching practice scientifically is unconditional regard. All therapists or coaching approaches work equally well. The only element that truly matters is how unconditionally loving or how much unconditional regard the therapist or coach can embody.
To have them come up with the answers, so that’s unconditional from their side and not just to our side.
They can offer that to themselves. With this particular kid, that’s all I focused on, even though we talked about things every now and then to try and see what happens.
How long did you live with his family?
That’s a long time.
It was long for me because I like my alone time.
You probably learned a lot though, too.
I did. End of story, I do my best to let go of results. The results are not up to me. I focused on the process. Maybe the kid turned up better and maybe didn’t but I gave it everything I had. I promise you probably a month or two after, his parents wrote to me and said, “Rob, our son is completely transformed at a soul level.” For me, it was humbling because I generally didn’t do anything. It was just the presence.
You’re one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. You do change people and you affect people when you walk into a room, Rob. You are one of those people. One of the things, too, that I love is that everything is scientifically-based. You’ve spent many years studying what happiness is and the science behind it, too. When you speak, I love knowing that it’s not only just coming from what you’ve learned, but it’s also scientifically-based.
These are not guesses. I have no guesses. I offer people no guesses. People have enough guesses of their own. That’s something I made a commitment to. Everything I offer people is something that I have lived myself. If I haven’t lived myself, I do not offer it up as a suggestion or recommendation or advice because I received too much of my life. Everybody was telling me to do X, Y or Z. Many of them were wrong and many of them hadn’t lived it. I would try it and I’d fail and I’d be the guinea pig. I do not do that. I do not offer guesses. Everything that I offer people is tried and true based on science, often thousands of studies and my personal experience on top of that. There are no guesses here at all.
I know that we live in a different society even as we did several years ago. It’s catapulting quite quickly and it’s changing every day quickly, but I noticed that there’s a lot of people, including myself, I have my moments, where they’re unhappy. They have their moments. What is the one thing you think that causes unhappiness in a human person?
There’s only one thing and it’s a great question. It’s an over-analytical mind. It’s a mind that cannot stop thinking. It is the only source of unhappiness in the entire planet. There was nothing more than that. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience physical pain. Physical pain is different. I’m talking about mental, psychological, emotional and spiritual.
There’s so much fear.
Fear is just a thought. The worst thing that can happen to you in life or on your deathbed is a belief. Do we know that death is bad? Not at all. In fact, most spiritual traditions will tell you, it’s the greatest moment of your life. It’s graduation. It’s pure bliss. We’ve got these beliefs and these ideas about life, condition and circumstance, and those ideas and beliefs lead us to feel a certain way. That’s it. It’s just a belief. That unhappiness to a large extent is an illusion. It’s something that you’re not experiencing, but in the same way that you have a dream. In that dream, you imagine you’re suffering because you don’t have enough food or somebody mistreating you. You then wake up in the morning and you’re like, “No.” You realize it was a dream and you feel instantly better. The same thing happens with our thoughts all the time.An over-analytical mind that cannot stop thinking is the only source of unhappiness in the entire planet. Click To Tweet
Why is it at night where everything seems tense? You wake up in the morning and you don’t feel quite as awake.
It’s awareness because, during the day, you’re distracted and entertained with many different things and people that it’s drowning out the noise. Have you ever been in a barbershop or salon? Maybe the old school ones. They’d have a fan blowing, but it was loud. People are talking and you felt anxious, but not that anxious. You don’t know why. Maybe if you were the last person out the door and everyone was quiet and you heard that fan and it was super loud, you’re like, “Why is that fan blaring or the radio blaring?”
I have a million more questions I want to ask you. You have to hear Rob’s inspiration pod because I’ve never heard anything like that before. You have it perfectly said in a short period of time with knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for sharing it. If you love Rob as much as we do, make sure that you check out his inspiration pod. I promise you you’re going to want to listen to it again and again. Thanks for coming on the show.
About Rob Mack
Robert is an ivy-league-educated Positive Psychology Expert, Celebrity Happiness Coach, Executive Coach, and Author. Robert studied under the direction of Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). UPenn is the top institution in the world to offer a Masters degree program in Applied Positive Psychology. Robert is one of the world’s leading experts on the relationship between happiness and success. He helps individuals and organizations achieve an energizing balance of authentic personal happiness and effortless professional success, based on time-tested, face-valid, empirical data and timeless, transcendental wisdom. Robert’s work has been endorsed by Oprah, Vanessa Williams, and many others, and he has been a regularly featured guest expert on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Access Hollywood, E! Networks, OWN, and KTLA, and in magazines like GQ, Self, Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour. Robert’s first book, Happiness from the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment, is celebrity-endorsed and critically-acclaimed. It has been translated into various other languages, including Chinese.