Rich Heller Of Rich In Relationship: “Nurture Your Spirit”

Nurture Your Spirit: Pray, Meditate, Practice Mindfulness. Connect with like-minded groups. Cultivate a connection with friends and others. Spirituality is ultimately about connection. Connection to others, to self, to the wider reality. Spirit is where our true self lives, the part of us that shapes the mind and drives the body. It sometimes feels like it […]

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Nurture Your Spirit: Pray, Meditate, Practice Mindfulness. Connect with like-minded groups. Cultivate a connection with friends and others. Spirituality is ultimately about connection. Connection to others, to self, to the wider reality. Spirit is where our true self lives, the part of us that shapes the mind and drives the body.

It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Heller.

Trained as a therapist, coach, and mediator, Rich Heller’s focus is on family systems and relationships with an emphasis on building resilience in children through transforming conflict into communication and understanding.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I fondly say that I grew up in “Armageddon”. I was a “rich” kid in a poor neighborhood and was a target as such. My parents had a very rocky marriage that ended in a rocky divorce. I learned to fight back and create alliances in my neighborhood. In a high conflict environment, it can be difficult to get personal needs met- I learned how and turned the deficits of my childhood into an asset. Thus my personal mission is to help families overcome conflict and build happiness and joy in their lives.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My wife and partner is a matrimonial attorney committed to changing the way people divorce so that they have a more amicable divorce. When I met her we became friends and she coached me through my own divorce so that it was relatively low conflict, cost-effective and quick. This experience was a major contributor to being drawn to this work,

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My Grandparents were super family-focused. They would gather me and my cousins together every summer and build family connections. This was an experience of what family could be like without having conflict at the center. My grandfather in particular was a principled and caring man who invested in us as people. He shared and lived his values. He always focused on the positive, on problem-solving. He was a very successful entrepreneur and businessman. Super inspiring individual. Though my grandparents are no longer with us, I’m still super tight with my cousins today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

In couples work there are not often funny stories, so here is a lesson learned.

I recently worked with a couple from India briefly. The wife had contacted me first. Typically I do a discovery call with the couple together before making a decision about whether they are a good fit. For some reason, they could not seem to coordinate this so I interviewed them separately. Though they both agreed to do the work, the husband very quickly criticized his wife for “being too honest” with me about their relationship. They dropped out of the process.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Almost all couples slip into what we call Parallel Lives Syndrome (PLS). PLS occurs when couples move from being “in love” to everyday life. Typically they have children at this point and tend to divide the labor of managing day-to-day lives by their individual strengths. In business, this is the equivalent of working “in” the business. The day-to-day stuff that gets the job done. The danger in business and in relationships is that working “on” the business (vision, planning, course corrections, communications) starts to become minimized. By the way, because joy is a result of staying on course, the sense that every adversity is a step towards our goals, focusing too much on working “in” the family/marriage can be a big joy killer. Suddenly, we are loaded with problems and living parallel lives we slip into blame and anger.

This year I am developing a series of workshops and programs to help couples keep their focus on working “on” their marriage while they work “in” their marriages. To help them end the pain and suffering of PLS and avoid the intensive couples work that is needed to save a marriage when PLS goes too far. I’m super excited about catching couples before they hit a crisis and giving them the tools they need to put their shared marital vision back on course.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Leaders have a sense of mission.
  2. They have a vision.
  3. They work collaboratively engaging the strengths of their partners.

Mission: I shared this story earlier on- my sense of personal mission or purpose is helping families create the patterns in their lives to enhance happiness and joy on a daily basis and that grows directly out of my own experience, my own sense of resilience, and what brings me joy.

My vision is to help hundreds of thousands of families to acquire the tools they need for family happiness, joy, success! To develop programs that support families in all areas of breakdown.

All the work that we do at Rich in Relationship is based on the truth that all human beings are whole and complete within themselves, all the answers to our sense of brokenness can be found within. When we work with people we support them in finding the answers that their own experiences and beliefs may be limiting them from finding in their day-to-day lives. Thus all our work is collaborative.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?

Joy is based on the experience of life as a series of challenges to be moved through in traveling to a certain and compelling future- as opposed to a series of “problems” that are daunting in nature.

I learned about Joy through overcoming the challenges in my own life and have become an authority in supporting my clients to do the same.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?

The United States was founded on meeting challenges with faith and confidence in a compelling future. People came here expecting that they could better their lives. Often they had practices and structures to support these expectations via community, religious groups, and traditions (all of which have been proven to improve happiness). Post depression, the focus became more material in nature.

In a nutshell- skipping the history lesson, the US has become more focused on materialism while there has been a dissolution of family tradition (the communicator of family values) due to the effect of the “melting pot”.

Happiness studies show that improvements in annual income create greater happiness in a family up to about 80k. At this point, they have the objects they need to reduce the stress of day-to-day life (car, washing machine, refrigerator, etc). From this point on, money has far less impact on happiness, and yet many people remain focused on making more and acquiring more despite the low happiness payoff.

At the same time, this is often accompanied by a drop in self-care (look at the obesity rate in the US for example) and the experience of having no time. No time for self, for family, etc. No time to savor life. In a nutshell, many Americans are on the hamster wheel of a materially driven lifestyle, rather than one driven by a sense of purpose.

What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?

Myth: Joy comes from God- though this is true in the sense that joy is driven by a sense of faith, and faith is often associated with a belief in God, faith is an action that we choose whether we are believers in a higher power or not. Faith is both the confidence in a compelling future and acting from that confidence and this is the primary vehicle for joy.

Myth: Happiness is a vague thing that is hard to find. It may seem vague and ethereal, and it may not be easy to find, but happiness is simple and far from ethereal. What drives happiness is a) reduction in stress and b) fulfillment of needs. The keys to those conditions are found within each and every one of us.

In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?

In addition to couples work, I also work with individuals divorcing a toxic spouse.

Karen was married to a man that reminded her of her parents. He was successful, and often a lot of fun to be with, as long as she did things his way. If she stepped out of line, he yelled and was emotionally abusive. Karen quickly learned how to manage him. His outbursts were minimized. This reduced the stress in their relationship and so Karen thought they were happy.

They had a child. The child had no idea how to mold himself to his father and became the recipient of the same abuse Karen had been deflecting. As hard as Karen tried, she could not protect her child. She came to work with me.

When we first started working together, it was all about how Karen could protect her child. She moved out with him, got a high-paying job, and slowly realized how truly unhappy she had been. Today, she is starting a business to help people increase empathy and a sense of safety. This is her joy project.

I believe that there are millions of people who want to believe they are happy but really, they are just barely staving off disaster in some way shape, or form much like Karen was. This is because part of happiness is low stress and so they see a reduction in stress as happiness. They have become accustomed to living with stressors rather than shifting their lives.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)

  1. Take care of Your Body: We need to care for the instrument. Eat, sleep, exercise, bath, protect your skin from the elements, seek professional guidance on these. When our bodies are well cared for, we are more energized and have more ability and energy with which to focus on our lives and those we care for.
  2. Take Care of Your Mind: Read, Solve puzzles, Interact with friends, test your mental limits, grow self-understanding. Our mind is the tool with which who we are meets the world. The more we understand it, exercise it, train it, the more effective we are in achieving our goals. Another area where professionals can help : ).
  3. Nurture Your Spirit: Pray, Meditate, Practice Mindfulness. Connect with like-minded groups. Cultivate a connection with friends and others. Spirituality is ultimately about connection. Connection to others, to self, to the wider reality. Spirit is where our true self lives, the part of us that shapes the mind and drives the body.
  4. Find a Purpose: We are each and every one of us unique, special like snowflakes. We are amazing compilations of our families, histories, culture, innate abilities and skills, and personalities amongst other things. We each have a unique purpose, a way of being, and doing that has an impact on everyone around us. When we embrace it, we find our purpose and the road to joy.
  5. Help Others: Helping others is the ultimate hack to happiness and joy. This is a great space to lose sight of our own feelings of lack, sadness, and even anger and begin to discover how we positively impact other beings. In helping others we begin to discover purpose.

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?

Feeling “down” is very different from “depressed”. If someone is feeling “down” take them to a soup kitchen to volunteer with you for a day. Ask them to come to help you bake a cake, paint, pack. Worst case, if they just won’t move, offer to come to their place to help them with a project. Helping others is the ultimate mind-hack! While you’re working together, explore the problem with them and just listen. Don’t try and fix it. Often, when someone is blue, they just need to be heard and do something constructive to release the feeling.

If they are depressed, they need professional help. Depression is not the same as sadness. It is the result of repressed feelings and thoughts and requires a good deal of processing and unpacking. Push them to get help.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The problems of the world can be boiled down to two basic areas of weakness:

  1. Inability to form a true partnership, or how to have healthy families and collaborative relationships in our day-to-day life.
  2. Educational opportunity- with an excellent education, we would better harness the potential of all peoples to problem-solving and creating greater opportunity.

My mission is focused on teaching and encouraging partnership. This is something people need to choose however so I’ll go with let’s start a movement to prioritize having both the best education system in the world as well as one that is available to children of any background at no cost to their families.


We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I’ll go with Michael Jordan. This is a guy who was true to himself, understands how to overcome, knows the value of family, and has experienced a divorce. He is involved with charities and is an engaged entrepreneur. A terrific emissary of joy and happiness.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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