Like Your Father: Identifying Our Unresolved Issues with Parents & Finding Inspiration

When I first met Greg, he wasn’t eager to delve into his family history.

Learn how to identify unresolved issues with your parents.

In our first few meetings he glossed over it, in fact. He said his father was a hard worker. His mother tended to the household. They had a good marriage. Then he moved on to discussing the problems he was currently facing.

Greg couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t getting more out of his work and relationship. Life was okay, but he felt a great deal of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment.  He was a few years out of grad school and stuck in a mid-level marketing position. He was moving up, but wasn’t moving as quickly as he would like– In fact, he’d recently been passed over for a promotion; one he’d really thought he was qualified for.

When it came to his relationship, Greg said he couldn’t help but feel like his girlfriend wanted more from him, emotionally. When it came to connecting with her, he felt mostly indifferent. He reported that they got along fine and rarely fought. He loved her and didn’t want to break up, but he felt they were stagnant. He couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t someone else out there he’d be happier with. He feared he was settling. He resented her for not making him happy or being able to “fix” his ennui.

Greg’s wheel-spinning and lack of fulfillment aren’t uncommon. Many of the people I work with report very similar situations and feelings. We are deeply shaped by our parents.

When we began to delve into Greg’s family history, certain revelations – and even some unresolved issues with his parents – started to come to light. His father had worked for years in the steel industry. He’d worked long hours and hard labor. He had a strong work ethic; Greg never heard him complain. He rarely took a day off, however, and even when he had a heart attack in his 50’s he went right back to work the moment he recovered. His father had just passed away a few years prior to our meeting.

His mother, on the other hand, was the eternal optimist who constantly tried to paint everything as “okay” even when it wasn’t. Greg admitted there were times when he felt her optimism came across as phony, as though she was in denial. Yet, he often relied on his mother to build him up and boost his ego. At the same time, the family avoided confrontation and rarely, if ever, discussed feelings or frustrations. They went through their routine.

“I see myself becoming like my father,” Greg reported, “working myself to the bone, but never getting anywhere. Living a life that’s only status quo.”

To get to the core of Greg’s feelings, we had to explore his upbringing. We had to get to the patterns he was repeating, the relationships he was seeking, and the unresolved issues he was avoiding because of Mom and Dad.

Becoming Our Parents

The majority of your attachments, beliefs, and ideals were formed by the time you were six. Many well before that. You were either taught as a baby, “The world is safe, I can express my emotions. I’m comforted and cared for,” or you were taught, “I need to look out for myself. I can’t trust the world around me.”

There’s a strain of each of these beliefs threaded into all of us. None of us had a perfect childhood or perfect parents (and if you think you did, you’re in denial)!

The good news is, whether you had an idyllic childhood or not, you can break free from any family pattern you desire. Because your parents lived out a passionless marriage, worried about money, never fought, always fought or worked themselves to the bone, doesn’t mean you are fated to do the same.

The first step is identifying these patterns and beliefs. How did your parents feel about work? Their friendships? Each other? Reflecting on the patterns we saw with our parents helps us quickly identify similarities in our own lives.

Here’s the deal: many people rebel or overcompensate because of a fear of being like their parents. They try so hard to prove they aren’t like Mom and Dad, they engage in the opposite, and sometimes even destructive behaviors: Mom and Dad were devout church-goers, so you shun anything to do with religion, denying yourself any positive spirituality or higher connections in your life. Mom and Dad were tight with money, so you spend yourself into deep debt to prove how open with money you are.

Instead of rebelling against or following our parents, we can identify the positive behaviors and strengths we wish to model in our own lives. We can identify the unresolved issues, weaknesses, and areas we wish to change, and move forward forging our own path.

As an adult, you are not beholden to the beliefs, lifestyle or structure set by your parents.

But first you must identify and admit where the cracks and limitations are, so you can move forward and repair them. This is a true challenge. Some don’t want to “blame” their parents and refuse to take them off their pedestal (parents are human, too) or accept that they exert any influence on their behavior at all. Others refuse to find the congruences in their own behavior believing they’ve already forged their own path.

Many people, like Greg, are haunted by the sense they may be falling into patterns set by their parents, and although they don’t want to make the same mistakes, they aren’t sure how to break free.

Using the Common Argument for Self-Exploration

What happens when someone tells us we’re like our parent? It pisses us off, right?  In fact, when couples fight, what’s one of the most common insults?

“You’re just like your mother!”

It’s rarely, if ever, thrown around as a compliment.  The truth? Most of us are, at least somewhat, similar to our parents. You may change the surface, get tattoos, dress differently, join a different church or political party… but deep down, there’s no escaping it: our fundamental behaviors and our relationships are often patterned after our parents.

This is why it cuts us to the core when our significant other points out what we’re trying so hard to push against.

This often-explosive argument generally cuts to the quick, especially when you have long dreaded being like your mother or father. Your partner plays on this, which is why these are fighting words. But if the argument is only a debate about who’s right or whether you really are like that parent, then it will go nowhere. If you’re fighting about a specific behavior or attitude you exhibit that is similar to that parent, though, then you can use it to burrow down to a richer, more productive conflict. Maybe you fear that your relationship will be just like that of your parents. Maybe you are exhibiting a parental behavior that you know is destructive, but you’re trying to communicate a more profound message to your partner about what’s missing in your lives.

Use the mother-father debate as a powerful lens into your past to see its impact on your present relationship—how your upbringing and your relationship with your parents affects you individually and as a couple—and what you can do to change it. Questions that lead to a deeper understanding include:

  • What about the behavior that is like your mother or father is problematic for you?
  • What feelings does it evoke?
  • What would you like in its place?
  • What is the desired behavior and outcome you want?

You will be dealing with the roots of your pain or anger, and you’ll be free to see and love your partner for who he or she is—not just as a projection of your parent or your past.

The Heart of the Fight

In the case of Greg, and many others, the moment we were able to identify the core beliefs and behaviors set up by his parents, the faster he was able to overcome them.

He could see how he was expecting his girlfriend to swoop in and fix problems, like his mother had always done. He could see how he avoided confrontation and conflict; using work as a soft-addiction and insulation from intimacy, like his father. He started to address his feelings and discovered his girlfriend had underlying frustrations of her own. Once the cards were laid on the table they started battling towards bliss.

Greg pinpointed his fears of remaining in a mid-level position and how he viewed himself as a cog in the corporate machine, rather than an active contributor. He decided to seek out a more fulfilling position with a smaller company where his efforts received more recognition and he could play an active role in growth.

By examining our upbringing, we get to our core beliefs – and our underlying unresolved issues with parents from our upbringing. We understand what we need to work through and deal with. We get out of the destructive patterns set up by our parents and move into a life of more fulfillment, greater intimacy and stronger personal growth.

For more on strengthening your relationships, identifying and overcoming your unresolved issues, and finding new inspiration, please visit the Wright Foundation. We offer several workshops to help you address your familial relationships, get more from your connections and live the life you’ve always dreamed about.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

You CAN Make A Difference & Nourish the World
Because You Matter

You matter. You’re important. You make a difference.

The world is in need of much nourishment now, and you CAN make a difference. Reach out, engage, and touch the lives around here - here's how.

Not only do you matter in your own life, but you have a huge circle of influence. You matter in the lives of others. You’re important as a friend, an ally and an example. You’re an influencer.

It may sound unbelievable, but at any given time we may have influence on thousands of people around us. We can choose to be a force for good, bringing more positivity and light into the world, or we can choose to spread negativity.

Don’t believe we can make a difference thousands in lives each day?

This point was proven in recent weight gain and loss studies, which showed our eating habits not only affect our friends, but our friends-friends and THEIR friends. If you tend to choose healthy food, those around you will too (the same works in reverse). If you order a salad, your friend will follow your lead. When they go out with their friend, they’ll make a healthy choice, and so on.

This circle of influence effects not only our diet, but our feelings, emotions, outlook and interactions.

What happens when you experience a bad day at work? Say your boss was being a “real jerk.” You come home, you’re crabby with your spouse. He or she, is in turn, short on patience and cranky toward the kids. The kids start arguing with each other, maybe their friends. Along comes the dog looking for pets and attention. Your kid turns to him and says, “stop begging! Go lie down!” and poor Fido skulks away.

Now, Fido didn’t do anything wrong at all. In fact, he’s being his normal doggie-self, but because of your circle of influence, your boss’s comments trickled down to the poor dog.

Become a Positive Influence

What do you project into the world each day? When you go out, are you taking a stand for nourishment and self-care? Are you actively helping others, sharing with others and being a model of positive influence?

You see, modeling and practicing behaviors is how we get better at them, ultimately making a difference. When we deliberately practice, whether it’s a skill or talent we’re hoping to develop or our outlook, we’re solidifying the concepts. We’re adding them to our muscle memory.  We must practice engaging and positive influence.

It’s not about being all “sunshine and roses” all the time. It’s about being genuine, real and listening. It’s about seeing others for who they truly are, assuming good intentions and holding them in positive regard. More importantly it’s about seeing yourself in the same light.

You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have your yearnings met.

You deserve to feel comforted, soothed, acknowledged and affirmed. You deserve to hear you’re doing a great job, even if it comes from your own mouth as you look in the mirror.

We all need affirmation. As kids maybe we learned it was wrong to ask for more. We learned we shouldn’t brag. We should hold in our feelings. We should be positive and amicable, but we shouldn’t actively seek to meet our needs and yearnings.

I want you to let that idea go. I want you to go out there and become a force for good! I want you to feel affirmed. To affirm those around you, to become a positive influencer, an ally and a warrior for engagement.

The Ripple Effect

If you go forth and influence others positively it will literally create a ripple effect in their life as well as your own. I think we all agree the world needs more nourishment right now. We see frightening stories in the news. We feel bombarded by pressure at work, at home. The world is often a tough place.

That’s why nourishment is your secret anecdote.

You see, none of us come from a background where we felt perfectly nourished and cared for all the time. Some of us experienced childhoods lacking in affirmation, care, and even basic needs. These experiences cause us to experience limiting beliefs, or beliefs that hold us back.

Limiting beliefs might be ideas like, “I’m too much,” or “’I’m not enough.” They might be ideas about our feelings, “it’s wrong to get emotional,” or “I take things too personally.” They may lead us to believe, “it’s selfish to take care of my own needs,” or “I should try to please others rather than focusing on what I want.”

Our limited beliefs hold us back from engaging, going forth and seizing what we want. They lie to us and tell us we don’t deserve nourishment and affirmation. They stop us from taking care of ourselves.  They keep us from being our own friend and ally.

Transformers, those who exude positive influence, are excellent at up-regulating their moods. The term up-regulating refers to the ability to “snap out of it,” to “flip your mood.”

Think about how you feel when someone pays you a compliment. Don’t you just feel like, “Ah!” a warm glow? Now, everywhere you go, you may not run into adoring fans who fawn over you and compliment you left and right. (But wouldn’t it be nice?)

You can still get that warm glow by learning how to up-regulate and care for yourself. You can learn to give yourself the nourishment you need. You can silence your limiting beliefs that say it’s not okay for you to seek compliments, to feel proud of a job well done or to spend extra time looking and feeling your best.

Nourishment and self-care is your secret anecdote to the world’s negativity.

The best part is, you can share this anecdote with those around you! Since you have a huge circle of influence, you can become the center of a ripple effect. Engage with others. Listen. See them in the here and now, in positive regard. Connect.

It sounds simple, but how many of us really engage? How many of us talk about topics that don’t matter? We pass by each other with polite comments about the weather and the temperature. How many times do we really listen when we ask someone how they are?

In fact, it’s often shocking to us when someone answers the question truthfully. We’re so used to hearing, “fine, and you?” we don’t even bat an eye at the question.

What would we do if someone said, “Actually, I’m really happy because I just figured out a problem at work I’ve been mulling over for the last few days,” or “You know, I’m feeling a little apprehensive right now because I’m about to attend a luncheon where I’m addressing a crowd?”

We might think, “Sheesh, I wasn’t expecting all that!” But then we would end up responding, listening, ENGAGING.

A true answer opens the door for engagement. It opens the door to start a conversation. It opens the door for compassion, for listening, and for making a difference in someone else’s day. Rather than disengaging, talking about the weather or the room temperature, flip it the next time someone asks. You don’t need to wax on or dominate the conversation, but answer honestly.

How are you really?

Find opportunities to ask for your needs to be met and meet the needs of others. See them for who they really are and become a positive influencer.

The effect you have on your world could be greater than you realize. You CAN make a difference. Let’s all work to become allies and forces for good to those around us. Invite someone to open up about their feelings. Ask them to attend a More Life session or another event here at the Wright Foundation. Share an article with them. Admire something beautiful together.

If we all work to become positive influencers, we can make a difference in our world. YOU can make a difference in so many lives.

Join me for more information about how you can engage with others, live a life of more purpose, and truly make a difference in your world at the Wright Foundation.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

What Did You Learn From Your Mistakes Today? Celebrate Them!

How many of us have a fear of making mistakes? Don’t worry: all mistakes are worth learning from. They’re even worth celebrating!

Learn from your mistakes, because they are great teachers and deserve to be celebrated.

For perfectionists like me, making mistakes in life is really tough. We perfectionists avoid mistakes like the plague.

In school, I tried to avoid taking pre-tests. In fact, I absolutely dreaded them. It seemed awful to me—why test me on something I hadn’t learned yet? I only wanted to be tested on material I’d already learned to ensure I knew all the answers.

What researchers have discovered today is taking tests before we learn something actually helps us solidify a concept, because we learn from our mistakes when we retest. If we test before we study the material, we’re more likely to grasp the ideas presented the next time.

Many of us hold back because we have a fear of making mistakes, looking bad, being humiliated or looking silly. We’re afraid we’ll look stupid or others will judge us. But making mistakes in life is part of the adventure.

Mistakes are a critical part of learning and growing. Making mistakes is a key component of becoming more engaged in life.

And, why is engaging important? Engaging means we’re living life to the fullest. When we’re engaged, the pleasure centers of our brains light up. We learn faster. We’re stimulated. It’s as though our switch is flipped to “on.”

Engaging doesn’t mean being busy, running around with a jam-packed schedule, trying to fulfill ourselves with soft addictions (or even over-working). Engaging is about working smarter, not harder. It’s about facing challenges, finding learning opportunities and living fully in the moment – and yes, making mistakes! Engagement is about finding ways to fulfill our deeper yearnings.

When we’re engaged, we aren’t focused on a singular goal, making sweeping life changes or running away on a vacation. Engagement is about being present, focused and connected in all areas of our lives. Engaging comes from making mistakes in life. It comes from learning opportunities and growth. It comes from new experiences, emotions and connections.

If you want to be engaged, you must be ready to embrace AND learn from your mistakes.

What Mistakes Did You Make Today?

Sara Blakely, the Founder & CEO of Spanx famously tells the story of her father at the dinner table. Each day, he would ask Sara, “What mistakes did you make today?”

When she would report her mistakes, he would congratulate her—sometimes he would high-five her and say, “Way to go!”

In fact, Sara started to look forward to reporting her mistakes and talking about what she learned. By reframing mistakes as growth and learning opportunities, her father helped her realize the only true failure was in not trying. As long as she attempted to do something, she was out there making awesome mistakes, learning and growing.

In the world of parenting and education, one major focus these days is on “grit,” perseverance and learning from mistakes. These powerful tools of positive thinking are key components of success. As higher stress levels are observed in kids (and parents), one of the best coping skills we can model for our kids is how to reframe mistakes as growth opportunities.

Every mistake is a chance to learn and discover. It’s not about simply being willing to make mistakes or displease others. We must also celebrate the learning mistakes engender. If this strikes you as counterintuitive—if it seems like these actions will distance you from what you yearn for—understand that taking risks and failing is the best way to learn. And, in order to please yourself, you may have to displease other people. Your boss may not like it if you disagree with him, but to do the work in a way that has impact, you may have no other choice. Obviously, you don’t want to turn yourself into a mistake-making displeasing machine; this is a path toward failure and misanthropy. Fortunately, making a few key mistakes and taking a few stances that run counter to others you care about is usually sufficient to jump-start the learning process.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

Build Grit

Researcher Angela Duckworth explains grit as the perseverance needed for long-term goals. This is a major predictor in for success in all areas of life. Making mistakes and developing grit and perseverance are key approaches to engaging.

Engaging is focused, continuous involvement—what Duckworth calls “grit”—as opposed to fliting from one thing to the next. Often, we engage and then disengage. In other words, we see our engagement as temporary—a way to achieve a goal rather than to fulfill a deeper yearning to succeed, influence our world and be affirmed. With engaging we become totally involved in a work project, knowing that its successful completion will help us get a strong sense of personal fulfillment as well as a bonus or a promotion. By consistently engaging and reengaging, we develop the grit Duckworth says is marked by perseverance—a key quality we need to transform our lives.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

In other words, it’s not just that we should be willing to put ourselves out there to make and celebrate mistakes. We must be willing to fall over and over.

When we see gymnasts at the Olympics or runners at a race, we’re often struck by their prowess, beauty and talent. We see someone achieve an amazing feat and we’re totally in awe, right? We think, wow, they must have such talent.

What we don’t see is the hundreds of times they didn’t hit the mark. We don’t see the blisters they wore on their hands, the scraped knees for all the times they landed in the dirt. When we see them at the pinnacle moment of their career, they’ve arrived at it through hours of practice. They’ve achieved their goal because they were willing to make hundreds of mistakes along the way.

Mistakes tell us where we need to adjust. They help us gage how we will get back up and where we need to go to move closer to success.

Rather than avoiding mistakes, embrace them! Use perseverance, grit and mistakes as a platform to keep yourself engaging and reengaging. Each time you make a mistake, extract the lesson and embrace the growth opportunity. Ask yourself how you can learn from your mistakes and embrace that opportunity with a fresh perspective.

If we’re pushing ourselves to explore new endeavors, engage, play and live our lives to the fullest, we’re going to find plenty of opportunities to make mistakes in life. Rather than avoiding them, learn to enjoy them! Learn from your mistakes and instead of fearing what may happen, use them as an opportunity to become stronger and more resilient.

Mistakes are a vital part of learning. If you’re not screwing up, you’re holding back! So, go for it! Make mistakes to the fullest!

If you’d like to learn more about how to learn from your mistakes, embrace growth and engage more fully in your life, visit The Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming class or workshop to learn the many ways you can celebrate making mistakes, learn and grow!

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

How to Enjoy Life: Play More!

Do you ever feel like you want to get MORE out of life? What’s the secret? Do you know HOW to enjoy life, work and play?

Don't we all want to know how to enjoy life more? Play shouldn't be confined to weekends. It's time to want more from life. Let's play!

When was the last time you watched kids play? If you have children, you’ve probably recently observed how they interact with each other. If you don’t have kids at home, find a niece, nephew or friend and check out the way they play.

It’s intense, right?

Kids go back and forth in dialogue. They pretend. They let their imaginations run wild. One minute they’re a spaceman on the moon, the next they’re a lion in the jungle. They pretend, they try on different rolls, they test theories and put on different identities.

Play among kids is absolutely critical to the way they learn and grow. It teaches kids how to enjoy life, become grownups and how to interact socially with their peers. They aren’t simply going “la la la” or acting laissez-faire about it. They’re engaged. They’re experimenting. They’re exploring and engaging in risks and adventures. Play is all about development and discovery.

When we think of play as adults, we might feel baffled. What does it even mean to “play” as adults?

We don’t think of our work-lives as playtime. We don’t really know how to enjoy life outside of that work-home cycle. That’s far too serious. It’s time to keep our head down and hold to the daily grind.

Many people don’t think of their relationships as environments for play, either. Relationships are about feelings and emotions—there’s no room for risk or trial and error there, right?

Perhaps when you hear “play” you think of a vacation, sunning on the beach with an umbrella drink in your hand. You may think of play as an escape.  You may think of play as recreation-only.

But guess what? Intense, engaged, experimental, growth-focused play doesn’t end when we’re kids. Adults benefit just as much from play. In ALL areas of our lives—work, relationships, home and during recreation.

Even the word recreation means to be growth-focused. Recreation means to re-create oneself. If we want to learn and develop, we need to test the waters, experiment and use every experience as a platform for growth. If we want to get MORE out of life, we need to have more fun! We need to play!

Playing: More than Just Games

Think about the last time you played a game. Maybe it was a trivia night at a local hangout or perhaps your extended family plays board games whenever they get together. Maybe you play sports on a local rec league or even play a musical instrument or engage in a creative endeavor.

Play stimulates us. Play makes us feel more alive, more engaged and more vibrant.

When we play, we’re actually experimenting. Reframing activities (and yes, even work) as play takes the pressure off. It gives us permission to use trial and error to see what will work in each situation and what doesn’t work so well. When we “play” whether we’re at our jobs, in our relationships or doing tasks around the house, we instantly inject a sense of engagement and adventure into our lives. We feel like we’re getting the most out of life.

I know, if you aren’t used to playing as an adult it may seem a little frivolous or silly at first, but studies are showing play is critical to developing emotional intelligence. Play is a vital part of being growth-focused and living an abundant life.

Businesses and corporations have discovered the importance of play. Many forward-thinking companies now incorporate retreats and team building exercises (a.k.a. play) into their training and professional-development process. Play helps us build connections, interact positively with our peers and grow as a team (as well as individuals).

Play encourages us to start wanting more out of life and to stop taking life so seriously.

None of us knows what’s to come in our future. None of us can see what life will throw our way. When we view life as a playground and a game, it allows us to roll with the punches. We get up, dust ourselves off and try again—it’s only play, after all, right?

I like to find ways to incorporate play into almost anything. I set a timer to see how quickly I can achieve a task. I test new methods for attacking work and view it as an experiment or a challenge rather than drudgery. Heck, I’ve even been known to make a game out of cleaning the house! (“How quickly can I get this toilet scrubbed? What if I use my left hand instead of my right to dust? Put on music and have a dance party with my vacuum? Yes!”)

You see, exploring and adventure leads us to discovery. When we get up, move, dance, laugh, challenge ourselves, we’re forming new connections and experiencing new realizations.

No More Bad Dates or Bad Conferences

Whether you’re at a networking event for work or a meet-and-greet for singles, chances are you get a little nervous. We want to make a great impression. We want to click with other people. We want them to think highly of us and to like us.

What if you viewed it as a game instead?

What if you take the pressure off at your next conference and flipped it? See how many DIFFERENT people you talk to. See how many business cards you collect. How many people will you click with if you’re being your true, genuine self?

Or what about your next blind date? So you aren’t sure about the person. View it as a chance to see how YOU interact with different people. What will you learn about the other person? Can you discover commonalities? Are you willing to speak up when there are differences?

Take the pressure off and view it like a kid on the playground.

If something doesn’t go well, use a different approach. Go down the slide headfirst, get into superman (or woman) position on the swings! Mix it up! Challenge yourself. Forget being self-conscious! It’s just play after all.

Play shouldn’t be relegated to Friday, the weekends or your Zumba class. Put on music, dance around your office. Color-coordinate your files. Find fun ways to keep yourself engaged and experimenting with new approaches.

Play is a critical part of growth and enjoying life. As adults, if we’ve lost this whole aspect of play, our lives become stagnant, boring and unstimulating. We disengage. We zone out to soft addictions. Even our vacations aren’t true times of recreation because we’re not using them as an environment for rejuvenation and re-creation!

When we incorporate more play and adventure in our lives we see a difference in our energy levels. Play engages the younger part of us that’s more self-nourishing and focused on discovery. We’ll find ourselves wanting more from life, living with more vibrancy and more energy. We’ll feel renewed and nourished.

So go out there and get spontaneous! View the world as a chance to experiment and engage. Use play to re-learn how to enjoy life again, like when we were children. See what works and what doesn’t. Take the pressure off, jump in and go for it!

For more on how to enjoy life, how to engage deeply and live a vibrant, spectacular life, please visit The Wright Foundation. Join us for a More Life Training, where you can learn ways to grow, engage and incorporate more playful fun into your life!

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.