Navigating the Changes
in Our Family Systems:
Coming Home for The Holidays

Ah, families. Can’t live with ‘em…can’t live without ‘em.

Our family relationships are the first we establish. When you come home for the holidays, navigate the changes in your family systems with ease; here's how.


Just as the saying goes, we may find ourselves wondering if family time is actually worth it, or just a pain in the ass? As adults, our visits with parents and siblings dredge up all kinds of feelings. We leave interactions feeling frustrated, stressed out or even angry.

This is especially true in the winter months. At this time of year, we’re often faced with more family interaction than our day-to-day norm. Whether it’s heading home for the holidays, ringing in the New Year together, or sitting around the Thanksgiving table, chances are you’ll see your family members at some point during November and December. It’s a time of joy and togetherness, but it’s also a time when we’re reminded of past resentments and frustrations.

So how do we work through these feelings? What can we do to enjoy our holiday, appreciate the positive aspects of our family, and yet, remain uncompromising to who WE are?

If you’ve been working on personal growth, it feels frightening to return to your “old stomping grounds.” When we spend time our parents, we might feel like our personal development is for naught. Suddenly, we’re six-years-old all over again. Our parents and siblings get under our skin and drive us up a wall. Is there any way to get over it?!

Why Our Family Patterns Are So Strong

Our family relationships are the earliest social structures we have. As children, our entire environment is distilled into our family and home. This microcosm sets the earliest foundation of how we will later interact with each other and those around us. It forms our beliefs about who we are, our personalities, and our perceptions, expectations and notions about relationships.

We learn how to bond with our siblings, to play nice, to share and to communicate. We learn who we are and where our boundaries hold. Our understanding and beliefs about ourselves are reinforced. We come to view the world around us as safe or unsafe, inviting or uninviting, limiting or limitless.

Similarly, to a young child a parent is often the be all end all when it comes to authority. They’re our police officers, our dictators, our leaders, our royalty, or our wardens. To a youngster, parents are the center of the universe.

As we get older, we branch out in our relationships. We explore the world around us, but those early foundations are set. The family patterns continue to echo and repeat throughout our lives and into adulthood.

We may find that even if we think we’ve completely broken away from our parents, these patterns are still deeply ingrained. We may follow different religious, political or social beliefs; we may spend when our parents saved; we may believe our relationships are nothing like those of our parents. Yet, when we look closely the influence is still always there. The way we interact with our spouse, our perceptions about our friends, or our ideas about work and interactions with authority may all still mirror those early relationships. We’re either still rebelling against, or trying to live up to an idea founded in our childhood.

The way we view our family relationships, our trust and understanding of others, our beliefs about ourselves and our world are all set up by our family structure in our earliest years.

Some of you may not like to hear those words.

It’s hard to accept our parents and family had such a profound influence on us. We like to think of ourselves as independent and masters of our own destiny. We like to believe we’re in our own driver’s seat.

If you’re doing personal growth work, reckoning with your family relationships and early upbringing is a key part of your growth and transformation. We must explore and understand these early relationships and the patterns set forth. Gaining understanding of our family relationships helps us understand why, when we return to that environment (like going home for the holidays), we almost immediately fall back into the same roles.

Going Home is Like Moving Back in Time

If you’ve ever felt like a young child when you return home to your parent’s house, you know exactly what I’m referring to.

When we walk in the door of our parents’ house, whether we’re 12, 22 or 52, we fall into the same old “boxes” or roles whether we mean to or not. The good child is once again proving themselves. The rebel is fighting against simple requests. The martyr is setting himself or herself up to take on more than requested, and letting everyone else know they should feel guilty about it.

But we can break out of this pattern! Make this year different!

Some families avoid confrontation. If you grew up in a family where you had to act as the “soother” or “put on a happy face” to make everything okay, you may have been in a conflict-avoidant household. Other households may unproductively express anger, confrontation, disappointment, or drama but endlessly spin their wheels and never reach a resolution. They may thrive on falling into the drama triangle roles of rescuer, victim and villain. In fact, they may be addicted to the drama.

Identifying our family patterns and understanding those family relationships is key. When we identify and explore the engrained family patterns, we may start seeing everyone for who they truly are, honestly and in the present. We work to understand their yearnings as well as our own. We make our feelings valid and a priority. This goes a long way toward helping us resolve past hurts, overcome limiting patterns and beliefs, and ultimately strengthen our relationships with our families.

Don’t be afraid to get it out!

Yet, no one wants a knock-down, drag-out confrontation in front of the Christmas tree or around the holiday table. The holidays are a time when we may want to preserve the peace—a goal that’s fine and even healthy (especially if your family normally thrives on drama). One way we can do this and still feel positively about the interaction is to label it.

This year, let family members know you’re not going to fall into the same patterns.

You’re going to take a vacation from patterns and the usual “baggage.” You don’t need to ignore the issues, but simply reframe the interaction.

When your sister starts to criticize your parenting skills or your mother lays the guilt trip on you, it’s perfectly fine to halt the conversation. Let them know – this holiday is different. You want to enjoy and appreciate them. There are plenty of items to address in the future (and hold to your commitment of addressing them) but for the holidays, you want to carry on in a spirit of peace and appreciation.

Even if you feel like your family doesn’t give you much to appreciate, you can acknowledge they gave you life. With all their flaws and struggles, they had they still provided you with something of great value, and for that you’re grateful. Even if the history between you is fraught with struggle and disappointment, what relationship do you wish to cultivate now, today?

Ask your family members what you can do for them in the upcoming year. What are their hopes for the new year? What’s important to them right now?

These conversations may not go as planned. In fact, it may feel fruitless and even uncomfortable. It’s okay to acknowledge the discomfort and use it as another angle for exploration. After the holidays pass, set a time to address your feelings and express your unmet needs to your family members.

The key to having a holiday that’s satisfying, productive and positive, is to allow yourself to explore and understand the familial patterns of the past. Acknowledge the history and then focus on the relationship you wish to cultivate now, today.

Understanding our family patterns helps us discover and unlock a great deal about ourselves. We gain insight into our values. We understand the why behind our limitations and pain points. Better yet, we will start to resolve those false beliefs and ideas that hold us back and move forward into the life we want—a life of purpose and fulfillment, no matter what our past may be.

So, this year, give yourself a gift. Allow yourself to approach the holiday season differently. Look at it as a chance to discover more about yourself, a chance to grow, to learn, to engage and possible even strengthen your connection with your family members. Put resentments aside and declare a vacation from those old patterns that can be so damaging.

Make this holiday season peaceful and bright!

For more on navigating your family relationships and systems and living a life of passion and purpose, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. Discover more about yourself and your personal power today.

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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.

Women: It’s Okay to Want More

Do you ever wish you had MORE? More time? More energy? More love in your life? More meaning?

Women: It's ok to want more, and it is definitely ok to go after what you want.

At times each of us has caught ourselves longing for more. Perhaps we wish we could connect more deeply with our lover. Perhaps we long for greater spiritual fulfillment. Maybe we simply wish we could find time to relax and take better care of ourselves.

Humans (and particularly women) often feel it’s selfish to go after what we want. After all, sharing is one of the first concepts we’re taught in nursery school, right? You need to share your toys, take your turn. If you want more, too bad–you’re only allowed the amount you’re entitled.

Eventually we learn to live with less. We learn it’s not okay to want more. We should be satisfied and grateful for what we have, right? We should learn to make do.

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s okay to go after what you want. It’s okay to want MORE, to go out there and pursue what you want. It’s okay to be seen, heard, and touched. It’s okay to share your opinion, to demand the respect you yearn for. It’s okay to reach for the love your heart yearns to feel.

In fact, it’s MORE than okay!

Doing for Others, While Ignoring Ourselves

When you go on an airplane, what’s the first instruction they tell you? You should put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else with theirs. I love that. It’s such a great metaphor.

Think of our hearts as a sponge. We go around filling up everyone else’s bucket, but we end up wringing out everything inside our own love sponge. We must soak up love, meaning and what we need before we’re able to fill up someone else’s needs.

Giving to everyone else without caring for ourselves leaves us feeling depleted. It leaves us with low energy. Eventually it leads us to feel resentful and allowing ourselves to fall into perceived victimhood.

The cycle of being a “victim” or a martyr becomes addicting. We seek out opportunities to reinforce these negative beliefs and patterns. When someone falls into the pattern we look back and say, we expected it to happen. It’s just the way it is, or that’s what we deserve. We live in a self-fulfilling prophesy and continue the pattern because it’s what we’ve become accustomed to.

These patterns might be deeply ingrained—so deep we may not even realize we’re falling into them. You see, early on in our familial relationships we are taught to be selfless and to sacrifice. Maybe we were told we’re too emotional, too needy, or too much. Even if your childhood was mostly happy, no one was always seen accurately, in the here and now with positive regard, consistently and unconditionally (a universal yearning).

As we listen to these messages—which most of us receive in our childhood—we start to believe them to be truths. We start to build up limiting beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs hold us back, stop us from going after what we want, and tell us we aren’t capable, strong enough or deserved.

As adults, we may seek out relationships and situations that reinforce and confirm these negative biases and perceptions about ourselves and our abilities. We may repeatedly put ourselves in situations and patterns over and over.

These ideas about women, and who women should be, are reinforced by society as well. We’re told we should all feel nurturing and caring.

We should be selfless. We should be mothers to all (including our own children) and if we find motherhood difficult, stifling or stressful there must be something wrong or abnormal about us.

Well, it’s time to break out of our victimhood and let go of that brand of stinking thinking!

Nurturing is a feminine quality, but it’s certainly not limited to or required only in females. Many men are highly nurturing and many women may feel they aren’t satisfied in that way. Women aren’t biologically required to automatically be nurturing, selfless caretakers!

As women, it’s okay to want more. It’s okay to yearn for fulfilment, satisfaction, meaning and purpose. It’s okay to yearn to be seen, to be heard, to be loved and cared for. It’s okay to yearn for respect, authority and a greater spiritual and intellectual connection.

As women (and men) it’s okay to go after what you want.

How DO You Go After What You Want?

Because so many of us are trained to mute our yearnings and ignore our needs and desires, we may find a hard time even pinpointing what we want, let alone knowing how to go out there and get it.

At the Wright Foundation, we talk about our deepest wants as yearnings. These yearnings are focused in many different areas, but they’re often universally felt. They go deeper than wanting more money, great outfits or a fancy car.

Our yearnings are to be loved, to be seen and heard, to be cared for. We may yearn to feel secure, to feel respected. We may yearn for affirmation, to matter, to trust, to grow.
Our yearnings come from our heart and soul.

To get our yearnings met, we need to stop being afraid and ask! We need to speak up and request our spouse notices us, compliments us and tells us how much they love us. We need to engage in our meetings at work if we want to be seen and heard. We need to speak up in our social circles and connect with others who are growth-focused and engaging.

Practicing self-care and nourishment is also part of the process. We should value ourselves enough to find ways to care for ourselves through exercise, healthy eating, and practices to reduce stress and provide greater fulfillment (such as yoga and meditation). We need to spend time focusing on our growth and learning. We need time for creative expression. We need to take time to look, feel and project our best.

Living a life of more is possible! To go after what you want, you need to do more than simply hope to achieve your goals. You need to reach out and actively engage in a life of more activity, greater connections and more play! As we have fun, feel connected and start to enjoy ourselves, we break out of the patterns of negativity and stinking thinking. We start feeling energized and eager. We “turn on the lights” and feel more alive.

So, as you seek greater fulfillment, identify what it is your heart is yearning for and then go out there and GET IT. View the world as a great playground for growth, engagement and opportunity. It’s a chance to receive and find more!

For more on how to connect with others, learn and grow in your yearnings, and go after what you want, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming course or weekend retreat where you will meet new people and work toward a life of greater purpose and fulfillment!

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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.

A New You: Discovering
Your Personal Vision

Are you a visionary leader? What’s your vision for your company? How can you share your vision with your clients, customers or constituents?

A you a visionary leader? Crafting your personal vision is an ever-changing process that leads you to the best version of yourself. What is YOUR vision?

Vision is a topic of discussion more and more often these days. It seems everyone out there is on a vision quest.

For good reason too. Business leaders know the importance of creating a cohesive vision within their company. It puts everyone on equal footing with a clear path. A vision might cover a year, five-years or even longer. When employees are familiar with the company’s vision, they know exactly what the ideal is. They know the roadmap and where they’re headed.

Vision is important in business because it’s a plan, a goal and a target. Visionary leaders lead teams to profits and gains because they have a mission to achieve that vision; the path becomes clear and they follow it. They pinpoint and pluck the vision out of the horizon, almost like peering into a crystal ball. Visioning is an art. In business, it’s weighing a myriad of factors; it’s knowing what’s to come, driving and striving your company toward capacity and beyond.

Visionary leaders are successful because they’re proactive. They aren’t reacting to the items on their plate, they’re already driving toward next year’s goals, adjusting and calculating trajectory toward larger outcomes and pushing the company forward.

But how can we craft a personal vision in our own lives?
How can we propel ourselves forward toward a life of MORE?

We think of visionary leadership as a trait displayed by greats like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  and Gandhi. Visionary lives don’t sound like the type of lives everyone can lead.

Well, I’m here to tell you, we can all lead visionary lives. We can all create our personal visions and move toward a life where we’re able to fulfill every single yearning and attain everything our heart desires. We can live a life of fulfillment. We simply need to visualize it and actively pursue it.

What Personal Vision Will You Choose?

Imagine today you were given a blank slate. Money was no object. Limiting beliefs, roadblocks and hindrances you imagine are gone. What would you do with your life? How would your form a personal vision?

For some, the prospect of crafting a life of purpose is so foreign it seems unattainable. It’s almost unimaginable to get from point A to point B — in fact, it’s hard to even picture what point B is.

We’re all given a single life on this planet. We’re all given a chance for a life of meaning. No matter your age or your circumstance, you, YOU can live the life you want. It is within your reach. Your personal vision is your road map.

Your vision is your designer life. It’s not a fantasy. It’s not based on surface wants. A powerful personal vision is strong—so strong you can taste it. It’s right there in front of you, worded in the present. It’s how you see your ideal life from all aspects. It’s how you live a life of purpose.

You may hear the word vision and we think it sound a little “out there” or “new age.” The concept of vision boards, visualization and positive transformation seems a little hippie dippy at first, especially if you aren’t used to the concept of crafting a personal vision and living by a mission statement.

The problem when it comes to “new age” or “law-of-attraction-type” visioning is that it promises success attained passively. Posting images on a bulletin board, sitting back and waiting for it to happen won’t bring you success. It’s not a magic formula, where you will money in your pocket or your relationship to blossom. To fulfill your personal vision, you must work toward positive transformation. You must grow INTO your vision, not simply wish it so.

The reason visioning is so powerful is that simply by articulating and realizing your vision, the path to attainment becomes crystal clear.

Life-visioning works the same as visioning in the business world. CEO’s don’t say, “We’re on the Forbes 400 list” and automatically they’re there. They envision a path, craft a mission and live (and work by) that mission statement. They picture the path and details of their company. They aim high, they go big – but then they DO the work to get there. The vision makes the path obvious.

Your personal vision is no different. Picture your life exactly where you want it.

  • What do you yearn for?
  • What do you want most?
  • How will your ideal life feed your soul?
  • How will it deepen your life experience and fulfill your spiritual hungers?

These aren’t small questions, but they’re critical parts of attaining a life of MORE.

Crafting Your Personal Vision

Think of your personal vision statement as a roadmap of sorts. This map – and your mission to follow it –  should cover the most important areas of your life. Your health, yourself, your family, your work and play. Your personal vision should include your greater vision for contributing to society at large. There’s an excellent worksheet in Judith’s book, The Soft Addiction Solution, to walk you through each part of crafting your vision.

“Vision guides all our live. Whether you know it or not, your life has been formed by some sort of Vision, positive or negative. Sadly, it is too often an expression of our negative thinking, unconscious belief systems, and poor self-esteem. Our negative visions often lead us to try to numb our pain or gain false comfort by succumbing to soft addictions.”

Judith writes, “A positive vision helps us avoid cycling though limiting self-fulfilling prophecies driven by unconscious beliefs and get true nourishment and comfort instead. Often, we’re not even conscious of this cycle. For instance, if we believe that we cannot fulfill our spiritual hungers, then we unconsciously act in a way that confirms and reinforces that belief.”

A key aspect of our work at the Wright Institute is to help people create a powerful Vision to inspire their work—often far beyond what they dreamt possible. I have learned, from working with hundreds of people who on the surface don’t seem like visionaries, that Vision is not something available only to a select few. People I talk to claim that they are not visionaries, and yet they’ve developed Visions and made them come true. I am constantly inspired by the fact that we can all discover the uplifting, loving dreams flowing inside each one of us when we listen to our hearts.”

I love this sentiment. I think it speaks volumes to the WHY we work so hard to help others achieve their visions. Visions are the key to making a difference in the world. They’re your guide, your bigger picture. Your vision is rooted in the present. It is how you see your ideal life, but it is also a manifesto as to how you live your life today.

As you craft your personal vision, you’ll find it’s ever-changing. It evolves with you over time, but the intent is constant. At the same time, your vision should be broad and big! A vision is different than a goal. A vision is your roadmap and your starting place. You may set goals to help you reach your vision. Goals are your actions steps to get you to your visionary life.

Start working on your personal vision today! What kind of life do you want to live? How do you picture your ideal life?

For more on living a life of more, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for a course or upcoming workshop where you’ll learn more about living the life you envision.

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.