We are doing some very exciting things at the Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential.
As our name suggests, we’re about helping students tap their potential. And as a faculty member and director of doctoral research and career services, I want to find colleagues, students, and allies who embrace the ideal of becoming our best, most authentic selves and serving others in unleashing their potential. This sort of education doesn’t just happen in a classroom. It happens in every moment where we are genuinely engaging in life and tapping our yearnings to matter and make a difference. http://www.wrightgrad.edu/
This blog is the start of an ongoing conversation about education as a living process of facilitating the realization of our potential – -as individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and as a society. I’d like to start the conversation by introducing Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search Form Meaning, and his reflections on this quote from the German poet, Goethe:
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.
Translating this to the new model of education: If we educate simply to help people fit in to the world as it is, we make them worse. If we educate people to unleash their potential beyond their current circumstance, we help them become agents in creating their best selves and a better world.
For more ways you can live a life of greater fulfillment, please visit us at the Wright Graduate University.We have many of our courses availableon our website. Don’t miss out on our special introductory price on these great courses!
Gordon has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University, specializing in existential psychology and humanistic education. He also has a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. He has extensive experience in the areas of clinical and organizational psychology, enabling him to address a wide range of life and career issues in his coaching practice.
Our family are some of the most significant people in our lives.
Most of us have been connected to our family since the time we were born. Getting along with family is important…but it’s not always easy, is it?
When it comes to family, we’re often working with long patterns of behavior. We fall into old habits. We long for the closeness and harmony of getting along with family, so we avoid confrontation or addressing the issues.
These past hurts, resentments, fears, and frustrations build up and block our happy relationship with our family members. As we approach the holiday season, now is the time to prepare so you can experience a meaningful time with your family this year.
Getting Past the Hurts
We all yearn for closeness and intimacy. Our connection with other people is an inherent human quality. We long to connect; to love and to be loved.
Many of these feelings start out with those in our family. Like it or not, our relationships with our parents and siblings play an integral role as we develop socially. Many of us would like to believe we can simply move past any hurt or shortcomings and go forward with our lives.
But from our early childhood, we’ve formed attachments and relationships based on our experience with our family. The way our parents treated us and interacted with us as youngsters—even as infants—can powerfully imprint our behavior and even our beliefs about ourselves.
Our family also acts as our model for our future relationships. We often seek out partners who mirror the behavior of our parents (the adage about “marrying your mother” really does have some foundational truth to it). We may notice these feelings arise when we get in an argument with our spouse or significant other. If you’ve ever said, “you’re just like your mother,” or “you remind me of the way my dad used to act when I was a teenager,” then you’ve experienced the way our relationship patterns repeat throughout our lives.
None of us likes to hear we’re like our parent (or we’re like our spouse’s parent, for that matter), but there’s probably a kernel of truth behind the argument. In fact, in our book, The Heart of the Fight, we identify the “You’re Just Like Your Mother/Father” argument as being one of the most common fights amongst couples.
This often-explosive argument generally cuts to the quick, especially when you have long dreaded being link 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 relationships with your parents affects you individually and as a couple—and what you can do to change it. Questions that lead to 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.
Our relationship with our parents carries over into our other relationships, creating what we call “unfinished business.” This unfinished business isn’t “bad” or “wrong” but it’s simply the stuff we need to clean out, address, and recognize. As we start on a journey of self-discovery, we often start to identify these patterns as they arise. We can extract the lessons from these realizations and use them to strengthen our existing relationships. We can even use them to get along better with our family.
Getting Along with Family Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Conflict
Many of us imagine an idealized version of our family, especially over the holidays. We think of harmonious meals around the table. Warm laughter and conversation—the Norman Rockwell “fairytale” picture.
The reality often looks quite different. No sooner do you walk in the door than your mom starts up a critique making you feel like you’re a third grader again. Then your sister argues with your father about the way she’s parenting her kids. Your uncle brings up politics….and suddenly it feels like a big frustrating disaster.
First of all, it’s important we remember there is no perfect family like there is no perfect spouse or partner. Our flaws and differences make us unique and lead to more interesting connections.
Underneath most of our interactions are layered unfinished business and yearnings. The unfinished business is what Freud called our ego ideal. Others call it the false self.
This is what we show the world and want the world to validate. Most of us were taught not to show the cracks in the masterpiece. To hide our true feelings and emotions from others.
We disown many of the other parts, thinking these parts are bad or aren’t loveable and we hide them from others, even ourselves. We conceal unacceptable aspects of ourselves: our criticisms, emotions, pain, or even joy. So the only parts of us that we present to others are the acceptable parts in our false self. And people close to us, like our partner, are likely to see and stir up the parts that don’t fit our ego ideal.
The other underlying factors are our yearnings. Each person experiences universal yearnings. These are to be seen, to be touched, to be loved, to love, to matter, to make a difference, and other longings of the heart. These yearnings are deeper than wants or desires. They are powerful and so is our drive to meet them.
Similarly, each person in our family has yearnings of their own. Your mother, father, sister, uncle; they all have yearnings driving them and shaping your interactions with them. When we start to strip away the front we put on when we’re getting along with family—when we start to engage, rather than simply “get along”—emotions are bound to come up. Unmet yearnings, unfinished business, hurts, and resentments may all arise. This is why many of us feel apprehension before we face our families in November and December.
Follow the Rules of Engagement for a Happier Holiday
We need to realize that all our feelings are okay. There’s no such thing as a wrong or bad emotion. If you have past hurts, fears, or sadness, it’s natural and normal. The key is learning to address conflict (yes, fight) productively.
Now, this realization doesn’t mean you go to the turkey dinner with emotional guns ablaze. It means working to identify and address common patterns before we go into the situation. When we start to become aware of these patterns and beliefs, we can change them.
While this isn’t an easy task (and may not happen before your next trip home for the holidays), you can start by implementing a few rules of engagement to help conflict become more productive and easier to address.
One of the rules of engagement is that each person is 100 percent responsible for their own happiness and satisfaction. This means it’s not your parents or siblings’ responsibility to make you happy. It also means the reverse. You aren’t responsible for your parents’ happiness or unhappiness. It’s their own responsibility to discover what satisfaction looks like for them.
Similarly, no gets more than 50 percent of the blame. Even if your parents have been repeating certain patterns your whole life, the blame is 50/50. You aren’t allowed to shoulder more than half the blame in any given situation.
Another important rule is to assume goodwill. This is an important one for getting along with family. Assume everyone is there because they yearn to connect with each other. They WANT to go home for the holidays too. They want to engage with you and you with them. Sometimes, they simply don’t know how.
Always remember to express and agree with truth. This means when you go into those family situations, it’s okay to be honest—even if you don’t believe your parents want to hear what you have to say. Don’t put on a false front or pretend everything is fine if it isn’t.
How to Get Along with Family and Care for Yourself
Now, some of us cringe at the thought of being honest with our parents and family. The holidays aren’t always an ideal time to address all your hurt or frustration. That doesn’t mean you need to hide it, though. One way I’ve found helpful is to view the situation as an experiment.
What will happen this holiday if I assume good will? When I feel feelings of hurt, anger, sadness, or fear, how will I acknowledge them and address them? How will my dynamic change with my family if I really attempt to identify and meet each person’s yearnings (including my own)?
Look at the holidays a chance to learn more about yourself. Observe the patterns you see in your relationships and note the reactions you see amongst your family members. Take the different approach of expressing your appreciation for your family. Say something like, “Mom, this conversation is making me feel hurt. I would like to address it with you later, but for today, I want to focus on all that we appreciate about each other.”
The key isn’t to shy away from the conflict, but to realize a party atmosphere or a room full of people isn’t always an opportunity to clearly address concerns.
When you’re ready for an honest conversation, review the rules of engagement we outline in our book The Heart of the Fight. These rules help you have more productive conflicts that lead to resolution, learning, and growth.
Make the holidays different this year. Work toward identifying and meeting your yearnings throughout the holiday season. If you yearn to connect with others, surround yourself with events and opportunities where you can really engage with friends. If you long to feel loved, look for signs of a loving universe by enjoying the holiday lights and appreciating the beauty of the season.
Nurture yourself this holiday season!
For more ways you can live a life of greater fulfillment, please visit us at the Wright Foundation. We have many of our courses available for download on our website. Don’t miss out on our special introductory price on these great courses!
Inside each of you is unlimited potential for becoming your best self. For many people, this concept seems lofty or hard to reach.
I want to get in the best shape of my life by 40.
I want to retire debt-free by 50.
I want to have the best marriage, be the best friend, be a great parent…
We assign arbitrary markers and set open-ended life goals. But too often, that leaves us wondering, well, what’s next? Do we simply cross the item off our list? Do we sit back and rest on our accomplishments? Do we even know when we’ve attained our goal (what does the best marriage, career, or life even look like)?
People have been talking to me about my potential since I was a little kid. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times teachers said, “You need to work up to your potential.”
In fact, the concept of potential was a bit nebulous to me. I had no intention of reaching my potential in school—why should I when I could get by with good enough? There was no internal motivation because as a youngster, I couldn’t see the reward. Why work harder only to reach my potential? What was the benefit?
Fortunately, as we get older many of us find more motivation to push ourselves toward goals. But are those goals really what encompasses our potential? Is running a marathon, buying a fancy car, or going on a great vacation the result of me really living up to my potential?
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there has been a deeper concept of what becoming your best self really means. A life where we’re pursuing more knowledge, deeper connections, and greater understanding is thought by most to be a “quality life.” But how do we define a quality life for ourselves?
Benjamin Franklin once put together 13 basic precepts outlining the quality of his life. This personal mission statement gave him a clear path and vision he could follow. Writing a detailed description of his ideal life outlined his next steps—what areas he was excelling at and where he should focus his efforts.
Franklin was excellent and disciplined in his writing and clearly a principled man. The history of his life tells us the story of a man who was a scientist; creating bifocals, working with electricity, and being instrumental in the success of the US postal system. He clearly succeeded in living up to his potential.
The key to his great success wasn’t just that he set goals and articulated his vision. Of course, the goals helped guide him, along with the 13 precepts he used to guide him through the life he wanted to live. The biggest key to his success was that he surrounded himself with allies.
He gathered together a group of fellow entrepreneurs, thinkers, and great minds in a regular meeting. These people would give each other feedback on their various projects. They would question the direction and challenge ideas. These men acted as a sounding board for each other. They were allies. They pushed limits, challenged the government, and fostered progressive thought.
So, what can you learn from Benjamin Franklin on your path to becoming your best self?
We Are Creatures of Transformation
It is possible for us to become more than we ever thought possible. We can live beyond what we perceive to be our potential. We call this transformation. Each human is a naturally born transformer. We must learn to tap into our transformative potential.
When a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, there is no new substance that’s introduced. It becomes a butterfly by growing from what it previously was. It transforms from the original form. Similarly, when we transform, we’re taking the form that is already inside us and using it toward our transformation.
Transformation requires discipline and learning. It requires that we listen to feedback and use the feedback to foster greater growth and self-exploration. Transformation requires engagement at a high level. We must connect with others in a way that’s real, true, and speaks to our yearnings.
Those people who are great transformers often evolve to fulfill their yearnings more successfully. This means they’ve spent time learning about themselves. They’ve explored their experiences, beliefs, and makeup. They know what drives them and they understand the longings, or yearnings of their heart. They understand how fulfilling these yearnings lead to greater satisfaction and fulfillment.
What are yearnings?
If you’re like most people, you know what you want. In fact, if pressed, you could probably rattle off a laundry list of wants: cars, houses, vacations, jobs, electronic devices, and so on. But when it comes to what you yearn for, you may draw a blank.
There’s something vaguely old-fashioned about the term. It has an Old Testament ring to it. Or it sounds like what a heroine in a Victorian novel might say as she stares out the window of her Gothic tower waiting for her lost love to return. As a result, you probably haven’t used “yearn” in a sentence recently. It feels awkward on your tongue, uncertain in your mind…and hardly the dynamic power a fuel of transformation.
When we talk of transformation, we are not talking about a formula but rather about something deeply personal that emerges from within—a unique, new you. Take a moment to reflect upon what you yearn for. Let your mind go blank and listen to your heart. Imagine if your soul had a voice and could articulate what it wants most in the world. Or, more simply, consider what you desire deeply, what would turn your good life into a great one. –Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
Learning to follow our yearnings is a powerful way to tap into our transformative potential. When we’re following our yearnings, we’re engaged. We have new experiences. We start to surround ourselves with those who challenge us, who push us toward becoming our best selves. This is the start to transformation.
As we discover new aspects of ourselves we share them with others. We will discover and identify where we have limitations, what areas we need to work on, what beliefs we need to challenge.
Even those of us who regularly work on self-discovery gain new insights all the time. Self-reflection allows us to look back on our own personal growth and realize how far we’ve come, how our growth has helped develop more positive, honest, and open relationships with those in our lives. We learn valuable lessons, like why we hold these relationships and how our deepest values have developed, leading us closer to the best version of ourselves.
This personal growth work—evolving—is a big deal. It begins with catching on to our deeper yearnings. We start to explore the reasons behind we say certain words or take certain actions. We identify our limiting beliefs and how we can overcome them.
During this process, surrounding ourselves with allies who challenge us and who hold us to keeping our actions in line with our personal principles is vital. We each have a vast, limitless potential inside and it’s up to us to work towards it.
If you’re wondering how to start becoming your best self, you’re already on the path. Explore the yearnings of your heart, surround yourself with allies, and align with your principles as you continue the process of transformation.
For more on living your best life, visit the Wright Foundation website. Join us for an upcoming Foundations weekend, where we’ll explore these topics in-depth and help you build connections with others who are seeking to maximize their potential. We also want to announce the availability of many of our courses for download. Don’t miss out on the special introductory price for many of our courses and lectures.
Wanted: A life of fulfillment, adventure, and satisfaction.
Imagine posting an ad for your ideal life to the classifieds; what would the life description say? What does your ideal life look like? If you were designing your ideal life, how would you construct it? What would you fill your time within your ideal life? Who would you surround yourself with?
It’s an interesting and thought-provoking activity for most of us. This question, “How would you describe your ideal life?” is one we pose in many of our seminars and classes.
Seeking Your Ideal Life
When seeking your ideal life, there are two sides to ponder. First, what does that life look like? Think of your classified ad. How do you describe your best life?
For most of us, we wouldn’t design our life to include 2-3 hours of looking at our phones. It probably wouldn’t include the time we spend surfing the web, over-eating, shopping for items we don’t need, or many of the other activities that eat up our time.
We refer to these time-wasters as soft addictions: the activities we seek to fill our time, zone us out, and avoid the activities that truly nourish and sustain us. These soft addictions are often a very big part of our day-to-day lives, but yet, we certainly wouldn’t include most of them when we imagine our ideal life.
No, for most of us, our ideal life would include fulfilling activities, adventure, play, and joy. We would imagine ourselves as active participants in our ideal life—engaging with our friends and family, experiencing great conversation, and building stronger connections.
Perhaps you think of your ideal life as it pertains to your career. What does your ideal job description look like? Does it include 8-10 hours a day engaging in mediocre activities we don’t find stimulating or exciting?
No! Of course not. Your ideal day probably includes work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You probably imagine yourself doing a job that’s deeply satisfying. You imagine a career that you excel at, that also brings you happiness.
Are You the Right Candidate for Your Ideal Life?
On the second side of the ideal life description is another question to explore. If you were hiring for this ideal life you’ve just described, would you be the right candidate to fill the position?
Many of us have a vision of our life that we follow. We have an idea of what our life should look like—how we want it to be structured. Yet, when we picture that ideal life, how do we fit in? Are we able to carry out that vision based on who we are right now? Do your values align with your actions?
We worked with an international pharmaceutical firm a few years back, where this question was posited to the participants. The firm was seeing a lot of success at the high-performing c-level, but not company-wide success or satisfaction. They didn’t want to focus on the gaps between the levels of performance. They didn’t want to discuss the value gap. We adjusted the seminars, took them down a notch. Yet, still, they were still uncomfortable with this idea of fulfillment. They didn’t want to be confronted with themselves.
Even big Fortune 500 companies struggle with the question of what brings their employees fulfillment. In the Venn diagram of what’s ideal for the company and what’s ideal for the employee’s life, where is the overlap? How do they invest in what they want their employees to become?
It’s a tough question across the board. For many of us, when we really ponder this question, we might be surprised and even dismayed by the answer. Like the saying, “you should dress for your next promotion,” you should also be living for your next, greater version of your life.
To continue with the metaphor, imagine an intern on their first day of work. If they show up in a suit, looking polished and put together, it sends a message to their boss (and the rest of the office). “Notice me! I’m someone who cares about my performance. I pay attention to details. I’m ready to put in the effort!”
As a result, that intern often stands out and gets noticed (provided their performance does indeed match their polished appearance). They’re positioning themselves for a job offer and for the job they want, not the job they have.
Similarly, when we envision our ideal life, how are we positioning ourselves for the next steps? Are we learning and growing? Are we getting out there, engaging with others, and really jumping in? Do we avoid conflict and downplay our feelings? Do we see life as a playground where mistakes are simply opportunities for more learning? Are we mindful, present, and engaged in life, or are we living on the sidelines? Are we working to become our next, best self?
These can be tough questions to explore. Yet, if we really want to be the right candidate for our ideal life, we need to groom ourselves up to the right standards. We need to start living our lives in the way that’s intentional and deliberate. Our interactions and activities should be pushing us forward—toward the next hill, over, and beyond.
Living Your Ideal Life
I’ve been living intentionally and working toward my vision for years. Really, since an early age. Most of the world begins compromising. Most of the world is fixated on making the “right” decisions and following the “right” solutions.
In truth, the right solutions are actually B.S. There’s no right degree, right job, right relationship. The things many people think they want (or are supposed to want) aren’t the activities and decisions that will truly bring them satisfaction. There’s no formula for the perfect “ideal life.” What’s ideal for me might not be ideal for you, and that’s totally okay.
I see many people who have a broken “wanter.” They imagine that as they go down the list, checking off the items they wanted to do, they will discover satisfaction. Yet, they aren’t really living the life they want to live. They may have achieved a magical solution—like having the right career to retire early, enough money to travel around the world, or an attractive partner to spend their time with. But hey still aren’t living the life they want.
One client I was working with recently couldn’t ascertain why he wasn’t pulling the trigger on his next big money-making acquisition. He knew it would make him serious money.
When we discussed the issues, he started to tell me how he has three grown children that won’t talk to him. He didn’t know why. He gave them everything that money could buy. He had been raised poor and swore his kids wouldn’t have to live the life of struggle that he had grown up with. Yet, the kids weren’t happy. He wasn’t connecting with others in his life either. He was lacking in relationships and close friends. He was wheeling and dealing in his business, but it wasn’t bringing him fulfillment in his life.
After a great deal of discussion, he decided against the acquisition. He didn’t want another business to turn around. Instead, he took an adjunct position teaching business to students. He began building the business he wanted to run. Even though it was less lucrative, he discovered more fulfillment. He started working on his relationships and engaging in some tough discussions with his adult children, realizing there were many actions and inactions in his life he needed to resolve. His values needed a shift.
Most people aren’t living to their higher values.
So, if you were designing your life from scratch, how would it be different? Would your body and health be different? Would you have different relationships? Would you make different career choices?
This isn’t an easy task. It means soul searching and taking a long, hard look at your current values. It means measuring your friendships and relationships against those values. If you’re ready to get “hired” for your ideal life, become the best candidate.
For more ways to get the life you want, visit the Wright Foundation website. Join us for an upcoming Foundations weekend, where we’ll explore these topics in-depth and help you build connections with others who are seeking to maximize their potential. We also want to announce the availability of many of our courses for download. Don’t miss out on the special introductory price for many of our courses and lectures.