How to Feel Okay: Making the Choice to Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Do you ever wonder how to feel okay? Sometimes we all have times when we feel inadequate or like we don’t measure up.

The choice to feel okay is in the ability to fake it until you make it.



This can be an especially strong feeling if we’re recently single, going through a tough time, or have had our confidence shaken.

How do you value yourself? What if you feel like no one else values or appreciates you? Can you fake it ‘til you make it when it comes to having confidence and self-worth?

These questions speak to our deepest concerns about ourselves. Many of us believe we’re inadequate or view our relationships as a way to measure our worth. We might wonder how to feel okay without getting approval and validation from others.

The truth is, feeling okay—heck, feeling great—about yourself is a choice. It’s all up to us to decide to feel okay. Here’s how to choose to feel good about who you are every day.

Learning How to Believe that You Are Enough

Recently, I was working with a group of singles here at the Wright Foundation. We were discussing how many of them looked at being single as a deficit. They thought their single status indicated an inherent flaw or shortcoming on their part; singlehood meant they weren’t worthy of love. They wondered how to be okay with themselves when they were on their own.

As we continued the discussion, they started coming around to the idea that it’s perfectly okay to be single. Likewise, it’s okay to like and value yourself even if no one currently values you romantically.

It’s easy to talk about self-esteem and the importance of feeling confident. But it’s a whole other ball of wax to really value ourselves completely.

We can ask ourselves, “do I view myself as a blessing to the world? Do I think of myself as a gift? Do I realize that other people are fortunate to be around me, and my presence enhances their lives?”

Chances are, we might have a hard time really believing those answers to be true. Many of us feel like we’re arrogant or “full of ourselves” when we think of ourselves in such high regard. Yet, at the same time, many of us struggle to value ourselves at all.

The truth is that each of us is a gift to the world. Each human being has intrinsic value and worth, even at those times when we don’t really feel it. Even in those moments when we don’t believe it one bit! We’re worthy even when we feel crummy. We’re worthy when we make mistakes, mess up, feel we’re alone in the world, or have a terrible day. We’re valuable when we’re sick and when we’re well. We’re still worthy humans, even when we don’t know how to feel okay about ourselves and we’re struggling.

Many of us think we need to feel good to be worthy. If we want to believe we’re a blessing to those around us, we need to feel like we’re contributing something of worth. We need to know that we have value and feel our worth to know we’re worthy.

But it’s really, much simpler than that. We can be worthy—we can feel okay and even good about ourselves by deciding to be a blessing to others. We will feel it as soon as we accept the truth: Each of us is a gift to the world.

We offer something unique to those around us. We have value, and we have influence. We can impact those around us in small ways that add up to a big ripple effect out into the world. When we start to believe that we’re important and that we’re able to influence others, we will begin to see our confidence grow. We’re essentially following the adage, “Fake it ’til you make it.”

We start to see this concept from Eric Berne in his work on Transactional Analysis and his book, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” Berne explored how our relationship with others is viewed as a game, enforcing and reinforcing our beliefs about ourselves.

People tend to think “okay” is a feeling. We’re waiting for it to happen to us out of the blue. We’re hoping the stars will align, and we’ll feel “okay.” Or we look to our relationships with others to reassure us that we’re okay.

In truth, okay is a choice. Feeling okay is a decision we must make.

You may feel like absolute garbage and say, “this proves that I’m garbage.” Or you may feel like garbage and realize, “I’m an okay person who just feels like garbage right now.” When we accept that we’re all okay (even if we feel like crap), then we realize that we’re so much more than our circumstances.

Fighting the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

We learn how to be okay more and more as we shift our perspective and adjust our expectations of ourselves. It’s not that we’re fighting against the idea of self-improvement, but we should fight against the idea that however we feel in the moment is how we “are” inherently.

We’re really combating this idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. When we feel bad, we believe that we ARE bad. When we believe this misconception, we start putting the idea out there in the world, and we present ourselves as unworthy. We walk into the room with our heads down. We hold back from engaging. We slump. We carry ourselves like we feel undeserving.

Because of how we carry ourselves and engage with the world, people perceive us as being less-than and treat us as such. It isn’t a conscious reaction but rather how they react to our presence. This reaction only serves to reinforce our original limiting belief.

We look back at an interaction that didn’t go well and go, “See, I was right! I knew it was going to turn to sh*t,” and the cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy trap continues. We keep up the pattern because each interaction reinforces the idea that we hold of how we aren’t okay.

The good news is that it’s within our power to break out of our self-fulfilling prophecy trap. The pattern of the self-fulfilling prophecy can happen in reverse if we follow the idea of “fake it ‘till you make it.” When we put on an air of being okay, we may find that we start to believe that we ARE actually okay.

We can act as though we believe we are a gift. Act as though we believe we have intrinsic value. Act as though we believe we are a blessing in the world and a blessing to those around us. When we start to act like we’re a gift, the world will begin to reinforce the idea as well. Other people will start to treat us with value. When we believe we are okay, we will begin to truly feel that we’re alright.

When the world sees us as a blessing, it starts challenging those limiting beliefs that we’re not a blessing, don’t have value, or are not okay. The decision to lift from that attitude is critical.

We’ve all heard “fake it ‘till you make it,” and it’s really true. It’s an excellent way to break our limiting beliefs and stop the cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

A Lesson from the King & I: How to Fake It ‘Til You Make It

In the classic musical The King & I, there’s a scene that really sticks with me. The main characters—a British schoolteacher and her son—are landing in Bangkok Harbor. They’re looking out on this foreign landscape. They see new people they don’t know, dressed in unfamiliar clothing (the story takes place in the mid-1800s). The teacher and her son are afraid. To them, the strangers appear fierce and scary.

The mother turns to her son and begins to sing:

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I’m afraid 

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows
I’m afraid 

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And ev’ry single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I’m not afraid 

Make-believe you’re brave
And the trick will take you far
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are

This is quite powerful advice from a Rogers and Hammerstein classic (and a catchy tune). It’s really a matter of how we choose to hold ourselves and present ourselves to those around us.  If we’re afraid we don’t have worth, we can fake it until we fool ourselves as well.

I really think people confuse feeling bad, sad, or hurt, for being bad, sad, or hurt. It’s called emotional reasoning. It’s believing that what I feel currently is what I am. Instead, we can decide to break this self-fulfilling prophecy pattern.

Similar to how we say love is a choice—we choose to love another person—we can also choose to love ourselves. We decide to appreciate the value we have and the blessing that we are. Even if we don’t feel okay in the moment, we can act as though we believe we’re okay. We can choose to present ourselves as a person of worth. In doing so, others will see our worth and reflect it back to us.

While being single or looking for someone to value us romantically may cause us to feel undervalued and “not okay,” the more we look beyond our relationships to define our worth, the more we find worth within ourselves, and the more confidence we’ll put forth into the world. We can choose to go forward with as much confidence as we can muster.

“You may be as brave as you make believe you are!” When we pretend that we’re brave, we may find that we get some surprisingly positive results.

For more on building your confidence, don’t miss our courses available at Wright Now. We offer many great learning opportunities for personal growth, a better career, and stronger relationships. Explore the path to your next most radiant self today!

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.


Feeling Emotional? You’re Totally Normal!

How many of us feel mixed emotions about, well, our emotions?

Are you wondering if your feelings are normal? We may hear that feeling emotional is wrong, or embarrassing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Emotions are important!


We may worry when we’re feeling emotional, it’s too much, or we’re somehow out of control. We may feel an array of different emotions and wonder if what we’re feeling “normal.”

How many times have you heard, “Don’t be so emotional!” or “Stop getting all emotional about it!”?

Rather than taking the implication that feeling emotional is a negative thing, we should embrace it as a compliment. You see, emotions are powerful. Expressing our emotions and learning to identify common emotions is vital to our personal fulfillment and growth. The next time someone accuses you of feeling emotional, thank them!

Embrace All Your Emotions!

Fear, hurt, anger, joy, and sadness are all primary emotions inherent to our humanity. These common human emotions help us identify what we’re feeling and what we want. They help us to communicate with others and to become the person we want to become.

When we discuss growth and transformation, we may think of it as a cognitive exercise—something we rationalize into place. It may seem cold and unemotional, but in truth, our thoughts and feelings are deeply intertwined and connected to our personal growth. Our thoughts and emotions influence one another and shape our decisions and actions.

Emotions help motivate us and help us to make choices. When we’re feeling emotional about a decision or a situation, it’s an indication that it’s really important to us. People who have experienced cerebral events like injury or stroke in the areas of the brain affecting emotion are often paralyzed from making decisions. Even something as simple as picking out an outfit for work or deciding between coffee or tea is impossible without the benefit of emotional input.

More importantly than deciding on our clothing and beverages, our common human emotions help guide us toward greater meaning. They help us to understand what we yearn for—what our heart wants to become fulfilled. Our emotions aren’t meant to be just a steady stream of happiness or joy—positive emotions are great, but feeling the full spectrum of emotion is part of growth as well.

As you yearn, engage, and take the other steps in the [growth] process, you must learn to ride–and enjoy—an emotional rollercoaster. This may sound scary, but as some of you know, rollercoaster rides can also be exhilarating. It is all in your perspective. The climb to the top is great, but it’s not possible without the plunge to the bottom.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

Many of us avoid feelings like fear, anger, and sadness, but these seemingly negative emotions are part of our makeup. They don’t always feel good, it’s true, but they are powerful drivers to help steer us away from danger and toward positive situations. Whether we choose to acknowledge or suppress these harder-to-feel feelings is up to us, but in doing so, we’re also numbing ourselves toward feeling the full spectrum of joy and happiness.

We may also find that some of our emotions are harder to identify. They might not fit into the category of those primary emotions, but they can still feel very strong. When we examine them closely, we may find that we’re experiencing secondary emotions—like guilt—which stems from a combination of the primary emotions of fear, hurt, and anger.

One of the points we repeatedly reiterate with our students is there are no “bad” emotions. Even if we aren’t comfortable experiencing certain emotions like anger, they’re still there in our unconscious mind, playing an important role. The more we deny our emotions or tamp them down, the more we reinforce limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.

Our emotions clue us into the important stuff. When we feel anger, it’s an indicator there’s a situation that really matters to us. We’re feeling something very important and even passionate. On the same note, if we’re feeling sad or blue, it may stem from hurt or even anger we’re holding back. It can be helpful to really let ourselves feel those feelings—cry, yell, or whatever seems natural to us. One thing’s for sure, feelings and emotions are powerful even if we attempt to ignore them.

Let it Out: Feeling Emotional is Always Okay

We may have grown up thinking certain emotions weren’t okay. For example, maybe it was unladylike to feel angry or express anger. Perhaps we heard boys don’t cry or “man up and be brave.” Or maybe we grew up feeling like it was important to project an air of positivity all the time—that it wasn’t okay to feel hurt, sad, or frustrated about something. So we learn to ignore our emotions or hide them away.

What happens when we ignore our emotions or avoid feeling emotional, telling ourselves it’s invalid? We end up becoming disengaged.

We may zone ourselves out with timewasters (or what we call soft addictions); think of that Netflix binge, the bowl of ice cream, or the Amazon order we turn to at the end of a bad day. Soft addictions can even present as healthy behaviors—throwing ourselves into our work to avoid emotions or choosing to go to the gym because we don’t want to deal with feeling angry or emotional. While working or getting exercise are quite positive activities, they become soft addictions when we’re using them to avoid feeling emotional.

Even if we put our emotions aside or look for a temporary salve to soothe our feelings, they will rise to the surface again.

On the other hand, if we express our emotions freely and openly, we also open ourselves up to more experiences, connections, and growth. We become more present, more engaged, and more aware of each moment we experience.

Your feelings will spur the action of engaging…When you are more in the here and now, expressing what you feel, you often blurt out truths you weren’t consciously aware of until they come out of your mouth. Your feelings will guide you in breaking free from the bonds of what constrains you in liberating and guide you toward what you desire. It’s liberating to be spontaneous, expressing how you feel, and flowing with your emotional truth. Moments of intense feelings are some of the most potent elements…where we can re-encode beliefs, experiences, and memories with compassion, acceptance, and new interpretations. Recognizing and harnessing the passion of dedicating helps you carry on in the face of the world’s challenges and your own inner barriers. It yields a new you.

At the same time, when powerful emotions overcome you, you’ll need the skills to interpret and express them effectively. These skills may include comforting yourself, using anger to get rid of pain, or engaging in a whole host of other responses such as allowing the full process of loss in sadness and risking to reach out and share with others in joy. You’ll also need to develop the skills of comforting yourself since you will be hurt more as you transform. We all need to seek comfort and allies for the unpredictable emotional changes of transformation—not the surface solace of soft addictions like mindless gossiping or over-indulging in “comfort foods,” but the deeper succor of self-soothing.

–Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

We may think there is power in being emotionless. In fact, years ago, keeping a “stiff upper lip” and learning to be logical and unemotional was highly valued. Yet, the truth is, emotions give us true power and skill. Not only do emotions enrich our personal relationships, friendships, and connections, but emotional intelligence is now recognized as important in the business world as well. Emotions help us empathize, communicate, and even lead others.

The root of the word emotion is shared with the root for motivation. Literally, emotions spur us on to action and encourage us to move toward what we want. As humans, our emotional breadth has evolved to keep us moving forward and allow us to tap into the resources we require when facing new situations. Emotions help us anticipate what we need and take action. Our emotions help us move toward pleasure and away from pain. Hurt, fear, anger—all of these emotions help keep us safe and protected. They let us know a situation is uncomfortable, frightening, or not in line with our personal values.

Label and Feel Your Emotions

Our students at the Wright Graduate University learn the power of labeling and acknowledging their emotions as they experience them. Since so many of us are taught to ignore or tamp down our feelings, simply learning how to identify them, label them, and experience them is a huge step forward.

We encourage our students to even call out their emotions, for example, “fear,” as they experience it. It’s often quite eye-opening for many of them to realize the vast spectrum of emotions they feel in a day and even in an hour.

Once we start identifying our emotions, they become less frightening or worrisome. When someone hurts our feelings with an offhanded comment, we can acknowledge we feel pain and hurt. Following it further, we may realize the comment indicates we are feeling disrespected. If one of our yearnings is to be respected (a universal yearning most people share), it’s perfectly natural that a comment would cause us to feel hurt. Our yearning—our deep want or need–isn’t being met.

Similarly, we may realize that when a friend doesn’t include us, we feel hurt but also fear. Why? Because we’re left out. We yearn to be included, to be loved, to belong…being left behind results in a fear and hurt response.

We must realize that emotions are okay, and we may experience many of them over a day! Because we feel hurt or fear in a moment doesn’t mean we will feel this way permanently. It also doesn’t mean we’re weak or we’ve let down our guard. The truth is, we all feel the same primary emotions, even if we choose to ignore them or fail to express them. It doesn’t make them go away. “Feeling emotional” is positive—it means that we fully realize the beautiful array of human emotions that we’re all capable of. Becoming aware of our range of feelings is crucial to developing a stronger emotional intelligence.

Experiencing our emotions fully and expressing them is an essential part of growth. As we acknowledge all our feelings and emotions, we open ourselves up to greater experience. We are more present. We feel empowered, strong, and assertive.

The next time you’re told you’re too emotional or you feel too much, say thank you! Take it as a compliment. Feeling our emotions is a powerful step on the road to personal transformation and fulfillment.

If you’re looking for other ways to increase your emotional intelligence, don’t miss our personal growth courses at Wright Now. We offer an array of resources and classes to help you get ahead in your career, strengthen your relationship and live a life of MORE.


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.

Understanding Mistaken Beliefs (And Letting Them Go)

We all want to live a great life, but we need to do some self-exploration to get there.

Are you ready to live the life you always wanted? One of the first steps is understanding mistaken beliefs and learning to let them go.


Discovering the type of life we want to live requires us to examine our innermost thoughts and desires.

What do we want from the world? What do we believe the world can give us? What do we think about the world around us? What do we feel about ourselves? If we want to live a satisfying life, it means we need to start understanding mistaken beliefs—the lies and misbeliefs we adopt throughout our lives that lead us to certain ideas about the world (that may hold us back).

How do we start identifying and understanding mistaken beliefs? Do we all have them? (We do!) Are they always “mistaken”? Most importantly, how do we let go of these thoughts that hold us back?

Choosing to BELIEVE We Can Live a Life of More

Living the life we want is really a decision that each of us can make. We all have the ability to set our intention about our life, to move toward things that bring us happiness and satisfaction, and to move away from the things that may bring us harm.

When we decide that we’re ready to really go for the life we want, we may think, “great! Now what?” How do we get there, and how do we make this somewhat nebulous idea of “a life of MORE” happen?

Of course, we all want MORE happiness in our lives. We all want more fulfilling connections, better relationships, better careers. We all want to wake up excited to face a new adventure each day. We want to feel confident and in control of our path.

But within each of us is a set of beliefs—something we refer to as our “matrix.” This network of ideas, experiences, and beliefs shape how we see the world around us. It shapes how we see ourselves and what we believe our role in the world is today.

Our matrix was formed when we were very young (much of it before we could even talk). We were small; the world was big. We were dependent on parents and caretakers. We may have seen the world as unsafe. We may have started to believe certain things about our ability and role. Maybe we learned that we were not enough or that we were too much. Perhaps we saw affection as something we needed to “earn.” Maybe we believed that it wasn’t okay to share or express our emotions—that we had to be happy all the time.

It’s not that all of these beliefs are bad, but some of the ideas about ourselves were mistaken. They may have been true and even helpful at the time (like believing that we needed to follow what our parents told us). Now, however, some of these beliefs might be holding us back from living the life we want.

What Does it Mean to Live Our Best Life?

When we talk about what it means to live our best life, I like to recognize that living a full and satisfying life is a decision—one that we can each make. As outlined in my book, The One Decision, living the life we want to live is a choice.

The One Decision was powerfully stated by Shakespeare, who may have said it best: “To be or not to be. That is the question.” To be—to be alive, aware, and to be yourself; or not to be—to be dimmed down, numbed out, unaware. To be conscious or to be unconscious.

Your One Decision can be worded in any way that seems right to you, but it is actually a binary choice, an on/off switch between two opposites:

To be or not to be

A life of MORE or a life of less

Awake or asleep

Deep or superficial

Substantive or vacuous

Real or fake

Light or dark

Spiritual or temporal

Fulfilling deep desires or surface wants

Truth or illusion

Adventure or suffering

Whether we want to admit it or not, there is only one choice. It is either one thing or the other. It is the only choice we have. To pretend that there is any other choice is absurd and completely false.

The One Decision

Of course, we all want to live a life of fulfillment. We may get bogged down with the nuances of the decision: “Am I choosing the right life? What is it that I really want?”

But when we hem and haw over the choice, we’re simply procrastinating our progression. It’s a universal human desire to grow, evolve, and achieve. If we look at human achievements throughout history, we can see that it’s natural human instinct and drive to discover and invent continuously. This applies to industry, art, and science, but it also applies to our inner lives. Within each of us is the desire to become the best person we can be. We’re driven toward making the One Decision: to live the life we want, find greater fulfillment, deeper connections, and experience richer adventures.

Simply by getting up each day, going to work, and interacting with people, we’re choosing a small scale to live our life.

The fact that we don’t lie in bed, get up, get dressed, and leave our house each morning indicates that within us is a desire for more. We want to achieve, grow, and become better at whatever it is we’re doing.

Yet, for many of us, some thoughts creep into our minds—doubts and fears that take over—and tell us that the things we want are unreasonable, unobtainable, or that we are undeserving. We may fear failure, mistakes, embarrassment, rejection, or worse. We may feel uncertain about our place in the world or our best path forward.

Understanding mistaken beliefs is the first step in learning to let them go. These mistaken beliefs keep us from moving forward. They prevent us from choosing to move our life in the direction towards abundance and achievement.

Understanding Mistaken Beliefs and How They Originate

Every person has uncertainties. These doubts and self-limiting beliefs often sound reasonable. In our minds, they’re presented as “facts” or truths. Yet, these thoughts are really a distorted version of reality.

Sometimes these thoughts might be negative. We might take the view that things are against us, that the world is unfair, or that we will never get what we want. We might have self-defeating thoughts or believe that the cards are stacked against us. When we have these negative thoughts, we refer to them as “stinking thinking”—thoughts that stink!

Many of our stinking thoughts are ingrained in our minds. These thoughts block us from seeing our actual value. They tell us to settle for temporary fixes. They push us to zone out with soft addictions and time wasters. This is the voice that says, “It’s too hard. You’ll never do it. Chill out on the couch with a pizza and Netflix instead.”

We may fall into this illusion of “more” by even believing that it’s “self-care” and that we deserve this break. In reality, these actions aren’t nourishing. They do the opposite—they hold us back and prevent us from really going for what we want. We see the path of least resistance as the easiest answer, but it’s also the one that leaves us unfulfilled.

Mistaken beliefs and assumptions spawn stinking thinking. It takes many forms: rationalizing, making excuses, being defensive, overgeneralizing, thinking you are unloved or unworthy, labeling, blaming, minimizing, projecting, being prejudiced, mind-reading, being superstitious, obfuscating, all-or-nothing thinking—all ways of fudging or denying the truth, escaping from the deeper reality underneath.

Stinking thinking robs you of MORE. This false thinking keeps you from achieving what you could and discourages you from trying new things, taking risks, and creating MORE. You may use these thoughts to talk yourself out of pursuing MORE before you even get a fighting chance. Stinking thinking lowers motivation and kills hope. And it’s how most of us think and talk most of the time.

Falling into the loop of stinking thinking, you embrace what is a false reality. You continually revisit your stinking thinking litany: I can’t. I’m too old, young, poor, fat… to do that. If only I were thinner, richer, or more attractive, everything would work out. It’s his fault. It’s her fault. I’ll never be able to have MORE in my life. I already tried that, and I failed, so it’s no use trying again. I’m not smart enough. It’ll never happen. This always happens. It will never get any better. I’m not okay. No one will ever love me. All the good men are taken or gay. Women only want men who are rich and successful. This is hopeless. I’ll start my diet tomorrow I’ll never learn. When I win the lottery, I’ll make my One Decision…

-The One Decision

Now, as we look at that litany of stinking thinking, at least one or two of those lies probably look familiar. These are common thought patterns. They are also invalid.

Understanding mistaken beliefs means acknowledging the reality of stinking thinking: we all experience it, and it holds us back.

When stinking thinking patterns sneak upon us, we have a choice. We can either observe it, acknowledge it for what it is, and move forward, or we can invest in them. What we shouldn’t do is beat ourselves up about them. This humorous approach is part of why we use the silly term “stinking thinking.”

Our students and those who attend our networking events receive Stinking Thinking tokens (they even have a skunk on them). It’s a little funny, but it also helps with understanding mistaken beliefs. When we approach it with humor and compassion, we realize that we don’t need to accept these serious thoughts as reality. We can acknowledge them for what they are and let them go.

Decide to Believe in Yourself

Each of us is a magnificent being, worthy of all the joy and rich experience that life brings. When we start to experience stinking thinking, it’s important to remind ourselves of the important truth instead. You are worthy. You are a gift.

It can be tough to shift our thinking from self-doubt to self-belief. It doesn’t mean we’ll have instant confidence. This acceptance is a slow process that begins when we start to really invest in ourselves and our personal growth.

To love yourself, you must know yourself and align to your truths. This means understanding where your mistaken beliefs originated, acknowledging your emotions and thought patterns, and treating yourself with compassion and kindness.

When we make our One Decision to live a life of more, it’s a leap of faith. We must believe that we are worthy of a life of fulfillment and goodness (we are!). Each person is imbued with great potential for happiness, goodness, and a life of MORE. Understanding mistaken beliefs and learning to let them go will help you move forward on your journey toward living the life of your dreams.

If you’re looking for more ways to live the life of your dreams, please visit Wright Now. We offer an array of courses to help you with relationships, career, and personal growth. If you’re ready to live a life of MORE, start today!

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.

Tips for Professional Networking Events You’ll Actually Enjoy

Professional networking events—we’ve all been there. Here are some new ways to think about making business connections.


Looking for tips for your next professional networking events? Here are some new ways to think about making business connections.

Professional networking events—we’ve all been there. Usually, we mull around the room awkwardly, a glass in our hands, trying to munch on a few crackers and talk to strangers between bites.

We’ve all read the tips for professional networking events, too, like “practice your elevator pitch” or “remember to ask for a business card.” Perhaps we follow a mnemonic device like picking out a color on someone’s tie to associate them with what they do or repeating their name three times during the conversation.

But do networking tips ever really work? Does anyone actually enjoy networking events, and do they even pay off? Are we just wasting our time?

The Secret to Better Networking

If we really want to be better at networking, we can throw most of the standard tips for professional networking events out the window. The goal of networking isn’t about how many contacts we can make or how many business cards we can collect. The real goal is to build a real, quality connection.

If we walk out of the room with one great, authentic connection, it’s far more valuable than ten business cards that we’ll toss in a drawer and forget. The truth is, we can build that great connection with almost anyone. Will it always be a relationship that will pay off professionally? Perhaps. But if we’re only looking for new customers and clients, we’re approaching professional networking with the wrong mindset.

We should look at events as though we’re the host. What does that mean? It means we assess the needs of others in the room. We may welcome them; we might ask if we can get something for them. Most importantly, we show a genuine personal interest in them—not because we want to “sell” them something or because we want to get their card, but because we actually see them for the person they are. We sincerely want to get to know them.

In many ways, professional networking events are akin to speed dating. It’s a quick snapshot of another person.

Most people try to “work the room” looking for someone who will be useful to them as a customer or who will be the next person who can give them something. But we’ve found that it’s far more engaging (and authentic) when we flip that idea on its head.

When we hold events at the Wright Foundation, we help attendees take a different angle. Even if our events are career-focused, we know that authentic engagement doesn’t simply come from reporting what we do or talking about the nuances of our day-to-day tasks. If we want to really network with people, we need to find better ways to connect with them on a deeper human level. We need to focus on human networking, not just professional networking. That means looking at who the person is. It means listening and engaging, not on a superficial level, but in a genuine way.

What if we look at networking as a chance to find out what the other person needs and how we can deliver it to them? What if we gave ourselves the challenge, not to see how many people we could meet, but how deeply we could engage with just one person at the event?

What if we went beyond the elevator pitch to discuss the real struggles our peers are facing in their careers? We might find out far more if we asked about the biggest challenge they have at their office or the largest roadblock they’re facing right now. Will we be able to help them with that problem? It’s hard to say, but chances are that when we start to really engage with each other, we’ll find ways to help each other now or in the future.

Engagement by Authenticity

When we begin many of our events at the Wright Foundation, we start by discussing and filling out the C.A.R.E. personality profile. The profile isn’t simply about what people do and their career goals, but who they are in any situation. It helps people understand how they interact with each other—are they Cooperators? Do they tend to be Analyzers? Are they Regulator types who want to be in charge? Or are they Energizers who lead the crowd with enthusiasm?

When people start to reach deeper into their personality type, they begin to talk about those bigger-picture concepts—who they are, what they value, where they struggle. It gets to the core of their emotional intelligence, their values, and their vision. In other words, things get real. Instead of putting forth a polished, professional, generic answer to questions, they start to really open up and talk about their approach and perspective on business and, more importantly, on life.

We may think that our business life and personal life are entirely separate and never cross over, but the truth is that most of us display very similar personality traits, whether we’re at home or the office. We don’t turn into a different person when we lock our office door and drive home. Many times, our relationships at work are similar to our relationships with our family and friends. We may have similar challenges, communication styles, and reactions. We may even find that certain work connections mirror certain relationships in our family life. Our boss might be very similar to our mother, or a coworker may remind us of the relationship we have with our brother. We often see these dynamics repeat in different areas of our life.

So it stands to reason that the personality we bring to the networking event should be the same personality we have all the time. Rather than presenting a curated “professional” persona, what if we were simply our true, authentic selves? What if we actually answered questions honestly and truthfully?

Like professional networking, when we go on dates, we often have this idea of putting our polished selves out there. We might dress a certain way, answer questions with what we think our date wants to hear, or we may try to order something from the menu that seems “appropriate.” But what if we were open and honest about who we were and what we really wanted? What if we weren’t trying to seduce someone with a concept of who we might be, but instead, we made it a goal to engage with them as our true selves?

It seems funny at first to think of walking into a date wearing sweatpants and saying, “I have $20,000 of student loan debt, four cats, and I would like to order the lobster, please.” But what if we did just that (assuming it’s reflective of who we really are)? After all, after a few dates, chances are our love interest is going to discover the cats and see us in sweats. Presumably, at some point, they will also discover our student loan debt, and we will eat something expensive and messy in front of them. What if we cut the crap and got to the truth right away?

Becoming radically honest in our interactions may seem challenging. Or we may even think, “Okay, maybe that’s fine for our social lives, but not in professional settings.” But if we’re living our best lives and reaching our fullest potential, why not embrace our authentic selves in our interactions?

Make Your Next Professional Networking Event Fun

So how do we apply these tips and ideas to our next professional networking event? In the past, many of us may have gone in with a goal like “get the most business cards” or “get x number leads.”

This time we can make it a game to see if we can instead push ourselves to have better engagement. Instead of thinking of a business networking event as a serious event when you need to generate leads, take the pressure off. Instead, focus on better human engagement and building stronger connections. Make it an event that’s actually fun and exciting—treat it as an experiment and a new adventure!

What will this mean when we’re working the room? Instead of rushing through conversations, really listen. Instead of asking superficial questions about the weather, what the person does, or general topics, really go for the deeper discussions right away. What if we asked people, “What is your biggest problem? What do you need right now? How are you REALLY doing?”

From there, we can listen with intention. Ask ourselves how we will see the other person for who they truly are? How will we hold space for them as they engage with us? More critical than practicing “active listening tips,” where we’re trying to retain information (and waiting for the next break in conversation so we can share), simply listen. Focus on what the other person is saying. Get to know them and when asked for information, communicate with the same openness and candor.

When we start to really see people not as business cards or potential leads but as beautiful human beings who are waiting to engage with us, we’ll experience a paradigm shift. The way we communicate will change.

If we want deeper engagement with others, we don’t need to wait for a special “networking event” either. We can find opportunities to engage with others throughout our day. Build your network of social connections by finding ways to engage with the barista at the coffee shop. Talk to the person next to you on the train. Strike up a conversation in the elevator that goes beyond, “nice weather we’re having.”

Our network builds our net worth. The more social ties we can cultivate and grow, the stronger our engagement skills become. Our circle of influence will broaden, and we’ll enjoy all the benefits of the networking event called life.

For more personal development ideas and opportunities to boost your career, explore our courses at Wright Now. We offer an array of class selections to help you discover a life of MORE.

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.

5 Tips on How to Overcome Obstacles and Move Forward After A Setback

We all face setbacks and obstacles in life. Whether it’s an illness, divorce, financial issues, or a job loss, bumps in the road are a normal part of human existence.

A woman poses with bird wings. Tips for overcoming obstacles and move forward.


Knowing how to overcome obstacles makes the difference between throwing in the towel and thriving.

So, how do we get there? It certainly doesn’t feel easy to move forward sometimes, especially when challenging situations come our way. Sometimes the circumstances are out of our control, like illness, accidents, or disasters. Other times, we might have played a role in creating the situation, but we can’t undo the past. Knowing how to move forward might feel daunting and even impossible.

What do you do when you hit those big roadblocks? How do you keep them from throwing a wrench in your plans and derailing your path forward?

We Can Learn Even in the Worst of Times

When we’re facing a major setback, it’s not easy to look on the bright side. It’s totally normal to experience a wide range of emotions when we go through a tough time. We may want to cry, scream, or throw a fit. Some of us may want to shut down and ignore the issue.

But there’s always a way to learn and grow from the situations that life hands us. It doesn’t mean the situation isn’t painful, or we won’t experience loss, hurt, and sorrow. It’s important to let ourselves really feel our emotions—these emotions are part of the path forward.

We often tend to avoid uncomfortable emotions like sadness, fear, and even anger, because they don’t always feel great. But it helps to recognize that there are no bad emotions. All our emotions are part of our humanity. Our emotions tell us powerful truths about ourselves. They guide us toward what we really want and help steer us away from what we don’t. It’s essential to listen to our feelings, especially as we navigate ahead.

At the same time, while we should let ourselves feel the full spectrum of emotions during a tough time, it’s also crucial that we don’t get stuck in them or become the victim. We can and should allow ourselves a complete emotional reaction but ride through it.

How do we get through emotions? We can learn a powerful lesson if we look at the way children cope with their feelings. When a child faces a setback, they often feel a full range of reactions—sadness, hurt, anger. They might cry or scream. Sometimes they might throw a tantrum.

But after their emotional outburst, they’re often ready to dust themselves off and get back up.

As adults, we instead may attempt to ignore our feelings, drink them away, or mask them with soft addictions like shopping, overeating, or TV. While this feels like a “healthy” way of coping initially, we’re just putting off our emotional experience in the long run.

So, when something goes terribly, we should go ahead and experience our feelings. Feel them, identify them, and then examine them for the hidden lessons. What are our emotions telling us? Are we afraid of what might come next? Are we angry at the way we were treated? Are we sad because we don’t feel control over our health or an unexpected circumstance? We can look to our emotions and learn powerful lessons about what we’re really feeling.

Don’t ascribe emotion to given circumstances, either. When we experience a loss, we may feel guilty laughing at a joke, smiling at a memory, or enjoying ourselves during a workout. It’s okay to feel joy and happiness, even if things are difficult. As humans, we often experience a great range of emotions. When we find a pocket of contentment or a moment of peace, soak it up. We shouldn’t avoid it because we feel like it’s not the emotion we’re supposed to experience. Take it in, sit with it, and learn from it.

At the same time, it’s important to practice self-compassion when we’re going through a struggle. We can be a little kinder to ourselves. Recognize that the situation is upsetting and harrowing right now. We may want to say to ourselves, “I’m in pain, but it doesn’t mean I’m bad. I’m human.”

Human beings experience losses and setbacks. We all go through tough times. It helps to remind ourselves that it might feel tough now, but we’ve handled tough things before. We’ve all heard the saying, When you’re going through hell, keep going.” It’s a good reminder that we will make it through this chapter in life, even if it’s difficult.

5 Tips on How to Overcome Obstacles and Thrive

When we’re going through a tough time, here are five ways we can stay afloat.

1. Believe in Yourself

It can help us to remind ourselves of our strengths and ability to cope. There’s something psychologists call self-efficacy. It’s our belief in ourselves and in our ability to handle situations. During difficult times self-efficacy becomes a life raft. It tells us that we’re okay. We’ve got this.

Even if the situation becomes overwhelming, we can trust in ourselves that we will handle it. Even when life feels really hard, we will still keep moving forward.

One exercise I’ve found helpful is taking time to list off other difficult or challenging moments where we rose to the occasion. Don’t focus on only negative situations either—what about when we ran a half-marathon, paid off a credit card debt, or learned how to speak conversational Spanish? When we reflect on those triumphs, we start to reinforce our self-efficacy. We’ve overcome challenges, and we will do it again.

2. Go Towards the Fear

When we experience fear, our natural human instinct is to move away and resolve it. Think of cavemen back in the days of our early ancestors. Fear kept them alive. When they heard a growl in the jungle, fear indicated they should move away from the source. Fear was survival.

Today we still feel fear, but sometimes our reactions are more intense than we need to keep us safe. In most cases, we can actually move toward our fear and examine it. Hug the monster! We can explore our feelings and find out what we’re really afraid of.

We may need to talk ourselves through the emotions. Say, “I’m scared, but I don’t need to stay frozen by this fear. I can work through it. Fear doesn’t always predict or indicate danger.” We can ask a friend or partner to reflect our strength back to us. They will remind us that we’ll make it through this time and come out even stronger.

3. Remember You’re Flexible and Resilient

Human beings possess a tremendous amount of flexibility. When we look at stories of people who overcome obstacles, we’re often reminded of how strong and resilient human beings are. For inspiration, read stories of people who rose above their circumstances.

We’ve all been through a lot in our lives. Even if we’ve had a great life, some situations probably didn’t work out quite the way we wanted. We’ve all overcome something. Many of us overcome lots of different challenges.

So, we got fired. We’re getting divorced. We didn’t land the big deal. Whatever we’re facing feels like an insurmountable defeat right now. We can gain strength when we remember a time when we encountered another crushing blow. What did we do and how did we overcome it? Look at others who have faced similar obstacles. How did they get through and how can we draw inspiration? If we’re here today, we’re still breathing. It is within each of us to rebuild from the ashes and to keep going.

4. Don’t Make It Personal

Let’s say I lost my job. Does it mean I’m a loser? No, it simply means the circumstances weren’t aligned. I’m free now to find something more aligned with my personality, abilities, and situation.

When we look at personalizing setbacks, we misread the message. We may think a breakup means we’re not loveable, or criticism at work means we’re incompetent. But personalizing the message makes it permanent when it’s not us, but rather a situation that didn’t fit.

How we explain setbacks to ourselves really matters. We can’t let it color who we think we are. A setback isn’t permanent. We can start making sure that we’re explaining it to ourselves in a way that doesn’t make us feel worse about ourselves or disempowered. We can refuse to let the situation pervade the aspects of who we are at our core.

5. Get Perspective

They say it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Sometimes when we’re mired down in a challenging situation, it isn’t easy to get perspective. Flash forward to a year from now, and our lives are all going to look so different.

If we use a challenging situation as an opportunity to learn and grow, we’ll look back in a year and see how even this frustrating, hurtful situation contributed to a greater future. It may be painful and downright awful right now but remind ourselves that how we may feel in this moment isn’t how we will feel for the rest of our lives.

Psychologists discovered each person has a happiness set point. When comparing people who won the lottery and people who experienced a tragic accident, they found in many cases, after about a year, happiness levels were restored to the same point pre-event. If people were generally happy, adaptable people, they still were that way after an accident. If people were pessimistic and cranky, they returned to their crabby ways even after winning the lottery.

Now, that said, we CAN adjust our happiness setpoint by bringing greater purpose and meaning to our lives. By discovering our purpose and aligning our life to it, we adjust the scales and find greater satisfaction. That doesn’t mean our life will be easy or we won’t face difficult times. It means we change our perspective and extract the purpose from every situation (even the tough ones).

This perspective is gained by learning from your experiences. If you’re going through a challenge, consider the lessons you extract. What does the situation tell you about yourself? How does it reinforce the truth: you are a capable, strong, empowered person who will get through this situation and come out stronger?

For more ways to live a purposeful life, don’t miss our courses on Wright Now. We offer an array of courses specially designed to help you reach your fullest potential in your career, relationships, and life. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore a life of MORE!

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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 Wield the Power of Persuasion with Positive Intent

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you could convince people to do what you want? Or do you wish you had a more potent power of persuasion?

Do you ever wish you could persuade people to do what you wanted? You can! You just need to learn how to wield the power of persuasion.


Surprisingly enough, you likely have more power than you realize. The secret to wielding the power of persuasion is to focus your intention and tap into your influence. Whether you work in sales and marketing, hope to get ahead in your career, or want to have more influence in your relationship, the power of persuasion can help you move toward getting what you want. All you need to do is convince others.

Easier said than done, right? Once you know how to focus your intent, it DOES become easier than you may think. Here’s how to get what you want from life, from yourself, and those around you.

What Do You Really Want?

We work on the power of persuasion during our Year of Transformation courses. Many of our students wish they knew how to get what they want out of life (from others, themselves, or the universe in general). They know they want things from others, but they might not feel sure what that really means.

They also wonder, is persuading others manipulative? Is it wrong? How do we get people to do what we want? Moreover, how do we determine what we really want in the first place?

At the end of the day, it’s not so much what we DO to get what we want; it’s all about our intent. The power of persuasion isn’t in coercion or convincing. Often, it’s a suggestion toward something that will have a positive outcome for all parties.  It’s about setting an intention and believing that others WANT to help us. Do we intend to make a difference? Do we want to use our influence for good? Do we want to be heard and have someone else really understand us?

If we intend it—if it’s what we really want—we’ll do everything we can to make it happen.

Now, this doesn’t mean screaming and yelling to get the point across. Persuasion isn’t manipulative or threatening. In fact, demanding, screaming, and yelling often doesn’t work at all; it can actually work against us. It’s the positive intent that matters.

If I’m in a conversation with Bob, for example, I may want him to do something for me. Maybe I need his help with a task around the house; perhaps I would like his input or feedback on an idea I’ve been mulling over for work. Maybe I want his support, attention, or affection. So, what do I do to persuade him to give me what I want?

Persuasion isn’t about “talking him into something,” like some kind of used-car salesman. I’m not wheeling and dealing to get what I want. I’m not tricking Bob into giving it to me. When we act with intent, it means expressing ourselves as fully as we can. So, when talking to Bob, I will tell him WHY something really matters to me. I may express the outcome I’m hoping for. I’ll put myself fully into the idea of what I want, why it matters, and my ideal result.

Because Bob listens to me and values me, he can often meet my request with ease. He gives me what I want, need, and ask for in our relationship because I’ve expressed to him how much it matters to my heart.

The Power of Persuasion is in the Intent

When we intend to change something, we have a lot more power than we may think. If we go about asking for something with the intention of getting it, it’s much more potent than merely wishing, hinting, or hoping it will come about. We believe that it will happen and that the universe WANTS it to happen—we simply need to find a path to bring it to fruition.

If we approach a request like, “Well, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t really mind doing this favor for me,” it isn’t very persuasive.

On the other hand, when we say to someone, “This is very important to me. I would really appreciate it if you would do this for me. It would mean a lot,” the intent is still the same—to get what we want. In this case, though, it’s much more likely that someone will respond positively to our request because we’re direct. People want to make us happy when they can. Most people want to help us fulfill our needs, even if they barely know us.

When we ask for what we want, it’s not about being tricky or conniving. We’re not trying to dupe someone into doing what we want (most of us have good intentions). We’re trying to get someone to see our side and come to the situation authentically. We’re making an appeal. We’re highlighting that there’s a benefit to them, in that we’ll feel more favorably and warmly towards them. We’re giving them away to make us happy.

It’s so essential we approach a request with honesty and authenticity. Why does this matter to us? What are our feelings, and even our values and emotions behind the proposal? Go all in.

It’s not, “How can I make someone do what I want?” It’s about being true to what we want—THIS is what I want, THIS is how I feel.

When we approach a situation with positive intent, sometimes we’ll get an even better solution than the one we were initially going for. If we’re genuinely involved in the conversation and open to the direction, we might be pleasantly surprised at the positive outcomes. If we approach it rigidly, getting stuck on only one acceptable answer, it doesn’t always work. Come to the table, ready to be open to whatever direction it takes. Sometimes the best outcome isn’t even something we’ve thought of yet.

Realness, genuineness, and emotions work when it comes to the power of persuasion. We may even want to think of authenticity as the real power of persuasion. Our intention and true feelings are always very persuasive.

So, what’s the difference between persuading someone to do what we want and manipulating someone? Again, it’s all about the intention.

The reality is, we’re all “manipulating” others all the time. It’s impossible to interact with others without exerting some level of influence. We go into each interaction and decision with the desired outcome. If we’re deciding on lunch with a friend, we’re going to have feelings about the restaurant, what we want to eat, and when we hope to go. When we express those feelings to our friend, we intend to convince them to choose the little bistro down the street rather than the deli around the corner. Is this manipulation? In a sense, yes, but we don’t have nefarious intentions. Our real purpose is to enjoy our time with our friend (and if we focus on the true intent and remain open to different answers, the place we eat isn’t as important as our connection). Maybe we get to go to our favorite restaurant, and perhaps we try something new, but the positive outcome of engagement with our pal is still the same.

Be Honest About What You Want

The more honest we are about the situation and our desires, the better. Dishonesty in persuasion is what makes it harmful. We may think of manipulation as a type of dishonest persuasion—we’re not forthcoming, being tricky, or trying to get someone to do something without telling them what we really want. But using our influence and changing or “manipulating” a situation can actually be lovely and positive. It helps us look at a situation in different ways.

For example, I may say something to Bob, such as, “I want you to know that I’m doing this so that you will do this for me later.” He, in turn, always has the ability to say no, but he realizes that we’re making a trade-off, and I have the power to persuade him.  It’s a bargain of sorts or a pact. Usually, if I’m doing something that he wants, he’s more than happy to do something for me in return. When we’re honest with each other, it removes the ambiguity and negative feelings of coercion.

We’re all trying to get people to do things in a certain way all the time, but we’re not always honest about it. When we start to become open about our intentions, we won’t feel like we’re “manipulative” or “conniving.”

We must be honest about what we want. Many of us hold back on what we want because of fear. We may feel we don’t deserve to have our needs met or worry that someone will tell us no. So we dwell in a place of uncertainty and apprehension.

The way to work through our fear is by understanding what we want and being direct. What is our intent? Why is this important to us? Once we’re clear on that point, the path is often much easier to navigate.

It can also help to admit that we’re scared to ask. If we approach a conversation with, “I want to ask for something, but I’m afraid.” It will often temper the discussion and make the other person more receptive to what we will say. Remember to assume good intent on the other person’s part—they likely want us to feel good. They want to help us.

If we tell someone, “I’m scared because this matters to me,” they will often be even more willing to help us work through a mutually beneficial solution. They can understand what it means to us, and they see that we’re hoping for a positive outcome.

So, if you’re hoping to wield the power of persuasion, it’s as simple as going in with honesty and authenticity. Clarify your intent and go for what you want. It all starts by working up the courage to begin the conversation. Once you start, you’re well on the way to getting what your heart desires.

For more ways to discover your personal power and influence, don’t miss our courses available on Wright Now. We have classes to help you get ahead in your career, strengthen your relationships, and grow towards your next most radiant self. Explore today and begin to live a life of MORE.


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


The Difference Between Need and Want

There’s a lot of discussions out there about the difference between need and want. It’s a concept we teach our kids: “You don’t need a new toy; you WANT a new toy.”

Everyone has desires. The key is learning the difference between need and want.

Yet, despite learning the difference between need and want as kids, many still struggle with the concept as adults. We go to the store and see a cool electronic gadget. We tell ourselves we need it to be more efficient, more organized, to do our jobs better.

We go to lunch because we’re hungry. We tell ourselves we’ve had a rough morning, and we deserve to get a cookie with our sandwich. We need a little sugar boost, right?

Even in our relationships, we have a tough time separating needs from wants. We want companionship, connection, and affection. We may feel we need a partner to complete us and help us navigate through life.

Understanding the difference between needs and wants is tough. It’s a lifelong struggle to train ourselves to stop settling for satisfying our cravings and temporary desires and seek what truly fulfills the needs of our hearts.

Yearnings: The Key Difference Between Needing and Wanting

In coaching, we often discuss the term “yearning” with our students. Yearning is an unusual term at first. It sounds a bit old-fashioned and even funny. We may picture a Victorian lady “yearning” from her fainting couch.

However, we use the term because yearning speaks to the desires and needs of our hearts and souls. Yearning is deeper than wanting. We yearn for something because it feeds us emotionally, touches our core, and leaves us nourished and fulfilled. We long for it. In terms of needs vs. wants, yearnings are needs, not just cravings.

Yearnings are for emotional needs. Technically, all creatures have basic needs: food, water, shelter. As humans, though, we also have yearnings we must fulfill to feel whole. When our yearnings are met, we feel safe, loved, cared for, respected…in short, we feel complete.

The Difference Between Needs and Wants in a Relationship

Most of us have seen the movie Jerry McGuire, when Tom Cruise’s character tells Renee Zellweger, “You complete me,” and what did we all do?

In the theater, when we saw the scene, we probably went, “Aw…I want that kind of romance.” But, this movie, like many, is a modern-day fairytale. In real life, relationships take deliberate work. We don’t meet someone and know they’re “the one.”

As hard as it is at first to hear, there’s no such person as “the one.” We may choose to share our lives with a partner, and we may work toward similar targets and mutual goals, but we’re all on our own journey. We must fulfill our yearnings. It’s not up to our partner or someone else to complete us or make us happy.

Even though the idea that a relationship can’t “complete us” may be hard to accept because we’ve learned fairytales since childhood, if we really think it through, it should bring us comfort and a feeling of empowerment. After all, imagine how difficult it would be if only ONE other person in the world were responsible for our happiness. What are the chances we’d meet them? With over 7 billion people on the planet, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack!

Similarly, what if our happiness indeed depended on our relationships with others? We would have no ability to find happiness on our own. It’s a frightening thought! Instead, the one person responsible for our happiness is US!

We are the person who can discover our fulfillment. We are the person responsible for growing and pushing ourselves to reach our potential. Our partner may work alongside us and even become an ally on our journey, but ultimately each of us is on our own life quest.

But What Do I Really Yearn For?

Most human yearnings are commonly shared. We may want a BMW, tacos for dinner, or a promotion at work. Our wants vary from person to person, situation to situation, and day to day. Yearning, on the other hand, is bigger. It’s universal.

Wanting is external, and yearning is internal. In other words, what you want resides outside the core of who you are. You want things, positions, cars, job titles, money.

Yearning goes to your essence: you yearn for mastery, for connection, to matter. What confuses matters, though, is that what you want is connected to what you yearn for. You may want to make a lot of money, but it’s related to your yearning to touch and be touched, to be loved, or valued. On the outside, you want to make a lot of money because you believe that you’ll be more desirable, treated with more respect, or that others will envy you if you’re wealthy. Deeper down, however, you long to have more contact with others, for them to love you for who you are, not what you have; or you long to make contributions to the lives of others. Becoming wealthy may provide you with a brief burst of happiness, but relatively soon, you’ll experience a growing sense of dissatisfaction because you’re not meeting your deeper yearning.

This is a critical differentiator: meeting a want provides fleeting happiness while responding to a yearning provides longer-lasting and deep satisfaction.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

A good example of the difference between need and want is “wanting” to losing weight. Many of us say we want to lose weight…and the truth is many of us are very good at losing weight. When discussing this topic, our COO, Barb, calculated that she’d lost over 1,000 pounds in her lifetime!

Now, Barb was never 1,000 pounds overweight. But like many of us, she was so focused on her want to lose weight, she became very good at dropping 5 pounds, gaining it back, losing it again, and so on. The problem wasn’t losing weight; it was keeping it off. She wasn’t looking at the need vs. want. It wasn’t wrong to want to fit into skinny jeans, but it didn’t speak to her yearning—her needs.

We must be careful with what we want. For most of us, we don’t know exactly what we want, or we’re unsure. Our path becomes misguided.

We do this at our jobs—we may think we want the next line on our resume and a bigger paycheck. We get to the next milestone, and we’re promoted to the next position, but we still feel empty inside. We’re still missing something.

When what we want leaves us feeling empty or unfulfilled, look at the underlying yearning. To discover the deeper need beneath our wants, apply the “so that” test.

In Barb’s case, it was the following:

I wanted to lose weight so that I could fit into my skinny jeans and cute clothes.

I wanted to fit into my skinny jeans and cute clothes so that I was more attractive to guys.

I wanted to attract a guy so that I could feel love and be loved by someone.

Therefore, the underlying yearning wasn’t to fit into her skinny jeans. It wasn’t to lose weight. It was to feel love and be loved by someone. When she realized what she was really yearning for, she stopped mis-wanting. Suddenly, her happiness didn’t depend on skinny jeans, and that last five pounds she wanted to lose over and over again went away. She was able to focus on her yearning.

Now, if we look at this flow from a productivity standpoint, it becomes clear. Why are we trying to fulfill our yearnings with wants? Why not go after the yearning instead? Go directly for the goal!

Why We Don’t Go for Our Yearnings

Meeting our yearnings is tough. Believe it or not, even identifying these emotional needs is one of the toughest tasks our students face on their journey. Identifying and getting our yearnings met is a lifelong process. It’s like a muscle. We must practice and work out every single day.

Many of us get busy spinning around our wants. We numb ourselves with soft addictions like shopping, food, television, social media. We zone ourselves out and fill ourselves up with more wants. Unfortunately, it’s an endless cycle many people become trapped in.

Once we get down to our yearnings, identify them and focus on them, they have an almost magic quality. If we want new shoes, then only new shoes will fill our want. But our yearnings are different—we can meet them in many ways each day.

If we want a significant other, then we’re going to settle into any situation that comes along, whether it genuinely fulfills us or not. On the other hand, if we realize our underlying yearning is to love and be loved, our yearning can be fulfilled in many different ways. We can fulfill our yearning to be loved by friendships, through family, by connecting with others, and especially by learning to love ourselves. We can find love all around us every day.

Better yet, when we’re out there living our life, meeting our yearning to love and be loved, we’re more likely to find an actual candidate for a romantic relationship. We’re learning not to fall into patterns and settle for simply “wanting” a relationship. Instead, we’re engaging with those around us. We’re building connections. We’re working toward fulfilling our yearning ourselves, not awaiting a fairytale romance to complete us.

Our yearning may be to be seen and heard. We may yearn to touch and be touched. We may yearn to love and be loved; to be affirmed; to connect; to belong. We may yearn to matter and to make a difference in the world.

These universal yearnings are part of our emotional needs as human beings. When we’re on a path of learning and growing, we start to take risks. We start putting ourselves out there to fulfill our yearning in every situation.

How can you determine whether something is what you want or what you yearn for? Ask yourself what a given want, aspiration, or goal will do for you.  It may not be immediately obvious; however, if you keep looking beneath your wants, it can lead you to your deeper yearnings. Subject your fervent wishes and desires to the “so that” litmus test.

In many cases, if your desire is a want, then you will be able to fill in the blank after “so that.” And each want leads to another. Wants are never the end of the line. If it’s a yearning, however, you may have trouble coming up with a final statement of “so that.” That’s because what we yearn for is enough.

Yearning is an end in and of itself. We yearn to see and be seen, to connect, to touch and be touched—we’re not doing it for any reason other than pure longing.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

As we learn to work our yearning muscle, it gets stronger. When we seek to fill a want, apply the “so that test” and ask ourselves what’s underneath it. Don’t just settle for what you want. Get your yearnings met!

For more on discovering your potential, don’t miss our courses on Wright Now! We offer many ways to get ahead in your career, strengthen your relationships, and discover your next best self. Don’t miss a chance to live a life of MORE.


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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.