Combating the Effects of Loneliness on Our Health

Is loneliness a health epidemic? The effects of loneliness have become so normalized that we might not even realize how dangerous isolation can be.

Can loneliness harm our health? Here’s how to battle the effects of loneliness on our physical and emotional health, as well as our relationships.

 


In his recent New York Times article, columnist Eric Klinenberg posed the question, “is loneliness a health epidemic?” Klinenberg goes on to document the effects of loneliness, and while he concludes loneliness is, in fact, dangerous to our health, it’s not an epidemic…yet.

But the effects of loneliness shouldn’t be understated. In some studies, loneliness can be as detrimental to health as smoking and more dangerous than obesity. Doctors, researchers, and epidemiologists may conclude that it’s more of a “social health problem,” but it’s still detrimental to our wellbeing. So if you’re battling the effects of loneliness, here’s how to move toward stronger social connections.

Why Has Loneliness Become “Normal”

Over the last several years, several sociological factors have moved us toward more solitary lifestyles. Technology is a significant influence on our time spent alone. The recent pandemic and a shift toward working from home have also caused to experience more isolation. For most of us, we can have groceries delivered, watch movies, work, date, and pursue our hobbies without seeing another human being in person.

From our perspective at the Wright Foundation, loneliness is a life challenge that we may face at different times and points throughout the years. We may be more isolated and alone during certain times in our lives, while other times, we may find ourselves more social. But building human connection is a universal challenge for all of us.


To avoid the adverse effects of loneliness, we must first get to know ourselves and then use that self-awareness and knowledge to nurture our connections with others, engaging in service-filled relationships.


Loneliness is a universal existential challenge. It’s a universal challenge for all of us as human beings to affiliate and connect with each other. In the NY Times column, Klinenberg attributes the increase of loneliness to neo-liberal social policies isolating us in our work and social lives. With the dissolution of trade unions, affinity groups, and civic associations, people increasingly find themselves lonely and disconnected.

Years ago, people lived insular lives. They were surrounded by their neighborhoods, families, and sense of home. They may never have traveled beyond the borders of their city, but their social lives were intricately connected. More recently, people have evolved away from the tribal and more toward the individual. As a result, our family and social circles’ definitions are looser and less defined. In some ways, we’ve expanded our social lives and made them more global, but in some ways, the distance can actually create more isolation.

Compounding the effects of loneliness in the modern landscape is, of course, technology. Many people—particularly adult men and adolescents—claim a vast network of friends and acquaintances “online” but are missing the benefits of authentic in-person engagement and rich social interaction. Yes, they may have friends on Twitter or their online chats, but the interactions are superficial and even draining. Screens become a soft addiction that doesn’t nourish relationship connections and intimacy.

In Japan, the incidence of loneliness-induced suicide has become an enormous concern. For many years, it was a problem amongst working men due to long workdays and a vast but ultimately hollow online social circle. In the last few years, the pandemic has caused hopelessness and despair to grow amongst women. The Japanese government has appointed a task force and a minister of loneliness to help address the problem.

But anywhere in the world, people can feel despairingly lonely. People may even be surrounded by others and have successful careers, fame, and fortune, but it doesn’t counteract their loneliness. It’s particularly a problem when people don’t feel truly engaged and connected with those around them. We’ve seen these situations in the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams, and even Marilyn Monroe. People may appear to “have it all,” but when they’re missing the engagement and social support they need, they may still feel very much alone.

Counteracting the Effects of Loneliness

No matter the social shifts and technology changes, we will continue to face an existential challenge. We must put forth a concerted effort to engage with other people. We can’t rely on readymade affiliations of the past. It’s incumbent on us to build real-life relationships and connections. To do so, we must deal with our internal and external conflicts in a way that brings us not only closer to others but closer to ourselves.


We must adhere not only to the adage, “to thine own self be true,” but also, “to thine own self be honest.”


If we aren’t honest with ourselves, taking the time to understand our needs and the longings or yearnings of our hearts, we will never engage and connect with others. Being true to oneself doesn’t mean doing whatever we want. It means exploring who we are at a deeper level. It also means looking at others for who they truly are and coming forward to meet their yearnings and needs as well as our own.

Our desire to affirm, be affirmed and exist, may collide with other peoples’ desires to affirm, be affirmed, and exist, and that’s okay. Instead, we must create win-win modes of nourishment and opportunities for mutuality. It doesn’t mean agreeing with everyone we meet or avoiding conflict, but rather seeing people as our fellow humans, respecting them, and engaging with them.

Perhaps the counterbalance to a loneliness “epidemic” is a social and emotional intelligence epidemic, where people learn how to identify their needs and the needs of others, where we grow in ways that will cause humanity to flourish. Where everyone starts to “go Wright.”

What It Means to “Go Wright”

When I say, “go Wright,” I don’t mean that everyone needs to be like me. I mean embracing the ideas we share with our students at the Wright Foundation on a day-to-day basis. In our work with students, we discuss the importance of identifying our emotions. We explore the realization that there are no “bad” emotions or emotions that are wrong, even if they don’t feel pleasant. We help students focus on emotional intelligence as a skill just as necessary as intellectual prowess.

One emotion that researchers often overlook is hurt. But the hurt is extremely poignant and often linked to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and rejection. We must learn to deal with feelings of being hurt by others and work through our fears of being hurt again. If we can’t deal with these feelings, we isolate to avoid them and thus continues the cycle of loneliness and isolation.

When we really look at isolation and the effects of loneliness, we see that solitude is often a protective measure. We’re always bumping into other people, but if we don’t connect, our interactions can result in hurt. We may avoid hurtful interactions in the future, which leads us to avoid gaining affirmation and nourishment that comes from our social interactions.


Learning to process and cope with our hurts and painful experiences is part of building a strong emotional intelligence. We learn how to deal with conflict responsibly—not avoiding conflict altogether—but using it in a way that serves both parties and helps us get what we want.


For example, recently, a student brought up a statement that I had made. Without realizing it, I’d made a statement that indicated and reflected my implicit bias. Once they called it to my attention, I realized it, addressed the issue, and rectified the situation. The more implicit biases we have, the narrower our world can feel, and when our world is narrow, loneliness is the only outcome.

The anecdote is to call it out. When we disagree with someone, say it. Drop the blame, shame, guilt, and justification. Instead, address your feelings openly and honestly. Many of our walls and barriers to communication stem from our unaddressed hurts and feelings that we’re afraid to bring up and discuss.

So bring them up. Remember that in the rules of engagement, everyone is 100% responsible for their emotions in any situation. At the same time, no one should accept more (or give more) than 50% of the blame. When we adjust our lens for viewing conflict, we will see it as a productive part of engagement. We start to fight for a mutually beneficial resolution to satisfy both parties.

Productive conflict is part of honest engagement. As we fight isolation and counter the effects of loneliness, honesty and authenticity are our best tools. We can explore what motivates us, what we really want, and what we expect from our relationships.

When we move forward, we may discover that although loneliness may be a widespread ill of today’s society, it’s not new and not something we’re fated to accept. We will start to strengthen our connections with others and enjoy richer, more satisfying social lives.

For more ways to connect with others, build relationships, and live your best life, explore our course on Wright Now. We offer an array of classes to help you get ahead in your career, boost your relationships, and discover yourself. Learn more today, so you can go forth and ignite your world!

 


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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

How to Start the New Year Off Right

January is a natural time for new beginnings are fresh starts. Although we can make changes any time of year, we may feel more compelled and motivated in January.

Wondering how to start the new year off right? January is a great time to take the necessary steps to get the life you want. Let’s make this new year great!

 


 

When January begins, many of us start thinking of ways we want to improve, things we want to change, and resolutions we want to explore. If you want to start the new year off right, there are three ways to help you create the year (and the life you want).

Let’s explore how to make this our best year ever! And how will we do that? We can all take three steps to move toward what we want.

1. Let Your Yearnings Guide You Forward

Several years ago, I had a rough January 1st. I struggled with how to start the new year off right with a positive, can-do attitude. Frankly, I was burnt out. The previous year had been financially challenging, and the setback was hanging over me like a dark cloud.

At the same time, I sat looking at a list of ambitious initiatives, goals, and opportunities that I wanted to tackle in the upcoming year ahead. As I started to prioritize my steps, I felt overwhelmed. Each task seemed like the most important, and I was definitely trying to eat an elephant. We’ve all heard that “it’s easy if you take one bite at a time,” but it’s quite daunting when that immense carcass is looming. I kept telling myself to focus on each bite, taking responsibility to preserve the rest so it would still be fresh for later, but in my mind, I kept wondering how to avoid missing opportunities.

It was this mindset that began my first day of the year. I was challenged, overwhelmed, even despairing. I was haunted by my thoughts and lingering disturbing dreams from the night before. But I got up, ate breakfast, read the paper, and decided to start reviewing our latest book at the time, Transformed! I was preparing for media appearances and a book launch. I was set to go on the nationally syndicated late-night radio show Coast to Coast for three hours on January 10 and 11, so I wanted to be ready.

As I cracked the book and started to review, I hit the section about recognizing deeper yearnings—talk about being bowled over! Right there in front of me, written in black and white, was the answer to my current struggle. I realized that I forgot to walk the walk and follow my own advice.


In the book, we had said that the key to setting ourselves up for change was first to list our goals. Then we should examine each goal and ask ourselves why we want it and what we hope it will do for us. To figure this out, we use the “so that” approach. We say to ourselves, “I want this goal SO THAT____.” Then, we keep digging in until we discover the deeper yearning underneath our goal.


This was the exact answer I was looking for! I quickly called out to Judith and told her the irony of how much I needed those words right then in my life. We talked about how I needed to practice what we preach by focusing on my immediate yearnings as I went into the new year.

As Judith often wisely does, she asked me a few revealing questions. I discovered that I clearly feared pain and problems in the future rather than choosing to be fully alive in the moment. With Judith’s guidance, I also cleared up some stinking thinking that was knocking around in my head. I realized that my desire for greater financial stability and student flow stemmed from my yearning for fulfilling contact and joy.


In the moment of my despair, I was missing out on the contact and joy that I longed for. But once I recognized the yearnings under my wants, I became unstuck and could start to move forward.


The takeaway lesson in this point is that if you want to make the new year great, remember that under every surface want lies a deeper yearning. When we explore our wants and apply the “so that” exercise, we can discover that essential underlying yearning, and our path becomes clearer and focused. We can then re-orient ourselves to move toward what we are really yearning for.

2. Embrace Aliveness to Have a Great New Year

Embracing aliveness always sounds a bit strange at first. After all, we’re all alive, aren’t we? But in this context, aliveness refers to our essence—the foundational principle of play, truth, joy, love, and life. When we hold back and repress ourselves, we’re stifling our sense of aliveness. We’re missing that bubbly force that we exude when we laugh, giggle, cry, or yell. Our expressiveness is linked to our aliveness.

There’s also aliveness when our senses are heightened and our vision is clear and focused. We fix our attention, and the bubbling builds anticipation and excitement into a fountain of possibility and potential. We may discover a sense of aliveness in anticipation of a lover, as a child awaiting the return of a parent, a student eagerly expecting the results of a test. Each moment of our lives is pregnant with possibilities. We often find feelings of loss aversion in these moments—an immobilizing fear of failure or loss that shifts us into autopilot. Our fear may be almost undetectable, but it can hold us back from fulfilling our yearnings.


Aliveness is the opposite of fear. It’s the principle that unleashes those deeper yearnings and puts us in touch with our emotions in the here and now.


Our sense of aliveness brings our hunger to the surface. We may feel a hunger for experience, for contact, to see and be seen, to make a difference, or to discover something new. Aliveness brings out our longing for adventure, meaning, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Now, engaging and moving toward our yearnings can come at a cost. We will inevitably feel hurt when we open ourselves to new possibilities and uncertainties. But in this hurt, we have a greater opportunity to learn and grow. Our awareness of our feelings expands, but so does our capacity for joy.

As you look back at the last twelve months and forward to the future, you may realize there were times you were going through the motions or weren’t really living life as fully as possible. So make the new year great by committing to seek out new experiences, adventures, and opportunities. Push through the fear and approach the world like a child—with curiosity and wonder!

3. Make this Your Year to Grow and Evolve

If you want to have the greatest year ever, make this your year of growth! Many of us have been disappointed in the past with seminars, courses, books, lectures, and events that promise us a fresh start. Then, after a month or two, we look back and think, “Well, that was an interesting experience,” and go back to our comfortable habits and patterns.

The thing about growth is that it isn’t a one-time goal. We don’t check it off the list and stop growing. We have to embrace it as a lifelong endeavor. To transform ourselves into who we want to be, we need to awaken to an assignment or task each day. We have to stretch and push ourselves toward continued growth and more mindfulness.


Each day and in each new situation we face, we can extract a lesson and discover a learning opportunity—even in our mistakes. Sometimes the most powerful lessons come from our missteps, setbacks, and challenges. We call this approach the “assignment way of living.”


Now imagine if we could go on this journey together, working with a community of like-minded individuals across the country. Imagine everyone supporting each other, connecting, and sharing their experiences as they work on assignments that help them bring out the best in themselves and in all those they meet.

At the Wright Foundation, this is exactly what we offer in our courses. We bring people together, help them connect, and empower them to discover ways to live their best life. Those who participate in our programs push themselves through new challenges based on a principle, concept, or lesson to help them focus their personal development in concert with others in the community.

We’ve built a community of students that encourage each other, inspire each other to have more effective relationships, bring more satisfaction and meaning to each moment, and offer more service to the world. In this community, we’ve maximized the potential for love, enjoyment, satisfaction, and leadership!

If you’re seeking an accessible way to challenge yourself this year and stay connected with others doing the same, take time to explore our courses and community. Follow our blog posts, read our books, or investigate our courses through Wright Now. Make this year the year you begin your journey of self-discovery and start to live your best life!

 


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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

 

 

Wondering How to Feel More Energized? Live a Life of MORE

We hit snooze on the alarm and get up late. We drag ourselves out of bed, get dressed, and head out the door to work. Our office day feels long and uneventful—even boring.

Wondering how to feel more energized? We'll discover more energy and momentum when we're living a satisfying, purposeful life.

 

 


 

We come home, fix dinner, flop on the couch to watch TV, and scroll through social media on our phones. We’re tired, but not so tired to sleep…just blah. When we look back on the weeks, they go by quickly, but nothing stands out.

If the above scenario sounds all too familiar, chances are you have wondered how to feel more energized. How do you break out of the rut and get your enthusiasm and excitement back? Do you feel like life is passing you by because you lack the momentum and motivation to go out and seize the day!?

It’s time to wake up! Life is meant to be an adventure! We are each given an amazing opportunity to experience all the wonders our world can offer. Life is full of new experiences that give us a chance to create, discover, learn, grow, and feel energized each new day.

Stop Being a Bystander

From time to time, we all feel like bystanders, as though we’re vicariously watching and living life through the adventures of those around us. Social media can compound this effect—we look at those photos on Instagram and posts on Facebook and see all that others are accomplishing.

We may feel a little jealous, left out, or as though we don’t quite measure up. We may experience “FOMO” (fear of missing out). But it’s important to recognize that most social media doesn’t quite capture the reality of life.

We may also feel like there’s never enough time or energy to do what we want. If our plates are full of activities that feel more routine than stimulating, we might feel mired in the day-to-day. We feel as though we’re not living our lives as fully as possible. We wonder how to feel more energized and get more enjoyment out of life. We might even be comfortable—but we feel stuck in that comfort zone.


So what’s the answer? How can we find more energy and enthusiasm in our day-to-day activities? How do we break out of a rut? Is the answer more coffee? Better sleep habits? Exercise?


Of course, healthy habits can be part of self-care and self-compassion. It’s important that we show ourselves love and understanding, especially when we’re going through times of stress. Healthy habits show how much we love and value ourselves. When we feel like we’re worth taking care of, we often find it easier to carry out those self-caring actions. But embracing a healthy lifestyle is only part of it; if we’re wondering how to feel more energized, we need to dig a little deeper.

Choose Your Own Life Adventure

If we want to feel more energized and enthusiastic about life, we need to inject some excitement into the mix. Ever wonder how great explorers and adventurers found the drive to keep going? Look at endurance runners—how do they keep up the mindset to push through discomfort and constantly move forward (even when they’ve emptied the tank)?

Most of us are probably not running hundreds of miles, climbing Mount Everest, or discovering uncharted territories. Still, we can all learn lessons from these intrepid individuals who keep pushing themselves forward, despite the odds. Endurance is as much of a mind game as a physical test of the body.

So how do we find more energy in life? Do some people just “have it” while others of us don’t? We might look at someone famous like Oprah, Beyonce, or Bill Gates and wonder where they found the time and energy to achieve all they have. Are some people simply born with more energy?


If we want more energy in life, we need to go for it! The truth is that engagement itself is energizing—a body in motion stays in motion.


When we’re tuned in and turned on to what’s happening around us, the lights illuminate. We snap out of our stupor, and suddenly we’re experiencing aliveness. We’re challenged; we’re energized, awake, and in the zone. We’re discovering what’s called “flow.”

What is flow? We can describe flow as that hum we experience when work is going well, and we’re fully engaged. Flow is the buzz we get when we’re involved in a great conversation with another person—when we’re clicking in sync. Flow is the feeling we get when we discover something new when we feel something and connect. When we’re moved deeply by an art exhibit, when we come out of a movie ready to delve into the nuances and meaning, or when we read a book that we can’t put down, that’s flow.

Flow can happen in great conversation, it can occur at work, and it can happen in any other activity where we’re fully tuned in and engaged. When flow happens, time often feels irrelevant. We may be amazed that hours have passed because we were so focused and present with the task. If we want to awaken, feel more energized, and experience better connection and a greater sense of aliveness, we need to discover our sense of flow!

Stayin’ Alive

With all the talk of aliveness and the association with flow, it can get a little confusing. Many of us may think, “well, obviously, I’m alive. But, what exactly does it mean to experience aliveness? Isn’t that what we’re doing every day?

Yes, in a biological sense, but in an emotional sense, many of us are tuned out. If we feel we lack energy and can’t break out of that sense of tiredness and lethargy about life, we may be missing out on all that aliveness has to offer. Aliveness is vibrancy, energy, and enthusiasm. When we’re experiencing aliveness, we’re experiencing a full range of emotions. We experience joy, of course, but also fear, anger, sadness, and hurt. We aren’t shying away from feelings or avoiding them because they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Instead, we’re staying open to new possibilities, and we approach life with a sense of curiosity and adventure.

As an adventurer, one of the critical skills you need to develop…is an attitude of opportunity—looking for possibilities rather than problems in events and circumstances that previously you may have viewed as unfortunate. Everything that happens can be a blessing and an opportunity to learn and grow, to deepen your relationship with yourself and others, or to expand your ability to serve and be served. To live this way, you will need to be vigilant, to stay on the lookout for any limiting thoughts that make you see life as a burden to be endured.

History is full of heroes and heroines who have seen possibilities where others saw only failure and loss. Mother Theresa saw opportunities for love and service where others fled disease and poverty, Abraham Lincoln saw freedom and unity in the face of division, and Nelson Mandela saw hope for the future of democracy even while in prison

And you have the possibility for that attitude every day, right in front of you. For example, if your boss comes in and says you have a new project and you need to do a, b, c, d, and e by 4:00 pm the following day, how do you respond? Is your reaction, “Wow, what a creative challenge and opportunity. What would it take for me to do this thing that feels impossible?” Likely those aren’t the first thoughts that pop into your mind. Of course, you’ll have a range of feelings and reactions in situations like that, but what if you chose an attitude of opportunity? What if you take the energy of your fear and anger and direct it to solving the problem? What if you chose to shift your attitude and take on the challenge? What would your next 24 hours look like?

 –The One Decision

The World is Your Playground

We’re open to new adventures and experiences when we are young children. Children display limitless energy and enthusiasm for new activities. Each day offers new discoveries, lessons, and chances to explore. Kids are constantly making new connections. The growing requires energy, but it also gives energy in return.

As adults, we can hold onto this sense of exploration and adventure as we rediscover our aliveness, energy, and flow. We do this by looking for new chances to learn and by shifting our approach to challenges that arise. When I think of this approach to life, I often think of my friend Ellen, who’s in her late 50s. I recently ran into her, and as we caught up, I inquired about how she and her husband Jack were doing.

She reported, “His knees crack when he gets up, his back is aching, and his stamina isn’t what it was.” I was expecting her to continue a litany of complaints when her broad smile revealed her wrinkles, and wiping the dampness of her forehead from her hot flash, she proclaimed, “Old age! This is an adventure we haven’t done yet! I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like. I can’t wait to see what he’s like as an older man. Another part of him for me to love.” Now THAT is an attitude of adventure!


It doesn’t matter our age or even our physical abilities. We can play, grow, and experience aliveness throughout our lives. From age two to 102, life offers us chances for more experience, discovery, and new connections.


Young parents might find themselves bogged down in the stress of raising small kids. They feel like their lives are a series of tissues, diaper changes, errands, and scheduling. Some of us may be in the throes of our careers, feeling like we’re unsure how to move forward or get ahead at work. Others may be seniors who feel like our best years are behind us. (Guess what—they aren’t!)

We can learn a lot by observing young people in our lives, whether it’s our own kids, friends, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren. We can look at the way they tackle new challenges. They’re experimenting all the time. They explore by tasting, touching, listening, looking, smelling, and really investigating each experience. They’re finding out what works and figuring out what doesn’t. Kids have great imagination and creativity. Each moment is new. Each problem requires a journey down an unforged path. Every moment is exciting. Life is a playground, and even as we get older, we can keep right on playing!


A simple shift in our mindset to embrace life as an adventure full of discovery and opportunity will change our energy. Rather than feeling tired, worn down, exhausted, or stuck in a rut, we can make a choice to feel awake, alive, excited, turned on, and engaged.


We can shift to viewing rest as a chance to recharge our batteries, relax, and nourish ourselves. We will feel more vibrant when we are finished. We might start jumping out of bed in the morning, ready to see what the day has to offer. If we view our day as a chance for new discoveries, why might we find a more efficient approach to a task at work, or we might connect more deeply with clients and coworkers. Our weekends feel refreshing because they’re filled with discoveries, adventures, and chances to appreciate our loved ones.

Discovering that attitude of adventure and exploration helps us open up a new world of possibility. When we’re ready to start a life quest, there’s no time like the present. If we want more energy and more vibrance, we must become curious about our world—looking for the new lessons from each experience, pushing ourselves beyond our boundaries for a chance to attempt something new.

A life of more—more aliveness, energy, and purpose—is waiting for all of us! We just need to reach out and embrace it!

For more ways to discover your best life, visit Wright Now. We offer an array of courses geared to help you learn more about yourself, your career, and your relationships. So don’t miss out on the life you want. Go for it now!

 


 About the Author

Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.


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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.

Photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash.

How To Find and Be Your Authentic Self

Wondering how to discover and be your authentic self? What does it mean to be authentic and true to yourself?


Be Your Authentic Self


Wondering how to be your authentic self? For most of us, it seems like either a tall order or a confusing question. Aren’t we already who we are? Are there certain situations where you shouldn’t be your authentic self? And what does it really mean? How can we truly BE our real, genuine, authentic selves each and every day?

Let’s start with a straightforward question: What is authenticity? How can you be your authentic self?

How to Be Authentic

So how do we define authenticity? Is it the dictionary definition of genuineness; undisputed credibility; one who is worthy of belief; real, honest, sincere?

Or do we define authenticity as existential philosophers did? Is authenticity when we develop a true sense of self rather than conforming to social norms and accepted practices? Does it mean being true to our values, spirit, personality, and character even in the face of external pressures? This existential view suggests that authenticity is something we should seek inwardly. It’s more important to be faithful to ourselves internally than confirming to external ideas or norms.


Being authentic doesn’t mean being a unique individual for the sake of being unique. Instead, true authenticity involves rising above societal norms, trends, and pressures.


Authenticity isn’t taking the easy route or going with the flow—it’s holding fast to our true selves. True authenticity requires us to be honest and forthright about who we really are, both to ourselves and others.

As we journey through the process of self-exploration, growth, and discovery, we can often discover that it’s hard to define our authentic selves. Finding our authentic self is an evolutionary process; it’s not static. It’s not something we do once and move on. We aren’t static beings! We can’t pin down authenticity or put it in a box.


To really explore our authenticity and find our authentic selves, we must address the question, “Am I true to who I am every single day?”


If we aren’t sure about the answer, it’s time to explore the heart of what drives us. What motivates us and spurs us to action? What do we yearn for? It’s important to understand that yearning goes deeper than simply desiring or wanting something. Yearning for something is a longing of the heart—something we need to feel whole. For example, we might yearn for respect or love. We may yearn to be seen for who we really are, to be understood, to be secure. These yearnings drive us forward and move us toward almost everything we do.

We must also define our values and the essence of what’s truly important to us. We may identify one specific value or several things that we hold dear. These may change and shift over time as our relationships, careers, circumstances, and focus change.

Through all of our different experiences, authenticity is our personal truth.

Discovering the Power of Authenticity

So why do we care about authenticity? Why is it important? In short, because authenticity gives us power and guidance. When we’re true to ourselves, we have a guiding star that helps us through all experiences.

Finding our authentic self may mean different things to different people. We’re all unique, with different influences, experiences, and needs. Authenticity may mean something different to each of us based on endless aspects of our lives—whether we’re married or single, young or old, Muslim or Atheist, American or Jamaican, and the list goes on. Our environment, influences, and social structures are part of us and shape us.

Our upbringing and the way we were raised also play a significant role in our values, traditions, and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. We can’t examine and interpret our authentic selves without examining our inner makeup and experiences that have shaped us.

The beauty of authenticity is that by its very definition, it allows us to interpret and become our own authentic selves. We define who we are, and we have the control and ability to harness, define, and structure precisely who we want to be. As author and behavioral scientist Steve Maraboli says, “There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you.”

Finding the Authenticity Within

So how do we find that sense of authenticity that’s within us?

The answer is right inside of us, and there’s nothing more exciting than making this discovery! But that’s not to say that it’s a challenge. Finding fulfillment and satisfaction—a sense of purpose—is a lifelong undertaking that requires work. It can be uncomfortable at times and even difficult, but the payoff and reward are worth the effort.

Why is it so hard to find our authentic selves? Because our societal structures don’t support and encourage us to make these discoveries. Most approaches to personal growth and fulfillment focus on the intellectual and educational aspects of “discovery.” These structures are based on the assumption that self-discovery and authenticity are a one-time, lofty goal and something that we have to find. This misconception holds us back because we’re daunted by the journey, level of education, and work. But fulfillment and satisfaction come along with us on the journey—the discovery is along the way. It’s not a matter of acquiring remote skills or hitting an achievement. These discoveries come as a function of developing our natural capacities.


The answers to how to be authentic are right inside each of us. As we explore ourselves and get to know ourselves better, we’ll start to see glimpses and signs of who we really are. We’ll make discoveries that ring true to us and help us gain that sense of personal connection, insight, and satisfaction.


The idea that self-discovery is a journey is part of our core approach at the Wright Foundation. The theme of authenticity permeates our coaching and classes. We offer empowering, challenging, and uplifting educational environments that encourage engagement and growth. We know that there’s nothing more empowering and exciting than discovering who we truly are, defining our personal authenticity, and learning how to embrace it, apply it, and LIVE it.

Our curriculum helps people from all backgrounds and experiences live a life story that’s worth sharing. We want to help everyone live a life that’s true to their selves—a life of authenticity.

People often become burned out and discouraged in education, professional development, and similar intellectual pursuits. Most educational systems operate on the assumption that we should acquire and master external skills. So we check them off the list and move on.

True education is the opposite of that. True education is holistic. It takes in the entire mind, body, and spirit. It’s also differentiated—taking into account the different ways people learn and the differences in approaches to new experiences a discovery. Standard education models are about training, memorization, getting good grades, and working toward external markers of success. But this kind of learning doesn’t really ensure that people “get it.” So how do we know we’re really learning anything, especially profound inner discoveries about our true selves?

Authenticity in education and growth looks at the question of, “How will this benefit us?” Authentic learning looks at the individual and their entire journey. Growing, learning, and living in accordance with one’s authentic self, bring feelings of enjoyment, intense meaning, and a strong sense of direction in life. An authentic person is constantly evolving and moving forward. They are working with their environment’s changing nature and impermanence, social circumstances, intellect, and more. Rather than operating under the idea that we’re static beings that are defined and put away, authentic education helps us become.


Becoming is the healthy psychological growth of human existence. When we’re becoming, we’re striving, reaching, and learning.


In life, we each have a choice. We can decide we want to discover and move toward our authentic, best lives and that we’re willing to evolve and grow. Or we can become victims of our own circumstances. We can give up control to our environment, allowing things to happen to us, or we can take action and make things happen for us. We can choose and define our values and our authentic selves, living in accordance with who we want to be, or we can follow values that others choose for us.

So which one do you choose? Do you choose to be your authentic self? To live an authentic life?

For more on discovering your true self, explore our courses at Wright Now. We have many different resources to help you learn more about yourself, your career, and your relationships. If you want to live a life of MORE, make a choice to start today!

 


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.

Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.


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.