What do we want out of life? For most of us, a sense of purpose is high on our lists. But how do we find that? By stepping back and looking at the larger picture of our yearnings. These universal longings can lead us to everything we’ve always wanted for our lives, including our purpose!
Why are We Here?
Forget the meaning of life – focus on the meaning of this moment!
I have good news, and I have great news.
Here’s the good news: we don’t have to meditate on a mountain top to discover our life’s purpose. We don’t have to become Mother Teresa or Gandhi. We don’t have to save the whales or find the cure to cancer (though that could be part of our calling).
As human beings, we may wonder, “Why are we here?” We worry about what our purpose is and whether or not we’re achieving it.
Maybe it’s making breakfast for our kids before they head to school or finishing writing a document for a meeting later today. Maybe it’s checking in on a friend who’s having a hard time—or enjoying a moment of quiet and gratitude before we go to bed.
Can that really be it? It seems too easy.
Yes—that’s why it’s great news!
Our Presence is Requested
All our spinning and racing and putting our lives under a microscope to find out what they mean is NOT going to get us to that meaning any faster. Instead, it may do the opposite—distract us and slow us down.
I know plenty of people with a big life purpose who rush around trying to achieve that mission 24/7, to the exclusion of other aspects of life. I have done it, and maybe you have too. But when we do that, our moments aren’t meaningful. We’re not paying attention to what’s happening RIGHT NOW, which leaves us surprisingly lost, and unfulfilled.
I say surprisingly because so much of our culture encourages us to do exactly that—live in the future, not in the moment. However, listening to what is being asked of us RIGHT NOW—and responding with our whole selves—WILL lead us to our bigger purpose.
The purpose of our moments will always be tied to our deeper yearnings. Yearnings are the universal longings of the heart that we all share—to connect and create, to serve, to matter, to love and be loved, to matter, to be seen and understood, to make a difference.
When we are focused on meeting our yearnings, we’re focused on connecting with our hearts. And when we connect with our hearts, we are aligned with our divine flow, and we can’t help but fulfill our purpose.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? So, the only question we need to ask is, “HOW are we focusing on our yearnings at this moment?”
Because that’s where the nourishment is! That’s what keeps us fulfilled and striving. That’s what leads us to that beautiful future we are constantly scrambling to create. That’s what gives us momentum.
We Can’t Make This Stuff Up
The momentum of our lives happens by being present in the moment—by allowing what’s happening to happen.
I didn’t pre-decide that I was going to cofound a graduate university. Or write a best-selling book. Those realities unfolded because I was present in the moment. I was listening to my yearnings. And the more I listened, the more a future bigger and better than anything I could make up was “suddenly” presenting itself to me.
The truth is, I couldn’t have dreamed big enough to achieve what I’ve achieved by simply living in the moment.
When we have faith in the present, seek engagement in life, live in the delight of what can happen, and are led by our whole hearts, the opportunities arise.
“Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.”
– Frederick S. Perls
Let’s Not Pretend We Know the End
Full-out engagement in life means we let ourselves explore our curiosities, AND we don’t assume we know how it will feel or turn out.
What can we do instead? Trust that we are whole and complete as we are. Trust emergence.
So often (too often!), we think we need to have things figured out/edited/polished. But there can be a beautiful process when we live in the flow. Our successes don’t have to be forced. Instead, we can be curious. We can also hold others in that same space. We can be an agent of emergence for others.
We can choose to believe we have everything we need to solve our problems. Instead of asking ourselves, “How can we MAKE this happen?” we can allow what needs to emerge to emerge.
Our presence with ourselves and others, listening to and following our yearnings by being in the moment, allows the emergence.
Things DO unfold. Purpose does emerge. Afterall, purpose is really just listening to our yearnings as they exist in the moment!
In other words, we don’t need to learn the meaning of life. We simply need to learn the meaning of OUR lives, one moment at a time.
Does figuring out a spreadsheet make you feel sick? When you cook, do your friends run for the take-out menus? Did you learn early in your life that you were NOT going to be a child piano prodigy, and have you held onto that belief ever since? Here’s why it’s time to let that all go.
What Makes You So Special? Everything.
So maybe you can’t hold a tune. Or write a novel. Maybe you’re not a natural athlete or a technical genius. And maybe you occasionally find yourself thinking, “I’m just not talented”… “There’s nothing special about me…”I’m not smart enough”…”I’m not organized”…
I’m here to reassure you that yes, yes, you are!
We ALL have talents and gifts. Sometimes they are just less traditional, and they may take some seeking out. But the first thing you must do is move forward, knowing without a doubt that you have a divine role as a human being on this planet.
Your job is to find it and use it. To keep getting better at being YOU. Because that is what the world needs most of all.
Four Truths About You
Several years ago, I went on a spiritual journey to France. I meditated and prayed at ancient cathedrals. I discussed philosophy and divine worship with monks. I explored the countryside.
And as I sat in a café one day, I had a moment of divine inspiration—the idea of Four Loving Truths. (I wrote about them in my book, The Soft Addiction Solution.) I find myself coming back to these Loving Truths time and again whenever I struggle or need inspiration.
They open me up to the possibility of MORE in my life, and I want to share one of them with you here: the Fourth Loving Truth.
Gifts are given to us to develop and use in the divine symphony of life.
Even though there might be days when you feel like you were absent when the gifts were being handed out, you, like the rest of us, have been given them. What are they? This is where the adventure begins.
Because if you find yourself saying that “you’re not good at anything,” it’s time to embrace the Fourth Loving Truth and discover what those gifts are!
Redefine the Word “Gifts” to Discover Yours
Ask yourself: What do you excel at? What skills give you meaning and purpose? What do others appreciate about you? How are you helpful to others? Pause for a moment and make a list of answers.
Often your gifts can be something you wouldn’t normally consider gifts. Perhaps you have a kind heart—a rare gift in these challenging times. Or maybe you have a green thumb. Our planet needs every green thumb there is! Are you a good listener? Everyone needs a good listener in their lives.
Gifts can also surprise you. For example, if you had or have trauma in your life, you have a particular perspective that no one else has. You may have a deep understanding or sensitivity to others from your experiences, or value how people should be treated, or a much-needed empathic viewpoint. Mary Oliver reminds the reader of this in her poem, “The Uses of Sorrow.”
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
– Mary Oliver
As a culture, we tend to think of being “gifted” in traditional and obvious ways. Butthe gift of YOU is unique, nuanced, and 100% necessary to the divine harmony of life. Claim it proudly. However, if you can’t do that yet, simply act as if. Live your life being the best you possible.
I didn’t start my life knowing I was good at something. I began by knowing my purpose, my mission. I wanted to contribute to people and to make a difference. I felt there were things for me to share. So, I invested in learning how to write. I explored how to speak to larger audiences. I took classes, I hired coaches, I practiced. Because these things mattered to me, I asked myself, “How can I get better at them?”
I developed my gift.
Developing your gifts is very different from pre-deciding your gifts. When you develop your gifts, you let them emerge. I didn’t decide I wanted to be a speaker and author. I engaged in my life and listened to where I was inspired. What moved me? What was calling me to lean in further?
I also gathered clues from my childhood. Growing up I would do plays and big shows and put on crazy events for family and friends. When I was doing that, I wasn’t asking myself, “How will this work out? How will it ultimately lead me to my perfect career?” I was 4, 8, 12. I was becoming me by engaging with what naturally brought me joy.
As a child, you’re free to try things without worrying. You can experiment and PLAY without judgment. You can engage with what brings you joy. And if it doesn’t bring you joy, you can stop doing it.
Here’s the good news: you can still do that as an adult! You can engage in your life to find out what your gifts are. You can play, explore, try things out, and laugh the whole time you’re doing it. There’s NOTHING you can do to mess it up!
So go back to your list of things you excel at and things that bring you purpose and meaning. What’s on those lists that also bring you joy? What matters to you? Circle those things. They’re your gifts starting to reveal themselves!
The Best Isn’t Always What’s Needed
You don’t need to be an opera singer to sing a lullaby to your child. You don’t need to be a math wizard to help your child with their homework. You don’t need to be a best-selling author to write a heartfelt note to a friend.
Being the best isn’t always what’s needed, although it might feel good to your ego.
And if it turns out that you ARE the best at something, celebrate it and find the best usage for that. Develop it. Grow it. Share it.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.””
– Frederick Buechner
Everybody has different gifts – you don’t need someone else’s gift – that’s theirs! When everyone develops and shares their gifts, everything is covered. You don’t have to know/do/be everything. It is enough for you to just be You.
Close your eyes and imagine a world where everyone develops and utilizes their gifts. Where everyone ‘sings’ the ‘song’ that is theirs to sing. This is the divine symphony of life.
You are the only you that ever was. And the only you that will ever be. We don’t take that in enough, do we? Unique. Talented. Beautiful. And beloved. A gift.
“What do I want to do with my life? And how much can I determine how it turns out?”
It’s a great question with a great answer: You can decide how you want your life to be and then take steps to create it. Choosing to have MORE life is not limited to your career or your relationship; it only requires ONE decision.
How Great Can Your Life Become? You Get to Decide
Have you ever wondered why relatively few people lead extraordinary lives, and most people lead average lives at best? Like it or not, you have the life you decide to have.
A great life requires a great decision—The One Decision—which results in in an empowering commitment to the quality of your life. Without that, life, well, it just kind of happens.
“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
– John Lennon
I might have coined the phrase “One Decision,” but human beings have been making their One Decisions from the beginning of time. Buddha made it by sitting under the Bodhi tree. Moses made it and led the Jews out of Egypt to the promised land. Sartre deemed the process of shaping life through your decisions your “life project.”
At the Wright Foundation, the One Decision is a personal commitment to how you live a life of MORE—more satisfaction, meaning, abundance, love, vitality, and intimacy. And it has the potential to influence every aspect of your life—to become a touchstone for every other decision.
It’s yours to make and yours to live. And it’s different for everyone.
How I Made Mine
I’ve spent most of my life being “the good girl.” I worked hard, set goals and achieved them–making good grades, being a student leader, and celebrating academic achievement throughout my school years. I entered my adult life, worked hard and had great “success”—“right” job, partner, salary. To the outside world, I was flying high. But inside, I felt empty and unhappy. Even though I was reaching all my goals, I was numb. I found myself just going through the motions. I felt like I was wrapped in cotton. I thought, maybe if I just worked harder or achieved more or if I were better, then I’d feel better. But then I felt even emptier and more numb.
The thought of living the rest of my life this way terrified me! I was so sick of sleepwalking through my life. I wanted to be awake, alive, and conscious. I wanted to FEEL my life––but I didn’t know how.
Slowly those three words began to shape me. Awake, alive, conscious. They became my mantra, my slogan. My One Decision. No more deadness and sleepwalking through my life. I was going to be awake, alive, and conscious!
I didn’t really know how to live that way, but I started to use my One Decision to guide my life–and to guide my smaller decisions. What do I want to eat? If I eat that fried chicken and gravy, I’ll feel sluggish and blah. What do I enjoy that would feel better in my body, where I’d feel more awake and alive, not sluggish and deadened?
I’m zoning out at a business meeting. What can I do to realign with those words? I could engage, offer an opinion, speak up, or ask a question.
What do I want to do after work? Zone out? Or connect with my friends? Which aligns more with who I want to be? What makes me feel awake, alive, and conscious?
I kept asking myself, What makes me feel more awake, alive, and engaged? and my One Decision then guided my smaller decisions. From choosing what music to listen to, the books to read, the conversations to have, to what to eat, what to wear, who to spend time with, to how to attack a project at work…
I was soooo much more nourished. The quality of my life jumped exponentially. My days were filled with things that felt so much better to me. I was more awake, alive, and conscious. And when I wasn’t–when unconsciousness was creeping in– I’d catch it and reorient to my One Decision and choose again. I found that I was naturally dropping my bad habits—my soft addictions—that made me feel numb and muted. I was choosing things that made me feel awake and alive instead. I had so much more energy, satisfaction, fun, and fulfillment!
That One Decision still guides all my decisions and continues to lead me to a life of MORE.
One of my heroes, Abraham Lincoln, made his One Decision at the age of twenty-three—to live a life worthy of respect. He wrote it in a letter to his constituents, guiding him his whole life. In challenging times or moments of despair, Lincoln would remember his One Decision and choose a course of action that was worthy of respect. He is a beautiful example of what happens when you live by your commitment to yourself—you can’t help but contribute to a world that works for everyone.
The Opposite of One Decision? An “Undecision”
Your One Decision helps you become the most “you” possible as you live a more purposeful and conscious life. Purpose is the why of your life, and your One Decision is your how.
But here’s something my partner and I have discovered in our work together: people don’t tap the full power of their purpose until they make their One Decision.
On the other hand, people that make their One Decision without identifying their purpose still end up living purposefully.
So, if you’ve identified your purpose, you’ll be driven to live it more deeply through your One Decision. But if you haven’t identified your purpose, don’t worry. Simply by making your One Decision, you’ll begin living it.
So, what happens when we don’t consciously decide?
We unconsciously make “undecisions,” allowing our limiting beliefs— formed when we were very young—to influence our thoughts, perceptions, and decisions.
For example: you may have unconsciously decided that you aren’t worthy, that you’re not enough, that the world is not a safe place. Maybe you decided that you are unlovable, or that the world is scarce. These decisions are made from inaccurately filtered data (your past!) and prevent you from having the life you deeply desire.
When you’re not conscious of your beliefs and your One Decision, you default to these undecisions, which keep your life LESS instead of MORE.
How do you become more conscious of your beliefs? Learn what you yearn for and follow those yearnings. Yearnings are the deepest longings of your heart: to love and be loved, to touch, to matter, to serve, to create, to connect. They are universal, and when you are in touch with yours, they help you form your One Decision.
Test Drive Your One Decision
Are you ready to see what it feels like to live by your One Decision? Here are a few examples of some you can try out. Just pick one and test drive it for a day, a week, or a month. The truth is when you choose one, ultimately, you experience them all.
Here are some possibilities:
I live my life as an adventure.
I orient to truth.
I follow my deepest desires.
I live as if every moment matters.
I’m awake, alive, and engaged.
Don’t worry—you’re not signing a contract. You’re not making a rigid decision. You can change it at any time! There’s simply no way you can do it wrong. Once you start living your One Decision, whatever that decision is, you’ll instantly be living with more purpose!
There is no situation where you cannot apply your One Decision. Just ask yourself, “How can I guide this smaller decision by my One Decision?”
Use it to change the quality of an interaction, a day, or an experience. When you do this, whether at work, with family, or with friends, you can let go of trying to control every moment and instead control how the moment feels.
“Listen—are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”
– Mary Oliver
Doesn’t that feel better? Now life isn’t just happening to you. You are an agent of your Ife!
We’ve all had moments in a relationship when we silently stew about something our spouse says. But does the silent treatment really work in relationships? Are we “showing” the other person how we feel, or are we just creating more of a divide. Here’s why the silent treatment isn’t the answer–why you should speak up and engage, even if it gets messy!
I remember one night when my husband and I had fought. I was SO mad, I stomped out of the bedroom and slammed the door.
There. That will show him, I thought!
It was winter, cold, and here I was pacing around the icy living room. But I was showing him, right? So, I kept pacing and fuming and freezing, all while he was warm and snug in bed.
But as I thought about our big pillows and cozy comforter, I got even madder. What was happening? Here I was trying to punish him, and there he was all cozy in the nice warm bed and I was the one who was freezing!
So, I shifted. That is the power of the social and emotional intelligence training we do at the Wright Foundation, and which my husband and I have been studying and practicing for years. I started to orient toward our shared vision for our relationship: to go deeper, talk about what’s bothering us, tell deeper truths, and work to understand ourselves and each other– and grow closer as a result.
Fortunately for me, our vision for US was, and still is, bigger than my foolish pride. I didn’t need to “save face” by continuing to stomp and fume in the freezing cold. I could simply go back in and talk about what had gotten me so upset in the first place.
What a gift!
Vision Helps You See Your Relationship Clearly
When I would give him the silent treatment, he said it was one of the things that would hurt him the most. I was punishing him without telling him what I was punishing him for! And in my heart of hearts, he was the person I wanted to hurt the least!
If I didn’t have my vision to orient myself towards every time I got angry, then stomping, fuming, and door slamming would have been all I had. And, I would have been too “proud” to back down and actually talk things through without a compelling higher vision to orient toward.
Every journey begins with a vision. When we want to achieve something, we often envision the outcome and work toward that idea, whether it’s buying a house, getting a promotion at work, or raising children. Nothing happens without first having a picture of the desired end in our minds.
When we begin the journey of a partnership, we can explore each other’s individual visions, AS WELL AS the shared vision of the relationship. When we align our yearnings and our hearts’ deep desires, we stack the odds in favor of the relationship growing positively in love.
For most couples, yearnings and unmet yearnings are at the heart of every fight. We often say that meeting yearnings make couples tick, and unmet yearnings tick couples off.
We all want to make our relationships tick as much as possible, right? No one wants a fight, but the truth is, seeking conflict SHOULD be a regular occurrence in relationships. Let’s not shy away from being ticked off!
Am I actually saying that we should get mad at our partners? Yes! Because we’re going to get mad at them anyway. Life IS conflict. So let’s get mad purposefully.
Being angry is simply an opportunity to speak our yearnings, our visions for ourselves, and our relationships out loud. To remember what is at the center of our hearts, individually and together.
When we can do that, our path brings us right back to love. And each other.
Is Silence Ever Acceptable?
The silent treatment is non-productive and hurtful. Think about it. You’re coldly punishing someone. You’re withdrawing your affection without telling them why.
The silent treatment, also known as stonewalling, is NOT a tool you want in your relationship toolbox.
Drs. John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute, talk about stonewalling as one of the “four horsemen” that can rip apart a relationship. In the New Testament, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times: conquest, war, hunger, and death. The Gottman’s use that metaphor by naming the four horsemen that represent the end of a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Not sure if you’re stonewalling or being stonewalled?
Stonewalling happens anytime the listener withdraws from the conversation and tunes out, turns away, acts busy, or engages in obsessive or distracting behaviors.
It’s important to recognize that when you are tempted to stonewall, you might be in a triggered psychological state and unable to discuss anything rationally. Think about it—you’re trying to get another person to feel as bad as you do by acting passively-aggressively.
What can you do instead of slamming the door and walking out? Have a Time Out! Ask for a 20-minute reprieve and take care of YOU. Love yourself. Go deeper inside yourself to know what is triggering you, what you are really feeling. Do whatever helps you feel more connected to your heart. Take a walk, read a favorite book, listen to a favorite song, hug a beloved pet. But make sure you go back to the fight or the topic within a certain amount of time–don’t use the time out as a stonewalling tactic!
This is SO important. Once you start, stonewalling can be a habit that’s hard to stop. Having an alternate plan to intervene with your triggered behavior is crucial.
But can silence in a relationship ever be acceptable?
When Silence Speaks Volumes
There is a way to use silence that CAN be productive.
This kind of silence occurs when we’re present. When we’re there to be a witness. To be witnessed. To allow our presence to speak and hear volumes.
When we use silence like that, we are saying that we’re delighted to have the privilege to be there just to listen. That we know that we, too, will be heard.
We are saying that we trust that each of us has everything we need to solve our own problems.
Marina Abramovich is a performance artist who spent seven hundred hours exploring this at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. Seven hundred hours of sitting in a chair just being. Each day, she was present and silent while people came one after another to sit in the chair across from her. In this profound encounter of someone just being with them, beholding and seeing them, their faces filled with emotion–many spontaneously bursting into tears, others beaming with deep joy.
We don’t have to be silent for 700 hours. But if we could be willing to sit across from the ones we love for one minute of silence now and then, and take in everything about them without trying to change anything, just imagine what we might hear.
We hear a lot about the importance of self-care these days, but what does it really mean, and why is it so important that we CARE about ourselves?
Being selfish feels wrong somehow, am I right?
For many of us, we’ve been told to work hard, be busy, take care of others, achieve at all costs… If we put attention on ourselves, we’re selfish, or self-centered, or… If we aren’t working or busy or productive, then we’re lazy or unmotivated. This teaches us NOT to care about ourselves for most of our lives. We’ve been told NOT to put our well-being first.
But I’m here to say, “Do it! Care about yourself first!”
If we don’t, no one else will either.
When we’re healthier, everyone around us becomes healthier.
Burn-out is serious, especially with everything going on in the world right now.
Self-care also means honoring commitments we make to ourselves, creating great personal power.
“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
– Paulo Coelho
What Does Self-Compassion Have to Do with Feeling Safe?
Dr. Kristen Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion, confirms that one of the biggest reasons we aren’t more self-compassionate is that we’re afraid we’ll become self-indulgent. We’re worried we’ll get soft or lazy. We believe that self-criticism keeps us in line and at the top of our game.
But what do we do then when we feel afraid or hurt or angry or sad? True self-care means letting ourselves have our feelings. ALL of them. Especially the ones that make us uncomfortable—and we know which ones they are! Feelings don’t make us soft. They make us human.
Let’s explore fear. As humans, we all long to feel secure from the time we are born. First, we look to our parents to feel safe. Then we try to bring a sense of security into our lives by understanding our environment, seeking what is familiar, and predicting outcomes.
As we grow up, we learn that certainty equals security.
So when our world feels a little shaky, we begin to feel afraid, and we start doing everything we can NOT to feel that. We ignore it. We pretend it’s not real. We numb ourselves.
One of the first things we tell our students at Wright is that when our feelings feel like too much, we can use the term coined by Dan Siegel and “name it to tame it.” Neuroscience research shows that when we name our emotions, they often feel less confusing and overwhelming. There are many articles on this – here’s a particularly powerful one.
Think about small children. When they have a terrible moment, they let it out immediately. And they immediately feel better. It’s not a coincidence. The emotions we don’t let out and express will always eat us up and make us feel miserable.
And that’s when our soft addictions, those seemingly harmless habits that so often disguise themselves as self-care, start throwing a party. Literally and figuratively.
Why Binge-Watching Netflix is NOT Self-Care
One of the reasons soft addictions are such an easy way to feel like we’re nourishing ourselves is that they offer immediate gratification.
How simple is it to drive through and grab a triple-shot-non-fat-light-on-the-extra-whip-decaf-espresso? How easy is it to go online and shop ‘til we drop? We instantly feel a little rush, like we’re somehow making the moment special, and don’t we all deserve that?
We do! And that’s what makes soft addictions so sneaky.
Is there anything more satisfying than hitting the “watch next episode” button on Netflix or Hulu or whatever you’re zoning out to?
Don’t get me wrong. I love donuts and chocolate as much as the next person. And watching a movie with my husband can be fabulous. And anyone who knows me knows I love to shop!
But now, I try to do these things while understanding the yearning underneath them that I am trying to satisfy. Yearnings are the deepest longing of our hearts, and they are universal: to love and be loved, to touch and be touched, to connect, to create, to be seen, to be heard, and as I said earlier, to feel safe and secure.
When we know the yearning beneath the want, we can turn the soft addiction into an act of self-care.
So if I know that I’m yearning to connect, I’ll communicate to my husband BEFORE I snuggle up next to him for a movie. When I do that, I’m honoring my own heart. I’m being present with myself AND with him. And when the movie ends, I’ll know my yearning to connect is just beginning.
You Can’t Please Everyone, So…
What happens when we don’t practice a life of deep self-care?
What happens when we choose to ignore our yearnings and focus instead on external things? We can end up living an inauthentic life.
When we spend all our precious days simply trying to please others, we often end up facing the end of our lives with regrets and resentments.
Here are the top four regrets that people have on their deathbed:
I wish I dared to be my real self and not how others wanted me to be.
I wish I had lived a life true to myself and not the life others expected of me.
I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had faced my fear of change and let myself be happier.
All four of those wishes encompass self-compassion. They each express the desire to acknowledge our feelings and say them out loud. And that they each question the social norm, especially when it goes against our joy.
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”
– Rupi Kaur
Of course, I’m not saying to ignore the needs of others. Living a life of self-compassion includes living a life of compassion. But the truth is, when we know how to show kindness to ourselves, we’re far more likely to know how to show compassion to others.
What’s the first thing the flight attendants instruct us to do before the plane takes off? To put on our own oxygen masks first. Because if we run out of oxygen, we can’t help anyone.
Self-care and self-compassion are the oxygen masks we must put on each day. We can show up as our best selves, physically and emotionally, when we do.
We can meet the world and whatever it’s offering at the moment, with our whole and authentic selves.
Are you wondering how to get out of a rut? Do you feel like you’re stuck in life? Eating too much? Watching too much TV? Shopping? Procrastinating?
Many of us fall into these time-wasting habits, or what we like to call soft addictions. These little activities add up to feeling stuck, bored, unfulfilled, or just plain blah. Wondering if you’re addicted to timewasters? Take this soft addictions quiz.
Is it time to break out of your bad habits? Before you doomscroll through your social media feed again or decide what to binge on Netflix next, consider these 5 tips to get out of a rut and overcome soft addictions!
Why We End Up Addicted to Timewasters
We’ve all turned to soft addictions at one point or another. Soft addictions are habits that seem harmless enough at first. Maybe there’s a little puzzle game you like to play on your phone at night. Maybe you enjoy shopping for items online that you never really intend to buy. Or perhaps you find yourself saying yes to dessert every time you hit the lunch cafeteria.
The truth is, there’s nothing really wrong with these little activities now and again. Watching a good movie is one of life’s great pleasures. Social media can be an easy way to stay connected with far-off family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying ice cream or chips.
When soft addictions become a problem is when they start to rob us of time, money, energy, and the happiness we long for. We start to spend so much time “escaping” into these seemingly harmless habits that we don’t have time for the activities that really bring us joy, contentment, and connection.
For example, we might go out with friends but find ourselves scrolling through our phones to read up on Twitter instead of engaging and being present with the people around us. Or we might spend time and money that we don’t have shopping online, only to find that the temporary high wears off quickly and we don’t even like what we bought.
Soft addictions become a way to escape and a way to distance ourselves from real life, where the engagement REALLY happens.
It can feel safe to stay in our shell and follow our routine—come home from work, microwave dinner, prop up our feet, and scroll through TV channels, but after a short time, it starts to feel like we’re stuck. We need to get out of a rut and that means training ourselves to engage in new habits.
When we want more time, more excitement, and more fulfillment, it’s time to take a hard look at the activities that are robbing us of those precious moments. Here are 5 tips to help us get out of a rut and back into life.
5 Tips to Overcoming Your Soft Addictions
In the book The Soft Addiction Solution, we explain that our timewasting habits are normal, human, and might even feel really good in the moment. When we engage in many activities, it can almost mask as self-care. We may think, “I’m finally taking a moment to chill and relax,” or, “I work so hard all day that I deserve to come home and do nothing at night.”
But what is that chill time costing you?
1. Tell yourself the truth about your soft addictions.
One of the hardest steps to get out of a rut is making the first move. We have to be honest with ourselves and that means, realizing that we may not feel like our soft addictions are destructive. We may feel like we deserve to indulge. We may feel a little guilty, but we tell ourselves we’re just too tired to deal with it right now. We’ll change tomorrow, or next week, or after the new year.
While most of us minimize, hide, or deceive ourselves about our bad habits, if we want to get out of a rut and start to make changes, we have to get real. We have to be truthful if we want to set ourselves free. We need to take an honest look at our time-sucking activities. What are our soft addictions? Do we overeat? Oversleep? Do we find that we’re addicted to too much internet? Do we spend too much time gossiping about others or fixating on what our coworkers, neighbors, or classmates are doing? Write down those bad habits and above all, be honest.
2. Get Support.
Almost any behavior change requires support. If we’re engaged in harder addictive habits like drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol, we might recognize that we need help and support to change those behaviors. Soft addictions can feel easier to control. We may find ourselves thinking, “I could quit whenever I want, but I don’t want to right now.”
But if we feel stuck in a rut, then it’s time for a change. No matter what the habit is that we want to break, accountability is one of the most important factors. That means, speaking up and telling others about the change—request allies in your fight!
It’s surprising how much support we can receive when we speak up and ask for what we need. We may discover that we aren’t alone in our soft addiction and many other people are struggling with the same less-than-healthy habits.
3. Examine your feelings.
Once we figure out which soft addiction we want to tackle, we need to address the feelings that are leading us to turn to that timewaster. Sometimes when we feel uncomfortable with an emotion—like anger, sadness, fear, or hurt, we might turn to snacks or distractions to help us zone out and avoid those feelings.
Soft addictions give us a temporary boost, but the problem is that the boost doesn’t last and oftentimes, it can compound feelings like shame or disappointment, because we feel worse after. When we think the only thing that will make us feel better is a chocolate chip cookie, we can stop and think about how we’re feeling. Are we really feeling sad? Angry? Hurt? Before we reach for the soft addiction, we can tell someone how we’re feeling and start to express our emotions in a productive way.
4. Celebrate success.
If we want to get out of a rut, we have to celebrate the little steps along the way. Maybe we ate two donuts this week instead of three. Maybe we exercised for the first time after avoiding the gym for six months. Maybe we went for a walk in the fresh air rather than hitting “play” on the next episode on Netflix. Whatever it was, celebrate it!
One of the most powerful tools for successful change is celebrating success in any fashion. We get a little mood boost (that we would get from indulging in our bad habits). Better still, we start making new, better habits at the same time. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up because our accomplishment seems small or insignificant compared to the goal. Celebrate each success along the way, no matter the size!
5. Learn the skills you need.
If we’re stuck in a rut, we might feel unfulfilled, blue, tired, less healthy, or down about ourselves. There’s no quick fix that will instantly give us a meaningful, fulfilling, healthy life. It takes incremental steps and a sustained effort over time. It’s one of the situations where the joy is truly in the journey.
Each step we start to discover and build skills we will need to propel ourselves forward on the path. Look at each moment as a learning experience—what can we take away from this situation? What can we use from this moment to help us again down the road? What did we discover about ourselves?
If you want to overcome your soft addictions, take the steps to recognize what they are, and start making the change today. Explore the Soft Addiction Solution for more tips on how we can kick time wasters and start to fill our lives with juicy, exciting, joyful experiences that help drive our sense of meaning and purpose.
If you’re looking for more ideas on living a life of MORE, visit Wright Now. We offer many different courses and resources to help you get more from your career, your relationships, and your life. Today is the day to get MORE out of your life! Don’t wait!
There are a few universal traits of successful people — and you may be surprised to learn they aren’t all that mysterious.
What makes a successful person, well, successful? We all know someone magnetic. They’re good at what they do, firing on all cylinders, passionate, and engaged. But what are the traits of successful people (and how can we get some of what they’re having)?
When we meet a successful person, they’ve “got it.” But sometimes, we might also see familiar flickers in these qualities. The truth is, we all have the capacity to become successful and to fully live the life we want to pursue. Yes, there may be logistical hurdles, but everyone has infinite potential.
So, how do we tap into our potential? How do we emulate the traits of successful people so we can enjoy the same high-quality results?
Defining Our Idea of Success
We all know when we meet someone who’s successful. Sometimes it’s hard to put our finger on the quality, but when we connect with inspiring, dynamic, successful people, we’ll likely notice that they all share some commonalities.
Successful people are magnanimous.
Successful people know how to “work the room.”
Successful folks know how to draw people in.
Successful people own it.
Somehow, the most successful people make every person they meet feel essential and vital to their mission, project, or task.
These universal traits of successful people aren’t all that mysterious. The question is how they acquired these qualities, and is it possible for us to tap into the same dynamic?
Before we examine the traits of successful people, it helps first to define what it means to be successful. Does a successful person make a lot of money? Are they at the pinnacle of their career? Are they attractive? Popular? There are a lot of different definitions of success, and most of us can probably agree that the markers of success may vary.
But in the most significant sense, all successful people are fulfilled. The most successful people are vision-driven. They’re leaders. Successful people have a sense of purpose.
Are these bastions of success happy all the time? Of course not! (Who is?) However, they’re generally positive and enjoying their life. They’re engaged and extracting the most out of every moment. Successful people might feel satisfied and confident in what they have and what they’ve achieved, but they also drive themselves forward to keep reaching the next milestone. Successful people don’t rest on their laurels; they strive for the next peak and the chance to tackle their next goal.
What Makes a Person Successful in Life? 5 Traits of Successful People
1. Successful People Know Their “Why”
Successful people understand their raison d’être: their reason for being. They know why they get up every day and why they want more. Successful people have a larger mission. They have a vision of where they want to end up.
One of the universal traits of successful people is that a higher purpose generally drives them both in their professional life and personal goals. Now, “higher-purpose” doesn’t mean they’re always religious or even spiritual. It means that they understand their true calling and impact on the world. They’re heeding the call, and it propels them forward. They’re not focused on the simple, temporal rewards that will only get them ahead in the here and now.
Successful people are mission-driven with their eyes on the prize. They stay laser-focused on their larger mission, even if it’s broad, lofty, or nearly unattainable.
2. They’re Willing to Fight
When we say that successful people are willing to fight, it might seem to contradict what we mentioned above. After all, didn’t we just say that successful people were magnanimous and driven by a higher purpose? That doesn’t sound like a person who’s argumentative or angry.
But there’s a distinction between being willing to fight FOR someone or something we believe in and being a petty, angry, or argumentative contrarian. Fighting for something means that we aren’t afraid of conflict because we recognize that conflict is sometimes a necessary step toward reaching a larger goal.
For example, it’s healthier for both parties when we fight for the betterment of a relationship (rather than zoning out or resorting to passive-aggressiveness). Similarly, it can be healthy and productive when we’re fighting for a cause or idea that we feel passionate about at work. We might even be the one who saves the company from a disaster rather than silently watching the ship sink.
Successful people aren’t doormats. They don’t ignore problems; they stand up and get their point across. They also handle their frustration responsibly—they don’t demean others or engage in collusion, bullying, or gossip. Instead, they rally and inspire others to their cause. They share the vision and engage in conflict because they believe in their cause and are willing to fight for it.
3. They’re Present in the Moment
Our lives are full of distractions, but successful people don’t let their distractions get in the way of fulfilling their yearnings. Successful people are mindful, present, and work to stay in the moment. Mindfulness roots us in the here and now rather than replaying the past or fearing the future. Mindfulness connects us with what we want—our deeper yearnings.
“If you’re not in touch with your yearnings…you may waste time and energy complaining to friends about how your company is being run by shortsighted leaders. Or you might miss that moment to love and to matter in your child’s life when you’re tucking her into bed, and she wants to talk, but your mind is jumping to all the “to do’s” left at work. Or maybe you dash off a hurried peck on the cheek to your mate on your way out the door and miss the opportunity to really see and appreciate each other for a moment while nourishing your yearning to love and be loved. When you are truly in harmony with what you yearn for, you experience every moment in a deeper and more fulfilling way.”
– Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
Successful people don’t allow themselves to veer off course and waste time. They’re productive and focused. They don’t while away the hours with soft addictions like television, social media, and other methods people use to distract and numb themselves from reality. Instead, successful people stay fully engaged. They go for it! They’re in the moment because they know each moment gives them a chance to grow, explore, and get more out of life.
4. Successful People Practice “Know Thyself”
Now, depending on how we define success, we know that not all “successful people” are self-aware or self-actualized. Take a look at the current political climate or the latest corporate scandal! But people who are the most successful and get the most satisfaction out of their lives practice a growth mindset.
A growth mindset means learning from our mistakes and constantly exploring ways to be better. We’re figuring out our drivers, yearnings, and what our heart truly wants and needs to feel a sense of purpose.
Successful people identify ways to get what they want—what will bring them a sense of satisfaction. They aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeve and do the work to get to where they want to be.
When we learn new things, we form new neuropathways. These new experiences reshape and grow our brains. Without learning and growth, we become dull and stagnant. We may show signs of aging and cognitive decline. We start to disengage and checkout. We find ourselves on autopilot. When we stop growing, we experience the antithesis of success.
On the other hand, successful people explore their inner workings because they want to understand themselves. They aren’t afraid to do personal growth work. They work with coaches, mentors, allies, and peers to understand who they really are. Successful people know that unlocking the secrets of our personality, motivations, and yearnings helps us build up our emotional intelligence—our superpower!
5. They Listen and Lead
When we’re around successful people, we often feel more successful ourselves. It’s almost like osmosis. Transformational leaders become powerful because they share their vision of success with others. They don’t dictate their goals and tasks, but they lead people to realize their own visions. Then, they explore how those visions align and overlap to bring success to the entire team.
Successful leaders don’t bark orders at people. They don’t talk over others or treat them down. They’re assertive to be sure—they say what they want, but they also listen. They work to hear and understand their peers. They want to learn what drives others and what makes them tick. Successful people know that they’re only as good as their team, spouse, and social circle. Their bosses love them because they make their boss look great!
Listening is a powerful tool for success. Often, we want to power through our discussions with others and drag them toward our point. Yet, listening, suggesting, and guiding would get us better results and allow others to share in the success. We can learn to listen by practicing with others—stay in the moment, engage, and really hear what they’re trying to express. We can share our vision and figure out a path together to get what we both want.
Success isn’t a trait we’re born with or inherent talent. To become successful, we have to work and focus. We must be willing to grow, change, listen, and lead. The traits of successful people aren’t mysterious or secretive. The path to success is clear and attainable for anyone willing to do the work.
If you’re ready to find success, don’t miss our resources at Wright Now! We have courses and materials to help you bring out your best in your career, relationship, and personal life. Get more of what you want today!
When a friend asks what you want to do, are you able to answer right away, or do you struggle? What if someone asks what you want from your job? Your relationship? Your life?
Do you have a list of “wants” that seems endless and unattainable? Or, do you know what you don’t want, but aren’t sure about what you do want? Do you feel like you’re left unsatisfied even when you get what you want?
You’re not alone!
Knowing what you want is a crucial life skill. You can get what you want when you want it. Here’s how to finally figure out what you are truly seeking.
StepOne—If You Like It, Say It!
I’ve struggled with knowing or saying what I want my whole life—even the simplest decisions. For example, I’d scan the menu endlessly at a restaurant because I wasn’t sure what I wanted for dinner—let alone what I wanted for my life.
Know what I mean? (Tell me I’m not alone on this!)
The first step to knowing what you want is to be aware of what you like. Start expressing those likes in small ways. If you see something you’re attracted to or that makes you feel good, simply say it out loud:
I like what you’re wearing
I like what she said
I like the color red
I like holding a hot mug of tea in my hands
I like it when people help strangers
No ‘like’ is too small or unimportant. As you continue to declare your preferences, you’ll start to get a clearer picture of what pleases you. It’s like your “aha’ light goes on, and you’ll suddenly realize what REALLY matters to you.
Keep going—you’re beginning to form opinions that will lead you to your deepest desires.
Step Two—If You Don’t Like It, Say It!
As important as it is to know what you like, it’s equally important to know what you DON’T like.
What bugs you, annoys you, or displeases you? Start making a list. Then, when you are with others and you see, feel, or taste something that you don’t like or doesn’t feel right to you, say it aloud. Responsibly, of course. The point is to not to just judge another but to get more comfortable consciously expressing your dislikes clearly and directly.
It takes practice. Start with saying what you don’t like. And then, bring up something small you dislike about someone else’s behavior, and build from there.
I don’t like beets
I don’t like that music
I don’t like rush hour traffic
I don’t like it when you use your phone at the dinner table
I don’t like it when you leave your wet towel on the bed
I don’t like when you leave dirty dishes in the sink
I don’t like it when you don’t call me back
Step Three—Focus on the WHY, Not the WHAT
Now you’re ready to start exploring what’s underneath those likes and dislikes—to discover why they matter to you.
It’s easy to feel confused about what it is you really want. You may think you want to lose weight or get a new car. You may think you want a certain item (or items!) on Amazon. You may want to go on more dates or wish you could get promoted at work.
This is often what psychologists call “mis-wanting”—mistakenly thinking some THING will bring you happiness, only to find the moment is fleeting, or you don’t feel all that satisfied when you get it.
What is it about the promotion or the designer dress that leaves you feeling a little empty—even let down—once you get it? Are you doomed to dissatisfaction?
Is it just wrong to want things? Absolutely not! But if you never know WHY you want a certain thing, you will always feel unsatisfied once you get it.
Think about this: What do you hope that thing/accomplishment/goal or…will do for you?
Answering this question will help you learn what you truly long for deep inside—at the Wright Foundation we call these yearnings. Underneath every want that we have is a deeper yearning. They are the deep universal wants of your heart that, as humans, we all share—to love and be loved, to connect and create, to matter, to achieve our purpose, to serve, to be seen.
The list goes on, and once you begin to learn yours, everything changes.
Step Four: Satisfaction and the “So That” Test
You want to run a 5k. You train. You work hard. Every morning you get up with the alarm, put on your sneakers, and hit the pavement. Maybe you use one of those training apps. You buy new shoes. You sign up for your race.
Then the day of the race comes. You cross the finish line, and you feel great…for a moment. Then the feeling passes. You look back at your hard work and think, “Is that it?’ or “I’m still the same as I was before.” Or, you feel empty or dissatisfied –and start looking for another goal or accomplishment to fill the void.
This is because you didn’t know WHY you were doing it in the first place. You didn’t know what you were yearning for beneath your goals.
If you want to get more out of your goals, put them to the “so that” test.
Why do you want to run a 5k?
So that I can say I did it.
So that people will see me as more accomplished.
So that people will respect me.
Respect! You want to run a 5K so that people will respect you, and you yearn to be respected.
Go through that process with any “want,” and you’ll always find the deeper longing beneath. And when you know what you truly yearn for, you don’t have to wait to win a race or buy that designer dress or… You can meet that yearning in a myriad of ways right in the moment.
It doesn’t matter if you run a 5k, give a TED talk, or own the biggest house on the block. If getting those things aren’t connected to your yearnings, you’ll go to bed feeling unsatisfied every night.
I read a book where the author was on top of his sport. He was at the pinnacle of performance. He had won the trophy and achieved his goal. The night after he won he was sitting in his bedroom, and he thought, “Is this it? Is that all there is?”
All these empty feelings came up for him. He thought, “Well, if I keep hitting more goals, maybe it will be enough.” He eventually realized that’s not the point, and it sent him on a life journey. Why was he doing sports in the first place? Was he yearning to feel alive? In control of his life? Did he want security? Recognition?
Like him, I was the girl who was good at goals. I had a strong will and worked hard to achieve those goals. Yet, even as I ticked them off, I soon felt empty again.
Only when I figured out WHY I was chasing those goals–what I really yearned for– did I finally feel nourished.
The more I did that, the more I became even more successful than my original goals because now I was focused on getting what I yearned for deep inside. I, like every human on the planet, yearn to love and be loved, to matter, to connect, and to make a difference. I didn’t yearn to get the goal, I yearned for what I thought that goal would do for me. And when I focused on meeting my yearnings directly in the moment, rather than some arbitrary end goal, I actually had better results. But more importantly, I was satisfied, nourished, and fulfilled.
Yearnings are the answer to living a satisfying life, and I am grateful to share them with you. You deserve to live a satisfying life—a life where your deepest longings are met.
As we connect our yearnings to our satisfaction, we not only begin to live our best lives, we contribute to creating a world that works for everyone.
What’s not to like about that? To discover more about living up to your full potential, don’t miss our resources on Wright Now. We have many different courses available to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. Also, check out our upcoming events. Get MORE today!
Do you ever wonder what likes and dislikes you should express in your relationship–or HOW you should express those feelings?
Are you ok? Do you need something to drink? How about a pillow? I want you to be comfortable while you’re reading this!
For most of my life, I’ve been so focused on OTHER people—what do they like? What do they need? I was so focused on what others like, I wasn’t aware of what I liked or needed. Even now, I want you to be comfortable while you’re reading this–and didn’t check in with myself to see that I am comfortable writing this!
But a lifetime of not being in touch with myself and not tending to my own needs eventually started taking a toll. I was feeling empty, unsatisfied, unhappy. I felt alone even when I was with someone–because I wasn’t with me. I wasn’t expressing my true thoughts, needs, or desires.
I went on dates and smiled at the right times and nodded my head at the right times, and said, Oh, that’s so interesting, but inside, it was SO not interesting to me. My real self was utterly bored and gagging.
The absurdity of that when I look back still blows me away. I wanted to be liked and loved for who I was, for someone to know ME, but I wasn’t even there. How could they know me, or know my likes and dislikes in a relationship? I was so focused on their experience, I wasn’t expressing my true thoughts, needs, ideas, opinions, or feelings.
Can you relate? Have you ever done something that felt completely NOT you just to fit in? To not make anyone else uncomfortable? I wanted to find true love, but how could I find that when I wasn’t true to myself?
Do you also know that 100% of dating couples lie? 100%! And how about this? We’re more likely to lie to our co-workers than strangers.
Why are we so afraid to say what we like and don’t like? Because we want to look good,we’re afraid to be vulnerable, or we don’t want to make others uncomfortable.
Somewhere in our lives, most of us have been taught consciously or subconsciously that certain parts of ourselves were NOT ok. So, we created false selves–only presenting certain aspects of ourselves to the world around us and hiding the parts we thought were not ok. These false selves were formed by the time we were seven years old, and we continue to build on them throughout our lives.
But imagine how powerful we could be if we let ourselves be vulnerable and honest—if we showed up, and kept showing up, as our authentic selves.
“This above all, to thine own self be true.”
– William Shakespeare
Once we understand that our authentic selves are exactly who we need to be–and ultimately what the world wants and needs us to be–we can realize that we don’t have to hide behind our false selves anymore!
Tell the Truth and Deepen Relationships
My awakening came when I had my first blind date with John. I had decided I was going to tell the truth on dates. Finally, I was done smiling and nodding and pretending to like whatever the person sitting across from me was saying.
I was done being fake, and I decided to tell the truth. My likes and dislikes in relationships, what I agreed or disagreed with, to give my dates my true reactions to what they were saying and how they were being.
And dang if he didn’t respond in the same way!
It was kind of shocking at first. But it was also kind of electric. Something real was happening here. This wasn’t about two people trying to impress each other.
This was two people being exactly who they were and discovering exactly who the other person was. We were getting to know each other AS OURSELVES.
And that’s where the sparks are.
I wasn’t trying to please him, and I wasn’t trying to present myself in some false way. And neither was he.
It was scary to go against the grain. To say what I liked and didn’t like. But it was also fresh and alive, intimate, and real. And when that is the truth of the moment we’re living, we’re way more likely to get what we want!
You can apply this in a lot of ways (wink wink).
And this is not only true for romantic relationships, but for our relationships with our families, friends, and co-workers too.
Our Dislikes are as Powerful as Our Likes…
…And letting them both be known is crucial!
Of course, I’m not saying we should just dump all over people. But often in relationships, people expect us to be mind readers. Or we expect them to read our minds. We complain that this person doesn’t know what we want, but we never told them what we want to begin with!
Here’s the deeper truth: the real purpose of relationships is not to make us happy. The real purpose of relationships is to help us learn and grow and become MORE of who we are.
Yes, of course, relationships should have happy moments, but WE are 100% responsible for our happiness and satisfaction—in AND out of relationships.
And we are 100% responsible for our likes and dislikes in our relationships.
Early in our relationship, John and I decided we would have a “no secrets” contract. Was it challenging? Yes. Does it continue to be? Yes! There are many times I don’t want to divulge the truth. I don’t always want him to know even how much I’ve spent on a pair of shoes. But because of our commitment to no secrets, I must dig a little deeper and explore why I don’t want him to know. Is it because I don’t think I deserve to spend that money on myself? Is it because I’m afraid he might judge my decision? Am I worried that this purchase might somehow make me less loveable?
Now I’m getting somewhere. One of my deepest yearnings is to be loved. I’m risking that he will stop loving me by telling him this truth. Or at least that’s what my mind is telling me.
But our relationship is built on being real, sharing everything, telling the truth, letting each other know what we’re feeling and thinking. And also, being responsible in our communications–cleaning things up when we’ve been out of line. We’ve built a foundation of trust that allows me to take that risk.
And if something does happen, I know we’ll handle that. And get to know ourselves and each other better because of it.
Conflict helps us grow. In the book John and I co-wrote, The Heart of the Fight, we identify that the common thread of most conflicts is unmet yearnings. Those longings we wish our relationship would satisfy for us. But when we accept that we are 100% responsible for our own happiness, that conflict shifts too.
Can you see how the ripples of being ourselves can so powerfully affect every part of all our relationships?
After practicing it for so many years, I now WANT people to tell me what they like and don’t like. And I rarely (because we are all works in progress) try to fake my way through a conversation or a meeting just to make someone more comfortable. I value forthrightness—in others and myself.
“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
— James Baldwin
We don’t have to be anyone else. Come on—let’s take off our masks and let our real selves shine! To discover more about living up to your full potential, don’t miss our resources on Wright Now. We have many different courses available to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. Get MORE today!
We all experience moments where we doubt ourselves, beat ourselves up over something we did or said, or hold back from going for what we really want.
We might hear a lot about empowerment these days, but what does it really mean to be empowered?
Inside each of us is a vast reserve of personal power and influence. When we tap into these self-empowerment tips, we can greatly affect our path, attitude, and actions with a shift in our thoughts. Even better? We can influence and empower others in our lives as well.
Are you ready to tap into your reserve of power? Follow these self-empowerment tips to summon the strength and courage to go for what you want!
What Does it Mean to Empower Yourself?
Empowerment has become something of a buzzword of late. Many people talk about empowering themselves or empowering others, but what does it really mean? Power means to do work or have influence. So if we want to empower ourselves, we need to understand how we work and recognize the influence we hold over ourselves and those around us.
We may think we don’t have a big circle of influence, especially if we work from home or in a small office. After all, how do we empower and influence others when we only see a few people each day? Well, believe it or not, each of us has an extensive circle of influence—much broader than we may think.
We directly influence those we interact with each day, creating a ripple effect. This influence works with both positive and negative actions. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that we’re 61% more likely to be a smoker if a friend smokes. Even more surprising? If a friend of a friend smokes, we’re still 11% more likely to smoke!
Amazingly enough, the same levels of influence hold true for our happiness and satisfaction too. If the friend of a friend OF A FRIEND is happy with their life, we’re 6% more likely to feel happy with our own life. Granted, 6% might not seem like a significant percentage, but if we surround ourselves directly with several happy friends, our chances of satisfaction continue to rise!
When we realize the scope of our influence, we’re likely to discover that we’re far more powerful than we initially thought.
We’ve all heard the theory that we’re separated by 6 degrees—meaning that we’re only six connections away from every person on the planet. Recent research has found that this may be even closer, and most of us average between 3.5-4.5 degrees of separation. With social media and an increasingly global society, this number continues to shrink.
Learning to empower ourselves means tapping into this reserve of personal power and influence—examining our relationship with that power. As we recognize, embrace, and grow in our personal power, we are likely to have even more impact on those in our world. In other words, the more we are ourselves, the more power we manifest into the world and the more influence we have on others. The more we’re guided by what matters to us, the more personal power—self-empowerment—we have.
So how do we tap into our power? When we discover our strengths, preferences, likes, and dislikes, it helps us find the path to self-empowerment. The better we know ourselves, the more attuned we will be to the things that empower us. Many people aren’t sure what they really want out of life. They’ve tried to go with the flow, allowing life to happen TO them rather than creating the life they want to live.
During our Year of More program, our students tackle weekly assignments where they challenge their worldviews. They examine different aspects of their personalities and explore new ways to elicit actions and reactions from those around them. We call the work “the assignment way of living.” Each day in life, we’re choosing to try something new, work on a new project, make a new discovery, and take steps to unearth our potential.
Students often find out that they didn’t know what they wanted before starting the Year of More. They may have believed that they wanted money, a bigger house, an attractive partner, or lots of friends, but those wants weren’t really meeting their underlying yearnings. Our yearnings are bigger, deeper spiritual wants and hungers that we each hold.
We may yearn to be loved, to love, to be needed, to be respected, or to feel safe. We may yearn to be seen by others, to be heard, to be valued. Yearnings are universal longings of the heart. Every person holds certain yearnings that must be met to feel fulfilled.
When we explore our yearnings, it also helps us explore our preferences—what do we like? What do we prefer? Most of us try to read and cater to the wants of the outside world. In the back of our minds, we may wonder, “What do they want me to be? How can I please them? I don’t want to make them upset. I want to fit in. I want to belong.”
These ideas and beliefs guide our behavior. We want to make others comfortable. We don’t want to make them upset. But we’re not asking, “What would please me? What would satisfy me? What are my preferences?” These questions can guide us toward our personal power.
4 Self-Empowerment Tips to Increase Your Personal Power
1. Ask, “What do I like? What do I agree with?”
One assignment we explore during the Year of More is to discover what we like. Each student spends time exploring the question, “What do I like?” It sounds simple, but the discoveries are often profound. They also explore, “what don’t I like? What do I agree with? What don’t I agree with?” and then take on the challenge to voice those feelings.
Most of us haven’t practiced awareness of what we really yearn for, what we care about, and what we need to feel satisfied. When we dive into these questions and start expressing our feelings, we may be surprised at how quickly we actually get what we want.
As we think about these questions, we can dig in deeper by adding “so that” to the end of the want. The “so that” technique helps us drill down beneath the want and uncover the underlying yearning. For example, “I want a promotion so that I earn more money. I want to earn more money so that I can pay my bills. I want to pay my bills so that I feel more secure about my finances….” In this case, the underlying yearning is to feel secure.
Once we identify our yearnings, we can start seeking multiple ways to get them met by asking for them and recognizing opportunities to address our needs. This self-empowerment begins by identifying what we like and don’t like; then, we can better empower ourselves to become the person we want to be.
2. Displease Others
Another tough assignment we tackle in the Year of More is to empower ourselves by learning to displease others willingly. Let me say this is a TOUGH assignment for many students. But as they start to explore the power of “displeasing,” they often realize that it doesn’t mean being a jerk. Letting ourselves displease others often means learning how to set appropriate boundaries and learning to say no.
For example, maybe we’ve received a really difficult work assignment with an unrealistic deadline. Rather than being a Yes Man or Yes Woman and then stressing out about the impending failure, we can find more self-empowerment by speaking up and setting parameters. We can say, “I don’t know if I can complete this project in the given timeframe. I’m willing to work on it, but I will need these resources,” or, “I’ll take this on, but I will need more time to give it my best—can I have until Friday afternoon instead of Wednesday morning?”
It may sound daunting at first, but we can ask ourselves, what’s the worst that could happen in the situation? Our boss could say, “No. It has to get done.” And yes, that’s a real possibility, but isn’t it far more likely that when we express our concerns calmly and realistically, our boss will respect our candor and facilitate our success? This is especially likely if we’ve built a trusting relationship with our boss.
When we learn to negotiate in a way that works best for us, it’s empowering. We can learn to negotiate in a conversation with our spouse—“I’ll pick up the dry cleaning, you pick up the groceries,” or, “I’ll do the dishes, you get the kids ready for school.” By learning to speak up rather than acquiesce, we’re empowered. Our time becomes our own.
3. Seek Satisfaction Over Avoiding Loss
It’s quite human to operate with loss aversion. Most people will go to greater lengths to avoid loss than to make gains. We’re often more afraid of what we’ll lose by taking a risk and trying something new than the joy we could gain from the experience.
So what do we do? We avoid asking for things. We think, “I don’t want my friend to feel upset with me, so I’d better not ask.” We skirt issues. We don’t express our feelings.
On the other hand, what if we empowered ourselves to go for what we wanted? When we worry about others’ reactions, we might lose sight of what really matters. We’re often making unfounded predictions about their feelings too. We forgo the possible satisfaction because we don’t want to disrupt a norm or rock the boat.
But instead of avoiding loss, what if we allowed ourselves to fire up the motor on the boat and move towards what we really wanted? Think of the reward—the pleasure and satisfaction of getting what we really need and what would please us in the situation. We can empower ourselves to move toward the reward rather than fearing and avoiding the possible risk of loss.
These are all mistaken beliefs that can profoundly affect our sense of self. These come from a belief that we’re undeserving, less than others, or must earn love and support. If we felt worthy, we’d feel empowered to ask directly for the things that satisfy and nourish us.
By becoming aware of our mistaken beliefs and working to counter them, we will start increasing our self-empowerment.
First, we can recognize that these beliefs are totally normal. Everyone has them. But we can speak kindly and lovingly to ourselves, saying, “I might not feel worthy right now, but I am a gift to others,” or, “If I believed that I had value, what would I say? How would I speak up?” or, better still, “what would I tell a friend in this situation?”
We often empower our friends and help them feel better about themselves. Then when we speak to ourselves internally, we are critical and harsh. When we start to become our own friends, we will start to talk to ourselves with kindness and understanding. Our mistaken beliefs are often synonymous with disempowering ideas. But the truth is that each of us is worthy and valuable. We are a gift to the world with a vast amount of influence and potential. When we shift our focus to remind ourselves of our worth, we can tap into that essential personal power.
To discover more about living up to your full potential, don’t miss our resources on Wright Now. We have many different courses available to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. Get MORE today!