Myths About Motherhood: Being the Perfect Mom Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

As we explore our past and grow toward our future into the life we want, we may start to realize how many false beliefs we adopted while growing up.

There are a lot of myths about motherhood (like being the “perfect mom”). Here’s how to examine and tackle some of those long-held ideas about what a mother should be.

 


If you’re a mom or a caretaker, the chances are high that you’ve experienced at least a few feelings of inadequacy, confusion, and frustration. You may wonder how to be the perfect mom when the truth is, the “perfect mom” is just one of those damaging myths about motherhood.

The perfect mom is one of those fairytale ideas like the perfect romance or the perfect career. While the idea of losing the fairytale dream can feel a bit sad for a moment, it’s actually quite comforting to realize that we’re putting unfounded expectations on ourselves and our relationships.

As we explore our past and grow toward our future—the life we want—we may realize how many false beliefs we adopted along the way. Some of those beliefs can drive us forward, but many myths about motherhood can hold us back.

Where Do Our Fairytale Beliefs Come From?

When we talk about fairytale beliefs, we’re often talking about the quest for the perfect fairytale romance. But these ideas aren’t limited to expectations about our romantic relationships. They can also include ideas about leadership, our feelings about roles at work, thoughts on affluence, wealth, and success. For mothers, these beliefs can also include our expectations of motherhood.

Many of us create an idea in our mind’s eye about what success should look like. For example, we might equate success with keeping the peace. We may swoop in to smooth over situations and act as an intermediary. We may take on these roles at home, in our relationships at work, and with our kids.

Many of these roles or boxes that we embrace in our relationships and endeavors are limiting. They keep us tethered to a certain expectation and a specific role. These limiting beliefs can hold us back from getting what we want. Ultimately, they can become barriers to living our ideal life. They keep us from discovering and realizing our deepest yearnings and personal truths.


For many women, nowhere are these false beliefs quite so prevalent as when it comes to motherhood.


How many of us hold an idea of how to be the perfect mom? We might think that the perfect mom looks and acts a certain way. Maybe we picture this superwoman as our own mother, a friend’s mom, or even the mother in a movie or favorite TV show. But the reality is, no one is the perfect mom. There’s not a single perfect mother on the planet, and all of us struggle from time to time.

Motherhood is a state of constant growth and development. It’s a new experience, with our first child, all the way through the last. Each evolution of our family gives us a brand new experience and presents the opportunity to explore, learn about ourselves, and understand our drivers and motivation. Motherhood offers an excellent time to engage with others, explore our beliefs and projects, and develop (or finish our unfinished developmental business) right alongside our kids.

Why Some Myths About Motherhood Stick

As a graduate student of Wright Graduate University, I focused my dissertation on the ideas and myths about motherhood that we set upon ourselves and many times blindly believe. By identifying and exploring the motherhood myths and falsehoods, we can break away from them. We can start to move toward discovering our own sense of purpose and success. We define motherhood rather than letting the state of motherhood define us.


As women, our role as mothers or caretakers is only one layer of many. We aren’t limited to simply being a nurturer, providing for, and raising children. Instead, we can live full and vibrant lives both as mothers and outside of motherhood.


We can appreciate motherhood as a beautiful state, but it’s also another layer or lens to frame our lives and growth. Motherhood isn’t who we are, but rather it’s another sandbox to play in as we adventure through life.

Within my dissertation, I’ve identified 14 commonly held myths about motherhood (although there are certainly others). See if any of these myths resonate with you and sound familiar:

  1. Kids’ needs should come first. The more a mother tends to the needs of her children, the better a mother she is.
  2. A mother’s spouse or partner will understand that the children are a priority and their needs come first.
  3. It is part of a mother’s job to put the needs of her children and her spouse or partner first. Only after their needs are met can she then take care of her own.
  4. Children will be a source of ongoing joy and fulfillment.
  5. Children are the primary way for a mother to feel affirmed.
  6. When you feel insecure and doubt yourself as a mother, you should always follow the guidance of experts in the field, your own mother, or close family members.
  7. Being a mother is an innate skill that all women possess.
  8. A woman will immediately fall in love with her baby when she holds them for the first time.
  9. Motherhood provides a woman with a network of other mothers who will always support her in being the best mother she can be.
  10. If a mother is overwhelmed with intense feelings of anxiety or sadness after the birth of her child, she will likely need medication so she can function properly as a mother.
  11. If a mother expresses hurt or pain around her children may limit or harm their development.
  12. Expressing any fear or anger around children is likely to have a negative effect on them.
  13. Stopping short of hurting her children, it’s best for a mother to stop kids from expressing emotions if they are upsetting to her.
  14. Parents should always avoid any arguing in front of their children.

How many of us believe many of these myths about motherhood? There are likely quite a few others that come to mind when we read this list.

We may feel a flood of emotions and intense feelings rush over us after our child is born. We might believe that when a little human is handed over to us for the first time, we should immediately and instinctively know what to do. We might feel like we’re supposed to feel an instant bond with our child and a strong emotional connection.

We might also believe that any negative emotions we experience towards our kids—irritation, frustration, anger—are wrong. We might feel guilty and alone in these perfectly natural (and totally normal) feelings. We may be afraid to admit them to others and even to ourselves. We might question what’s wrong with us, why we feel this way, or why we’re not enough. We might feel hopeless or sad.

Just like those limiting beliefs about ourselves, our romantic relationships, and our career, these myths about motherhood hold us back. They may fuel feelings of inadequacy. But instead, we can realize that this idea of being the “perfect mother” is a false narrative we’ve created based on ideas we were exposed to very early on in our lives. When we explore the “why” behind our beliefs, it can help us move forward.

Where Do Our Limiting Beliefs Begin?

Our belief system is formed very early in life. So early, in fact, that many of these beliefs are in place before we turn six. We’ve already begun forming a system of ideas about ourselves and our world—what we refer to as our “personality matrix” or simply our “matrix.” To get to the heart of these beliefs and overcome the myths, we must “re-matrix” ourselves based on the truths we’ve now discovered. We can break down those early ideas, reform, and recreate our beliefs based on our additional life experiences and the information we’ve gained.

When we learn how early most of our beliefs are set, we can understand why these aren’t correct. As a child, the world was big, and we were small. The world may have seemed dangerous or much different than it is now. Today we’re capable of much more, and we’ve experienced so much since then.

But like traveling a well-worn path, we may gravitate toward the same ideas and scenarios. We may set ourselves up with the same expectations and receive the same confirmations over and over. When we played house in nursery school, we probably acted a certain way. We might have had ideas about what a “mommy” looked like and acted like. Whether we realize it or not, those same ideas continue to play out today in our daily role as a mother.

To drill down into some of these beliefs, we can explore our relationship with our own parents. Were we able to express our feelings and experience them as accepted and allowed (even negative feelings)? Were we encouraged to calm down? Were we told “stop being so sensitive” or discouraged from expressing emotions? Were we told to be a certain way or adopt a particular role within our family structure? Were we told to set aside our own needs and yearnings?

One way we can identify our emotional triggers or hotspots is to notice when a situation evokes a strong emotional charge or reaction. For example, if a comment from our spouse about a messy countertop or a suggestion from our mother about our child’s hairstyle sets us off, we can explore why we’re feeling such emotion. Why did this particular comment or piece of feedback upset us? Does it reinforce our limiting beliefs or false expectations? Do we feel disempowered?

All of our childhood experiences shape who we become as adults, but we aren’t beholden to that shape or limited by it. Once we pinpoint the triggers and emotional sensitivities, we can understand where our beliefs stem from. Then, we’ll start to let go of the myths and ideas surrounding the “perfect parent.”


Like any other great adventure or experience, motherhood is an opportunity for personal growth and a greater understanding of ourselves.


We can grow and nurture ourselves right alongside our kids. We can play, explore, and discover through trial and error. We can use this time to see what works for us and what doesn’t. But, most importantly—we can have fun!

There’s no perfect way to be a mother. When we let go of our expectations and realize that it’s part of a longer journey, we’ll set ourselves up for greater satisfaction and success along the way—view parenting as a developmental opportunity rather than a test. There are no right or wrong answers—it’s messy, interesting, and emotional. It’s also exciting! There’s no handbook or rules on how to parent, so as we go along in the journey, we can remember to enjoy the view!

For more ways to learn and grow, don’t miss our courses at Wright Now! We have an array of resources and upcoming events to help you learn more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. So start living your best life today!


About the Author

Gertrude Lyons

Gertrude Lyons is a human emergence coach and adjunct faculty member at Wright Graduate University. Her academic career spans from a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting, a master’s in psychology from Antioch University, and a newly completed doctoral degree from WGU. Gertrude is wife and mother of two and resides in Chicago, IL where she continues to learn, grow, and develop her skills as a human emergence coach with the Wright team.


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.

Portions of this post are taken from Gertrude’s doctoral dissertation, Expanding Mothering: Raising a Woman’s Awareness of the Opportunities for Personal and Psychosocial Growth and Development in Mothering—A Curriculum Evaluation Study.

How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation: Tap into Your Feelings

Life happens. No matter how carefully we tread or how much we wish we could protect ourselves (and even if we put ourselves out there and live life to the fullest), we can’t anticipate every situation headed our way.

How to make the best of a bad situation

 


 

Sometimes bad things are going to happen, and we’ll be faced with the question of how to make the best of a bad situation.

We can either choose to view the uncertainty of life as nebulous and scary, or we can embrace the unknown as dynamic, spontaneous, and exciting. Life is an adventure, and even when things get tough, we can learn how to make the best of a bad situation and find the silver lining (or the lesson).

When Monster-Sized Problems Head Our Way

Big problems can be truly terrible. Our feelings of hurt, sorrow, anger, and fear are valid. We all experience life in different ways, and our feelings are part of the process.

We may be facing HUGE, monster-sized problems. These problems could be downright awful—illness, divorce, a job loss, betrayal, the death of a loved one. We may feel like our problems are barely insurmountable.

On the other hand, perhaps life’s moving along pretty smoothly, but we’ve run into a few bumps on the road. These problems and uncomfortable situations can crop up and start to build. One thing doesn’t go our way—we make a mistake at work, we have a falling out with a friend, we have an unexpected injury, we’ve gained a little extra weight. We may find ourselves suddenly feeling blah, frustrated, and annoyed.


With any situation—big or small—we have a choice. We can either take the opportunity to go deeper, engage, learn, and grow from the situation, or we can run away from our feelings and hope that they go away.


Guess what? Feelings don’t go away.

The good news is that it’s totally okay. Feelings aren’t bad or wrong. Feelings are important. They make us human. They’re the way our brains react and process experiences. There are no bad feelings—not even anger, fear, sadness, or hurt. Yes, those feelings may “feel” pretty unpleasant and even awful.

But our feelings and emotions are extremely powerful tools. We can think of our emotions as milestones on our paths to self-discovery. They teach us about who we are, and when we tap into them, we can learn more about ourselves, our motivations, and our deepest yearnings.

Whatever hand life has dealt us may be difficult. Sometimes it might be something that was in no way our fault. But we can recognize how we feel about it, allow ourselves to experience the emotions, and realize that we will walk away from the experience stronger, more aware, and more in-tune with ourselves. We can set our intention to get through the situation and then use our feelings to guide us on our journey.

When Discomfort Arises

In addition to being unfair, life can also be uncomfortable. We’ve all been in situations that felt cringe-worthy, awkward, and even mortifying. Maybe we’ve said something accidentally offensive. Perhaps we’ve flubbed up a speech, made a huge mistake on a work project, or unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings.

What do we do when these situations arise? Well, first, our face usually turns red. Second, we think to ourselves, “Ugh, I’m so stupid. I just want to crawl in a hole right now and hide!”

Or what about when we receive some bad news? We might feel numb, disoriented, or confused. We might avoid “going there” with our emotions, try to shut down or escape. We might wonder if our feelings are normal, try to tamp them down, or tell ourselves to keep a stiff upper lip.

But here’s the reality—we all feel emotions. When we feel uncomfortable, we can try to see what happens when we lean into the discomfort. The next time we face a situation that’s painful, scary, or uncomfortable, we can go all in. Identify what we’re feeling, label it, but keep allowing it in. Bring on the emotion!


If we feel like sobbing, yelling, or pounding our fists into the couch cushions, go for it! Let those emotions out (responsibly, of course) and allow ourselves to really feel our feelings.


It may sound very strange, especially to those of us who live our lives carefully curating and cultivating our personas. We all want others to see us in a certain way. We may want to be noticed by others, but we probably don’t want to stand out in a way that would cause judgment or negative thoughts towards us.

But the deal is that most of these judgments exist inside our own heads. Most people don’t notice what we’re doing because they’re too busy hiding their emotions themselves. We put a version of ourselves out there that we think we should project—what we believe those around us want. The reality is that most likely, others don’t notice or care.

We can think about the last time we saw a friend cry, express fear, or even tell us they were angry with their spouse. What goes through our heads? Most of us try to empathize with our friends. We may reassure them. We may tell them that it’s okay; everyone makes mistakes. We’re sorry for their loss. We understand how they feel.

Chances are we didn’t look at our crying friend and think, “What a loser! Why is this person crying over a sick cat?”

So if we treat our friends with such understanding and compassion, why don’t we treat ourselves the same way? We’d tell our friends that their feelings were normal, valid, and understandable. Then we tell ourselves, “Don’t cry, you idiot! You’re embarrassing yourself!”

When we hold back our emotions, avoiding painful or uncomfortable situations, we miss out. We miss the full spectrum of the human experience. We miss opportunities to learn about ourselves and our inner strength. We miss the chance to flex our sadness muscles, our anger muscles, or our fear muscles. We miss an essential part of self-exploration. Think of athletes who stop using their muscles. They lose tone and coordination. They become slower and weaker, dulled, and unable to keep up.

Instead, we can become emotional athletes. We can take each opportunity to feel and really go for the gold.

The great part of this is that when we’re happy, we’ll be really blissed out! We’ll feel elation and joy!

Explore Emotions and Discover

Since we were kids, most of us learned to hide some of our emotions. Women, if we were upset, what do we hear? “Don’t get all emotional about it,” or “Sheesh, you’re so sensitive!”

For guys, the approach is a little different, but the message is still the same, “toughen up! Boys don’t cry!”


Guess what? Your emotions are okay. They’re powerful. They enrich your experience. Feelings extract a stronger and more vibrant you. Feeling is what keeps us alive. From a neuroscientific perspective, our emotions keep us cognitively sharp and on our game.


We can actually learn a lot about processing emotions when we observe kids. When kids feel emotions, they really feel them. They may cry, yell, or giggle like crazy. They don’t try to push emotions down—they let it out.

Once the moment has passed, what do kids do? They go back to the business of playing. They move forward. They’ve really felt their emotions, and they’ve expressed them. They aren’t holding them in or letting themselves get bogged down with their feelings. They get it out!

Neuroscientist Candace Pert’s research shows that our unexpressed emotions are lodged throughout the body and aren’t fully expressed until they reach consciousness. Through the body, up the spinal cord, and into the brain, raw emotion works to be expressed, moving up the neural access through the spinal cord. The cortex, however, often resists this expression. Why? Because when we harbor mistaken beliefs (e.g., It’s not manly to express fear) and rationalizations (e.g., If I get angry, people won’t like me) about emotion, we push our feelings down to be repressed rather than expressed. When the cortex responds this way, it is trying to prevent itself from being overloaded. This creates a physiological struggle since our emotions are trying to be expressed and integrated, yet the cortex is not allowing them to reach consciousness. But suppressing emotions is costly—not only does it deprive us of the power and gift of our emotions, but it is a high-intensity task that chews up limited prefrontal cortex energy and resources. It degrades our ability to recall information and limits our cognitive performance.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living


Making the best of a bad situation isn’t about not feeling our emotions or trying to hide our reactions. Instead, getting through a tough time requires us to identify our complex emotions, acknowledge them, honor them by truly feeling them fully.


As kids, we’re constantly exposed to new situations and new stimuli. Summers feel endless. School days feel like centuries. Minor upsets can feel really big, and more significant changes can feel less impactful because the whole world is moving around us. As we get older, we’re exposed to fewer and fewer new situations. Our brain doesn’t need to process the information to make sense of it. When our brain doesn’t need to work so hard, we perceive time as moving “faster.”

Neuroscientist David Eagleman did studies at Baylor University on time perception. Participants were shown flashcards for a few seconds each. Many of the cards showed the same image of a shoe. Then, every so often, a card would pop up with a flower. Participants reported that the card with the flower was shown for much longer (3-4 seconds) than the shoe (1-2 seconds).

Here’s the kicker—there was no variation in the length of time participants were shown the cards. The flower appeared longer because it was different. Their brains had to take more time to process the flower. It had a “novelty effect.”

When we face uncertainty and difficult situations that feel “new,” they may also feel like they last a long time. We may feel like time slows or stops. We may wonder if we’ll ever feel better. So how can we make the best of this? How can we find the bright side and turn it around?

As we go through a painful experience, like divorce, there’s a tendency to wish we could move forward quickly. We may want to gloss over our feelings because they’re painful. We may wish we could go back to the familiar place we knew before. We may fear the changes ahead and wonder how we can cope.

Instead of wishing the situation would go away, we can reframe it as an opportunity—a chance to transform ourselves. A life change, no matter how painful or unfortunate, presents an opportunity for growth. We can allow ourselves to fully experience the spectrum of our emotions and view our situation through a new prism. We can explore our role and reactions that have led up to the point and think forward about who we really are and our new vision for ourselves.

For more ideas on embracing emotions and getting more out of life, visit Wright Now and explore our selection of courses and webinars. We offer resources to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. So start living a life of MORE today!

 


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

Netflix Night Again: How to Fix a Boring Relationship

Has your relationship gotten a bit stale? Do you feel like you come home on the weeknights, plop on the couch, and scroll through your phones while you watch TV? Are you wondering if the thrill is gone?

How to Fix a Boring Relationship

 


 

If you’re wondering how to fix a boring relationship, don’t despair! There’s hope! Our relationships can often fall into a rut or routine because we’re not engaging and communicating our true needs and feelings.

So if you’re ready to enjoy a deeper connection again, it’s time to turn off the TV and start to tune into each other instead!

Is it Bad to Binge Watch?

First of all, it’s not bad for couples to enjoy watching TV together. It’s no secret Bob and I are cinephiles. Anyone who’s heard us speak, attended one of our events, or read one of our books, learns that we’re constantly referring to films as cultural touchstones.

Movies give us all an escape from reality and a chance to take a break, it’s true. What’s more important, though, is that film helps us learn about the world around us and even engage on a deeper level. Since the dawn of time, humans have used storytelling and fiction to teach lessons. We can think of parables in the Bible, ancient cave paintings, and oral traditions passed down in Native cultures. Stories are interwoven into the fabric of our lives. They teach us about ourselves, how we think, and how others think. Books, lectures, and films help us explore our collective anthropology and the very origins of our humanity and emotions.

We’ve all walked away from a movie feeling strong feelings. Perhaps a film has made us cry, touched us in a way that resonates, or taught us something about a situation in our own lives. Think of the beautiful scene in Goodwill Hunting, where Ben Affleck’s character is an ally and true friend to Matt Damon by giving him some tough love. Or the great scene in the Matrix, where Keanu Reeve’s character, Neo, makes the CHOICE between the red pill (reality and truth) and the blue pill (a life of blissful ignorance).


Many different moments in film stick with us and make us think differently about people and our relationships—film and even television series can be excellent platforms for deeper engagement.


But like any escape, film can also be abused and overused. When does our binge-watching go from entertaining and stimulating new thoughts to simply finding a way to zone out and pass the time? As with most activities, there’s a line where it can turn into too much of a good thing.

On a similar note, what should we do if we want to go out and start engaging with the world, learning, growing, and having new experiences, and our partner would rather stay back on the couch? We’ve all been phubbed—phone snubbed—where someone would rather stare at their screen or check their social media rather than really socialize. In our relationships, this can become a real concern. How do we get our partners to cut back on screen time and tune back into the real world? How do we break out of a comfortable (but boring) rut?

How Much Screentime is Too Much?

When it comes to any activity—shopping online, eating dessert, even working out—there can almost always be too much of a good thing. So when we engage in an activity, we have to look at how we’re using it. Are we learning something? Are we using it as a method to engage with others?

In the example of film, we can ask ourselves if we’re really engaged in the movie. Are we using it as a platform for deeper exploration of ourselves and the world around us? Do we walk away from the experience, eager to discuss the nuances, lessons, and takeaways? Is that discussion our favorite part of our movie date night?


Whether it’s film, books, opera, theater, or any other entertainment, we can decide to turn it into a powerful tool. We can use these cultural endeavors to keep our conversation fresh, and keep our relationship from getting boring. We can discover new insights about ourselves and others.


On the other side, if we’re not sure how to fix a boring relationship, we may want to examine our activities with our partner. Are we taking on new experiences with enthusiasm, a sense of wonder, and curiosity? Are we ready to explore? Or do we use movies, books, and concerts to substitute for real connection—a way to zone out, escape, or disengage? When we find ourselves using these experiences to cope or avoid, that’s when we’re abusing them. That’s the line when they become soft addictions—time fillers, or worse, timewasters.

In the Soft Addiction Solution, I explore how we use soft addictions to tune out rather than tune in. We may have an addiction of choice—social media, watching the news ad nauseam, flipping mindlessly through fashion magazines, binge-watching, or another activity. It’s not so much the act as the intent behind our time-waste.

There’s nothing wrong with entertainment. We all love to be entertained, and it holds a positive place in most of our lives. However, there is something wrong with using entertainment, like screen time, to substitute for real interaction and intimacy. This can be especially challenging when we feel disconnected from our partner and use our soft addiction to soothe the loneliness or emptiness.

Make Date Night More Meaningful

After exploring the idea of soft addictions, we may wonder how we can reconnect with our partner—is it as simple as turning off the TV, or is there more to it? Do we need to book a vacation together? Should we plan an extended getaway?

Every date doesn’t need to include windsurfing in the Caribbean or even a trip out of town. Dates with our partner don’t need to be costly, elaborate, or time-consuming. We can find moments to meet over lunch, grab dinner at our favorite restaurant, attend a lecture, or go to see the latest blockbuster. As with time-wasting activities, it’s not about the activity as much as the intent.


We can ask ourselves how we plan to make the experience meaningful? How can we find the message and the lesson? How can we use that lesson to fix a boring relationship?


For many of us, that means breaking out of our comfort zone and doing something different. Even if we aren’t sure that our partner is totally on board with a higher level of engagement, we can start the ball rolling by beginning a more meaningful conversation.

We can try a new dish at our favorite restaurant, explore something new on a wine list, or ask how the chef prepared the food. If we go to a movie, we can make the experience meaningful by having a lively discussion after the film. What did each person take away from the movie? What did they think of the plot twist? Rather than a simple like-or-dislike conversation, take the critique further. Explore the why behind the assessment and share opinions.

The key to breaking out of a relationship rut or fixing a boring relationship is to try new things. For example, we may know that our partner loves movie night, but why not go to a play or concert instead? Maybe we love taking walks around the block, but what if we invite our partner and talk about what we see as we stroll? Try a new spot for dinner, taste a different type of cuisine, or do something a little unexpected.

When we experience something together with our partner, it creates a bond. These new experiences might be small risks, but they add up to greater strength. Like building muscle—we have to break down some of the fiber to grow back stronger. We have to push our minds beyond our comfort zone, so our brains grow and develop in new ways. Made up of BILLIONS of neurons, our brains are amazingly pliable. These neurons form different pathways with new experiences. Just as driving over the same route repeatedly would lead to a deep groove or rut, doing the same activities and habits over and over leaves our brains dulled as well.


Keep in mind that growth isn’t always comfortable. We may run into conflicts along the way, but that’s part of fixing a boring relationship.


Conflict isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can strengthen our relationships and lead to greater intimacy. Relationships can be messy and challenging, but they’re also fun and fulfilling. When we focus on ways to break out of the routine, we’ll discover more about ourselves and our partners.

So if your relationship needs to bust the routine, try something different. It doesn’t have to be huge. It can be a small, deliberate activity like a walk, a meditation class, or simply enjoying a new food or a new experience. Push both of you out of your comfort zone and away from your soft addictions. Your relationship will grow stronger because of it!

For more ways to build your relationship and connect with your partner, don’t miss our courses on Wright Now. We have webinars and resources to help you grow in your relationships, career, and personal life. So get the life you want today—a life of MORE.

 


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.

Want a Playful Relationship? How to Keep the Playfulness Alive

Do you ever wish you had a more playful relationship? Do you worry that your relationship seems to be fraught with conflict? Or worse, that things feel “blah” and boring?

 

Want to have a more playful relationship? Here’s how some of the closest couples keep their connection strong and fun.


 

Playfulness is crucial to a healthy relationship. It’s that playfulness that helps us build a connection with our partners and grow together. When we experience stress or conflict, we may worry that it’s a sign that our relationship is damaged—that it’s no longer enjoyable and fun.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep the passion alive in your relationship. Here’s what you need to know about enjoying a playful relationship where both partners get what they want.

Playful Relationships Don’t Avoid Conflict

We may assume that fighting is a sign that our relationship is broken. Maybe we grew up avoiding conflict or never seeing our parents fight. On the other hand, maybe our parents fought often, and we fear that we’re repeating certain patterns in our own connection.

First of all, it’s essential to recognize that there are conflict, awkwardness, and moments where we’re ready to just freakin’ throttle the other person in every relationship. It’s totally normal and comes with the territory of sharing a life where each person is emotionally invested. So whether the relationship is new or decades-old, conflicts will come up.


In most relationships, we faced some real rip-roaring moments, but we should use those moments as a platform to awaken our connection, make it deeper, and yes, even laugh and play along the way.


John-Paul Sartre said playing is part of being alive and being engaged. Having a playful relationship isn’t simply the act of playing games with your partner or seeking entertainment—going on dates and doing the routine dinner and a movie. Instead, a playful relationship is full of adventure and discovery! It’s about taking up new hobbies, exploring new places, going for walks and hikes, and getting yourself out of the mundane. New and fresh experience is critical to relationships (romantic, friendly, and even our relationship to ourselves).

Fighting is also crucial to relationships. Conflict keeps us passionately engaged. Most of the time, we fight because we care. We’re fighting because we want more! Conflict helps us express our yearnings and get them met. When we express our desires to our partners, we know and understand that they see and accept us for who we are. We stop holding back and holding in and instead explore the dynamic, the control, the power, and the behaviors together.

On the flip side of the fighting, couples who learn to mix fighting with a balance of play are happier. When you have more play in your relationship, the fighting becomes less of a big deal. Of course, the message is still important, but it’s the playful side tempering us and helping us take down our guard and defenses so we can truly hear what the other person is trying to say.

Playfulness Might be Hard to Find When Couples Are Always Together

We work together and live together. We spend a great deal of time together. When a couple is in a situation like ours, they may find conversations about work taking over. Even if couples don’t work together, if they both work from home or focus on home tasks (like raising kids), conversations can start to feel monotonous and logistical.

It’s important to mix things up and experience new, exciting activities together. If the focus is always on work and the day-to-day minutia, we miss out on all that other interesting and exciting stuff—the shared experiences that help us connect. As they say, all work and no play make for dull relationships.

We spoke with Jennifer and Eric, married 17 years, parents of teens, and co-owners of a business. They both reported a “dulling” of their relationship. The conversation was becoming boring. Fights and arguments surrounding work (where Eric is Jennifer’s manager) spilled over into their home life. The boss/employee dynamic wasn’t translating well into their daily life, and there were feelings that they needed to bring to light.

Power struggles can be a common source of conflict when couples work together, like Jennifer and Eric, and even when they don’t. Sharing a home office or simply sharing the tasks of managing a household together can permeate every interaction and lead to arguments.

Suddenly couples find themselves simply talking about bills and “to-do lists” or zoning out with soft addictions in front of the television. One person takes the lead as the “boss,” and the other resents them for being so damn bossy. The fun of the relationship has disappeared. If this has become your relationship, it’s time to WAKE UP!


Couples need to break out of the routine and find new ways to orient towards aliveness. New experiences are essential—and we don’t need to go around the globe to get them.


We can find many unique and engaging experiences right in our own backyards. We can think back to what we did when we were first dating. Maybe we loved spending time outdoors, antique shopping, or dancing. It’s time to reengage in the things that stimulate both members of the relationship.

When both sides of a couple are committed to learning and growing, they can often find many activities to strengthen and nourish the relationship. We enjoy cross-country skiing and visiting the symphony, but each couple is different. We have to discover the activities that make our hearts leap for joy! As they engage more in these exciting activities, most couples find that they’re reminded of all the things they truly appreciate about their partner.

How to Find Playfulness When Relationships are in Constant Conflict

Other couples may feel like their relationship’s joy and playful side is buried by layers and years of conflict. The good news is: conflict is a good thing! It doesn’t usually mean the relationship is broken (or even damaged). Conflict is stronger than apathy, so conflict means both sides are still concerned about how things turn out in the relationship. The key is to put the energy into fighting FOR the relationship.

As we learn in the Rules of Engagement, no one takes more than 50% of the blame, and both members of the couple are 100% responsible for their own happiness. Productive conflicts help us “battle towards bliss,” but they require that we fight fair and assume goodwill on the other party’s part. When conflict arises—and it will—use it as an opportunity to discover more about each other.

In our book The Heart of the Fight, we discuss the many ways that couples can have productive conflicts and arguments. We shouldn’t avoid arguing or fighting, but we should recognize that when we go into the battle, we’re hoping to come away stronger and more deeply connected.

Of course, when someone says something critical, most of us get defensive. We can be frustrated and hurt if a partner tells us something we don’t want to hear (like, “you’re just like your dad”). This may lead us to shutting down or slinging mud right back at our partner. Underneath it all, though, part of what REALLY irks us? There’s a kernel of truth to most criticism.


To really engage and approach couples’ conflict from a transformational perspective, put away the “you said, I said” laundry list of arguments. Instead, we can tell our partner what we really want out of the situation—our truest yearnings.


What is the thing that we’re yearning for? Maybe it’s to be loved, to be secure, to be respected. These yearnings are often underneath our upset. Once we pinpoint that, the battle is halfway toward resolution.

When both parties are honest about their feelings, a lot can come to light. Expectations can create vulnerabilities, and past resentments and unmet and unexpressed yearnings can eat away at us.

Part of transformational living is to express these yearnings and get them out in the open. We don’t need to express them in an accusatory or mean way. We can even approach the expression playfully. When we allow ourselves to share truths with another person, those walls start coming down. Suddenly we find ourselves getting back to the dynamic that drew us together.

Find Playfulness When a Relationship Feels One-Sided

Unfortunately, sometimes we’re more committed to transformation than our partner. We may be ready to express new ideas and work on our relationship while our partner is fine with the status quo—and that’s precisely the problem! One way to keep a partner where they are is to make it very comfortable. When we do whatever they ask, never complain, and wait on them hand-and-foot, why would they change?

We’re being a little tongue in cheek here, but you’d be surprised how many people tell us how awful their partners are, and all the things they ask of them and all the things they resent—yet they CONTINUE TO DO THEM! Usually, one person is seething and completely upset, and the other person has no clue that there’s even a problem.


If this sounds familiar, we need to stop being passive-aggressive. Stop making it easy for the other person to ignore our yearnings and needs.


Leave the dirty laundry on the floor, the toilet seat up, or the dishes in the sink. Stop doing the things that lead to resentment. When people do this, their partner will usually realize that things are uncomfortable, and it’s time to change!

Surprisingly, this too can actually be a fun “game”! Many couples take the challenge to see how long it takes to get their partner to notice a few of their frustrations. The key is to be honest and express feelings openly. When we tell our partner we’re going to change our behavior, we must follow through. Don’t threaten or withhold or continue to stew in resentment.

When we’re honest about our feelings, we can often get back on the same page—we may even find reasons to laugh about the situation. Bringing playfulness back into our relationship can help keep the spark alive and bring us even closer together with our partners.

For more ways to connect with your partner and strengthen your relationship, visit Wright Now. We have a huge selection of courses and webinars to help you live the life of your dreams. Start moving forward in your relationships, career, and personal growth. Get more out of life today!

 

Can an Inferiority Complex Be A Good Thing?

For most of us, an inferiority complex sounds like a bad thing. After all, doesn’t it seem like it would set us back to believe we’re not good enough or that we don’t measure up to others?

Can an Inferiority Complex Be A Good Thing

 


The truth is that everyone feels inferior from time to time. We all hit roadblocks where we may feel like we’re not quite cutting it. So is that so terrible, or can an inferiority complex actually be positive?

In short, yes—our inferiority complex can be a positive part of our growth. In fact, Alfred Adler purported that the very act of being human means we have an inferiority complex.

We All Have an Inferiority Complex from Time-to-Time

When Adler explained the positives of an inferiority complex, he said, “to have no inferiorities is to be without movement… because we are alive, we encounter situations that require more of us than we are currently prepared to offer.” [1]

In other words, if we’re living life to the fullest, we’re going to encounter situations where we face challenges and maybe even fear we don’t measure up.

For those unfamiliar with Alfred Adler, he was a colleague of Sigmund Freud and is the father of Individual Psychology. Much of what we know about psychology today came from Adlerian theories. What’s important to understand about Individual Psychology is that it “provides not only a strategy of psychotherapy but a philosophical framework with which to comprehend information relevant to an understanding of human nature.” [2] It gives us the how and the why behind much of what we do.

As a psychotherapist, Adler was not interested in merely diagnosing a patient so much as establishing a philosophical understanding of how his childhood development impacted his adult development. Dr. Bob Wright, a proponent of Adlerian theory and founder of the Wright Foundation and Wright Graduate University, said that “childhood is about developing who are you. Adulthood is about developing who you could be.” [3]

Most of our Master’s students at the Wright Graduate University have studied Adler and Individual Psychology through a lens of childhood development. We’ve learned that a state of inferiority is part of the shared human condition.


In truth, a child is inferior as he is physically smaller and utterly reliant on his caregiver. Hence, an inferiority state is crucial for development. It’s important to understand that these inferiority feelings can motivate us “to ‘become’ and compel us to work together to overcome.” [4]


When we think about it, the world is really set up for adults. When we are kids, we don’t know how to operate within the world. We’re constantly learning and discovering new ways of being. We look to mom and dad to tell us what we need to do. We know that we don’t know everything.

As we grow older, we may expect ourselves to know it all. We may even avoid situations where we must learn a new skill (or show others that we don’t know what we’re doing).  Many of us are trying to fake it until we make it or pretend that we’ve got it all under control. In reality, most of us encounter new, unfamiliar situations daily. We navigate through them as best we can, but we may be left with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, or fears—in other words, an inferiority complex.

When Inferiority Shifts to Superiority

When we don’t know how to do something, instead of masking it or trying to hide our doubts in a situation, what if we stood up and embraced it? What if we used our inferiority complex to help us master the problem at hand—to grow, learn, and become better at the skill we may be trying to develop.

Unfortunately, instead of embracing our inferiority to propel us to greatness, many of us develop a superiority complex to mask our feelings of inferiority. Adler said that “people, by virtue of being human, have ‘defects and vices which we hope to conceal.'” [5] If a person is too worried about looking superior, he will never fully develop himself.


If we have a superiority complex, we may believe that we’re better equipped than others to handle a given situation. We may think that we know more about the situation and don’t need to push ourselves to learn or grow because we’ve already achieved mastery.


While this may sound like a healthy sense of self-esteem or ego, it’s actually a mask we use to protect ourselves. None of us wants to feel inferior, so many of us try to puff ourselves up. We act overly confident because we don’t want to be vulnerable. But rather than an over or under confidence, we’d be better off aiming for a realistic view.

Adler believed for a person to embrace and leverage inferiority, he must strive for superiority. He said that “striving for superiority is neither good nor bad. It is part of the human condition. How it expresses itself is what matters.” [6] This means that how we view our inferiority affects our accomplishments in life.

Believing that we’re already ahead of the game can leave us complacent—even bored. There’s no reason to try because we’ve maxed out our capacity. We’re at the top, and there’s nowhere else to go. This type of superiority complex can be quite dangerous. Not only can it be off-putting to those around us, but it can interfere with our ability to evolve and become what we could be.

Not that we should believe we’re terrible or tear ourselves down. Believing that we’re less than others can throw us into a self-fulfilling prophecy. We think we’re inferior, stupid, or not good enough, so we project that outward. In turn, others treat us the way we believe we deserve, and it continues to reinforce our self-doubt.

On the other hand, some aspects of a realistic inferiority complex can remind us that we have room to grow. It’s not about believing that we can’t do something or that we’ll never get it. Instead, it’s about recognizing our blind spots and realizing where there is room for improvement so we can get on the right path and take the crucial steps to propel us forward toward the life we want to live.


If we embrace our inferiority, it motivates us to excel. If we deny it and develop a superiority complex, it robs us of realizing our full potential.


Furthermore, when a person’s “self-concept falls short of the self-ideal, he experiences feelings of inferiority.” [7] A self-concept is an awareness of what we are, while a self-ideal is what we want to be.

Through my Master’s courses, I have established my self-ideal and who I choose to become. I have also learned the gaps between who I am and who I will become. If I choose to be victorious over my struggles, I will. If I choose to be a victim of my circumstances, I will. As a lover of Adler and the master of my fate, I choose to prevail.

Decide to Go Forward to the Life You Want

When we wonder how to overcome an inferiority complex, we may be asking the wrong question or looking at it the wrong way. What if, instead of overcoming it, we looked at the areas where we feel inferior and examined what we could do to learn and grow in those places?

We all have areas where growth is critical to living the best life and reaching our fullest potential. We can take a cue from our young friends at the way we can look at the world. When kids view new situations, they see them as a problem to solve. They encounter many new experiences each day—each one bringing with it a chance to stretch themselves and try out a new approach.

We can keep this “young mindset” by looking at situations in a similar light. Each day brings plenty of opportunities to discover and unearth new truths about ourselves. When we tap into our potential, knowing that we don’t “know it all,” we open ourselves to learning and making new connections.

If you’re ready to learn more, please explore our personal growth courses at Wright Now. We offer an array of options to help you unlock your fullest potential and move into your next best self. So don’t miss the opportunity to leap forward today!

 


REFERENCES

1. Primer Of Adlerian Psychology: the Analytic – Behavioural – Cognitive Psychology Of Alfred Adler Harold Mosak – Routledge – 2015 [56]

2. Ibid [Preface X]

3. Wright, Bob Dr. “Fulfilling your purpose” A4S podcast

4. Primer of Adlerian Psychology: the Analytic – Behavioural – Cognitive Psychology Of Alfred Adler Harold Mosak – Routledge – 2015 [80]

5. Ibid [80]

6. Beames, Thomas B. A Student’s Glossary of Adlerian Terminology. Ladysmith, B.C.: T.B. Beames, 1992. [Superiority Striving]

7. Primer Of Adlerian Psychology: the Analytic – Behavioural – Cognitive Psychology Of Alfred Adler Harold Mosak – Routledge – 2015 [56]

How to Manage Your Emotions at Work

We all know emotions and feelings are a regular part of life… but what happens when those emotions and feelings come out at work?

Feelings and emotions are a regular part of life but managing your emotions at work can be a challenge.


Human beings are emotional creatures. In fact, our emotional expression is one of the most beautiful parts of being human. Whether it’s feeling happy, sad, fearful, angry, hurt, or something in between, the spectrum of emotions is what makes us who we are.

But there are sometimes when those emotions feel less-than-ideal. For example, when your boss just offered some direct feedback, or your coworker dropped the ball, and you’re left picking up the pieces (and feeling frustrated). Knowing how to manage your emotions at work can be crucial to your career.

So how do we express our feelings at the office—even those feelings we might not feel comfortable with? Is it wrong to express your emotions at work? How can we take responsibility for how we feel, avoid a hostile situation, or worse—a career-ending mistake?

Managing Your Emotions at Work: It’s All About the Approach

People often worry that it’s wrong to express emotions and feelings at the office. Some feelings might not fit the setting, but there’s a tendency to believe that we should be emotionless while we work. We might downplay our mood because we don’t want to rock the boat, speak up, or argue with a superior or coworker.

What happens when we try to turn off our emotions at work? We sulk home after the day is over, feeling frustrated, downtrodden, and even angry. We might feel like we hate our job. We might slack off or feel the urge to “show them.” Our performance suffers.

Or we store up our anger and frustration until we blow up at an inopportune moment. Suddenly we blurt out something that we later regret. We run out of a meeting, yell at a coworker, or do something else that we feel bad about.


The truth is many of us struggle with knowing how to manage emotions at work. It’s a challenge because we are emotional creatures, and that emotion can be an essential part of engaging in authentic connections, building trust, and leading others.


So, while we should certainly not divorce ourselves from emotional expression, we may want to explore how to express our emotions responsibly.

Years ago, prior to grad school, I ran into a situation with my boss. We were in a huge room of people, including the president of the company. Someone raised a question about an issue our company was facing, and my boss blamed the entire problem on me—in front of the room!

In this particular case, the problem wasn’t my fault at all. He was passing the buck to save face. So you can bet I was pissed off! Why? Because getting the brunt of the blame left me feeling hurt and embarrassed.

In those days, I wasn’t as adept at identifying or handling my emotions. I didn’t understand that it was perfectly okay to feel hurt. I didn’t know how I could express it responsibly. I’d been raised to believe that hurt was an emotion that women used to manipulate men. In some ways, I didn’t even know that I was capable of feeling hurt. So when my boss made the misplaced comment, I misidentified my emotion and expressed it as anger.

And I definitely expressed it! I really lost my temper at my boss. I confronted him angrily, and I told him, “If you EVER embarrass me like that again, I’ll embarrass you right back in front of everyone.” Needless to say, this wasn’t the right way to handle it.

Fortunately, my boss was older, wiser, and more mature than me. He responded to my outburst in a calm, measured manner, helping diffuse and downregulate my emotions. We discussed what had happened and why I was so upset. We talked it out, and, in the end, despite my emotionally immature reaction, my boss and I became close. He was a great friend and advocate who later helped my career grow.

People Bring on Emotions

Emotions are a critical part of human interaction. They’re linked to the way we communicate and understand each other. So, whenever we’re dealing with other people—a boss, coworkers, or clients—feelings and emotions are bound to arise.


Learning how to manage your emotions at work doesn’t mean turning them off the minute you walk in the door. Not only is that unrealistic, but it doesn’t help you make those critical human connections or build a rapport with others.


Feelings at work aren’t wrong. Even strong emotions like anger don’t need to be volatile if we learn to express what we’re feeling clearly, openly, and honestly.

Remember, conflict is a natural and vital part of engagement. It’s important we keep conflict productive and focused on outcome and goal, rather than blowing up or placing blame. Conflict is healthy and arises in all relationships. We may think conflict and emotions only apply to our romantic connections, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Emotions are present in all areas of our lives.

At work, emotions can feel especially strong. After all, our livelihood is often linked closely to our identity. We’re deeply invested in the outcome of each situation. Many of us feel deeply connected to our careers. We see success as a pathway to the life we want to attain. We want to be respected, liked, and valued at work. We want to succeed and do well. Naturally, these common yearnings bring up many emotions surrounding our office interactions.

We Choose our Feelings

It’s a hard lesson, especially for some people to accept, but we choose our feelings. We can decide what we want to feel in each interaction. We are solely responsible for our own happiness.

When we blame our boss or our coworkers for our negative feelings, we’re shifting the responsibility of our emotions. To manage emotions at work (and avoid a tense situation or worse), we must recognize that ultimately we’re responsible for our own happiness and satisfaction. If we feel unhappy or dissatisfied, it’s also our responsibility to shift the situation and go for what we want.

This can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if we’ve gotten into the habit of blaming others for our unhappiness. We may be used to taking on a victim identity, where we believe our boss or coworkers are “out to get us” because it takes the responsibility off us. It allows us to blame others for our feelings. But it’s also a disempowering thought. How powerful is it to know that we can make our own happiness and satisfaction happen? We don’t need to wait for the perfect job, the right coworkers, or a better boss. We can decide to have it now!


Every office and each dynamic within the workplace is different. It’s natural that certain personality types may clash. We may work with people who we don’t quite “click” with. But what if we shift that mentality to find ways we can connect?


There are some office relationships where we may feel we can be 100% honest and open. We may even be friends with some people. At the same time, certain words and actions of our coworkers may bother us. This is because each persons’ history, programming, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings come into play (and come with them to work).

So, what is frustrating and annoying to one person may be no big deal to another. It can help to remember that each of us is coming from a different place and bringing along our own unfinished business, but we can try to find commonalities if we really engage and see it as a challenge to overcome. It’s all about what we’re bringing to the table. If we want to build rapport with others, we can do it, no matter how impossible it may seem at first.

Taking Your Family to Work

It sounds strange, but all our experiences, family, and history come right to the office with us each day. These pieces of our makeup comprise our matrix. We’re all shaped by each experience we encounter in life. We carry that with us when we walk into the room.

It doesn’t matter how old we are—whether we’re right out of grad school or well into our 60s, we bring our unfinished business with us everywhere we go, especially to work. If we had a father who was an authoritarian, we might see our bosses as authoritarian too and find ourselves rebelling under his demands. If our mother was highly controlling, we might balk against the control expressed by others on our team. Each day when we walk in the door to work, these pieces of our internal programming come right along with us.

Rather than throwing up our hands, assuming we’re doomed to repeat the same patterns over and over, we can learn to integrate our expressions of feelings at work so we learn and grow. We can identify the patterns and similarities in our relationships and use this information to help us better connect with others.

For example, a domineering boss presents an excellent opportunity to learn how to advocate for our needs. We may decide to tell our boss how we feel—that we’re afraid, hurt, or angered by their behavior. When we express these feelings straightforwardly, in an open manner, they become more manageable and easier to address.


In the rules of engagement, we often discuss the importance of assuming goodwill. If we assume good intention on the part of our boss or coworker (rather than thinking they’re out to get us), we’ll lower our defenses.


Most of the time, we can find common ground and even realize that maybe our boss is bringing their own baggage to the table. Rather than stewing about our feelings or exploding, we can bring them to light and work through them together.

As I learned in the situation with my own boss, it’s easy to bring our unfinished business into our interactions at work. I was lucky that my boss helped me learn from the situation rather than simply firing me on the spot for mishandling my hurt.

Not only is it essential and healthy for us to express our emotions at work, but it’s healthy for our whole office as well. We’ll enjoy work more, strengthen connections with our coworkers, and discover more success when we start sharing our feelings at work.

Looking for more ways to find success at work and home? Explore our courses at Wright Now. We have many options to help you learn more about your career, your relationships, and yourself. Get the life you want today—a life of MORE!

 


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.

Building Resilience by Helping Kids Learn from Mistakes

How many parents wish they could do everything perfectly?

By learning from their mistakes, children build up resilience.

 


 

How many parents want their children to be perfect as well? How many realize it’s not realistic, nor does it help in building resilience?

It’s tough to do everything right, especially when it comes to parenting. Perfection is an impossible goal. Humans are imperfect beings, but building resilience comes from those mistakes and missteps along our journey. Satisfaction comes not from preventing kids (and ourselves) from making mistakes but from helping children learn from mistakes and identify them as opportunities for growth.

We all know kids model their parents’ behavior. They see how adults deal with life’s dilemmas and challenges and whether they dwell in the mistake or move forward. Because we’re all imperfect, there will definitely be mistakes and missteps on the road of parenting. Still, we can set a powerful example by learning to celebrate mistakes rather than fear them—here’s how to open your mind to mistakes.

Building Resilience Requires Celebrating Mistakes

A friend of ours told me the beautiful way her father helped her embrace her mistakes as she was growing up. Every day when the family sat down to dinner, Dad would ask what mistakes she’d made. It wasn’t a negative conversation or a way to point out shortcomings. Instead, the discussion presented a chance for learning.

The only answer that he wouldn’t accept was, “None.” As long as she had mistakes to share, he would tell her how proud he was to hear what she learned.

I just love that as a conversation starter—one we could all embrace for building resilience and grit. Our mistakes should be celebrated as a chance to gain insight. Reflecting on them isn’t meant to drag us down, shame us, or replay our embarrassment over and over. Instead, it’s a chance to see what works, what doesn’t and measure your approach. It’s an opportunity to make connections.


Mistakes are proof that we’re really going for it. It’s proof that we’re taking positive risks—something that can be pretty difficult for us as adults.


Many of us veer towards playing it safe and trying not to “rock the boat.” We don’t like risks because they’re, well…risky.

The funny thing is that kids are often great at embracing their mistakes as part of their learning process. Because childhood is so fraught with new experiences, there’s no expectation that it will always go right. It’s a series of trial and error. By learning to embrace these trials and errors, they’re building resilience and grit—the ability to bounce back even stronger after a setback.

Often, kids don’t learn to avoid mistakes until they hit adolescence. As they get older, they learn to feel shame and embarrassment about their missteps and failed attempts. As a result, they may hide them or avoid them. Whereas little children are rarely embarrassed trying something new. They don’t worry about looking “silly” or “stupid.” Instead, they approach the task with the sheer joy and exhilaration of discovery.

Of course, if you’ve ever watched kids play, you know that it can be serious business too. Observe kids on the playground, and we’ll see very important interactions. They test the waters with friendships and explore social boundaries. Kids are learning all the time with each new experience. Every moment gives them a chance to examine the approach, consider what they’ve seen in the adult world around them, and apply it to their own social circle.


Childhood is a time of rapid transformation, growth, and evolution. Kids are forming their adult selves. They’re learning how to interact with other people, how to engage and build relationships. For kids, life is a great social experiment.


Anyone who watches kids for even a short time quickly realizes that arguments, frustrations, and even tears are part of the experiment too. Play is very emotional, and children are often extremely expressive. Kids haven’t yet been weighed down by the idea that it’s not okay to cry, or we shouldn’t express upset when our feelings are hurt. Instead, they let it all out. Intuitively, they know that feelings are part of growing and learning, and their emotions are okay.

Getting hurt, losing, and failing are all part of the big game of growing up. Play entails risk, whether it’s climbing on a jungle gym or running around during kickball. There’s a chance to fall, get hurt, and feel pain. Yet, kids keep right ongoing. They have determination, grit, and resilience to try again. Imagine if babies gave up on walking the first time they fell! Kids naturally know they have to keep moving forward. The important part is to help them continue to take risks growing up.

Sometimes kids may even teach parents how to learn from mistakes.

Watching and Learning from Kids About Building Resilience

At our parent and child weekend retreat, we often have the kids fix breakfast for the parents. During this exciting process, the kids are given access to food, the stove, knives, and more. They get to handle all those items they’re typically told not to touch. While the parents learn and work on their personal development, kids get busy learning and experimenting on their own in the kitchen.

Parents often struggle a little with the idea of allowing kids so much freedom. After all, they could make mistakes—breakfast could be ruined! The kids could get cut by a knife or burned by a skillet. They could spill something on the floor. They could mess up a recipe!

The kids, on the other hand, LOVE this experience. They go into the kitchen with their creative thinking caps on, happily embracing their freedom. They’re approaching the experience as another opportunity to learn and discover—to make mistakes and experiment. For kids, cooking a big meal in a kitchen is often fresh and new. They typically approach it with bravery, interest, and enthusiasm.

It’s always fun and rather satisfying to see the parents’ amazement when their children proudly present them with the food—an entire meal they’ve prepared on their own. They’ve planned and tested. They’ve made discoveries. Yes, there are always a few mistakes along the way, but each one is part of the experience.


Kids thrive on new opportunities. They are natural transformers because transformation is synonymous with growth. Kids are in a constant state of transformation.


As adults, we can embrace this same approach and continue to thrive in a transformative state. We can choose to continue to grow, learn, and evolve. We can allow ourselves to make a mess and try new things. Yet, we often shy away from tasks we aren’t good at. We avoid making mistakes because we fear them.

Mistakes are such an essential part of the growth and transformation process. As adults, we have to rediscover our inner transformer—that curious kid inside—and this often involves being more willing to engage with others, make mistakes, and even feel hurt.

 

Transformers are not just willing to make mistakes and displease others; they also celebrate the learning mistakes engender. If this strikes you as counterintuitive—if it seems like these actions will distance you from what you yearn for—understand that taking risks and failing is the best way to learn. And, in order to please yourself, you may have to displease other people. Your boss may not like it if you disagree with him, but to do the work in a way that has impact, you may have no other choice. Obviously, you don’t want to turn yourself into a mistake-making, displeasing machine; this is a path toward failure and misanthropy. Fortunately, making a few key mistakes and taking a few stances that run counter to others you care about is usually sufficient to jump-start the learning process. 

Prepare for hurt. With engagement, we experience embarrassment and hurt, and out of this comes genuine humility. As you take action in ways that are true to your yearning, you say and do things at times that others don’t appreciate or approve of. Like a child who is acting authentically and follows his urge to tell the teacher what he thinks of an assignment, you too may find yourself being misunderstood, rejected, or reprimanded.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

So, when we wonder how to help children learn from mistakes, we may want to adjust that thinking to teaching ourselves how to embrace our own mistakes. Most kids know that mistakes are part of the fun of the journey. It’s only later that they learn that they should avoid making them. Adults, on the other hand, shy away from new endeavors. We calculate our approach and measure our response. When our kids are concerned about mistakes, they may even be picking up on their parents’ fear of mistakes—modeling their parents’ behavior. If we want to learn strength, grit, and resilience, we’d be wise to observe our kids.

If we start to approach new situations as opportunities for trial (and error), our world opens up considerably. The world becomes our playground. A place where we can experiment, see what works, see what doesn’t. We can explore our interactions with others. But, best of all, we can learn to play!

To learn more about embracing new experiences and transforming your world, please explore our courses at Wright Now. We offer many courses to help you learn more about your career, relationships, and personal growth. Start living a life of MORE today!

 


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

 

The Importance of Self-Care: Keeping Your Mind & Body Nourished

When we think of taking care of ourselves, what comes to mind?

Self-care is important. You need to keep your body & mind nourished.


 

Pumping up at the gym?

Ordering the grilled chicken salad at lunch over a cheeseburger?

Jogging every morning at the crack of dawn?

Bubble baths and manicures?

The importance of self-care can’t be understated. Staying healthy, hydrated, and relaxed are all critical for your wellbeing. But there are some other aspects of self-care and nourishment that are even more critical to your long-term happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Here’s how to adjust your view to prioritize self-care today!

The Importance of Self-Care for Your Mindset

Bubble baths, exercise, and even the occasional treat are essential for self-care. We should all take an active interest in our physical health. But a crucial component that’s often overlooked is keeping our minds nourished.


Self-care is not just about learning each day and keeping our minds healthy. It’s about focusing on our emotional fulfillment and wellbeing.


We need to work on our heads and hearts before we stress out about the size of our ass or the flatness of our abs.

Here’s a secret: if our head and our heart are healthy and aligned, the rest of our physical health will follow. Now that’s not to say we should hang up our running shoes and reach for the box of Oreos. But when we’re in the right emotional state within, we’ll also start to prioritize care for our external state as well.

When we’re engaged in life, growing, learning, and discovering new things about ourselves, we’re showing significant self-care and self-compassion. We’re prioritizing our needs and showing love for ourselves, caring about what we need and want. When we experience this shift, we naturally start to nurture our physical selves as well.

Nurture goes beyond eating healthy or resting. What happens when we nurture ourselves and realize the importance of self-care? Just like a mother nurtures a child, we start to think of ourselves more kindly and compassionately. We recognize that we’re a work-in-progress and that mistakes are part of the journey. We realize that we’re moving toward spiritual and emotional growth and fulfillment.

Better still, when we start to have compassion for ourselves, we look at how we’re spending our time and stop zoning out with soft addictions and time wasters. We instead find ways to fill our time with activities that help us grow and move us toward the life we want. We start to love ourselves and discover the importance of self-care and compassion.

Suddenly the hole we might be trying to fill inside ourselves is gone. We don’t reach for the extra fries. We don’t order the milkshake. We don’t view our 5 AM spin class as a way to punish ourselves into the person we wish we could be. We stop eating our feelings, drinking to escape, or burying ourselves in our work.

We can work ourselves into a sweat at the gym. We can set fitness goals and train for years, but if we aren’t working on the stuff underneath—the real stuff—we will never find true health and happiness.

Why Some People Have “It”

Sometimes we meet a person who just has “it.” We meet them and go, “Wow! They’re magnetic!” They stand out and get noticed—maybe they’re in terrific shape, and you can tell they really take care of themselves, but you aren’t noticing only their physique. Or perhaps they hold themselves with grace; they’re dynamic and fabulous. As the French say, it’s that je ne sais quoi (literally that “I don’t know what”).

What we notice in these “it people” isn’t stunning beauty. In fact, they might not even be the best-looking person in the room or even conventionally attractive. Instead, what we notice in these magnetic people is their level of engagement. People who stand apart from the crowd, light up a room and attract others do it because they’re fully engaged. They’re turned on and tuned in. People are interesting because they’re interested in their world.


Engagement isn’t about having a symmetrical face with delicate features. It’s got nothing to do with being in top physical form. It’s not even about being the best dressed, having the most expensive suits, or wearing a designer dress. It’s not even about confidence.


Here’s the deal with confidence—confidence is overrated. It’s an illusion, and in many ways, It’s bullsh*t. Most people have learned to fake it until they make it. We project confidence onto someone because they appear to have stronger self-esteem or be more competent than we are. They seem to exude a quality we don’t see in ourselves.

Confidence is a trick brought on by preparedness and ease in a situation. People who appear truly confident (not ego-centric, but self-assured) are rarely that way naturally. More often, they’re prepared. They’ve invested in themselves and understand the importance of self-care. They’re polished and together. They accept their role in the situation, and they’re ready to do their best. If you want confidence in a meeting or on a date, it’s as simple as preparing beforehand. Know what you’re doing before you walk into the room. It’s that simple.


But more than confidence, what matters is authenticity. Being genuine shows that we care about ourselves and are honest with ourselves and those we interact with. Authenticity comes from within, and it’s real.


Whether it’s a job interview, a board room, or our social lives, if we want to be engaging and interesting, we must be engaged with and interested in others. Not because we’re hoping for reciprocity or because we have an agenda, but simply because we are actually and truly interested. We must aim toward authentic, genuine interactions.

So many of us go into interactions with a false self, as Nietzsche discusses. We, we have a false consciousness and sense of morality. We are all frauds. We’re protecting our false selves because we are all self-motivated. We’re wandering around interacting with others and giving in a way that may appear unselfish. We may even honestly buy into our BS, believing that we surely are unselfish.

The self-motivation isn’t “bad.” As humans, we’re trying to get those around us to fill the gaps in our needs and yearnings. We may think that we’re acting unselfishly, benevolently, and kindly. But we also want others to like us. We want others to help us be listened to, respected, acknowledged, and loved. We think we can scratch their back, and they’ll scratch ours. If I appear to listen to you, you’ll listen back.

The problem is if I haven’t taken responsibility for my needs at some level—If I’m not genuinely present with my needs, then who the heck am I to think I can authentically engage with you in meeting both our needs?! That isn’t genuine, authentic engagement.

So How Do I Meet My Needs?

Step one in your transformation to a life of deeper fulfillment is to learn how to express your deeper wants—your yearnings. We talk a lot about needs, wants, and yearnings, but they’re certainly not interchangeable.


Yearning is deeper than wanting. It’s not a new car, a house, reservations at your favorite restaurant. Those are all wants. Needs go a bit deeper but typically speak to physical needs (food, shelter, sleep, and so on). Yearning is different. Yearning is a crucial component of working toward our self-care.


There’s something vaguely old-fashioned about the term. It has an Old Testament ring to it. Or it sounds like what a heroine in a Victorian novel might say as she stares out the window of her gothic tower, waiting for a lost love to return. As a result, you probably haven’t used “yearn” in a sentence recently. It feels awkward on your tongue, uncertain in your mind…and hardly the dynamic power and fuel of transformation.

When we talk of transformation, we are not talking about a formula but rather about something deeply personal that emerges from within—a unique, new you. Take a moment to reflect upon what you yearn for. Let your mind go blank and listen to your heart. Imagine if your soul had a voice and could articulate what it wants most in the world. Or, more simply, consider what you desire deeply, what would turn your good life into a great one.

Still nothing? That’s okay. Yearning is a natural capacity you can develop.

Or maybe you’ve come up with a list of things you yearn for that are actually wants—you “yearn” to be rich, you “yearn” to travel around the world, you “yearn” for freedom, you “yearn” to have your boyfriend or girlfriend agree to marry you, you “yearn” for a gigantic television. It’s okay, too, to mistake wants for yearnings—we all do it, but it rarely leads to transformation.

The good news is that we know what you yearn for—and it’s exactly that yearning that generates transformation. The things you yearn for are the same things that everyone in the world yearns for. Specifically, we yearn:

To matter

To love and be loved

To be seen

To contribute

To connect

To belong

To achieve mastery

To be affirmed

To connect with a higher power.

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living

Our yearnings are universal—all humans have them. We can identify them within ourselves and get in touch with them. Once we recognize them and understand them, we are opening ourselves up to much greater possibilities.

When we uncover and discover our yearnings, we shift the importance of self-care to focus on getting those yearnings met. Once our yearnings are identified, we can orient ourselves towards activities that fulfill us. We can open ourselves up to deeper interactions and adventures. We start to see our interactions with others not as a step to blindly fulfill our wants and needs but as ways to share emotions to meet yearnings and discover enriching, deeper connections.

When we start to practice the kind of self-care and self-compassion that we deserve—the kind that meets these deeper yearnings, the other needs fall away. Suddenly we’re not looking for timewasters to fulfill the void. We’re not trying to buy a faster car or fit into our skinny jeans, so someone notices us. Instead, we’re nourishing and valuing our beautiful selves because we recognize that we’re worthy and important.

It’s exciting when we realize how close many of us are to starting our transformation. The desires to love ourselves, live a life with purpose, and reach our full potential are very strong for many of us. It drives us, but we allow doubts to creep in.

We tell ourselves we don’t deserve fulfillment. We believe lies about ourselves we’ve been told for years—perhaps even since we were kids. We take the familiar route, not because it’s easy, but because we’re afraid to take the emotional plunge.

It’s time to stop being afraid. Living a life with purpose will bring you the fulfillment you desire. Finding your reasons, finding love for yourself—a caring and ability to nurture yourself—is powerful, tangible, visceral. It will give you that certain “something” when you walk into a room. It will make you far more attractive, “confident,” and interesting than hours at the gym or trips to the spa could give you.

If you’re ready to learn more ways to start living a life filled with purpose and satisfaction, please explore our courses on Wright Now. We have an array of excellent classes to help you boost your career, strengthen your relationships, and get MORE of the life you want.

 


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.

The Secret to Letting Go of Fear by Embracing It and Riding Aliveness

Right now, there’s no way around it—we are all feeling fear. These feelings are natural, normal, healthy, and even expected.

Ride aliveness by learning the secret to letting go of fear by embracing it.


 

During 2020, we were all feeling a lot of fear. We may still feel those fearful feelings even today—whether it’s about illness, the state of the world, or something in our lives that isn’t going well.

But there are many methods for letting go of fear and turning it around. Moreover, these lessons apply at any time (whether we’re in a global pandemic or facing a personal crisis). Here’s how we can lean into some of the lessons over the recent past and embrace them going forward.

Lessons from the Pandemic on Letting Go of Fear

During the early days and months of the Coronavirus pandemic, we were all feeling fear. These feelings were natural, normal, healthy, and even expected. We were all facing an unprecedented situation, where our whole world had been upended. None of us had seen a global pandemic of this proportion before.

For months, we don’t know how the Coronavirus outbreak would play out, and even still, we aren’t back to a complete state of normalcy.

Compounding these fears about the state of the world were other fears like economic insecurity, political unrest, concerns about our health and safety, and the health and safety of our loved ones. Many of us have felt helpless as we see disturbing scenes on the news and read upsetting accounts of the disease.

We were combining these fears with isolation and loneliness from practicing social distancing. And even now, as we’ve emerged, life has changed. Our social connections look different. Being “out and about” may still trigger certain fears and bring up those past traumas.

But we all face frightening situations throughout our lives. Perhaps not always on the global scale that the pandemic wrought, but many of these personal situations can feel even more frightening and upsetting.


We may feel overwhelmed by fear and worry. We may long to start letting go of fear because we feel like it’s holding us back. But it’s important to note that fear may also be protecting us.


Thinking of ways we need to “let go of fear” may be the wrong way of framing the idea. Fear in itself isn’t bad or wrong. It’s protective and healthy. Fear isn’t a bad emotion, and we don’t need to let go of fear or erase it completely. By the same token, we don’t need to let go of any of our emotions; we should allow ourselves to feel them fully. They’re an essential part of who we are.

Instead, what we may need to do when fear feels overwhelming or insurmountable is channel it toward our sense of aliveness. We can use our fear to propel us forward in a positive way.

Believe You Will Prevail

In the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill never lost his certainty that the British would prevail. The bombing was constant. Some nights, 400 tons of bombs were dropped on London. It would have been easy to fall into doubt and complete despair. Many did, but not Sir Winston.

Although he had no idea how they would win and the situation seemed hopeless, Churchill still believed they would come out of the battle. He never wavered—he knew they would get through. In fact, he prepared the British to defend their homeland. He kept them fighting mad and ready for anything—including the devastation of many of their homes.

We can apply this Churchill mindset to our own lives when we’re feeling fearful.


One of the keys to “letting go of fear,” or rather, channeling it into something productive, is to set our intention. Tell ourselves that ‘we will make it through this challenging time, no matter what!’


This attitude will carry us through almost any difficulty. Set the intention that we will survive. Believe that even without a sign of relief, as circumstances even seem to get worse, we will make it through.

Yes, challenging experiences may change us. They may impact our entire lives—we may not make it through unscathed, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t emerge stronger, smarter, and more resilient. When we determine that we’re going to learn and grow, we might come out different, but we will prevail.

The self-belief that we can handle a given situation is called self-efficacy. We can channel and increase our self-efficacy during challenging times. Having self-efficacy doesn’t mean that we feel no fear. We may not even feel confident, but we believe we will handle it.

We might be scared, and we might not know how we’re going to get through the situation. We may shake and tremble at the thought of what we’re facing, but we can set our intention to get through it. We can decide that no matter the circumstance, we will find an opportunity to learn, grow, innovate, support each other, and partner in new ways—always knowing that we will come out on the other side.

Keeping Our Human Connections

Another lesson on resilience we can take from Churchill’s example during the Battle of Britain is that being there for people makes a huge difference. This is especially important in situations where we want to “do” something. We can’t always do; sometimes, we must simply be. Often, being in the moment and offering our presence is equally powerful to most actions we could take.

During the battle, some of the most impoverished areas of London were hit the hardest. These people had nothing left. Churchill knew there was nothing he could do to change what had happened. But he traveled immediately to these hardest-hit areas anyway, and his presence made a huge difference to those people whose entire world had been crushed.

As he walked through the rows of houses that looked as though a giant had stomped them, his eyes welled up with tears. People saw this expression of emotion and said, “He really cares about us. He loves our people.” It meant so much to the British, and witnessing his simple act of human expression carried many of them through the time.

Our sense of caring and empathy for others is a gift that we have in abundance. We may not know what to do in the situation. Maybe we don’t have a job for the friend who is losing their livelihood. Perhaps we don’t get to spend time with someone we care about, or we can’t fix their issue. But we can simply be there for each other. By expressing interest, listening, and reassuring others, we can also find our own sense of comfort.

Listening to others also helps us shift our perspective away from our own situation. Not that we shouldn’t feel upset or concerned if we’re going through a tough time, but when we empathize with loved ones, it can help us realize that we all struggle and none of us are alone.

Finding Serenity in the Fear

I am often struck by the poignancy and relevance of Niebuhr’s serenity prayer popularized by AA. When we’re going through a difficult time, these powerful words can help bring us a sense of comfort and peace: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


When we feel fear, it’s often an appropriate response, but it’s not always a productive place to let ourselves linger and dwell. When we feel fear coming on, we can ask ourselves what we’re really afraid of. What is the root of our fear?


From there, we can use the words of the serenity prayer as our guide—is there something that I can control about the situation? What pieces of this are in my control, and what pieces are beyond it? From there, we can focus on that piece that we can manage.

Our fear lets us know that we’re alive. Fear is an incredible gift as an emotion. It’s part of our survival system. Years ago, our fear told us not to go into the jungle or avoid a particular cave where predators dwelt. Fear kept us safe from harm and helped us react to and assess threatening situations. Fear was key to our very survival.

Today, fear can continue to help us assess certain conditions and situations. It can still protect us. But we need to start letting go of fear when it runs rampant or becomes outsized for the current environment.

It’s not that fear (or any emotion—sadness, hurt, anger) should be avoided. As we said before and tell our students at the Wright Foundation, there’s no such thing as “bad emotions.” All our emotions are powerful. They guide us and protect us. Some of us have developed the skills to harness these emotions and use them to the best effect. This is known as emotional intelligence. All of us are still working on building that emotional intelligence throughout our lives.

To understand how to process emotions, we can learn from watching how young children express their feelings. When they feel scared, they might tremble, cry, or yell, but they also reach out for reassurance and safety. When they’re angry, hurt, or sad, they allow themselves to feel those feelings fully. Then they move once the fear has led to safety, the hurt has led to healing, and the anger has helped us get away from pain and danger or acquire the desired outcome. Emotions are designed to complete themselves with effective action, not to be repressed or avoided.

Once we identify our emotions and feelings, they lose some of their power over us. Neuroscience research shows that when we name our feelings–when we say I am sad, or angry or afraid–it soothes our emotional center. It brings the seat of consciousness, our frontal lobe online, so we can better think and deal with the situations triggering our emotions.


It’s not just the insight or awareness of our feelings that makes the difference; it makes us more able to cope and deal with our feelings.


We can say, “I’m feeling afraid, and that’s okay,” and allow ourselves to feel the emotions fully without getting paralyzed by our fear. We then take appropriate rational, emotion-informed action.

Rather than dwelling in the fear and allowing it to hold us back, we can embrace the aliveness that accompanies our emotions. We can feel the sense of aliveness that fear invokes but not let the fear overwhelm us. This sense of aliveness can help us connect. It helps us connect with our inner selves. We can choose to be alive and engaged rather than to stay fearful and shut down. Fear can be a catalyst for growth, learning, and moving forward.

For more ways to learn and grow, don’t miss the courses available at Wright Now. We offer an array of career, relationship, and personal growth courses designed to help you get MORE from your life. So if you’re ready to live a life of more satisfaction and joy, this is your opportunity!

 


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.

Stuck in Stinking Thinking: What to Do When Negative Thinking Sabotages Success

What’s holding you back from living the life you want? We’ve all experienced negative thinking; it happens all the time.

Break free of the negative thinking that sabotages your success.


 

Do you not have enough money? Time? Talent?

Do you lack social support? Is it your friends’ fault?

Does it seem too hard? Is the life you want out of your reach?

Does life seem unfair, like the universe never works out in your favor?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be displaying negative thinking, or what we like to call stinking thinking. Are you ready to stop getting in your own way? Here’s how to shift your negative thinking and stop sabotaging your success.

Where Does Stinking Thinking Come From?

Why the funny name for negative thinking? Because it stinks! Stinking thinking sabotages our success and creates self-imposed roadblocks. We may use denial, justification, and avoidance tactics to shift the blame and avoid responsibilities—essentially getting in our own way.

What’s more, stinking thinking is the opposite of positive thinking. Rather than intending and believing we’re moving toward a life we want, negative thinking leads to disempowerment. Stinking thinking leaves us in a place where we’re shooting ourselves right in the foot.


Stinking thinking feels good because nothing is our fault. We don’t need to move forward because we’ve come up with the perfect excuse—it’s too hard; I’m too tired; the chips didn’t fall in my favor.


The outcome is out of our hands and beyond our control. Stinking thinking gives us an out. It also holds us out of getting what we want.

So why do we do it? Why do we engage in negative thinking patterns? Like many of our thoughts and actions, stinking thinking is a big part of our personality makeup. It’s not something we can simply switch on and off. The thoughts are deeply rooted in family patterns set for us in our childhood.

As a child, were you ever told you were too emotional? Too sensitive? Too much? Not enough? Did you start to believe what you heard about yourself? These beliefs can all lead to stinking thinking.

You see, over time, the lies and warnings we’re told about ourselves stick. Imagine the little cartoon devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear and repeating these mistaken beliefs. Eventually, these thoughts even become habitual.

We may believe we’re unsafe in the world because we were unsafe as children.

We may be hyper-self-conscious because we were constantly asked, “what will the others think?”

We may have been raised to believe the world is hostile.

We might believe we don’t possess the innate talent of a sibling or friend, or to believe things come easy for others but don’t come easy for us. We weren’t “born with it.”

We may paint the world with a rosy brush because we have a deep-seated need to use over-optimism to make everything okay.

These negative thought patterns are deep within us, and they become our “normal.” Because we’ve repeated them for years, they eventually lead to limiting beliefs. These were reinforced by behaviors and actions that we took, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. People treat us like we’re “not enough” because we walk in a room without confidence, believing that we’re going to be rejected, with our shoulders down and our heads hung. We don’t speak up because we think we have nothing to share. Then when people see how we present ourselves, they believe it too. Our belief is reinforced.

These limiting beliefs hold us back and keep us from what we want and are constantly reinforced by our own stinking thinking.

Denial: Not a Just a River in Egypt

Stinking thinking and negative thinking patterns can lead us to a place where we feel unfulfilled, disengaged, and disempowered. We may feel stuck in our circumstances, but we also believe that we are helpless to change them.

For many people, this disengagement and denial cause us to seek ways to “zone out.” So, instead of grabbing life by the horns, we seek ways to fill the emptiness inside. We give ourselves an excuse to indulge in soft addictions—things that bring us a temporary boost but then leave us feeling worse than before.


Soft addictions are little habits we all undertake to self-sabotage. If you binge-watch Netflix, endlessly scroll through social media, overeat, shop more than you can afford, or constantly “lose yourself” in activities (even socializing or working), you might be looking at a soft addiction.


These addictions aren’t limited to activities either. We can become addicted to gambling, seeking danger, making deals, playing dumb, constantly being late, flirting, gum chewing, nail-biting, over-exercising…and the list goes on. We can even become addicted to moods and ways of being, such as hiding behind sarcasm, moping, being a people-pleaser, or a perfectionist. Our soft addictions take up our time and brainpower to avoid the negative thinking that we feel powerless to change.

We all use stinking thinking and denial to justify our behavior, avoid feelings, and con others as well as ourselves. Denial, defensiveness, overgeneralization, minimizing, blaming, and jumping to conclusions several examples of the stinking thinking to which we are vulnerable. When we don’t think clearly and cleanly, we are likely to minimize or even deny that our soft addictions pose problems. Stinking thinking prevents us from viewing our routines objectively and honestly.

Stinking thinking is so pervasive we often don’t realize it exists. We think our stinking thoughts are facts, not arbitrary decisions based on faulty beliefs. Our distorted thoughts normalize our soft addiction routines.

Stinking thinking becomes like a sea we live in. We’re like fish, not knowing water exists around them until they’re caught. Stinking thoughts lead us to indulge in soft addictions, defend the behavior, and deny any problem with our actions. Stinking thinking becomes a sort of soft addiction in itself—a habitual thought pattern that we return to repeatedly for diminishing returns.

Soft addictions function as a filter of our experience, screening out useful input. As we enmesh ourselves in shopping, gossiping, and daydreaming routines, we fail to feel the pain that could guide us toward the right action. Without feeling our pain, we more easily deny that anything is wrong.

The vicious cycle, of course, is that we engage in soft addictions precisely because we don’t want to feel pain. Without the ability to see our lives clearly and feel the pain completely, we can convince ourselves that our soft addictions are harmless or even that they are good for us.

That’s when we deny with comments like: What problem? What pain? What do you mean this is a problem? I can’t see it as a problem.

The Soft Addiction Solution

Denial comes in many forms—minimizing, lying, rationalizing, and comparing (one of the sneakiest forms). See, we figure if everyone else is doing it, it’s okay we’re doing it too. We feel safe in our negative thoughts and actions because they’re ubiquitous—everyone does it. But when we step back and look at the facts, we may realize those we surround ourselves with also give way to their own stinking thinking.


It’s not a coincidence that negative thinking attracts more negative thinkers. We might see it as conspiring or coming together to commiserate, but we’re commiserating in misery. We’re surrounding ourselves with negative thinking patterns because they feel familiar and even “safe.”


These fellow stinking thinkers serve as living examples of how our own thoughts and behaviors are okay (others are doing it too!) even though, deep down inside, we know that it’s holding us back.

We may even realize that scrolling through social media for hours or retail therapy with money we don’t have is hurting us. We may also know that eating ice cream for dinner or ordering pizza isn’t the ideal way to nourish our bodies, but it makes us feel better in the moment. We’re numb to the real hunger that’s beneath the surface of our actions—we may not realize that we really long to be loved, to connect with others, to matter, to feel fulfilled.

The good news is that one of the best ways to reverse the trend in our negative thinking is to catch ourselves doing it. When we start to notice our stinking thinking, we stop ourselves from living in the land of denial. Awareness of how these thoughts are hurting, not helping us offers big motivation to change them. As they say, “awareness is half the battle,” and with stinking thinking, it’s true.

Catching Your Negative Thinking

We challenge our students at Wright Graduate University to become experts at catching stinking thinking and breaking those negative thinking patterns. Reversing our negative thinking is one of the biggest keys to shifting our direction in life—taking back power and realizing that we’re in control of our behaviors and outcomes.

Even during our weekend workshops and More Life Training, we often encourage the awareness and identification of stinking thinking by passing out tokens to participants. Each time they notice a group member (or themselves) exhibiting stinking thoughts, they hand over a token. Since this is done in good humor, it’s not unusual to see participants laugh out loud at themselves, especially when they realize how silly and stinky their denial, excuses, and rationalizations sound aloud.


When we realize that we have the power within ourselves to change our lives, regardless of our circumstances, inherent talents, job, financial status, or other external factors, it’s energizing. We are not stuck in our stinking thinking! Our stinking thoughts aren’t true, and we can break those negative thinking patterns and move forward.


Identifying our stinking thinking patterns is the best way to break them. In fact, stepping back and even laughing a little at the ridiculousness of our stinking thoughts helps us realize how unfrightening they are. Humor and compassion are anecdotes to our not-so-great thoughts. Guess what? We’re all human! Occasionally, we have to laugh at ourselves.

So often, when it comes to working on personal growth and transformation, we approach it with a seriousness and direness that counteracts the goal. If you want to live a life of more play, more joy, and more vitality, you aren’t going to get there by taking life too seriously.

Handing out tokens, laughing at ourselves, and even reading humorous books and watching movies where we can identify stinking thinking (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Austin Powers, and Monty Python’s Holy Grail are a few that come to mind), can help us realize how irrational our rationalization is!

As you work to overcome your limiting beliefs and stinking thinking, don’t forget to approach it with a sense of humor. Identify your stinky thoughts and turn them on their head. If you are worried about what others think, do something ridiculous and goofy. If you’re afraid of making a fool of yourself, get up there and do it anyway.

Balzac said our greatest fears lie in anticipation, and it’s true. What’s the worst that could occur? Could you live with it? Imagine what could be possible if you stopped believing you couldn’t and started believing you could?

For more ways to get the life you want, don’t miss our courses on Wright Now. We have an array of classes that can help you get MORE from your relationships, career, and yourself. Empower yourself to live a life that’s full of joy and satisfaction today!

 


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