How to Have Happier Holidays with Your Family

Awake or asleep? How do you want to navigate the holidays?

Wondering how to have happier holidays with your extended family? The holidays are a challenge, but here’s how to survive (and actually enjoy your holiday season).


Whether you’re going to a family gathering, work get-together, or social function, the holidays are a busy time…and sometimes the busyness translates into stress. The stress is compounded by unfinished business lurking in the dynamics of our family circles. This constant hustle and bustle zaps our energy and leaves us feeling less-than-joyful. We forget what the holidays are all about. In fact, many of us may wish for them to just be over with.

But the holidays are a wonderful time to catch up with friends and family. It’s an opportunity to fill our lives with joyful experiences and stronger connections; all we need is a shift in our approach. So, this year, rather than reaching for the eggnog to zone out, here’s how to engage with others, zone in, and bring more meaning into your holiday season.

If you want to have happier holidays this year, the choice is up to you.

Navigating Through Sticky Holiday Situations with Family

When I was very young, my sister and I were sitting at the kids’ table one Christmas. I believe my sister was about five-years-old at the time. Like many children, she didn’t operate with a filter yet. Typically, she said whatever was on her mind.

A family friend brought their much-doted on, fluffy little terrier to dinner and put his dish right next to my sister, thinking Fido was joining us at the table. My sister piped up and said, “I like dogs, but not THAT much!”

Now, what happened? All the adults erupted in a nervous, uncomfortable laughter. Someone shushed my sister. But the truth was, while her comment was probably a little insulting to the dog’s owners (who were lovely family friends), it was coming from a place of pure honesty. She simply articulated what the rest of us were thinking. The adults might have had sympathy on the surface, but they still gossiped and rolled their eyes about a dog at the dinner table. So which reaction was really any better?


How many of us go into social situations, afraid to pipe up when there’s a dog at the table? We hold back, afraid to say what we’re really thinking. We don’t express what we want and we shy away from conflict.


This means we end up making excuses for avoiding the in-laws. When we do end up at a party, we might feel stressed, annoyed, angry, and resentful. We may feel upset with our spouse for dragging us to a function we didn’t want to attend.

When we experience these resentments and frustrations, it leaves us feeling drained, tired, and less-than alive. We drink another glass of champagne. We watch TV. We wait for it to be over. And these feelings aren’t limited to holiday functions.

As NY Times columnist, Sean D. Kelly wrote, “Think of the way that life really can become lifeless. You know what it’s like: rise, commute, work, lunch, work some more, maybe have a beer or go to the gym, watch TV. For a while, the routine is nurturing and stabilizing; it is comfortable in its predictability. But soon the days seem to stretch out in an infinite line behind and before you. And eventually, you are withered away inside them. They are not just devoid of meaning but ruthless in their insistence that they are that way. The life you are living announces it is no longer alive.”

This holiday season, choose aliveness.

Getting Past What We’re Avoiding

A lot of people are going to drink their way through the holidays. It’s not because they’re happy. It’s because they don’t know how to deal with it. Even those who don’t imbibe still turn to screen time and other soft addictions to help them cope. We turn on the football game, we blast the parades, we pack in distractions because we simply don’t know how to be fully alive and present with others—particularly our families.

If we’re alive and present, we’re going to follow our yearnings. If we follow our yearnings, we’re going to speak up like my sister did to our dog-owning friends. We assume it’s better instead to “keep the peace” but it doesn’t truly bring us peace internally.

We all have family members who button-hole people at the holiday dinners. The uncle who drones on and monopolizes the conversation to all who will listen. Aunt Suzi prattles on and on. She catches peoples’ ear and talks endlessly about topics no one else cares about, while the audience member scans for an exit. We know a simple question leads to tragic entrapment. So instead we avoid.

If we end up in the next room, we find Mom and Aunt Ann gossiping and complaining about the men. Then we run to the next room with the kids who are whining about the adults. We’re simply wandering through, looking for a way out. As the game matures, everyone learns to put on a stiff upper lip, a social look, and save their judgements for the car.

Once they get into the car they unload. What happens? A fight erupts.

This was always the case with my family. A two-hour odyssey “over the river and through the woods” (or in this case through Chicago and past O’Hare) to get to the family was filled with tense anticipation. My father wasn’t looking forward to seeing my grandmother, who had a high-pitched voice like nails on a chalkboard.

The whole way to visit family for the holidays the fight would get going. Not because my mother didn’t agree, but because she was very enmeshed with my grandmother. They spoke so often, in fact, my father bought my mother a shoulder cradle for the phone (back in the days of “landlines”) so she could do dishes and housework while my grandmother prattled on and on—otherwise, she may not have ever gotten anything done.

Meanwhile, my grandfather didn’t like my father because he’d “stolen” his baby girl and was less affluent than they felt she deserved. It took years for my grandmother to realize my mother had actually made a wise move to marry for love.

So, there we were with all this unfinished business driving on the highway; my father upset and irritable; my mother downplaying her own irritation with my grandparents, even though she knew as well as we all did, it wasn’t a pleasant situation.

But on we went, and it was miserable every year.

Now, were we all wiser back then, we would have realized the unspoken feelings and resentments that were building up weren’t letting us feel the joy of Christmas. We weren’t engaging. We weren’t connecting. In fact, there was nothing about the spirit of the season to be found.

Honesty Brings Happier Holidays

The truth is, being honest is the key to bringing about happier holidays. Now, this doesn’t always mean a brutally honest verbal knockdown and drag out around the yule log. When we go into a situation with our emotional guns ablaze, we rarely resolve anything.

But embracing honesty throughout the year will help you have happier holidays. Even if it seems too late to start this year, it’s not. Express your feelings to your spouse about the situation BEFORE you get in the car and head to the events. Agree to a time limit or come up with a codeword when Aunt Suzi corners one of you and starts chatting. Use the time to connect more deeply with your partner and have a little fun with the situation. See yourselves as allies, who are in the situation together.


Beyond the holidays, commit to more honesty and greater aliveness in the new year. This means honestly acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of your life, your family, and your relationships.


It also means honestly expressing your feelings and engaging in productive conflict as you work FOR the better of the relationship. It may help to remember, one of the Rules of Engagement from our book, The Heart of the Fight is to fight FOR rather than against. Another key rule is to assume good intentions on the part of the other party.

When your father-in-law starts proselytizing about politics or your sister offers up thinly-veiled critiques of your job, operate with honesty but engage with them as a chance to learn. Can you empathize with their point? Can you ask them to help you understand where they’re coming from? How can you learn more about who they are? View it as a chance to learn something new about yourself.

When the dust settles, another key to happier holidays is to really use them as an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate what was good over the past 12 months. Create a ritual where you reflect on the transformative experiences you had this year, including holiday time with family. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about your loved ones?

Use these insights from your reflection to plan with more intention in the next year. How will you bring more aliveness to your life? What will you carry with you into the future? What will you leave behind as you let go of the past year to help you move forward?


This time of year is a powerful opportunity for visioning and setting your intention and dreams for the year ahead.  The same is true for all of us (including your family).


If you’re looking for an opportunity to experience happier holidays and engage with your family during events, use these dreams as a platform for conversation. It’s extremely interesting to discuss with family members their dreams for the next year. Find people in your family who are doing something and talk to them about their dreams and goals. Support them in following their dreams. Support them in stepping out on their own. You may not have the nerve to step out on your own in the past, but you may encourage a younger family member to have the courage to live their dreams.

You can be fully alive and in the spirit of gratitude for the holidays without being “polite” or lying to those around you. In fact, embracing honesty is key to having happier holidays. Use the challenging situations to discover and learn more about your relationships, your family and yourself.

Give purpose and meaning to the holidays and give purpose and meaning to how you want to develop yourself. You might not dive into all of the chaos of the family dynamic or resolve all your issues in one visit but operate with honest and openness as you mix and mingle this holiday.

For more on how to live with more honesty and intention, visit the Wright Foundation website. Join us for an upcoming networking event where you will connect with others and learn more about yourself. We also want to announce the availability of many of our courses for download. Don’t miss out on the special introductory price for many of our courses and lectures.


 About the Author

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


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

 

 

Parenting & Fulfillment: Embracing the “Being” of Parenthood

What does it really mean to be a mother or a father? What is the true definition of these roles? Can we still nurture and give life, even if we aren’t parents in the traditional sense?

Embracing parenthood as our children grow.


 

Do we need to put our own personal growth on hold while we’re nurturing our children?

It’s no secret parenting is an emotional and in-depth experience. It’s a rollercoaster—a series of ups and downs. Often parents look back on the first years of their child’s life as a blur. We wonder if we did everything wrong. We may even feel like our own needs were put on hold or overlooked during those first years raising kids.

To understand why this is, we must explore the roles of mother and father.

When we hear words like “mother” and “feminine,” we think of emotional, nurturing qualities, especially as they pertain to our roles as parents. Motherhood is the very being of the parental role. “Father” and “masculine” might bring up opposite images—someone who DOES, rather than is. Father goes out, he obtains things to fulfill the needs of his family. He provides.

Now obviously in today’s world these normative gender roles no longer apply as rigidly as they once did, but there’s still a masculine and feminine component. Fathers today can be very nurturing, emotional and caring. Mother might be a high-powered executive and the sole breadwinner for the family, but at the core, parenting requires both the “being” AND the “doing” sides of the coin.

Male and female personality types aren’t cut and dry along gender lines either. Co-parenting and raising children as a family unit, rather than just “being” in the mother role is becoming the norm as we move into a more evolved and modern viewpoint.

Still, there are certain qualities that are assigned to parenting by the very nature of the role—nurturing, growing, connecting and evolving right alongside our children (or our projects, whatever “creation” we give birth to), whether we fall into the traditional roles of father and mother or something else.


Being a parent to the fullest extent is about BEING. It is through being that we can use parenting as a platform for our own personal growth as well as the growth of our children. We cannot simply “do” parenting; we have to BE a parent.


Emotion and the “Doing” of Parenting

Every parent knows there’s a lot of “doing” as a parent, particularly at first—there’s tossing dirty diapers in the trash, warming up bottles, feeding, sleeping, washing, and so much more. While these things involve some nurture and care, they’re definitely process-involved.

Sometimes within the processes of doing parenting, we can forget we also need to embrace the being. The “being” is vital to our own social emotional growth.

As parents, and particularly as mothers, we might forgo our own desires and yearnings to meet the desires of our children. Years pass, and when our kids are grown or have moved beyond the stage where they need constant attention, we might find ourselves less fulfilled, even empty. We might wonder why we spent so much time ignoring our own needs while we focused on the needs of those around us.

During my graduate study work (and in my own journey as a parent), I closely explored this role of motherhood and the dichotomy of being constantly “needs focused” and yet forgoing one’s own needs.

On the purely practical level, there are the basic functions of the job of mothering—feeding, dressing, changing diapers, maintaining nap and sleeping schedules, etc.—that require a significant amount of time for the woman engaged in mothering, especially in the early years. One might assume a woman’s facility with her emotions is not significant in these day-to-day happenings, but that would be a limiting assumption. –Excerpt from my dissertation, Expanding Mothering: Raising a Woman’s Awareness of the Opportunities for Personal and Psychosocial Growth and Development in Mothering (pg. 21)

At the core of motherhood and through these practical actions, there’s a great deal of emotion, but these emotions are often undervalued by society, and even by the parents who are experiencing them.

Even from the first moments of being a parent,

she is confronted by her fear and scarcity/survival about being strong enough, or capable enough to birth and feed her baby. She will need to be in a relationship with herself, allowing past fears and beliefs that she is “not enough” to come to the surface for healing, acknowledge that she actually is capable and move to trust—in both herself and those supporting her. Not only will she achieve the desired outcome more effectively she will have experienced it as a fulfilling here and now moment. –Excerpt from my dissertation, Expanding Mothering: Raising a Woman’s Awareness of the Opportunities for Personal and Psychosocial Growth and Development in Mothering (pg. 18)

Experiencing Growth Together

Parenting can be both frightening and fulfilling. It can dredge up much of our past and our beliefs about ourselves—the doubts, the feelings of, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and the fears can become almost palpable as we try to raise our children.

At the core of becoming a fulfilled parent is embracing our own personal growth alongside the growth of our children. The amazing thing about children is that they can become our model for how we can go forth and view the world. Children are always open to new experiences. They approach each day as a new adventure. They experience wonder and awe every day.

How wonderful for each of us, if we could learn to apply the same approach! By working through our fears and limiting beliefs, we not only discover and engage, but also thrive and evolve, not only as parents but also as individuals.

Parenting Workshops

The Wright Foundation offers several parenting workshops, including our popular weekend family adventure retreats where parents can spend time with their children and apply the skills they’re learning to their parenting.

By expanding our own social and emotional intelligence and doing our personal growth work, we parents can look back on the years of raising our children as years of fulfillment and joy. We can fully engage and live with intentionality and purpose. Rather than simply “doing what it takes” to parent, we can BE what it takes to parent.

At the very core of parenting is a need to embrace, rather than shirk your emotional side. You must feel your emotions fully and understand your yearnings and innermost desires. Fulfillment isn’t something parents must forgo, it can be found within the act of parenting itself.

For more information on our weekend workshops or opportunities for personal growth at Wright, please visit the Wright Foundation website.


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 a 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.


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

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.

Family Relationships:
Why is Honest Talk on Family Off Limits?

Do you cringe when someone brings up your family? Was your mother a saint? Was your father your hero? Do you hate the thought of “going there” when people ask you questions about your family?

Why is honest talk on family off limits?


 

When it comes to working on our personal growth, figuring out our baggage, and resolving the things holding us back, why are we often SO afraid of addressing our family relationships? Maybe it’s the fear of having to confront our parents about things we had no control over, or perhaps it’s confronting our own fears and the realization that there are parts of our makeup we cannot control.

Yet, when our spouse says, “You’re just like your dad,” …Oh boy! Those are fighting words!

Oh, We’re Going There

Our family relationships are often seen as “off limits”—they’re the elephant in the room. They’re the reason why you see Harley bikers with “Mom” tattoos and you see grown men come to blows over “yo’ mama” jokes. It’s this feeling of “say what you want about my friends, my spouse, and even my kids, but don’t say anything about my parents!”

“You don’t know what my mother went through!” or “I was a rough kid to raise and my parents did their best. I’m not going to blame them for my issues!”

Our relationship with our parents is often sacrosanct. We just don’t go there—and we don’t want others to go there either.

What if I told you that your family relationships are exactly where you should go? Scary right? I know, but hear me out.

Whether you like it or not, your emotions, your internal makeup, and your beliefs about yourself are largely completed by age six. Yes, experiences and particularly traumas can change us and cause us to have more fears and more internal “stuff,” but for the most part, our emotional fabric is made up as children and very early on.

Scientists, psychologists, and researchers have studied this extensively, and it’s the reason why programs like “success by six” and parenting classes are so heavily promoted in kids’ early years. Infants have a bond with their parents (and particularly their mother) that’s like no other. If that bond is shaken or broken in any way (and there’s no perfect parent, so there will always be a few cracks in the facade), it can lead to beliefs that hold us back. We call these deep-seeded yet false beliefs “limiting beliefs.”

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

Your limiting beliefs might be things like:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m not safe.
  • I don’t deserve to be heard.
  • I’m “too much.”
  • It’s not okay to share my feelings.
  • It’s never okay to cry.
  • Being angry is unacceptable.

You see, our limiting beliefs might prevent us from resolving them. If we believe it’s not okay to question our parents and that they’re always right—then we may never move forward. If we can’t get angry or if we hold back our emotions or if we feel like we always have to be positive and perfect, we can’t address the real root of what’s going on inside of us.

When I was young, I was a perfectionist. (I’m still a “recovering” perfectionist, to be honest.) I was the girl who did everything right. I got straight A’s. I was a leader in the marching band and the color guard. I was popular. I worked hard. I tried to constantly do the right thing.

Deep down inside, though, I had the limiting belief that I wasn’t measuring up.

I believed I was “faking it” and if I wasn’t careful, I would be found out as a phony. This is a common belief that plagues even top executives and CEOs (and particularly women)—it’s called “imposter syndrome.” It’s the feeling that you aren’t REALLY as smart, professional, talented, or even as attractive as you’ve “tricked” everyone into believing.

Even through college and the early parts of my career, this feeling of being an imposter haunted me. It held me back from my personal transformation and growth. Ultimately, it kept me from feeling fulfilled. Through every success and every milestone, I still felt I didn’t quite deserve it. I felt like it wasn’t real because I was faking it. There was this fear I would be found out and *poof* it would all be gone.

Where did this belief come from? Well, like any limiting belief, it was founded before I was even aware of it. It came from my wanting to be noticed as a child. It came from my longing for praise and acknowledgment…from parents who were proud, but not “too proud.” …Parents, who encouraged me to always strive for more. While this was a positive thing in some ways, it also created and reinforced this limiting belief that I wasn’t enough, and that I needed to be perfect, to try harder, to always be more.

Why Address Our Limiting Beliefs?

So why do you really need to deal with your family relationships? Can’t your relationships with your parents and siblings just be swept under the rug? Can’t you just “get over it”?

The answer is no. If these relationships and their effects on us aren’t explored and examined, they’ll continue to hold us back. We will continue to see these patterns repeat in our lives—in our careers, in our relationships, and within our social circles. We often recreate these connections and we’re drawn to them, because they’re so comfortable. They reinforce ALL the things we already believe about ourselves.

During our Year of Transformation program, we spend a whole quarter on Family & Intimacy. Why? Because it’s THAT important to helping you discover who you are and how you can be your best self.


“I had a lot of fear going into Family and Intimacy, my third quarter. There are certain fears and pain I was running away from. Even identifying my family’s rules and beliefs was challenging, realizing that I will continue to project my belief through others, whether it’s my wife, my siblings or perhaps even my newborn child.

The other realization was how I always desired to have a more forceful mother who would stand up for herself and go after her dreams and desires. I projected that “wish” onto my wife and would get upset when I didn’t see that happening.

As a result of that realization, I shifted my actions. I dug into several historical pains. After building up a lot of feelings and emotions throughout the quarter, I finally broke into tears with my mother, mostly from the pain over the loss of my father 22 years ago. I felt like it was the first time I fully expressed that sadness. I also had a heart-to-heart conversation with her regarding her goals and my vision for her.

That was the first time I had a conversation like that with her in my life.”

-Noah, Senior Research & Development Manager and Year of Transformation Student


As you can see, the benefits to tackling these beliefs and addressing our relationships with our family can make our connections stronger. It can guide us on our journey and help us transform our lives. All of us want more personal fulfillment. We want more growth. We want to be great.

To reach our full potential, we have to train and exercise our emotions. We have to learn how to be more open, more aware, and more engaged. We need to stop living a life where we question each success, or feel undeserving or as though we aren’t enough.

You are a gift to the world! You may not believe it yet, but within each of us is vast untapped potential and purpose. What you bring to the world is unique to you. It’s that je ne sais quoi, that “special thing” about you that makes up who you are.


“We can provide 101 reasons why personal transformation is beneficial, but the best one of all is this: You will give birth to a greater you.

Regardless of your age or personal development to date, you don’t know who that greater you is, but you’ve probably had glimpses. You’ve thought to yourself, if I only did x, I could have achieved so much. Or you imagine having a different, much more satisfying relationship with your spouse, our children, your parents. Or you dream about all the good you might accomplish for humankind if only you had the right team, or you didn’t have all the responsibilities, the financial concerns, the self-doubt. Somewhere deep inside of you, you understand that you could be greater than you are.

Transformation is the path to releasing this greater person from the recesses of your mind and bringing him or her to life. There’s nothing egotistic, inauthentic, or delusional in wanting to have a great life. In fact, it’s a perfectly natural impulse. Cultural evolutionists such as Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber talk about how people want to participate in their own evolution and reach the next level of development. We’re not made to settle for good over great, to accept comfort instead of challenge. We all have a drive to explore and learn, but society or our own upbringing often dampen that drive and we believe we can only do or achieve or be so much and no more.”

Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living


So, it’s time to stop holding back! Explore those beliefs. It’s time to “go there” and look at your family relationships. You may find by addressing things and bringing them out into the light, they aren’t nearly as scary as you once thought. In fact, they may bring you closer to your parents and siblings. They may also bring you closer to your true self with all of your amazing potential.

At Wright, we have several classes and options to help you improve your relationships with your family and yourself. We offer Family and Parenting workshops to help you improve your parenting skills or to take along with your kids to improve your relationships. If you’d like to learn more about personal growth or our Year of Transformation classes, or if you’re interested in joining us for a free Foundations Training weekend, please visit www.wrightliving.com. Take the first steps toward unlocking your potential for a better you and a better tomorrow!


About the Author

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


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

How to Survive (and Thrive!)
this Holiday Season

Picture your happiest holiday, your most idyllic scene. Whether it’s Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Christmas or the New Year…close your eyes for a moment and envision what the “perfect holiday” would be for you.

holiday season


 

Does it look like a serene scene right out of your favorite holiday movie? Or maybe it looks like a Norman Rockwell painting…?

We all have an idea of what the “ideal” holiday looks like. Just like a fairytale romance, this scene has been ingrained into our minds by thousands of similar Hollywood tropes, saying, “This is what the holidays should be. This is what a perfect holiday looks like.” In Hollywood, even the stressful holiday moments are part of the storyline—they always work out with a laugh and a happy ending.

You may be feeling a certain amount of stress or pressure to live up to these expectations, so when the holiday doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned or when it feels less meaningful than you’d hoped, it can feel defeating and disappointing…even depressing. Compound these expectations with the additional stressors of the season, like end-of-year work pressures, time management issues, dark days, cold weather, financial strain—it’s no wonder you might be feeling more “bah humbug” than “fa-la-la-la-la.”

According to the APA, at least 69% of people are stressed out over the holidays! Yet, what do we do? We repeat the process every year! We take on the same expectations and ideals. We set the bar higher and higher to find the perfect tree, cook the perfect dinner, hold the most festive party, or give the most amazing gift.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret—it’s not about reaching the singular pinnacle of the “perfect moment,” it’s about finding the joy in all of the moments throughout the season!

Truly Feeling Joy All Season Long

When we put too much pressure on ourselves or build up an ideal scene in our minds, we might be removing the joy, wonder, and excitement from the other moments surrounding it.

Instead, practice mindfulness this holiday season. Wrapping gifts with your daughter, decorating the tree with your spouse, or lighting holiday candles might be just as satisfying as carving the turkey and raising a glass. The weeks before Christmas can be just as festive and filled with happiness as the moment you unwrap gifts from under the tree. They don’t have to be jam-packed with Santa and literal bells and whistles either. The quiet moments and connections can have the most meaning.

In fact, sometimes the anxiety over that pinnacle “perfect” moment can be built up so much that we can barely enjoy the moment itself. Brides and grooms often describe their wedding day as going by really fast or “a blur,” and it’s even common to feel a little letdown after. It’s for the same reasons: when we become narrow and singular in our vision, working on an ideal day or even a single moment for months, we take the joy and satisfaction out of the journey and the learning process.

Planning, shopping, cooking, preparing—these rituals of the holiday season can bring satisfaction, too. Engaging in a great conversation at a party or really connecting with a loved one over the season can be the true highlight. You might not have a Tiny Tim “God bless us, everyone” moment at your dinner table…and that’s okay. You can still have a wonderful holiday season.

Redefining the “Perfect” Holiday

Instead of picturing the single perfect holiday moment, try to picture what your ideal month would look like. Are there family members and friends who you really want to engage and connect with? Are the activities you’d like to do to celebrate the season?

When you have the opportunity to see friends, really listen, and engage with them. Express your appreciation for them and make time for those who elevate you and bring out your best. Make these friends your priority, especially during times when you can otherwise brush off social engagements because of too many other commitments. These are the moments that will renew and revive you.

If holiday lights really give you the sense of magic you long for, make a priority to take a winter walk with your spouse and enjoy the lights around your neighborhood. If you love the windows downtown, keep a place in your shopping schedule to take a walk by all the shops and really be present in the moment—take it in. Treat yourself to a sensory delight like a peppermint latte or a gingerbread tea, and really focus on the memories and feelings it conjures. Don’t worry about snapping the “perfect selfie” or documenting the “perfect” moment. Simply enjoy it!

During these busy days we can forget about self-care and giving ourselves little “gifts” of mindfulness and renewal. Listen to music, get outdoors and get some exercise. Don’t zone out with too much alcohol and food to quell your anxiety—enjoy a treat, and move forward. Keep yourself mindful and in the moment, getting plenty of rest and keeping your schedule from becoming too jam-packed.

Encouraging Meaningful Connections & Engagement

The best part of the holiday season is the opportunity to connect and engage with friends, family and those around us in a meaningful, deliberate and celebratory way. Make the most of it!

Rather than tackling baggage and confronting every issue when you go home, approach even strenuous situations with honesty. If you’re worried about a confrontation with a sibling or dreading criticism from your mother, set up the situation for success. Tell them, “I want to spend today appreciating each other and focusing on the joy of the moment. We have some things to talk about at a later time, but let’s enjoy each other’s company for now.”

Before you head into a particularly stressful family situation, take the time to think of, and even write down, what you appreciate about your family member. When you spend time with them mentally refer back to your list, tell them what you’ve discovered and what they mean to you. Make the holidays about appreciation and connection.

Does this mean you have to let go of rude behavior or become a punching bag? No way! You can express your emotions and feelings (and should)! Just know that once-a-year around the brisket, you’re probably not going to resolve deep-seated concerns and personality conflicts.

If there’s something eating away at you that needs to be addressed, or if a family member gets out of line or does something upsetting, step in and be the voice of reason. Let them know you’d like to discuss things after the New Year (if you feel it needs to be addressed and can be resolved), and for now, you’d like to focus on appreciation and building connections.

When it’s all said and done, there may be family members that we just don’t get along or agree with…perhaps we can’t come together on our core beliefs or attitudes. During the holidays, however, we may end up in each other’s presence because we both care about the same people (other family members). Use this commonality as a platform for connection, and if worst comes to worst, you can both agree that no one wants to ruin Christmas for Grandma, and make the best of mutually appreciating and enjoying her.

Take time to give yourself a break when you need one. Go for a walk. Build your intimacy and bond with your partner by making them your ally. Turn a stressful moment into a challenge you can tackle and use to learn and grow from.

Throughout the holidays we’re given opportunities to stretch ourselves and really tap into our emotional intelligence. We can worry and stress out, or we can rise to the occasion and come through the holidays with a greater understanding of ourselves and those around us—building some great memories to boot!

This holiday season, commit to really engaging in those moments and learning opportunities. Stretch yourself emotionally and express appreciation for the people in your life. Listen, engage, and grow all season long. Look at this season as an opportunity to build your momentum and propel yourself into a successful New Year of transformation and connection!


For more on making the most of the season, please join us for a special Holiday Workshop this Thursday, December 8th—Home for the Holidays: Creating Meaningful Moments Throughout the Season. We’ll help you get the most out of your holidays!


About the Author

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


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

Amidst all the festivity and frivolity this season, there’s still an element of stress, and for many of us, the pressures of the holiday can become overwhelming, taking over our feelings of joy.

The holidays are a perfect time to give a gift of renewal to yourself.


 

Picture your happiest holiday, your most idyllic scene. Whether it’s Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Christmas or the New Year…close your eyes for a moment and envision what the “perfect holiday” would be for you.

Does it look like a serene scene right out of your favorite holiday movie? Or maybe it looks like a Norman Rockwell painting…?

We all have an idea of what the “ideal” holiday looks like. Just like a fairytale romance, this scene has been ingrained into our minds by thousands of similar Hollywood tropes, saying, “This is what the holidays should be. This is what a perfect holiday looks like.” In Hollywood, even the stressful holiday moments are part of the storyline—they always work out with a laugh and a happy ending.

You may be feeling a certain amount of stress or pressure to live up to these expectations, so when the holiday doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned or when it feels less meaningful than you’d hoped, it can feel defeating and disappointing…even depressing. Compound these expectations with the additional stressors of the season, like end-of-year work pressures, time management issues, dark days, cold weather, financial strain—it’s no wonder you might be feeling more “bah humbug” than “fa-la-la-la-la.”

According to the APA, at least 69% of people are stressed out over the holidays! Yet, what do we do? We repeat the process every year! We take on the same expectations and ideals. We set the bar higher and higher to find the perfect tree, cook the perfect dinner, hold the most festive party, or give the most amazing gift.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret—it’s not about reaching the singular pinnacle of the “perfect moment,” it’s about finding the joy in all of the moments throughout the season!

Give Yourself the Gift of Self-Care

Don’t stretch yourself so thin this holiday season that you lose sight of the things that make you feel healthy and strong. Ensuring your basic needs are met is crucial to keeping yourself in the game and feeling great. Get plenty of sleep. Get exercise.

Sure, enjoy culinary delights and drink eggnog, but don’t approach it as a way to numb yourself or escape from your stress. Don’t zone out in front of the television or fixate on social media. When we use these soft addictions to “feel better” or cope, we’re simply prolonging the stress.

Instead, give yourself a gift by getting outdoors to revel in the beauty of the season. Commune with nature and appreciate the wonders of the world around us. A brisk walk or outdoor activity can do wonders for your mental well-being. Take your partner along or undertake a winter sport, like snowshoeing, skiing or another opportunity to connect with your partner, get some exercise, and move your body. Bask in the awe and joy of the winter world.

An important part of self-care is giving yourself forgiveness and understanding where you need to set appropriate boundaries. While you may feel you need to say yes to every invitation or opportunity that comes your way, it’s perfectly okay to say no, especially if obligations feel like a weight or a chore. Give yourself some flextime to enjoy the time you have with friends and family, rather than trying to pack in a full schedule.

Find Wonder in the Season

Ever wonder why Christmas, New Year’s or other holidays lose some of their luster when we get older? Those feelings of excitement, happiness and discovery get lost along the wayside, and things might seem empty, ho-hum, lonely or even obligatory, rather than fun.

As children, the holidays are full of mystery, new experiences and opportunities to grow. When we’re young, we process each experience as something new. We sense the potential and the possibilities. It can seem almost magical at times, as we wait to unwrap presents and revel in the excitement of the holidays. From a scientific point of view, our brains are growing and mapping each new experience. We’re forming our matrix and our neuropathways.

When we are older, however, we forget how to savor these moments and feel that same sense of mystery and wonder. Experiences aren’t as new or fresh or filled with the unknown. To get back to that state of bliss, we must learn how to grow and stretch ourselves further. We must open ourselves to new experiences and feel the awe of the season.

Our brains have neuroplasticity—the ability to grow and form new neuropathways and connections—throughout our entire life. It’s through this new stimuli we feel alive, awake and energized. Rather than focusing on the future or fixating on the past, we need to learn to be mindful in the moment and aware of the value of each experience.

This can be a challenge when we’re faced with the “same old” family situations, getting sucked into family drama and stress. We might go home to discover that we fall into patterns we’ve experienced since we were very young. We might feel disappointment and frustration when we return to these familiar routines.

Instead, try something new. Go into each experience with an openness and renewed enthusiasm. Rather than telling yourself it will be the same problems you’ve faced in the past, instead “check your baggage at the door” and go into the moment with a sense of new possibilities and self-awareness.

Truly Feeling Joy All Season Long

When we put too much pressure on ourselves or build up an ideal scene in our minds, we might be removing the joy, wonder, and excitement from the other moments surrounding it.

Instead, practice mindfulness this holiday season. Wrapping gifts with your daughter, decorating the tree with your spouse, or lighting holiday candles might be just as satisfying as carving the turkey and raising a glass. The weeks before Christmas can be just as festive and filled with happiness as the moment you unwrap gifts from under the tree. They don’t have to be jam-packed with Santa and literal bells and whistles either. The quiet moments and connections can have the most meaning.

In fact, sometimes the anxiety over that pinnacle “perfect” moment can be built up so much that we can barely enjoy the moment itself. Brides and grooms often describe their wedding day as going by really fast or “a blur,” and it’s even common to feel a little letdown after. It’s for the same reasons: when we become narrow and singular in our vision, working on an ideal day or even a single moment for months, we take the joy and satisfaction out of the journey and the learning process.

Planning, shopping, cooking, preparing—these rituals of the holiday season can bring satisfaction, too. Engaging in a great conversation at a party or really connecting with a loved one over the season can be the true highlight. You might not have a Tiny Tim “God bless us, everyone” moment at your dinner table…and that’s okay. You can still have a wonderful holiday season.

Redefining the “Perfect” Holiday

Instead of picturing the single perfect holiday moment, try to picture what your ideal month would look like. Are there family members and friends with who you really want to engage and connect with? Are the activities you’d like to do to celebrate the season?

When you have the opportunity to see friends, really listen, and engage with them. Express your appreciation for them and make time for those who elevate you and bring out your best. Make these friends your priority, especially during times when you can otherwise brush off social engagements because of too many other commitments. These are the moments that will renew and revive you.

If holiday lights really give you the sense of magic you long for, make it a priority to take a winter walk with your spouse and enjoy the lights around your neighborhood. If you love the windows downtown, keep a place in your shopping schedule to take a walk by all the shops and really be present in the moment—take it in. Treat yourself to a sensory delight like a peppermint latte or a gingerbread tea, and really focus on the memories and feelings it conjures. Don’t worry about snapping the “perfect selfie” or documenting the “perfect” moment. Simply enjoy it!

During these busy days we can forget about self-care and giving ourselves little “gifts” of mindfulness and renewal. Listen to music, get outdoors and get some exercise. Don’t zone out with too much alcohol and food to quell your anxiety—enjoy a treat, and move forward. Keep yourself mindful and in the moment, getting plenty of rest and keeping your schedule from becoming too jam-packed.

Encouraging Meaningful Connections & Engagement

The best part of the holiday season is the opportunity to connect and engage with friends, family and those around us in a meaningful, deliberate and celebratory way. Make the most of it!

Rather than tackling baggage and confronting every issue when you go home, approach even strenuous situations with honesty. If you’re worried about a confrontation with a sibling or dreading criticism from your mother, set up the situation for success. Tell them, “I want to spend today appreciating each other and focusing on the joy of the moment. We have some things to talk about at a later time, but let’s enjoy each other’s company for now.”

Before you head into a particularly stressful family situation, take the time to think of, and even write down, what you appreciate about your family member. When you spend time with them mentally refer back to your list, tell them what you’ve discovered and what they mean to you. Make the holidays about appreciation and connection.

Does this mean you have to let go of rude behavior or become a punching bag? No way! You can express your emotions and feelings (and should)! Just know that once a year around the brisket, you’re probably not going to resolve deep-seated concerns and personality conflicts.

If there’s something eating away at you that needs to be addressed, or if a family member gets out of line or does something upsetting, step in and be the voice of reason. Let them know you’d like to discuss things after the New Year (if you feel it needs to be addressed and can be resolved), and for now, you’d like to focus on appreciation and building connections.

When it’s all said and done, there may be family members that we just don’t get along or agree with…perhaps we can’t come together on our core beliefs or attitudes. During the holidays, however, we may end up in each other’s presence because we both care about the same people (other family members). Use this commonality as a platform for connection, and if worst comes to worst, you can both agree that no one wants to ruin Christmas for Grandma, and make the best of mutually appreciating and enjoying her.

Take time to give yourself a break when you need one. Go for a walk. Build your intimacy and bond with your partner by making them your ally. Turn a stressful moment into a challenge you can tackle and use to learn and grow from.

Throughout the holidays we’re given opportunities to stretch ourselves and really tap into our emotional intelligence. We can worry and stress out, or we can rise to the occasion and come through the holidays with a greater understanding of ourselves and those around us—building some great memories to boot!

This holiday season, commit to really engaging in those moments and learning opportunities. Stretch yourself emotionally and express appreciation for the people in your life. Listen, engage, and grow all season long. Look at this season as an opportunity to build your momentum and propel yourself into a successful New Year of transformation and connection!


For more on making the most of the season, please join us for a special Holiday Workshop this Thursday, December 8th—Home for the Holidays: Creating Meaningful Moments Throughout the Season. We’ll help you get the most out of your holidays!


About the Author

Dr. Bb Wright

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


Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University. Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

Dating After Divorce :
What Are the Rules?

Do you ever get tired of reading the same old dating and relationship advice? Most advice seems geared to  people who’ve never been in a marriage or long-term relationship.



What about the rest of us, with, well, “history”?

What about those of us who might be reentering the dating field after a divorce or long-term relationship ends? Doesn’t after-divorce dating come with a whole new set of rules? How long before it’s “safe” to start dating again? How much should I share about myself? Should I be honest about my past?

Maybe you’re not ready for a full-fledged relationship or even dating yet, but it can help to reflect on the knowledge and awareness you gained from your previous relationships, then find a way to reignite your social life. It may seem scary, but YOU CAN get out there, have some fun and feel alive again!

Getting Over the Guilt and Resentment

After a marriage ends, there’s often a great deal of self-reflection, guilt, sadness and introspection going on. You might feel like you aren’t sure how to connect with a new person on an emotional level. You might feel “out of the game.” Even if your last relationship wasn’t great (or was, in fact, pretty terrible), you may still be asking yourself a lot of emotionally-charged questions, like, “Why didn’t I get out sooner?” or “Did I do the right thing?” or “Will I ever find love again?”

You can take comfort in the knowledge that most relationships that end do so for a reason. Even if you have your reservations about the way it ended, let’s face it: no relationship ever ends because it’s just too wonderful to go on.

When a marriage ends, things can become tense and heated. It can be hard not to let negative comments and destructive words stick. Sometimes, that negativity can change the way we perceive ourselves and contribute to false or limiting beliefs. It’s important to keep in mind that even if things didn’t work out with one partner, you can still move on, move forward, and find your own bliss.

Even though you may be feeling raw and perhaps even vulnerable, the good news is…there are no rules. You don’t have to wait until you “feel comfortable.” You don’t have to wait until the dust has settled. And you don’t have to wait to start down a new path. You can start small, go big, or anything in between—your doors to self-discovery have just opened up.

Shifting Focus: There’s a Whole World Waiting for YOU

Think of it this way: The world is completely open to you. Freed of the negative constraints of your previous relationship, you can now step out into the world with fresh eyes. You can meet different people and learn new things about yourself by being more aware of the way you interact with them. You can even use the dating field as your own playground for personal growth and discovery.

What other time have you had the chance to really unlock and discover how you interact with different people in different situations? You probably already know what you don’t want in your next relationship. Use dating as a way to have a good time and learn more about yourself and what you DO really want.

By now you probably know there’s really no such thing as “the one.” Let go of the expectation of an outcome or a hope that you’ll find that “one” special someone. Instead, acknowledge that there are many different people out there who can challenge us and start us thinking in new directions.

You’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet them! You can go out, engage and get reenergized!

Two Vital Skills for Relationship Bliss (Even If You’re Single)

These relationship bliss skills can help you in all your relationships. Learning and working on these relationship skills can help you break free from the notion of “dating rules,” boost your social life, and bring out your best.

Skill #1: Yearning

Yearning is deeper than simply wanting something. Yearning can come from a need to be seen, to be touched, to be recognized and to be acknowledged. The funny thing about yearnings is we often don’t realize what they’re really all about until we take a giant step back.


“We start by reawakening our moment-by-moment yearning to see and be seen, to touch and be touched, to love and be loved, to matter, to contribute, and to make a difference. Our fights are unconscious attempts to get our unrecognized yearnings met or a protest against them not being met. Great relationships require stepping out of routine and habit, and this skill begins by learning to have our yearning guide us in our interactions.” –The Heart of the Fight


For example, on the surface, maybe you’re bothered when someone talks over you or when your date orders for you at a restaurant. Your true underlying yearning is your desire to be acknowledged and heard. If you’ve been dismissed frequently in the past, you may have developed a pattern of pushing down your yearnings, instead feeling quietly resentful.

Think of how much more freeing it would be to express your yearnings and to say, “You know, I’d like to order for myself,” or “I want my living room to look this way.” Identify your yearnings, embrace them and don’t hold back!

Skill #2: Engaging

Engagement is putting things out on the table. It’s being present, being honest and truly expressing yourself.


“Engaging is a deeper and wider concept than just listening or concentrating, though these are important elements of engaging…Understand that to be truly engaged, your yearning and your emotions must be involved. You may be completely focused on your new boss at work, a new date, or shopping at an exclusive new store, but even if you are totally turned on by your favorite designer’s hot new collection, these activities don’t satisfy a deeper yearning, and therefore your engagement takes place on a superficial level. Worrying about the new boss, being curious about the new date or, sorry to say, even finding the hottest new designer shoes doesn’t qualify as fulfilling a yearning, nor does being kind of high and buzzed constitute real emotion. Similarly, if your mind is into something but your heart is not, you’re lacking the emotional involvement that distinguishes true engagement. Just as emotions help us sense what we yearn for, they are the litmus test for full engagement. We feel an experience deeply when we’re fully engaged in it. So when we ask if you’re engaged, we’re asking if you’re involved in a given activity with your heart, mind, and soul.” –Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living


Disengagement comes from hiding your yearnings. It can come from a desire to win an argument, not for the good of the relationship, but simply because you want, above all, to be right. Does engagement mean polite interaction or acquiescing to the whims of another? No, of course not.

Many of us shy away from engagement because we think it means conflict, and we think conflict is bad. Well, guess what? Conflict isn’t bad! In fact, conflict can be a great way to stimulate and accelerate your personal growth. You can read more about these relationship bliss skills in our book The Heart of the Fight.

Remember, your journey is only beginning and it’s an exciting and energizing time to embrace the new world ahead!

Want to learn more about how to live your most fantastic life and become your best self? Read on at Wright Living or join us for our upcoming More Life Training.


About the Author

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

Loving the content and want more? Follow Judith on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!


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

When Couples Fight:
“You’re Just Like Your Dad”

 

How many of us have been told, “You’re just like your dad,” or maybe you’ve even directed something similar at your partner in a heated moment?


This common accusation comes into play in many discussions, arguments and fights. It tends to be at the root of many relationship contentions….and rightly so. Neuroscience tells us it turns out good ol’ Freud was right about a few things. Much of our personality and attitudes are programmed while we’re still with mom and dad, and some of it before we’re even aware or can even do anything about it.

We Get More Than Our Genes From Our Parents

Our underlying thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behavior patterns are formed in our infancy and early childhood. By age seven, this “program” is already running our interactions, making up the basis of who we are. It forms our emotional intelligence and shapes our understanding of social interactions. Who’s at the center of your social universe as a child? Your parents, of course!

We have many of our parents’ personality traits and we’re dealing with a lot of this baggage way before we ever meet our partner. It doesn’t make the words “you’re just like your family” any less cutting, however.

We may have identified things about our parents we resent or there may be expectations and disappointments we’re fighting against and trying to resolve.

We may be drawn to people who react to us in familiar ways and suddenly we find our spouse does something that triggers us in the same way our mother, sister or brother did. Instantly we become the defensive, hurt little kid once more or we find ourselves bending over backwards to please someone we perceive is withholding the approval we yearn for. You can see how this family business gets messy.

Take Charge of Your Emotions and Reactions

When you’re engaged in transformational work, you learn how to examine yourself so you can work to overcome limiting beliefs and take responsibility for your emotions and choices. You can stop reacting in the ways your parents showed you and you can move beyond the self-fulfilling prophecies.

Is it easy? No! Maybe your family swept things under the rug so well, you can’t even identify the lumps. (But I guarantee your partner will be able to—just ask.) Nobody’s perfect, even if you’ve put your parents up on a pedestal. Maybe you’re fighting against the limiting belief you can’t trust others because your trust was broken as a young child and in turn this causes you to act in untrustworthy ways as a defense.

We all bring things into the relationship and we need to move away from blaming our partner for any unhappiness we bring in. We all desire trust and we want to be accurately seen and heard in the here and now with positive regard, consistently and unconditionally. Our partner desires this too, just as our parents and grandparents before them yearned for it in their relationships.

The one truth about our family dynamics and our relationships with our parents is there’s no way to escape them. It’s something you have to face if you want to move forward and let go of things imprinted on your personality early in life. It definitely means you need to work on yourself and you need to engage with your partner. It may also mean you and your partner need to resolve some issues with your family members, especially as you introduce your partner to your family and grow together.

When we move into adulthood and let go of mother’s apron strings, we still bring with us the notions of intimacy and abandonment, as well as coping techniques and triggers into our closest relationships. Our partner does the same. Sometimes trying to understand where your partner’s coming from means you need to sit down with your parent-in-law or sibling-in-laws and say, “Hey, this is who I am and these things are important to me.” Get to know them, let them get to know you, and express your limits and feelings.

Chances are you won’t change those deep dark family behaviors, but you will gain an understanding of your spouse and how they react and interact in a relationship. You will then be able to work with them openly and honestly (and vice versa) as you identify what’s positive about your matrix and where your limiting beliefs lie.

Bringing Your Self to Each Relationship

From Jung, we learn about the shadow self. From Freud, the unconscious self. The root of our psyche is based in our past and comes largely from dear old mom and dad. By identifying the positives and the negatives, and examining it in a critical and clear light, you will both learn from them and overcome the limitations holding you back.

So the next time your partner says, “You’re just like your dad,” stop and hear what’s really being said. What’s the behavior you’re being called out on and why does it bother you? Start to do transformational work and the answer will become clear. We’re all a product of our parents, so the things we can learn from them and about them help us grow and move forward.

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


About the Author

Dr. Bob Wright

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


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