When we are kids, we are told to wait.
Wait until its ok to speak, to go and play, to do things that we want to do. Our parents, our teachers and other adults are the rule setters and we begin to abide by them, both out of fear and also for approval.
Although this is a part of the normal lessons of life that make us a part of a civil society, it seems to also have an adverse affect in later life.
My observation is that as most of grow into adults, we start to actually crave the approval and permission of those around us. We start to need to be told its ok to do the things we want to do. Especially when those things aren’t conventional or within the normal realms of everyday life.
If we want to start our own business, we want permission from our peers to leave our safe job, and go do it. If we want to start new hobby or develop a new passion, we wait for the approval of those closest to us to tell us we’d be good at it.
I’ve definitely noticed this in myself. Rather than simply start something I want to do, I tend to talk with people about it, and unconsciously seek their permission on some level.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this need for permission comes from a good place. It is based on a learned courtesy and consideration for others, yet somehow that same consideration taken too far can cause us to continually second-guess ourselves.
As I worked on this myself, I’ve learned a couple of important questions to consider that helped me greatly.
1) Ask yourself if are you hurting anyone by doing it
First thing you want to do is check with yourself and see if the thing you want to do is going to hurt or hinder anybody else. For example, if quitting your job means your family might lose their financial support, then perhaps you can’t simply quit. It doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to do it, but perhaps quitting immediately isn’t the best option.
If however, you discover that doing what you want to do isn’t hurting anyone, then you have one green light to go for it.
2) Ask yourself if you can afford to take the risk
The second thing to consider is what the cost will be to do it. Everything in life comes with a trade off. No matter what you do or don’t do, there is a consequence.
Sometimes the cost is simply a matter of spending time on something. Sometimes there is a financial cost or additional effort that is needed. Whatever it is, get clear what you’ll need to ‘spend’ to do what you want to do.
Then ask yourself if you are willing to bear the cost. Will spending your time, money or energy be too much of a burden if you don’t get what you want?
In most situations, the logical answer is that the cost is worth it. But being clear about it before you start helps you make a better decision, and gives you confidence to go for it.
3) Ask yourself what will happen if you wait
The final one is a great way to get real leverage on yourself. You obviously have something on your mind that you want to do. You also have fears or concerns about what will happen if you do it.
Maybe you will fail, maybe you will get rejected, maybe everyone will point at you laughing hysterically until you eventually die of ridicule.
But also consider what will happen if you if don’t do anything… What will happen if you stay exactly the same? Very often the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. When you reach this point, you finally have leverage on yourself.
At the end of the day, how you live your life really only matters to you. Most other people are so wrapped in their own worries and challenges that they probably wont even care if you do or don’t do something.
Giving yourself permission is an ability that you must cultivate if you want to achieve anything extraordinary in life. By always coloring within the lines, you end up losing your true self along the way.