It blew my mind as a kid and all the way past college when my family or friends would order at a restaurant and customize their request from what was a detailed description on the menu. If the establishment already laid everything out for you, why would you change something? Wouldn’t you get something different if you didn’t want one component of the meal?
I wasn’t jealous of these family and friends, but perplexed (okay, maybe I was jealous at what seemed like freedom to do whatever they wanted!). And it was because I never felt like I had permission to make those changes, and I wondered what authority they had within themselves to be able to do something, that now when I look back is extremely simple, as customizing a menu item to their liking.
One of the greatest barriers life gives us is feeling like we need permission to begin. It goes beyond a restaurant menu. Living life without permission can make someone feel trapped and without options, leading to constant frustration and feeling like they have no control. Or at least that is how I’ve felt.
Over the years, I’ve been granted permissions by friends and colleagues and family – not that they signed a permission slip or always explicitly said “I grant you permission” (thought sometimes they did!). On most occasions it is a suggestion I felt was out of the realm of possibility. When I was dealing with a vendor who was frustrating me and falling down on the job and seemingly not caring about it, a colleague told me to “go red” and lay down the law. It was not something that was comfortable or natural for me. My natural expectations include making a professional request, expecting the same respect with communication and timeliness, and then if my request cannot be met, be told about that and how it will be addressed. This situation went beyond that, multiple times. To do something like “go red” and express my frustration about what needed to happen felt like something I needed permission to go do. And, oh gosh, do I wish I had given myself permission to do this years ago!
Even on the home front, I do silly permission requests like asking my husband if I can get extra seltzers this week because they are on sale, or maybe now that it is getting warm, the sugar free fudgesicles would be a nice treat to have in the freezer. Thankfully, my husband gets a kick out of this and laughs at the ridiculous nature of my requests. “Why do you need to ask permission?” he always wonders to me.
Why don’t we go after what it is we want? Or need to do? In the example at work, it might have been a fear of what will happen if I do XYZ, not knowing what was coming next. Another potential could have been fear of achieving success or the desired outcome, as strange as it sounds. Part of it was definitely fear of leaving the comfort zone.
The most difficult times with asking for permission are when we keep the requests inside of us. Yearning quietly and secretly for permission does absolutely nothing. The importance of voice is that its absence may be stronger than its presence, for it creates a black hole that sucks in opportunity around us, instead of expanding our opportunities and impacts if we just go out and take action.
I also see that with needing permission, it holds us back from taking risks, and therefore from the potential to fail. But it also holds us back from the opportunities for success personally and making a difference in the community, the office, or the world.
So what is it we need to do to move on from waiting for permission to be granted, or even asking for it? Here are a few tools that I use, and am constantly working on, to move forward with my life and what I want to accomplish. The more this is top of mind and practiced, the more success I have with getting to what I need to get done, in any situation.
- Remind myself I am worthy of having what I want.
- Explain internally the rationale of doing what I am thinking of doing, and what good it will bring to a situation.
- Tell myself I have permission to do the task or take the new approach or speak up.
- Actually do what I gave myself permission to do. Take action, without agonizing about potential steps. Like Nike says in its ad campaign, “just do it.”
- Recognize the results of that permission, and congratulate myself for taking the risk.
The congratulatory piece is a little strange and even silly, but it also provides validation on the rewards for the risk taken. This encourages me to give more permission in the future. Almost always, I come out with my desired result or some positive variation of what I wanted when I give myself permission. This reinforces my capabilities, talents, efforts, ideas and goals are all moving in the right direction. It erases another layer of self doubt each and every time.
Figure out what you need to do to grant yourself permission. Feel the freedom of no longer denying yourself what you want and need, in your career and in the rest of your life. There may be a time that you extend yourself too much permission, but that provides learning opportunity. Giving yourself permission is one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves, our happiness, our creativity, and even our relationships. It is free and freeing, expanding the richness of life. I am granting you permission to give yourself permission. Go see the doors the world will open to you now!
Now that you have granted yourself permission, what are you inspired to go off and accomplish?!