In our book Lifestorming, Alan Weiss and I discuss that one of the most important elements in life’s journey is granting ourselves permission. It’s something that many of us do not do and it can significantly hold us back from success and happiness both personal and professional.
We’ve found that when it comes to getting the go ahead, there are four positions that most of us will take.
The first is you assume you never have permission. You don’t cross against the light even when you can see there’s no traffic for a mile. You don’t contradict a buyer, no matter how egregious the error. You would never ask a desk clerk for an upgrade, or duck under the endless ropes to make quicker progress toward the entrance. You never push back. You do not, ever, break from precedent. You have no editor, only a go/no go choice, which is usually shut down.
The second position that we might take is to formally ask. You ask your partner if it’s okay to write a check for something from your joint account. You ask a client if you can talk to people as you travel through the site. You raise your hand and never just ask a question. You wait to see if someone else does what you want to do first, as a precedent. You constantly ask others to approve your approach, proposal, article, and breakfast choice.
Third you may formally grant yourself permission. You review the situation and affirm for yourself that it’s okay to knock and enter the room. You say to yourself, “Well, they wouldn’t have offered if they didn’t want me to use it.” You compare your work to others to ensure that you’re on the right track. You justify and validate internally why it’s okay to proceed. You might not break new ground, but you take advantage of ground already broken by others. You self-edit.
And, finally, the fourth position is that you simply assume permission. With the right ethical bearing, you don’t commit antisocial behavior, such as cutting a line, but you go to the elite members’ hotel lounge and assume you’re entitled to because you have a large suite. You tell your client when, based on your criteria, there’s been a bad decision. You ask a question without asking to be acknowledged first. You realize that some rules and even laws are situational and you use good judgment to guide your behaviors. You have neither an external nor an internal editor.
We think that the ideal setting for most people is to take positions three and/or four. Based on three decades of working with all kinds of people across many industries, we know how common it is to operate between the second and third positions, however, the healthiest people, and those most in control of their journey, operate between positions three and four. They know at times they do require permission (I can’t steal my sister’s car) and at times they can simply act (She’s away at school and the car needs to be driven).
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