Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 1:30 PM EDT
Whose permission do you need? Really, it's not a trick question. Who needs to give you the nod of approval before you can start a business, start dating after a bitter divorce, or write the book you've been talking about for the past nine years? Whose approval are you desperately seeking? Your spouse, a boss, friend, or expert in your field? Unless you're six years old, you don't need anyone's permission to create a better, fuller, richer life for yourself. Of course, it doesn't always feel that way. Someone has to tell you you're good enough and smart enough, right?
Well, no actually. We cling to the (irrational) belief that we require approval before we can achieve because it's safe. It gives you a fabulous excuse. You can tell others, and more importantly, yourself, that it's out of your hands. It can help you sleep because it gives you the illusion that you're not in control. And if you're not in control, it's not your fault. But if you want to do more than sleep well and want to start living well, you need to make a decision. Are you going to put your success and happiness in your hands or someone else's?
This message hit home for me last week. I presented to a roomful of actors and artists at a Screen Actors Guild event. Talk about an industry built on the need for approval. If you're an actor, you need a casting director to tell you you're good enough. If you're a musician, you need a record label to give you their seal of approval. And if you're a writer, you need an agent or publisher to recognize your genius. This is true for all actors, musicians, and writers . . . except those that have decided they don't need to wait for anyone to tell them their art is worthy. These are the artists that don't wait, they create. The ones such as Zak Ambrose, Craig Benzine, Christina Perri, Oren Peli, or "Born this Way" Maria.
Not an artist? Not a problem. It doesn't matter what you do for a living. The freedom that comes from discovering you don't need anyone's permission is yours for the taking. But how can you break free from this destructive and limiting belief?
Get conscious. It's time to name names. List a goal or aspiration and write down next to it all of the people for whom you are secretly waiting approval. If you're having trouble, ask yourself this: Who needs to tell me that I am old enough, young enough, experienced enough, smart enough, attractive enough, thin enough, funny enough, or creative enough? Maybe you've been waiting to get a boyfriend before you travel across Europe. Why can't you go alone? Whose permission are you seeking? What about dropping your current job and switching to a career that inspires you?
There are two truths. The first is that nobody will ever give you permission. The second is that you don't need anyone's permission. Success doesn't come to those who wait for it. Success doesn't even come to those who ask for it. Success comes to those who fight off the naysayers and push forward without a permission slip.
It can be incredibly scary (and life changing) once you realize it's up to you. Regardless of the story you sell yourself, it always has been up to you, and it always will be. What would happen if you woke up tomorrow and decided you didn't need anyone to give you permission? What's the first thing you would start? Really, it's not a trick question.
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