Time and again in both my personal and professional life I encounter otherwise intelligent, self-sufficient and capable people looking for some outside power to give them permission to do what they really want to do.
I had a good (but short) visit with Mom this weekend in Florida. Mom is 79, and in good health with high energy. At dinner, I extracted confessed desires from her to visit London again (last there twenty years ago) and Australia (last time there: never). I asked her what she was waiting for to make this happen. Of course, when I asked the question I already knew the answer. She was waiting for permission.
So here it is. Mom: go to London now, plan for Australia this fall (their spring) to catch the best weather. There, you’re welcome. See, isn’t that ridiculous? She doesn’t need my permission to go to Australia any more than a client needs it to remodel his kitchen or put in her notice to retire.
Giving yourself permission
A better way to look at this is how can you give yourself permission to do that which truly matters to you? In most instances it starts with addressing fears based in ignorance, or at least an incomplete understanding of facts.
“Money well-invested has the power to compound over time, but our health is finite and in decline.”
When this fear takes the shape of money, it’s fairly simple to confront. You either have the money or you don’t. Surprisingly, in most cases I find people saving for rainy days that will never, ever occur while ignoring their current good health and high energy levels. Money well-invested has the power to compound over time, but our health is finite and in decline. As Tyler Durden might say in Fight Club, given a long enough time horizon the failure rate of everything is 100%.
The good news here is that this is a muscle you can strengthen. It helps to have a simple personal balance sheet (one piece of paper) that lists all of your major assets and liabilities. Everyone should know what they have and what they owe. Like all forms of exercise it may be difficult at first, but strength develops and confidence follows.
One joy of aging is a heightened ability to value experiences over possessions. Trips actually have three components: the joy of planning, the joy of experiencing and the joy of remembering. Remembering great experiences has the added benefit of our brains editing out the delayed airline flights or the noise outside your hotel room at 4 a.m.
The last obstacle to overcome in giving ourselves permission is the overarching fear of being judged by others. I have met few who do not possess an over-developed (and almost entirely false) sense of the world paying attention to what they happen to be doing. It’s the type of anxiety typically experienced by those setting foot in the gym after a lengthy absence and thinking everyone is noticing how fast (or slow) the treadmill is set. Ok, yes they noticed. Half think it’s slow, and half think it’s fast. No one will remember this in 12 minutes.
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