Conversations at the Crossroads.

Waiting for Permission

I often hear clients say that if they were laid off or fired tomorrow they would start doing the thing they’ve long dreamed of doing.

They would write.
They would go back to school.
They would start their own companies.
They would change directions.

And so on.

It would seem that living their dreams – the more fulfilling lives and careers that they have been imagining – could finally begin in the moment they were let go.

When I hear something like this I am inclined to ask:

What prevents you from making your own decision to move on?

Explanations will follow and typically point to the belief that it is unwise to walk away from something known into something that is unknown and uncertain to succeed. In short, the decision to move on isn’t made proactively because it feels risky.

What’s interesting is that the new endeavor feels risky when it’s the client making the decision to move on. The thought of the same new endeavor elicits less concern about risk in the scenario in which the client is let go.

So what is this really about? If the outcome is the same – client is no longer at the job; client moves in a new direction – then why is the energy around these two scenarios so different?

It’s about permission and ownership.

Involuntary catalysts like a layoff feel like permission to change. We herald them as external indicators – a sign! – that it’s a good time to move in directions that we aren’t otherwise ready to go.

As a result of the catalyst being involuntary, we often surrenderownership of the results, too. Our fear of failure seems to subside a little when we feel we can pass the blame back to entity that made the decision for us.

We all do this at times. We give up our power of choice and wait for permission. We hope that the impetus for change will come from external sources, so that we don’t have to own the effort or the outcome. Sometimes this approach feels safer.

But when we step up and own it – catalyzing the development and evolution we wish for – it creates the kind of momentum and sustainable change that won’t come with passivity and awaiting permission. We see ourselves making change, and we learn from the experience how to face and embrace the uncertainty, such that we can apply that strength again and again, when needed, over the course of our lives.

In what areas of your life are you waiting for permission to change? This week, think about why you’re holding back and what’s at stake while you wait. If there’s a step you could take right now, dare yourself to take it.

Be your own catalyst. Be the source of change. Start now.

With support and encouragement for your journey,

Founder, The Crossroads Coach

Published May 12, 2014