This week I decided to take Wednesday off from work and go shoot the Fall colors up along the Aufderheide in the Cascades of Oregon. I try and do this every year for a number of reasons. First, I love getting outdoors and experiencing nature; looking at the bright and vivid colors of the changing leaves and listening to all the sounds around me. Secondly, I usually come back with some spectacular images to share with people.
The colors are supposed to be at or near their peak right now so today I went in to work and requested Wednesday off so I could head out on what is predicted to be the nicest day of the week. I started to word my request like this: “I would like to take Wednesday off so I can go and shoot photos of the Fall colors.” But this felt really strange. Here I was a grown adult requesting permission to do something that I wanted to do. So I changed it to “I am going to take Wednesday off to go and shoot the Fall colors.” Do you see the difference?
The first statement indicates passiveness and a sense of being unsure. Other ways we say this are;
“Would it be ok if…”
“What do you think if I…”
It’s like we are looking for approval for what it is we want to do. Granted, when dealing with our employer there are times when we need to be respectful and go about things in a professional way. I’m of the belief that we need to assert ourselves more in order to get what it is we want, even though I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t, in general, lived my own life this way. But as I plan for this sabbatical I’m realizing that I need to.
When we state what it is we want we are exerting our own authority over our lives. “I am going to take Wednesday off” indicates that I am serious about taking the day off. I’m not asking for permission I am merely stating that I won’t be in on that day. So what happened when I sent my boss an email saying I was taking the day off? She said to have a great time. (OK, I’ll admit that I have a real cool boss so your mileage may vary.)
How often do we live our lives looking for permission to do the things we really want to be doing instead of just doing it? How often have we said;
“I sure would like to <insert whatever it is you want to do>”,
when what we really should have said is,
“I am going to <insert whatever it is you want to do>.”
It really takes a change in ones mindset and perspective to make that mental leap. I’ve noticed myself doing this all the time. It’s like I am seeking permission, or looking for approval. Is it really as simple as wanting to be accepted and in order to feel that way we somehow need to seek approval by being non-committal with our actions? Maybe we are worried about offending people or making them feel uncomfortable with our requests? Maybe we are afraid of disappointing people? Maybe we are unsure about it ourselves?
Life Doesn’t Give Handouts
Life isn’t going to just give us the things we want. We can’t just sit back and hope things happen the way we want them to. Instead we need to get out there and make it happen. We have to emphatically say “I am going to do this!” And then go out and do it without seeking approval, without asking for permission, without wanting acceptance and without the fear of disappointing people.
Now before you think that this difference is not worth going on about think about this. If you are only thinking about doing something then you are not actually doing it. When are you going to actually do it? If you can’t answer that question then you will never do it.
If you are seeking approval and permission from others you are letting them dictate how you live your life. Do you really want someone else telling you how you should be living? Do you want someone else mapping out your future?
For me I’ve lived most of my life this way. I’ve only dreamed about doing things but rarely have I actually done them. Dreams are fine but if they never have action applied to them that is how they will forever remain…as dreams. I’ve also lived my life by what I thought were the expectations of others. Before I did anything I always worried about how people would perceive my actions. Would they approve? If I thought they would then I usually did it. If not then I spent much time internally debating myself on whether what I was doing was right. It’s a poor way to live and it will leave you with many regrets in life.
Trying to Change
How am I changing? I’m becoming more assertive in what I do. I’m realizing that all the people I sought approval and acceptance from can’t tell me what will make me happy or what will make me feel alive. Only I can do that. I’m taking bigger risks, applying action to my dreams and going for it. Without this shift in thinking I don’t think I would ever have considered taking a sabbatical let alone actually begin planning for one.
How about you? Do you find yourself worrying about what others think of your dreams and plans? Are you asking for permission rather than being assertive and telling people what you want? How do you think this has affected your life?
On Thursday I’ll be writing about a time in my life where I took a risk, didn’t seek approval or acceptance or worry about upsetting people and had an incredible adventure that has continued for the past 9 years.
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