11/30/2015 08:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Give Yourself Permission -- I Dare You!

I've recently turned My Year of TED blog into a book called Do Share Inspire: The Year I Changed My Life Through TED Talks. The post below is an excerpt from one of the posts on my blog, and now the book.

It comes from an analysis of why the construct of a year long activity worked so well for me, but it reminded me of a truism I think we need to talk about more.

Permission -- more and more I've come to realize how much of the construct was about giving me permission to change. After all, I could have made any of these changes in my life, or focused on any of these elements without having this massive construct around me to do that. But I never did, because like many people I'm not quick to shake my life up (usually). Let's look at the facts:
  1. I went through with two marriages that I knew weren't right, just because there was nothing obviously wrong with them at the time -- I have often felt like I don't have the right to change something just because I'm not happy with it, there has to be a justifiable reason for it.
  2. I have stayed in a couple of jobs that have driven me to complete distraction because change is scary and I didn't know what else I could do -- I will say though that when it is finally enough I tend to make very radical changes on that front, they just take a while.

The permission aspect has been the idea I've been exploring the most of late, because a lot of other people talk about this sort of thing as well so it keeps coming up. It's the notion that "if it ain't broke" then leave it the hell alone - but why do we believe that is the best way to go. Why do we feel we don't have the right, the freedom or the permission to make random changes in our life that might make us happier, even when we aren't necessarily sad? Just think about how much capacity you, or the people in your life, have to endure -- to put up with crappy or not satisfying lives just because change is scary, or more importantly the unknown is scary? Or as I discussed in my post about choice with Barry Schwartz, owning the choices to change is scary!


It was not a mid-life crisis
One of the more interesting things I've realized of late is that I was apologising for My Year of TED while I was doing it. I let people refer to it as my mid-life crisis (which is crap by the way) and sometimes referred to it that way myself. I think that they used that explanation because it's just not normal for someone to do what I was doing, especially not as publicly as I was doing it -- and since they couldn't explain it away with "women's issues" it became a mid-life crisis.

I also think it freaked people out so much because I had given myself permission and I was willing to make these changes in my life that I felt had to be made -- and that is challenging to people who are just putting up with things and not making changes for themselves. If someone else around you is doing it then it removes one of your excuses about why you aren't making changes.

Apart from mid-life crisis the other comments I got regularly were "but you don't have children so you can do that sort of thing", "you must have a lot of spare time on your hands (implying that they don't so that's why they're stuck)", or even the flattering comments like "that takes a lot of courage/focus/guts to do something like that (trying to convince themselves it was extraordinary - which I still don't believe it was by the way)".

What are you not giving yourself permission to do?
That was part of a much longer post about what the structure of the project of My Year of TED gave me. Editing the blog into a book meant revisiting a lot of blog posts exploring ideas that are now an integral part of my life. Nowadays I give myself permission to do anything I want, as long as I'm not hurting myself or other people in the process of course -- I did do 30 days of Compassion after all. It was a fun trip down memory lane that made me smile, cringe, cry and feel proud of what I achieved in that time, and since that year.

So what are you not giving yourself permission to do? What are you convincing yourself is impossible? What are you allowing other people to explain away as a dream that you shouldn't pursue? What are you scared of owning?

I've said it many times, but My Year of TED helped me realize that the biggest regrets in my life were the decisions I didn't make -- the opportunities I didn't create, or take, to be where I wanted to be. Right now, I've given myself permission to be a published author, and I'm scared out of my mind about it. So what are you going to give yourself permission to do?