Giving Yourself Permission to Make Change

Photograph @ Chuck Reback 

Photograph @ Chuck Reback 

A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a New York Times column by financial planner and author Carl Richards. My friend said, “I guess coaching is kind of like what this guy is talking about.”

In the column, Richards was reflecting on a new study by Freakonomics economist Stephen Leavitt that suggests that most people are too cautious in their approach to making changes in their lives.  For Richards, this study hit very close to home.  He and his family are getting ready to pull up stakes and move to New Zealand for a year.

Richards said that living abroad had always been on his list of “things I want to do some day,” but that he had found it agonizing to finally swing into action on achieving that dream.  He wrote, “And the reason, more than anything else, is the voice inside my head that keeps screaming at me. ‘People just don’t do this sort of thing,’ it yells. ‘Name one person you know that’s done this,’ it demands. What the little voice is doing is something that I bet many people can relate to. He’s looking for permission.”

I can relate to what Richards was feeling. I felt the same way about deciding to leave my job as a college professor after this year. I knew it was the right decision for me, but I kept thinking, “What kind of idiot gives up a stable job to leap into the unknown at the age of 55? People just don’t DO that.”

What I’ve discovered since I finally took the leap is that a lot of people WANT to make radical change in their lives, but they need permission. Richards pointed out that humans are creatures who seek external validation of our choices. He said, “If you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.”

I find my coaching clients are a lot like Richards and me.  A lot of times, they know what change they need or want to make in their lives, but they need permission. And through the process of working with a coach, they can eventually give themselves permission.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do?