Word-Of-the-Week #632: Approval

September 14, 2016 by  

Approval – being granted permission.

Is there any “big thing” you have always wanted to do? What’s standing between you and making that happen? Are you too cautious when it comes to change?

This week features another great New York Times article from Carl Richards AKA the Sketch Guy, You Have Permission to Make a Big Change.” He writes, “Next month, my family and I will board a plane for New Zealand. Not for a vacation — but to live and work for the next 12 months or so. It’s spontaneous, it’s exciting, it’s new, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Sounds awesome, right? Yes!

But it’s also completely terrifying. Big changes are unpredictable. They’re daunting. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them.

My family’s choice aligns with a simple theory of the economist and co-author of “Freakonomics” Steven D. Levitt: People who aren’t sure about uprooting their lives probably should. “As a basic rule of thumb, people are too cautious when it comes to making a change,” he told a reporter for The Atlantic.

He tested this theory in his latest study. Mr. Levitt asked participants who were undecided about a major decision to flip a virtual coin. Heads, they go ahead with the change. Tails, things stay the same.

Based on the results of tossing over 20,000 virtual coins, the study found that people were happier after making a major change, whether they did it because the coin forced their hand or because they decided on their own.

Knowing this, you would think that my own life-changing move to New Zealand would become much easier. But it hasn’t. 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. a-approveHe’s looking for permission. My biggest fears right now are not dealing with the bureaucratic nightmares of moving to a new country, though there are plenty of those.

Instead, my big concern has to do with what right I have to do this thing I’ve always wanted to do. Seeking approval and external validation is part of the human experience, but when it comes to making a big life change, they can be hard to find. People expect you to stay how you are, to maintain the status quo, to stay the course. And if you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.

To me, the most interesting part of Mr. Levitt’s experiment was that a simple coin toss was permission enough. Perhaps it doesn’t matter where the permission comes from. Maybe we’re all secretly dying for anyone (or coin) to just come along and say, “Go for it. You make that change.”

Well, you know what? I hereby proclaim myself the president of permission granting. And by all of the power vested in me, I grant everyone who reads this column the permission to do that thing. Whatever it is, you now have permission to do it.

This week, take one major change you’re wanting to make and figure out if the only thing stopping you is waiting for permission. Be brutally honest with yourself. Force yourself to identify what’s standing between you and making that change. And if you find that it’s permission you’re searching for — then look no further.

This week is all about approval. What one major change do you want to make? Could the only thing stopping you be your need for approval and validation? How would it feel to toss a coin and come up heads?

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