Don’t Ask for Permission or Forgiveness. Do This Instead

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”

It’s an old adage that can be a tad controversial, but more importantly—neither is going to get you what you want. Plus this saying inherently means that people are going to be upset, and you’re going to have to deal with that. Not so fun.

In the game of entrepreneurship and personal growth, it’s vital that you know the key things that will help you grow and the ones that will hinder your growth. Giving your power away to someone else—that’s not going to cut it. Neither will thinking subconsciously that people (especially your inner circle) will be mad at you for making the right decision for yourself.

Subtle but important

Growing up, we ask our parents, our teachers, and other adult figures in our lives for all kinds of permission—to go to the zoo, to cross the street, even to go to the bathroom. In the United States, we’re not even allowed to regulate our own bodies until we go off to college in most academic settings. But that mentality doesn’t just go away because you turn 18, get a job, or enroll in college. 

The truth is that we seek permission in all kinds of ways throughout the day, undermining our own authority, values, and voices. So it stands to reason that we would subconsciously seek permission as we grow our businesses or make major life decisions. 

The subconscious believes that if we get permission, then we can move forward with less resistance and more support. The downside is twofold. When you ask permission, you’re not honoring what’s right and true for you. Yes, the interest is nice and it’s really fun to watch the people you love get excited about your idea. But being able to validate your own ideas and decisions first is key in developing your circle of support and owning your innate value.

“Your support network is the solid ground from which you can propel yourself upwards.” – Anna Barnes

What to do instead

Instead of asking for permission or forgiveness, we ask for support. We all want to be supported, especially if our ideas feel big, hard, or out of reach. In order to receive the support that you want, you have to be intentional and clear about asking for it. 

This means stating what are going to do and the decisions that we’ve made with an air of, “If you want to support me in this, I would love that because I want as much support as possible,” mixed with the attitude of, “If you want to support me in this, that’s great. Thank you! But if you don’t, that’s okay, too.” 

Releasing people from the need to support you is important for two reasons. The first is in practicing being genuinely okay with others not supporting you, you release people from this sense of obligation to be okay with everything that you do. The second is that you’re making the decision about what you’re going to do long before you ask for support. 

Their decision about whether or not to support your idea is not going to change your decision about whether or not to do it. 

Counsel vs. Support

Seeking counsel and seeking support are two different things, and you have to know which one you’re looking for. If you’re seeking counsel, then you haven’t made the decision yet, and you should only be speaking with someone you believe can help you make the right decision for yourself (not make it for you). It’s important to seek out someone who has the perspective and ability to ask you the right questions in order for you to come to the right conclusions for yourself. Once you’ve made your decision, then you’re seeking support.

If you’re seeking support, then you need to be consciously asking for support for the decision that you’ve made. Statements like, “Hey! I’ve made the decision to do something, and I’d love your support on it. If you don’t feel like you can support me on this, that’s okay.” Even better if you can ask them for specific support. Once you have the other person’s agreement, you’re able to move forward with the conversation. 

However, if the other person isn’t willing to support you, let it go. Because you’re not making your decision based on the support of others, you can put boundaries in place for your communication—both protecting you and honoring their choice. Once someone has made it clear that they’re not comfortable supporting you, don’t waste energy trying to convince them. Instead, revel in the people who are excited to support you and move forward with confidence knowing that you have a circle of people who have your back.

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