Watching your child move through their school years can always be quite illuminating. It brings back memories of your own childhood while also allowing you to learn a bit more from these experiences than you ever did as a child. Today’s lesson came from the student council elections at my son’s school. Watching parents and children alike discuss the results, I realized that too many of us think that doing good work requires some sort of title. Nothing could be further from the truth.
These thoughts arose from parents discussing how disappointed they would be if their child — who was a current member of the student council — lost the election and wouldn’t be able to do the fun things they enjoyed as part of that role. Without even thinking, my first response was — if they enjoy doing it, why should they stop. Even without the title of “class historian” they could still go out and take pictures and store memories for their classmates. While the current council member would get first priority of having their photos displayed at school, there is no reason the other child should stop doing something they enjoy.
Still, many people, not just children, think they need some official blessing to do something — whether in their life or in their work. They don’t feel they can, or should, take initiative until someone else, or some organization grants them permission. In my mind, this is why many people fail — or at least, fail to achieve everything they might. While I think the old adage of “It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission” is typically used to cover a number of interpersonal and corporate sins, there is a bit of truth there. If you find something useful, or fun, or interesting — do it! Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission. Give yourself permission and then run with it.
Sometimes, locked in our world of cubicles, offices or the shop floor, we severely limit our own capabilities. “I can’t offer up my idea on how to improve the supply chain. I am just a line worker. I shouldn’t point out these problems with the cash flow. I’m not an accountant. I’ll just keep my new product idea to myself. They wouldn’t listen to a receptionist like me anyway.”
We do this in our personal lives, too. “Why should I learn to play guitar? No one would want to listen to me anyway” or “I can’t start a catering business. I’m just a home cook. No one would hire me.” Leave the titles and official blessings behind and just do something that makes you happy. You don’t need the magic Blue Fairy to come down and turn Pinocchio into a real boy. You just need to do something you enjoy.
Sure, there will be some people around you who try to keep you in your pre-defined box. They will give you all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t do this or that. The worst of them will make fun of you or actively try to sabotage your new activities. Ignore them. Their actions say far more about them than they say about you. Those around us can be threatened when they see us growing, changing or really being happy about something. Understand their fears, but don’t let them stop you from pursuing the things that make you happy. That would be the worst thing you could do. You would be actively limiting your own life simply because someone else doesn’t like it.
(As an aside, watch for signs that you are actively trying to limit someone else. We all can fall victim to envy, spite and fear from time to time. If you do this to others, they will almost certainly do the same to you.)