You don’t have to take “no” for an answer, just find a way to get started.
“A relationship with anyone who says NO to your dream is a relationship at risk.” (From Just Blow It Up: Firepower for Living an Unlimited Life.)
The only reason I wanted to grow up was so I could do whatever I wanted, without anyone telling me, “Dixie, you can’t do that.”
Turns out growing up doesn’t work that way. Getting older just changed the roles, titles, and relationships with the people who tried to convince me that impossible applies to me.
This seems to be fairly universal to the process of becoming an adult. Even people with the best intentions are prone to saying, “You can’t do that.” In client work I find that the most common wall people face is their belief that someone else holds the permission slip on what they want to do. Without noticing, they navigate their lives like a complicated game of “Mother May I,” telling themselves that they “can’t” do what they really want to do. And usually, the people they say won’t “let them” or don’t believe in them are their nearest and dearest – the very people they need to be cheering them on.
If you’re up against someone else’s “can’t” there are three things you can do to shift the situation.
Check Your Premise
Sometimes people tell us we can’t do something because they are afraid of what will happen if we try. Like your own fear isn’t enough, the people who love you have to add their fear to the cauldron. But we don’t usually hear “I’m afraid for you.” We hear “I don’t believe in you.” And because this is our dear friend or family member speaking, we believe them. Don’t. Let them keep their fears, you work on overcoming yours.
In Just Blow It Up: Firepower for Living an Unlimited Life I shared the story of a friend and fellow coach whose husband finally told her one of his lifelong dreams. Turns out, he had a story in his head that she wouldn’t support him if he pursued it. It also turns out he was wrong.
If you think you “can’t” do what you want to do because of the consequences another person will impose, make sure that isn’t just a story in your head. I’ve had clients tell me, “My wife would leave me if I did that,” but when we drilled down into what they truly believe about their relationship they realize that just isn’t true.
Of course, there may be consequences. Your partner might not like it if you did what you want to do. It’s even possible that your choice would end the relationship. Your boss might really fire you, your neighbors might really shun you, your kids might really run away from home. It’s possible, but is it really likely?
Do a Permission Audit
If you’re about to embark on an undertaking, or if you’ve got a naysayer in your life, it may be time to examine your relationships. Make a list of everyone you’d like to share your hopes and dreams with, then add one word next to each name.
VETO = “I have consciously and intentionally given this person or group the power to veto my choices.”
LIMIT = “I have consciously and intentionally given this person or group the right to limit when, where, how, or how often I take any particular action or pursue any particular dream.”
SABOTAGE = “I have consciously and intentionally given this person or group the right and ability to undermine my efforts to pursue my dream.”
DISCOURAGE = “I have consciously and intentionally given this person or group the ability to affect my energy and enthusiasm to the degree that I can be discouraged from pursing my dream.”
INFLUENCE = “I have consciously and intentionally given this person or group the power to influence whether or not, and how, I go about pursuing my dream.”
RELEASE = “I have consciously and intentionally released myself from allowing this person or group to have any impact on my choices regarding the pursuit of my dream.”
There is no right or wrong answer, only the answer that is right or wrong for you. Sometimes it is appropriate to allow another person the right and ability to affect your choices. But no one but you can give or withhold consent.
Do you really need the other person to agree that you can do everything you want to do? Sometimes your dream, vision, undertaking, or plan is just too big for someone else to believe in or be comfortable seeing you risk it all to do.
What would happen if you just asked for their support for the first phase, or for a small part? If your dream is to move to Maui, like my friend, business cohort, and fellow editor, Kimanzi Constable, then maybe you don’t try to get your family to go along with a plan to move. Maybe you ask them to just look at the housing market there, or to start a fund that could be used for the move if you decide to go through with it. Give them something easy, and less risky, to say “yes” to.
If your dream is to start a band, ask for support to purchase an instrument, or take lessons. If you want to go back to school, negotiate to take a couple of night classes for a semester and reevaluate at a later date. Just get the support to take the first step.
Whatever you do, don’t let their fear, jealousy, judgment, or petty nitpicking rob you of the energy to embark on your own path. You don’t need to get distracted by their negativity, just find a way to say “I can too” and get started!
Photo: Flickr/Mads Bødker