The other end of the phone line was silent. I could tell he was contemplating whether to tell me to go pound sand or to admit, begrudgingly, that I was right. Not so much right, because as an executive and life coach, it is not my role to be right. I’m the light shiner, the focuser, the truth extractor.
By right, in this case, it was more the light saber swathing through the evil to show him the light of the good that would come to him if he gave himself PERMISSION to realize he was the primary obstacle getting in his own way preventing him from leaving the soul sucking job. Yeah, that job that only providing a paycheck and no joy. Yes, I pulled a little Marie Kondo on him, “If it doesn’t bring you joy, dump it!”
Of course, the fears of dumping a job are layered like a fine wine, the only difference being there’s nothing fine about leaving a stable paycheck, medical benefits, and a 401K – all of which were eating my client alive like zombies from Halloween 50!
“I’m so confused,” he said. “Rightfully so,” I said, “But what if you started asking different questions. Questions that actually produced possibilities rather than questions that created angst, worry, self-doubts, lack of confidence, and 100 + reasons why showing up to the drudgery of cubicle dwelling was the only alternative for your life?”
In that moment, I heard him take a deep breath on the other end of the line. I knew I had cast the line and hooked him like a trophy fish. The intake of breath is always a sign that the next part of the call is going to go one of two ways, either I am going to get an excuse or a question.
Interestingly, most excuse makers – and we all have an excuse maker that resides in the closets of our thoughts – aren’t ready to do the thing they most need to do. In those cases, the ball and chain I drop is a biggie. “Maybe you should add excuse maker as a title to your resume.” Ok, I don’t actually say it that way. After all, I do wish to retain clients not drive them away. However, there is a way of helping clients see that their excuses are the flame that feeds the fire of in action.
On the other side of the equation, when the intake of breath is a little bit deeper and longer, I know a thought bubble is forming over the client’s head. Even from afar, I clearly see the question in that bubble and it usually takes the form of “How do I ask different questions?” BOOM. We have lift off and I know then that we are about to rock some worlds for my client.
“We start by not asking any questions that can be answered, yes or no! We ask open-ended questions that take thought!”
If you are reading this and find yourself squirming in your seat, getting uncomfortable, because your inner “happiness, joy, joy” button is screaming at you to do something different in your life, then get ready to ask yourself the question that rock’s most my clients worlds and gets them in action.
“And what would an example of an open-ended question be?” he said. In the comfort of my standup desk, I felt me feet starting to do a happy dance and my hips began an Elvis Blue Suede shoes swivel. I knew my client had just stepped in for the ride. I so badly wanted to muster up my best Bette Davis voice and say, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” Yes, the quote is actually “…bumpy night,” not “bumpy ride,” so that’s your trivia for this article. Now back to my client.
In that moment I took my own deep breath, muted my phone, and said, “Yes, yes, yes,” quickly followed by unmuting and asking, “How about we talk about PERMISSION. What PERMISSION do you have to give yourself to even consider, making a purposeful move towards the exit door of your misery at your current job?”
A deafening silence hung in the air. I knew he was deep in thought, which is usually what happens when I bring up the subject of PERMISSION. You see most people caught in the realm of impossibility, can’t even see possibility. We’ve become such a narcissistic society where the first responders in our heads cry, “Stat this is impossible, that thought is not going to make it out alive, so let’s not even give it CPR. It would be a waste of time!”
That’s a crock rotting beliefs. Any thought that produces impossibilities, has as much energy, if not more, to produce possibilities, when PERMISSION is given the nod to proceed.
For my client, that word – PERMISSION – became his working mantra for the next month. Every thought that drove him off the tracks was met with the question, “What do I need to do to give myself permission to get back on track toward flying the coop of misery?”
Over the next month his permission slips included trust, try, no more should or could. He began to see the power in doing, curiosity, and being on the edge. From the safety of certainty, he allowed uncertainty to meet him in the arena, inviting him to keep moving himself forward, and not knowing became his friend, not his foe. Vulnerability became an IV drip that slowly reduced his fears. Now don’t get me wrong, he was still scared, unsure, and afraid to jump, but he was inching closer and closer to the edge where the leap of faith awaited him.
At the end of the month, he told me the one thing that he learned most over the past month was how crucial PERMISSION is to any thing in life. It lays quietly at the crossroads of any thought, decision, and action. Talk about a proud poppa coach moment, I wanted to cry. In fact, I did. I gave myself PERMISSION to celebrate the joy of a client moving one step closer to his truth.
And where is he now? Thriving in the possibilities. I’ve been there with him before. A little over three years ago, he leapt away from a position that was not fulfilling him, and I can tell where he landed, was just a stepping stone. That stone is now wobbling in the stream of his life, about to topple him into his next big adventure where he will swim, maybe flounder a little or a lot, and then one day soon, very soon, he is going to land exactly where his gives himself PERMISSION to land.
He’s already doing amazing explorations in the areas of conservation, film, and marrying those to passions. It’s funny how PERMISSION to pursue a PASSION can bring you joy. The only problem is, we make it work, rather than our fun, purposeful, exploration for being here on the planet.
I’m curious, what do you need to give yourself PERMISSION to do today, to start your road trip to JOY?
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