The Pursuit of Permission

“If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” – Grace Hopper

It can be difficult to live any sort of non-standard lifestyle. It feels as if everyone around you is judging you for it. In a very likely truth, they are far more likely masking their own insecurities towards change, then actually judging you, but it sure feels real at the time. Another branch off the same tree as taking responsibility, is asking permission.

In fact, this can be a very subtle way of avoiding responsibility. Let’s start with an example to get an idea of how this can happen. Imagine a man who lacks empathy, he pursues women and sex because he gets a kick out of it, and don’t care about telling them the truth, or the harm he does to himself or others. On the other side, imagine a “New Age Man” who believes how we’re “all one” and “the universe is love”, and sleeps around without taking responsibility and getting his permission from these seemingly “obvious” principles. “How can I cheat on you, when we’re all one, everything is love baby”. There’s no difference between either of the men mentioned above.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing what you’re driven to, whether that’s in sex, life, career or anything. You still need to take responsibility for what you’re doing. To get permission from a spiritual book that says nothing has meaning and the universe is objective, and then using that to harm others, would, as is common sense, make you an asshole.

Don’t seek permission in learning psychology and seeing how the brain works, and giving yourself permission to be flawed. Don’t seek permission from philosophies which dictate that the world is deterministic, and anything you’re driven to do must already be written in stone, it’s not your fault! Don’t seek permission from a spiritual book that tells you you’re one with the love of the universe, and can do no wrong as your higher self.

Taking responsibility for your actions and pursuits is empowering, no matter what they are. Trying to avoid responsibility through your cleverness and higher understanding of the self and the universe only alienates you from your true power.

Spirituality is primarily a pursuit of wakefulness, of awareness. For your inner self this is to be aware of where your thoughts and ideas come from, where your motivation comes from, where your frustration and anger come from. Externally this is how you interact with others and the world. How is your sense of humor understood by others, do they seem comfortable around you, are you always slightly too close to the car in front of you while driving? This seems like a simple idea, but it’s in the “oh, I already know all of those things”, that demonstrates a lack of awareness more then anything else. Awareness is a daily pursuit, or more like, a moment by moment observation. All of the above changes at all times, and therefore, relying on knowing yourself just because you knew you from a year ago, is insufficient.

With awareness, you can more easily notice when you refuse to take responsibility, with awareness you can see if you’re using excuses or a spiritual pursuit or “higher understanding” to justify behaviors you don’t want to own. When you own it, and take responsibility for it, the possibilities in life are that much more endless. With clear intention, and right understanding, life unfolds effortlessly.

Take Responsibility

“If we wish to free ourselves from enslavement, we must choose freedom and the responsibility this entails.” – Leo Buscaglia

I’ve just woken up from a dream where I got into a text debate with an old acquaintance, and I felt the immediate need to write about the exchange. Last night I recorded a podcast with a friend, and at one point we discussed the idea of empowering yourself through responsibility. That most people would rather blame their childhood, their parents, their partner, their city, the recurring illness they may have, a traumatic experience from their past, as the reason that they “can’t have” something. That something being happiness, success, love, or well, anything.

In this text conversation in my dream, this person was trying to blame me for the negative circumstances for their life, and make me feel bad for what I had achieved. I am fully aware that some years ago, an idea like this would have made me crumble and I would have accepted both ideas fully.

Fault and responsibility are not best friends who go everywhere together. If something is someone else’s fault, your environment’s fault, the neighbor’s dog’s fault, it’s always still your responsibility to deal with if it. “What!? But I didn’t do anything!”, correct! The thing is, if something that wasn’t your fault is effecting you, you basically have two choices. You can deal with it inside yourself and be okay with it, ultimately coming to a solution, or you can spend the rest of your life giving away your power to some person or circumstance who “ruined your life”.

This isn’t just for large, dramatic things either. You can take responsibility on a daily basis. If you lose your patience to everyone who walks slowly down the street, who doesn’t behave exactly the way you want them to, you’re literally handing out your power of responsibility to EVERYONE. You’re actively dis-empowering yourself on a daily basis.

Worry not dear reader, awareness is the first and nearly only step. You’ve got all you need now to immediately shift the perspective. Next time you think “wow, what a jerk that guy is, how dare he cut me off / say that to me / not see how amazing I am”, let the fault go where it wants to, but take responsibility to not let it get to you. Like anything worth doing, it’ll take practice, but it might be one of the most important things you’ve ever done.