Permission is so personal. There is no one size fits all. What I most want, you might run from with all you've got. What we can want for each other is the permission to choose your own best way. Talking about permission is so important to me because I know personally how critical the process of self-permission is in allowing ourselves to lead the truest and best version of our lives we can. My hope in sharing about it is quite simple, but not easy. I wish for us all that on the path to living a life of your particular dreaming, the obstacles stopping or delaying you are not your thoughts and beliefs.
I wanted to share this week a bit of my own journey with permission and how it is showing up at the moment. Warning! It's a "grab-a-cup-of-coffee" length!
One of the thoughts I let myself struggle with is the fact that my choice of a future now looks so different than my dreams for it in the past. Weird sentence I know. Let me explain. I imagined a beautiful future for myself. And it became my present. How lucky was I? But I found myself unsettled with the thought: what now? Am I allowed to want something different?
When I left university in my home province of Saskatchewan, Canada and started my career in horse racing I was hungry. I was hungry to excel beyond the imagination of my contemporaries who mistook my love of the sport and animals for complacency and expected me to never leave what was a short first stop for me. I was hungry to be a part of what was to me some of the most exciting global events in the history of the sport like Royal Ascot—which felt a long way away from Saskatchewan! I was hungry to see the world and travel and taste new things and meet people who were nothing like me. There was so much passion and excitement for my life and I was well rewarded for it.
Twenty years later, I’m living in my third country, I’ve got a few full passports, I've had an extraordinary career in business development for horse racing on a global scale, Royal Ascot each year feels like a return visit to my hometown, and I have people I care about from all corners of the world. And yet I started to not feel joy or passion when I imagined more of this particular, lovely way of living.
Your future does not have to look like you thought it would.
I didn’t understand this at first. I looked at my scratched out bucket list items I thought it would take me a lifetime to accomplish. (I literally haven’t added to this in a decade). I started doing some repeats to see if it was simply more of any of it that would make me feel that vibrancy again. Or if taking others through to it would do it. It didn’t. I started working for the money and feeling more dull by the day. I felt guilty for not being satisfied. I went into debt trying to buy and travel my way back to happiness and purpose. Who was I to want even more from this life of mine?
I spent about five years trying really hard to mould my old life into what I was becoming and wanting. It just wouldn’t build on those blocks. I kept trying. Big deals I counted on didn’t come off. It all started to be really hard and I felt each knock much more deeply than I had ever before. I thought that if I was ever lucky enough to have this life, that would be the end of it. The magical arrival. I didn’t know that when I got here, of course it would open my horizon to another vision for more possibility to be me in the world. I didn’t understand that as long as I am here on the planet I will be required to reach further for myself and bring the joy of that process into this world. And that means changing and growing.
There have been lots of hints along the way of where my joy was moving to, breadcrumbs in the forest that I started to follow. Like when I published A Little Book of Permission expecting it to mostly live in boxes under my bed and sold out the first edition in pre-sale. It was there in the way my body would start to explode with the need to make things. I was sent scurrying for my paints to make art. I answered my restlessness foraging and making jams and cordials from the beautiful wild fruit here on the south coast of England. I would be singing while sanding a piece of furniture I was refurbishing to distract me from the fact that I was unhappy with my work and a voice in my head would ask “are you paying attention?”
But it’s hard to acknowledge that something that has been so good for you might be mostly over. To not stand vigil too long at its dying and be frozen in place with fear, misplaced guilt ,and all the shoulds and have to’s that smother change and action.
I should have used this to be settled.
I should be happy.
I have to continue in this work otherwise I’m not grateful for all it has given me.
I have to abandon it completely and start everything from scratch.
But none of that is true.
I had to declutter my loyalty to my own idea of the future. To allow myself permission not to know again what shape it might be. That hungry version of me couldn’t even imagine what my life came to be. It’s time to trust the hunger and the joy again. I too have to constantly revisit my own beliefs and decide if they are still for me.
It often takes time and commitment to get to a place where you are ready to make the next decision. To take the next action. To build the next version of your life. I’m a very slow mover through this kind of work and I wanted to show you a bit of my own process. There are lots of pools of ruminating and resting involved in change for me. But I recognise now the difference between that fecund stillness of preparing and the times when I abdicate choice by indecision or inaction.
What I’m trying say is that the journey of permission is so personal. You will need to do it again and again. But it’s worth it and you can lower the obstacles between you and your dream by starting with investigating one belief. Today you don’t have to believe just one of those “I should” thoughts. Sigh. And just like that you are already closer.