Expand Your Career Potential

To create a career that feels rich and fulfilling, here are six ways to give yourself permission to succeed.

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Curt Rosengren
I remember the feeling when I first left home to go to college and realized I didn’t need permission for the way I lived my life. It was exhilarating and liberating. I imagine most people have a similar experience as they transition from dependence to independence.

Part of being an adult is having that independence and control of our own lives. And yet many of us are still limited by an absence of permission. Only this time it’s not our parents who won’t let us do what we want. And it’s not our teachers, or our bosses, or any other authority figure. It’s our own selves.

There are certain things we won’t let ourselves do, or feel, or experience. The reasons why are legion. We don’t give ourselves permission because of what someone else might say or think. We refuse permission because something is too scary, or because “that’s not the way it’s done.” We withhold permission because we think someone else wouldn’t approve. And on and on it goes.

[See When to Ask a Career Expert for Help.]

Want a career that feels rich and fulfilling? Better yet, want to live a vibrant, energizing life?

Here are six ways to give yourself permission to expand your potential:

Permission to Experiment

Instead of needing do things perfectly, or to have every i dotted and every t crossed, let yourself experiment. Try something and see what happens. Sure, the results might feel sloppy and offensive to your inner perfectionist, but you’ll learn something.

The more you experiment, the more you have the potential to learn. And the more you learn, the more you can build on that knowledge. And the more you build on what you’ve learned, the greater your potential.

Permission to Fail

How many people do you know who say, “Yes, it’s OK to fail.” Sure, they may pay lip service to that idea, but when it comes down to it, they’ll scratch and claw and fight, anything to avoid feeling like they have failed.

Not allowing yourself to fail doesn’t mean embracing only excellence. It means you are unwilling to do anything far enough beyond your comfort zone that it risks failure, and that limits you. You don’t have to learn to love failure, but figure out how to put it in the appropriate light. It’s a by-product of expanding your horizons and a near-mandatory part of the road to success.

Permission to Succeed

Ironically, many people won’t give themselves permission to succeed, either. They won’t let themselves step into the full version of who they really could be. They won’t turn on the tap to let the full flow of their potential pour out.

If this sounds familiar, ask yourself why. What is the risk of achieving that success?

[See How to Set Yourself Up for Promotion.]

Permission to Be Yourself

Somewhere along the way, most people have bought into the idea that they have to conform to a certain mold to fit in and to succeed. They won’t let themselves be truly authentic.

That’s a limiting game. Why? Because you can never be anyone else half as well as you can be you. When you are being yourself, you don’t have to put effort and energy into maintaining the mask, and you can let what comes naturally shine.

Permission to Say Yes

One of the shortest words in the English language is also one of the most limiting: “No.” When I’m working with clients to help them identify potential new career paths, a good chunk of my work often involves helping them refrain from the ingrained habit of saying no. “No, that wouldn’t work. No, I can’t do that. No, that’s not realistic.”

Saying yes opens doors. “Yes, I’ll try that. Yes, I’m willing to explore that.” Saying yes introduces new possibilities to the mix. Equally important, it doesn’t close doors. Saying yes leaves avenues of possibility open.

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Permission to Say No

Giving yourself permission to say no can also have a tremendous impact. Too many people find themselves saying yes when they know they really should be saying no. They end up over-committing themselves and doing things they really don’t want to do.

Saying no when it’s appropriate leaves you more time for what’s really important. It lets you allocate your energy and effort to things you care about.

Take a look at your own life. Is there any place you’re not giving yourself permission? If so, go back to the top of this post, to the very first way to give yourself permission. Experiment with saying, “Yes, that’s OK. I’ll give that a try.” Dive in head first or find a way to dip a toe in, whatever works for you. Then step back, learn from the results, and build on them.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.