“An amazing thing happens when you stop seeking approval and validation: You find it.“ – Mandy Hale
Do you sometimes think about starting something new (a course, a training, move to a new area, make a journey), but you can´t bring yourself to get started?
What are you waiting for?
I am currently reading the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, Spacex, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” from Ashlee Vance, a bibliography about Elon Musk. For sure, this man is polarizing people: you either like him or – most likely – you don´t. But no matter what you might think of him and the way he is displayed in the media, you can learn a lot from him.
The one thing he has in common with many other successful people (as interesting as this one is the biography of Steve Jobs) is that he has no fear. Whenever he has an idea, he starts acting. He is not waiting for someone else’s approval, but starts by solving the problems.
“He is rich, money helps”, you might say and yes, you are right, if you have funds to rely on problem solving is easier. But Elon Musk couldn´t be considered as rich at the beginning of his career, nor were Steve Jobs and his companion Steve Wozniak, Co-founder of Apple, rich. They just were very determined and worked hard on the projects they had in mind.
To me, it´s often more valuable reading about real persons and “how they made it” as grabbing the next self-help book from the shelf in the bookstore. It is interesting to see how famous people succeeded AND how they struggled. You understand that nothing is given, that success often times comes from hard work and FEARLESNESS. These people may have had the same questions before starting, but they don´t waited for someone else’s approval. They just started with the attempt to “figure it out”.
But why do so many of us tent to look for approval of others – why do we ever so often struggle with coming to action?
From early childhood on we are trained for approval. Made a nice picture? “That looks beautiful!” Spelled out everything right in the grammar test? “Awesome work, you did everything right.” Or: “If you get an A in the math test, we will visit the Adventure Parc”; “Mum/Dad are very proud of you, if you train hard and are selected for the A football team at school.”
I could continue this endlessly, but I think you got my point. Even, if your parents were very open-minded and non-competitive, we were confronted with instant gratification for something we did well.
Neuroscience say, that things learned in Early childhood, will have a mark in our brains for the rest of our lives, if we don´t uncover them and try to re-program it. Throughout the years we are so used to get approval before we do something, that we won´t even recognize it. We video call our best friend before putting on the new dress to see if she likes it. “You look awesome, just go ahead with it.” We discuss with our family, if we should relocate or stay in the area, taking on the new job or staying with the current one.
There are many different examples for this and of course we have to differentiate between approval and getting someone else’s opinion, but every so often we won´t start something new, if we haven´t received the approval (from our partner, our family, friends, the boss, you name it).
What if we just start?
What, if we start acting, do the first step and see how it goes?
For a long time, I had the idea of starting a blog. I would visit other people`s travel blogs and think “we have so many amazing pictures, wouldn´t it be nice to share them and say a few words about the spot?”. But I found hundreds of reasons, why this is not possible (“who will read it, my writing is not good enough, how can I set it up, which platform shall I use”, etc.). Eventually, I grew out the travel blog idea.
The reason why we are looking for approval is security. It gives us a sense of safety, if we are taking someone “in the boat”. If things don´t develop the way we planned, we can always refer back to “but I asked you before and you said it´s ok”.
If we just start with the first step everything else will unfold.
I started with taking a weekend long course in creating websites, so I was able to create my own website. I registered with a web provider. I started providing ideas on how the blog could look like and what content I would want to provide. Finally, I gave myself permission to start the blog.
We ourselves are the only ones, who can give ourselves permission for starting or doing something. It doesn´t need much. A little bit of courage and the confidence that everything will unfold.
The good news is: this can be trained!
The more often you dive into the unknown and do something different/start something new, the more confident you will get for the next steps.
The first step is to give yourself permission. Not seeking for someone else´s approval.
The second is to get started.
What, if it leads you in the wrong direction?
Then probably there is something you had to learn first. Turn around and start anew. The more confidence you gain, the better you align your actions.
Nobody had told me how to make my blog successful. There are hundreds of courses on “how to start a blog” out there, but I was the one who had to pick one and follow the steps. I had to figure out, if I wanted to spend money on this project and how much. Everything else was internal: am I able to spend time on this project, do I have enough ideas to keep it going, what do I have to do first to get started? The answer was easy:
Stop looking for approval and start acting.
If there is something I have learned in reading those books about “famous and successful people” is that they overcame their fear of failure and just started. They started with creating opportunities through different actions and eventually it would turn out successful.
“The first step is to establish that something is possible. Then probability will occur.”