Last week I was in a session with a client who was telling me how she was going to go about applying for a promotion. “I know I can do the job,” she explained to me.
“Do you want to do the job?” I asked her.
She looked a little surprised. Then a little amused. Then she laughed and said “I don’t know – I haven’t thought about it.”
Which is when I – somewhat triumphantly, it must be said – came up with the phrase ‘just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you must!’
It took me a further few days to realize that that was a ‘who are you talking to?’ moment – I was talking to myself just as much as to my client in that session. I had been approached a couple of days before by my previous employers. They wanted to me to go back and revive the project that I used to be responsible for many, many, moons ago.
And, guess what? Because I know I CAN do it, I didn’t hesitate in having a meeting to discuss the options. I seriously considered it for a few days, despite the fact that the money would be bad and the work not what I love. Mercifully sense – and my Inner Adult – intervened on the weekend and I was able to steer the negotiations in a direction that suited me before things went too far.
What is it about us that makes us think that, just because we are able to do something, we should? Perhaps it is because at school we were encouraged to pay attention to the subjects we did well at, even if we didn’t particularly enjoy them. Or maybe we fall prey to that limiting belief that tells us that “If I say no I will never be asked again.” Possibly we believe ourselves to be the only ones who can do it properly so it is our responsibility to take it on.
I suspect it is more likely that we go along with what we think we ‘should’ do, without being sufficiently mindful about what makes us happy. We don’t think through all possible consequences – good and bad. Yes, a promotion will bring in more money, but it may also mean longer working hours, more stress, doing tasks you don’t enjoy and may not even be very good at.
Back when I was a child, my parents used to answer every question that began “Can I…?” with “Yes you may (or no, you may not)”. Pedantic as they were, they did teach me that there is a big and important difference between being able to do something, and being allowed or encouraged to do it.
In order to make choices that serve you, I invite you to use the month of May to get into the habit of giving yourself permission to do what you really want to do instead of everything that you are able to.
Please let me know how it goes….