It’s been almost five months since I left my job and plunged into my own creative pursuits. Out of all the things I’ve learnt, the biggest has been that following any dream is about the permissions you give yourself. Here’s my top seven.
1. Permission not to measure my time.
The corporate world demands that we give, give, give, so stepping back into a space of allowing and receiving requires a big shift in thinking. After 20+ years, it was quite hard to stop measuring how I use my time. Dropping that feeling of guilt if I wasn’t being productive or wasn’t at a desk for x hours every day, was like shedding a very old and very tight skin. So giving myself permission to lose track of time or to not pay attention to how many hours I wrote for was a liberating and necessary step in getting out of that corporate mindset.
2. Permission not to care what other people think about my choices.
If you step outside the employment grind, most people will generally respond in one of two ways – you get either the ‘you’re so brave’ narrative, or the ‘But what about money? Have you picked up any work yet? When are you going to start looking?’ The first is flattering but it’s not really true – people step onto a new path for as many complex reasons as those who choose to stay on an old one. The latter is the one you often get from people close to you who project their fears onto you out of ‘concern’. I gave myself permission to realise that however people see your choices, it’s about them. I’m just me, doing what I need to be doing right now, and it’s as simple as that. Note: no one who has taken a similar leap will say either of these things to you – they know how it feels and they know it’s worth it. So find those people and become part of a mutual support network.
3. Permission not to be as productive as I hoped.
When it sunk in that I didn’t have to be in an office by a particular time each day, I went a little crazy. For a couple of weeks, I didn’t want to be creative. I wanted to enjoy being free. So I went to the beach. I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages. I wandered through galleries and went to the movies in the daytime. I cleaned out a lot of cupboards… all the things I’d denied myself because of the daily grind. It was a wonderful couple of weeks, and now I allow these things to be part of my life, albeit only when it’s in my best interests.
4. Permission to play.
Play and creativity go hand in hand but play is so frowned upon in the corporate world, and often in the adult world. It’s hard to play when your entire life is scheduled. I’ve had to re-learn how to play – to sit in that creative, curious, joyful space without expectation or judgement and do whatever my heart feels drawn to. Again, it’s about letting go of the productivity/measuring-everything mindset and shifting into a more receptive space. Learning to fully inhabit my playfulness has opened me to new creative possibilities and directions I couldn’t have seen before.
5. Permission to be okay with my doubts and demons.
Any creative person knows the terror of the blank page. I had removed all the things that I defined myself by professionally and all I was left with was myself and a blank screen. I really believe in what I’m doing and in my talent as a writer and storyteller, and yet there are many days when that screen reflects my doubts: Your work is shit. What were you thinking? You’ll never be published. Why would anyone want to read this? You really should change the whole thing. You’ve tried so many times and it’s never going to happen. Why are you wasting your time? Well, you get the idea. Most days I can brush them aside, but when I can’t, I give myself permission to be okay with that. More than that, I’ve befriended my demons. I sit them down with a cup of tea and have a chat. (I’ve heard some people name theirs.) I tell them I understand how they’re feeling, that I see their pain and concern, and thank them for looking out for me. It usually shuts them up, at least for a while.
6. Permission to make my favourite rituals a part of my life.
I love rituals – the little ways I can bring some magic into my day by honouring my gifts and my purpose. They create the right mindset – and the right heartspace – for my creative work. They also help me ignore all the other things wanting my attention by sending a clear message to my brain that it’s time for creativity. My favourite and simplest ritual is to light my favourite incense and do a quick visualisation exercise, just to make sure I’m creating from a place of alignment. Another is, when I’m struggling to focus, to make myself a hot drink and sit on the back verandah with my journal, just doodling and making notes and letting my thoughts go where they will. Not things I could do while working in someone else’s office. But here, I can do whatever I like.
7. Permission to trust the universe to have my back when I really need it.
It might not always feel like it, but things do fall into place eventually. After a couple of months of self-imposed exile from the professional world, I put out some feelers to pick up some freelance work. There were several promising connections, and a large job was as good as locked in. And then I got sick. The sort of sick that involves a late-night ambulance ride, emergency surgery and a long, slow recovery. I was unable to do any work – or anything fun or useful – for seven weeks. It was painful, frustrating and lonely. I was worried about letting people down with the work I’d lined up, but when I finally made contact, changes at their end meant the work wasn’t going ahead. And then, within days of me being fully recovered, other jobs started coming in. It was like a bubble had been created around me, holding everything away until I was able to handle it again. Thank you, universe.
There’s a lot of other things I’m learning to give myself permission for – to be creative every day and to put the same energy into making my dreams reality that I’ve applied to my career, to operate in my authentic energy with no caveats applied, and to choose paid work that supports my creativity rather than eating into it. I’m sure there are many more.
What do you give yourself permission for and how has it affected your life?