Independence, “The Rules,” and Asking for Permission

Steven is the author of the blog Hundred Goals where he writes about following your dreams and accomplishing your goals. 

What does independence mean to you?

For some people, independence means having enough money to quit their job to travel around the world, while for others it’s about having a reliable source of income and a couple weeks of vacation each year. By definition, independence is “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.”

Independence, for me, means not having to ask for permission to live my life. It’s not always easy.

The vast majority of people are required to operate within a certain framework of rules on a daily basis. At work, there are procedures that must be followed and policies to guide our decisions. “The Rules” exist to create an environment of equality, to dictate a standard for quality, and to maintain a certain level of productivity. The Rules serve a purpose.

But the problem with rules is that they’re rules. And because “rules are rules,” the people “in charge” aren’t able to consider the needs of employees on an individual basis. A common refrain from management is “If I make an exception for you, I’d have to make an exception for everyone.” This argument is a logical fallacy (known as the Slippery Slope), but it’s often reason enough to have our needs brushed aside and ignored. Our lives are at the mercy of The Rules.

If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.

We’ve grown accustomed to being told what to do. For years we’ve let other people dictate our lives. We’ve been taught to follow The Rules and ask for permission. We’ve had to cancel plans to work late, missed events because we had deadlines to meet, and our entire lives are scheduled around our work schedules.

What a bunch of crap!

It’s time to stop asking for permission to live our lives, and it’s time to stop following someone else’s set of rules. It’s time we stop letting our lives be influenced by imaginary obstacles…obstacles which are little more than lame excuses we use to convince ourselves that we can’t have the life we want and are the reason we believe we have to play by the rules: money, time, security.

Here’s the truth:

You’re only limited by your own choices, and the only rules you have to follow are the ones you want to follow. You’re the only person whose permission you need to ask for. You’ve created this life, and only you have the power to change it. If you’re sick of playing by someone else’s rules, it’s time to stand up for yourself.

Demand change.

At work. From your boss. From yourself. At home. From your spouse. From your children.

It’s your life! Stop asking other people for permission to live it!

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When I first began blogging, I introduced myself to the world with a story of drugs, drinking and going to jail. As time goes on, I’m less able to identify with that autobiography. Rather than describing who I was, I wrote about who I wasn’t. Doing this was an attempt to separate myself from a time in my life that I was ashamed of. But by defining myself as the foil of my former self, rather than dissociating from the past, I’ve only strengthened that connection. Just as there needs to be a Heaven for there to be a Hell, without that connection to the past, I wouldn’t be me. I refuse to continue defining myself by the mistakes of my past … but now I’m left wondering, “Who am I?” As I ponder this question, the less I feel any type of description would be adequate. Whatever I’d write would undoubtedly be irrelevant only moments later, for life is dynamic and change is the only thing that’s certain. I cannot define myself by my actions, my interests, my travels, or the things I own. It’s true that these things might begin to paint a picture of my life, but they fail to explain the person I am. I’m more than the sum of my actions. But who?

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