I was coaching a woman who had been out of work for a while. Then she was offered a job she really liked. “I feel guilty because I am so excited about taking the job,” she told me. “My spiritual studies tell me I am not supposed to want things.”
I told her, “It’s fine to want things, and even finer to enjoy them. You are not supposed to crave things in a way that makes you suffer because you don’t have them. How about if you reframe this job as a gift from the universe, affirming that you deserve to be happy?”
A big smile grew over her face. “That sure feels a lot better!”
A lot of my coaching work involves supporting clients to give themselves permission to live the life they would choose. One young woman told me, “I just got divorced and now I would like to have three boyfriends.” “Fine” I told her. “You can have as many boyfriends as you like.” She lit up.
A fellow told me he had an argument with his father and he didn’t want to speak with him. I told him, “You are allowed to not speak with your father if you don’t want to.”
A woman said, “I feel terribly guilty if I eat chocolate and drink coffee. I shouldn’t have so much caffeine.” I told her, “Beating yourself up for having caffeine is far more harmful to your spirit than having caffeine. Can you just enjoy having it when you do?”
My intention was not to encourage these clients to do things that hurt them. My intention was to support them to move with the current energy and not squash their happiness with externally-imposed edicts. When we give ourselves permission to follow our joy, we eventually reach our highest guidance and achieve a state of balance.
The woman who wanted three boyfriends came to me a few months later and told me, “I dated a bunch of different guys and decided I just want one partner.” The fellow who didn’t want to talk to his father reported, “ After a while, I missed my dad and we had a good talk.” The lady who resisted caffeine told me, “When I quit judging myself for having caffeine, I relaxed, I got uptight less, and I wanted caffeine less.”
Take a moment now and consider, “Whose permission do I think I need to live the life I choose?” Are you waiting for approval from your parents? Your spouse? Your religion? The government? Your culture? Your friends? Ultimately, the permission you are seeking is your own. When you trust yourself, other people’s opinions matter far less than your inner guidance.
We are living at a time when judgments are rampant. Many people are motivated by fear, and as a result, they have all kinds of emotionally-charged ideas about what you should do. None of them matter, especially when they are motivated by fear. People who are afraid do not see clearly, and they are incapable of making healthy decisions for their own lives, let alone yours. It takes a person of character and integrity to look within for answers rather then depend on others to dictate them to you.
When you follow your joy, your inner light shines at maximum strength, and you become a model for others to do the same. The world needs more lighthouses. That would be you.
Alan Cohen, M.A., is the author of 28 popular inspirational books, including the best-selling The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life, and the classic, Are You as Happy as Your Dog? He is a contributing writer for the New York Times #1 bestselling series Chicken Soup for the Soul, and his books have been translated into 25 foreign languages. His work has been featured on Oprah.com and in USA Today, The Washington Post and 101 Top Experts. Alan’s radio program Get Real is broadcast weekly on Hay House Radio, and his monthly column From the Heart is featured in magazines internationally. alancohen.com