How to give yourself permission.


A few weeks ago, Laena turned me onto an article in the Washington Post that’s been making the rounds.

BURNOUT IS EVERYWHERE, it says. Sabotaging all sorts of things. Happiness. Health. Performance.

Notably, the prime examples in articles about burnout are lawyers. One commercial real estate attorney quit her job after stress repeatedly landed her in the ER.

This hits close to home for me, though thankfully an ER was never part of my big law story.

But, it got me thinking about two things: boundaries and permission.

How do we set boundaries to actually guard time for ourselves that is high quality and full of activities that make us feel energized and like our truest selves? (Newsflash: sleeping in and reading a book in bed is counted amongst restorative activities.) 

And once we set those boundaries, how do we give ourselves permission to then in turn actually enjoy that time? 

Let me ask you something: have you ever gone to a movie with friends after work, felt your phone buzz in your coat pocket, and then been anxious about what would be waiting for you at the end of the movie? Sure, you physically went the movie with your friends, but were you present in it and did you actually enjoy the experience? Or did you spend it thinking about what comes next and how long it would take you to respond to that email?

The secret to enjoyment comes in giving yourself permission. Permission to exist outside of your work environment. Permission to not respond to emails immediately. Permission to take a night off. A weekend off. An entire vacation off.

Because guess what? Whoever you are waiting on who you think will give you permission, that person doesn’t exist. 

S/he isn’t coming. No one will come and give you permission. 

You have to give it to yourself. Permission granted.

Want to read more about permission and its psychology? Check out this article as well about an experiment by Freakonomics co-author, Steven D. Levitt.

Ami Watkin