When it comes to taking initiative, we are often our own worst enemy. Instead of going after what we want, we let ourselves be ruled by anxiety and self-doubt, which hold us back.
In the following article, you will learn three simple principles, which can help you get over that self-doubt, and allow you take action in cases where you should.
If you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no”
Being told “no” sucks, which is why we often avoid putting ourselves in situations where we might get rejected. However, actually receiving that rejection usually isn’t that big of a deal.
In essence, the problem is that we hold ourselves back, and spend a huge amount of time and effort agonizing over the decision whether or not to act, just because we’re afraid of rejection, even when that rejection has no meaningful consequences.
Think about it this way: once you get over the fear of the rejection, you only stand to profit by putting yourself out there and asking for what you want. Up until the moment you ask, you automatically have a “no” for an answer. Therefore, by asking, you can either keep that “no”, or possibly change it to a “yes”. By just being willing to ask for what you want, you can significantly improve your odds of success.
It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission
People generally don’t want to take responsibility for any potential consequences that your actions might have. That’s why, if you ask them beforehand, they might not give you permission for even minor things, that are unlikely to actually matter. Conversely, after the fact, people generally don’t care too much about what you did, especially if there isn’t anything that can be done about it.
Because of this, instead of asking for permission to do something, you’re often better off just doing it, and then saying “sorry” afterward (if it’s even necessary). Of course, you have to do this in a smart way, without stepping over boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.
It’s not about who’s going to let you; it’s about who’s going to stop you
We often fret before taking action, because we spend a lot of time thinking about who to get permission from for that action. However, in many situations, it’s better to just act. Then, if our action ends up actually bothering someone, they’ll let us know about it themselves.
Therefore, don’t waste your time agonizing over finding the appropriate person to ask for permission each time you want to do something. Don’t invent excuses for yourself why not to do something, because someone else might not be okay with it. Furthermore, remember that in many of the cases when you want to do something that might seem significant to you, other people won’t really care about it that much anyway.
How these guidelines fit together
All three principles advocate for you take action when you otherwise wouldn’t, and to go for things in cases when you know the consequences aren’t significant (and they generally aren’t).
The difference between them is that they tell you to “go for it” in different ways. Pick the best option that’s relevant in your case, and apply it. If necessary, adjust as you go along.
Apply with common sense
These guidelines should all be applied with common sense, and should not be used as an excuse to harm others. They are not meant, for example, to encourage you to go rob a bank and to then tell the judge “sorry” afterward, or anything along those lines.
Rather, the goal of these guidelines is to get you to stop holding yourself back in areas where you shouldn’t. This means anything from just asking out that person you are interested in, to asking for the raise you deserve at work. Don’t always assume you’ll get a “no” and give up before you even start trying.
Summary and conclusions
- We are often our own worse enemy when it comes to taking the initiative, since we let our doubts hold us back. However, there are some guidelines that can promote you to take action where you would otherwise hesitate to do so.
- First, remember that if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.
- Second, keep in mind that it’s often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
- Finally, remember that it’s not about who’s going to let you; it’s about who’s going to stop you.
- All of these guidelines tell you to “go for it” in different ways. Use the most appropriate one in each scenario, and make sure to always apply them with common sense.