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Career Coach: Mother May I

In celebration of Mother's Day, "Career Coach" Pamela Kleibrink Thompson asks whether you're playing Mother May I with your life and career.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

When I was a kid, I played a game called Mother May I? Players had to ask the leader permission --"Mother May I? "-- before they could advance in the game.

Are you playing Mother May I with your life and career -- waiting for permission to pursue what you really want to do? Don't ask permission from someone else. Give yourself permission.

I went to college as a pre-med student, intending to major in biology. Shortly after beginning my sophomore year, I realized that I no longer wanted to pursue a career in the medical profession. When I went home that Thanksgiving, I confessed to my father that I no longer wanted to be a doctor. Wisely, he said, "It's your life. Do what you want to do."

Many people follow career paths for all kinds of reasons. Maybe it was the first job that came along; maybe a teacher, friend or neighbor recommended it; or maybe it was a family business. Perhaps a parent clearly indicated a preference.

If you're doing something that doesn't make you happy, you probably have an idea about something that might be more satisfying. The question is, whose permission do you need to pursue the thing that will enrich your life?

When you are secure, safe or obligated, it's tough to make a change. You have to overcome inertia. The first step is to figure out how or where to get permission to move forward. Who or what is holding you back? Perhaps it's a parent's expectations, a friend's or a plan you made in your youth. Perhaps it is just yourself.

Often we put limits on ourselves, offering excuses for why we aren't doing what we'd like to do. We restrict ourselves from realizing our full potential. Perhaps you feel you don't deserve whatever it is you most desire. Or that you have to earn it and haven't paid your dues. Or that it is not possible to do what you want to do because you aren't skilled enough, aren't talented enough, aren't smart enough, educated enough, etc. Stop being negative about yourself. Seeking permission is the same as an excuse. Permission is just a way of abdicating authority over your own life.

My friend, Shirley, was miserable at her job, which affected the rest of her life and her relationships. Visiting her and her husband was enervating. Shirley had fulfilled what she thought was her father's desire, to become a lawyer, but there was little joy in the accomplishment or the job. John, her husband, recognized that although he was happy practicing law, his wife was not. Though Shirley had just finished paying the bills for law school, John convinced her to quit, pointing out that she had fulfilled her father's desire and had become a lawyer, but that it was no longer necessary to continue.

So she pursued her true love, mystery writing. When we visit the couple now, Shirley's enthusiasm is infectious. Freeing herself from her perceived obligation made such a difference in Shirley's life. I'm sure they had to adjust their budget to make up for the initial loss of income, but the psychic income and her happiness more than made up for that. The point is, she's much more effective in everything she does in her life, because she's doing what she wants to do.

If you are waiting for permission to be all you can be from a teacher, parent, boss, sibling or significant other -- stop waiting. Give yourself permission. It's your life.

Still need permission from someone? Here it is:

"I, Pamela Thompson, career coach, give you permission to explore and realize your full potential, to fulfill your dreams whatever they may be."

Every time you think you require permission to be your best and do your best, remember -- you already have it.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, hiring strategist, career coach and speaker, available for personal consultations and speaking engagements. If you are interested in her professional services as a career coach, speaker or recruiter, contact her at