john maxwellI read a brilliant insight around approval driven thinking and it’s stages as it relates to your age from John Maxwell in his excellent book called the Five Levels of Leadership.  He discussed in depth how approval driving thinking i.e. the need to please takes you away from being your best you.  He equated the approval stages you go through to certain ages which I have interpreted with my own perspective in the following way:

  • when you are 18, you tend to try and please everyone.  You constantly look up and compare yourself to people, question yourself and lack the confidence to be yourself, back yourself.  External validation and the need to please drives your thinking, your mindset and approach to dealing with people;
  • when you are 40, you start to understand the importance of being yourself because everyone else is taken as Oscar Wilde eloquently states.  You are authentic, you spend time with those that matter to you and you have the confidence to know that you are unique and need to live life your own way;
  • when are you 60, you literally don’t care what people think!  Gone are inhibitions, the need to please, the need to prove yourself to others.   Further you speak the kind truth and know that life is about doing what you love with the people that are important to you.  Further, there is a recognition that there is only one life to live and that is yours and yours alone.  Time is finite and valuable.

This is a point in John’s book that really resonated with me.   I had a real challenge until the last five years around trying to prove to others that I was good enough, worthy of their time and energy and the need to please.  By removing my thinking around external validation and focussing on my own game, my passions, my strengths and who is important to me, gone is the need to worry anymore about what other people think about me.

How many of us worry too much about what people think?  How much of our thinking is governed by external validation?  What could we do with this extra energy and time that would allow us be focussed on being our best us?  The potential and upside is enormous if we remove the need for approval from our thinking.

I believe that we can accelerate John’s age profile relative to approval by focussing on one key thing.  Identify the need for external validation from whoever in your life you are seeking it from and then remove the self-defeating time and energy you place on this approval.  It will allow you to fast track becoming the best you can be.   Isn’t that the purpose of life?