More Thoughts on Turning 80

Give Yourself Permission to Be Successful

As I mentioned last week, we all want to be happy. We all want to feel attractive, accomplished, successful, and fulfilled. Too often, though, there is something in the way, something holding us back. In nearly every case the obstacle is the same: we feel as if we have not earned the right to be happy. It’s as if we need permission.

Somehow, despite the poverty of my childhood, my family always made me feel that almost anything was possible. They always encouraged me; I never felt as if our current limitations defined our future possibilities.

When I was seven or eight years old, I had an uncle who would sometimes take me to a restaurant called Howard Johnson’s. On those occasions he would tell me that I didn’t have to pay because my name was Howard. I was the “Howard” in Howard Johnson. His pride in and encouragement of me somehow conveyed that I had every right to be just as successful as “the other” Howard Johnson.

Not everyone gets that kind of encouragement as a child, and it always makes me sad to hear parents belittling their children. Nevertheless, we have the power to change this childhood conditioning.

I often tell my patients that, in medicine, there are three elements necessary for healing: the physician, the medicine, and you. All three have to work together for healing to take place. The physician may be brilliant; the medicine effective; but if you don’t take the medicine or follow the physician’s advice, no healing will occur.

The same principle applies to our lives. There are others, their advice, and you. If the advice of others suits you, by all means, follow it. But if it doesn’t, you have the right—the power, the authority—to ignore it.

Unfortunately, many of us have incorporated others’ negative feedback into our own self-talk. If your self-talk is negative, it will undermine your efforts at every turn. You must take back your own authority!

That’s what my 11 Insight cards are designed to do: replace your negative self-talk with more positive affirmations:

Be thrilled with who you are!

Give yourself permission to be successful!

Be imperfect, live longer!

The best is yet to come!

As I celebrate my 80th birthday, I hope you will give yourself the gift of permission to be happy, healthy, and successful! You deserve it!


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