Asking Permission vs Forgiveness

Adam Callender
2 min readNov 6, 2021


Photo credit: Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

Asking Permission vs Forgiveness

In considering and discussing vexing questions recently with fellow volunteers. We were asking and seeking to understand the right thing to do. Then trying make something work, an approach had to be considered.

People who successfully tackle big social, environmental, and economic problems are driven by what I call a moment of obligation — a specific time in their life when they felt compelled to act. Lara Galinsky

Lara gives tips for us in realising our own moments of obligation:

  1. Strong feelings driving inspiration in us,
  2. We will revisit and look deeper,
  3. We connect with this and its importance,
  4. It permeates our existence, captivating us.

Inspiration vs Obligation

There is the constant threat of feeling overwhelmed. Especially for volunteers, those that are driven by belief and purpose. But can find themselves mired in overwork and expectation. For those that want to help, to give their all.

It can be beneficial to take a step back, to assert time and energy for themselves.

Drawing breath, to refocus, to get perspective, to reenergise, to start anew.

Asking permission can be tricky, mainly for ourselves. Without trusting our own ability to prioritise, wrestling with our own motivations and intent to push through.

To ask forgiveness for a decision already made, an action taken. The initiative is critical, to step in and make the call. Checking to make sure the rest of the team have got this. Potentially providing closure and relief in the process.

For many people, the hardest part of getting a job done is starting. The most productive people start quickly, and they never wait to be told to begin. They ask for forgiveness, not permission. Zenger and Folkman

This recognises that a balance needs to be sought, however at our most productive forgiveness will be needed.

Please note: I write about this in the context of doing the right thing, in overcoming inertia in groups of people seeking to achieve positive outcomes.



Adam Callender

Sydney based, Adam coaches and mentors career professionals, leaders and business owners. He is fascinated by humans, motorsport, mountain bikes and technology.