I awoke particularly early one morning. I could not fall back asleep, so I quietly made my way downstairs while my loved ones were still dreaming.

With a cup of tea, the light of daybreak coming through the windows and Van Morisson’s Astral Weeks was playing in the background, I sat reflecting on this past year. I was smiling, a kind of smile that filled my soul.

I was smiling because I recognized a shift had occurred within me, a shift that allowed me to take back full control of my life. I shifted from wanting the approval others to seeking validation.

Is there difference between approval and validation? I believe there is. And that was the shift for me. Here is how I see it.

Experience (both personally and professionally) has taught me that approval is often associated with the masses. In other words, when someone is seeking approval, they are trying to please everyone equally. Which means, a person is continually altering their course of action based on the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions of everyone else. They are spinning and not moving forward. They don’t know how to BE IT!

When someone is seeking validation, they are firmly rooted in their purpose and are focused on a targeting a few select people to offer insight or share learnings.  This behaviour enables the course of action to continue forward. To BE IT!

I can best sum up the difference between approval and validation like this:

  • Approval = permission
  • Validation = confirmation, testing your truth

There is an old fable by Aesop that illustrates the danger of approval.

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.”

DonkeyI really enjoyed the interpretation of the morale of this story by Michael Port in his book, Book Yourself Solid: “if you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass goodbye”

Here is my interpretation: when you are clear on your IT, you can unapologetically BE IT!

Shifting my focus from wanting approval to seeking validation has had a profound affect on me. Once I realized the difference, my focus took on a new energy that has propelled me towards my IT!.

Ask yourself, are you wanting approval or seeking validation?


Illustration by Sam Hubbard