Permission Giving Thoughts

Permission giving thoughts are all of those reasons and excuses that our brains are so good at coming up with for continuing to engage in habitual behaviors which we have identified as unhelpful. 

For example, you’ve decided you want to start exercising after work, or you’ve resolved to not drink wine on the weekdays or to cut out the pastry that you always order with your afternoon coffee. You have lots of good reasons for doing this. You’re convinced it’s in your best interests. 

But when the moment to follow through on that plan comes, you have a thought that somehow justifies NOT following through. It’s been a long day. Or, you deserve a treat. Or, it’s too late to get in a full workout so why bother.

In this episode, we look at where they come from and how to work with them.


  • Permission-giving thoughts are not to be trusted at face value. Although they may seem reasonable or logical, they are frequently neither.
  • In order to evaluate their validity, we have to notice them for what they are—and they tend to hide in plain sight.
  • The part of our brain that generates these thoughts is not the enemy–but sometimes its attempts to help are less than helpful.
  • Sometimes, giving ourselves permission IS actually an acceptable choice. We just want to be conscious of what we’re doing.

Lab Experiment

Make a list of your permission-giving thoughts. The more permission-giving thoughts you can spot, the better.

Notice what time of day that certain thoughts tend to appear.

Notice what happens when you are able to recognize permission giving thoughts for what they are. Are they any less convincing once they’ve been tagged?