I’m nearly half way through Tara Mohr’s six-month course, Playing Big. For weeks, I resisted signing up for the class, ignoring the countless and persistent nudges. But along with the nudges, an important question also persisted. Was I playing big?
In my most honest moments, I suspected that at times I was—and at others I wasn’t. Curious about the times I wasn’t, I finally leaped into a new phase of my journey to find some answers.
At face value, the concept of “playing big” conjures visions of corner offices, book deals, large audiences, big social impact…. And to be fair, Tara gives plenty of space for bold visions. But for me, this six-month process seems to have very little do with any of those heady things.
The mere fact that I was participating in a seminar called Playing Big has made me excruciatingly aware of how frequently I choose to not play big. To my initial alarm and eventual amusement, I soon began to catch myself whenever I’d choose to play fearfully.
Well, you get the point. A few years ago, these realizations might have caused me to crawl into a hole. But I’m more resilient now—and have a much better sense of humor. (Hey, I can’t change what I can’t see.)
The current chaos and upheaval in my job has given me many opportunities to experiment with both sides of the equation. To be sure, I’ve been tempted to feel sorry for myself, to assign blame, and to withhold my best work. And I’ve held more than one private pity party while sitting at my desk. But these are lonely and self-defeating events. Oh, and they feel like total crap.
I’ve now got this playing big thing to live up to—or at least to try on. I also can’t silence the gentle, but insistent voice, goading, challenging, and cheering me on to play bigger.
And it turns out that playing big is a choice.
For me that choice has meant choosing to do great work, even when I’m tempted not to because I think no one will notice. Other times it has entailed biting my tongue on a petty complaint, replacing it with something else—anything else. Occasionally, it has even meant giving myself a break and some room to breathe (without beating myself up). And inevitably, it has meant purposefully choosing to show up without all of my well-worn baggage—those peksy limiting thoughts and tired habits.
I’m still in the experimental phase of this journey, my Playing Big journey. Yet the early results are compelling enough to merit further experimentation. I can’t (yet) point to the external successes of my playing big. But I appreciate noticing when I’m not. And I like myself a lot when I make the choice—no matter how seemingly small—to play differently.
If playing big is a choice, then it’s also a feeling. And what I’ve discovered is that playing big doesn’t feel fearful, whiny, defensive, or critical. By contrast, it feels empowered, creative, confident—and surprisingly playful. It doesn’t insist on anyone appreciating me or approving of me. In fact, it doesn’t require anyone to behave differently in any way. That is, except for me—and I can live with that.